John Gwynne set up Gwynne and Company in Aldwych, London in 1849 and filed his first centrifugal pump patent in 1851. Following John’s death in 1855, James Gwynne took over the company. The family didn’t get on, and in 1858 John (Jr) and Henry set up the rival company J & H Gwynne of Hammersmith. In 1903 the two firms were reunited as Gwynnes Ltd.
The early pumps were used primarily for land drainage, and many can still be seen today in pump house museums. These pumps were usually powered by Gwynnes’ steam engines (although these engines, like the pumps, also found other applications). By the end of the 19th century, Gwynnes were producing pumps of all sizes to cover all industrial applications, from small electric pumps to those rated at 1,000 tons per minute. They had also begun to produce scientific pumps e.g. porcelain pumps for chemical works. In the 1930s they were producing almost 1,000 different models.
In World War I Gwynnes produced the Clerget aero engine which they developed over the war period with the help of W O Bentley (who was drafted to Gwynnes as a naval engineer for some of this time). They succeeded in up-rating the 110 BHP type 9Z engine to the 130 BHP type 9B. After World War I Gwynnes applied the technologies they had learnt to the production of components for the automobile industry. This progressed to the entire production of the Albert motor car for Adam, Grimaldi and Co. Eventually, Gwynnes bought production rights and became a car producer in their own right, producing the Gwynne 8.
The car side of the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1931 because the car market was highly competitive. The pumps business became a wholly owned subsidiary of William Forster and Company in 1927.