Yeovil People

Frank William Sibley

Wood Turner turned Engineer


Frank William Sibley was born in Yeovil in 1872 and baptised at Holy Trinity on 10 November 1872. He was the eldest of the eight children of glover John Sibley (b1850, Ilchester) and Mary Jane née Tucker (1850-1926). John and Mary's children, all born in Yeovil, were; Frank, Charles (b1875), Susan Jane (1876-1898), Eliza (1879-1912), Edwin John (b1881), Earle Russell (1883-1958), Clement Norman (b1885) and Archibald Owen (1888-1964).

In the 1881 census John and Mary, together with their four eldest children and a lodger, were listed in New Town. John gave his occupation as a glover. He worked for the Yeovil Glove Company.

Frank started work at the age of ten, being apprenticed to a Mr Dyke in the Middle Street / Peter Street area. He served eleven years in two apprenticeships, ending when he was 21. Most of his education was Sunday and Night School. The apprenticeships were as wood-turner and cooper, with a some wheel and wagon building on the side. He was offered 4d an hour on completing his apprenticeship, or about £1 per week. On that account, he started up his own business in the garden in Goldcroft. In the 1891 census, 18-year old Frank was still living at home with his parents at 2 Goldcroft. He gave his occupation as a wood turner.

His first power was obtained by a man (or one of his brothers) turning a cart-wheel, with a belt on the rim to drive his lathe. His products were all jobbing work, including wooden wheel-hubs, skittle balls and pins, balusters, newels and all manner of fine furniture parts. He was an expert in making and fitting the teeth for cog-wheels (usually from hornbeam) which led to what is known as millwrighting – a type of engineering mainly for water power. At least half his turnover was for local leather dressers making the various vats and tubs. This led to making a closed tub (called a tumbler), with a door, and revolving it to mix the skins in the various liquors.

At the beginning of 1897, Frank married Ellen Ann Raymond (1876-1947) at Yeovil. They were to have three sons; John Raymond (b1900), Thomas (b1905) and Richard (b1908). Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1898 In the 1901 census Frank and Ellen, together with baby John, were listed at 1 Goldcroft next door to his parents. 28-year old Frank gave his occupation as a cooper and wood turner, and it was noted that he was an employer.

Around this time Frank expanded his business, turning ever more to engineering, and establishing FW Sibley & Co. By the time of the 1911 census, 38-year old Frank had moved his family to Crofton Park, where they lived with a servant. Frank gave his occupation as an electrical and (word illegible) engineer. The company went on to specialise in structural steelwork for new buildings, as evidenced below in the photographs of the steelwork for the Western Gazette building (1906) and the curved structural steelwork being erected in the mid-1930s for the present Art Deco style building on the corner of Park Road and Princes Street.

After retiring, Frank moved to Hillside, Caundle Marsh, Dorset. Ellen died in the autumn of 1947, aged 74. Frank died on 2 January 1963. He was aged 91.




Frank's 10 November 1872 record of baptism from the Holy Trinity register.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet  -  This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

The buildings that were originally the west side of Turnstile Lane photographed on 23 March 1910. By this time occupied by the Yeovil & District Co-operative Society. The double tractor unit pulling the 17-ton load was owned by 'Sibley & Co., Engineers of Yeovil'.


The early days of construction of the Western Gazette building on the corner of Newton Road, with some of the 600,000 bricks being unloaded from the horse-drawn delivery cart of Fred Bird. The construction company was Bird & Pippard, builders and undertakers of Middle Street. The structural steelwork frame was erected by FW Sibley & Co.


This photograph shows the curved structural steelwork being erected in the mid-1930s for the present Art Deco style building on the corner of Park Road and Princes Street. The steelwork was erected by FW Sibley & Co, while the main contractor for the project was D Singleton & Son of Yeovil.


From my collection

An elaborate letterhead, dated 22 June 1948, of FW Sibley & Co Ltd.