DID YOU know that the little King Street workshop where Joseph Lucas began the venture which today provides the electrical and lighting equipment for the British Motor Industry, was demolished only two years ago? I gleaned this from an article in the November 1969 edition of Overseas Reflections, official organ of Joseph Lucas (Exports) Ltd.
Joseph Lucas started business as a lamp manufacturer in 1872 and acquired the Little King Street premises. in Birmingham in 1875. Apart from making lamps Lucas produced household goods such as pots and pans, but one of his first bids to-fame was the “Tom Bowling” ship’s lamp. It was from this lamp, called after a sea ballad. that the initials TBLW (Tons Bowling Lamp Works) came, which were stamped on all Lucas lamps prior to the use of the famous “King of the Road” trademark in 1878. The first lamp to carry this name was that for hanging within the front wheel of ordinary or “penny-farthing” bicycles. Before this Joseph’s Son Harry had joined the business. Which was renamed Joseph I mcasand Son. As the cycle trade expanded so Lucas served it. one of their famous early cycle lamps being the Model 300 “Silver King”, which cost 17s. 6d. in 1896 with heavy nickel-plated finish, patented mangin mirror and a magnifying reflector, it remained in production nearly up to the end of World War II.
By 1897 the limited liability company of Joseph Lucas Ltd. was formed with a move to Great King Street, so as to accommodate the 200 workers, nine male-staff and two typists! Joseph Lucas died of typhoid on an export mission to Naples in 1902, and Harry Lucas took full control. By 1910 the Motor Industry was well catered for and that year an electric conversion was sold for turning oil side lamps into electric ones. By ton the first car dynamo was developed, to obviate eigninual outside charging of the lighting batteries, and the first contract for such sets came from Morris in 1914.
The war emphasised the importance of British magnetos and in 1916 Lucas took over Thomson-Bennett magnetos. Lord Bennett becoming Joint Managing Director with Harry Lucas. The E60 dynamo for aeroplanes appeared that year, its cold weather tests being done in the Birmingham Meat Market in a refrigerator alongside the frozen meat. After the Armistice Lucas supplied the electrical equipment for the R34 airship and the Vickers Vimy biplane, both of if which conquered the Atlantic crossing. At this little, as the first 50 years ended, the Company was turning out 20,000 acetylene headlamps, 25,000 cycle lamps and ti.000 bulb horns per week.
This is but a brief survey of one of our leading industrial concerns, taken from the aforementioned article. This reminds us that a reader of MOTOR SPORT is working on a comprehensive history of British lamp manufacturers. If any publisher is interested we can put them in touch with the author.