www.westwoodworks.net and www.bphs.net
MEMORIES OF TIMES PAST
IS THIS THE LAST DAVID THOMSON OVEN IN EXISTENCE?
Another for our collection of old ovens, this one is in Fakenham, Norfolk in a bakery that has recently closed after being in the same family for about 140 years. It was installed in around 1910 by Thomson of Edinburgh with a peel top oven and drawplate lower deck. It is thought to be the last one left in England. After WW1, the company ran into some financial troubles and was bought by Joseph Baker Sons & Perkins. The personnel and assets were absorbed into the company and David Thomson Ltd was liquidated in 1932.
Many of the enquiries received are from people seeking information about family relations who worked at Baker Perkins, sometimes many years ago. As has been pointed out many times our personnel records are by no means complete but we try to help where we can - always, of course, with due regard for the strictures of the Data Protection Act. Often, these searches lead us off into areas that have not so far been covered adequately on the websites. Such an enquiry was received recently from a distant relation of John Callow, a man who like John Pointon was driven to improving the lot of the baker in the second half of the 1800s by solving the problem of mechanising bread production. This was prior to the formation of Baker Perkins in 1923, John Pointonworking with Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins, John Callow developing the Baker-Callow range of dough handling equipment with Joseph Baker & Sons. This developed into a period of cut-throat competition that had a profound effect on the fortunes of both companies.
Another quest for information about a grandfather led us to Willesden and "Rusty" Sands, Manager of the Drawing Office. We were able to provide "Rusty's" descendents with a fascinating insight into their grandfather's activities when working for Joseph Baker & Sons, courtesy of the superb memoir left by Stanley Gibbs.
Yet another insight into life at Baker Perkins' came from a copy of a report prepared by John Paton, a University undergraduate, who spent three weeks in February 1950 on attachment to Westwood Works Personnel Department. His report to his Tutor helps fill in a number of blanks in the record of the development of the Westwood personnel function that we began earlier this year. An indication of how far John entered into the life of the company may be judged by his being held in the Police Station whilst his credentials were checked after being found attempting to climb back into the City Commercial Hotel (the company's Commercial Trainees' Hostel), 'after hours'.
Mary Jo Darrah- Sir Ivor Baker's daughter - provided copies of the Indentures signed by Philip Barton Baker when he joined his three brothers as a partner in Joseph Baker & Sons on the death of their father, Joseph Baker, in 1892. Mary Jo reminds us that - "There are still 3 of my father's generation alive. Barton's son is over at the moment from Australia<".
Still on the subject of family relations, our report on the recent BPHS Reunion mentioned that the event was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Peterborough. The Mayor - Councillor George Simons - informed us that his wife, Sylvia, is an ex-Baker Perkins employee, who joined the Company straight from school in the early 1950s to be trained as a comptometer operator. We understand that, true to long established Company tradition, both her sister and father worked at Westwood. Two days before they were to be married, George was waiting for Sylvia on Westwood Bridge when he witnessed the "The Westwood Junction Rail Crash of 1955."
The Holding Company - Order was maintained at board meetings with the aid of an impressive gavel and board, presented to the company in memory of Josh Booth by his son, Richard Booth. Josh was one of the Company's most outstanding characters - "a man of uncommon driving force who could not tolerate opposition"- serving as a director on the Production side of the business from 1920 until his untimely death in 1942". He did not spare himself – or anyone else" a colleague wrote. "He fired us all with enthusiasm and put into our war effort the drive which was so necessary. He tackled every job with enthusiasm and a vast fund of experience". A second engraved plaque states - "THIS GAVEL & BOARD WAS MADE FROM WOOD SALVAGED FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS BOMBED MAY 1941." Standing before Parliament in temporary accommodation in the House of Lords, Winston Churchill said - "On the night of 10th May 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy................." The death toll from just this one night stood at 1,454, but, thankfully signalled the virtual end of the Blitz. Overall, the Blitz lasted for nine months with seventy-one major raids during which 18,291 tonnes of high explosive killed over 19,826 civilians and wounded 72,570.The night of 10/11th May 1941 came to be known as "The Longest Night". (A very full account of what happened that night can be found in Gavin Mortimer's book - "The Longest Night" published by Cassell Military Classics).
The last issue of this Newsletter mentioned our desire to include more photographs of ex-employees. We have received a number of images of members of BP Inc Saginaw's Food (Bakery) M/c Division in the early 1970s. These have been parked temporarily in the "Saginaw People" chapter of the BPHS Website as more are expected.
MEMORIES OF TIMES PAST
JIM DEBOO REMINISCES WITH FRIENDS
Many ex-apprentices were disappointed when Jim Deboo was unable to attend the recent BPHS Reunion, but none was more disappointed than Jim himself. However, Gabrielle Abbott put together an album of photographs taken at the event and was able to arrange for Jim Farrow and Dick Preston to join her on a visit to see him. Jim's mind is as active as ever and the pictures generated much discussion, bringing back many memories for him. e asked for his very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to be passed on to all his "old boys" and their families.
Another year has passed and despite any forecasts we might have made to the contrary, inputs to the Websites have not yet dried up. We continue to fund the Website hosting and domain rental and intend to do this for the foreseeable future. We also expect to continue to be heavily involved in the task of transferring the mass of memorabilia collected over the last nine years from our house to a permanent home in Paston, Peterborough Central Library and/or Peterborough Museum. We will continue to update you on progress via these Newsletters.
A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Best wishes – Dick, Margaret and James Preston
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