Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Buck & Hickman nippers

I recently turned up this pair of nippers or pincers, stamped "Buck & Hickman", a name I'd never encountered before.  The nippers themselves look to be from the early part of the last century.

I figured it was probably some old American make, so imagine my surprise when a web search identified the company as British, 180 years old, and presently the U.K.'s largest distributor of tools, maintenance and health and safety products!

The following history is condensed from several sources, including the company's website:

In 1830, Matthew Buck brought his saw-making skills from Sheffield to London and established a business near the present-day Waterloo Station.  His daughter married a printer, John Roe Hickman.  After he passed away in 1840, his widow opened a tool shop in Whitechapel called "Buck & Co."  Her son John apprentices as a tool-maker with his uncle, and eventually enters a partnership.   In the 1850's, he returns to his mother's business, which begins to be called "Buck & Hickman."  Through the next few decades, the young Hickman expands the enterprise, adding a smith's shop and a Steam Tool and Grindery Works. The big break comes in the 1870's, when the company wins a large government contract to supply specialist linesmen's tools for the Postal Telegraph Service.  To meet this and subsequent government orders, the company begins to source tools from other tool makers. Further growth during the 1880's includes a visit to America, where Buck & Hickman succeed in becoming exclusive agents for machine tool manufacturers such as Brown & Sharpe, Pratt & Whitney and Bradley Power Hammers. Eventually, the company will also be an agent for the American J.H. Williams hand tools.  In the 1896, the National Cycle Show at the Crystal Palace gives them the opportunity to showcase their automatic machines for machining parts for bicycles. Many of the UK’s leading bicycle manufacturers start to place orders for the new machinery. The origins of the Motor Car industry are also developing in the UK and further orders follow.  In 1902, the company becomes a private limited liability company.  Branches are opened in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.  During the First World War, the company provides many of the tools and machinery needed for the war effort.  They provide a similar effort during the Second World War, when the company's headquarters is bombed 13 times between 1940 and 1944, the final hit coming from a V1 "Doodlebug." Following the conflict, further branches are opened in Leeds and Bristol and the damage to the London office is finally repaired by 1958.  In 1970's the family sells the company ownership to the Sterling Guarantee Trust, which moves headquarters from London to Sheffield.  In 1985, the Sterling Guarantee Trust merges with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation company (the famed P&O line), which spins off ownership of Buck & Hickman to Charles Baynes plc in 1993. Under this scheme, Pillar Engineering is acquired in 1994 and UK Tools in 1995.  The head office moves to Coventry in 1996.  In 2001 the company is bought again, this time by Premier Farnell plc, which briefly (and, I think, stupidly) changes the company's name to ‘BuckHickman InOne’.  The company reverts to its original name in 2007 when it is bought by the BSS Group plc.  It's product range runs to over 60,000 products.  Its lower price tools are marketed under the "Contractor 1st" brand, while the professional quality tooks are marketed under the "Roebuck" brand (apparently, no connection with Sears-Roebuck).  In 2010, the company was bought again, this time by Brammer, an industrial maintenance company, which moved the headquarters yet again, this time to Wolverhampton.

Below, ads from Grace's Guide to British Industry:




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