was a famous name in British engineering
that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.
was formed in Sheffield as a steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor in 1828.
Naylor was a
partner in the foundry Naylor & Sanderson and Vickers' brother
William owned a steel rolling operation. Edward's investments in
the railway industry allowed him to gain control of the company,
based at Millsands
and known as
Naylor Vickers and Company
. It began life making
steel castings and quickly became famous for casting church bells
. In 1854 Vickers' sons Thomas and
Albert joined the business. In 1863 the company moved to a new site in
Sheffield on the River
Don in Brightside.
Vickers, Sons & Company
The company went public in 1867 as Vickers, Sons &
and gradually acquired more businesses, branching
out into various sectors. In 1868 Vickers began to manufacture
marine shafts, in 1872 they began casting marine propellers
and in 1882 they set up a forging
press. Vickers produced their first armour plate
in 1888 and their first artillery
piece in 1890.
Vickers, Sons & Maxim
bought out the Barrow-in-Furness shipbuilder The Barrow Shipbuilding Company in
1897, acquiring its subsidiary the Maxim Nordenfelt
Guns and Ammunition Company. at the same time, to become
Vickers, Sons & Maxim.
Ordnance and ammunition made during this period, including World War I
, was stamped V.S.M.
The yard at Barrow became the "Naval Construction Yard". With these
acquisitions, Vickers could now produce a complete selection of
products, from ships and marine fittings to armour plate and a
whole suite of ordnance. In 1901 the Royal
's first submarine, Holland
, was launched at the Naval Construction Yard.
Vickers took a half share in the famous Clyde shipyard John Brown and Company.
Further diversification occurred with the purchase of the car
building activities of the Wolseley
Sheep-Shearing Machine Company
in 1905, which was set up as the
Wolseley Tool and Motor Car
. In 1911 a controlling interest was acquired in
Whitehead and Company
, the torpedo
In 1911 the company name was changed to Vickers
and expanded its operations into aircraft manufacture
by the formation
of Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department)
. In 1919, the
company was taken over as the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical
; Metrovick. At the same time they came into
Metropolitan's railway interests.
Merger with Armstrong Whitworth
Vickers merged with the Tyneside based
engineering company Armstrong
Whitworth, founded by W.
become Vickers-Armstrongs, Ltd
. Armstrong Whitworth
had developed along similar lines to Vickers, expanding into
various military sectors and was notable for their artillery
manufacture at Elswick and shipbuilding at a yard at High Walker on the River
Armstrongs shipbuilding interests became the
"Naval Yard", those of Vickers on the west coast the "Naval
Construction Yard". Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft
was not absorbed by the new company.
In 1928 the Aviation Department became Vickers (Aviation)
and soon after acquired Supermarine
, which became the "Supermarine
Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd". In 1938, both companies were
re-organised as Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd
although the former Supermarine and Vickers works continued to
brand their products under their former names. 1929 saw the merger
of the acquired railway business with those of Cammell Laird
to form Metropolitan Cammell Carriage and Wagon
In 1960 the aircraft interests were merged with those of the
, English Electric Company
to form the de
nationalised British Aircraft Corporation
This was owned by Vickers, English Electric and Bristol (holding
40%, 40% and 20% respectively). BAC in turn owned 70% of Hunting.
The Supermarine operation was closed in 1963 and the Vickers name
for aircraft was dropped in 1965. Under the terms of the Aircraft and
Shipbuilding Industries Act BAC was officially nationalised in
1977 to become part of the British
Aerospace group, which exists today in the guise of BAE Systems.
The Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act also led to the
nationalisation of Vickers' shipbuilding division as part of
. These had
been renamed Vickers Armstrong Shipbuilders
1955, changing again to Vickers Limited Shipbuilding
in 1968. This division was privatised as
Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd
(VSEL) in 1986, later
part of GEC
remains in operation to this day as BAE Systems
With their steelworking operations also nationalised into British Steel
the remnants of Vickers became
Vickers acquired the armaments manufacturer Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds, which
became Vickers Defence Systems.
acquisitions included automotive engineers Cosworth in 1990, waterjet
manufacturer Kamewa in 1986 and
Norwegian marine propulsion and engineering company Ulstein in 1998.
1998 also saw the sale
of Rolls-Royce Motors and Cosworth to Volkswagen
Current Status of Vickers
Vickers remained independent until 1999 when the then Vickers plc
was acquired by Rolls-Royce plc
sold the defence arm to Alvis plc
became Alvis Vickers
. Vickers plc and
the subsidiaries retained by Rolls-Royce were renamed
in March 2003 . This Vickers name lived on
in Alvis Vickers, until the latter was acquired by BAE Systems in
2004 to form BAE Systems Land
Currently, Eaton Hydraulic's Vickers business
power and motion control components including vane pumps, piston
pumps, valves, cylinders, and filtration products to the
industrial, aerospace, marine, and defence industries.
- Vickers: Against the Odds 1956-1977 by Harold
- Anon (1898), Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited: Their Works
and Manufactures, "Engineering", London
- Scott, J.D. (1962), Vickers: A History, Weidenfeld
& Nicolson, London
- Submarine Heritage Centre
- Rolls-Royce plc. The " Principal subsidiary undertakings" Retrieved 12
- Detail taken from a copy of Vickers: Against the Odds
1956-1977 published by Hodder and Stoughton London in 1978