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Michelin Tyres - 1957 advert

Michelin Tyres - 1957 advert

Stoke-on-Trent City Handbook 

Prestige and Progress - A Survey of Industrial North Staffordshire
1955 publication of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce - page 36


Brilliant technology has made North Staffordshire
an important centre of world rubber production

It is not without significance that the North Staffordshire region has attracted a variety of industries quite unrelated to those of which it is traditionally famous. For North Staffordshire has an inherently industrious and versatile population, and it is also excellently placed for the supply of raw materials and for distribution.

A major industry now firmly established here is rubber. Two world-famous firms have chosen to settle in Stoke-on-Trent, and both have expanded unceasingly in the last ten years.

One of these companies, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, came to Stoke-on-Trent in 1927, and has now one of the biggest factories in the area. It started with 500 workers; now there are several thousand. The original buildings have been enlarged and modernised until the workshop floor .space now totals about 1,250,000 square feet.

When the last war came this factory geared production to an all-out war effort. It found the space and time to turn out tank transporters undercarriages for snow-ploughs, radio location trailers and many machine parts. Space was even found for the assembly of nearly 5,000 vehicles. Another war-time achievement was the design and production of a tyre built specially to the order of the Ministry of Supply for use on amphibious landing-craft. This tyre had to he capable of high speed on the road and yet give the tractive effort necessary to negotiate beaches of soft sand. It stood up to all that was asked of it on the Normandy beaches, in Holland and in the Rhine Basin during the European campaign.

Feat in the desert

Even before the war this company was seeking an alternative, at least for giant tyres, to textile for building tyre casings. The research staff eventually overcame all the difficulties and created a tyre in which the whole casing is constructed of steel cords embedded in rubber. These tyres have been proved over and over again throughout the world. To quote a now famous example: the recently constructed 30-inch pipeline built by the Iraq Petroleum Company from Kirkuk in Iraq across the desert to Banias in Syria involved the use of very heavy transport. The trouble experienced with tyres was so repeated and serious that completion of the contract by the target date looked most unlikely. The steel-corded tyres from Stoke-on-Trent reversed the situation. The target date was beaten soundly and the tyres lasted four times as long as those previously used.

In another new tyre there is a greater change a radical change of principle. In this tyre the function of the walls and that of the tread have been made quite separate, so that each can perform its role without influencing the other. The walls bear the load flexibly, while the tread, stiffened transversally by three layers of steel cords, neither drifts nor shuffles—the main cause of tread wear.

Production at this factory includes bicycle tyres, car tyres, motor-cycle tyres, and tyres for commercial vehicles in ever-increasing quantities, swelling a flourishing home trade and feeding a seemingly insatiable demand from Commonwealth and other countries. The steel-corded tyre in particular is proving itself a mighty dollar-earner.

The human side has not been forgotten, and outside the factory wall the company has laid out and equipped some 50 acres of ground for the recreation of its employees. Facilities provided include one of the finest sports grounds in the Midlands, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, football grounds, a bowling green, outdoor and indoor rifle ranges, and a club house in which dances, billiards, snooker, table tennis, darts, chess and amateur dramatics are available.

A "frogman's" suit, made in Stoke on Trent

A "frogman's" suit, made in Stoke on Trent and supplied to the Admiralty.
It can also he used for rescue work in mines


Beating a blockade

A war-time need to find additional factory space was the primary reason why the other famous rubber company became established in Stoke-on-Trent in 1941.

During the war the conservation of raw materials became of vital importance, and rubber, as one of the world's most important materials, had to be used only fur essential purposes and with the utmost economy. Tyres were required in enormous quantities for the fighting Services and for essential civilian passenger and goods transport, and they could no longer be scrapped when worn. They contained both rubber and cotton, and cotton, too, was a vital raw material which had lo run the U-boat blockade.

One answer was to fit new treads to worn tyres, rather in the manner of worn shoes being soled and heeled. It was decided to carry out tyre retreading on a mass-production scale, and Stoke was selected as a centre for this work. The works of a famous pottery were taken over.

The project was successful from the first, and much of the success was due to the workers of Stoke themselves, who were quick to learn and eager to develop this new vital activity.

So the company decided to remain in the Potteries after the war and to expand its activities, and in 1947 took over another factory. It was necessary to carry out extensive alterations and modernisation, and in the process model working conditions were provided.

A great variety of products are made in the post-war factory, among them special equipment for the Admiralty, such as "frogmen's suits" and equipment for the Air Ministry for use in jet aircraft. The manufacture of lastex yarn and lactron thread, now widely used in the textile trade, forms an important part of the output.

Perhaps one of the most unusual items made in recent months were mermaids' tails for a British film.

Post-war expansion of the tyre repair and retreading activities has also taken place. Manufacturing capacity has been extended, and modern rubber extrusion plant has been installed for the production of tyre treads and other retreading materials, thus making the Stoke works independent of supplies of these from the parent works in Birmingham.

New materials

The rubber industry is highly competitive and at the present time is undergoing rapid development. The more recent arrival of Stoke's two rubber companies has taken a notable part in the research into raw materials, including natural rubber, synthetic rubber, plastic materials allied to rubber, and materials such as rayon, nylon and other man-made textiles.

It, too, has developed in an atmosphere of cordiality. There arc all up-to-date amenities for the thousand employees, and the management is proud that the factory it has occupied since 1941 has a record of 185 years without a single strike.