N. Hingley & Sons Limited - Black Country Anchor Smith and Chain Cable Maker : a study of the world's premier manufacturer of ships' anchors and cables in the period 1890-1918
The principal objective of this dissertation is to position the firm of N Hingley & Sons Limited in its rightful place in the economic history of the Black Country and of Britain in the period 1890 to 1918. As an original contribution to knowledge of the subject, the study focuses on a modestly sized firm of ironmakers in the Black Country that achieved a position of almost total hegemony in the provision of anchors and ships cables to the navies and merchant fleets of the world. This was at a time when 90 per cent of all chain manufactured in Britain came from the Black Country and when the bulk of the ships of the world were constructed in British yards. The success of the firm was based on the solid foundation built by Noah Hingley in harnessing natural resources to a cooperative labour force under the direction of a paternalistic family of marked goodwill. Chapters two and three place the Hingley firm in the economic context of the times. Particular attention is given to how well the enterprise conforms to NrCloskey's analysis that in this period British industry did well and did all that could have been reasonably expected of it. Chapter four draws heavily on the Hingley archival material to establish an outline of the firm's trading activities during the period under review. This process is extended to the limits of the files in chapters five, six and seven. Chapter five examines the evolution from a family partnership to a closely held family company to a broadly held private company demonstrating the continuing ability of the Hingley family to adapt, developing an appropriate structure at each stage. Chapter six examines the basis of Hingleys' hegemonic position : the excellence of its wrought iron, its ability to fashion large diameter cable (up to 6"), and its state-of-the-art anchors. Chapter seven examines the form and development of Hingleys' highly efficient method of marketing. This was a method that ensured that the entirety of its production was always sold year on year and regardless of the fluctuations of business activity. Chapter eight is supplementary to chapter seven and examines Hingleys' greatest achievement. This was the firm's ability to create combinations of manufacturers and mini-cartels in order to capture the lion's share of the production of large diameter ships' cables and anchors for a selected list of firms. This was not a simple rigging of the market. Rather, it was a precondition of sustained high quality that provided a first class product at a fair price. The navies of the world benefited from this strategy. The provision of first class products allied to excellent marketing was the key to Hingleys status in the industry. Chapter nine, dealing with relations with governments, examines the growing levels of state control in the period under review. Beginning with the unstoppable momentum for social and political change, the emergence of the military-industrial complex world wide ensured a greater degree of involvement by the state in matters of business and commerce. In the latter stages of the chapter, the way in which the Board coped with the command economy of the Great War is examined in the context of the resilience of the firm in adapting to the economic and cultural changes of the first quarter of the current century. It was this ability that enabled it to trade on successfully for a further fifty years after the end of this story. My dissertation endeavours to show that Noah Hingley's firm was a fine example of solid achievement within the parameters of what was sensible and economically achievable in Britain at that time.