ICME Heritage

iron bridgeICME and the castings industry has a long and proud tradition. Here we give you an introduction to our institute.

The nineteenth century was the century of invention. It produced new machines, new methods of generating and applying power, and improvements in communications. Towards the end of the century men began to try and improve the materials of which all this mechanism was made and the manufacturing methods by which it was produced. This was the state of engineering development when this Institute was founded as the British Foundrymen’s Association in 1904.

The foundry industry had grown to considerable dimensions and the output of castings for engineering and building purposes was considerable, but the actual production of the castings was a craft and success depended entirely upon skill and experience. Makers and users of castings were, however, beginning to realise that although founding was an art, it could also be a science, and that quality and quantity could be improved by investigating scientifically the materials which were used and the methods which were adopted.

This was realised by a number of thoughtful foundrymen who were anxious to take definite steps to apply science to the work of the foundry and who wished to increase their own knowledge. Some of them aired their views in the Foundry Trade Journal, which had been established in 1902, the Journal gave encouragement in its leading articles and offered practical help. Eventually one of the early enthusiasts, Frederick W Finch, invited a number of foundrymen to attend a meeting which was held in Birmingham, on Saturday, 9th April 1904. Although this meeting was attended by exactly six people they were not discouraged. Instead, they optimistically, and with considerable foresight formed themselves into the British Foundrymen’s Association with Robert Buchanan as President and F W Finch as Secretary and Treasurer. The remainder of those present became the Council with power to add to their number.

When the Council held its next meeting a few weeks later, 50 applications for membership were accepted. Encouraged by this success they decided to hold an Annual Convention, which was held in Manchester just four months after the inaugural meeting, attended by 50 of its 89 members. By the end of the year there were 100 members.

“The primary object was considered to be purely educational – the education of the man actually at work in the foundry, such as workmen, foremen and managers. This was to be followed by education of those outside the shops who more or less directly or indirectly concerned with it, such as draughtsmen, patternmakers, proprietors and works managers, etc. As an incentive to membership the subscription was placed at the absurdly low figure of 7/6d per annum. It was also definitely decided that the Association should not countenance any discussion of Trade Union matters, whether appertaining to wages or conditions of labour. Further, The Association was not to be used in any sort of propaganda for business houses in the selling and advertising of their goods. The success which has followed the ideals set up in those early days proves the Association was well and wisely governed from its inception.” (1).

At a very early stage it became evident that members were anxious to meet each other and discuss their mutual problems. Branches in various parts of the country were the solution and as early as 1905 the first branch, known as the Lancashire Branch, was founded at a meeting in Manchester with an attendance of seven, The Birmingham Branch was formed a year later and within a few years there were branches in many industrial centres. A South African Branch was formed in 1937 and the Australian Branch in 1953.

As the Association grew in size and influence members began to express a desire for incorporation by Royal Charter (2). A fund to meet the legal expenses was raised by voluntary subscriptions and the formal resolution to apply for a Charter was approved in 1919. The petition was lodged in 1921, and the Royal Charter was granted by His Majesty King George V on November 25th of the same year. There have been three supplemental Charters allowing the Institute to better represent the rapidly changing face of the Cast Metals Industry.

On the 11th October 2000 the name was changed by amendment to the Royal Charter from the Institute of British Foundrymen to the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers.

(1) T Makeson MBE, The First Half Century: the History of the Institute of British Foundrymen, 1904 to 1954 (from a paper by F J Cook on the Institute’s history given in 1927), 1954, IBF.
(2) Members Handbook, incorporating Royal Charter and By-laws.