BIP (Oldbury) Limited
Tat Bank Road
West Midlands
B69 4NH
United Kingdom

Registered No. 5262589

VAT No. GB851675310

T: +44 0121 544 2333
F: +44 0121 552 6148

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BIP key people

Brief profiles of some of the many individuals whose influence over BIP's development has been notable, commencing with Kenneth Chance

Kenneth Macomb Chance - (KMC) was educated at Repton and Trinity College Cambridge where he obtained Masters degree in chemistry. He was a member of a family, which was closely involved with Oldbury's industry (notably Chance & Hunt and Chance Brothers); as was expected at that time, the Chances were major benefactors to the area. In later life, Kenneth Chance was to hold a number of honours, not least being High Sheriff of Warwickshire.

KMC was possessed of immense drive and courage, earning the considerable respect of colleagues and process workers alike; if one person only should be singled out as the most important for BIP, it has to be Kenneth Chance.

Elected director of British Cyanides in 1901, KMC was appointed Managing Director in 1906, became Chairman in 1933 on the tragic death of Charles Rowsell, and retired in 1955. He is reported as saying, on his election to the Board: "I found it possessed a board of directors, that its staff included E C Rossiter (chemist), that the factory was in good order but idle, that its liquid assets consisted of an overdraft from its bankers and a stock of some 200 tons of prussiate of soda. No one had charge of its management and it had escaped notice that, since the termination of the war in South Africa, the price of prussiate of soda had risen to a point where the realisation of the stock would redeem the bank overdraft and provide the company with a small surplus of cash."

This provides one of many instances of Kenneth Chance's astute business acumen. In a profile, published in the Easter 1936 issue of the company's house magazine Beetle Magazine, he is described as possessing "optimism, backed by unbounded confidence and grit".

John Ewart Beard - was, incidentally, one of the first to import an injection moulding machine into the UK in 1928 when few knew what such a machine was. He joined The Streetly Manufacturing Company in 1938 as Assistant to the Managing Director (KMC). He became General Manager a year later and soon found himself responsible for running a munitions factory. He later became successively Managing Director and Chairman of SMC and, in 1959 after ten years on the Board, Joint Managing Director of BIP until his retirement in 1964. An accomplished pianist and a most courteous man who could always be relied upon to aid anyone in trouble, John Beard earned wide respect. Highly critical of plastics moulding machinery available in 1945, he successfully persuaded the Group Board to allow SMC to experiment and develop the press his company so badly needed. His outstanding contribution to BIP was surely the foresight, encouragement and drive he applied to the inauguration of BIP Engineering and the manufacture of the unique Bipel( press at Streetly Works.

Dr William Blakey - eventually to become Chairman of BIP and a Director of T&N, joined the company in 1927 to carry out research under Edmund Rossiter. He became Chief Chemist in 1930, devoting himself to the development of both resins and moulding powders. He was one of a number of BIP people who were founder members of the Plastics Institute*. Bill Blakey's first Board appointment was to Beetle Bond in 1945; he became Works Director at Oldbury a year later and a Director of BIP in 1955. As Joint Managing Director of BIP, he was appointed to the T&N Board when it purchased BIP in 1961. He later became Chairman of BIP, a position he held when he retired in1968. Dr Blakey served on a number of government bodies and held appointments in both the chemical and plastics industries. He became a Fellow of the Plastics Institute and later its President, and President of The British Plastics Federation.

James Butler, F.P.I., A.M.I.Mech.E, A.M.I.B.F. - was described in the Easter 1938 issue of 'Beetle Magazine' as "the popular Works Manager of The Streetly Manufacturing Company"; he had joined the firm in 1931 as a toolmaker and when he died in 1965 was a Director of both BIP Chemicals and BIP Engineering. He led the SMC team which produced the early designs for what was to become the Bipel( press. Later, as Chief Development Engineer for the Group he headed the Group's Mould and Product Design Units, a unique service for which BIP made no charge. Like so many other BIP employees, Jim Butler served as Chairman of both the Midlands Section and Council of the, then, Plastics Institute.

Cyril Dingley, F.P.I. - joined British Cyanides as Works Chemist in 1906 and, in his 59 years with the company, held a number of positions which led to his appointment as Sales Director of The Streetly Manufacturing Company. A hard task-master for himself and others, he was directly involved in the arrangements with Harrods for the in-store display of Beetle tableware in 1926. He joined the Board of BIP in 1940. He edited Beetle Magazine throughout its existence and became responsible for the Group's publicity and advertising. He was a founder member of both the British Plastics Federation and the Plastics Institute of which he became Chairman in 1933 and a Vice-President a few years later. His sense of humour and attention to detail are clearly evident in the History of BIP which he completed in 1962, a year before his death.

As a footnote, the AGM of the Plastics Institute held in October 1937 elected Kenneth Chance, Cyril Dingley and Charles Glassey as Vice-Presidents, and Cyril Dingley, Charles Glassey, Sydney Goode and F. O. Randall (Secretary of The Streetly Manufacturing Company) as Members of Council. Twelve years later, BIP people elected to the Council were Jim Butler (Chairman), Cyril Dingley (Vice-President), Thomas Gordon, Kenneth Mendl and Paul Russell. This makes no mention of BIP people serving on the London, Midlands and Manchester sections. BIP's influence in the plastics industry had become wide, indeed!

Steve Gibbs, C.B.E., like a remarkable number of BIP directors, joined the company as Junior Works Chemist; this was in 1936. After was service he was successively technical service representative, Manager of the Resin Sales Department and, in 1956, Sales Director. He was appointed to the BIP Board in 1959, becoming Joint Managing Director in 1964. In 1967 became Deputy Chairman, and held the position of Chairman from 1968 to 1972. Steve left BIP when appointed Joint Managing Director of T&N in 1972, later becoming Chairman. He died in 2003.

Charles Glassey - one of seven or eight Birmingham Old Edwardians employed by BIP, joined British Cyanides as a chemist in 1907. He was Works Manager of various production operations before becoming Sales Director of Beetle Products, a manufacturing subsidiary set up in 1925 to produce the new white and pastel-shade moulding powders. Charles Glassey joined the Board of BIP in 1937, becoming Managing Director in 1949 and Chairman from 1959 until his death in 1961. He was the first Chairman of the Midlands Section of the Plastics Institute of which he later became Chairman of Council and then Vice-President.


R W Groves - as a specialist in hydraulics and designer of aircraft hydraulics for Turner Manufacturing, was recruited to the team at Streetly Works which was developing what was to become the world-beating Bipel( moulding press. That was 1945; it was his brief to turn into working reality improvements only visualized in the operation and control of moulding plant. He evolved a number of original devices, subsequently patented, and the remarkable success of the Bipel( moulding press is evidence enough of Bob Groves' skill and application. In 1954 he became Technical Director and he retired in 1973. Affectionately known as 'Curly', possibly behind his back, he must be included amongst BIP's personalities.

Kenneth Mendl - was not so much an influence, more one of the many personalities who have made BIP such a memorable company. Kenneth was born in Argentina and educated at Repton; he joined the "Beetle crowd" as he put it in 1933 and was on the sales staff of both The Streetly Manufacturing Company (later Sales Director) and Beetle Products. During his time as Export Manager of Beetle Products his standing was such that, particularly in India, he would host cocktail parties for his customers to visit him! Not so for his successors who had to visit the factories and solve problems. Kenneth was an exceptionally good cricketer who was a playing member of the MCC - and Streetly Works. After travelling some 600,000 miles - mostly in piston-engined and un-pressurized aircraft - selling plastics, he retired in 1959.

F H J Mills - or 'Fred Senior', joined BIP in 1931 as Works Manager of The Streetly Manufacturing Company. With an intimate knowledge of tool design and production, he brought a wealth of experience, and discipline, to the company; numerous tales are told of his strict regime. In 1936, together with the Streetly toolroom, he moved to the newly formed BIP Tools Limited as Director of Design. He was later to become Managing Director, the position he held when he died in 1959. His son, also Fred (see below) rose to even greater height and influence in the company.

F H Mills - or 'Young Fred', was probably even more dynamic than his father. Another Birmingham Old Edwardian, he joined the company, then British Cyanides, in 1933. Following war service he returned to become Production Superintendent of SMC. In 1950 he transferred to BIP Engineering as Sales Manager, beginning his close association with the Bipel press. He became Managing Director in 1955 and was appointed to the BIP Board in 1959. Joint MD in 1964 and Chairman in 1972.

Edmund Charles Rossiter - was educated at Uppingham and became a Fellow of both the City & Guilds Institute of London and the Institute of Chemistry. He joined what was to become British Cyanides, from Albright & Wilson, in 1891. It was his suggestion to modernise the plant for converting prussiate of soda into cyanide that placed the company onto a sound footing. From that date (1904) the company gradually built up a business with small but increasing profits. Edmund Rossiter was Chief Chemist when he died in 1937.

I M Thompson joined the Streetly Manufacturing Company in 1944 as an apprentice. He progressed through sales to become Works Manager in 1960; four years later he became General Manager, Sales Director in 1965 and Chairman and Managing Director in 1967. That same year he was appointed to the Board of BIP and became Joint Managing Director in 1973. Ivor Thompson was to witness many changes in a company to which he had devoted his entire working life. Described by Kenneth Chance as "guide and counsellor".

Samuel White - was an eminent chemist and metallurgist who was appointed to the Board of British Cyanides in 1928, retiring in 1967. He served mostly as a non-executive Director, but it was as Technical Director that he was principally responsible for the development of the company's coating resins.

Ivor Thompson was to witness many changes in a company to which he had devoted his entire working life. Described by Kenneth Chance as "guide and counsellor", Samuel White was an eminent chemist and metallurgist who was appointed to the Board of British Cyanides in 1928, retiring in 1967. He served mostly as a non-executive Director, but it was as Technical Director that he was principally responsible for the development of the company's coating resins.

A H 'Woody' Woodfull, M.S.I.A. - joined the Streetly Manufacturing Company from the Birmingham School of Art. An unusual background, perhaps, but Woody was to earn a unique reputation as one of the most influential designers ever in the plastics industry, gaining world-wide recognition; he was, also, another of BIP's 'personalities'. Early in his career with BIP - he was, eventually, to head up his own product design unit within the company - he was quoted as saying "Far too many moulded shapes are of the toolroom blueprint school"; ’Woody' was to change all that.

Backgrounds which, with humble apologies, have been omitted include those of Alfred Brookes, M.B.E., one of the company's most talented chemists, Howard Button, C.B.E., Secretary from 1904 "during the difficult years" and later Auditor, the Bill Davis who joined the firm in 1909 and became General manager at Oldbury and the Bill Davies who was Works Manager, later Works Director of SMC, Walter Swallow who "signed on the dotted line" in 1916 and became Works Director at Oldbury, three influential Board Directors Major W Anderson, Colonel John Josselyn, C.M.G., D.S.O. O.B.E, Sir Henry Lyons, D.Sc., F.R.S. and Jim Vredenburg-Inglesby, etc,

* later to merge with the Rubber Institute as the PRI which subsequently became part of the Institute of Materials.