Historic innovator gets tax boost


Tax Specialist helps historic Birmingham Manufacturer in R&D Reclaim

A Wolverhampton based tax specialist has helped one of Birmingham’s oldest manufacturers to claim back over £130,000 from HMRC for money spent on research and development.


R and D specialist Mark Evans has helped Webster and Horsfall Limited claim back £134,000 of corporation tax. The company manufactures and specialises in the manufacture of wire and strip steel, rope and fittings, including stainless, carbon and low alloy steels.


Webster and Horsfall was founded in 1720 in the Digbeth area of Birmingham, moving to their present 16 acre site in Hay Mills in 1856, originally the site of a sword makers. The company is still in family ownership, with CEO and chairman Charles Horsfall being fifth generation and nephew and finance director Robert Horsfall sixth generation on from the founding father James Horsfall, who invented a revolutionary heat treatment process for wire finishing, still known as “patenting” across the world. The company manufactured the high integrity armour wire for the first successful Atlantic Telegraph Cable in 1866 and in World War Two, Webster and Horsfall provided best quality wire for valve springs for Spitfire planes built at nearby Castle Bromwich.

The company has shared the site with sister company Latch and Batchelor since 1884. Latch and Batchelor make wire rope for specialist lifting applications including mining and cranes. The company has also reclaimed £19,000 under the HMRC R and D scheme. Charles Horsfall is also chairman and CEO of Latch and Batchelor.

The joint company employs 120 skilled staff and exports its product to Europe, North America and Asia, including Outer Mongolia. Further applications include stainless steel wire for the conveyor belt industry, cable for lifting and mining, medical technology, oil and gas and orthodontics.

 “The wire industry had never been bigger”, says Charles Horsfall. “Originally, Webster and Horsfall dominated production in the UK which was then the largest manufacturer of springs throughout the world. Now, with the demise of manufacturing and mining in the UK, it is more of a commodity product, with huge applications in other sectors, including agriculture, bedding and seating.

“For us to stay on top, we look for niche applications. The whole point of carrying out research and development is because we cannot be expected to compete in the commodity end of wire production, even though it’s a huge industry. Complex wires are used in surgical, aeronautical, automotive, and oil and gas applications and that’s where we concentrate our research.

“Wire production is a series of exacting processes, so from the outset it must be of the highest standard. We allocate R and D time spent to each development project, approximating to around 25 per cent of man-hours involved. So we continually invest in new equipment across the process, from preparation of product through to chemical treatment and finish, which requires a huge infrastructure. We’ve implemented modern health and safety systems and have carried out a detailed upgrade across the whole plant. This site has grown organically over the centuries and we are now consolidating the space to make it work efficiently, fit for purpose for today’s challenges. We are vacating seven acres of the 16 acre site for regeneration and this in turn will generate an income stream which will be reinvested.”

“We found out about Mark Evans through the Science City Research Alliance, run by the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick and MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service)”, says Robert Horsfall. “We’d heard about R and D Tax credits but it was never really high on our radar. We didn’t think that our work would qualify and always considered that R and D relief was for cutting edge technology. But our niche products are unique, risk taking stuff. We needed a specialist R and D advisor to help and support us.  Mark operates on a no win, no fee basis so we knew we had nothing to lose. It’s a fantastic amount to be able to claim back and the money will be reinvested to enable us to perpetuate our research and development. It’s vital to our survival and continued growth and we’re looking forward to celebrating our 300th anniversary in 2020.”

 “Both R and D claims went through very quickly”, says R and D specialist Mark Evans. “Most companies involved in what we might term older style manufacturing – which is still very much at the core of the UK’s manufacturing output - don’t realise that they are carrying out R and D until you go through the detail with them. 

“The HRMC R and D tax reclaim scheme is invaluable to manufacturers such as Webster and Horsfall.  The company represents the best of UK innovation – a family run business that has survived the centuries, two world wars and several recessions and is still in private hands, is profitable and is well on course to meet the challenges of today’s economic demands and tomorrow’s environmental considerations. The Government must continue to keep R and D at the heart of their agenda to secure continued growth for the manufacturing sector in the UK.”