1900 – 1950 War years
In 1901 Arthur Hendy joined the company as cashier. He later became Managing Director, and his family name was associated with the works for the best part of the following century.
Although no dividends were paid in the first few years of the new company’s existence, recovery did eventually take place. The company probably benefited from the opening of Immingham docks in 1913, then the largest deep water dock in the United Kingdom, and a huge boost to the shipping economy of the Humber region.28 The relatively new ports of Grimsby and Goole also continued to develop, and after surviving the difficulties of the great changes in the fishing industry which nearly closed the company, the ropery profited from the ‘new’ industrial scale fishing based there in the early twentieth century.
During the first decades of the twentieth century, the company began to profit from the snowballing military build-up. As early as 1908 the company produced ropes designed to tow Dreadnought battleships. These were of up to forty inches in circumference, then the largest the company had produced. During the Great War the company was a large producer of all kinds of rope for military use, and the Admiralty orders represented the watershed for the company’s wire rope division. It became a prime national producer of steel guy-wires for aeroplane wings, and anti-submarine nets; both uses for steel wire essentially resulting from the needs of war. Subsequently, in 1918 the company was in a strong position relative to other, smaller, rope manufacturers. In 1920 Thomas Hall Sissons died and was replaced as Chairman by Arthur Barton Hall, (as his name suggests, he was indeed the first member of the Hall family to be born in Barton!). He was the son of John Edward Hall. In 1921 much of the ropewalk was damaged by an unusually high tide, and the majority of the present building dates from the rebuilding that took place around 1922. As part of this rebuilding openings were included in the walls of the ropewalk to enable any future floodwater to drain freely. These openings can be seen on the outside of the building today.
The wire rope division remained profitable throughout the troubled economic conditions of the early 1920s, but the natural-fibre works at Barton suffered to a much greater extent. The decline of the coal industry culminating in the general strike of 1926 had an immediate effect on the demand for ropes. As the full extent of the Great Depression became clear, it seems that the wire rope division was the company’s salvation, offsetting the losses of around £10,000 that the Barton site suffered during the early 1930s. Indeed, by 1939 the wire rope works were producing four times as much material as they had in 1936. A major contributory factor to the company’s recovery was the re-armament immediately preceding the Second World War. Following the declaration of war, production was controlled directly by the Admiralty and once again the company played a significant role in the war effort.
In the immediate post-war period the company was in a relatively strong position, but heavy taxation precluded any possibility of making much profit.