There are not many companies that can say they’ve been in business since the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, took office back in 1740, but that’s exactly what HS Marston facility in Wolverhampton, U.K., is celebrating this month. The business has seen 10 monarchs reign over Britain, survived the Boer war, World Wars I and II, lived through the Industrial Revolution, endured the rise and demise of the coal mining industry and experienced numerous ups and downs in the housing market.
The HS Marston business originally focused on making household items out of tin and quickly transformed to support the evolution of transportation. Looking at the extraordinary history of HS Marston, transportation has always been at the very heart of the business, from bicycles to cars to aircraft components. So much so that the cars the company built beat the world land speed record for three years (1922, 1924 and 1925). In addition, the 1,000-horsepower Sunbeam, nicknamed by employees “The Slug,” was the first car to exceed 200 mph.
During World War I, the business built water-cooled engines, fuel tanks and aircraft for the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). In World War II, the business concentrated on radiators, heat exchangers and metal fuel tanks for aircraft. Additionally, the development of self-sealing rubber fuel tanks was crucial to the war effort, helping ensure damaged planes could return to base.
It was during the war period that the business played host to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for a number of transmissions from the canteen for its Workers’ Playtime Radio show. The variety show was originally intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during World War II and was broadcast at lunchtime, live from a factory canteen "somewhere in Britain.”
During subsequent years the company expanded its product portfolio and developed new laminated plastic products and light- and heavy-gauge alloy metals. HS Marston also became a leader in the newer argon-arc techniques for welding. In the 1980s, the company name was changed to “IMI Marston” and core activities focused on developing new aerospace products as well as oil coolers and radiators for motorsport applications.
In the 1990s, the business was acquired by Hamilton Sundstrand and in 2012 United Technologies Corporation acquired Goodrich and formed UTC Aerospace Systems. The company forbearers would have been proud to learn that innovation still drives the business with new technologies such as laminate heat exchangers as well as additive manufacturing.
A celebratory event was held on site this month to recognize the milestone. Employees were commended for their hard work and encouraged to continue to innovate.
I simply wish to congratulate all of you – and your families. From the front office to the factory floor, you have played a role in Marston’s success – in the past, present and future. I’m a strong believer that the accomplishments of a company are driven by hard work, engagement and spirit of its workforce,” said Tom Pelland, President, Engine & Environmental Control Systems.
“We are all very proud to continue a long tradition of skill and innovation that started in the Industrial Revolution and now provides high-value engineering for today’s aerospace industry,” said David Danger, Managing Director, CORP-Engine & Environmental Control Systems.
Interviews with Employees
All Systems News managed to catch up with two of HS Marston’s longest-serving employees, who both happened to meet each other on the first day of their apprenticeship, and two of the newest recruits:
With the 1960s in full swing, teenagers Nigel Ormerod and Kevin Dawson started their careers at HS Marston.
“Back then there were around 1,500 employees and we had around 10 to 12 different product lines,” said Ormerod. “I finished my apprenticeship and worked my way up from technical estimator in Aerospace to Project Engineer in the Productivity Services Department.”
Benefiting from his experience working in Boston for General Electric, Ormerod held positions of increasing responsibility, including Development Engineer, various production management roles and Operations Director. It’s the wealth of experience in Operations which he admits possibly landed him the role in Human Resources.
“It does seem a bit unusual for someone from my background to go into Human Resources but the person who appointed me saw something in me that perhaps I didn’t at the time,” said Ormerod.
Meanwhile Dawson, who is Director of Special Products in Aftermarket, has had an equally varied career path. From his apprenticeship he went on to work in the Anode Department making parts in titanium. He also moved to the Productivity Services Department and then on to sales and then Aftermarket sales. He was asked to set up a motorsport cooling business which led to Marston becoming the supplier of all Formula 1 team coolers, as well as NASCAR and the Indy Racing League.
Dawson is proof that you never stop learning during your career with UTC Aerospace Systems, after earning an MBA from which he won the Institute of Directors award as well as Wolverhampton University’s MBA Student of the Year Award.
The newest recruits will help the business celebrate 275 years this month and although they may not have been with the company for quite as long, they still have stories to tell of their time at HS Marston.
Sophie Wilson turned down the chance of pursuing a career as a jockey for that of an Apprentice Engineer. She admits she was swayed by the longevity of an engineering career, as evidenced by Ormerod and Dawson.
“I was good at engineering at school and it interested me. I was asked to go into being a jockey but I just didn’t think the career would last that long so I took my family along to an event where HS Marston was and they seemed to think it was a good choice,” said Wilson.
During her time with the company and during her apprentice rotation, she admits that radiography is something which appeals to her. “I like the fact that there are a lot of technical aspects and there are a lot of exams, which appeals to me at the moment.”
Her colleague, Jack Seaman, comes from a long line of engineers in his family. He said, “It was something which I grew up with and so when it came to deciding what I wanted to do, I knew what it would be. I like the fact that everything you see around you had some aspect of engineering to make it happen. It touches every aspect of our lives and I find that very exciting.”