IN the middle of the 19th century James Thompson – an engineer at the waterworks in Grays’ Essex – came to live on the Isle of Dogs in Maria Street, Millwall. In 1888 in partnership with his eldest son James – an apprenticed blacksmith – they founded Thompson & Son in Hutchins Street, Millwall to undertake machinery and repairs, in particular on boilers and other steam vessels.
Two other sons joined the duo, Jack another blacksmith, and Edward (Ted) a turner and fitter. When James senior died , James the younger took over the reins introducing his own sons to the business. By the end of the first war the business had moved to Maria Street and was being managed by James, son and grandson of the two founders, he died in 1929.
The company progressed with Frederick and Edgar Thompson who took over one of their customers, C.F. Davis and Co. Ltd, a Machinery Merchant. During this period, steam equipment was still the main industry, a certain emphasis was given to hydraulic equipment especially presses for plywood production. In 1938 new premises were built in Cuba Street to complement the storage yards in Alpha Grove and Glengall Grove, Millwall.
The name of C.F. Davis and Co. Ltd was changed to Thompson & Son (Millwall) Ltd with 3 directors, James, Frederick and Edgar Thompson. With the advent of the 2nd world war and the requirement for presses, Frederick designed and built a great deal of presses and valves for water hydraulics for use in the manufacture of pyrotechnic, metal forming, plastics and rubber moulding. In 1943, Fred’s son Dennis joined the company.
Following the war the company flourished, undertaking only a small amount of boiler work but mostly concentrating on manufacturing presses and re-furbishing older ones, converting water operated plants to the more modern oil pressure plants. During the years 1960-80 a strong alliance was forged with Andrew Fraser & Co, a pump and valve manufacturer.
The combination of Fraser equipment fitted to Thompson presses was well received, semi-automatic presses for the rubber industry together with the requirements of other industries who used press parts helped stabilise the company.
Thompson and Son is still very much a family business with Andrew and Bill Thompson. Maintaining and refurbishing pumps and presses are the main staple of the daily work. Using up to date control technology the small but highly trained workforce at Thompsons maintains high standards with competitive rates.