CAV/CVA:the early years

Hove based Machine Tool company CVA, was founded just before the end of World War I.  It’s headquarters was in Portland Road, Hove, near the bottom of what is now Olive Road, on the site currently occupied by Seeboard Energy.  Prior to World War I Aldrington Farm occupied the land on the north side of Portland Road.

Originally a temporary site
In June 1917, Hove Town Council approved plans for a ‘temporary building’ for Messrs C. A. Vandervell & Co Ltd (CAV) on the north side of Portland Road, directly opposite the current position of Glebe Villas. It appears that plans were less than temporary, as this was quickly followed by further plans for a “munitions shop,” which were approved in February 1918.

A change of name
Following the end of World War I the Company name was changed to CAV Small Tools Ltd. At this time the Company manufactured small hand tools for engineers.  It was in the mid 1920’s that the Company first started its association with metal cutting Machine Tools.  One of the first machine tools manufactured by the Company was the Wade Bench Lathe.

Expanding the business
Expansion plans for a foundry were approved in January 1926, and it’s rumoured that during the subsequent building work, the bloody soil of the old Aldrington Farm slaughterhouse was unearthed.  Next in December 1929 plans for a hardening shop and a much larger foundry were approved.  The new foundry was opened in early 1930, this enabled the manufacture of larger more complex tools and machines which became core products for CAV.

A new Managing Director
After a split with CAV of Acton in 1934, Eric Aron became Managing Director and the company name was changed to CVA Jigs Moulds & Tools Ltd.  Eric Aron was a particularly astute businessman.  Under his direction the Company were always able to find a market for one or more of its product range, when many other business failed.  It was in 1934 under the new direction of Eric Aron that plans for a new engineering shop were approved.  The Company were now more or less self sufficient, the majority of products could be manufactured fully in Portland Road.  Although this was a period of difficult times, under Eric Aron, prospects were looking bright for the future!

Comments about this page

  • Thanks Peter, some good information for ex employees of C.V.A about the origins of the local company that ended trading as F.M.T in the nineties. Looking at the photo’s of the machine shop it’s hard to believe that Brighton and Hove became a hot bed of industry. You would think those pictures would be Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle, not a town on the south coast in the middle of farmland. I would imagine there were small foundry’s and jobbing shops around the area, but no real tradition as raw materials were not local and would have to be transported in. The change probably happened with the coming of the railway in the 1840’s, followed by the locomotive works that brought in skilled engineering workers with a lifetime of work for fathers and sons in expanding towns like Brighton and Hove. This probably laid down the roots for large manufacturing companies like Allen West, Underwood’s / ITT Creed and CVA / Kearney & Trecker to flourish in later years. Other companies like Metal box, Gross Cash Registers, Leytool and Wade Engineering pulling on the pool of engineering knowledge and experience Brighton and Hove had to offer, that’s not bad from a town of farmers and fishermen. Industry has certainly put Brighton and Hove on the map. I was visiting Sri Lanka on holiday, as I toured a tea plantation; I noticed that the processing plant was run by Allen West switchgear. Another place I visited was the Island of Penang, in a small jobbing shop in Chinatown Georgetown, was a CVA 1A toolmakers lathe. I just had to tell the operator that I worked for the company. I will always remember what he said “thank you very much sir, but it was left by the British Empire” I think he thought I wanted it back, great times. Once again Peter thanks for the article, it’s amazing that a few words and pictures can get your mind racing with thoughts about the past, but that’s the beauty of this website. Well done to everybody involved, it’s first class.

    By Michael Brittain (23/04/2009)
  • My father started work as an apprentice in 1929 at Portland Road – he worked for CVA-K & T for over 50 years – his name was Jack Hampson. I started work at the No 6 factory Hollingbury in 1956 in production control and stayed there for eight years. I have many happy memories – we were like one big family – a good social club – which I played table tennis – my father played golf – snooker for K & T. Its lovely to see how the firm materalised back from the beginning. So many names I remember. I have several photos of my father’s which may be of interest to you.

    By Jan Cook(nee Hampson) (23/11/2010)
  • Hi Jan, I would be very interested in seeing your fathers photos, you can email me on You may also be interested in the Hollingbury Ind Estate page on this website, as of course you will know, the No 6 factory was there, you can check the page here; Many thanks

    By Peter Groves (28/11/2010)
  • Hi folks, I have recently purchased a Fordson Thames pickup 1954.

    Owned by CVA Ltd from new. If anyone has some pictures, I would be very grateful. You can email Thanks

    By Stephen (18/07/2014)
  • Hi Peter, Thank you for redirecting me to this webpage from the Hollingbury site. Of interest to me as my father William Ronald (Ron or Mac) McNuff (1902 – 1982) worked at (I’m sure it was CVA Lucas) in 1930s following his Engineering apprenticeship with ? Lucas in Glasgow. He left (unsure when) to work at a smaller engineering firm in Hove until his retirement in 1967. Dad was born near Acton so I’m wondering if he was ever attached to the earlier firm based in Acton before moving to Worthing. His lunch hour was spent playing darts – I still have a box of his darts and the engineering shop was so cold he had to keep a paraffin stove near to his bench as he suffered from ‘dead’ hands in the winter months! Thanks again for all the info about these merging companies.

    By Zena Desbottes (nee McNuff) (01/06/2015)
  • Zena, I suspect the company you are thinking of was CAV Lucas, which was located in Acton, West London; the company made many types of electrical devices for vehicles.

    By Paul (18/02/2016)
  • CVA in Hove came about as an off-shoot of CAV Lucas of Acton during WWI.

    By Peter Groves (20/02/2016)
  • According to the Who’s Who of British Engineers 1966, my father Frederick George Robinson was Works Supt of CVA Jig Moulds & Tool Ltd some time during the 1930s. Thereafter, he moved to Cornwall where he spent the rest of his working life and retirement.

    By Alan Robinson (16/02/2018)
  • Hello, could you help me. I am researching a person who may have worked at CAV electrical. Can I confirm if this was the company? 

    By Michael Garnett (17/08/2018)
  • Hi Michael, please see my comment from 2016.  CVA of Hove were an offshoot of CAV (Lucas) of Acton.  They traded in Hove as CAV until 1934 when they broke away from the parent company and then traded as CVA.

    By Mr Peter Groves (19/08/2018)
  • Does anybody remember my grandfather, Frank Howe, who I think was an auto setter and then a tool maker at CVA in Portland Road. He died in 1977 when I was just 5 so I didn’t get to know him very well. I have his 25 year watch (by then named Kearney & Trecker / CVA).

    By Marcus Lane (27/07/2020)
  • Hi, I’m researching the life of my father Ted Allison, who worked for CVA / Kearney & Trecker from at least 1939 until retirement (mid 1980s, or was it earlier?). Most of that time was at Portland Road. Although I am especially interested in the 1930s/40s, any information would be appreciated. Because of the very specific nature of this search, it is probably best if replies are emailed to me at Thanks in anticipation, Ian Allison.

    By Ian Allison (03/02/2021)

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