The Museum Collection: the Rubber Industry

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Bradford on Avon was the birthplace of a pioneering rubber industry. In 1848 Stephen Moulton, an Englishman living in New York and a friend of Charles Goodyear, came back and set up a factory to apply Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanisation in the redundant Kingston Mill. Moulton merged with a London company later in the 19th century, becoming George Spencer, Moulton & Company. Other companies set up later elsewhere in the Bradford Hundred the Avon company began at Limpley Stoke and the  Sirdar company at Greenland Mills. Avon grew to snap up Sirdar first and, in 1955, Spencer Moulton itself.

Click on the thumbnail pictures for a bigger view.

The Iron Duke restoredThe latest, largest and heaviest item in Bradford on Avon Museum’s rubber industry collection is the Iron Duke calender machine, which has been transferred from Bristol Museums, Art Gallery & Archives, conserved in Bristol and now displayed in Kingston Road, Bradford on Avon.

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Spencer Moulton railway springOne of the mainstays of the Spencer Moulton company and of the successor Avon company, was the production of shock absorbing springs for railway companies throughout the world. They are made of rubber that is bonded to steel plates and were used in groups to dampen sudden movement on draw-bars and buffers of railway vehicles. The Museum has examples of several patterns of these springs.

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Spencer Moulton ashtraySpencer Moulton produced tyres for cars and motor cycles in Bradford for a while and in a subsidiary factory in Trowbridge. This ceramic ashtray is surrounded by a model of a Spencer Moulton tyre and was probably an advertising piece.

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Rubber aerosol gasketsThe Avon company produced millions of small rubber gaskets, or washers, for sealing fluids into aerosol cans. Abbey Mill in Church Street supplied most of the world’s needs until it closed in the 1990s. Examples could often be found scattered in the road in Church Street.

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Rubber desk tidyNot perhaps one of the obvious things to be made of rubber, this desk tidy was made of a very hard variety for the government in 1941, during the second World War. It has the date and monogram of King George VI on the back.

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Spencer Moulton works committee posterA poster (left) about forming a Works Committee in 1918.

Spencer Moulton advertisement 1938

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An advertisement for the Spencer Moulton Company in 1938 (right)

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A romance of rubber!The front cover of a booklet about the  history of the Avon company that was produced in the 1920s (left).

Spencer Moulton sports equipment catalogue.

A 1934 catalogue for sports equipment (right) made by the Spencer Moulton rubber company in Bradford.

 

 

 

Kingston Mills timerGenerations of workers at the Spencer Moulton and Avon rubber companies clocked in and out on this timer machine and others like it.. It has an electric clock that was linked to a mechanical device for printing the time on each worker’s card when a lever was pulled.

—–See  > old photographs of the rubber works

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