Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hillaldam wrench


I found this stamped wrench recently.  I'd never heard of the Hilladam name.  A quick google search revealed that such wrenches occasionally turn up on ebay advertised as "bicycle wrenches."  Not so, but on it hangs an interesting tale.

In the latter years of the 19th century, sliding door gear in Britain was restricted to  top bar rail and single and double wheel hangers or straps, sold widely through lock and door furniture manufacturers such as, Gibbons of Wolverhampton,  Lockerbie & Wilkinson of Birmingham, Laycocks of Sheffield, Kenricks of West Bromwich and Youngs of Westminster.

Across the pond, Lemuel Coburn had invented a special form of enclosed track (U.S. Patent 432,225) for sliding doors, forming the Coburn Trolley Track Manufacturing Company of Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1888 to produce trolley tracks, parlour, barn and fire door hangers, overhead tramways, rolling ladders, standard fire proof doors and hardware for the same.  The Coburn system was a huge success, and Pescadaro Memories quotes a promotional brochure:

 “One of the first departures made in finding new uses for the enclosed track was its applications to rolling ladders for the purpose of reaching or storing goods on high shelving. This meant to the storekeeper in many instances, then as now, increased space and better and more rapid handling of the goods, and although originally designed for stores new uses are constantly being found for them, not only in this country but others, shipments having found their way to Cape Town, Australia and the Orient."

In 1911, the Lloyd George government passed an act permitting UK firms to copy foreign products without infringing on overseas patents.  E.A. Goddard used this opportunity to start manufacturing the Coburn gear in London, England, forming the British Trolley Track Company to do so. Beginning in humble quarters in the basement of the Wrights Coal Tar Soap factory in Southwark Street, the company went on to enjoy a virtual monopoly as their product supplanted the older door hanging systems.

However, in 1916 Ernest Hill Aldam founded the E. Hill Aldam Company in London, England, originally importing a range of sliding door gear from Richards- Wilcox of Canada.   In 1929, Aldam received permission to begin manufacturing the Wilcox products in England, to get around import restrictions in place during the Great Depression.  As architects began discovering the advantages of sliding doors, business improved and in 1936 E. Hill Aldam published its first Architectural Catalogue.   In 1959, the company moved to its Britannic Works on Red Lion Road, Tolworth in southwest London where it remained for the next 30 years.  

Kenya Gazette, 15 March 1966

In 1968, Hilladam & Coburn merged.  All production moved to Tolworth in 1971.  The Aldam and Goddard families continued as directors of the new company until 1988, when the firm was purchased by Triplex Lloyd Limited.  Ownership passed to JBS Industries in 1994, when the factory was moved to New Malden, Surrey. Today, Hillaldam Coburn Ltd operates from head office and production facilities at Merton, near Wimbledon, London.

As for the wrench, it must have come with a hanging door assembly to be used to adjust it during installation.

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