HISTORY OF PERKINS ENGINEERS LTD, WESTWOOD WORKS, PETERBOROUGH
The anti-German feeling in Peterborough at the start of WW1 led to the Riot Act being read in the centre of Peterborough. This followed an attack on some prominent businesses in the Town centre - Mr. Franks and Mr. Metz, both butchers, and The "Salmon & Compass" public house. Windows were smashed and stock thrown into the street and some twenty people were fined or bound over.
Rumours were started that subversive work was being carried on at Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins at Westwood and the company was subjected to venomous attacks, suggesting that it was "trading with the enemy". The company’s name certainly had a Teutonic sound and there was a Reciprocity Agreement with Werner & Pfleiderer of Cannstatt but this went no further than ‘”for the purpose of mutual advancement and reciprocal assistance covering territories of influence in sales and the control of patent rights” The sons of Hermann Werner and three other Germans did hold one-third of the shares but Cannstatt had less influence now than when the company was first formed. Even its competitors joined in the campaign but F.C. Ihlee, although himself of German extraction, handled the situation with dignity and calm and later proved himself only too eager to turn the company over to war production. It should be noted that the representatives of Joseph Baker & Sons had orders never to make reference to the hate campaign or to the storm clouds that had hung over Westwood in the autumn of 1914.
It would come as no surprise to find that the company prepared a rebuttal of the scurrilous claims being made against it. Although this letter is undated, we believe that it must have been written at this time and was part of the company's defence. The purpose of the letter becomes clear in the final two pages.
To help diffuse the situation F.C. Ihlee formed a separate company to operate Westwood Works and present a more acceptable face to the world. The new company was registered on 1st July 1915 as Perkins Engineers Ltd.
If the Quaker background of the Bakers made them view the manufacture of munitions as an evil necessity, F.C. Ihlee and his colleagues at Westwood, perhaps driven by the experiences described above, were only too eager to convert to war production. The company was declared a Controlled establishment on 1st July 1915 and Westwood began the production of cordite mixers, diesel engines, tractors, tank parts and six-inch howitzers – and they continued to make bakery machinery. Some images of production at Westwood during WW1 can be found in Westwood Works in WW1 and in Lithographs.
The war brought an opportunity for collaboration with Joseph Baker & Sons which was welcomed wholeheartedly by Ihlee. The story of this, and the subsequent collaboration which led, inevitably, to the union of the two companies can be found in Westwood Works in WW1 and History of Joseph Baker Sons & Perkins. (See also Pages 64- 65 of “The History of Baker Perkins” by Augustus Muir).
As things got back to normal after the war, a new Design and Development Department was set up at Peterborough under John E. Pointon (see The Pointons). His fellow directors said of him –“He invents machines with one eye on the profit and loss account” and “Pointon not only directs the mechanical lines upon which research shall progress, but he is also chief liaison officer between Sales and Design and has an intimate technical knowledge of the trades we cater for – perhaps this is the main source of his strength”.
Pointon specialised in bread machinery and a bakery was constructed at Westwood for his experiments. The development work for other departments had, for a time, to be carried out where space could be found on the shop floor.
These "Forms of Proxy" might seem at first glance rather uninteresting. They refer to "An Extraordinary General Meeting" to be held on 17th July 1918. The first item of note is that one of the forms is signed by Gertrude Pelmore. Following the ill-feeling generated at the start of the First World War by the association of the name Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins with the "enemy" (See Westwood Works at War), the Pfleiderer family – who still held financial control - changed their name to Pelmore. Charles Edward Pointon, the father of John Pointon (also mentioned on the "Form of Proxy") signed the second form. Father and Son developed the Pointon Dough Divider that was at the heart of the success of the company (see also – "The History of Baker Perkins" by Augustus Muir – pp 25 to 28).
Just to pause for a interesting aside. Mention is made above of the change of name from Pfleiderer to Pelmore. James de la Mare tells us that some years ago he was talking to a surviving Pelmore relation about this change of name from the German original. This lady had been travelling in Germany many years previously and had got into conversation with an elderly woman on the train. Suddenly, the old woman called out to her dog, addressing it as "Pfleidie", so she commented on the curious name and asked how the dog came to be called that. The old woman said that the name was short for Pfleiderer which was her own family's name before she married. It transpired she was from the Pfleiderer family who stayed in Germany when Paul Pfleiderer came to England, and of course the two women found that they were related.
At first sight it might seem odd that the form is headed – in an inked stamp – "Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd". We know that, as part of the attempt to get rid of "the irritant to many customers", the company name was changed on 1st July 1915 to Perkins Engineers Ltd – but this "Form of Proxy" was for a meeting to be held in mid-1918.
Augustus Muir provides an explanation - “on 1st July 1915, at the price of £28,422, Perkins Engineers took over patents and trading rights; but Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins continued to exist, a mere ghost of its former self, nominally owner of the premises and plant, but controlling none of the work or workmen save in the small chemical department”.
In the final paragraph of his "Wartime Co-operation" chapter, Muir provides the reason for the Extraordinary General Meeting to which the above Proxy Forms refer – “On 17th July 1918, the firm of Perkins Engineers was sold back to Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins, which changed its title on the same date to Perkins Engineers; and so, after a quarter of a century, the old name with its German associations went for ever out of existence”.
Perkins Engineers finally merged with Joseph Baker & Sons Ltd to become Joseph Baker Sons & Perkins in 1920.
We are fortunate that sketches of each of the senior management of Perkins Engineers exist in the form of a booklet - "Pickings from Perkins", produced by the company in 1917 and sold in aid of the Red Cross Society. Extracts can be found in Characters from WPP 1917.
The booklet was put together by one of those depicted, H.W. Beanes, their "Technical Expert" who in 1938 completed 60 years service with Baker Perkins and its pre-decessors. It is presumed that Mr Beanes joined A.M. Perkins & Son in 1878, some 15 years before the merger with Werner & Pfleiderer (London) Ltd. He was an expert in heat transfer - for both baking and freezing applications- and was involved with designing the Perkins high-pressure steam engines and boilers under Loftus Perkins. When Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins was formed in 1893, Mr Beanes held the post of Chief Draughtsman. (See also How it Started).
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