Sentinel 

bus_1On 1st October 2006 I had a meeting with Bob Budden of Shrewsbury who had started his working life as an apprentice at Sentinel in 1955 and he retired in 2001. Bob has a few items from the early days and I was able to view his archive and make the following notes which are based on his recollections and my own research.

A Shrewsbury made Sentinel bus operated in Donnington Wood.

Sentinel manufactured bus chassis and engines and I received an email from Mr Phil Brown of Telford whose great grandfather founded Browns Bus company that ran Sentinel buses in Donnington Wood. The photographs below are of his fleet of Sentinel Buses.

The history of the Sentinel Steam Waggon in Shrewsbury has been written in two volumes by Joe and Tony Thomas published privately is not currently in print. The Sentinel Drivers Club also has an extensive archive and is actively promoting all things Sentinel. See Links at the bottom of this page.

The Sentinel business had been founded in 1875 in Glasgow as a marine engineering company when Stephen Evans Alley took over the company from his father in 1898. In 1903 he took over the Shropshire based company of Simpson and Bibby in Horsehay and moved the manufacturing of Steam Wagons to Glasgow.

In 1915 the Sentinel Steam Wagon Company moved to a greenfield site on the northern outskirts of Shrewsbury between the main A49 and the Shrewsbury Crewe railway. and production began.

Difficulties ensued and another company was formed to take over the assets and liabilities this was Sentinel Wagon Works (1920) Ltd

By the 1920`s production was substantial and locomotives as well as steam wagons were being made. The company were skilled engineers and also made machine tools. The company had extensive holdings of land and built homes for the workers opposite the factory. These had the benefit of central heating with radiators fed steam from the companies boilers by underground pipes.

By the 1930`s the unladen weight restrictions of road going vehicles meant that diesel was favoured at the expense of steam. The company stayed too long with steam and a new company took over the assets and liabilities Sentinel Wagon Works (1936) Ltd

In the late 1930`s the prospect of war turned the company around as it gained substantial military contracts for the supply of machine tools and vehicles for active service.

From 1938 until 1946 on the 15 acre site the company had a Foundry, a Smithy, a Frame and Sheet Metal Shop, 2 Machine Shops, and 2 Fitting Shops, The Squid Shop ( an anti-submarine weapon) a Tracta Joint Shop, a Shell Shop(4.5' HE Shells) a Tool Room, a Coppersmiths, a Joiners Shop, a Pattern Shop, and a Laboratory and Balance Room, a Processing Plant making Kitchens and Bathrooms for prefabricated Houses. The site also had its own army the “S Coy 1st Salop Home Guard.”

A photographic record exists of the many products made for War Purposes 1939 to 1946 and this includes

Machine Tools 

Sentinel High Speed Hydraulic Lathe, Sentinel Turret Lathes, Centre and General Purpose Lathes, Edgwick Centre Lathes, Sprocket Turning Lathes, Shell Boring Lathes, Sentinel Sprocket Cutting Lathe, Sentinel Wheel Boring Machine, Steinle Centre less Thread Generator, Single and Dual Spindle profile Millers, Small Floor Tool Grinders, Cartridge Tube Glazing Machine, Wells Press E H Jones, Thiel Miller, Aeroplane Wing Riveting Machine, Sullivan Coal Cutters,

Vehicles 

Sentinel Steam Wagons, Sentinel Locomotives, Universal Carriers (Bren Carrier) Loyd Carrier, Locust Tank (lightweight D-Day Tank) Stuart Tank Ram II Tank ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle)

Diesel Engines 

During the war an appeal had gone to America to supply the UK with engines of all sorts and in any condition. Apparently the scrap yards of America were scoured and engines of various types and in various stages of wear and decay were boxed up and sent to the UK and Sentinel to be made useful. On arrival the boxes were opened up and the engineers rebuilt them and got them working making parts that were worn out or missing.

The company developed its diesel capability and built Locomotives, Lorries and Coaches all carrying the Sentinel badge and a Sentinel Diesel Engine. A prototype lorry with a petrol engine is believed to have survived.

The Sentinel Drivers Club http://www.sentinel-waggons.co.uk/index2a.htm

Comments (16)

  1. I passed my PSV test in Birmingham in May 1963. My first job was to take a sentinel coach from Birmingham to Blackpool. I recall that the accelerator was in the middle between the clutch and the brake. I broke down on the way back and had to be rescued. Could someone confirm that this memory is not a dream but a reality.
  2. i used to drive and maintain all the above browns buses had a great time driving them on service and contratc school routes from the age of 21 that is some 43 years ago arround the donnington oakengates area.
    i have driven all of the above and some that are not showen,
    juj ???
    hnt 101 which was scrapped cracked chassis
    haw 373
    haw 302
    haw303
    guj 608
    hnt 49
    all had main drivers and we as the grease monkeys used to take over for their lunch breaks or did the odd shifts or market day runs brilliant days
  3. I remember my first days in the drawing office at Sentinel in 1955. All the drawing boards inclined at 60 degrees and strictly no talking. It was like the reading room of the British Museum. The MD of the factory in those days was a Mr Rymer or was it Ryder? Les Hydes was put in charge of the first batch a trainee draftsmen and later it was Jack Holder. The drawing produced by the designers in those days were works of art. Some of my peer group were Ossie Johnson, Ron Hamer, Eddy Griffiths and Colin (Greg) Gregory.
  4. Does anyone remember Jeff Potter who worked at Sentinal from the 1950s-1980s?
  5. Looking at the photo's of Sentinel buses and in particular one taken at Onslow steam rally this isn't the last of Browns buses as a number survice in preservation one of which is with Aston Manor Transport Museum GUJ 608 which I believe was also a demostrator. Several are also stored in Herefordshire awaiting restoration. I believe that approximatly 8 Sentinel buses/coaches still exist as do several diesel lorries.
  6. My father, Les Rimmer worked at Sentinel Wagon Works in W.W. 2.He made Bren Gun Carriers.We had a Sentinel house just accross Whitchurch Rd.
  7. My late grandad worked here for many years,Tom Howells, I still have his long service award (gold watch) and a retirement plaque made for him by his work mates.
  8. Another ex/apprentice ,Aug56/Jan61,some of the best years of my life @ The Sentinel! I was priveledged to be trained by some of the best!!J.jones,M.Swain,E.Evans,E.Williams,L.Adams,T.Kynaston.A.Bennett. All the men in C.69
  9. does anybody remember my grandads who both worked at sentinel shrewsbury,i think they were inspectors-Frank leonard Roberts and John Stephen Hutchinson.Both died in the 1960's
  10. I remember my apprenticeship with Sentinel Shrewsbury starting on 3rd October 1955. As Dev Biddlecombe mentioned above, the training school, combined with day release to the Technical College, was first class. I had some good friends in those days, and subsequently with the Rolls Royce service dept when I worked for a while with the service dept. I ended my time with Rolls Royce after a spell working as Guarantee engineer on a merchant ship, the Jamaica Producer. I would be happy to renew acquaintances with anyone who remembers me.
    REPLY
    1. I started at the Sentinel in August 1955 as one of the first "technical Apprentices" and went straight into the drawing office as a trainee draftsman. The training officer in charge was Jack Holder. Most of the work at that time was on the rail cars and machine tools. Does anyone remember the huge planing machine - reputed to be one of the largest in the country at the time. One of the senior training instrutor s was Clive Mold but I remember Arnold Browning and the Personnel manager Mr Woolhouse.
      REPLY
      1. Hi, I was also a Technical Apprentice starting around the same time. I left in 1959 to go to australia (big mistake), I was very active in the Motor Sports Club (Rolls Royce), If any one can remember me I would be more than happy to receive email (mrmorris59@yahoo.com.au)
      2. Yes Arnold Browning was in charge when i was an apprentice in the training school
  11. The machine tool department also produced the Unit Heads for machine tool automation. I believe these were manufactured under licence from French Renault company during the 1950s and 60s. Sentinel also produced a "tractor" for pulling aricraft - again these were produced in the 1950s. I also recall the company producing an Earth Scraping Machine ( Le tournot - I think ) does anyone remember this - it was a one off?
  12. I see above the name W.J.Cockroft. Is this the same person who was the Training Manager at Sentinel in the late 1950s? I was a trainee at this time. The RR Apprentice School was way ahead of its time
    REPLY
    1. Jimmy Cockroft was certainly the apprentice supervisor during some of my app. 56-61. Then a young university guy, name eludes me, then Mr.Dodds.
      REPLY
      1. 1 error ,1 omission; app. aug56/jan62. Mr.A.Browning was also app. sup. during this time.
        REPLY
        1. Yes Arnold Browning was in charge when i was an apprentice in the training school
  13. Does any former employer remember Lew Hesbrook - He was a Design Engineer and a great inspiration to many of the young trainees in the Drawing Office in the mid-late 1950s and early 60s.
    REPLY
    1. Lou is my brother. He is now retired and lives at St Georges. Tel: 01952612966
  14. my Dad.drove these buses. When I was only a little boy.
  15. i was
    a app. in 1951 in the foundry molder mr cook was the manager and dick allen was foreman i lived in a sentinal house i left in 1952 to join the navy my dad worked there but was called up for the war
  16. during the war sentinel did not patch up old US diesel engines, they were far too buy on more important work. I know I was there. I also am sure I know how the rumour came about. I write with authourity , the repair of us diesel engines commenced after the war for development of outcrop coal authority. I had the whole story of the contract direct from R. Woodvine at union meeting with him.
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