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Ionic Plating Works

Frankf

knowlegable brummie
Hi - anyone remember Ionic plating company? It was in Heath Street Smethwick up until the late 70's.
Would love to hear from anyone who worked there between 1955- 1975.

Frank
 

Astonian

gone but not forgotten
hi frankf
are you sure it was heath street,and not one of the roads behind it
at this precise moment i am racking my brains out
because i am sure it was the back roads that brought you out by the grove
picture house, there was a very long rd that ran down beside the the picture
house and thats where i remember the ionic plating company
when you walked down there it would bring you to heath street
and i know they was a very big plating company
if one of our experts on the maps can have a quick look they could see the
road i am on about its the road emediately as you hit the grove picture
house , and not the one after it ,whilst i am on the grove can some-one tell
me ,what was the name of the little pub across the rd from the grove
picture house ,as i have for gotten it ,not the one directly next to the
picture house as i know that one it became mcdodonalds
have a nice day every body best wishes astonian ,;;
 
L

ladywood

Guest
Hi - anyone remember Ionic plating company? It was in Heath Street Smethwick up until the late 70's.
Would love to hear from anyone who worked there between 1955- 1975.

Frank
Sorry Frank, can't help you, but my father was a plater at a firm called Elkingtons in New Hall Street, which later became the Science Museum.
I spent many Sunday afternoons there at the science museum, listening to the hiss of the working beam engine and trying to win on a, simple electronic game of 'Beat the Fox'.
Never to miss downstairs Donald Campbell's, Railton Special.????

ladywood
 

Findwilliam

proper brummie kid
Hi,
I worked there (during a summer holiday job in 1964 I think). I was at Holly Lodge Grammar school and in the Sixth Form, planning to go to university. I just pitched up at the Smethwick unemployment office at beginning of the summer holidays, and was sent down there. I didn't trell them I would only be working there temporarily.

Yes, it was on Grove Lane, I think (I may have old pay slips somewhere -- I am a bit of a hoarder). Or it may have been Grove Street. I well remember walking all the way from Greenfield Road to get there for 07:30 (would a schoolchild do this today?).

I worked on silver and gold plating. Both were rather specialised at Ionic and I worked on my own (most of Ionic did chrome and similar plating) in a small room dedicated to precious metals. Silver plating was 'easy'; several of us worked on it. We did plating of electrodes for Kelner-Solvay process. I remember lifting 250 lb and 350 lb crates of the copper lectrodes to be plated on an off low loader trolleys. On my own -- a teenager. Didn't think much of it at the time. But I was naive, and fit (I guess). Health and Safety?!!

I also did gold plating (I was the 'gold plater' there for a couple of months). Mainly of small electrical items. I remember gold-plating a shilling for fun -- looked like a sovereign (don't know what I did with it). This was more problematic. I remeber plating items, having them tested, finding them unacceptable quality, ... for several weeks, before we got process right. As gold was so valuable, we stripped the gold off scrap items using aqua regia (a mixture of nitric an hydrochloric acid -- very corrosive -- but dissolves gold). I just put the acid in a bucket, then dipped a sieve containing the plated items in it and shook it until all the gold had been dissolved. The sive (made of iconel?) gradually dissolved as well of course.

I remember working late one night and switching off my gold plating tanks at the wrong place. When the early shift came on the next day, they swithed on the power, and when I arrived, I found the gold-plating tank was overheating (I recall 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but my memory may be faulty there). But it was definitely fuming. So I panicked, switched things off, ... And felt a little faint. Which was worrying, as the plating solution was a cyanide salt of gold, and evolved HCN (highly poisonous -- used in american gas chambers). This smells of almonds, but as I have had no sense of smell since I was a child. So I ran out, telling those I passed to evacuate the room. When outside, I knew I would now in a few seconds whether I would survive or not. Obviously I did.

Another memory I have is of finding two slabs of solid silver at the bottom of a plating tank: each about 100 mm by 8 mm by 400 mm. Quite valuable. Just lying in the tank. But we would never have dreamt of 'nicking' such items in those days.

As the gold process was so problematic initially, I got to talk to the works chemist, who soon realised that I knew much more about chemistry than the average recruit from the job centre (I was doing A and S level chemistry and physics, and had already passed A-level chemistry a year early) and he tried to persuade me to take a job there, and study for a degree (or even PhD part time). But I decided to continue with my original plan and left at the end of the summer, to complete my studies at Holly Lodge. We parted on good terms, but I cannot remember his name.

I am very proud to have worked (even if only for 2-3 months) in a Smethwick factory. I also worked at Scribbens-Kemp (loading lorries) and Mitchells and Butlers. All gone now. But I do feel I have a link with industrial Smethwick/Bham of the 1960s.
 

Findwilliam

proper brummie kid
Wasn't the "Beat the Fox" machine also able to play noughts and crosses (called Tic-Tac-Toe) in the rest of the world? I remember the valves and relays in it. I used it as an example of an implementation of a conceptual system (one to play noughts and crosses) using different technologies when I was teaching system modelling from 1984 onwards. These days, everyone would assume you would just 'write a program'.

The machine (which I remember as "Noughts and Crosses"/"Fox and Geese") was one of my favourites of the old Science Museum -- which was much better than the new one, in my opinion. And the Railton special, beam engine and a working electric organ were my other favourites.
 

maybell

master brummie
I am sure it was Grove Lane, i Used to Work at GKN Screws which was in Heath Street and just about covered that end of Smethwick with a back entrance onto Grove Lane.
 

dek carr

gone but not forgotten
I remember going to part of Ionic as an electrical contractor but the building was off Icknield Port Rd maybe Wiggon St or around that area this may not have been the main branch i think the main platting shop was in Grove St Almost opposite M&B on Cape Hill. Dek
 

Frankf

knowlegable brummie
Hi there, thanks for your reply, fascinating stuff about life inside the plating works. I originally posted the request for info as my dad worked at Ionic during those years and became works director. I was a young 10 yr old at the time you went there for your summer job, but as I grew older I understood a little about what an electro plating plant did but not the detail. You are right about it being on Grove Lane - I always remember Heath Street but as someone has mentioned here, that was GKN srews and fastners but Ionic was part of the GKN group.
I have memories of the kids christmas parties there every year also.
If anyone else worked there during this period or knows someone who did, I'd be interested to hear from you.

Many thanks

Frankf
 
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Paul.J.T

Brummie babby
Hello ---My first post on this Forum,I lived in this area as a little boy,actually at 25 Halberton Street and from memory the pub was called the Engine,the house we lived in was my Nans and remember going with her to this pub a number of times with her jug for a couple of pints of Mild.
 

Paul.J.T

Brummie babby
Hi - anyone remember Ionic plating company? It was in Heath Street Smethwick up until the late 70's.
Would love to hear from anyone who worked there between 1955- 1975.

Frank
Hello ---I am new to this forum and although I didnt work at the Ionic Plating Company my father did in the early 1950s.
From memory the factory was in Grove Street and had "sides" on two streets Grove Street and Halberton Street , I lived in Halberton Street at the time and can clearly remember looking through the mesh windows at Vats of bubbling liquid and being convinced that it all looked like something from a horror film :).
Cheers.
 
F

freddy

Guest
I worked as a research and process chemist at Ionic (known internally as "The Ironic") in the late 60's and early 70's.

The main factory lay in the area bounded by Grove Street and Halburton Street; there was another big site just off Burntree island on the Birmingham New Road. Following a major fire in part of the Grove Street works, the old Wrights Ropes factory the other side of Halburton street was purchased and filled with the most modern mass finishing machines available at that time. The entrance and loading bays were round the corner in Abberley Street.

The directors I can recall are Bert Wallbank the founder and MD, a most brilliant man, and Mssrs. Archer, Flynn,and Prosser. The Sales Director was I think Tom Ketteridge(?) who made violins as a hobby and loved his game fishing. I can recall him showing me and all the guys from the angling club a 17 pound salmon in the boot of his motor. Bert died much too soon, and his place was taken by Dave Westbury, renowned for his beautiful secretaries. I asked him once why all his girls were so gorgeous and he replied "Well they only cost as much as the plain ones!" Lovely man.

Most of the workload came from GKN in the form of fasteners for zinc plating. The silver plating section was a bit of an offshoot as FrankF says, and I didn't have much to do with it. I can recall that one of the operators was a wee Irish chap, Charlie Lemon. The works were roughly split into two sections, vat plating and barrel plating. The vat section was pretty old hat, but the Abberley Street barrel section was state of the art. Ron Stockley managed the vats, and Jim Hughes the barrels, with Ernie Cale, Frank Pagett, Arnold Dodd, Freddie Boulton, Bob Belcher and Jim O'Sullivan as foremen. Ray Higgins ran the nightshift for years.

The chief chemist referred to might have been Colin Prosser who became a director, or Sean Gwynn who left not long after I started, or perhaps Clive Pearce, though he came a bit later on.

It was quite a hard drinking outfit as were many factories at that time; "The Locomotive Engine" and "The Cape of Good Hope" were more like office extensions; I used to do my shift changeover in the Cape, and Woodland Street Club doubled up as the Personnel Dept!!

I look back on my time there as some of the happiest of my working years.

Regards

freddy
 

Frankf

knowlegable brummie
Hi Freddy,

many thanks for your post - I know its took a long time to post back but I'd forgotten about this site!

Great to hear tha you remember my dad - Tom Flynn - if you have any more memories of him or about Ionic I'd love to hear them.

Great to hear that these were some of the happiest days for your work career too!

Regards

Frankf
 

ffeizer

New Member
Hi freedy, do you know the date of the fire? or know of any newspaper coverage? I've been trying to learn more but am finding it difficult.
regards,
ffeizer
 

andrewmacdonald

New Member
Hi, Just by chance I came across your query. As it happens i worked very closely with Tom Flynn in the 1960's. he was one of my mentors. I first met him in 1959 when I joined Ionic. I was his assistant from 1965 to 1967 and worked in the same office.
He was one of teh people who started up Ionic with bert Wallbank. Ionic was a wholly owned subsiduary of Guest Keen and Nettlefolds, at that time the largest screw manufacturer in the world. Tom was originally the production control manager and it took a lot of persuading for him to become Plant Manager.
He knew teh place intimately and had the unique ability to walk round the shop floor first thing in the morning and know everything that was going on.
I statred under Colin Prosser, and Eddie Baker the technical department, got moved to Dudley Works as a Chemist and then returned to grove Street as Tom's asistant.
The intent was that I should learn from the master how to run a factory, whih I did by osmosis.
Tom was the perfect Plamt manager for Ionic. he never seemed get upset, raise his voice or lose his temper but managed the company by example, hard work, good selection of staff and an intimate knowledge of everything that went on.
he led the comany through two fires, a strike and constant pressure from GKN.
His only drawbacks was that he was a chain smoker, was slightly overweight and chewed aspirins like candies.
names that come to mind are:
Colin Prosser, Chief Chemist
Eddie Baker,asst. Chief Chemist
Derek Sutton, Barrel Section Manager
Ron Stockley, Rack Department Manager
Dan Eaton, Work Study
Dave Wesbury accounts, General Manager after Bert retired after a heart attack, and eventually co-owner.
Dick Spenser who became deputy Chief accountant.
Let me end with the statement that Ionic was a happy place to work in and that everyone was good to know. If you need more then e-mail me.
 

andrewmacdonald

New Member
There were two fires. One at the Dudley works around 1962 and one in the barrel section around1965. The first was caused by a spark from a spinner when spirit based dyes were used on phosphating. The other was caused by oil accumulating in the open drain from the cleaning line, but I do not know what sparked it.
 

terenceamos

New Member
Hi - anyone remember Ionic plating company? It was in Heath Street Smethwick up until the late 70's.
Would love to hear from anyone who worked there between 1955- 1975.

Frank
Hi frankf my name is terence amos and i worked at the ionic plating company between 1962-1968,i remember ron stockley this is a picture of him on his retirement,ernie kale, robert belcher (william ford who was my uncle).have you got any pictures from the wonderful place we used to work at,which was in grove street,hope to hear from you soon.
s retirement from Ionic.jpg
 
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B

BernardR

Guest
Hi frankf my name is terence amos and i worked at the ionic plating company between 1962-1968,i remember ron stockley this is a picture of him on his retirement,ernie kale, robert belcher (william ford who was my uncle).have you got any pictures from the wonderful place we used to work at,which was in grove street,hope to hear from you soon.
View attachment 89491
Hi -The forum has a policy of allowing only email addresses that are already in the public domain (such as an enthusiasts group) to prevent members emails attracting spam. Members can exchange emails via the Instant Message (IM) system which can be accessed by clicking on the members name.
 

tim eborn

master brummie
Just in case there is anybody there!
I worked at GKN for about 18 months (!957/9) as a Schedule Sales Clark which involved doing your own progress chasing. There were 3/4 of us in a sort of team, our Leader/Supervisor was Alan Peace, there was then John Kelland and myself and we had a very attractive typist (who for sometime was my girlfriend ) Olive Huggins.
Between us we were responsible for making sure that screws and fasteners were available for manufactures other than the motor industry( which had it's own section), these were people like Electrolux and the like.
A lot of the fasteners were made as special items and we had to ensure that our customers production lines were kept running by having their orders filled on time.
We therefore often had to go to the factory floor to see why the goodies were held up in production. Whilst from memory this was mainly Heath St. Mill it also involved the other mills and Ionic Plating.
When we found our items we then had to try and get them out of the hold up and onto the next process to make sure that they were shipped out on time. Over time you got to meet and rub along with the production staff and the actual people on the floor. If they were on a tea break you learnt that if not invited to join them you left them in peace and went back at there convenience.
I once made the mistake that on being told the only problem was that my screws were finished one processed but couldn't be dealt with by the next department as they needed moving the 20/30 feet that divided the sections, no worries I picked up the hook and dragged them over!
What a mistake that was!! It was explained to me that I was not employed as a porter(or whatever) that I was not in a Trade Union and that if I did not return them to their original place the whole Mill would be on strike by the time their tea break was over.

I duly returned the screws to where I found them, explained that I was new to the system, apologised to all concerned and went for a 10 min. walk.
On my return I was told that the tray would be moved after lunch (the best they could do!!) and if I came back then we could go from there. Sounds funny now but not at the time.
I must say that after I had learnt my place I got on well with just about everyone.
I sometimes had to see them in Ionic, but apart from the smell I think I always enjoyed my visits there and was fascinated to see my babies going through the vats.

Looking back now I realise that I enjoyed my time in the GKN Group, but left for greener pastures and better pay. Cheers Tim
 

Astonian

gone but not forgotten
Hi time born
I recall the ionic plating down by the grove picture house and the cape of good hope pub which many many years later became amacdonald
I new a guy called Steve a little fellow a local lad whom was during his time was a special constable whom worked there he lived on dudley red
But also you mentionioned the screws I have a first hand info about a guy all those years ago whom worked in the heath street section
Selling screws on a small basis whom made money from it in a small way for years andeventualy
He set up the company whom is behind it now known as screw fix world wide he made the bussines from that company
In heath street gkn. He later in life gave the business to his son he eventually continued to make big money and he sold the business
Now living in the other side of the world with the fortune of what his father made from the screw selling and his own hard work as well and sold the business to some one else now but that's where screw fix was born and raised and he was a black country fella from Tipton
Would you have known the man whom was selling screws on the side from a little shed within the complex
Best wishes astonian,,,,,
 
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