The early history of the Company dates back to the early nineteenth century
and comes down through three lines: A.M. Perkins & Son, Joseph Baker
& Sons and Werner & Pfleiderer. Key dates include:
We are indebted to C. J. Hayward, a long-serving employee of A.M. Perkins & Son who retired in 1930 as Oven Shop Foreman, for a description of the premises at Regent Square. Charlie Hayward put down his recollections of the early days of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd. and Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins in 1955 at the age of 89. They give a fascinating insight into how the Company developed their premises in Seaford Street/Regent Square, London NW10.
Jacob Perkins began to make printing equipment at 69 Fleet Street soon after his arrival from America in 1819. His son, Angier Perkins, impatient to start a heating business, opened a factory in Harpur Street, off Theobalds Road - close to Southampton Row and High Holborn.
Charlie Hayward gives us a very clear picture of the somewhat piecemeal nature of the Regent Square facility as it existed 10 years before the move to Peterborough:
"1893 - It seems that many years before, the firm of A.M. Perkins had taken in all of the houses between the Harrison Arms in Seaford Street and St. Peter's Churchyard and converted them for their own use. At ground level, the Works consisted of three Bays - A,B and C. Between the bays were galleries about 8 feet wide. The gallery between Bays A and B housed brass finishing lathes, testing apparatus with a capacity up to 11,000 psi. and an Engine Room complete with Roots Blower. Piecework goods were stored on the gallery between Bays B and C. Bay A was about 100 feet long and Bays B and C 70 feet long.
At the end of Bay A was the boiler, with a semi-basement beneath housing the Smiths' Shop. Unobscured windows fronting on to Seaford Street enabled the smiths to work without artificial light. On either side of Bay A was a row of benches and vices for fitters with lathes behind them. Lighting here was by gas, as it was for the whole works from about 1890.
Above the Smith's Shop were two rooms - a light Plate Shop and, above that, a store for WP&P machines and a number of mixers used for tests on various materials. On the other side of a 10 foot wide gateway was a store above which was the Pattern Shop. This also accommodated carpenters making spiral brush sifters, dough trucks and elevators.
Bay C had a furnace for heating castings and a floor level water tank for tempering the castings by immersion. Part of the bay was also used to manufacture gas producer furnaces, 6 feet in diameter, 8 to 9 feet high, rolled up like a boiler out of 5/16" plate.
During the boom created by the development of the "Arktos" refrigeration system, a 300 feet deep well was sunk at the end of Bay A. as it had been found that the Company was paying between £20 and £30 per month for water. A machine pump was used to fill a storage tank in the roof."
One of the main pressures on space was the need to accommodate products for the British market manufactured in Cannstadt by Werner & Pfleiderer, Germany - by 1901 this amounted in value to more than half the output of Regent Street. The top floor of the premises was converted to a German warehouse and all manufacturing equipment moved to the ground floor.
Manufacture took place at Regent Square for a total of some 72 years before the move to Westwood Works, Peterborough in 1904.
Joseph Baker started his flour sifter business in Trenton, Canada in 1870, becoming so successful that he visited London in 1876 to determine whether a market for his product existed in England. He left his son, Joseph Allen Baker, to develop the business over here with such success that Joseph Allen soon asked his brother William to join him. His father and mother joined him in 1878 and a factory was soon opened in Tabernacle Walk, Finsbury.
These premises were soon outgrown and a new site was found in Willesden, close to a major railway junction and having access to their own basin on the Grand Junction Canal.
We have some splendid photographs of the Joseph Baker & Sons' factory at Willesden. The location of some of the interior shots are self evident but we would appreciate hearing from anyone who might be able to suggest what activities might have taken place in each location.
Claude Dumbleton provides an insight as to what the Hythe Road, Willesden factory was like:
"My introduction to Joseph Baker & Sons was via the front gate of the Hythe Road factory (in June 1919) and through the "Commissionaire" in the person of "Bloxall", a man in a very old suit, a cloth cap and minus one arm. Bloxall had no great welcome for anyone and seemed to spend a major part of his time shooing stray dogs away from the gate with his empty sleeve.
The Drawing Office had a very low, northern light roof and was positioned above a pattern store. Comfortable enough in winter, in the summer it was unbearably hot, making work very difficult"
Following his retirement in 1971, Stanley Gibbs - section leader, engineering in the drawing office at Baker Perkins (International) Ltd., in Stanhope Gate, London - recorded his memories of his time at the Baker factory at Willesden from the day he started as an apprentice in 1924. These formed a series of articles which were printed in the Group newspaper "Contact". Stanley's recollections are particularly vivid and his description of the characters that he encountered and the working practices that existed at the time so evocative, that the extracts from "Contact" are reproduced here in full.
More of Stanley Gibbs' work can be found in Willesden to Peterborough where his parody of a Longfellow poem reflects the feelings of many at Willesden at the prospect of up-rooting and moving house to the "North".
No apologies for including this picture although we hope that it will be appreciated by the steam buffs. The map above indicates that the Joseph Baker & Sons Ltd factory in Willesden overlooked the GWR's Old Oak Common locomotive depot and here is proof. The company's name board can be seen above an immaculate "King George V" photographed in 1928, not long after its return from the USA. The loco is complete with the bell presented to commemorate its visit to the 1927 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Centenary Exhibition. Altogether a different class of machine from the BR Standard loco which spent some time in the sidings at Westwood (See The Railway Connection).
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