WILLIS & ABTES
Early Years of the company
The founder was Alfred Bates, the father of the present chairman and managing director, who had learnt the craft of metal spinning in Birmingham, where he established a business chiefly for the production of lamp tops for street lanterns.
Later he decided to transfer the business to Halifax as a convenient centre of operation for both Lancashire and Yorkshire.
In 1897 he founded Willis & Bates, in partnership with C. Willis who owned a small plating works which was needed for marking complete lamp units.
Pellon Works was built in 1900 on the present site, about one mile from the contre of Halifax. Until 1914 the chief products were street lighting units and spinnings for gas heated geysers and similar purposes.
About 1910, presses were purchased to supply the rapidly developing electrical industry.
The chief customers in the latter industry were the General Electric Company and Holophane Limited, whilst there was also a steady business with gas undertakings through-out Lancashire and Yorkshire.
In 1912 production began of paraffin pressure lantern of the bazaar hanging type with mantle.
First World War 1914 – 1918
From the early part of the war, the company was engaged entirely on production directly related to the war effort.
Alfred Bates was the originator of the steel helmet, but unfortunately never received credit for this outstanding achievement.
Between the Wars
At the end of the war, normal business was gradually resumed and a range of aluminium hollowware was manufactured and marketed.
This necessitated expansion of the works and the installation of more presses.
During the period 1920 to 1930 the chief customers were the General Electric Company, Falk Stadleman Limited, Drysdale Limited (Glasgow) and Holophane Limited.
A wide range of industrial lighting units was designed and manufactured for the latter company.
On the death of his father, in 1930, control of the business was assumed by S. W. Bates, the chairman and managing director.
Over the next nine years, the works was completely reorganized and additional plant installed.
An electro-plating and polishing department was established.
During this period, in addition to the basic trade in spinning, pressings and stampings, there was a profitable diversion into the fields of radiant electric fires marketed under the trade name Ace, and also motor vehicle anti-dazzle arrangements. Both fires and lamps rapidly gained a reputation for performance and high quality.
The company has always been closely concerned with paraffin pressure lanterns and, following its initial work in this field in 1912, experimental production of the German Petromax type began in 1920.
A close association with Tilley Lamp Company concerned in 1925, and for the next twelve years all the lamp pressings used by this company were designed and produced by Willis & Bates Limited.
The latter also manufactured, on Tilley’s behalf, a floodlight designed by S. W. Bates.
In 1938 the Tilley Lamp Company made a change in its buying policy, which was unacceptable to S. W. Bates, who closed the account.
Willis & Bates then began to develop an improved form of paraffin pressure lantern on the general lines of the Tilley, but of more robust construction and embodying features designed to provide a storm-proof light.
The development was entirely successful and resulted in improvements which were protected by letters patent.
The lanterns was given the registered trade name of Vapalux.
Second World War 1939 – 1945
Early in 1939, approaches were made to various ministries and departments, now known as the Ministry of Defence, U.K.
Following field tests, the Vapalux was approved and adopted for use by the armed forces.
The whole of the Willis & Bates production was devoted to work for the defence ministries, U.K.
The polishing and plating plant removed and the space utilised to supplement the Vapalux manufacturing area.
Throughout the war, the output of the Vapalux lanterns was 2,000 per week.
The Post-War years
After the war, normal business resumed, the principal customers being:
Holophane Limited; Jackson Boiler Limited; Stotts of Oldham; Drysdale Limited; Aladdin Industries Limited; Allied Ironfounders Limited; Ministry of Defence(U.K.).
A subsidiary company, Vapalux Limited, was formed to manufacture the lantern in separate premises.
After some ten years, this subsidiary was merged with the parent company, the plant and equipment being transferred to Pellon Works.
The lantern was redesigned to give more attractive appearance. All the original features were retained and the principal spare parts are interchangeable.
From 1945 to 1968, the lantern was marketed by Aladdin Industries Limited under the trade name Bialaddin.
At the beginning of 1970, Willis & Bates Limited took over the entire marketing of the lantern, using their trade name Vapalux.
Following its policy of entry into carefully selected new fields, the company has begun to market a range of untensils know as Pellon Ware, specifically designed for hospital and similar use.
These untensils are protected by designed registration.