©  COLIN BAKER   2007                                                                                       

Joseph Lucas born in 1834, came from humble beginnings, he received only a part time education at the Sunday School for boys and girls opened by George Dawson in Helena Street, close to his Church of the Saviour in Edward Street.

Joseph aged about 13 was already an apprentice with H. & G.R. Elkington, and so only be able to attend classes on a Sunday. After completing his apprenticeship, he became a journeyman electro-plater, and left Elkingtons.

He married Emily Steven in 1854, and together had six children. It was during a period of un-employment about that time that Joseph brought a basket skip on wheels and a cask of paraffin and set off selling the oil around the streets of Hockley, by 1860 he also sold buckets, shovels, scoops, and galvanised chamber pots. For 12 years, he recorded his sales in a notebook which survives to this day. By 1869 he had moved to 67, Carver Street, and appeared in White’s Birmingham Directory as a Lamp and Oil Dealer. An entry in the notebook for that year is the first mention of lamps, which he sold wholesale after purchasing them from the makers. It was the sale of these lamps which led him from a small-time trader to a major industrialist, and a man of substance.

He became known as “The King of the Road” after one of his most famous products, and founded an empire that he ruled like a strict but benevolent father.

In 1872, he founded a company with his son Harry, and initially called it Joseph Lucas & Son; it was based in Great King Street, Birmingham. At first it made pressed metal lamps for ships and coaches, later moving into oil and acetylene lamps for bicycles. By 1902, it had become Joseph Lucas Ltd., and they had started to make electrical components for the automotive industry, such as magnetos, alternators, windscreen wipers, starter motors and horns.

Joseph married three times, his last wife at the age of 67, he died in 1902 of typhoid after drinking contaminated water in Naples, he is buried in Moseley Parish Church.

The company had begun to expand by 1914, with a contract to supply the Morris Motor Company with electrical equipment.

As part of the war effort Lucas made shells and fuses as well as electrical equipment for military use.

The company expanded further after the First World War, and in 1926 they gained an exclusive contract with Austin.

Lucas’s continued to grow, acquiring many other companies, such as CAV in 1926, Girling in 1938, and Simms in 1968.



 Details taken from Jackie Hill’s site Lucas Memories


Great Hampton Street