Hampshire Cultural Trust

Wallis and Steevens

Wallis and Steevens manufactured a wide range of products from agricultural machinery to road making equipment. The current collection began to be formed in the 1970s and is attempting to reflect this diversity through the acquisition of typical Wallis and Steevens products, from agricultural equipment of the 1850s to steam and motor road rollers of the 1920s and 1950s. Their business can be traced back to the 1840s and grew to become one of the main rivals in Hampshire to Taskers.

Wallis and Steevens timeline

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1840 Start trading as R Wallis and Sons. Canal trade destroyed by competition from railways, though family continue to trade as corn, coal and salt merchants

1843 Francis and Charles set up as general ironmongers in the Market Place, Basingstoke. Also have a foundry in Caston's Yard

1848 Francis dies. Arthur joins Charles

1849 Ironmongers business becomes Wallis and Lodwidge.

1850 Richard Wallis and Sons are trading as brass and iron founders and agricultural implement makers at Basingstoke Foundry

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1856 Arthur establishes North Hants Ironworks on Station Hill. C R Haslam joins as partner. Agents for manufacturers of portable steam engines. Manufacture portable 2-horse threshing machine.

1857 Hand worked bench drilling machine highly commended at Royal Agricultural Show

1858 Wallis and Haslam demonstrate threshing machines and ploughs at the Royal Agricultural Society Exhibition in Chester. Machines produced under partnership with Charles Haslam exhibited at Warwick. These include the Hayes patent straw elevator, a field roller and a clod crusher. Also exhibited is a portable engine and thresher, on behalf of Clayton and Shuttleworth

1861 First steps towards steam engine manufacture. A 36" steam driven threshing machine exhibited at the agricultural show in Leeds

1862 Charles Steevens joins firm, which continues to supply portable engines produced by Clayton and Shuttleworth

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1863 Ironworks carried on as general engineers and ironfounders. Wallis and Steevens threshing machines follow general design of Clayton and Shuttleworth machines. General change in agricultural method as larger-scale farming becomes more common. Threshing contractors, who travel from farm to farm with the necessary machinery for threshing, first appear at this period

1867 Wallis and Steevens show four and eight nhp portable engines of their own manufacture at the Royal Agricultural Show. It makes sense for the firm to produce both threshing machines and steam engines, as clients like to buy both from the same manufacturer

1869 Charles Haslam retires

 

Thresher

1871 66-inch treble blast threshing machine manufactured

1872 William Fletcher (1848 - 1916) appointed as designer. The first portable engine designed by Fletcher for Wallis and Steevens is tested the same year

1873 Wallis and Steevens gain bronze medal for 8 nhp portable steam engine at Universal Exhibition of Manufacture in Vienna. Machines exported to Denmark and Bavaria

1874 From this date the firm made all their own boilers for steam engines. An 8 nhp engine with wood burning firebox exhibited at Smithfield

1873 Wallis and Steevens gain bronze medal for 8 nhp portable steam engine at Universal Exhibition of Manufacture in Vienna. Machines exported to Denmark and Bavaria

1874 From this date the firm made all their own boilers for steam engines. An 8 nhp engine with wood burning firebox exhibited at Smithfield. 1875 Fletcher redesigned 4 and 8 nhp portable engines. Engines exhibited abroad

1877 Continued development of portable and traction engines

1878 Herbert Wallis fosters trading links with South Africa. Fletcher resigns. The 54" threshing machine is scaled up to 60", but during the next decade a series of poor summers will lead to an agricultural depression

Stationary steam engine

1879 First portable engine sold specifically as generator for electric light. Two 8 nhp engines sold to British Museum as generators. Won favourable publicity. New engines designed for export to South Africa.

1881 Arthur Herbert Wallis and John Ernest Wallis join as junior partners. 12 nhp engine built for Paris Electrical Exhibition Start of agricultural depression

1882 First 7 nhp traction engine built at Basingstoke. Biggest engines ever made by Wallis & Steevens, two 16 nhp compounds, built the same year

1883 Charles Steevens retires

1888 William Alfred Wallis joins the firm. Trade in fixed engines remains steady

 

1890 First road roller made; a 6 nhp traction engine convertible to a road roller Links with South Africa continue

1891 Main steam roller development programme begins. Low steam pressure is a feature of Wallis and Steevens rollers

1892 Wallis and Steevens wagons win a gold medal at Kimberley Exhibition

1893 Firm becomes a Limited Company, with assets valued at over £62,000. Herbert sent out to South Africa to foster trade. A steam operated road breaker first fitted to 10 and 15 ton rollers

1894 Herbert Wallis dies in Johannesburg. South African trade dwindles, except for trucks. Wallis Expansion Gear designed. Alfred Robinson takes over as Acting Chief Draughtsman

Road Locomotive c1895

1895 First engine recorded as being 'road locomotive'

1895 - 1896 Wallis and Steevens contemplate making lighter small engines. Legal weight restrictions relaxed on road locomotives, which still had to keep to below 3 tons to qualify for maximum relief

1896 Frank and Alfred Wallis attend Motor Car Show at Crystal Palace, but conclude that future lies with light steam traction engines

1897 Financial reconstruction of the company. New steel framed store built at cost of £410 Firm supplied a hospital van for Andover RDC

1898 Showman's engine named 'Rover' made for John Jennings Jnr. Agricultural depression coming to an end, so sales of agricultural engines improve. New pattern of hay elevator made

1899 Foundry extended

1900 Death of Arthur Wallis. Two sprung tractors operating at 120 psi made for Crown agents in the colonies

1901 New workmen's dining room built. 30 cottages at Cliddesden, known as South Lea, transferred to an subsidiary company, Wallis & Steevens Auxiliary Ltd. New design of steam tractor, some convertible to road rollers.

1902 Directors vote £125 bonus for staff

Steam engine c1900

1903 First design for compound road roller discussed. 'Royal John' showman's engine sold to Henry Jennings. One of only 10 compound engines supplied new to showmen during the 20th century

1904 Relaxation of weight restrictions as part of 1903 Motor Car Act. Increase of 1 ton in permitted weight made 3 ton engines obsolete. Trade dominated by general purpose traction engines. Particularly popular as estate engines as they were relatively cheap, easy to manage, and could be obtained on hire purchase.  

1905 New designs of tractor produced to take advantage of relaxation in weight restrictions. Steam Wagon design becomes popular. Wallis and Steevens had their own steam tractor, managed by 'Gunner' Wild, that was used for ploughing experiments. Unfortunately, cost calculations proved disappointing.

1906 First steam wagons delivered, fitted with Stephenson's Link Motion reversing gear. Road wheels were of traction engine type, braked by a pair of wooden blocks. Allegations of infringement of patent made by Fodens of Sandbach. Wallis and Steevens deny allegations.

1908 Case for patent infringement brought by Fodens. Wallis and Steevens won the case.

 

1910 Nature of business changes to concentrate on road vehicles. Agricultural side of the business diminishes from now on. Compound tractor no 2923 used on Duke of Wellington's estate near Reading in an attempt to mechanise farm work

Pickford Steam lorry

1911 Launch of 3 ton steam wagon, fitted with rubber tyres as standard to give road speed of 12 mph.

1913 Attempt to move into internal combustion engine market prevented by outbreak of war

1914 War effort. Many young men went to the Front. Wallis and Steevens manufacture bomb cases as well as traction engines and road rollers for the War Department

1915 John Wallis dies. He had been the main supporter of the internal combustion engine, and the remaining directors lost interest in the project, especially as there was local competition from both Thornycroft and Dennis Bros

1918 War ended. Wallis & Steevens appear unchanged, but brief post-war boom in demand for tractors soon faded.

Roller c1920

1921 Works overmanned. Wartime cost of living bonus reduced from 40 to 35 shillings (£2 to £1.75) a week. Work began on designs for new tractor to take advantage of further relaxation on weight restrictions for roads. Unfortunately, the new designs were completed as major economic depression of 1920's began. Works itself turned away from steam; now powered by Crompton electric motors.

1922 Wages reduced by 15 shillings (75p) for men and senior boys and 3/6 (17½ p) for other boys. Francis Wallis and Algar Horne, senior draughtsman, develop the 'Advance' roller. Firm also patented the 'Handy Gritter'.

1923 Firm relies on the sale of rollers to keep going. First 'Advance' rollers produced

1924 Last few 5 ton steam wagons made. Market now dominated by internal combustion engined vehicles. 'Simplicity' rollers designed for Far East market. Colonial markets still used steam engines, with wood as fuel.

1925 Algar Horne put in charge of project to design a petrol engined roller. Scarifier patented no. 257648. Many sold abroad.

1926 Difficult year. Steam unfashionable, and strike in coalfields further dents business confidence

1927 Trial of petrol engined roller unsuccessful. George W Linsley Hood brought in as new Chief Designer. Prototype of 'A' class petrol paraffin version of 'Advance' roller. Firm made overall loss.

1929
Recession affects demand for motor rollers, though the steam 'Advance' roller still sold well. Wallis & Steevens continued to trade at net loss. Welding adopted as manufacturing technique.

 

Sprayer

1930 Board meeting decides to concentrate on steam 'Advance' and small motor rollers.
Batch of heavy diesel rollers had to be sold at cost.
Successful trial of 2 ton small roller with petrol engine

1931 Staff reduced to minimum by layoffs. National diesel engines adopted for large rollers

1932 Another poor year. Deficit £10,300. Other firms in similar trouble

1933 Firms surviving recession meet to consider setting minimum price for motor rollers.

1934 Profit of £1855 earned, though no dividend paid to shareholders. Francis Ashby Wallis dies in July. George Wilson becomes works manager. William Alfred Wallis dies in September. Extraordinary General Meeting called. Nominal capital valuation of the company reduced

1935 Herbert Wetham made a director. Deficit reduced to £6,000, but achieved only by decreasing stocks, deferring maintenance and foregoing new plant

1937 Sale of steam rollers reduced to two or three a year. Last pair sold to War Department in 1940. Motor roller production replaced steam sales.

1939 Wartime production mainly of small rollers

Advance Roller

1940 Only major change was substitution of straight rear axle by cambering version

1944 Introduction of 'Universal' range of rollers. Good and trouble free

1945 Wallis & Steevens still agricultural dealers. Spares still required, and land pressers and mole drainers manufactured

1947 Francis Wallis joins board

1948 Staff recruitment dwindled. Production dropped to pre-war levels.

1951 Company under chairmanship of Arthur Wallis. Coventry 4-cylinder engine introduced

1953 Agricultural works and sales department added at Charlton Road Andover. Francis Wallis took over from Richard, and Albert Smallbone became Secretary

1955 George Wilson made director when Herbert Wetham retires. Choice of engines offered, and technical developments continue

1957
Enclosed cabs introduced

1959
Power steering introduced

1961 Arthur Wallis dies. Succeeded by his son, Frank. Research reveals need for three point rollers with hydraulic drive

1962 Albert Smallbone made a director. New design of scarifier for hand or hydraulic control

1964
Directors make decisions calculated to keep firm among leaders in industry. Modern side entry cab introduced. New roller prototype tested on M1

1966 New works opened on Daneshill Industrial Estate

1967 Old works and foundry on Station Hill demolished. Motorway programmes help sales

 

Roller advertisement 1970s

1970 Wallis and Steevens buy AJB Engineers Ltd of Reading. Although there is still agricultural trade, investment ceases in that side of the business

1971 - 1973 Continuing trade and development

1974 Reduction in national expenditure on road programmes, but Marshalls cease trading so Wallis and Steevens able to absorb more customers

1976 All Wallis and Steevens agricultural interests sold to John Wallis Titt of Warminster. Wallis & Steevens concentrate on making rollers and plant

1977 Francis Wallis dies. Albert Smallbone now Chairman, with Francis' son, Arthur Wallis as Managing Director

1978 Production almost back to levels of early 1970''s

1980 Home market collapses in general trading recession. Government signals continued restrictions on local authority spending, including road building

1981 Wallis and Steevens ceased to trade

 
 

Wallis Roller c1920

Wallis & Steevens archive

The archive is held at Museum of English Rural Life, Reading