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History of Bilston - Part 27

The History of Beldray/Bradley & Co. Ltd - Mount Pleasant. 1945 to 2005: the products.

We can say that after the War the company continued with general domestic ware, based on steel plate, with a variety of finishes, especially galvanised. These products included kettles, baking trays, saucepans, frying pans, buckets, pails, dustbins and the like. Their watering cans continued in production. But the brass and copper art metalwares were never re-introduced after the War.

The company had to keep up with changing demands, fashions and materials. It seems to have done so throughout its life. It was not any sort of product or design failure which lead to its ultimate demise.

Michael Doubleday says that in the immediate post-war years Hermon Bradley wanted to take the firm in new directions. He brought in a lot of new people and many of the older senior employees left. These included Norman Doubleday, the Works Manager, whose position was taken by George Freeman, who had been his deputy.

It seems, from the catalogues still extant, that not only did the brass and copperware fall by the wayside but that gradually many of the company's old lines fell out of production as new lines took over. These new lines included things like step ladders but the most notable of them were ironing boards, which were joined by a range of associated laundry products. In 1961 the company branched out in to new fields by producing a modular storage system, the first made in the UK.

In more recent years (some time after Brian Davies left the firm in 1994) the company moved into safety equipment, such as the gates you put at the top of the stairs to stop children falling down, and they produced a wide range of such things.

Beldray ironing boards became so widely sold and so much appreciated that they became an icon of the firm, if not of Bilston. (They occupied much the same position as the Hill's Hoist does in South Australia. Though founded much later, Hills have a very similar sort of manufacturing history and make all sorts of laundry equipment and accessories. And, of course, Beldray made a rotary clothes drier (as seen in the 1975 colour photo above), in all but a few features a Hill's Hoist.

According to Mary Southall the first ironing board was made in 1951. It had fixed legs and a steel top instead of the traditional wooden one. It was called the Mark 1 and was made exclusively for the Canadian market, as a result of the then Managing Director, R. Turner Hood, and going to Canada and getting a contract with a firm called Eatons. There were several developments of the board up to the Mark 7, which was the first to have fully adjustable legs and was introduced in 1954-55.

Then in 1960 the contract with Eatons "fell through" for reasons not specified. So Bradley's then developed an entirely new table called the Five Star which was adjustable to 12 different heights. It sold in large quantities at home and abroad. At the same time the Europa was introduced which had a retractable well for the iron. From then on development appears to have been continuous and when Ms Southall wrote, in about 1967, she declared that there were nearly fifty different kinds, some of which were made for other companies under their brand names.

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