No prizes for guessing the family name of the new MD at Henry Squire & Sons Ltd

Since 1780, more often than not, there's been a Squire as MD at the Midlands lock maker. John Squire is the latest in a long list of Squire family members who've taken on the leadership mantle. In fact, he's the eighth Squire to be appointed MD...
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Chairman Gordon Squire appointed his son John Squire as MD on 1st January. Former MD Rob Powell becomes the technical director.

The new Squire MD has been groomed for his current role since birth but hasn't always worked for the family business. After gaining an economics degree at Durham University he spent six years gaining knowledge and experience at companies such as Wiggins Teape, Express Foods and Rothmans. He's been sales and marketing director at Squire for the past nine years.

Henry Squire & Sons Ltd has been based at New Invention, an industrial area within Willenhall, near Wolverhampton, since its foundation in 1780. This part of the Midlands is famous for its lock making. Chubb started here and the current Lichfield Road premises of Henry Squire & Sons Ltd is built on the foundations of the original cottage where the business was started. Parts of this cottage can still be seen in the Squire carpark.

Lock making thrived in Willenhall during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and remained the staple trade of the town for several centuries. It is still the chief industry of Willenhall which is the most important lock making town in the UK.

However, the conditions in the numerous lock-making workshops were often poor. In the 18th century Willenhall was known as ‘Humpshire’ because the dreadful working conditions led to deformity. According to a record held by the Willenhall lock musuem, the local deformity was distinctive:

"The right shoulder blade becomes displaced and projects. The right leg crooks and bends inwards at the knee like the letter ‘K’, this is the leg which is hindermost in standing at the vice. The right hand also has, frequently, a marked distortion, almost everything it holds takes the position of the file. If the poor man carries a limp lettuce or a limper mackerel from Wolverhampton market they are never dangled, but always held like the file. If he carries nothing, his right hand is in just the same position."

Industrialisation saw the end of such deformaties because locks were made by powered presses rather than made by hand by artisan lock makers. Willenhall became home to all of the UK's best known lock makers including Josiah Parkes, Legge, Chubb, Century Locks, Yale, and, of course, Henry Squire & Sons Ltd.

The pic below (from the the Willenhall Lock Musuem) shows what an artisan in the original lock-making cottage industry would have looked like.

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