Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joseph Hanford Stevens (1906–1976)

by Frank Hurley

This article was published:

Joseph Hanford Stevens (1906-1976), businessman, was born on 20 January 1906 at Wolverhampton, England, son of George Stevens, motor-works manager, and his wife Florence Sarah, née Capper. George and his three brothers produced the famous A.J.S. marque motorcycles, as well as four-wheel vehicles and radios. Educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, Hanford joined the family firm and gained experience in all its sections. He rode A.J.S. motorcycles in Isle of Man Tourist-Trophy races, won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1925, and was said to be the first person to exceed 100 miles (161 km) per hour on a motorcycle on sand. In 1929 he obtained a flying licence.

By 1931 Stevens was the company's export sales manager. He met Kathleen Winifred Griffin, an 18-year-old stenographer, at Toronto, Canada, and married her a week later at Yonkers, New York, on 11 September 1931. On his return to England, he found that A.J.S. had gone into voluntary liquidation. A small screw-manufacturing business operated by the Stevens family survived and he worked there until 1937 when he joined the Bristol Aeroplane Co. In September 1939 that firm sent him to Australia to assist with the local production of Beaufort bombers. About six hundred sub-contractors in several States manufactured parts for the aircraft; these components were transported to Fishermens Bend, Melbourne, and Mascot, Sydney, for final assembly. Stevens held a succession of managerial posts in Melbourne and played a key role in the success of a project which delivered seven hundred Beauforts to the Royal Australian Air Force between August 1941 and August 1944.

Appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service on 6 May 1948, Stevens served at Canberra House, London, until 1953 as senior representative in Britain of the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production. He negotiated with the English Electric Co. Ltd to build the Canberra bomber in Australia. Back in Melbourne, he was assistant-secretary, aircraft production, Department of Defence Production. In 1954 he travelled abroad as a member of the R.A.A.F.'s re-equipment mission.

Stevens left the public service in 1956, having accepted an invitation from (Sir) Charles Hayward, chairman of Firth Cleveland Ltd in Britain, to become managing director of a subsidiary, Simmonds Aero-Accessories (Aerocessories) Pty Ltd, located at Ballarat, Victoria. Established in a former munitions factory, the business produced fasteners for the aviation and automotive industries. Stevens expanded operations, built a new factory and increased the number of employees to more than four hundred. He retired in 1973.

In the mid-1960s the Victorian government had appointed Stevens to the Decentralization Advisory Committee, which recommended various rural centres for accelerated development. He was active in the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and in community work. Convivial and a good mixer, he was liked and respected by his colleagues and employees. He died of cancer on 25 September 1976 at Ballarat and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife, and their daughter and son survived him. The naming of the J. Hanford Stevens library at Sebastapol Secondary College acknowledged his term (1963-76) as president of the council of the former technical school.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canb, 1958)
  • S. J. Mills, A.J.S. of Wolverhampton (Sutton Coldfield, Eng, 1994)
  • private information.

Citation details

Frank Hurley, 'Stevens, Joseph Hanford (1906–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 January, 1906
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England


25 September, 1976 (aged 70)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

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