Some years before the 1914-1918 war, a cement chemist, William Fennell, began experimenting withHOLPEBS (hollow pebbles) – tubular steel bodies – as a means of improving the fine grinding process in cement mills.
Forged steel balls were used for the initial stages of cement grinding, whilst subsequent processes were still chiefly dependent on the primitive action of flint pebbles gathered from the beaches of France and Southern England; or on cylindrical bodies made from mild steel or chilled cast iron.
The first results of these experiments gave a startling improvement on existing types and, following a further period of research and development,HELIPEBS (helical pebbles) were introduced. Made from spirally-coiled steel wire, they are tubular like HOLPEBS, and so have a larger grinding surface than the solid cylinder.
Our founder, Robert McDougall, whose career had been wholly in the cement industry, joined Fennell in 1915 at the British Carbonizing Company in Gloucester, which was then making steel tyre studs for the Ministry of Munitions, as well as HELIPEBS. At the end of the war Mr McDougall continued to run the company as he had been doing for some time past.
Output was increased and steps were taken to make HELIPEBS more widely known. The response was decisive and enthusiastic and on 7th July 1922,Helipebs Limited of Premier Works, Gloucester was formed to take over the assets of the British Carbonizing Company Ltd.
In 1956, the original site in Quay Street (part of which had been owned by the famous Cotton Motorcycle Company) was compulsory purchased and Helipebs acquired Kell & Co. Ltd and its Barton Foundry premises; a company that had been founded in 1838 to manufacture agricultural implements.
Under the stewardship of Helipebs, the foundry was brought back into action producing both ferrous and non-ferrous castings. At the same time, the former extensive wood working and pattern making facilities were turned into a sub-contract machine shop which supplied many famous names in the Gloucester area – Fielding & Platt, Gloucester Aircraft Company (GAC), Bryce Berger & Rank Xerox to name but a few.
However, the company was very conscious that a sub-contract facility is not in control of its own destiny and, following a visit to the United States, an agreement was signed with an American cylinder manufacturer to produce their imperial product range under license and in the name of Helipebs Controls Ltd., which came into being on 4thFebruary 1969 and still exists today.