Lucas Industries company archives go online

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Sara Kinsey, from the Business Archives Council, presents the grant cheque to Gillian Bardsley, BMIHT archivist. (Submitted photo)

ARCHIVE material from what was one of the biggest names in the motor and aerospace industry has been catalogued online for the first time.

Almost 3,000 items relating to the social and industrial aspects of Birmingham-based Lucas Industries are now available online on the Discovery website, run by The National Archives.

The digital project has been carried out by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT), which is based at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, and was funded with £3,000 by the Business Archives Council.

The Lucas Collection was gifted to the BMIHT in 2002 and since then there have been additional acquisitions of subsidiary records.

It contains extensive business and family records, product development papers, catalogues and manuals, company publications, photographs, moving film, audio and artefacts.

An advert 1959 for Lucas electrical equipment, ‘You’re sure and safe’.

There is also material about the family which founded it, their business practices, and what it was like to work for them.

In the 1850s, Joseph Lucas began selling paraffin oil from a basket skip which he wheeled round the streets of Birmingham to support his family.

Twenty years later he was manufacturing a range of items, most famously the Tom Bowling ship lamp.

His eldest son, Harry, joined his father’s enterprise and they began trading as Joseph Lucas and Son.

Together they exploited the newly-developing cycle industry, marketing a hub lamp for the ‘ordinary’ bicycle which they called King of the Road — a name which quickly became associated with other Lucas products.

The company grew with the transport industry and Joseph Lucas Limited was formed in 1897 before developing into the major supplier of electrical equipment known as Lucas Industries.

Together with its notable subsidiaries, CAV, Girling and Rotax, it played a major role in the development of the motor car, commercial vehicle and aircraft industries.

Gillian Bardsley, BMIHT archivist, said: “Lucas Industries employed generations of people in the Birmingham area, and the Lucas Collection is one of our archive’s hidden treasures.

“Now, thanks to this grant, we can open up this precious resource to everyone with an interest in this enterprising family and the company they created, which so many remember with great affection.”

To see the catalogue, click HERE

Lucas merged with a number of companies in modern times, and the trademark is currently owned by German company, ZF Friedrichshafen.

Project archive assistant, Parmajit Sehmi, and archive assistant, Mollie Horne, work on digitising the Lucas catalogue during December.