A Walk Back in Time c1985
Anyone fancy a walk?
Let us go back to 1985 and take a walk around Hollingbury Industrial Estate. Remember back then, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and also probably the reason the estate is so different today! By 1985 manufacturing at Hollingbury was in decline; providing nothing like the level of employment of its past. Leave your Ford Sierra there mate, it’ll be fine, no parking restrictions this far out of town, let us have a look at this first building.
This factory, now occupied traditional furniture manufacturers Cameo, was constructed in 1948 for Ogdens Bakery. Probably the introduction of mass-produced sliced bread in 1928 was the reason for the “spread” of factories like Ogdens. Cameo Furniture moved here from Regent Street when their town centre building burnt down.
Right lets walk to the next factory; no time to put your Sony Walkman on, it is only a few minutes along Crowhurst Road. This factory was also constructed in 1948, originally for Underwood Business Machines, who were part of the iconic US Underwood Typewriter Company. ITT Creed moved here from their Croydon facility in 1966. In the 1970’s ITT Creed were the largest employer in Hollingbury with around 2000 employees, however the business was transferred to STC in 1981.
Da Conti International
Moving on to the next building at the top of estate………..phew, that was a steep hill. I’ve got one of these new mobile phones thingies, they call them “brick phones”, I think that’s because the battery is about the same size as a brick, and so heavy to carry. We are now at the top of the estate, the building opposite is currently occupied by Da Conti International. It was constructed in 1963 for S. M. Tidy Ltd, who operated a civil engineering business from the town centre since the 1930’s. As their plant became too big for the town they moved to Hollingbury. In the post-war period, they constructed most of the roads and sewers for the large housing estates in Hollingbury, Hollingdean and Bevendean. Their founder Sidney Tidy was a local philanthropist who died in 1980.
Let us walk back down the hill; the next building is currently occupied by Wade Engineering who manufacture pumps and compressors. It has an unusual winding spiral access road through the front of the building to the roof car park. Hang on, just before we move on I have to take this phone call, my stockbroker……….. his advice is to buy TSB shares, they float next year. It is brilliant Maggie’s idea of shares for everyone, it seems no one has to work and we all make money. I do not really understand it but those clever bankers can’t all be wrong, can they?
Now look at the building next door, it has a classic post-war design and such ‘graceful’ style, well for a factory. It was constructed in 1948 for Typewriter Sundries Ltd and then used by Gross Cash Registers, who did very well in the changeover to decimal currency. However, Gross failed to invest their profits into research and were losing their market share to American and Japanese companies. The Labour Government of the day wanted to prevent bankruptcy and Anthony Wedgewood-Benn, set up a deal where Chubb took over.
Jotun Henry Clark
Walking down to the bottom of the hill; the building on the corner was completed in 1953 for Henry Clark & Son Ltd. Surprisingly specialist marine paint manufacturer Henry Clark & Son were established, not by the sea, but in Reading in 1832. They had prestigious accounts with the Royal Navy and Cunard Line. They moved to Brighton in 1953, and in 1974 they merged with Norwegian paint manufacturing firm Jotun, becoming one of the largest marine coatings manufacturers in the world.
KTM No 6 Factory
If we nip through this access road we’ll get a good view of the KTM factory. This rear section was constructed in 1956 and its mostly used for the manufacture of heavy machine components. The welding bay is at the very rear, where huge thick steel fabrications are arc welded together. They must use a huge amount of electricity, let us hope the miners don’t go on strike again, or they could be out of current!
Leytonstone Jig & Tool Company (Leytool)
Lets go back out onto Crowhurst Road, watch out for the buses, so many of them arrive about this time of the day to take all the workers home, it can be a little congested. This next factory Leytool Ltd is due for demolition, it is a shame, I hope it’s not a sign of things to come? Leytool originated in Leyton East London and made assembly tooling and specialist hand tools to support the RAF during WWII. They were enticed to Hollingbury in 1949 when this factory was built, but also still also traded from their Layton factory.
Talbot Tools were founded in London and had premises in Borough High Street near the river. Soon after the start of WWII, and at the at the behest of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, they relocated to Kings Street in Brighton to avoid the heavy bombing. Soon after the war they moved to Roedale Road, however by 1958 they had outgrown the premises and with an eye to further expansion, bought out KDL Precision Engineers Ltd who were the original leaseholder of this factory. Staff at that time were bussed up from Roedale Road to see the new premises, and described going to Hollingbury as ‘a trip out into the country’. The factory was extended in 1968 and the Roedale Road works were closed.
KTM No 2 Factory
This factory was constructed for CVA Ltd in 1951, and was nominated “factory of the month” by the Institute of Works Managers. The Company closed their toolroom in Upper St James’s street and moved all toolmaking to the new factory in 1952. It was then CVA’s claim that they had “the finest toolroom in the country” here at Hollingbury. The Company has since downsized and consolidated into the factory behind. It is a shame the building is now empty, apart from being used for storage by Cameo Furniture. Hang on, I just need to check the time before we move on, I want to be home in time for that new soap, Eastenders.
Pullars or Smith & Sons?
There’s some confusion over this next building, was it first Pullars or Smiths? The answer is yes! Pullars Electric was an old Brighton firm, who in 1937 were acquired by the huge instrument manufacturer Smith & Sons. Pullars, who manufactured cooker clocks, were just a small “cog” in the huge Smith empire. The group Smith & Sons changed their name to Smiths Industries Ltd in 1967, but it is probable that this factory still traded as Pullars in the early days. ITT Creed used the building for research and development after it was closed by Smiths in the 1970s.
Back to the Future
Sorry but I’ll have to leave you now, if you walk round the corner into Carden Avenue you’ll see the grand front entrance to Pullars. I’ve got to dash, I need to get “back to the future”!!