I joined Messenger’s in March 1948, after I came out of the Army.
I was in the pattern shop, where Chris Gamble was in charge. He was a few years older than me and before Chris there was Walter Brooks, an old fella, to whom Chris was apprenticed. When Walter Brooks retired Chris who was a young chap took over and I went to work for him.
We looked after all the patterns, replaced old patterns, etc. At the time the work mainly involved making patterns for sheet metal machinery for F. J. Edwards. All their machinery was updated after the war so Chris and I had to make all the new patterns. Messenger’s made complete machines and they went through the whole process from the foundry, to the machine shop, then fitting shop and finally painting.
I re-made the patterns equipment for either the No. 1 or No. 2 Loughborough boiler, I can’t remember which. The original patterns, made around 1900 by F.J. Smith, were made of cast-iron and I re-did them in aluminium. I was told that Mr. Smith was also responsible for designing the Loughborough Boiler, but I don’t know if that is true. After the war they were making about 2 Loughborough boilers a day.
In 1951, I left Messenger’s and went to Cross & Sansom for more money. They were located on Nottingham Road, at the junction with Queens Road. If you turned right into Queens Road they had workshops on both sides of the road and a car park that came out onto Nottingham Road at the side of the Greyhound Pub. Later they moved to Ashby Road, Shepshed). I still had dealing with Messenger’s. For the last twenty-five years of my working life I was in charge of the workshops. I used to get out and around other firms. Phil Stanton was at one time in 1970s running the machine shop there and if we needed parts machined up we used ask them to do it. They also sub-contracted some pattern making to Cross & Sansom, indeed I believed that they owed them money when they went into receivership.
In my time, a draughtsman drew up the engineering drawings, and then the pattern maker would make the pattern from the drawing. This would allow the foundry men to create the moulds for the castings and then the machine shop. Most of the patterns were made of wood, although for long running patterns they were sometimes made of metal.
There was a saw mill, which we also used. I enjoyed working there because you had a bit of everything, whereas in a master pattern shop there was only pattern making.
Later on Messenger’s involved Cross & Sansom regarding kelam modelling – copy milling. The person running the pattern shop didn’t know anything about it so came down to Cross & Samson to learn about it – we were only just getting into it at the time.
There was a fellow in the office that should have ordered 1,000 of the 5th edition catalogues but ordered 10,000 instead. There was still a stack of them about 6ft. cubed in the showroom, when I was there. When Messenger’s went bust they turned at the second-hand bookshop on Frederick Street (opposite the Congregational Church), where they were being sold for 60p. each.
Messenger make casting for the Nottingham-based firm of Barton & Armitage Ltd (iron founders of 120, Canal Street, who fell into liquidation in 1955), their lorry’s would come and collect the castings.
Messenger’s also made small pieces for Cotton’s.
The railway was still being used for timber delivery whilst I was there. They would pull in front of the drying sheds, which were open fronted, with bricks removed from the back wall, so as to allow air to pass through. The sheds are still there; they now have fronts on them and have been divided into small units.
The pattern shop was where West End Motors are now. At the end of the old showroom there was a door into the pattern shop (now blocked up). There used to be a steam-engine that was run off the boiler somehow and it ran all the belts for the machinery.
They only used a little bit of the foundry, down at the bottom end. The rest was used for storing castings. The fettling shed was at the end. Down the side of the foundry building near the boiler house was what they called the rumbler, it was like a big drum that rolled and rolled and rolled and smoothed the castings up and it was only used for small castings.
There was not a raised foreman’s office where it is now there was one on the other side of the partition where the stores were. There was a partition across and there was a raised bit there for the engineering foreman.
In the loft above the offices was a pattern store and there was a little door out of the old showroom into the pattern store. There was also a little narrow cubby-hole in the old showroom that housed a lot of engravings for printing out the catalogues, there were hundreds of them. At the time there was the odd greenhouse in the showroom but it wasn’t really being used as such.
They built a new workshop at the end of the block; I think that it is still there. The rest of the area was just fields, rough like it is now.
The two houses – the caretaker lived in one and the engineering foreman lived in the other. Further down was the canteen and next door, was what they called the time office, you used to go through there and clock in and out. There was also a bike shed next to the time office, everyone came by bike in those days, I used to bike in from Hathern.
During my time, there were two Mr. Burder’s there, Kenneth who was the Managing Director and his son, Derek. He had two brothers, one of them Edwin wasn’t interested and didn’t take any part in the firm. Kenneth had a heart attack in the street in London and died. One day I can remember that someone wanted a part of a greenhouse or conservatory and Kenneth said that he could remember exactly where the pattern was out away and that was above fifty years earlier, so must have been around the turn of the century. We went and looked and it was there, it was stored somewhere on an upper floor at the ended of the foundry or in the fettling shed.
There were large gates across the entrance from Cumberland Road, and I can remember there being an old Hillman car in the building on the right (the old stables) – it had been put away and I think that it was Edwin’s. Chris Gamble, who I worked with, made them an offer and bought it. It had been put away, it could have been there years, but it worked.
We had a little bogey, and when we wanted any timber we used to take it up, to the timber sheds and load it up and take it back to the pattern shed. We used Canadian Yellow Pine for all our pattern making, apparently it only grows in one valley in Canada. Later on we used all sorts of material, including resin, aluminium and all sorts of others. But at the time pattern was Canadian Yellow Pine, it was very fine grained. All the wood was properly seasoned and dried, whereas today it is kiln dried and doesn’t last nearly as long.
I started off learning pattern making during the war at Cross & Stanton’s and then it was owned by Mr. Thornton. I would become a bound apprentice because it was a reserved occupation and I wanted to join the Army. As soon as I was 18, I duly joined up. Whilst I was in the Army, Cross & Sansom bought Mr. Thornoton out.
When I came out of the Army, I was hanging about; when you demobbed you received 56 days leave, you also received 1 day for every month that you had been based overseas. I’d been abroad for three years, so I have quite a lot of time. Someone who lived down the bottom of our road, worked at Messenger’s in the saw mills and he knew that I was looking for a job. He told Chris Gamble, who was running the pattern shop and word came back to go and see Kenneth Burder, who took me on. That’s how I got back into the trade, with knowing Chris, I was at school with him and we got on well together. When I started there it was just Chris and I, by that time National Service had started and another pattern, Ken Dalby, maker was off doing his National Service. As work built up we took on another pattern, Norman Waldron, along with an apprentice. That made four pattern makers and an apprentice.
Messenger’s was a nice company to work for, the only problem was that they paid the rate, although the pattern making rate was about 25% higher than the engineering rate. When I left I was getting about £6 per week and Cross & Sansom were offering £8 a week.
During my time at Messenger’s to my knowledge they didn’t make any conservatories, it was all greenhouses.
I can remember Clemerson’s having people working behind the King’s Head – I can remember John Smith working there. Later was manager of Carlton Russell, a fibre-glass company who were on the Canal Bank and then moved up to part of the old Morris’ old South Works.
On Sparrow Hill there was the old florists and Fisher’s the plumbers, where my wife was a secretary. Down the alley way Arora once occupied the old Messenger wood store – Electroway heaters – it was run by a Mr. Young to Rosebery Street.
Martin Jones was a nice man, a gentleman, he came whilst I was there – he was a relation of the Burder’s. He was feeling his way and I think that he had been in the Army. I saw him one New Year’s Eve at the TA Centre; I went with a few of the lads. He was interested in cricket and we had a cricket team. Messenger’s also had an amateur football team at one time, although I played for Heather and one or two others. If I didn’t have a game and Messenger’s did, I would play for them.
Derek Burder was still there almost to the end and I think he was there when it went into administration. They had someone named Bell who came to help run the firm, but it only lasted a little while after that. I think that Phil Stanton was still there when they went into liquidation.
When I was there we didn’t make any new Quorn patterns.
There were a couple of works cats, who used to catch mice and rats. The men used to feed them. Up by the timber sheds there was a field and it had all sorts of tracks across it and we thought that it was rabbits. So one night we set a snare and came back next morning and we’d caught the tom cat. Well it was just sat there it hadn’t struggled or else it would have strangled itself. So we released it and set the trap again in the evening. Well next morning we had caught the cat, so we released it unarmed and gave up.
We made a range of metal processing machinery for F. J. Edwards of London, including metal bending machines, guillotines, wheeling arms, all sorts of thing. Some of them were treadle operated, some arm operated, and then they turned to being machine operated. Chris and myself made all the new patterns, it was very good worn and interesting. Once the parts had been cast, they were fabricated and painted in Edwards blue and a logo screwed onto the front – it was a round logo with two arms coming off, it was made of brass, Messenger’s didn’t make them, and we must have ordered them, probably from Edwards. Once the machines were complete the Edwards lorry would turn up and take them away. Messengers had been making machines for Edwards since before the war and after the war Edwards updated them.
There was another person in the office, called George Gutteridge. There was a lady7 in the office called Mrs. Wiliett – she had a younger girl working for her – Brenda Chamberlain. Her dad ran on of the Messenger stores – she married David Hazell, who played rugby for England. Kenneth Burder’s main man was Company Secretary was a Mr. Hope. Kenneth Burder didn’t have seem to have say in what was going on. He didn’t seem up to the mark like his dad.
Phil Stanton was in charge of the engineering. I remember Phil as a kid; his dad had the King’s Arms in Hathern. I think that he took it after he came out of the First World War. His dad later moved into Diseworth, near the Church. Phil then took on the pub. Phil was older than me and his brother Tony was killed during the war – the Germans were bombarding Antwerp wirh V1s. and V2s. and one hit the cinema that Tony was in.
During the war I was in the France/Germany campaign and should have gone to Japan but they dropped the atom bomb, so I went to Palestine and was there for a couple of years. I was in t5he Highland Light Infantry – City of Glasgow Regiment – they had suffered a lot of losses and about 16 of us from the Leicestershire Regiment went up and joined.
I didn’t know Tom Wesson but I knew of him – Ken Dalby was there for a long time, he came out of the Army just after I did and I believe that he died young. His dad used to fire up the cupola.
There was one chap called Boiler Bill – Bill Bremner – he came from Barrow and he was on piecework casting Loughborough boilers. Frank Thorneycroft, he was a good moulder and used to do all the prestige pieces and he worked around the other side. Tom Thaterswaite he was there. Fellow in core shop – Bert Lutworth. Mrs. Spibly was making cores she was there during the war and stayed on. Joe Kerfoot was the foundry manager – he had a fellow come take over from him – Dennis – but he didn’t stay long. Tom Wesson came after Dennis and lived in the one of the houses. Tommy Monk lived in one and Tom probably moved in after he died.