Factory Index

Part of wash-up assembly. Photo 1950

Harold Seacombe - Order Control

Electric arc welding. Photo 1950

Mobile bank built by Normand Ltd

......Abbey Road .Factory........

Abbey Road Engineering Works

The company's Engineering Department started in 1904, and grew throughout the years from a number of separate premises to one large Engineering Department, which moved to a site in Abbey Road, Acton, in 1935 (this is not the road of Beatles fame). It occupied a site of nearly 4 acres and employed over 300 engineering staff working in six main workshops: Electricians, Coppersmiths', Sheet Metal, Machine, Fitting and Refrigeration Shops. The factory did not have a foundry or furnaces and had to sub-contract all their metal castings to outside contractors. There was, however, a pattern shop in which wooden patterns or moulds were made which the outside foundries used for casting. The Coppersmith's Shop was equipped for tinning all those metal articles which for hygienic reasons required this treatment.

Servicing the workshops at Abbey Road, and supplying materials as required to other departments within the group, was an Engineers' Store. Here over 9,000 items were stocked ranging from screws to 250 gallon tanks. Some 350 requisitions were received, from company departments, every week from all parts of the country but, the Abbey Road workshops were obviously the largest customer of their own stores. The Abbey Road works tackled between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs every year varying in cost from a few shillings to thousands of pounds, and in size, from a single bracket to a complete wash-up machine. As there was up to 1,800 jobs on the work's books at any one time it was important that the work proceeded according to priority and care was taken that bottlenecks did not occur within parts/trades/workshop areas.

Most of orders received at Abbey Road required work from several, if not all, of the workshops, and a control was maintained to track each order during its journey through the works and to make sure that it received the required treatment. Orders for work came from all parts of the company. These were received by the Order Control Section who would allocated a job number and description of the item, and the workshops through which the job would pass. The order was then circulated among the many technical and clerical staff, returning to the Order Control Section after each treatment, so the records of work-in-progress were up to date. No item could be made without the necessary metal or other components being to hand, and the received order first passed, together with any plans, to the technical staff so they could estimate the amount of metal or components required to complete the work and, if necessary, prepared technical drawings. This done, copies of orders for the metal and/or components needed were sent to the Stores Records Section of the office who determined whether the required materials were in stock or had to be ordered from outside. The 'Rate-fixers' would then calculate how many hours would be required to complete the task. Job documents were then prepared for the foreman of each workshop involved showing the time for each stage of the job. These job documents were then passed to the Planning Clerk, who decided on what date each workshop did its share of the work. Finally his documents were then sent to the different workshops on the dates indicate. This was a very complicated process involving much clerical intervention but it appears to have worked.

All routine kitchen and factory equipment such as saucepans, potato peelers, ovens and dough mixers were purchased from outside suppliers, but repaired, in most cases, by Abbey Road engineers. Service equipment such as teashop service counters, coffee urns, cold cabinets, conveyors or ventilation trunking was made by Abbey Road. When the company's Corner Houses and hotels were erected the Engineering Works built most of the service equipment installed. Whenever a machine or service facility was designed in the Cadby Hall Drawing Offices it was the Engineers Workshops who built it. The Swiss roll plant, for example, was built by them as was the Bev coffee extracting plant installed at Greenford. Abbey Road Works also made the Bev coffee extracting plant for the Durban factory and other coffee machinery for the Canadian factory as well as the ventilation trunking for the tea factory in Nyasaland (Malawi). The Abbey Road Factory also had the responsibility of refurbishing ice cream cabinets before the formation of Total Refrigeration Ltd, the ice-cream cabinet subsidiary. When the LEO computer was being built in the 1940s, trunking was made and installed by Abbey Road engineers who also made the units in which the electronics and wiring were housed.

In 1954, in conjunction with Normand Ltd, the Company’s motor subsidiary, they built a mobile bank for the Maharajah of Patiala (Punjab). Built on the chassis of a Guy Otter 6-ton van, the cab was steel framed with side panels 7-mm thick armour plate. Windows were bullet-proof and the floor made of teak with steel plate protection. Propelled by a Gardner 4-LK engine, the vehicle was painted in a gold colour with Lyons’ shade of grey and blue and weighed over 6-tons.

As factory machinery technology developed less work was carried out by the Abbey Road works but they still had a responsibility for maintenance. They continued to design and build special equipment but as the Lyons companies became more autonomous demand lessened on the Engineering Works. Their contribution to the success of the Lyons production machinery has not been fully recognised but there is no doubt that the skills of Abbey Road Engineering Works played an important part in the story of J. Lyons & Company.


© Peter Bird 2005


Employees at Abbey Road Works in the 1950s

W. Snelling (Factory Manager)
J. Renolds (Stores Manager)
B. Skeet (Stores Supervisor)
B. Bye (Plate Shop Superintendent)
T. Whitlock (Plate Shop Foreman)
J. Sealy (Office)
B.Thurley (Office)
J. Jefford (Drawing Office)
C. Smith (Teashop Maintenance Manager)
J. Jolliffe ( Teashop Maintenance)
W. Anneveld (Experimental Shop)
W. Metherall (Experimental Shop)
B. Gleed (Experimental Shop)
A. Doel (Experimental Shop)
R. Willshire (Pattern Shop)