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Engineering & Shoe Factories
in Rushden in the early 20th Century as remembered by
Herbert Packwood in 1988

Factories in Rushden at the beginning of the 20th Century
The following notes were written by my father Herbert Edward Packwood (Bert). Bert was born at 33 Queen St, Rushden in 1906 to Elias and Maria Packwood and had an older brother Bill. He attended Alfred St School from the age of 3 to 14. He had a cousin Miss Lily Sharpe who was a teacher in the town and his uncle was William Packwood the builder. On leaving school in 1920 he joined his father by working at the CWS Boot and Shoe factory in Rectory Rd, where he was trained as a Closing Room Mechanic. This meant travelling to the Boot and Shoe School in Northampton by train. Bert was retained at the factory during the war as he was in an essential occupation as CWS produced Army Boots. He was involved in the local Home Guard and also the CWS Fire Fighting team. In 1952 he left the CWS and joined John White Footwear again as a Closing Room Mechanic. He was based in the Mechanics Shop in Park Place and worked in several of the John White Factories in the Town. He also helped in the setting up of the School that John White opened for new employees. He retired in 1971 but continued working on a part time basis for small companies in the town who made items out of leather which needed stitching ie, gloves. He died in 1989 leaving a widow Violet Emily and myself the only daughter.

Maureen Middleton (Packwood)

Arranged in Alphabetical Order - with notes on Rushden at the end
Central Engineering Co Ginns, A J Rushden Engineering Co
Clipson, J S Hawkes, Fred Sound Engineering
Covallen Engineering Co Lockie, W & Son Standard Rotary
Cox Engineers Norris & Son Whipple Starter Co.
C W S Boot factory Perkins Wilson Gas Meter Co

The following notes are those I remember, if there are any mistakes please accept my apologies.

H. E. Packwood. January 1988.

Messrs. J. S. Clipson

Church Street, Rushden. Phone. No. Rl. (Now M.Neville's Estate Agents.)

Earliest agent for Gas Engines and all tools used in the Boot and Shoe Trade.

Wood pulleys for line shafting. All types of thread, needles, pincers, knives etc.

At this period the JONES sewing machines were very good, they would machine heavy leather uppers.

Personnel :— Mr. Clipson.
Mr. Bob Clipson.
Miss Irene Clipson - in charge of the shop.
Apprentices :- Mr. D. Smith joined B.U.S.M.Co.
Mr. Carl Nichols joined 'K’ Shoes as engineer in charge at Kendal.

Central Engineering Co. Victoria Road, Rushden.

Owned by Mr. Ernest Pack and son Cyril.

Main agents for Gas Engines and line shafting, most work was engine maintenance.

Covallen Engineering Co. Lawton Road, Rushden.

In 1921 Mr. H. Coggins took over this firm from Armitage & Robinson, Manager A. Tilley, makers of sewerage parts and other heavy machines. During the war years they made turrets for the Tanks.

Mr. Coggins was one of the first employers to engage a full time welder, Mr. F. Chapman of Newmarket, and also a wooden pattern maker, Mr. Billing.

Apprentices to the trade were bound for 5 years, the firm and the parents signed over a sixpenny stamp to make it legal. When an apprentice had served his 5 years he would then be known as a journeyman until he was 21.

After the war the firm continued to make sewerage, farm parts and other cast iron equipment. Work became short around 1977 and Mr. Alex Coggins who had taken over on the death of his father sold out the firm to Mr. MacCorkadale, and Mr. A. Coggins moved to Wellingborough where he owned tfhe Wilfley Mining Machinery Co.

Cox Engineers Lime Street, Rushden.

Makers of the COX SLUGGER for putting on leather top pieces round about 1919, Employee:- Chip Randall on maintenance.

A.J.Ginns High Street South, Rushden.

Blacksmiths from 1900 - 1918
Leeson - Wellingborough Road
Bell - John Street
Hubbard - John Street - left to go to Nottingham
C.W.S. Boot Factory Rectory Road, Rushden.

I was employed by the C.W.S. in August 192O. The new offices were being built by direct labour :

building the offices
The offices being built
W Wood is standing left of the
corner post above the gateway
Clerk of the Works Mr. Metcalf
Employees :-
Chief Cashier Mr. W. Durham
Chief Engineer Mr. T. Booth
Foreman, Mechanic Mr. C. Goodman Senr
Foreman Ganger Mr. M. Snow
Foreman Carpenter Mr. W. Wood
Foreman Electrician Mr. Gedney
Factory Manager Mr. L Tysoe

The C.W.S. at this time built a Corset factory in Wellingborough, also a Boot Factory in Northampton to which I was transferred in 1927 returning to Rushden in 1934. The C.W.S. and other factories had their own Gas Plants making gas for their own engines. Mr. Carl Bailey who worked for C. Horrells was unfortunately asphyxiated while repairing the retorts in 1922.

At the C.W.S. a steam whistle was blown to commence and finish work, this was stopped at the outbreak of the war. 1939.

F.Hawkes & Son. Portland Road, Rushden.

Mr. F. Hawkes was the inventor of the Army Toe Plates for the 19l4 - 1918 war.

He also reconditioned machinery for the Boot and Shoe trade and had customers all over the world.

W. Lockie & Son Newton Road, Rushden.

Lockie's had a small workshop at the back of Newton Road (Ebenezer Terrace). Now the third generation is working in a small factory in Fitzwilliam Street. Mr. Lockie made all kinds of sheet metal tubes etc. to take away the trimmings of leather in shoe factories.

Norris & Son.

Previously owned Safford, Wellingborough Road, Norris began in a small way making machines for the Leather Industry.
I think I am right in stating that Norris were the first firm to fit a gearbox to a leather drum instead of being driven from line shafting.

At the outbreak of the 1939 war Norris were commissioned to recondition lathes from A. Herberts of Coventry; this was a totally different job from currying machines.

At the end of the war a partner joined the firm - Mr. J. Orme and all the dies etc. were made for the Rosebud Doll factory at Raunds. Mr. Orme then left to start on his own taking a number of skilled men with him and made machines for the plastic industry.

The skilled men who moved were :-
Mr. G. Longland; Mr. R. Walker; and Mr. E. Houghton.

Their work consisted mainly of cones for road works and anything connected with the plastic industry. They still have a factory in Duck Street and one in Park Road.

I think that Smiths Containers Ltd was started from these factories.

Perkins - A small factory at the bottom of College St was owned by 2 brothers named Perkins. This factory contained 2 Power Die cutting machines for making brass screwing wire that was used to reinforce the soles of heavy boots, this factory closed down about 1924?.

At the outbreak of the war 1939 the above factory was re-opened by Horace Wills and Cyril Johnson making munitions and was called The Sound Engineering Co. Cyril Johnson bought out Horace Wills and then moved to Hove Road building most of it himself. Cyril Johnson was very clever but unfortunately died about 26 years ago and the factory was sold to Wicksteeds Engineering Co of Kettering.

Rushden Engineering Co. High St. South, Rushden. (now occupied by Central Electric Co.)

Owned by Mr. Fred Hawkes' brother and Mr. Bob Camel.

They vacated the premises and the work was carried on by Mr. Corby in Mr. Lockie's workshop.

Standard Rotary Rushden

At the turn of the century the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers realised that they must get things up to date and make or buy their own machinery.

A building at the bottom of College Street was built by a group of manufacturers, opposite Alfred Street School now the site for the Budgen Supermarket. [now Wilkinsons - 2010]

To get the skilled labour required it was decided to advertise in a trade union journal.

A manager who was also a draughtsman was chosen - Mr. Pickard and he engaged the workers.

The following are the men engaged as I remember them :-

Mr. J. Blunt Mr. H. Griffiths
Mr. Arthur Summers Mr. H. Oxley O.B.E.
Mr. W. M. Fletcher Mr. C. Miles
Mr. F. Bird Mr. W. Percival all from Birmingham
Mr. George Wingrove & Mr. Rodgers from Lincoln
Local Men engaged :
Bob Pearson Charles Pearson C. James
C.Sharpe H. S. Wright R. Eagles
A.Loasby A.Berrill W.Wadsworth
?. Coleman O.Garley A.Tompkins
F. Bailey

When the skilled workers arrived in Rushden they brought with them all the tools, lathes, milling machines and they also brought their own Trade Union, the A.E.U. together with the Birmingham District Rate which was 2/- higher than the Northampton Rate.

When the 19l4 war broke out the work was all for munitions.

At the end of the war short time was being worked, Gimson Engineering took over the company the workers still working short time. Eventually the Gimson Co. was taken over by British United Shoe Machinery Co. and the Standard Rotary was closed.

Work was offered to the employees at Leicester, C. Pearson and R. Eagles taking up the offer.

Whipple Starter Co. Sartoris Road, Rushden.

Mr. Whipple had 2 inventions nationally approved.

1. A motor windscreen washer which consisted of a roller of rubber that gently travelled from top to bottom.

2. An electric bus starter:- this was made for buses that were started by a handle in the front. On his death the business was transfered to Mr. H. S. Wright and then to Mr. Sutton.

The Wilson Gas Meter Co Station Road, Rushden.

The company was bombed out of Coventry and came to a small factory in Station Road in 1943.

The girls working there had to strip a thick layer of sponge rubber from the outside of Aeroplane fuel tanks, this rubber prevented bullets from entering the tanks. The tanks were cleaned and repaired before being returned to the R.A.F.

The factory was closed down at the end of the war.

Another phase of Rushden history was the building of the Local Electric Light Co in Shirley Road.

Mr. Sammy Scragg and Mr. Sam Bailey arrived in Rushden in 1903 being qualified to do the wiring necessary to wire the factories. The wiring used was known as capping and casing, the wire being in wood casing.

Mr. Sam Bailey on finishing the wiring etc at B. Dentons, High Street (now demolished) was offered the position of engineer, which he accepted. This entailed looking after the Gas plant etc and engines and the small tannery they owned in Rectory Road.

Mr. Sam Scragg then started the Central Electric Co in High Street South, he soon had plenty of work especially Government contracts.

On his death the business was transfered to W. Timson and W. Ekins and is now owned by W. Timson junior.

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