F. J. Edwards Limited

Of all the companies that Messenger & Co., Ltd. undertook work for, F. J. Edwards Ltd., was probably the most important and influential; particularly from the mid-1940s onwards.

F. J. Edwards was reportedly formed in 1916 as Belgian Specialists Co., changing their name the following year to F. J. Edwards[1]. They were probably best known for the Besco range of sheet metal working machinery and machine tools, introduced in the 1930s. During the early 1920s their London office was at No. 406, Euston Road, later moving to Edwards House, Nos. 359-361, Euston Road. In the 1920s, they had their own factory in Loudoun Road, St. John’s Wood, London, adding a Depot at Liverpool Road, London in the late 1940s[2] and later offices in Birmingham.

The firm were undertaking work for Edwards as early as 1923[3], when they processed more than twenty sets of orders across the 8½ month period between February and October[4]. The orders were primarily for machine parts, such as pulleys, gear wheels, panel heads and castings, although whole machines were also fabricated. A substantial portion of the work required the preparation of wood patterns prior to casting, although Edwards’s occasionally provided a few ready-made patterns.

In June 1923, the firm produced three 36½in. wide modified cramp folding machines, with F. J. Edwards’ trade mark painted on them and with all the parts numbered. This appears to have been the first time that the firm had made this machine, as they returned the sample machine, along with the three new ones. In July, they produced another 4 cramp folding machines. In August, again using a sample machine, they produced two wheeling machines with one top and three bottom rollers. However, instead of painting Edwards trade mark on the machines, their name “F. J. EDWARDS LTD” was cast on the shaft. On at least one occasion they undertook repairs to an old wheeling machine, fitting new horizontal and vertical shafts, new rollers with ball bearings, new collars, etc. A relatively high portion of the work appears to have been new, as examples were often sent to ensure that both the casting and probably more important, the machining and finishing was correct.

It would appear reasonable to assume that Edwards continued to use the firm as part of their overall production facilities in the intervening period up to the beginning of World War Two.

In 1941[5], for an unknown reason, the firm recorded a loan of £5,000 from F. J. Edwards Ltd., despite posting a gross profit of £26,298 3s. 2d. The following year, they appear to have received another £5,000 loan, which was paid back in full over the following ten years[6]. This loan would indicate a much closer collaboration between the two firms than a normal customer/supplier relationship.

By March 1948[7], the relationship between the two companies was such that Mr. H. A. Johnson the Managing Director of F. J. Edwards and Co., Ltd., began to draw £100 salary and expenses from the firm. The following year he became a director and was allocated 2,000 Ordinary shares, receiving a dividend of £550 in 1950 and £660 the following year[8]. In addition, he was still receiving £100 per year, although by now being described as a ‘fee’, presumably a Directors fee[9]. Interestingly, F. J. Edwards Ltd., were also allocated a small number of shares, in addition, of those allocated to Mr. H.A. Johnson.

By the early 1950s, the work from Edwards was primarily complete machine fabrication including guillotines; gap swaging machines; folding machines; rather than simply machine parts. Edwards even went as far as claiming Loughborough as one of their own works, along with their own factories in London, Chard in Somerset, and later, Birmingham.

The relationship between the two companies appears never to have been totally harmonious, certainly during the 1950s[10]. There was an underlying tension between the two and their correspondence was certainly more customer/supplier than partnership.

During the 1950s and early 1960s the importance of Edwards to the firm should not be underestimated. They provided the firm with over 50 percent of their total monthly cash receipts, covering all their products, horticultural, heating and engineering[11]. Being so reliant upon one customer, even one that was described an allied company[12], was obviously a risk.

The relationship between the two companies began to decline during the 1960s. By 1965, the percentage had fallen to a little over 20 percent and by 1967, it was under 15 percent[13]. By the early 1970s, the work had almost completely terminated.


References:

  1. F.J. Edwards
  2. Privately held records.
  3. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/32.
  4. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/32.
  5. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/08.
  6. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/08.
  7. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/295.
  8. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/295.
  9. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/295.
  10. Privately held records.
  11. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/10 and DE2121/11.
  12. The Loughborough Monitor, 23rd May 1958.
  13. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/11.