WALTER SOMERS LTD., ENGINE AND MARINE FORGINGS MANUFACTURERS, HALESOWEN, WORCESTERSHIRE
||Walter Somers Ltd, Halesowen
In 1866 Walter Somers, originally from Derbyshire, used a loan of £100 from his father to take a short lease on a modest ironworks complex at Mucklow Hill, Halesowen and set himself up in business as a forgemaster. The plant was geared towards the production of chain and anchors, but the company changed direction and came to specialise in axles and buffers. By 1890 Somers had added to and improved the firm to the extent that it was able to deliver forgings to Admiralty specifications. During World War I the firm's links with the Admiralty were strengthened; as a result many women were employed in the production of naval ordnance. In 1917 Walter Somers died and left the firm in the hands of his two sons, Seth and Frank, the latter holding the position of managing director until 1954. Walter Somers Limited, today (2005) a non-trading company with offices in Stourbridge, was incorporated in 1919 and remained a considerable force within the trade until it became embroiled in the arms for Iraq scandal in the 1980s. Former subsidiaries survive, such as Somers Handling, part of the Lloyds Somers conglomerate under Lloyds British Testing, and this company, together with Somers Forge and Somers Vehicle Lifts, trades in the locality of Walter Somers's original establishment.
Beginning at the time when Somers's had found its niche within the field of engine parts and other small forgings, the collection consists of order books, Nos 1-54, where each order includes a technical drawing with detailed specifications, as well as customer and delivery information. Each volume records 2000-3000 orders in 500 pages. There are also general specifications and tendering information. Occasionally, loose drawings, blueprints and letters are enclosed. The series is complete and self-contained; after order No 10000 in 1957, the firm switched to order sheets. The dates indicated are the dates when orders were received, not necessarily the dates when they were entered in the book. By the 1950s they were given a running order number. This collection was catalogued in July 2005 as part of the Pay and Power project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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