A History of Mather & Platt Ltd.
CHAPTER 4 - The Growth of The CompanyLink to full frames site if you have arrived on this single page.

With the setting up of the new Company referred to at the close of the previous chapter the managing directors realised that the enterprise had outgrown the limits of the Salford Iron Works site. They saw clearly that the future of the business lay in its concentration and development on a scale beyond anything hitherto attempted.

Such concentration and development entailed changes in organisation as well as changes in location, but the two sets of considerations went together. Even new brooms can best sweep clean on new premises. The three reasons for the move from Salford Iron Works to Newton Heath were first, to acquire satisfactory railway siding facilities; second, to find open spaces in which to be able to expand; and third, to provide scope for centralised and efficient management, control and production. The first of these reasons could in itself be regarded as a self-sufficient cause for removing the works. There were no railway siding facilities at the Salford Iron Works and consequently everything had to be carted through the streets, a state of affairs that placed a limit on business expansion. John Taylor and John Wormald caught a glimpse of an attractive site at Newton Heath through a railway carriage window, and the vision was gradually turned into reality

To see major changes in to life of a firm in terms of such anecdotes is both to over-dramatise and to over-simplify the logic of cause and effect. In point of fact there was urgent need for expansion and for the re--siting of parts of the company’s enterprise, particularly the fire engineering business previously conducted by Dowson, Taylor & Co. Ltd. at Blackfriars: hence the merit of Newton Heath which was an undeveloped site, capable of gradual development.  Before seeing the open space on which Park Works now stands Taylor inspected and half approved a site in Great Clowes Street, Broughton, but he felt that "the policy of the firm should be one of greater vision than this”. By contrast the scheme to acquire the extensive site at Newton Heath seemed too ambitious to some critics but they were proved wrong almost from the start.

The third reason for a change the quest for a home offering scope for more efficient control of production - also made imperative the search for premises, where materials could be more easily handled and where workers could be effectively supervised. The growing use of jigs and automatic tools demanded systematic arrangement of machines to produce large quantities at low cost. Salford Iron Works with its buildings at varying angles to one another, differences in floor levels, rough floors and heavy galleries was an unsuitable place for development in production technique or departmental sub-division. Newton Heath was a big enough site to allow for the arrangement of workshops in such a way that unnecessary waste of time and effort could be eliminated.

It was in 1900 that the fifty-acre plot of nearly level ground at Newton Heath was secured by the Company. It had direct access to the Lancashire and Yorkshire and The London and North-Western Railways, was on the bank of the Rochdale Canal, and was well served by main roads. Although the Boer War was in progress, building operations started at once. An administrative building two storeys in height was constructed, with the general office and drawing office open from end to end, the supervisory staff alone being provided with separate rooms. The building itself was of unusual construction being based on the design of an American firm which specialised in what they termed ‘slow burning’ buildings - solid wood built into an outer 'skin’ of brick. It is said that this remarkable structure is as good today as it was when first erected. At the same time the adjoining machine shop was erected.

John Taylor’s energy and imagination made it possible. The workshop, 380 feet long and 130 feet wide, was built to a great extent of material, which was originally erected to provide the machinery hall of the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The Hall was bought by the Company, dismantled in Paris by its own engineers, brought direct to Manchester along the Manchester Ship Canal, and re-erected together with a smaller amount of steelwork fabricated in Manchester, at Newton Heath, where, as Bays Number 1 to 4, it formed a nucleus around which the present works have been built. The first department to transfer to the new home Fire Equipment moved over a single weekend. Such was the driving power and organising genius of John Taylor that after the employees ceased productive work at Blackfriars at twelve o’clock on Saturday, the machinery was dismantled and, transported to Park Works; the millwrights worked through the weekend and production started at Newton Heath at the normal time on Monday morning. This would have been a feat of considerable magnitude in the second half of the twentieth century when powerful cranes, mobile handling and lifting tackle, supported by a fleet of mechanical transport vehicles would have been employed on the transfer but it was a triumph of organisation fifty years earlier when much of the plant would be moved twice by manual labour and horse drawn lorries were employed to provide all the necessary transport.

In accordance with an ordered scheme of development additions to the first building were made in 1903, 1905, 1909 and 1910. It was in 1909 that it was finally decided to make provision for the gradual removal of all remaining departments from the old works in Salford, and the construction of two new machine shops, each 379 feet long and 40 foot wide, enabled the Electrical Department to find a more congenial home. A year later, still following Taylor’s original plan, seven more shops, each 379 feet long, were constructed. In 1913 a building which now houses the Brass Foundry, the Forge and the Tank Shop was completed and the work of providing a new wing of four bays totalling 161 foot wide was put in hand and brought the number of bays to seventeen just prior to the 1914 war. There were further extensions in 1920, when fourteen of the bays were lengthened. In 1926 a building to accommodate the General Engineering Drawing Offices was erected and in 1939 and 1940 other shops were erected to provide new accommodation for the Tool Room and the Steel Rolling Shutter department.

Among special buildings added at Park Works were the Staff Canteen (1917), the Research Iaboratory (1919), the Girls’ Canteen (1938) and the Iron Foundry (1938); while the Sports Ground at the front of the Works was not completed until 1950.

The record of industrial production and general activities at Park Works is told in other chapters: looking at the story of the works in relation to the development of the Company, it is clear that without a new site Mather & Platt would have ceased both to expand and to adapt itself to the economic conditions of the twentieth century. It is of interest to note that the most significant developments had taken place before 1914. By that time Park Works had taken on its modern shape and had employed new methods of production, which were not generally accepted until the First World War period. At Newton Heath there was plenty of space for new development, and the firm was even able to hand over four of its bays, 14, 15, 16 and 17, completed just before the War, to the manufacturers of Avro Aeroplanes, Messrs. A.V.Roe and Company, one of Britain’s early firms in the Aeronautical industry who were producing aircraft at a factory on an adjacent site.

The basis of the firm's internal organisation was the separation of the enterprise into distinct departments, for each of which a Director was responsible. Already before 1900 the accounts of the different departments were segregated and treated separately and as far as possible employees were attached to definite departments.

At Park Works the departments could be built up and housed in more clearly defined areas than at Salford. The Fire Department moved in 1901, the Electrical Department in 1905-1909, and the Pump Department in 1911. The General Machinery Department was the oldest part of the firm, but did not move to Park Works until 1913. The gradual movement avoided serious problems of dislocation, and the sites were well prepared before any department was transferred to its new home. Once established at Park Works, the departments could operate distinctly and efficiently, with co-ordination but without overlapping, under the supervision of one Works Manager for the whole productive enterprise.(1) It took some time for modern specialised office services to develop, and some of the common services, like research, pattern making, costing and later on publicity, were developed to serve the whole concern without interfering with the individuality of each department.

Businessmen who have grown up in an era of modern office equipment may be interested to know that although there was a telephone switchboard in 1901 there were few typewriters, and juniors on the office staff were still copying letters with the aid of damp rags. Invoices and Orders were all written out by hand.

The 1914—18 War left its mark on the development of the Company and the demand for engineering products for the armed forces superseded peace time production. In August 1915 Park Works was declared a controlled establishment under the Munitions of War Act, and there was a steady switch over to war production. Large quantities of shell casing and fuses were turned out and a howitzer re-lining department was established. Main propelling motors for submarines, gear boxes and hull plates for tanks, generators for searchlight duties and a multitude of other munitions of war were all produced at Park Works, the total output of munitions of one kind and another making an impressive war effort.

(1) Edwin William Buckley, who began his career at Dowson and Taylor’s, became first Works Manager at Newton Heath. His predecessors at Salford were Grundy, Thorp, Hewitt, Sidebottom and Chorlton.

With the war over the task of adjusting the Company’s activities to a newly emerging world was in the hands of experienced directors under the chairmanship of Loris E. Mather, for in 1916 Sir William relinquished the chairmanship at the age of seventy eight, nearly sixty years from the time when he completed his apprenticeship.

Loris Mather’s fellow directors at this new stage in the history of the Company were John Platt, Edward Hopkinson, John Taylor, John Wormald, James Robinson and Edward Roberts. They faced the post-war world with confidence, knowing that for some time at least they would be fully occupied completing outstanding orders for all types of machinery and that the firm had an experienced staff of sales and service engineers capable of dealing with the problems of prospective clients in distant markets. They knew too that the firm retained its essential traditions, for as James Robinson, the Director in charge of the General Machinery Department, told a Sales Conference in 1920, “Success is not only of one kind; it does not only relate to monetary success, to big turnovers and making big profits, to build up a great company. Employing large numbers of men, finding work for them and living for their families, gathering round us a fine staff such as we have here tonight and which is only a part of a still greater one, that in itself is surely a success as great as any that we have achieved and one of which we are just as proud”.

The inter-war years were marked by a depression which hit basic trades like cotton particularly hard and at times the new industries, like those devoted to the production of electrical goods, were unable to compensate entirely for the loss of export markets by the older industries. The twenty years between 1919 and 1939 were not, however, a period of stagnation and decline. The productivity of labour rose substantially and the rate of technical development was considerable.

As Park Works developed, the older ties with Salford were gradually broken and production in the old works ceased entirely after the heavy Iron Foundry was transferred to a new building at Park Works in 1938.

The old works had been a home of great character and tradition; its rambling bays and uneven floors still showed where a cottage had been absorbed or a neighbouring street roofed over. Its grimy walls end great wooden cranes epitomised the hard work and individual skill, which had carried the roller makers forward to become engineers with an international reputation. When the last moulders left the old Iron Works in Salford, they carried to their new modern Foundry at Park Works the skill that had helped to make the company’s products famous.

It was not without pangs therefore, that the ownership of Salford Iron Works passed from Mather & Platt Ltd to Threlfall’s Brewery, popular” neighbours in more senses than one during the nineteenth century. It is a legend of the old days that many Mather & Platt employees had their own methods of securing supplies of beer through a convenient hole in the wall, which separated the two buildings. From Threlfalls part of the works subsequently passed to a well-known firm of motor car spring manufacturers. A few of the nineteenth century landmarks, including the weighing-in machine still survive.

The only production link between Mather & Platt Ltd and Salford, which still persists, is the Plate Metal Works, known as the Boiler Yard, which has had an interesting history. Originally owned by one John Platt a man not related to the Platt of the Mather & Platt partnership, but who occasionally did, some work for the firm — the Boiler yard, passed into the hands of the firm in 1870, when the same Platt was installed as foreman, in charge of about twenty-five men. Its one bay was extended in 1906, when the adjoining works of Edmondson and. Co., General Engineers, were absorbed and used as a machine shop and plate shop.

The concentration of effort at Park Works made for a closer and more uniform control of the whole of the firm’s activities, although each department continued to trade as a separate unit.

In spite of the efficiency of its new organisation Mather & Platt Ltd, in common with other companies which produced machinery for export, passed through an anxious period in the early 1920’s when would be customers lacked the money with which to buy British machinery. In addition, the Russian market which had been developed so surely for three-quarters of a century, was temporarily closed as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The fall of money wages throughout many industries in the latter part of 1921, however, led to a reduction in selling prices and this in some measure helped to promote a steady flow of orders from overseas buyers. “Such benefit”, it was claimed, “together with economies in the management, assist us in securing work and in keeping most of our men employed.”(1)  Piecework payments were adopted more generally and. output per man increased sharply.

Mather & Platt Ltd. refused to follow the line advocated by some employers of increasing the length of the working day. “As a firm who have worked the present hours successfully for nearly thirty years, we look in other directions for this improvement. We have satisfied ourselves by paying special attention to our internal arrangements that the 47 or 48 hour week is an economical proposition in our particular business whatever may be the case in other trades.”(2) Output continued to increase, with the same hours, in 1923 and 1924.

(1) Proceedings at the Twenty—fourth Annual General Meeting , 27th February, 1922.

(2) Proceedings at the Twenty—fifth Annual General Meeting, 27th February, 1923.

There was a revival in some home markets in the mid twenties, particularly for electrical engineering products, while trade was re-established with Russia in 1925 and continued successfully for several years. In 1927 there were again signs of gloom, partly as a result of the Coal Strike and partly as a result of depression in the textile industries. For Mather & Platt Ltd. 1929 was a relatively good year, even bright compared with the experience of many firms (1) but 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933 were made difficult as a result of world depression. Throughout these years the Company continuing to believe in the export trade, maintained its full sales staff overseas, although this represented a heavy overhead charge. It turned also to the production of an entirely new line of business; food processing machinery. Such signs of initiative did more than keep the firm alive. In a period of depression they kept it mentally active and alert. Only in 1931 and 1932 and 1933 was the whole range of business depressed, when viewed in terms of countries, industries and departments as a whole. It was natural that a firm producing such a wide range of heavy plant and machinery should faithfully reflect the ups and downs of general industrial fluctuations. Trade had improved again by 1937 and remained at a satisfactory level until the outbreak of the Second World. War in 1939.

The Second World War, like that of 1914-18, led to the firm being listed as a Government controlled enterprise. Its activities were varied. A portion of Park Works was laid out as a gun factory and the many new and unfamiliar products manufactured included special capstans for boom defence vessels, gun mountings for the Admiralty, Bofors predictors and rocket projectors, cordite rolling mills and machines for proofing the fabric of barrage balloons. There were few engineering firms in the country, which could have rivalled this record of diversified production. At the same time, there was a steady demand for standard peacetime products, often adapted to new uses. Many of the products of apparently routine work, familiar in days of peace, were earmarked for secret destinations and purposes. Thus we find that Mather & Platt high-pressure turbine pumps and motors were used for the "Pluto" scheme to pump oil through pipes under the English Channel to the Continent. Similar installations, totalling about 25,000 h.p. were parts of a system of underground pipelines from the principal British oil ports connecting to “Pluto” and to numerous airfields and bases scattered over the Kingdom. Made up into mobile units, Mather & Platt pumps were used by the Services in all theatres of war. At sea low-voltage generators produced by the firm were used for the excitation of the coils for degaussing the ships to meet the menace of the magnetic mine, and motor-alternators were produced as part of radar and wireless equipment. Even a new and pre-eminently peace time development like the food machinery department was employed to meet service needs, producing canning equipment for cooking and packing service rations, "dehydration" plant, grain drying equipment and milk sterilisers.

Some of the equipment and machinery was sent under contracts with the Ministry of Supply to the Soviet Union, thereby maintaining a link, which went back long before the days of war and revolution.

(1) One shareholder described Mather & Platt at the Thirty—second Annual Meeting in February 1930 as “a star in the firmament”. Another pointed out that it is very uncommon to have a balance sheet like this representing 1929 in Lancashire.

The impact of war on the employees of the Company had different consequences in 1914-18 and in 1939-45. In 1914 several of the firms employees who were resident in enemy territory were interned in enemy countries while after a factory recruitment meeting there was an immediate rush of Park Works workers to join the armed forces. By contrast the gradual and compulsory call up scheme and the system of reserved occupations which operated from the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 prevented a chaotic rush from industry, with the result that the firm retained most of its employees throughout the first year of the fighting. Women were drawn into the firm in larger numbers than ever before and as the Chairman commented in 1942, “While many of these have had little training for the work on which they are now engaged, we are well satisfied with the way they tackle their jobs, and the energy and cheerfulness which they display.”(1)

Finally, whereas in 1914 recent additions to the Park Works buildings were handed over to Avro for the manufacture of aeroplanes, in 1939 all available plant including the recent extensions were urgently required for the firm's own needs. Indeed, by the end of the War in 1945, the workshops were seriously congested, and the packed order book led to a search for new premises for the third time in the firm’s history.

After negotiations with the Ministry of Supply, a ten year lease of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radcliffe about ten miles North of Park Works, was arranged, thus providing the firm with an additional manufacturing space of about 30% of the area of Park Works, and accommodation for 800 to 1,000 additional workers.

Although the post war years were to involve many problems of re-conversion in an awkward and unsettled period of economic history, the firm was expanding and again looking to the future.

(1) Proceedings at the Forty-Fourth Annual General Meeting, 24th February 1942.


How far are people who live in any particular period of time qualified to write its history and to view events in correct perspective? There are many who give a stout denial to the possibility of such people dealing fairly with events in which they have played a part and they hold the view that the only reliable historian is he who views at a distance. That may be a good and sufficient reason for not dealing at great length with the events of today, but it would be no justification for failing to take advantage of the intimate knowledge of the period in which we are interested which is possessed by many who are still alive and can speak with authority of the achievements of the first half century after Mather & Platt became a limited company. The union with Dowson, Taylor & Co. Ltd., brought together a band of men, who shared the common resolve to build up for Mather & Platt Ltd a reputation which would be unsurpassed

In this story of the growth of the Company in the twentieth century several outstanding personalities demand our attention. For forty years, Sir William Mather had been the driving force behind the business. When the move to Park Works started, he felt he had reached the age to hand over much of the responsibility to younger men. Such men were trained and ready for their new responsibilities.

Mather had shown great foresight in obtaining the rights for the “Grinnell” Automatic Sprinkler; he had seen the future for the Electric Motor when he linked the designs of Thomas Edison and John.Hopkinson to produce the Edison-Hopkinson Dynamo, and he had visualised the possibilities of the Centrifugal Pump when developing the Mather-Reynolds Turbine Pump, which is the father of all modern turbine pumps. Those three developments not only linked up with his well established textile machinery business for all of them were required by the textile trade but they opened up new markets at home and overseas in new and expanding industries.

While the Fire Engineering business was being well organised and energetically developed by Dowson, Taylor & Co, the expansion of the electrical and pump businesses was less spectacular and even the Textile Machinery Department was not responding as quickly as it might have done to the new markets which were opening up, and which were eager for these products. Mather was spending many months each year travelling abroad and building up an overseas business so as to be able to participate in the industrial development of other countries, as well as that of Britain.  At home his duties as a Member of Parliament and public man kept him occupied and he was unable to devote as much of his own time to the organisation of the expanding business as it deserved. He was naturally on the lookout for a man of outstanding organising ability to bring his schemes to fruition.

As Chairman of Dowson, Taylor & Co. Ltd. William Mather well knew the ability of its Directors and he must have noted how quickly they adapted themselves and their organisation to the Fire Protection market which they had opened up for themselves. He must have felt that, if Taylor and Wormald could bring these same qualities to the assistance of Mather and Platt, the great organisation could be created which was necessary to manufacture and sell his machinery in the waiting markets.

To Taylor and Wormald, the wider horizons which now opened up offered greater scope for their abilities than their own small company, and they brought with them to the new enterprise, an energy and vitality which was to leave a permanent mark.

John Taylor, one of the managing directors of the new company, was the strong man of his generation. He has been called the original architect of the Park Works project. He supervised the layout and building of the new shops and later controlled the manufacture and sale of an ever-growing range of products.

As the leading figure in the development of Park Works John Taylor laboured indefatigably for many years in the task of consolidation and expansion. It has been said that he knew the position of every drain and water pipe in the vast premises, which grew up, during his regime to meet the demand for the products of Mather & Platt Ltd.

It was indeed the fusion of Mather & Platt with Dowson, Taylor & Co. Ltd which afforded John Taylor that wide scope for his great organising ability which would not have been open to him in the restricted field of the sprinkler business. In the larger organisation he was able to employ all his talents, first in the development of the electrical business this being the first of the Mather & Platt specialities to be transferred from Salford to Park Works. Then in establishing the centrifugal pump department on a firm footing when that section of the business was transferred to Park Works and later in making provision for the manufacture of a wide range of Textile Finishing machinery in the new home.

Each individual department was henceforward to stand on its own feet; its design, production and sales policy being the direct responsibility of a director in charge with John Taylor himself exercising a controlling influence over all sections. One obvious advantage of this plan was that each director could concentrate on the specific needs of the users of the plant he offered. He thus became a specialist in his own field and while a general engineering background enabled him to understand all phases of the Company’s business, he could be relied upon to give export advice to any prospective client who was disposed to make use of the specialised knowledge acquired in one particular branch of engineering.

In putting this plan into execution John Taylor gathered round him a number of capable lieutenants to whose work reference will be made as we study progress in the departments for which they were responsible.

While John Taylor was devoting his great energy to the general development of Park Works and its products his old colleague John. Wormald, now working from headquarters in London, was engaged in increasing the demand for the company’s products, especially in territory overseas. As in the case of John Taylor the early business interest of John Wormald had centred around automatic sprinklers and the reduction of fire losses but he proved equally at home in the wider sphere of engineering in which he moved after joining Mather & Platt Ltd.

John Wormald was ideally suited for the task entrusted to him. He was a man of great initiative and imagination: a man of personality able to deal confidently with men interested in ‘Big Business’. He was essentially a super salesman who thought on the grand scale, which fitted in well with the manufacturing policy of John Taylor, who held that everything offered by the company must be the best and that success would be achieved by catering for the needs of buyers who appreciated the advantages to be gained by doing business with producers whose first aim was quality. Having established himself in the trading centre of the world John Wormald succeeded in spreading the fame of Mather & Platt Ltd. to all quarters of the globe and in leaving a lasting impression on the sales policy of the company.

He was held in high esteem among the London businessmen of his day and his selection to serve on a wartime committee appointed by the Government of Mr. Lloyd George to control the distribution of non-ferrous metals indicated that his business ability was recognised in high places. He was subsequently knighted in recognition of services rendered to the Government during the 1914-18-war period.

Sir John Wormald resigned his position as a Director of Mather and Platt Ltd in 1924 but there are still many in the employ of the company who pay eloquent testimony to the value of the training and encouragement received at his hands.

Another of the outstanding personalities of this era was an engineer who enjoyed the distinction of being the first of three Salford Iron Works youths who, having joined the firm as ordinary apprentices, without the influence of family connections or financial backing, were selected for promotion and proved themselves capable of administering the affairs of a trading department at Park Works with such marked efficiency that they were, in turn, rewarded with a seat on the board of directors of Mather & Platt Ltd.

James Robinson the son of a Clifton schoolmaster was educated at Manchester Grammar School, that nursery of distinguished and virile men.  When young James decided on an Engineering career his father secured an introduction to Mr. William Mather at Salford. In later years James was very fond of quoting from his recollections of the interview; — Mr. Mather to’ Mr. Robinson: “So your boy has been educated at the Manchester Grammar School; I suppose he is a genius,  “No” replied Robinson Senior, “Just an ordinary boy”. “Oh. that’s a good job”, said Mr. Mather, “We’ve a lot of the other sort already!” That was in 1884. Eighteen years later in August 1902 we find Sir William Mather, M.P., in the Chair at the Annual General Meeting of his Company and James Robinson elected to the Board of Directors. Good progress for an ordinary boy!

Although as an engineer he was destined to devote his energies to the world of textiles, James Robinson was wont to make a smiling boast that as an apprentice he worked on the Mather & Platt electric light installation at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, said to be the first theatre to produce its own electric light, where the current was generated by an Edison-Hopkinson Generator driven by a horizontal steam engine.

While still a young man James Robinson decided to specialise on the textile engineering side of the firm’s activities and he became a great ambassador for the British Textile Engineering. He has been aptly described as ‘practical engineer, salesman, technician and advisor all in one’.

The reason is not far to seek. Having decided to specialise on the needs of the Textile Industry, James Robinson devoted himself with typical thoroughness to every detail of its requirements. He studied every minute detail of each individual process until he could be described as a walking encyclopaedia on the textile finishing trade. He set out to know all there was to be known and he achieved his purpose to an unusual degree. As a result, whenever there was a prospect of finishing machinery being required James Robinson was capable of visiting the scene, studying all local conditions, noting the nature and quantity of fabric to be produced and giving expert advice on the plant necessary to achieve the desired results. He would then follow every detail from drawing board, foundry, machine shops, erection and testbed to satisfy himself that the customer would get exactly what was needed.

The reputation of James Robinson was not confined to the British Isles. He travelled in the Far East, China and Japan in l902, He visited India in 1906; Brazil in 1895 and in 1912 (a revolutionary year), He made several visits to the United States and Canada. The Continent of Europe was familiar ground to him, Every year over a long period he visited Russia where he was held in high regard both for his character and his knowledge. A Paper he prepared for the Textile Institute of Great Britain was published in a book form and in the Russian language was regarded as the standard handbook on Textile Finishing.

It is part of the job of an ambassador to create an impression of dignified integrity. James Robinson did this to a remarkable degree and wherever he travelled he made friends. His capacity for listening to the troubles of other men made him a confidant as well as a business acquaintance. His charm of manner, his enthusiasm for engineering achievement, his forward looking mind, created comradeship in industry just as surely with men in foreign lands as they did with customers at home. After the lapse of many years he could name every mill he had visited in distant lands. What is more, he remembered the name of every man with whom he had discussed business.

To appreciate what it meant to be an Ambassador of trade one has only to read the diary of this man. We find every incident of any importance recorded in minute detail, A long day in business * followed by an evening devoted ostensibly to social events but in reality frequently spent in cultivating the acquaintance of people who mattered in the business community, sitting up late or rising in the small hour’s of morning to make written reports of one day before starting out to keep appointments of the next; always looking for any possible connection which might lead to a new application of the products of the firm — not only his own particular department but for other branches of the company.

It was not just by accident that James Robinson built up big business in South America and other countries to which the export of Textile Machinery assumed considerable proportions. He was ever alive to an opening capable of convincing the client that he was the man to advise and that Mather & Platt Ltd, were the people to give technical advice; to design plant for any desired output and finally to undertake the manufacture and erection of all the necessary machinery.

James Robinson continued to direct the policy of the General Machinery Department at Park Works until the time of his death in 1945. He served the Company with great distinction for over 60 years and as a workman in the erecting shop at Perk Works said at the time of his death, “He was a very loveable man; I never heard anyone say an unkind word about him”.

For some years before his death James Robinson had been assisted in the administration of the General Machinery Department by Roy C. Mather, a grandson of “Cast Iron Colin”.

After leaving Uppingham School Roy Mather spent over three years in Germany studying engineering and the long summer vacations were spent mainly in textile works in Alsace with a view to the acquisition of knowledge regarding the processes of bleaching, dyeing, printing and finishing. After leaving Germany he followed the usual procedure of passing through the various departments of the firm in the course of his training and naturally decided to specialise on textile finishing machinery in the development of which his forefathers had played a distinguished part.

Towards the end of his apprenticeship he spent some time erecting textile machinery on the Continent of Europe and later made a visit to Russia with Mr. James Robinson. On his return he was transferred to Paris where he spent the next three years travelling extensively in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy in the interests of the textile finishing machinery section of the business.

In 1913-14 he visited the U.S.A. and Canada on his way to Japan and China where a fruitful harvest was reaped in later years from this ‘tilling of the soil”, In September 1914 his work with the firm was interrupted by the first world war during which he saw active service with the Manchester Regiment. He returned to Park Works on demobilisation but he still maintains a close interest in his old regiment and at the time of writing is president of the 19th Manchester’s Old Comrades Association.

Between the two world wars Roy Mather travelled extensively on the Continent of Europe on the business of the company, in fact it may be said that he has visited, at one time or another, every country in Europe.

At the outbreak of the second world war the manufacture of textile machinery was prohibited, except under licence and Roy Mather was given the job of co-ordinating the work entailed in the manufacture of the various new armaments and munitions which were turned out in considerable quantities by the firm, an appropriate task for one who had “practical experience of being in the field in the early days of the 1914 war with a very serious lack of the necessary equipment’

On the death of James Robinson responsibility for the design, production and sale of textile machinery and other products of the General Machinery Department was left in the hands of Roy Mather. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1942. Occupying the position of Senior Director at the time of writing is Herbert Taylor, another man who was trained up under the eye of John Taylor and was for many years engaged in the management of the Electrical Department after its transfer to Park Works.

Herbert Taylor joined Mather & Platt as an apprentice in 1890, He was not in any way related to John Taylor under whom he was destined to serve for many years but to quote words used by Sir William Mather when presenting him with a prize at the Queen Street Institute round about 1895, he was “A worthy son of a worthy Sire” because his father, George Taylor, as Sir William said “is a very fine character who has served Mather & Platt for many years”. After spending rather more than the first two years of his apprenticeship in the drawing office and fitting shops of the General Machinery Department at Salford Iron Works, Herbert Taylor was transferred to the Electrical department which then was still in its infancy, the remainder of his apprenticeship was spent in the Electrical manufacturing shops, on outside contracts in the British Isles and abroad and ended in the Drawing Office.

Mention is made elsewhere of the work of Dr. John Hopkinson and his early development of the Edison Hopkinson dynamo but while Dr. John Hopkinson had a profound influence on the scientific work carried out in the pioneer days of electric machines and there is ample evidence that he was very active in the early days of experimental work - it would seem that for the greater part of his life be was lost to Industry because he was primarily an academic man. He met a tragic death at a relatively early age as a result of a climbing accident in Switzerland. His brother Edward was for some years the Manager of the original electrical department at Salford Iron Work but he never held a full time position at Park Works and he was not responsible for the work of the Electrical Department after the transfer to the new home, although he retained a seat on the Board of Directors until 1922. For some time after the Electrical department was moved to Park Works John Taylor himself with the assistance of his able lieutenant Fred Dowson accepted responsibility for moulding the business in his own way. He had made himself familiar with the essential facts concerning the department while still at Salford and decided to make certain changes before starting operations at Park Works. Among other things he had made up his mind to model the Commercial work on lines which had proved successful in his old company, relying for the execution of his plans on young men of sound technical ability who had received their engineering training in The Salford Works. One of these young men was Herbert Taylor who worked under the direction of Fred Dowson until he was appointed Commercial Manager of the Electrical Department in l911. He was given full charge of the Department in 1914 and was made a special director in 1918 acting in this capacity until he was given a seat on the board in 1927.

Herbert Taylor was responsible for the management of the Electrical Department for nearly forty years and it would seem that he has already established a record for long service, which will remain unbroken. He is the only person still in the employ of the Company who was with the firm when Sir William Mather introduced the 48hr week at Salford in 1893, and he can recall many of the great events in the company's history for more than sixty two years. While James Robinson and Herbert Taylor were consolidating the work of the Textile Machinery and Electrical Department, as separate units, a third man was meeting with great success in his efforts to bring about a considerable expansion in the output of centrifugal pumps. He was the third Mather & Platt apprentice of this generation to prove his ability as an engineer as well as his capacity for organisation and as a result, to be rewarded with a seat on the Board of Directors.

T.Y. Sherwell - the third of eleven sons of a Civil Engineer, served his apprenticeship at Salford Iron Works 1902 to 1904 but whereas his colleagues James Robinson and Herbert Taylor remained in the service of the firm in England after completing their apprenticeship young Sherwell was sent to take up a position with the Company’s Canadian agents Messrs. Drummond, McCall & Co. Montreal and later joined the Canada Foundry Co. Toronto who manufactured pumps to Mather & Platt designs, He remained in Canada gaining valuable ‘field’ experience until 1915 when John Taylor invited him to return to the service of Mather & Platt Ltd. and take charge of the design, production and sale of Centrifugal pumps in a separate department for which he was to he responsible. Thus we find T.Y.Sherwell returning to Park Works to place his services at the disposal of the Company with which he received his early training. He was made a Special Director in 1918 and was given a seat on the board in 1927. Under his guidance and with the assistance of a very capable staff the Pump Department made great strides and has enhanced the high reputation of the Company which now ranks with the world’s best known makers of Centrifugal pumps.

We have seen how John Taylor exercised a guiding hand over the fortunes of all the Departments of the new company for many years after the removal to Park Works. The consistent growth of the Textile, Electrical and Pump departments was eloquent testimony to his wise management. A steady rise in output with a uniform profit was accompanied by ever increasing goodwill and confidence between producer and clientèle. But while John Taylor found time to take a great interest in the general Engineering side of the business he remained a leader in the realm of sprinkler protection and retained a paternal interest in the progress of his own Fire Engineering Department.

The fact that he was able to devote so much of his time and energy to the work of other branches of the Company’s business was due to the fact that when he brought the Fire Engineering business to Park Works the administration was in the hands of men on whom be could rely. One such man was Fred Dowson a younger brother of Ralph, John Taylor’s original partner, who, as already mentioned had died while on a business trip to India.

Fred Dowson was a born organiser. He joined Dowson, Taylor & Co. in 1893 and after service as an outside representative and a Branch Manager he was transferred to Manchester to take charge of the Commercial administration of the Home Section of the Fire Engineering Department. Under the guidance of’ Mr. John Taylor he assumed similar responsibility for the several commercial departments of Mather & Platt Ltd in their early years at Park Works, as and when the various sections were brought to the new home. He had a flair far assessing values in commercial enterprise and for separating the essential points from a mass of detail. For the first twenty-five years at Park Works he exercised a great influence on the business life of the company and many men who became senior officials in the concern received their early training at his hands. In recognition of his outstanding ability Fred Dowson was elected to the Board of Directors in 1924 and retained his seat until his death in 1930.

One of the important duties of his later years was to assist in the commercial training of J. Noel Taylor, the only son of his Old chief, who was destined to take charge of the Fire Engineering Division and to carry on the work started by his illustrious father.

Young Taylor took up full time duties with the Company in September 1925 on completion of his studies at Cambridge. He was no stranger at Park Works for he had served a vacation apprenticeship during his years at the university. During this apprenticeship which was continued after leaving Cambridge, he spent some time in the different sections of the Company’s business including a period of special training in the Works Manager’s office under Mr. Arthur Roberts and in the Executive Department of the Fire Engineering Division under Mr. Edward Roberts. In. l926 he accompanied Mr. John Taylor on a round—the—world tour visiting many of the Company’s branch offices and customers situated North of the Equator. This tour ended with a four months sojourn in U.S.A. to study American business methods. On the death of Mr. Dowson in 1930 Mr. Noel Taylor took charge of the Fire Engineering division. He remains in that capacity and has been a member of the Board since 1927.

Another stalwart of the Dowson Taylor & Co. regime who was destined to play an important part in the history of the first fifty years of the new Company was Edward Roberts who for many years carried out the duties of technical director in the Fire Engineering Department.

Edward Roberts was the son of John Roberts an Engineer of’ Church Bank, Bolton. His father originally had a millwright’s business but later devoted his attention to the manufacture of wringing machines. Edward was educated at Bolton Grammar School and was proud of his association with this old established foundation. But he placed the education of experience above academic qualifications and thus was representative of the old hard headed Lancashire school who concentrated upon plenty of work and unremitting devotion to duty. In 1881 be became an Indentured Apprentice of Charles Loxton Jackson of Jackson and Brother, of Bolton, and later as a draughtsman with John and Edward Wood of Victoria Foundry, Bolton, he gained experience, which was to prove of immense value in his subsequent career.

After he had completed his apprenticeship he joined John Taylor in the newly established Fire Engineering business of Dowson & Taylor. He was with Dowson & Taylor when they produced the Simplex Automatic sprinkler and when arrangements were made for them to take over the development of the “Grinnell” Sprinkler in this country. To Edward Roberts was assigned the task of organising the Drawing Office work in connection with early Sprinkler Installations. He soon realised that systematic measuring up was essential to the effective erection of a Sprinkler Installation, no less than to its ultimate performance in case of fire, and he proceeded to establish the work of surveying on a sound basis. As the Sprinkler work developed he played an important part in everything appertaining to the erection of the plant. Thus it came about that Edward Roberts probably knew more about the technical side of sprinkler work than any other man associated with the automatic sprinkler business. He had a remarkable memory for the intricacies of some thousands of “Grinnell” installations and could recall a tremendous amount of technical detail about particular features of many important sprinklered buildings, both in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe.

When Mather & Platt Ltd. secured their first sprinkler business in new territory, Edward Roberts made it his personal responsibility to see the installation through, often making the first survey himself supervising every detail and later visiting the country concerned to make a final inspection; remaining on the site to see that every detail of the installation conformed to the Grinnell standard. This duty took him to many parts of the world and in the course of his life he established an international reputation as one of the foremost technical authorities on Automatic Sprinklers.

By virtue of his early engineering training and active technical association with the “Simplex” and early “Grinnell” Installations, Edward Roberts might be described as a pioneer if not actually the first man who could rightly be termed a Fire Protection Engineer. He was a Director of Mather & Platt Ltd. from 1916 until his death in December 1944.

His son, Arthur Roberts, joined the Board of Directors of the company in 1929 and. remains to carry on the family tradition. Like his father, Arthur Roberts was a pupil of Bolton Grammar School and after receiving his early engineering training at home and becoming an Engineering Honours graduate of Manchester University he spent a considerable time studying on the Continent of Europe and serving a year’s apprenticeship with Escher Wyss & Co in Switzerland before the first World War in which he served in. the Royal Engineers.

On his return to civil life Mr. Roberts came back to Park Works as assistant to Edwin Buckley - an engineer of the Dowson Taylor regime who enjoyed a great reputation as Works Manager at Park Works. When Mr. Buckley died in 1923 Arthur Roberts was appointed to succeed him as Works Manager, he remains responsible for the Works Management and has been a member of the Board since 1929. At the time of writing he is President of the Manchester and District Engineering Employers Federation.

It is appropriate that this story of some of the personalities who have controlled the trading departments of Mather & Platt Ltd. and thereby made outstanding contributions to the success of the Company during the present century, or have strengthened ties with the past by carrying responsibilities similar to those of their ancestors, should close with reference to the youngest branch of the business. This is the Food Machinery Department, which now has headquarters at the Radcliffe Works and is under the control of William L. Mather, grandson of Sir William Mather and elder son of the present Chairman of the Company.

Young William received his early education at Oundle, a school famed for its engineering associations and spent a year before going to Cambridge, as an apprentice at Park Works. After taking his degree at Cambridge he returned to Park Works to complete his workshop training. He also spent some months of this training in the U.S.A. and France. This was followed by periods at the Paris, London and Calcutta Offices.

When he had been in Calcutta 10 months war was declared in September 1939 and William, who for some years had been a territorial officer in the Cheshire Yeomanry was called up for service with his regiment. He returned to Park Works after the war and was a member of the commercial staff of the Pump Department under Mr. T. Y. Sherwell.

Shortly after the transfer of the Food Machinery Department to the Radcliffe Works Mr. Mather was placed in charge of this section of the company’s business and has been responsible for many postwar developments to meet the increasing demands of a growing industry. Mr. W.L. Mather was appointed a director of the Company in 1947.