W & T Avery Ltd.

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Main gate to Soho Foundry, head office of W&T Avery

W & T Avery Ltd. is a British manufacturer of weighing machines. The company was founded in the early 18th century and took the name W & T Avery in 1818. Having been taken over by GEC in 1979 the company was later renamed into GEC-Avery. The company became Avery Berkel in 1993 when GEC acquired the Dutch company Berkel. After the take over by Weigh-Tronix in 2000 the company was again renamed to be called Avery Weigh-Tronix. The company is based in Smethwick, West Midlands, United Kingdom.

History[edit]

Set of scales made by Avery early 20th century
Set of scales made by Avery in the 1960s
An Avery weighing machine, for weighing a person, now in Leominster Museum

The undocumented origin of the company goes back to 1730 when James Ford established the business in Digbeth. On Joseph Balden the then owner's death in 1813 William and Thomas Avery took over his scalemaking business and in 1818 renamed it W & T Avery. The business rapidly expanded and in 1885 they owned three factories: the Atlas Works in West Bromwich, the Mill Lane Works in Birmingham and the Moat Lane Works in Digbeth. In 1891 the business became a limited company with a board of directors and in 1894 the shares were quoted on the London Stock Exchange. In 1895 the company bought the legendary Soho Foundry in Smethwick, a former steam engine factory owned by James Watt & Co. In 1897 the move was complete and the steam engine business was gradually converted to pure manufacture of weighing machines. The turn of the century was marked by managing director William Hipkins' determined efforts in broadening the renown of the Avery brand and transforming the business into a specialist manufacturer of weighing machines.[1] By 1914 the company occupied an area of 32,000m² and had some 3000 employees.

In the inter-war period the growth continued with the addition of specialised shops for cast parts, enamel paints and weighbridge assembly and the product range diversified into counting machines, testing machines, automatic packing machines and petrol pumps. During the second world war the company also produced various types of heavy guns. At that time the site underwent severe damage from parachute mines and incendiary bombs.

From 1931 to 1973 the company occupied the 18th-century Middlesex Sessions House in Clerkenwell as its headquarters.[2]

Changes in weighing machine technology after World War II led to the closure of the foundry, the introduction of load cells and electronic weighing with the simultaneous gradual disappearance of purely mechanical devices.

The continued expansion was partly achieved through a series of acquisitions of other companies. The most important are:[3]

  • 1895 James Watt & Co
  • 1899 Parnall & Sons Ltd.
  • 1920/1928 Southall and Smith Ltd.
  • 1920 Saml. Denison & Son Ltd. (name changed to Avery-Denison Ltd. in 1970)
  • 1925 Oertling Ltd.
  • 1931 The Tan Sad Chair Co. (1931) Ltd.
  • 1932 Avery-Hardoll Ltd.
  • 1953/1976 Pump Maintenance Ltd.
  • 1959 Geo Driver & Son Ltd.; merged in 1966 with Southall and Smith Ltd. to form Driver Southall Ltd.
  • 1968 Stanton Redcroft Ltd.
  • 1973 Telomex Ltd.

After almost a century of national and international expansion the company was taken over by GEC in 1979. Keith Hodgkinson, managing director at the time, completed the turn-around from mechanical to electronic weighing with a complete overhaul of the product range of retail scales and industrial platform scales. In 1993 GEC took over the Dutch-based company Berkel and the Avery-Berkel name was introduced. In 2000 the business was in turn acquired by the US-American company Weigh-Tronix, who already owned Salter, and is today operating as Avery Weigh-Tronix.

In 2008 Illinois Tool Works Inc. purchased Avery Weigh-Tronix from its then owners, European Capital.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hipkins died on the Titanic in 1912.
  2. ^ Temple, Philip, ed. (2008). "Clerkenwell Green". South and East Clerkenwell. Survey of London. 46. New Haven, London: English Heritage. pp. 86–114. ISBN 9780300137279. 
  3. ^ Source: Chapter Four of The General Electric Company Limited and Averys Limited: A Report on the Proposed Merger
  4. ^ Cf. ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS (ITW) PURCHASES AVERY WEIGH-TRONIX

Literature[edit]

  • Ernest Pendarves Leigh-Bennett, Weighing the World: an impression after two hundred years of the past history of an English house of business, and of its present activities and influence throughout the world of weighing, 1730-1930, Birmingham, 1930
  • Walter Keith Vernon Gale, Soho Foundry, Birmingham, 1948
  • Monopolies and Mergers Commission, The General Electric Company Limited and Averys Limited: a report on the proposed merger, London, 1979, ISBN 0-10-176530-4
  • L H Broadbent, "The Avery Business (1730-1918)", W & T Avery, Birmingham, 1949

External links[edit]

See also[edit]