Collingwood Notables Database
Manufacturer, founder of Siddons Industries Ltd and Sidchrome Spanners
Royston Siddons was the founder of Siddons Industries and the creator of the Sidchrome Spanner which became a household name throughout Australia after a successful advertising campaign with the catchy slogan ‘Ye canna hand a man a grander spanner’. An electrical engineer, Siddons was a remarkable innovator with strong Methodist principles that shaped his life.
While living with his young family in Ivanhoe, Royston took over the lease of a metal casting factory in Otter Street Collingwood in 1931. This was at the height of the Great Depression but Royston made a success of the business by working shoulder to shoulder with his employees, and this bond was to ensure that Siddons Industries continued to grow throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Weekly costs at the leased factory were £1-7-6 for the factory, £2-0-0 for the lease of machinery & equipment and £21-0-0 wages. According to his son: ‘Royston put his heart & soul into the business & it took every ounce of his tenacity and ingenuity to keep the business afloat.’
Royston devised innovations that helped reduce the costs of castings. Among the items made were a small cast key to the locks of cabinets and a small tack hammer with a cast iron head – both were supplied to GJ Coles & Co Ltd. At the end of the first three months Royston had made a profit of £21-0-1.
Output increased so much that after three years the premises were too small and so bigger premises were found at 77A Spensley Street Clifton Hill in August 1934. Royston proved to be a tough negotiator, getting the rent reduced by half and a purchase option included. He moved his machinery himself over a period of six weekends from Otter Street to Spensley Street so that they could continue with production during the change over period. Results in the first year of the new factory justified the move. Gross sales increased from £7,719 in1933-34 to £9,389 in 1934-35.
Throughout his life Royston experimented with new casting processes, one of which led to the production of zinc alloy padlocks, marketed as Sidco Locks. The business continued to grow. A fire that destroyed most of the factory in 1941 is an incident that shows the determination of Siddons and the loyalty of his workforce. The employees, numbering around 40, spent the whole weekend cleaning up after the fire and afterwards Royston said: ‘I must go on, I can’t let the boys down – I have to keep going.’ However there were still hurdles to overcome because of the wartime restrictions. The Government would let him re-build but only if he did away with the casting forge and replaced it with a drop forge so as to manufacture hand tools (spanners, screwdrivers, pliers etc) for the Department of Defence. What seemed like a bitter blow at the time was to prove to be the making of Siddons Industries and the Sidchrome range of hand tools.
The immediate post war era saw Royston unable to meet the public demand for hand tools & locks. Some retail outlets had to wait two years to get their order filled. So in 1948, Royston bought four acres of industrial land at West Heidelberg and in later years it doubled in size. At this time the company was floated and such was the standing of Siddons Industries that within a few hours the issued shares were all taken up. In 1959 operations ceased at Clifton Hill.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Agnes Emily Smith||1922, Wonthaggi||One son John 1927, two daughters|
|Work Street||Work City||Status of Building|
|42 Otter Street||Collingwood||Demolished|
|77A Spensley Street||Clifton Hill||Part incorporated in housing development|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|24 November 1976||Canterbury||Cremated|
Siddons, A spanner in the works; Australian made.