The Sentinel name has a rich and illustrious past dating back to the 19th century and has been synonymous with engineering expertise and experience to the present day.
Irishman Stephen Alley and his Scottish partner John Alexander MacLellan opened the Sentinel Engineering Works in Polmadie, Glasgow, producing a range of valves for industrial users.
The company moved to Jessie Street, Glasgow having outgrown their previous premises. The Sentinel Works in Jessie Street is still in existence today, although it is now very derelict. The design offices and pattern shop is listed category A as a building of significant national importance as the first steel-reinforced concrete building in Scotland.
Alley and MacLellan acquired the business Simpson and Bibby of Horsehay, Shropshire, who had been working in the production of steam road vehicles. Their work was transferred to Polmadie.
The first Sentinel Steam Waggon was manufactured. Please note the spelling of 'Waggon'. Sentinel built steam waggons; the significance of the alternative spelling set aside the Sentinel product as superior in comparison to ‘wagon’ producers.
Waggon manufacturing was moved to a new factory in Shrewsbury alongside the LNWR mainline to Crewe. The development included model housing for the workforce where the factory provided hot water for domestic use including central heating. Some of the original premises still stand today.
Financial problems struck, and the company was reorganised as Sentinel Waggon Works (1920) Ltd. The Sentinel ‘Super’ model that followed in 1923 was assembled in a radical new plant at Shrewsbury, with a flow line based on Henry Ford’s Model T factory in Michigan USA.
Sentinel Industrial Locomotives Ltd was established as a separate company, with its office in Chester and Arthur Thomson as Assistant General Manager. This activity was merged with that of the Railway Department in Shrewsbury in 1928.
Sentinel launched a new and advanced steamer: the S type. However it could not compete with contemporary diesel trucks for all-round convenience and payload capacity, and was phased out in the late 1930s.
Thomas Hill signed an agency agreement with Sentinel for repair and maintenance of diesel vehicles. In 1947 Sentinel offered to extend the agreement for diesel vehicles to include the steam locomotives and an agency was accepted by Thomas Hill for sales and servicing. The company became Sentinel (Shrewsbury) Ltd, and had developed a new range of diesel lorries.
Despite Sentinel's superbly engineered vehicles, sales diminished throughout the 1950s, and by 1956 the company was forced to cease lorry production. The factory was acquired by Rolls-Royce the same year for diesel engine production until 1983. The business name changed twice in this time to Rolls Royce Motors and again to Vickers Rolls Royce, until it was bought by Perkins Engines Ltd. The original office block and factory entrance still stand with the Sentinel statue still in place.
The last two Sentinel steam locos were delivered marking the end of an era. The following years saw the Sentinel site and name only referred to unofficially as several acquisitions by large companies, such as Perkins Engines Ltd, Caterpillar, Lucas, Varity and Doncasters Aerospace replaced the trading name. Parts of this site have been sold off since 1983.
Sentinel Training Ltd was formed by Ken James & Brian Rees. Both had started their careers at the site as apprentices; Ken in 1951 and Brian in 1956. The two men both worked at the site for the different owners until 1987, ultimately managing the Apprentice Training School within the Rolls-Royce set up. A reduction in the demand for skilled men and a slump in business resulted in the Training School shrinking and large scale redundancies. This is the point at which Sentinel Training Ltd evolved as a separate business.
Sentinel Manufacturing was formed along with Sentinel Training, as a result of Perkins and Caterpillar introducing a requirement for machined components.
Sentinel Training Ltd and Sentinel Manufacturing Ltd moved from the original site on Whitchurch Road, Shrewsbury to separate sites. Sentinel Training was based at Monkmoor, Shrewsbury and Sentinel Manufacturing at Battlefield Industrial Estate, Shrewsbury.
A far cry from the Sentinel origins, there now stands a Morrisons supermarket and Doncasters Aerospace on part of the old Sentinel site, but the original gates and some buildings still stand. Sentinel Training Ltd ceased trading April 2005. Paul James, Ken’s son took over from his father and Brian in Feb 2001 and is currently MD of Sentinel Manufacturing Ltd.
Today, Perkins Engines Stafford Ltd accounts for 75% of Sentinel’s sales with the remainder coming from CAT Remanufacturing (Shrewsbury), CAT Power Parts (Irlam), Fullwood (Dairy Industry) and others. There is considerable goodwill towards Sentinel amongst the local engineering community as many served their apprenticeships at ‘The Sentinel’.
Services Sentinel Manufacturing Provide
We specialise in CNC machining. Our knowledge and expertise can provide consultation and engineering solutions.
Particular expertise is held in ensuring cleanliness and making critical products for power generation equipment.
The latest CAD technology is used, offering clients expert design solutions at all stages of product development.
- February 2017
March Way, Battlefield Enterprise Park, Shrewsbury, SY1 3JE
Tel: 01743 443880