The Brindale Story

During WW1 brothers Benjamin & Edmund Daniell (Ben & Ted - the youngest sons of nine living siblings) were working at the Darracq Motor Company as sheet metal workers; all the work being for military vehicles that effectively placed the brothers on a "reserved occupations" list and thus exempt from military service (see note[1] below).  After hostilities ceased in 1918 the military work also ceased and so Benjamin & Edmund, along with Charlie Bird, who also worked for Darracq, formed a partnership, employing three of Ted's four sons; Eddie & Bill first and later Sid.

The business was initially named “Brindale Motor and General Sheetmetal Works”; the name being formulated from the surnames of the three partners Daniell and Bird.  The name was later shortened to “Brindale Engineering”.

The partnership began operating from Edmund’s house at 16 Wendell Road, Shepherd’s Bush, West London, where there were two large workshops at the rear with a large back yard and rear entrance; the property had previously been a laundry.  The firm made general metal products such as kettles and various types of cooking utensils.  

Brindale also made and repaired car radiators because Benjamin had carried out that work at the Darracq Motor Company during the war. They became quite busy doing this and Brindale became well known for quality work.  At that time, motor bodies were built with timber framework to which separately fabricated metal panels were pinned with the joints being covered by moldings, so panel beating (or planishing - the forming of flat sheet metal into shape around a jig) developed into a serious trade and this skilled work was to become a main focus of the company. 

Brindale sometimes specialised in custom-built products one of which, in particular, was a large scientific instrument that stood about eight feet tall, and nearly three feet in diameter.  Composed of three separate aluminium skins insulated between with kapok wool, and port holes at eye level to observe the instruments inside; it was intended to X-Ray the ground beneath it with the expectation of diagnosing minerals.  Three were built with one being placed in the Science Museum at Kensington for posterity.

However, Brindale Engineering’s main work was for the Armstrong Siddeley Motor Company making radiator grills and also the design and manufacture of the Sphinx emblems that adorned the bonnets of their vehicles.  Most of the orders came from Armstrong Siddeley
's London Service Depot, that was originally at Marylebone but was later relocated, in the early 1930's, to larger premises at Somerton Road, Cricklewood, North London.  Since 1912, these premises, next to Cricklewood Aerodrome, had been a part of the larger premises used by Handley Page in the manufacture of bomber aircraft (see PRV Aircraft Factory).

Ostensibly, for the convenience of both companies, Armstrong Siddeley suggested that Brindale Engineering relocate from its Shepherd's Bush premises to premises specifically allocated to Brindale, within Armstrong Siddeley's new factory at Cricklewood, where Brindale could continue to work for all its clients, whilst readily working on Armstrong Siddeley orders.  This Brindale did, as the workshops were readily available, commodious and gratis.  But this seemingly unofficial arrangement with Armstrong Siddeley was the catalyst that eventually caused the collapse of the partnership.

Initially Armstrong Siddeley was supplying an almost constant workflow for Brindale (that included working on Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird car) and which would continue unabated whilst supposedly allowing Brindale to to work for its other clients.  But other clients were few and dwindling because Brindale had little time available to spend looking for new business.

Brindale did not appreciate that Armstrong Siddeley’s seemingly altruistic gesture of inexpensive premises was in its own interest and not that of Brindale's; and that it would take Brindale's work in-house at the earliest opportunity!  This was to be proven as, by the mid 1930’s, after a change of management, Armstrong Siddeley had begun operating its own panel shop (see note[2] below) and incoming orders to Brindale began to dwindle; resulting in Charlie Bird leaving due to a lack of work.

Around that time, also probably due to the lack of business, a dispute arose between Ted and his sons Eddie & Bill that caused them to leave Brindale and jointly start another company, "Daniell Bros'", that began around 1936 and traded from small premises at 926 North Circular Road, London NW2.  However, soon thereafter, Bill left "Daniell Bros'", to join a war-work factory, and in 1940, Eddie founded a new enterprise "Daniell's (Metal Products) Limited" primarily to do work for the armed services, that included equipment for the D-Day Landings (see note[3] below).

Clearly Brindale was gradually being displaced from its arrangement with Armstrong Siddeley.  The brothers' cash flow was becoming dire and it is clear from notes left by Ben that he was trying to keep the company afloat by exercising greater control on orders to suppliers and working for many months without pay.  Ben was effectively paying creditors out of his own pocket, whilst Ted and his other son (Sid) had continued to draw wages.  It is evident that this resulted in a major and acrimonious dispute between Ben & Ted when Ben, in desperation, had drawn some wages (£12 9s 2d) and Ted demanded Ben return the monies forthwith!  The row culminated in Ben withdrawing from the partnership and thus forcing Brindale into liquidation; but the quarrel continued for many months, from mid 1938 to early 1939, involving Brindale's accountant, and the constant wrangling over the ownership of tools and monies owed to both parties, which was never resolved.  

Whilst it would seem that Ben did retrieve at least some of his tools, he never received any monies from the Brindale business thereafter,  even though it seems there was an agreement in principle for him to do so.

Ironically, Ben joined Hawker Siddeley Aircraft that had been formed, in 1935, by the take over of Armstrong Siddeley by the Hawker Aircraft Company, that ultimately resulted in Armstrong Siddeley's determination to take all the panel-shop work in-house and displace Brindale entirely.

In 1939, as the lack of work bore on, Edmund's son Sid, who emigrated to Australia in 1949, had continued working for Brindale but then joined the aero engine manufacturer, De Havilland, that was very busy ramping up effort for the impending doom of WW2; finally leaving Ted on his own at Brindale.  Ted struggled on, occasionally being assisted by his other sons, Eddie & Bill; but the Brindale business became dormant upon Edmund's untimely death in 1946, aged 66.

Eddie fully intended to revive the dormant business name of "Brindale" by renaming "Daniell's (Metal Products) Limited" but this never officially occurred.

This ultimately sorry tale was clearly about business, or the lack of, and money!  Benjamin was living on restricted means having all daughters, none of whom were earning, and a son then still a scholar.  Ben was struggling to survive whereas Ted had four sons, all earning, three of which, worked at Brindale at various times.  It is understandable that there was considerable animosity between the brothers that continued unabated.

© Graham Hill

Compiled from notes and letters left by my grandfather Benjamin Daniell, his obituary in the Richmond & Twickenham Chronicle, letters by Rose Daniell (Edmund's daughter) and the writings of Sidney Daniell (Edmund's son), and notes by his son Edmund.  Whilst these authors were undoubtedly certain of the accuracy of their accounts at the time of writing, there are several discrepancies between them.  In particular, confusing Brindale Engineering with Daniell's (Metal Products).   Also Ben's obituary in 1948 declaring him as a pioneer of the Twickenham Heathfield Estate due to his building his own house single-handedly (even making the bricks) - which is true - but also, stating incorrectly, that he had retired from his London based engineering business two years previous. The latter comment is completely untrue as Ben had extricated himself from Brindale in 1939 and had latterly worked for Hawker Siddeley.  However, using available genealogical information I have been able to prove the more accurate of the discrepancies and this is what I present here.  

Note[1]: Unlike WW2, during WW1 there were no official "Reserved Occupations" and nobody was exempt from military service. Recruitment tribunals were created whereby men were considered for the army reserve but not actually called up until required.  Enlistment did not begin until 1916 by when certain lists of occupations considered vital to the war effort had been designated. "Occupations required for the production or transport of munitions supplied by the Ministry of Munitions", was in the primary list and both Ben & Ted were thus designated in this category.

Note[2]: Amongst other acquisitions, in 1935 Hawker Aircraft took control of both the Armstrong Siddeley and Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft companies to form Hawker Siddeley Aircraft.  This action almost certainly caused the change of management at Armstrong Siddeley's Cricklewood factory, that in turn prompted Armstrong Siddeley to open its own panel shop and begin the series of events that caused Brindale's failure.

Note[3]: "Daniell's (Metal Products) Limited" grew to having two premises; in Maygrove Road, NW6 and off Church Street, Paddington, specialising in motor repairs and fluorescent light fittings.  Eddie died in 1963 and the company was wound up by his son Edmund.