Helmets Ltd came into being in 1924 and started work from rented premises in Alma Road. St Albans, making tropical helmets for the Services. In 1926 Cromwell became the Company’s trade name for its products, and the factory was called Cromwell Works.
The occasion was the introduction of a new line, helmets for motorcyclists.
Production of tropical and policemen’s helmets already occupied most of the space at Cromwell Works and there was nowhere to expand to. But Moat House possessed, among its other attractions, a large tithe barn and in 1934 this was taken over for the production of the miners’ caps shortly to be followed by that of Fireman’s helmets.
During WWII the company made drop tanks for Spitfires and started to make flying helmets but also worked on a miscellany of products which kept Helmets Ltd afloat.
During the early ’50s business remained brisk. The police, the Army, racing drivers and assorted motorcyclists both at home and abroad - notably in the USA - were demanding helmets: indeed, at one time 100 a week were being packed and shipped for the American market alone. In 1950 the Air Ministry, recognising the problems created by high-speed jet aircraft and following the trend already set in the United States, commissioned the Company to develop the first hard flying helmets, quickly to become known among aircrew as ‘bone domes'. The Mk 1/Type F which resulted consisted, in fact, of two helmets: an inner one of washable linen and an outer hard one which fitted over it.
In 1983 Middlemace Ltd, as the parent company, bought the helmet-making division of Kangol, Top Tck, at Stranraer on the west coast of Scotland. As Top Tek International, it has joined Helmets Ltd and Cromwell Helmets Ltd as an associate company in the Middlemace Group. At some point in the early 80’s Helmets Ltd changed its name to Helmet Integrated Systems Ltd which better reflects the business.
HISL uses the Alpha brand for its flying helmets
In 2014 the Gentex Corporation, a global leader in integrated helmet systems for defense and security personnel, completed the acquisition of Helmet Integrated Systems Ltd (HISL). With similar histories in personal protective equipment, each dating back over 90 years, both of these private, family owned businesses felt that they would benefit from each other’s highly synergistic capabilities and resources. HISL operates as a U.K. subsidiary of Gentex Corporation.