Catalogue description Records of John Shaw and Sons, Wolverhampton, Ltd; T E Thomson and Co Ltd (Calcutta); British Tool and Engineering Co Ltd (Britool Ltd) and Jenks Brothers Ltd

This record is held by Wolverhampton City Archives

Details of DB-24
Reference: DB-24
Title: Records of John Shaw and Sons, Wolverhampton, Ltd; T E Thomson and Co Ltd (Calcutta); British Tool and Engineering Co Ltd (Britool Ltd) and Jenks Brothers Ltd
Date: 1667-1973
Held by: Wolverhampton City Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

John Shaw and Sons Ltd, Wolverhampton

T E Thompson and Company Ltd, Calcutta

British Tool and Engineering Company Ltd (Britool Ltd)

Jenks Brothers Ltd, Wolverhampton

Physical description: 37 series
Access conditions:


Custodial history:

The records contained in this list were first examined in 1927 by the then Managing Director of John Shaw & Sons Ltd, Mr Simpson (ref. 419). They were also examined in 1973 by Mr Geoff Hancock (ref. 423) whilst they were still at Bushbury. The records were transferred from Wolverhampton to Sheffield in the 1970's and were kept at the offices of James Neill Holdings PLC (where they were examined by John Malam in 1987) until collected by archives staff. Some of the earlier records were boxed, but most were loose and in no particular order.


As no archival arrangement was apparent, the records have been divided into convenient groups; these being: A) John Shaw & Sons Ltd; B) T E Thomson & Co Ltd; and C) Jenks Brothers Ltd and the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd.


Within the John Shaw & Sons Ltd section are accounts of the Lamb Lamp & Tool Co, who were incorporated by John Shaw & Sons Ltd; and within the T E Thomson section are accounts of Allen & Shaw Ltd (Cape Colony) and Andrew & Thienhaus Ltd (Johannesburg), who were foreign interest of John Shaw & Sons Ltd.

  • Metal industry
Administrative / biographical background:





John Shaw of Wolverhampton, factor and merchant, was born in Penn in 1782. The first reference to the date of the establishment of the business appears in a publication called "The Hardwareman" of 1895 (ref. 417), which states that "the earliest surviving records of the business are of the year 1795, though, to be exact, its origin may have been a little earlier". This would make John Shaw 13 years old when he started to trade. Later, in the same article, reference is made to "a very old order book", implied to belong to John Shaw, (and uniquely identifiable by having a riddle penned on its inside cover) (ref. 151), which covers the period 1790 to 1820. In actual fact, it is an order book belonging to the Wilkinson family of Colne, Lancashire. (John Shaw married Elizabeth Wilkinson in 1813.) The first authenticable documentary evidence of the establishment of the business does not appear until 1805 (Stock book, ref. 401). John Shaw was the sole proprietor of his wholesale hardware, or factoring business, which was chiefly confined to the home trade, until 1815, when he went into partnership with Henry Crane. During the period of the partnership, the Calcutta House of T E Thomson & Co was established (1834) in India, and John Shaw brought his sons into the business. The partnership continued for 33 years, but eventually ended in 1848. Mr Crane continued in business in Darlington Street, Wolverhampton, on his own account after the dissolution of Shaw & Crane.


The business now became known as John Shaw & Sons, and around 1852, moved from George Street to 64 Church Lane. With the death of John Shaw in 1858 (aged 76), two of his sons, Thomas Wilkinson Shaw and Edward Dethick Shaw became proprietors (John Shaw junior having died in India in 1839). The home and export trades were extended, and branches or connections were established in Canada, Australia, the East and West Indies, amongst others. Edward Shaw died in 1886 (aged 65) and Thomas Shaw in 1887 (aged 69), creating a problem for the future of the Company. Taking advantage of the Limited Liability Acts, two companies were registered in 1887, one to take over the East Indian establishment (T E Thomson & Co Ltd), and one to acquire the Wolverhampton business (John Shaw & Sons, Wolverhampton, Ltd). All shares were strictly private, and were taken by the families of the late partners and brothers.


In 1896, John Shaw & Sons Ltd took over J & W Hawkes of Birmingham (est. 1831), and incorporated William & Henry Bate (est. 1849) and Owen & Fendelow (est. 1770) into the group in 1899. The incorporation of Owen & Fendelow included Windle & Blyth, Walsall (inc. 1853), Henry Stuart & Company (inc. 1877) and Plimley & Company (inc. 1888). 1899 saw John Shaw & Sons Ltd move to Fryer Street, because the company could not expand any further at their Church Lane premises. In 1906, the group incorporated Onions & Company of Birmingham.


John Shaw & Sons Ltd became a public company in 1919. By 1937, John Shaw & Sons Ltd had outgrown their Fryer Street premises, and moved to what was known as the Bushbury Works (formerly occupied by Clyno Engineering) on Fourth Avenue, Bushbury, taking with them Jenks Brothers Ltd, and the British Tool & Engineering Company Ltd, who had been incorporated that year.


Moore & Wright, and the Avia Steel & Tool Company Ltd were both incorporated in 1945.


In 1970, the John Shaw group of companies were incorporated by James Neill Holdings PLC, and in 1986 were moved away from the Britool Works in Bushbury; Britool being transferred to Abbey Dropforge in Cannock.




The first representative of the Wolverhampton firm of Shaw & Crane (later John Shaw & Sons) in India was Thomas E Thomson (an early traveller for the firm). He established T E Thomson & Company in 1834 at 2 Old Court House Street, Calcutta. The nature of the business was an "indent business" - it took orders from native firms, then transmitted them home for execution. However, extensive stocks were kept from the outset. The first shipment of goods charged against the Calcutta branch on 7 November 1834 was for £2,383, and up to mid-1848, goods to the value of £127,000 were shipped to India. The earlier stocks were primarily railway supplies, but the business later developed into a large wholesale and retail concern, carrying heavy stocks of hardware, tools, machine tools, pumps and agricultural implements.


John Shaw junior travelled out to India, but died in 1839 of a recurring illness during a journey to Meerut. T E Thomson died in 1846, and was succeeded by Mr Turner, who continued to conduct the business under the name of T E Thomson and Company. In 1853, Mr Turner died, and Edward Dethick Shaw travelled to Calcutta to see to the affairs of the business. He left early in 1854 and appointed a Mr Webb as manager. It was about this time that the company moved from 2 Old Court House Street to 14 (later renumbered 9) Esplanade East, Calcutta. Mr Webb was manager only briefly, and was replaced by a Mr Gentle, whose health failed, and who in turn was replaced by a Mr O'Brien, who died shortly afterwards.


In 1860, two brothers, Thomas & Boughton Newman because managers, until they both died in 1876 (one in April, the other in June). They were succeeded by George Irving and W W Burgess.


Following the deaths of E D Shaw and T W Shaw in England in 1886 and 1887 respectively, T E Thomson & Co was registered as a limited liability company, at the same time as its parent company, John Shaw and Sons.


In 1890, Sir Charles E Shaw visited the Calcutta House, during the course of a journey around the world.


In 1947, "TET and Co", as it had become familiarly known, was sold to the Maharaja of Nepal.




Jenks Brothers Ltd was incorporated in 1912 by Reginald Percy Jenks and George Clement Jenks, with registered offices at 47 Melbourne Street, Wolverhampton.


The British Tool & Engineering Company Ltd was incorporated in 1915 by Charles Bardell Wadsworth, Reginald P Jenks, Clement Jenks and H S Gibbons, with registered offices at Owen Road, Wolverhampton.


Both companies were mainly concerned with the production of handtools.


Following the First World War, the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd suffered a trade slump (as did other engineering companies as a result of post-war conditions), which was compounded by a client company breaking a contract. This was alleviated by British Tool diversifying into other areas, such as the production (under license) of a jacking system for motor cars.


Part of British Tool's Owen Road works were sub-let to Jenks Brothers Ltd in 1925, and this was to the mutual advantage of both companies, as it increased the variety of stock available on the premises, whilst reducing duplication of stock, and had both of the Jenks Brothers in more immediate contact with each other.


A large transfer of shares occurred in 1928 between Jenks Brothers Ltd and the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd, so that one body of shareholders could own and control the two companies and their businesses. Jenks Brothers Ltd became the parent company of the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd.


In 1934, Clement Jenks was elected a Director of John Shaw & Sons Ltd (and T E Thomson & Co Ltd), and in 1937, John Shaw & Sons Ltd purchased virtually all of the shares in Jenks Brothers Ltd and the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd, and moved both companies to the Britool Works in Bushbury. John Shaw & Sons Ltd also moved to the Britool works at the same time. Jenks Brothers Ltd rented one bay, and the British Tool & Engineering Co Ltd rented nine and a half bays, and by 1940 the staff of both companies had been merged with John Shaw & Sons Ltd staff. At this time, Clement Jenks became Director of Hand Tools on the Board of the Ministry of Supply, and retired from the chair of Jenks Brothers, John Shaw & Sons, and British Tool. He rejoined the Board of the Companies in 1943, and was Chairman again by 1945. George Clement Jenks died in 1946. Reginald P Jenks became Chairman in his brother's place, and he died in 1958.

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