Employment for many Moulsecoomb residents

Allen West Radar Machine
From the private collection of Peter Groves

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

d) ALLEN WEST LTD: Employment for many of the estate’s inhabitants was provided by the small industrial estates along Lewes Road to the south and in Moulsecoomb Way. The leading industrial concern was Allen West Ltd, a firm of electrical engineers founded in April 1910 by Mr Allen West at a shared factory in Lewes Road to the south of Natal Road. The firm soon took over its co-occupiers, Reasons, and in 1927, jointly with Schweppes, took over the large Oppenheimer diamond factory on the southern side of Coombe Road. As the company expanded so several overseas subsidiaries were established, and by 1939 more space was required at Brighton. The first Moulsecoomb Way factory opened in 1939, followed by a second in 1940, and the firm made a great contribution to the war effort, building thousands of radar sets and sections for the Mulberry harbour. Up to 3,000 people were employed by Allen West after the war, and further factories were opened in Moulsecoomb Way in 1953, 1956 and 1957. A new administrative and design office was opened in 1966 at Dewe Road above the original factory.

However, the following year saw a number of redundancies, and all production and offices were transferred to Moulsecoomb Way. The almost new Dewe Road building was put up for sale in 1968, but the corporation declined to buy it and it was sold to a property company in March 1972; it was then renamed Mithras House and since 1977 has been used by the polytechnic. The original Lewes Road factory was demolished in October 1972, and in early 1973 Allen West Ltd was acquired jointly by Tube Investments and General Electric of America. By December 1984, Allenwest Electrical Ltd had been acquired by its own management for £27.5 million. Now most of the Moulsecoomb Way sites have been sold, with just one factory operated by Allen West Electrical. The Moulsecoomb Way sites are destined to become the FairwayRetailPark; the first warehouse, Texas Homecare, opened at Christmas 1985. {83,123,272}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • Yes indeed. Allen West was a huge employer in Brighton and it was considered “a job for life” by many.
    Once the Americans took over, it was of course downsized – a lovely word.
    Had some great characters there-right across the social spectrum.

    By Kenneth Clarke (02/09/2007)
  • I used to work at Allenwest from 1988 to 1991 until I got made redundant, so no not for life. My father worked there for years and years. His name was Patrick Dowds, people called him Paddy.

    By Bridget (24/09/2007)
  • I worked for AW from 1963 – 1993. The early days were best, prior to the withdrawal of GE support. After that the whole system fell apart from asset strippers and abysmal management. Almost all regular employees were a sterling bunch of friends, many who are sadly missed. Yes they were great days, sadly now gone forever.

    By Norman P (02/06/2008)
  • Thank you to all the people who worked for Allen West who ever donated money for the girls at Rosaz House for Christmas. You put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. We always sent thank-you cards to Allen West, some of which have been found as they were kept by one of the Allen West workers.

    By Fiona Coleman nee: McKechnie (19/07/2008)
  • My Nan worked for them for years, and as a kid I used to go to their Christmas parties.

    By Craig Driver (11/10/2008)
  • My wife’s Dad Ernie Bayley worked at Allen West for 49 years. We’d love to hear from anybody who knew him. He was a massive Brighton and Hove Albion fan and his widow Rose is still alive and kicking and living with Bev and I in Spain. Rose and Ernie had three other children, Denise and the twins John and Kevin. Ernie is sadly no longer with us, but please feel free to get in touch if you knew any of the family.

    By Paul Hubbard (11/10/2008)
  • I would just like to say that Mum and Dad met at the Lewes Rd factory. Mum (Audrey Tullett) worked in the office and Dad (Roy Long) on the shop floor, they later married. Mum was related to Bert Marchant who was, I believe a foreman, and later my sisters Janet and Pamela worked at the Moulsecoomb factory in the office. We can still remember the hooter that was sounded at dinner time etc. as we lived the other side of the railway line which seperated East Moulscoomb from North. Mum and Dad sadly have passed away, but not before Dad made a replica miniture building of the Lewes Rd factory. I also have in my possesion a little red Works Rules book from 1960 and a Rules and Membership Card of the Allen West Athletic and Social Club which is blue, along with a Works Employers Handbook, which I now treasure. Mum and Dad went on to have 10 children (all still living) and they were married for 58 years. So thanks to Allen West from us all.

    By Marion Bell, nee Long (10/01/2009)
  • I worked at Allen West in the office from 1961 till 1965. I was in the typing pool. Firstly in the Lewes Road building and then moved to Dewe Road when it was completed. I used to type for the estimators on the floor above. We were called Dictaphone Typists. We were very busy. On a Friday I was allocated some of the urgent work to be posted that same day. My mother also worked there as a tea lady, pushing a trolley around offering everyone a cuppa. I remember some of the co-workers in the pool – Marion, Gillian, Sheala, and of course the woman in charge, Mrs Young. Does anyone remember being there at the same time?

    By Shirley Mayles (nee Towner) (28/07/2009)
  • AW was my first job when I left school in 1955. I was in 107a (for assembly), foreman was Mr.Parker - can’t remember the chargehand’s name but he sported a Clarke Gable moustache – and my work mates were Ken Miller and Alex Goble. Also in the next bay was (Roy?) Price who was our bookmaker. Then there was Wally (he only had one good hand) in the plate shop. My mum worked in the machine shop mostly on piece work. Anyone remember Friday afternoons settling bills for chocolate and fags and football pools. When it was home time Moulsecoomb Way was black with people and bicycles as well as about six double decker buses. Steady wages and great social life were the order of the day.

    By Bob Golby (21/08/2009)
  • All readers and contributors may be interested to know that Allenwest Brighton (a 2007 Management Buy Out of the older Allenwest Systems business) is operating from Unit B2, Newton Road, The Meridian Industrial Estate, Peacehaven, East Sussex.

    By Tom Fairhall (17/10/2009)
  • Both my parents worked at Allen West. We lived in Oakendene flats so for dad George Elliott and mum Veronica Elliott (nee Pickett) is was perfect. I beleive that’s where they met, and they’ve been married for years now. I remember going to meet dad from work and walking down the stepped wall and waiting for him by the security man box. The siren would sound and hundreds of people would pour out of the gate. Christmas was always fun, the Christmas parties for the children and the social events. Does anyone remember the coloured strip lights? My dad was responsible for those.

    By Lisa Ingham (27/12/2009)
  • We lived in Moulscoombe Way, my dad worked in the sheet metal dept for many years. I worked there for about five years, we used to go to dinners at the Arnold House Hotel. I moved to Creed in Crowhurst Road for two years and got made redundant, then went on the busses for the next 27 years.

    By John Dine (10/03/2010)
  • Hi Bridget. I’m Jean and I lived in Staplefied Drive and knew your family well. I would like to know how you all are .. and is your mum still alive?

    By Jean (21/04/2010)
  • My mother-in-law, Rose Bayley,who still lives with us in Spain, is still getting a meagre pension for the years of service Ernie put in to Allen West – 49 years.They keep saying it will be cut off soon, and it’s only £25 a week. Does anybody have any information on the pensions?

    By Paul Hubbard (02/05/2010)
  • Well I have left a comment for Jean saying that my mum died Christmas Eve 2008 and I don’t remember you but my brother John Dowds says he remembers you. I now live in Swindon and have been here for nine years now. Anyway I do hope Jean gets my message very soon. 

    By Bridget (15/06/2010)
  • My mum Win Parsons used to work at Allen West for years. I remember when she first got the job many years ago. And the hooter used to sound at evening time.

    By Anita Parsons (29/06/2010)
  • I am writing this from Bellevue Hill in Sydney. A former workmate at AW, told me Ken Line has recently passed away, aged 92. He was the Training Officer in 1971……a wonderful bloke indeed.

    By Ken Clarke (13/11/2010)
  • Hi I am new to Brighton and have visited Mithras House for a meeting. I was wondering if anyone could explain what the bricked off passageways to the right of Mithras House are? Were they part of the Allen West factory as they seem to go into the side of the hill. Any information would be welcome Thanks

    By John Davies (20/03/2011)
  • Fred Russell worked in the drawing office for many years – approx 30. My sister, Joan Sherry, and her husband Douglas Sherry also worked in the drawing office in the 1940s. Sadly Joan died January 2011. I found amongst her possessions a dish with cover from the 1929 children’s Christmas party, three animals are playing on a see-saw. If anyone would like a picture, please ring, 01325480202. Thank You. Sheila.

    By Sheila Wilson (nee Russell) (10/05/2011)
  • The hooter also used to sound in the morning too, waking me if I wasn’t already. I was sent to live in Moulescome with my aunt & uncle in 1956 as my mum & dad had split up. My older cousin used to work for Allen West, his name was Bobby Newman, if anybody remembers him. I have lost contact with the family now as they moved away, as I have now.

    By Anne Newman (12/05/2011)
  • I worked at Allen West for 44 years and loved every minute of it. A real cushy number.

    By Roger.Holmes (04/10/2011)
  • My uncle used to work for Allen West at Moulscoomb. He worked there for over 32 years as a tool maker- I will always remember the accident he had at work. He was welding a tap in the bottom of a drum and the person he was doing it for hadn’t cleaned it out and the end was facing him so the flames blew out and hit him in the gut so he fell over and landed on the welding torch. He was sent to Guys Hospital in London for skin grafts and when all that was over he went back to work after a long lay off. I think he only lasted about a month and they retired him. All the time he was off work he never got paid because he was doing the job in his lunch hour for a packet of fags.

    By Barry Robinson (30/11/2011)
  • I worked at Allen West from 1966 to 1971 in 201 workshop and 108. My father, Ray, known as Roy Chapman, worked in the maintenance department. My mother, Rose, worked in the machine shop on the drills, my sister Ann (now Cheney) worked in 105 assembly, my brother Roger did an apprenticeship, my brother-in-law, Barrie Cheney, worked there from 1954 to 1972 in 105 and 102 assembly. So many of my family also worked there. I wonder if anyone remembers us?

    By David Chapman (27/12/2011)
  • Does anybody remember the “computer room”, a glass climate controlled enclosure containing the huge punch card machines and sorters? I remember a couple of cute girls worked in there so I took every opportunity of working in there too. Every now and then a sorter would malfunction and destroy a large batch of punch cards before anyone could stop it… I also remember getting paid every Friday in cash which was folded and stapled into an envelope with your pay stub…

    By Richard Wheeler (23/01/2012)
  • Does anyone remember any of thier family talking about Arthur Hillier? It  would have been from the very early days of Allen West.

    By Neil Dunk (04/03/2012)
  • My dad, Arthur Knight, also called Howard, worked at Allen West at East Moulsecoomb in the early 1940s until we migrated to Australia in 1950. We lived in Bevendean Crescent and I used to like to go and wait by the factory gates around 5pm to have a ride home with him on the cross rail of his bike. As soon as the siren sounded a huge avalanche of men and women would rush from the factory gates on their way home for the day.

    By Olive Sant (nee Knight) (01/05/2012)
  • I use to work at Moulsecoomb factory in 1949 and remember Jack Knight, Questier, and a fellow named Childs. I still have a photo of them. I left and went out to Australia (Australian National Airways). My foreman was Mr Langridge. A very happy firm. Now I am 86 and live in Auckland NZ. Arthur ‘Digger’ Arculus (Digger is my family nickname circa 1926)

    By Arthur Arculus (02/12/2012)
  • I was an apprentice at Allen West in 1958-60. What a super place! I remember that the foreman in the Lewes Road factory was a Mr Fox. “Come on now, you’ve had yer five” he would bark at 7:35am to get us to start work. I worked for a time in the “Power House” at the top of the Lewes Road site, from its door to the street you could exit the factory in works hours and skive! I remember the huge cloud of cyclists at leaving time in the evening, the two weeks summer holiday, and the scramble at lunch time for the canteen.

    By Edmund Nankivell (18/12/2012)
  • My Dad Reg worked at Allan West for 30 years, I remember him coming home one day and hearing him say about a terrible accident, can only have been your uncle Barry. I remember too, Dad had been given a job of taking down the canteen ceiling, not sure why because he was an electrician, maybe to do with the lights! Anyway, he said the ceiling was asbestos and to the best of my knowledge there was no protective clothing or anything for him. He ended his days at Allan West very abruptly, he went into work one day was called into the office and told that as from tomorrow he would be redundant, no warning, no consultation, no written statement. It broke my Dad who was a hard working, devoted, employee. When he came out of the office he told his work mates who, I think, where as shocked as he was, one very kind person went in and offered to go instead, on the grounds that he was younger and could get another job easier than Dad, but they would not budge. Others told Dad to fight it and go to the Union, but Dad would do nothing. He said something along the lines of, “if that’s all they think of me after thirty years, then I don’t want to know.” Dad is sadly no longer with us, but when my brother went through his things he found medical records confirming he was suffering with emphysema (not the cause of his death). He kept the illness to himself all his years none of his family knew, the chest x-ray and blank hospital appointment card which I presume was for regular check ups, had all just been put on top of the wardrobe and ignored. I sometimes wonder if the asbestos had anything to do with it. On a brighter note the kids Christmas parties were great, I think I have a photo of us kids at one, no doubt watching some magician or clown doing their bit.

    By Jenny Cowley (nee Woolven) (26/07/2013)
  • I went to work at age 15 directly after the short Christmas break in 1955/56. I started in 27 assembly with Harold and many other characters. I never forget the tool store with the one-armed supervisor Harold. who would often threaten us boys with the ‘freedom of the barrel’. I got an apprenticeship and worked then in 68 maintenance dep’t in Lewes Road where I was lucky to receive a grounding in basic electrical practice. My supervisors were Harold Beech John Houghton and our foreman was Jack Dumbrell. We boys looked forward to the bonus being paid each quarter when the social club would hold a dance in the Pavilion. I had a sweetheart named Pat Fry who worked in the offices. She was photographed by Jack Swain who had a contract with the Evening Argus to provide a picture of a pretty girl for their weekly picture ‘beauty within our borders’. I was so proud. Happy, happy days.

    By Bob Munro (27/07/2013)
  • I started in 1974 and still work there with Kevin Hall, Rodney Stephenson, Paul Peter and Kevin (Doodles) Dewdney.

    By Ricky Bruzas (07/09/2013)
  • Sad News!  Len Maslin has died. I remember him flea driving in the old 230, Flameproof, section.

    By Richard J. Szypulski (05/12/2013)
  • My first job after leaving school (Conought Road) – I got a job in No 8 machine shop at Moulscomb Way.

    By Dennis Fielder (07/12/2013)
  • My dad Tom Norris worked at Mouslecoomb from 1939 to 1950 he was transferred from Southampton at the outbreak of war, I was only 1 Year old at the time. I think he was an electrical fitter leading hand. We lived in Bevendean Crescent and i went to Moulsecoomb Schools.  Anyone else transferred from Southampton?

    By Ron Norris (27/12/2013)
  • I think my Uncle, John Lintott worked there for a while. He came from Southampton originally and returned there after marrying my Aunt who came from Brighton. My first father-in-law, Arthur Potter also worked there in the sixties. We lived in Coombe Road when I was a child so I remember the Dewe Road factory well.  I remember the hooter going at lunchtimes and at the end of the day and if you went along Lewes Road you would see hoards of people leaving the factory on their bikes.

    By Jenny Ray (01/01/2014)
  • Ref my previous comment: has anyone any knowledge of Allen West when they were in Southampton?

    By Ron Norris (09/01/2014)
  • My grandad, Charles Briggs, worked at Allen West, Moulsecoomb for donkeys years, I’m not sure what he did there. I used to see him riding home to Hollingdean Rd on his bicycle while I was on the bus going the other way. He was in the military in the years before he worked at A.W. and he was an old soldier right up until he died in 1975. I’l never forget him. 

    By Martin Phillips (15/03/2014)
  • I worked with Charlie Briggs in 29 Stores at Allen West. He died fairly suddenly in February 1974. It was during the three day week. Brighton was divided into two zones. One worked Monday to Wednesday. Allen West was in the second and worked Thursday to Saturday. Charlie came in one Saturday morning and felt unwell. He was admitted to hospital on Tuesday. Where he was diagnosed with leukeamia and died on the Thursday. He was 62 -it was so tragic. His half brother, Jack Fowler, ran the sheet metal department at Allen West. I believe they were born in Jersey Street.


    By Richard J. Szypulski (16/03/2014)
  • I fact Jack Fowler and Charlie Briggs we’re not half brothers, but full brothers. Their mother married Charlie’s father after he was born, he had his mother’s single name.  As they were not married at the time of Charlie’s birth?

    By Jean Martin-Phillips (18/03/2014)
  • Hi Richard Szypulski. Thanks very much for your informative comment about Charlie Briggs, I have very fond memories of him, we have his Efficient Service Territorial Army Medal, which is a family treasure.

    By Martin Phillips (20/03/2014)
  • Hi David Chapman, I remember you all! I have great memories of your dad Roy and worked with him in the maintenance dept. being an apprentice at the time. I also remember Roger who I believe emigrated to Australia. Roger and I started in the training school at the same time. I remember those times with great fondness, what a terrific place to work. 

    By Barry Dickens (17/02/2016)
  • Hi  girls, it’s Pam here. I worked in the coil winders, wonderful memories with laughter, singing and listening to Dolly. A lovely voice and happy memories. We will never have times like this again. 

    By Pamela Prince (10/06/2016)
  • Hi Richard Wheeler.  Yes, I remember the computer room very well. Left school at 16, 1970 to 1975, and went to work in the accounts office and was in and out of the computer room all the time with batches of invoices. Happy memories.

    By Joan Gumbrell (10/08/2016)
  • Hello Arthur Arculus, was your foreman’s name George Langridge?

    By Paul (30/10/2016)
  • I see a contribution form Ed Nankivell above. Would that be the same Ed who fell off his motorbike in the gateway of the Moulsecoomb Way site, with two passengers as well as himself?  With onlookers including the Works Manager?

    By Mike Letton (20/11/2016)
  • Hi Barry, I’m not sure that I remember you but you certainly remember my family. Roger is still in Australia and I am now retired.  Hope you and your family are well.

    By David Chapman (30/01/2017)
  • My grandad was a foreman at Allen West he worked there for about 40 years then died in his first week of retirement. His name was Charlie Bridgwater, I don’t know much about him.

    By Terry Bridgwater (24/02/2017)
  • Charlie Bridgwater was part of the furniture at Allen West. When I started in 1970 he was ‘Assembly shop Unit Manager’. After a reorganisation he managed the Standards section and then took over the 240 section. He was a ‘workaholic’ towards the end he was working from 6am to 7pm! He requested that when he died he would like the hearse carrying his coffin to stop outside Allen West. A lot of his workmates then stood outside in Moulsecoomb Way in silence as it passed.


    By Richard J. Szypulski (25/02/2017)
  • Thanks Richard J. I don’t speak with my dad so I don’t know much about my dad’s side of the family so I appreciate any info I get. My mother Jenny Funnell also worked there, I myself and my father and from what you said all seem to be workaholics. I find your comments touching, thanks again 

    By Terry Bridgwater (19/08/2017)
  • Hi does anyone remember my grandad bob Norris who worked here with his wife Emily ? He was such a funny guy, be great to hear he is remembered. Thanks 

    By Kirsty (30/08/2017)
  • Does anybody have any memories of the Marchant family – many of whom worked at the factory at one point or another. My dad was called Ronald Marchant and started working there when he was 15 years old – in 1939 and after a short while, ended up working in the Tool Room. His father worked there as well and his uncle George. Anyone with surname Marchant or Budd was likely a relative. 

    By Becky Green - Nee Marchant (07/01/2018)
  • Regarding Neil Dunk’s question about Arthur Hillier: I have a small amount of information about a Hillier (no first name) who worked in the drawing office around 1945.  My great-uncle Ernie Mann also worked for the company for many years.

    By John Mann (11/02/2018)
  • Hi Everyone, my Nanny and Grandad both worked at AW which is how they both met. my nanny died before I was born so I never got to meet her. My grandad was a toolmaker, he sadly died last month. It would be great to know if anyone out there remembers them, my nanny – Jean Lavina Knight and my grandad Ronald Price or known to us as Ron/Ronnie. To hear anything would be unbelievable. Thanks in advance x

    By Danielle (12/02/2018)
  • Hi, Can anybody help me, does anybody remember a chap called George (I think his name was Sutton) he was from America and worked at Moulsecoomb Way Factory. Many Thanks.

    By Rodney Fowler (06/08/2018)
  • I moved to permanently live in Brighton in 2017. My daughter who has lived on the South Coast for several years presented me with a cast iron sign about 1 metre in length on which is embossed the name Allen West and Co, Brighton England because she thought I might be interested in some local history. She found it in a boot sale. I have since investigated the history of Allen West and have found it quite astonishing. He must have been a force to be reckoned with when building his Company up to eventually employing 3000 people in Brighton. The end was not good but during the build up it must have done a lot of good for the community. I am going to mount the sign in my home for old times sake!

    By Graham Strand (09/08/2018)
  • My grandfather Arthur Aitkenhead worked at Allen West. He died in 1973. He was in the navy in the war too and worked for AW when the war ended. My aunt Diana (Disis) Enwood nee Aitkenhead worked in the Lewes Rd offices. 

    By Christopher Eyte (11/10/2018)
  • Message for Christopher. I remember your Grandad as I was a friend of his daughter Janet when we all lived near Fiveways in the 1960s. I worked at Allen West when Diane was there and remember her well. 

    By Maureen (12/10/2018)
  • My Grandfather, John Bush worked at Allen West, for many years as part of the electrical draughtsman team. He sadly passed away last month aged 100. From the Argus: “Bush, John Godfrey. John died in Worthing Hospital on 23rd September 2018 aged 100 years. He was the last surviving member of the Allen West electrical draughtsman team to be seconded to the Admiralty Signals and Radar Establishment from 1940-46 to develop radar systems, eventually retiring from the company in 1979”. He lived in Hollingbury, and then moved to Worthing. 

    By Ross (12/10/2018)
  • Christopher: The Late George Aitkenhead ran the Goods Inward department. I wonder if Arthur and your aunt Diana were related?

    By Richard J. Szypulski (13/10/2018)
  • Hi Rodney, yes I remember George Sutton he was a lovely guy, I used to work for him as his PA in the Finance Dept at Allen West. Valerie Bishop (nee Quelch)

    By Valerie Bishop (14/03/2019)
  • My father Eric Revell was a draughtsman at A W all his working life. He fell ill when newly married and Mr Allen West employed my mother to help. I remember the Children’s parties and the feeling of family among the employees. Thank you Allen West for looking after our family.

    By Diane Wilks (14/08/2020)
  • I worked at Allen West from 1969 (as an apprentice) until 1980. I did a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with my friend Colin Blair and Tom Fairhall was an apprentice in our group at that time. Our trainers were Ted Smith and Ron Canneaux with Ken Line as training manager.
    After my 4 years apprenticeship I did a short time as a cost estimator and eventually ended up as a computer operator in the computer room. I remember Jim Child was our manager for a while and also remember Anson Lane one of the analyst programmers. I left in 1980 and went to Parker Pens as a computer operator.

    By Phil Burton (27/03/2021)
  • My grandfather was Victor Breeze who was managing director at AW in the early 60’s. AW made a huge contribution to WW2 for example in naval radar; I have telegrams from the Admiralty praising the equipment, which was used to sink the Scharnhorst. The company was taken over when profits started to drop due to economic downturn. It was thought to be the Rolls Royce of electrical gear. I have a miniature contactor panel made by AW apprentices dated 1958.

    By Victor Breeze (17/02/2022)
  • I joined Allen West as a trainee in 1970. We were all given a copy of the Allen West story. This was a book printed to commemorate the firms Golden jubilee in 1960. Mr. Breeze, senior, was managing director in 1960. Apparently, he held the position for three decades! It mentions Mr. V.L. Breeze as deputy managing director. Other directors were Messrs. Lancaster, Cann, Hall and Malloch.

    By Richard Szypulski (21/02/2022)
  • Sad news. The Argus, Tuesday 23/5/2023, announced the passing of Pam Prince. I remember Pam, her daughter, Debbie, and Son, Steve, who also worked at Allen West.

    By Richard J. Szypulski (23/05/2023)
  • Hello All,

    Very interesting stories on an equally significant building.

    I am writing a short essay on the Mithras House Building and would love to hear more via email, or even better interview if possible.

    If you fancy a chat please do contact me, i’ll leave studio email below.



    By imran farooqi (13/10/2023)

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