Knitting Machines

During the early 1970s, the firm attempted to manufacture circular knitting machines, initially joining forces with Healy’s of Leicester.

Such was the assumed importance of this business tie up that on 23rd January 1973, Henry James Billing[1], a Director of Healy of Leicester Ltd., was appointed a Director of the firm. This was presumably in consideration of the professional help and expertise that it was hoped he would bring to the firm. As part of the deal, the firm allocated 10,000 Ordinary Shares; 1,000 to Henry James Billing; 5,000 to Mrs. Joan Marion Billing; 4,000 to Mrs. Susan Marion Billing; all three were living at No. 15, Enderby Road, Blaby, Leicester[2]. In addition, Henry Billing was given the opportunity to purchase an additional 5,000 Ordinary Shares, during the following five years, on the assumption that he remained a Director[3]; presumably an attempt to ensure that he stayed long enough to see the venture through to a conclusion.

To cover this allocation, the firm convened an extraordinary general meeting, held at their offices, on 8th February, where following resolution was passed –

…that the share capital of the company be increased from £60,000 shares of £1 each whereof 25,000 shares of £1 each whereof 25,000 shares are proffered shares and 35,000 are ordinary shares, to £75,000 by the creation of 15,000 new ordinary shares of £1 each in rank pari passu in all respects with the existing 35,000 ordinary shares whether in regard to dividend, voting, return of capital or otherwise.

F. G. M. Burder

Although the firm managed to build ten machines, even exhibiting several of them in Switzerland, the tie-in with Healy’s ended in failure. Rather surprisingly the firm was not put off, having a second attempt which predictably also proved unsuccessful (PS recollections).


As early as 1971[4], the firm had prepared an agreement with Orion Engineering Co., Ltd., to manufacture KKD knitting machines, using the building that had originally been built for fabricating horticultural structures, just after the Second World War.

Whilst never signed, the proposed agreement, which was to last for three years, was comprehensive and included the following clauses:

  • Orion Engineering Co., Ltd. would occupy the building, for the express purpose of assembling the knitting machines, in consideration of a levy of £1,000 per annum, payable in monthly instalments by adding of £83.33 to the monthly invoice value of goods delivered during that month, or by some other arrangement[5].
  • Orion Engineering Co., Ltd., to pay rates of £300 per year in 2 equal instalments.
  • Messenger & Co., Ltd., to insure the building for fire only, with Orion Engineering responsible for insuring the contents.
  • Orion Engineering to be allowed free use of the existing Powermatic Heater and oil storage tank, with responsibility for purchasing their own oil.
  • Access to the building to be restricted; senior staff and visitors to be allowed to drive their cars up to the building, whilst all other employees must park their vehicles in the general car park (where Decotel are now located (2014) and approach the building along the public footpath.
  • Free use of the existing internal and tannoy calls, with Orion being responsible for securing any external telephone
  • Employees of Orion able to use Messenger & Co., Ltd.’s canteen during opening hours.
  • Messenger & Co. Ltd, agree not to produce knitting machines for any other firm without the written consent of Orion Engineering.
  • Orion Engineering shall not purchase any other source of manufacturing facilities normally available from Messenger & Co. – unless Messenger & Co., Ltd., are either uncompetitive or cannot supply.

The firm participated in several other initiatives, whilst not as radical as manufacturing circular knitting machines, ultimately also ended in failure.



  1. Of No. 15, Enderby Road, Blaby. Today (2017) the site is occupied by a 48-bed hotel known as Blaby Westfield House Hotel. The original residence portion of the property remains. 
  2. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121-285.
  3. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121-283.
  4. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/282/1-3.
  5. In an early draft a clause had Orion Engineering paying a levy of £100 for each KKD knitting machine cast-iron carcass supplied by the firm, during each twelve-month period, up to a maximum of £1,000.