Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 2004.


Early history

Vickers 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. The company went public in 1867 as Vickers, Sons & Company 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 bought out the Barrow-in-Furness shipbuilder The Barrow Shipbuilding Company in 1897, acquiring its subsidiary the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns And Ammunitions Company [] at the same time, to become Vickers, Sons & Maxim. 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 Navy's first submarine, "Holland 1", was launched at the Naval Construction Yard. In 1902 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 Company. In 1911 a controlling interest was acquired in Whitehead and Company, the torpedo manufacturers. In 1911, the company name was changed to Vickers Ltd and expanded its operations into aircraft manufacture by the formation of Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department). In 1919, the British Westinghouse electrical company was taken over as the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company; Metrovick. At the same time they came into Metropolitan's railway interests.

Merger with Armstrong Whitworth

In 1927, Vickers merged with the Tyneside based engineering company Armstrong Whitworth, founded by W. G. Armstrong, to 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 Tyne. 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) Ltd 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 (MCCW); Metro Cammell.


In 1960 the aircraft interests were merged with those of the Bristol, English Electric Company and Hunting Aircraft to form the "de facto" 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 British Shipbuilders. These had been renamed Vickers Armstrong Shipbuilders in 1955, changing again to Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group in 1968. This division was privatised as Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) in 1986, later part of GEC's Marconi Marine. It remains in operation to this day as BAE Systems Submarines.

Vickers plc

With their steelworking operations also nationalised into British Steel the remnants of Vickers became Vickers plc. In 1986, Vickers acquired the armaments manufacturer Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds, which became Vickers Defence Systems. Other 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 who sold the defence arm to Alvis plc, which became Alvis Vickers. Vickers plc and the subsidiaries retained by Rolls-Royce were renamed Vinters in March 2003 Rolls-Royce plc. The " [ Principal subsidiary undertakings] " Retrieved 12 June, 2006] . This Vickers name lived on in Alvis Vickers, until the latter was acquired by BAE Systems in 2004 to form BAE Systems Land Systems.

Currently, Eaton Hydraulic's Vickers business [] provides power and motion control components including vane pumps, piston pumps, valves, cylinders, and filtration products to the industrial, aerospace, marine, and defence industries.

ee also

* Vickers machine gun
* Supermarine


* "Vickers: Against the Odds 1956-1977" by Harold Evans. [ Detail taken from a copy of "Vickers: Against the Odds 1956-1977" published by Hodder and Stoughton London in 1978 ]
* Anon (1898), "Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited: Their Works and Manufactures", "Engineering", London
* Scott, J.D. (1962), "Vickers: A History", Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London

External links

* [ Companies House] accessed 22 June 2006
* [ Vickers Air-raid Shelter]
* [ Vickers Photographic Archive]
* [ Biography of Thomas and Albert Vickers]


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