Welwyn Garden City Industrial Growth - pre 1940

Do you know anybody who worked for any of these companies?

By Robert Gill

Louis de Soissons plan - 1920
Welwyn Garden City Library
Internal view of A Dawnays
Welwyn Garden City Library
A Dawnays from the main railway line.
Welwyn Garden City Library
A Dawnays showing rail access
Welwyn Garden City Library
Feddon & Bond Hoisery Manufacturers
Welwyn Garden City Library
Feddon & Bond - making stockings
Welwyn Garden City Library
British Lead Mills
Welwyn Garden City Library
Inside a Sectional Factory Unit
Welwyn Garden City Library
Sectional Factory Unit - Bridge Road East
Welwyn Garden City Library
Sectional Factory Unit - Broadwater Road
Welwyn Garden City Library
Sectional Factory Unit - Tewin Road
Welwyn Garden City Library
Shredded Wheat Factory c1926
Campus West Library, Welwyn Garden City
Shredded Wheat Factory c1926
Welwyn Garden City Library
British Benzine Products Ltd - 1928
Welwyn Garden City Library
Welwyn Garden City Factory Area - 1929
Welwyn Garden City Library
Cresta Silks in Broadwater Road
Welwyn Garden City Library
Cresta Silks, Broadwater Road
Welwyn Garden City Library
Lincoln Electric
Welwyn Garden City Library
Inside Murphy Radio 1930
Welwyn Garden City Library
Murphy Radio, Broadwater Road - 1931
Welwyn Garden City Library
Norton Abrasives internal
Welwyn Garden City Library
Norton Abrasives, Bridge Road East
Welwyn Garden City Library
A map of the Factory Area c1935
Welwyn Garden City Library

The growth of industries in Welwyn Garden City followed the growth and expansion of the town and its population.

In line with the Pioneers planning model, industry started to the east of the town and expanded north and south. Rail links were considered vital at the time which is reflected in the industries being adjacent to the existing rail system with new connections made into the industrial areas .

The early industries were mainly associated with the requirements of the growing town, but as the population grew, other industries developed. Although there were a number of purpose built factories, eg Dawnays and Shredded Wheat, the majority of the new factories were housed in Sectional Factory Units built in Bridge Road East, Broadwater Road, Hyde Way and Tewin Road. These Sectional Units were a standard configuration able to accommodate a variety of different industrial processes.

Many of the companies survived for only a few years to be replaced by new ones. However, a few did survive for decades, their products to become household names.

The following information is taken from the annual Welwyn Garden City Directories . The words quoted are as published at the time and reflect the feelings and thinking towards this new town.

Welwyn Garden City Directories quotes:

1926

The town is planned with an industrial area, which is specially laid out with railway sidings, roads, and public services.

The factory conditions are claimed to be ideal, and the factories are so placed that they have plenty of light and air with convenient access to the residential parts of the town and yet do not interfere with the town’s amenities. Indiscriminate factory development will not be permitted in Welwyn Garden City.

The Shredded Wheat Factory is a type of the handsome factory premises of the town. This factory may be visited at certain times.

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

Shredded Wheat Co Ltd

Foodstuffs

Bridge Road East

Archibold Dawney & Sons Ltd

Steelworks

Bridge Road East

F Palmer

Builder

Bridge Road East

F Barnes & Sons

Carpenter

Bridge Road East

Herts Gravel & Brickwork Ltd

Gravel

Bridge Road

Walter Wilkes & Co

Decorator

Bridge Road East

Welwyn Garden City Electricity Supply Co Ltd

Electricity

Bridge Road East

Welwyn Builders Ltd

Builder

Bridge Road

Welwyn Brickworks Ltd

Bricks

Bridge Road

Welwyn Poultry Farms

Poultry

Handside Lane

1930

The industrial area has been laid out so that good roads, railway sidings, roads, and public services can be economically provided to sites of any required size. The factory conditions are ideal, and the factories are so placed that they have plenty of light and air and room for expansion and are convenient to the residential parts of the town and yet do not spoil the town’s amenities. Objectionable trades are not permitted.

During 1929 a larger number of new industrial firms have come to Welwyn than in any previous year and the number of people employed has very substantially increased. The new buildings include the factory of Messrs. Young, Osmond and Young Ltd., manufacturers of electrical heating apparatus which was removed from Bexley Heath, Kent; the factory of Kelacoma Ltd., built to develop an important new process of wall-tile manufacture; the ‘Talkie’ studio of British Instructional Films; Compound Gas and Power Co., Akis Chemical Co. Ltd., Captain H R S Birkin (the famous racing motorist) and a firm manufacturing silk stockings.

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

Welwyn Foundry Ltd

Iron Products

Bessemer Road

Kelacoma Ltd

Plastics

Broadwater Road

Young, Osmond and Young Ltd

Electrical Heating

Broadwater Road

Miss N Catford

Toys

Bridge Road East

J P Steele

Metalworker

Bridge Road East

S M Enginering Co

Engineering

Hyde Way

Barclay Corsets Ltd

Clothing

Hyde Way

J Combe and Sons Ltd

Heating and Ventilating

Broadwater Road

Akis Chemical Co Ltd

Chemicals

Broadwater Road

Transplanters (Holding Co) Ltd

Agricultural Machinery

Broadwater Road

Bickiepegs Ltd

Foodstuffs

Broadwater Road

British Instructional Films Ltd

Film Making

Broadwater Road

Welwyn and Hatfield Gas Co Ltd

Gas

Tewin Road

Broadwater Press

Publishing

Broadwater Road

Welwyn Dairy Farms Ltd

Milk Products

Digswell Road

Digswell Nurseries Ltd

Plants

Digswell Road

Bridwell Gardens Ltd

Plants

Digswell Road

Welwyn Garden City Laundry Ltd

Laundry

Bridge Road East

Capt H R S Birkin

Motor Mechanic

Broadwater Road

Cresta Silks

Clothing

Broadwater Road

Murphy Radio Ltd

Electrical Products

Broadwater Road

Compound Gas Power Co

Gas

Broadwater Road

C C Rawlinson

Wood and Metal Fabricators

Bridge Road

Welwyn Bakery Ltd (Bakery)

Foodstuffs

1931 

During 1930, a large number of new industrial firms came to Welwyn and the number of people employed increased substantially. Outstanding among the new buildings was the imposing works of the Norton Grinding Wheel Company, an American firm whose headquarters were at Worcester, Mass. The Welwyn factory of this firm stands on an 11 acre site with its own rail sidings and is a striking example of how utilitarian building can be dignified and architecturally pleasing.

New companies:

Company Name

Products

Address

A Buchanan and Sons

Confectionery

Broadwater Road

Chemicalco Ltd

Chemicals

Broadwater Road

City Cabinet and Joinery Works

Joinery

Broadwater Road

Feddon and Bond Ltd

Hosiery

Broadwater Road

Norton Grinding Wheel Co Ltd

Grinding Wheels

Tewin Road

Stable Tables Ltd

Furniture

Hyde Way

London Oil Refining Company Ltd

Oil Products

Hyde Way

1932

An important new factory was erected in Broadwater Road for Murphy Radio Ltd with a floor area of over 17,000 square feet. Two new foodstuffs firms had also taken premises in Broadwater Road – Messrs Fostock Ltd who make irradiated poultry and stock foods and the Pure Extracts Company who produce vegetable extracts and other health foods.

1933

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

Beirsdorf Ltd

Medical Products (incl Nivea)

Bessemer Road

The Welwyn Match Co

Matches

Broadwater Road

Berner and Flury Ltd

Silk strings for rackets and violins

Broadwater Road

British Benzine Products Ltd

Petroleum Products

Hyde Way

British Lead Mills Ltd

Lead products

Bridge Road East

Welwyn Lock & Fittings Co Ltd

Locks

Broadwater Road

Preh Manufacturing Ltd

Wireless Components

Broadwater Road

Southern Match Co

Matches

Broadwater Road

Welwyn Marconi Co Ltd

Electrical

Bridge Road East

1934

Welwyn in common with industrial towns throughout the country has felt some effects of the depression and no large new factories have been built during 1933. On the other hand, a good number of firms have established themselves and have felt the need for larger premises. These included A Buchanan & Sons, British Lead Mills Ltd, Murphy Radio Ltd and Welwyn Foundry Ltd.

New Companies:

Company Name

Products

Address

Scolite Ltd

Paints and Enamels

Broadwater Road

Eric Munday Ltd

Signs and Lettering

Bridge Road East

The Haurand Castor Manufacturing Co Ltd

Castors and Truck wheels

Bridge Road East

Zander & Co

Proofed Fabrics

Hyde Way

Railway & General Products Co Ltd

Light Railway Material

Bridge Road

Mouldrite Ltd

Plastics

Broadwater Road

1935

New Companies

Company Name

Product

Address

A Skarsten

Scrapers for builders

Hyde Way

Ferramic Industries Ltd

Raw Enamel

Hyde Way

Barnet Comb Co Ltd

Combs

Hyde Way

1937

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

Fred W Amend & Co Ltd

Confectionery

Broadwater Road

British Braids & Bootlaces Ltd

Bootlaces

Bridge Road East

Gerald Carter & Co Ltd

Varnishes

Bridge Road East

Catomance Processing Co Ltd

Waterproof Fabrics

Bridge Road East

General Stampers Ltd

Door Furniture

Bridge Road East

Neosid Ltd

Radio Accessories

Hyde Way

Pocklington & Johnson

Coil and Helical Springs

Bridge Road East

John A Weir Ltd

Car bodies and Sliding Roofs

Bridge Road East

Welwyn Metal Products Ltd

Sheet metal work

Bridge Road East

Lacre Lorries Ltd

Road Sweeping Machines

Bridge Road East

Carnegie Chemicals (Welwyn ) Ltd

Pharmaceutical Products

Tewin Road

The Vigormilk Co Ltd

Milk and Dog Foods

Bridge Road East

Roche Products Ltd

Pharmaceutical Products

Broadwater Road

Lincoln Electric Co Ltd

Electrical Products

Broadwater Road

1938

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

The Garden City Candy Co Ltd

Confectionery

Broadwater Road

Celtis Ltd

Chemicals

Tewin Road

City Tool & Engineering Ltd

Manufacturing & Experimental Engineering

Broadwater Road

Ferdinand Fraenkel

Aluminium Foil

Hyde Way

Wellinlith Ltd

Building slabs and blocks

Tewin Road

Welwyn Coachworks Ltd

Body Builders

Tewin Road

Welwyn Electrical Laboratories Ltd

Electrical Resistances

Bridge Road East

1939

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

ICI (Plastics)

Plastics

Black Fan Road

1940

Industrial development continued unchecked during 1939 despite the effect of disturbed conditions in Europe.

Roche Products Ltd carried out substantial extensions to their pharmacological laboratories and ICI (Plastics) Ltd acquired a further four acres for future development. A new factory of striking modernistic design was completed for Barclay Corsets Ltd.

Local firms continued to expand and factory extensions were started or completed for: Biersdorf Ltd., Carnegie Chemicals (Welwyn) Ltd., Dawnays Ltd., General Stampers (Welwyn) Ltd., Murphy Radio Ltd., Wellinth Ltd., Welwyn Electrical Laboratories Ltd. And Welwyn Metal Products Ltd.

New Companies:

Company Name

Product

Address

Aviation Developments Ltd

Aircraft Components

Woodfield Road

Bourne Chemical Industries

Red Lead manufacturer

Woodfield Road

British Rubber Producers Research Association

Laboratories

Woodfield Road

Danish Bacon Co Ltd

Offices

Broadwater Road

Efex Ltd

Display Fittings

Tewin Road

Ferro-Concrete and Steel Structures Ltd

Steel Doors

Broadwater Road

Frank Coleman (Luton) Co Ltd

Cardboard Boxes

Woodfield Road

Harland Manufacturing Co Ltd

Machines & Machine Parts

Woodfield Road

Hitchins Assembled Interiors Ltd

Laminated Interior Building Blocks

Broadwater Road

O&M Kleeman Ltd Ltd

Plastic Products

Woodfield Road

The Marbloid Co Ltd

Synthetic Marble

Broadwater Road

Secura Incubator Co Ltd

Incubators

Hyde Way

Stafford Miller Ltd

Drug Manufacturer

Woodfield Road

This page was added on 13/06/2011.

Comments about this page

  • My Mom worked for Norton Grinding Wheels. She was a formula writer. I still have the photographs of the office staff and her Norton’s pin. She married my dad, a Canadian soldier, in 1945, and moved to Canada, but Norton’s was often a topic of conversation when I was growing up. The Norton name is still a part of our household as my husband always has a collection of grinding wheels for his hand held grinder.

    By France Land (22/01/2018)
  • My grandfather Barton worked at Norton and traveled to underground factories during WW2. One night the air raid sirens alarmed and everyone ran out of the pub, which blew up.

    By Craig McManus (23/12/2017)
  • In reply to Barry Aarons comment, my Great Grandfather was Leslie George Wilkinson (LG Wilkinson) who along with his brother Norman Wilkinson owned (I believe that to be correct) Gerald Carter & Co Ltd.

    By Richard Wilkinson (15/03/2017)
  • My dad, George Manifold, worked for Ferramic Industries.  Mr. C.P. Stone was the original owner of the company and his nephews, Herrick Stokes, Ronald Stokes, Colin Stokes, my dad and many other hardworkers kept the firm going.  In the late 60’s Mr. Stone decided to hand over the business to his nephews and George Manifold and made them partners in the company.  Mr. Stone died after drawing up the papers, but he left the company in good hands.   Unfortunately, with the early deaths of two of the partners, Colin Stokes and George Manifold in the mid 70’s, and the company facing challenges in the extremely competitive market it had to close down.   Ferramic Industries and it’s “frit” was to found on many a household appliance including my own very first gas oven.

    By Gillian Manifold-Burgess (27/08/2016)
  • Before I started working at ICI (Plastics Division) in 1966 – which I used to walk too along Tewin Road, past Roche – I worked as a young laboratory assistant for a lacquer and paint manufacture. I only remember the name ‘L.G. Wilkinson’ which I think was the name of the parent company, but I can’t remember the actual company name on the site in Tewin Road. I would love to have some more info about that company. I remember that my boss was ex RAF and used to talk to me about his work on Radar in WW2. He was instrumental in exciting my enthusiasm in chemistry, which I have been involved with most on my life. 

    By Barry Aarons (28/04/2016)
  • When I turned 15 (in 1957), I decided I wanted a change from working at Woodhall Stores so I started working after-school for one hour every day for Welwyn Coachworks Ltd on Tewin Road. I was employed fitting parts on the dashboard at the front, where the driver would drive the coach/bus. I earned £4 a week, 10/- an hour which included working 3 hours on Saturdays. I loved the job, and worked with very nice people. The boss we all hated, but nevertheless we dealt with it. After I finished my O Levels in July 1958, I worked a 35 hour week until September when I left.

    Welwyn Coachworks was part of the Hertfordshire Building Company (Welwyn Builders was also), and I remember they transferred many staff to Barnet Bus Company in 1967. Coincidence that I moved to Barnet in 1967, but finished working there by then. In 1968 they declared bankruptcy – the major building closed down but then they continued manufacturing in a smaller factory on Hydeway but I don’t know how long for.

    By George Boston (17/08/2015)
  • My dad worked as an iron moulder for Welwyn Foundry for roughly 20 years. He made moulds out of sand, he poured malt and iron into the moulds which were later guttering and manhole covers. His name was Bill Johnson.

    By Wendy Johnson (30/03/2015)

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