The early history of this company is not known at present. The best clue we have so far is this advertisement from a trade directory of 1896:
|Note that in this advert the company claims to
have been founded in 1810. In Victorian times companies sometimes
made what we would think are dubious claims about their foundation
- they guessed at a date or they took the earliest foundation date
of any firm they had taken over or with which members of the
controlling family had been associated. So we cannot be sure who
founded what in 1810 but it may be that some brothers called
Thompson founded this company then. The Thompson family certainly
were in control of the company during the first half of the
twentieth century; and their cousins ran John Thompson Ltd. of
In 1896 they certainly give the impression of being quite a large company and well established. The advert leads on "galvanizing baths". Galvanising was a thriving industry at the time, especially in Wolverhampton. But the advert also mentions various sorts of tubs and tanks, steam boilers and even iron boats (which may have been canal boats). So it seems that even at this stage they were set on their course of making boilers, tanks and the like.
|It seems worthwhile giving this enlargement of the picture in the advert. It is probably a wood cut and was probably made from a photograph. It provides an early view of a Bilston factory, albeit not a very clear or detailed one.
|During the early part of the twentieth century Thompson
Brothers continued on this course, making tanks and boilers of all
sorts. During the first world war they established an aviation department
which made parts for aircraft. For this purpose they erected three
interconnected buildings with Belfast roofs, housing sheet metal shops, a
wood mill and machine shops.
The picture right, showing their Bradley Engineering works, probably dates from around 1945.
|This aerial photo (courtesy of Keith Timmins) shows the
works at a somewhat later date and from a different angle.
Great Bridge Road runs across the right hand side; the Bentley canal
runs across the bottom and the railway line, now the Metro, runs across
the top right hand corner.
This second photo shows the works at their largest extent. In 1918, when the war ended and with it their government contracts for aircraft parts, there was little to occupy their existing buildings with and the company was in trouble. To counter this they made a foray in to making cars.
click here to read about Thompson Bros cars.
|That foray was short lived but succesful, at least in the sense that they made a very well regarded vehicle and in that it seems to have been the development that got them into transport. Certainly they seem to have got into motor transport sometime during the 1920s, not making chassis and engines themselves but making and fitting all sorts of bodies, especially tankers. Some of the earliest, and most successful of these, were aircraft refuellers.
click here to read about early Thompson Bros aircraft refuellers
|This photo comes from a 1931 magazine. It shows a tanker, designed by Scammel and built by Thompsons, with the unusual feature of having no rear chassis frame, the tank itself connecting the turntable to the rear wheels. Also the rearmost section could be removed when not needed.
By courtesy of Peter Slater we have some pictures of later Thompson Products. We do not have details of exactly what all of these items are but they seem to have been photographed in the 1940s or 1950s.
|This is an example of one of Thompson Brothers specialities - special bodies. But what this one was for is far from clear. Another photo of the interior seems to show a small generator at one end and nothing else.
|This view from a window shows another special trailer; but again its use is not known.
|This trailer is clearly for transporting liquids and is therefore much more in line with what Thompson Brothers became best known for.
|But other aspects of transport did not escape the company's attention. Here is an "Indian Pattern" scotch and scotch holder.
|The notice seen in the photo announces that this is stainless steel work by Thompson Brothers. They seem to be some kind of pressure vessel, possibly associated with brewery or dairy work, with which Thompson Brothers were concerned. But the grey mist is not steam - it was added to the photo (by Bennett Clark) to make the items stand out.
|This seems to be a generator. The greater part of it is taken up by the Villiers stationery engine.
|This advert (by courtesy of Ian Beach) comes from the Aeroplane in 1944 and shows aircraft refuellers lined up outside the works, with Great Bridge Road to the right.
|The advertisement to the left is of uncertain date but seems to be from the 1950s. In it Thompson Brothers say they are specialists in the production of: welded plate steel work, welded steel tanks for transport and storage pf petrol, oils, acids, alkalies (sic) and all liquids, chemical plant in mild steel, Staybrite stainless alloys, aluminium, etc. etc, galvanising plant of all classes, annealing covers and heat treatment equipment. What the illustrations show they do not say
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