COMPANY HISTORY



The very best overall history of the Marples dynasty, from a business point of view, was written by John Kent Marples, [who relinquished his Chairmanship of the Company in 1962 after William Marples was sold jointly to William Ridgway & Sons and C.& J. Hampton Ltd. on a fifty-fifty basis.]   But the full information that John Kent Marples wrote has been obscured from history.  Fortunately I have been lucky enough recently [2/19] to have had interaction with a direct descendant of the Family and have now secured a much enlarged [original] copy of his writings. It had been stored in a loft for many years and its’ significance had not been realised by the Family.  All other reported writings have until now been only a truncated issue of this original full format.  I have updated some of the language and linked some of the information in order to make it more readable, but the basic information remains totally as written by John Marples.    I can write no better a history,  so I re-typed and rarely clarified his sentences into modern language being careful to not lose any of the factual information.

I have composed below a brief history of the firm after which will appear his writings   [This list will be updated as more information is obtained].

(For a History of the Family per se. go to that section.)

William Marples Snr. born in Baslow 1773/4, and had a business on Sheffield Moor.

1819   He moved to Rockingham St/Lane.

1833   ‘Whites’ Directory lists ‘Marples William, sen, joiners’ tool mfr. Solly Street’.

c1837  He moved to 237 Solly St.  [a different house than previously?]

1844   November 24  William Marples Snr. died.

William Marples Jnr. was born 21 March 1809

1821  William Jnr. joined his father’s joinery making business in Sheffield when just 12 years old.

1830  William Jnr. started his own business in Broomhall St. [Legally when he was 21 yrs old. not in         1828 as you will find reported elsewhere and as shown in the MARPLES catalogues.  This date was to try to convince the public that William Marples‘ firm was in existence before his cousin’s {Robert Marples] firm.   A great competition in those days.

1833  Whites directory lists  ‘Marples Wm. jun joiners’ tool, brace bit and skate manfr. Broomhall Street’.

1837  Moved to larger premises at 67/69 Broomspring Lane (aka Broom Spring Lane or Spring Lane)  “Hibernian Works”   Probably it was 1837 because ‘Whites’ stills lists Broomhall St. in 1833. 

1837  William Jnr. is already married to Jane with 2 children; Mary (3yrs) and Edwin (1yr) and Sarah is on the way [see Family History Section]

1845  Bought a house at 2 Cremorne Place, Western Bank, Sheffield.

1846  The first William Marples Jun. catalogue may have been issued. [just a Broadsheet]

1848  John Cartwright took out a patent for a carpenters brace, the rights to which William  subsequently bought.

1849  Son Edwin Henry (b.1835) started work at the factory.

1854  The Ultimatum Brace is announced as being produced by William MARPLES

1856  New factory premises are purchased at 25/27 Westfield Terrace but the firm actually moved there in 1859.    It was called “Hibernia Works” and the IRISH HARP was now the Trade Mark   (Note: the previous name for the premises was ‘Hibernian Works’)

1860-1  ‘William Marples and Sons  came into being with Edwin Henry 24 (b.1837) and William Kent  21 (b.1840) now being taken in as partners.

1861-2  ‘William Marples and Sons’ first real catalogue was issued.  Only one original copy is known.  [Please see the Catalogues and For Sale sections].

1862  The Shamrock 3 Leaf Clover became a Trade Mark.

1863   Son Albert 21 (b.1842) now joined the firm as a partner.

1868  A new catalogue was issued but no copies are presently known to exist.

1869  William Marples Jnr. formally retires from the firm and the property is leased to his 3 sons.

1871 William Marples Jnr. bought an interest in Turner Naylor & Co. for his youngest son, Charles 23 (b.1848). [This was to give Turner Naylor some extra funds to secure their purchase of the Northern Tool Works site and building costs. Turner Naylor & Co. in 1893 bought out MARPLES share, but eventually sold out totally to MARPLES in 1909. ]  The firm started trading in 1875 as Turner Naylor & Marples at  Northern Tool Works factory, John Street, Sheffield.

1872  Sheffield Directory still shows the Westfield Terrace address for the Marples Factory.

1873  A new catalogue was issued.   Actually this may be 1872 as the accompanying letter to this Price List (as Catalogues were then called) at the ‘Hawley’ Museum is a letter introducing a revised price list to the ‘Illustrated Price List’ then in effect.

1875  More property was obtained at the back of the works (80/82 Division St. and at 126 Rockingham Street) enabling chisels and other edge tools to be made. (Previously they had all been made for Marples at the Northern Tool Works. [‘Turner Naylor & Co.‘].)

1875  2 new Trade Marks are introduced.  ‘Hibernia‘ and the ‘Triple Shamrock‘.

1877  2nd Oct.  William Marples Jnr. died.

1878  American Tools Catalogue No.1 issued.

1881/2 or 1883  A new catalogue was issued.

1883  Nov 27th.  William Kent Marples died.

1883  Jan 1st.  No.2 Catalogue of the Imported USA tools was issued.

1888   A new UK catalogue was issued.

1888 Jan 1st. “Moseley & Son” was registered as a Trade Mark of Wm. Marples.

1892  Aug 1st.  The trademark and goodwill of John Moseley & Son. (London wooden plane makers since 1730) was at last announced in a letter to the trade. MARPLES probably had control over  this company since 1883

1897   John Kent Marples  (youngest son of Edwin Henry) entered the business.

1897  A new catalogue was issued, but although no framed brace was illustrated,  it was still shown as offered.

1898/March  ‘William Marples and Sons Ltd‘ was formed, and was therefore now a private company.

1902  An engine driven hammer forge was started  (previously all forging was done by real hand hammer work).  Ultimatum brace production ceased.

1903  Another new catalogue was issued in which the Ultimatum brace is not listed.

1904  121 Rockingham St. (former premises of Robt. Sorby & Sons who had moved) was purchased and the ‘John Moseley & Son‘ plane making business was moved to Sheffield from London into these modified premises.

1905/09?  The stock and goodwill of ‘Thomas Ibbotson & Co‘, edge tool makers, was purchased [but not the premises at Paternoster Row, Sheffield.]  (This firm had existed since 1825 in the family until Peter Ibbotson had died recently).

1908   Edwin Henry Marples retired leaving John Kent Marples in charge.

1909  ‘Turner Naylor & Co. Ltd.‘ (with the ‘I. Sorby‘ trade and corporate mark) was purchased.

1909  A new catalogue was issued. [but no ‘I. Sorby‘  trademark is shown]

1912   Geoffrey Marples, son of Henry Edgar, joined the company.

1914  Listed as ‘Manufacturers of Tools for all Trades including carpenters, engineers, masons and plumbers’  with 400 employees.

1920 April   The adjoining properties of 84, 86 and 88 Division St. were purchased.

1923  Alan O’Connor Fenton, the great-grandson of William Jnr., entered the business.

1932   The manufacture of the ‘M‘ series of Iron planes was started at ‘Northern Tools Works’  (the premises of ‘Turner Naylor & Co. Ltd‘.)

1932 June   ‘Turner Naylor & Co Ltd‘  purchase the stock and goodwill of  ‘John Sorby & Sons‘ with the trademark ‘I & H Sorby‘ and the Corporate mark.

1937  Listed as ‘Tool Manufacturers’  with the ‘Shamrock‘ small tools mark.

1938  BB‘ brand wooden planes started  [beechwood planes that were machine made as an alternative to the hand made wooden planes which were still offered as an alternative but at a higher price].

1940 Jan   Peter Stewart Marples, son of John Kent, entered the business.

c1946  Jim Marples, son of Geoffrey, entered the business.

1954  The X4 metal plane of “superior quality” was introduced.

1961  A new range of built up beechwood ‘Transitional’ type planes with an iron frog were first marketed        [2690 (smooth) and 2691 (jack)].

1961   Still listed as  ‘Tool Manufacturers’  and having 400 employees.

1962   John Kent Marples relinquished his Chairmanship of the Company when it was sold jointly to  William Ridgway & Sons Ltd. and C&J Hampton Ltd.

1963  John Kent Marples died.

1963 Turner Naylor and Codisappeared and the Northern Tool Works premises were sold. [probably to make way for a new parking lot…how much more criminal can it get!]

1963  Best quality beechwood planes [Hand Made] are deleted from the Price List.  ‘BB‘ Brand machine made 2nd.quality planes are still listed.

1968  ‘BB‘ brand planes are withdrawn from sale, as are the 2690 and 2691 ‘Transitional’ planes.

1971   No wooden planes are now shown for sale…the end of a continuity of plane making lasting 240 years.

1971  The ‘Westfield Terrace‘ premises were vacated and subsequently demolished, with the firm moving to new premises in Stubley Lane, Dronfield, Derbyshire. [So much history of the firm was sent to the dump at this time that it is definitely criminal,….. never to be seen again!!]

1972  William Ridgway Ltd  and C & J Hampton Ltd. merged to form Record Ridgway Tools Ltd. [containing MARPLES]

1981  A B Bahco of Sweden bought the company.  ‘ Bahco Record Marples’ was formed.

1982 Peter S. Marples retired.

1983  MARPLES became part of the ‘Record Ridgeway Group

1985  A new British company emerged called Record Holdings which purchased Record Ridgway Ltd. And ‘Record Marples Woodworking Ltd’ came back into existence.  A return to British ownership, but only until 1998.

1988  The name Record Marples (Woodworking Tools) Ltd. was still in affect.

1991  Now just under the umbrella of  Record Tools Ltd.

1993  Now called Record Holdings plc.

1998  Now [again] called Record Tools Ltd. but it is now a Division of American Tool Companies Inc.

2002  The whole of that company now came to be owned by Newell Rubbermaid .

2003  American Tool Companies division is renamed ‘Irwin Industrial Tool Co.’

After c.2008   IRWIN-MARPLES tools, were produced by  factories in either Udine, Italy or further  ‘East’ [China, and are then but a shadow of their former quality.

So just after c.2008 you can kiss any good British craftsmanship goodbye forever. This History may be updated as better information may be received, but it is as current as I can now get [2023]

Next follows the whole document of MARPLES history as written by
John Kent Marples:

Further information has now been received from Richard Carnell who was an Assistant Cost Accountant at MARPLES  1968-1970.  I have paraphrased his information into a chronological sequence of events as they occurred at the demise of the MARPLES empire.  *******

Peter Latchford was Company Secretary in 1968 and MARPLES ran a massive mechanical computer which was 4.5ft high; 3ft deep and 6ft long! [At this time it must have operated on a punch card or tape system]

The main works in the City centre was a maze of tiny, poorly lit wooden stairways which led to many abandoned cobweb filled empty work rooms and with the poor lighting you could accidentally walk into a room which had loads of old tools laying about. This series of buildings was a fire hazard but which, in the mid 1960’s, was used mainly as an Apprentice training building plus HQ for the 3 bosses and for Wages/Admin Depts.  Factory staff all wore a light brown overall.

MARPLES were still taking on Apprentices in 1969 and had a dedicated training centre within the old building, which is why MARPLES held on to their ‘quality’ for so long, because the Apprentices were fully trained by part-time skilled men in their 70’s and 80’s who had probably spent their entire lives working for MARPLES.  Retired workers got paid a company monthly pension and on the last Friday of each month all these retirees would queue up outside the Wages office and pick up a brown envelope which contained just a few quid per month of pension. If you worked for MARPLES Tools for more than 3 months they always said that you are now in the MARPLES family and they regarded everyone who worked there as ‘family’.

Dronfield was then the main factory where all the tools were produced and nothing had been made at Main City Centre since at least 1967.  ‘Ken Feetham‘ was the General Manager at Wreakes Lane and ‘Bernard‘ was the Foreman in the factory. The Stubley Lane [Dronfield] Works was in existence at the same time as the City Centre, but was later used by JVC as a sales Room where some of their machines were on display.

Mr Peter [Peter S. Marples] was a nice person and was always dressed very smartly in suits made for him by Barney Goodman, a Jewish tailor in Sheffield.  He always liked dark blue suits, wore modern day ties and enjoyed his wine!  Mr Jim [Marples] was a quiet man who you would expect to see sat in his garden wearing a wool cardigan! But Col. Fenton always looked like he was about to go on a shoot for game, with baggy trousers [country Gentleman’s clothing] and he always insisted on being only addressed as ‘Colonel‘.

Fenton, Peter and Jim must have still owned the land and buildings and Hampton Ridgways  had some deal which they could do with a property developer but could not cement the deal because they did not own the land and buildings.   At this time I think that Jim and Fenton were both weary of running the place.

Mr Peter was appointed to finally move it all to Hampton Ridgways. I personally do not think that Hampton Ridgways fully owned the MARPLES name until the late 1960’s, maybe they part owned the production but they had no ownership in any part of the company, land or buildings.  Peter was in talks with them for over a year and I think the development company was the problem because MARPLES owned the land and the buildings. The development company bought the Fire Station and in part financed the building of a new Fire Station at the back of BT main office and they had to buy that and the MARPLES land to eventually knock down the MARPLES offices and works so as to build their high tower block of luxury City Centre flats.

What happened was Hampton Ridgways bought the remaining shares in MARPLES from Peter, Jim and Fenton in exchange for a cash payment plus shares in Hampton Ridgways as part of the final sale.  Production of most tools was already at Dronfield and hence Admin, Wages etc. could all be moved easily to Hampton Ridgways [RECORD] which led to the laying off for all old MARPLES staff.

At this time they had ceased the Apprenticeships and had got rid of the old trainers, which allowed Peter, Jim and Fenton to have empty buildings and the land to sell to the developers.  **********

Below is a photo I have of Peter [Left] and Jim 2004



Below are the ‘cuts’ from various named catalogues that will show the building transitions that occurred over time to the HIBERNIA WORKS site.






It would be nice to obtain a picture of the works c.1960s !!


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