GKN plc (LSE: GKN) is a multinational engineering company headquartered in Redditch, United Kingdom. The company was formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds and can trace its origins back to 1759 and the birth of the industrial revolution. In 2009 the company celebrated its 250th anniversary.
It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The origins of GKN lie in the founding of the Dowlais Ironworks in the village of Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales by Thomas Lewis and Isaac Wilkinson. John Guest was appointed manager of the works in 1767, having moved from Broseley. In 1786, John Guest was succeeded by his son, Thomas Guest, who formed the Dowlais Iron Company with his son-in-law William Taitt. Guest introduced many innovations and the works prospered.
Under Guest's leadership, alongside his manager John Evans, the Dowlais Ironworks gained the reputation of being "one of the World's great industrial concerns". Though the Bessemer process was licensed in 1856, nine years of detailed planning and project management were needed before the first steel was produced. The company thrived with its new cost-effective production methods, forming alliances with the Consett Iron Company and Krupp. By 1857 G.T. Clark and William Menelaus, his manager, had constructed the "Goat Mill", the world's most powerful rolling mill.
By the mid 1860s, Clark's reforms had born fruit in renewed profitability. Clark delegated day-to-day management to Menelaus, his trusteeship terminating in 1864 when ownership passed to Sir Ivor Guest. However, Clark continued to direct policy, in particular, building a new plant at the docks at Cardiff and vetoing a joint-stock company. He formally retired in 1897.