Help | News | Credits | Search | Guestbook | Forum | Shop | Contact Us | Welcome

Westwood Works 1903-2003


This website began as a collection of photographs of some buildings being demolished, progressed to a historical record of nearly a century of development of an engineering company and then attempted to show something of what work and leisure was like within the unique culture that was Baker Perkins at that time.

Photographs can convey something of the atmosphere within a company but it is the human stories which really paint the reality of "Life at Westwood Works". Here are some. There must be many similar memories; we would love to hear them.

Stand by your beds!

Where are all the foundry people, they were always the noisiest in the factory as opposed to the pattern shop where they all appeared to be asleep when you entered. I always tried to wake them but would be ushered out for some reason. The pattern store was even better Mick Lamb could never be found, asleep upstairs usually (joke) or doing pullups on the roof trusses.
Dennis Taylor 05/05/2004

We in the fitting shop could sleep when required as well. On one occasion I finished all my work on nights and slipped inside a pile of boxes used on the machine we built for making jelly babies. I awoke to someone banging and was about to shout for them to stop when I realised it was very noisy. My considerate night shift workmates had let me sleep on when they left at 07.30 and it was now 11.15! I waited till the day shift broke for lunch then slipped out unnoticed and no one else knew about my sleep over - until today!
David James 13/05/2004

I'm reminded of the time I was on secondment to "Notcutts" with another student who we shall call Richard Powney, for that was his name. Richard had a tendency to nod off from time to time during our period in the Works (including a couple of hours asleep in a Machine Shop toilet cubicle). He once brought the machinery in Notcutts to a halt when he fell asleep and his head hit an emergency stop button. I think that the noise from the klaxons brought him sharply back to life but it did take a bit of explaining to the Foreman...
James Preston 14/05/2004

The Drawing Office in the 1950s/60s was not without its quota of characters. One such was 'Baron' Hall. On a warm summer afternoon, long before the advent of air-conditioned offices, 'Baron' was in the process of committing the latest technological breakthrough to paper. He sat back in his chair and briefly closed his eyes - presumably to rest them from the glare of the drawing paper. One of his colleagues on an adjacent board chose this moment to drop the entire contents of his desk drawer on the floor. 'Baron' was out of his chair and halfway down the Drawing Office before he came to.
Dick Preston 15/05/2004

Questionable Goings-on

The old lifts with the manual gates were often stationary due to the gates bouncing back to isolate the limit switch just after moving off. One lunch time a colleague & me came back after lunch & one lift was jammed on 'M'. The other one arrived & I released the catch on the other lift to allow it to be called, little knowing that a maintenance man was servicing one of the young ladies from the Purchasing Dept. The lift descended to 'G' with them hastily redressing themselves & they beat a hasty retreat from the many others returning from lunch.
John Rouse 19/05/2004

It shouldn't happen to an Apprentice

Thankfully it didn't happen to me, but I recall many tales of apprentices being sent to the Stores for "odd" items.

The ones I remember best are Long/Medium/Short weights (Apprentice: "Can I have a long weight please?" - half an hour later - Storeman: "Ok Sonny, you've waited long enough now - off you go"), striped paint, tartan paint, left-handed screwdrivers, metric adjustable spanners and my particular favourite - a bucket of sparks for the grinder.

Were there any other "items" which keen youngsters were sent to get?

Although I managed to escape being sent to the Stores to get "a bubble for the spirit level", I did get my comeuppance during my fortnight in the Stores. The lads in there (and Dale - I still think you were mainly responsible) decided that I was spending too much time sitting down so they parcel-taped me to my chair.

James Preston 14/05/2004

The truth will out...

During my apprenticeship period (1986 - 1990) I went through a bit of a period where I truly discovered the Fairer Sex and the Demon Drink and was regularly late for work. At the time I worked for Mick Harbour, CCS Fitting Shop Superintendent, and woe betide anyone who messed him about.

One morning I was nearly half an hour late. I had been out all night with a young lady and ended up staying at her house. When I eventually woke the following morning I had absolutely no idea what part of Peterborough I was in so I hastily left her place and proceeded to walk to work.

After an hour or so, I had still not reached Westfield Road and was beginning to panic - it was already 7:25 as I heard the distant sound of the hooter going off twice. Eventually, I reached work at around 8 o'clock and was busy thinking of excuses.

I decided to limp into work and spin some yarn about how I was staying at my sister's house in Bretton and had come off my bike half way to work. I then promptly cocked up the story by saying I had locked my bike to a nearby tree and hobbled the rest of the way. Mick didn't buy this for one second - particularly as he caught me limping on the other leg later that morning - and I was promptly despatched with Tony Nuzzo in a car to find and bring back the bike.

Of course it wasn't there, so rather than spill the beans to Tony and get myself off the hook, I foolishly spun another yarn to him about how it must have been stolen. Mick knew I was pulling a fast one from the off and had simply called my bluff so when I returned to BP I got one almighty talking to from him. Ah happy times.
Dave Symonds 09/07/04

A Buzz in the Air

Back in the Summer of 1990 when I was working in Experimental, trials took place which involved producing tonnes and tonnes of fondant. All the fondant produced ended up in aluminium containers which were taken outside for cleaning. A swarm of bees took up residence in one container - after all it was a nice home with a seemingly endless supply of food on the doorstep. The Legend that is Charlie Webster took charge and contacted an ex-employee, Harold Lilley, who was a bee keeper.

I can still remember Charlie standing in the yard with Harold persuading the bees to leave. These days, Health and Safety regulations would insist on a full chemical warfare uniform in such situations, but Charlie stood there holding the container at arms length in just his overalls with the sleeves rolled up. After mentioning the episode to Charlie, he recalled that Harold was the Head Cashier and often supplied bees wax to FED for conditioning oven steel bands.
James Preston 09/08/04

Sporting Memories

We were about to play Oundle Town. The local baker in Polebrook, Cecil Fletton, had been on the same umpiring course as myself so he was pressed into acting as umpire at the other end. Baker Perkins fielded first. John Craythorne sent one down that rapped the batsman's pads. "Howzat" he cried.

Cecil raised his finger. Even John seemed a little surprised at the decision.

A little later, John really hit the pads of another batsman. Again a loud appeal. Cecil stood unmoved. "Come on, Cecil", exploded John, "That was a much better one than the one you gave out". Cecil calmly responded "I've given you one, how many more do you want?
Brian Woodman

The Sports and Social Club played a very important part in the success of the company, providing excellent sporting and social facilities. It also sold beer at a very good price!
Jim Farrow 06/12/03

The Westwood Works RUFC was not just about playing rugby. I remember the Club presenting two Christmas Pantomimes, both being produced by Robin Dunseath. The first in 1962 being Aladdin & His Wonderful Pot, and the second in 1963 Cleopatra. Both shows for one night only (Sunday) in the Clubhouse at Alma Road in aid of the St. Nicholas Childrens Home. The programmes were designed by Martin Crewgee. Other names I recall though not necessarily in order of appearance are Howard Pettit as Cleopatra, myself as the Dame, John "BONZO" Reeves property manager,John Porter, Pete Brodie, Waller Blades, Trevor Edwards, Alf Smith, Alan Deboo as a Centurian, Alan Rutterford "Well may you ask fair one", and Roger Creed. There must have been many more but their names have faded with time. Both shows were played to a packed house, the odd pint (old money) or two consumed and generally a good time was had by all. I hope this revives memories for some of the other players who I am sure could add to this note.
Brian Prentice

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb - the Baker Perkins Fire Brigade

The Incident of the Water Tower Cover

There had been a high wind for most of the day. At about 3pm, the Brigade responded to an incident that had been reported by an engine driver on the adjacent railway line. The metal cover on the 50ft high water tank was badly corroded and was in danger of being blown onto the railway line.

The first crew to arrive were to take the L4P (Landrover 4-wheel drive Pump) with the others following on "Betsy", the 1928 Dennis Fire Engine. As I arrived at the Fire Station, Wilf Thompson was attempting to coax Betsy into life but, in true female fashion, when urgently needed she failed to respond so we all decided to walk to the tower.

With great difficulty two hemp ropes were thrown over the water tower's cover but, almost immediately the ropes began to fray as the metal sheet flapped in the wind. The hemp ropes were replaced with wire, which proved successful and the brigade was stood down. This alleviated the problem in the short term but Chief Officer Ben Reynolds, who doubled as Chief Maintenance Engineer, would have to find a more permanent solution in the next few days.

There is a wag in the tail of this story. Sometime later it was decided to demolish the water tower completely. Below the tower was a small service hut through which the water outlet pipe passed. During the demolition, contractors using acetylene cutting equipment allowed sparks to fall down the outlet pipe, setting fire to the service hut, resulting in a second call out for the Brigade. The Water Tower was one part of Baker Perkins that "didn't go quietly".

Many people saw Betsy through rose-tinted glasses. She always generated lots of "oohs" and "aahs" from other employees but, for most practical purposes, she was about as much use as a chocolate tea pot. Shortly after this, Ben Reynolds decided to trade her in for a younger model.
Brian Prentice

There's no such thing as a free lunch

In the second half of 1990, a project team evaluating new business systems (eventually deciding on the PS Scicon system) were based in the offices above the Fitting Shop in the Experimental building.

I remember Charlie Webster's story of being asked by Graeme Day if he had any "samples" which he could let the project team have for Elevenses. Ever the gentleman, Charlie gave Graeme a box of Granola bars.

Nothing more was heard until lunchtime when Charlie went back to his office. The box of Granola bars was on his desk with several half-eaten, and a note saying "Charlie - thank you for the snack - we could have done without the wildlife though". It seems that the bars had been hanging around rather longer than Charlie had thought and some weevils had taken a shine to them.

I also recall Rowntrees shipping in box upon box of chocolate for some forthcoming trials. We thought nothing of nipping down to the C&C stores to break off a piece of chocolate to have with a brew. One morning before we started work, Neil Frame advised us to steer clear of the chocolate because the local mice had "found it". I have never seen so many faces go white so quickly before - mine included.
James Preston 09/09/04

In the Works

One member of the nightshift was well known for his lack of attention to personal hygiene. George Morgan and Jim Deboo decided to take matters into their own hands. They frog-marched the gentleman to the Surgery where Sister Moules was asked to find something else to do while they stripped and scrubbed him clean. Apparently, a lesson was learned and the atmosphere in the machine shop improved from then on.
Jim Deboo

During the early part of the war years there was no canteen for the night shift and employees had to bring their own food, thermos flasks or billy cans. Jim Deboo recalls that, at that time, the heat treatment dept was located at the east side of the machine shop, approximately where the CPO was later sited. The heat treatment furnaces, in use during the day shift, would take all night to cool down. If the eyes of Bill Paskin, the night shift foreman, could be avoided, a small shepherd's pie or cheese on toast could be cooked in 1-2 minutes in the still very hot chamber of the heat treatment oven.

One night shift worker had the reputation as a bit of a poacher. He brought a 'bird' in one night and placed it in the oven to cook. Unfortunately, it is thought that this was seen by Bill, who decided to do some sentry duty. Fifteen or so minutes later, when Bill left the area and the bird was removed, it was the size of a pigeon and hard and black as a piece of coal!
Jim Deboo

In the Offices

Bob Chapman was a well respected Personnel Manager whose responsibilities often entailed attending Board Meetings to advise the Directors on personnel policy. He was once asked to prepare a report on a particularly difficult subject. After some thought, he sent his secretary out to buy a crystal ball and took it to the meeting. We understand that the Directors accepted that his point was well made!
Kay Kisby

I was one of only two women working in the Drawing Office at the time. I started in 1951 and it was a damned good company to work for. Everybody knew each other and they looked after you. The social side was popular and everyone joined in.
Barbara Blackwell 29/04/04

I worked in the Estimating Dept. with Gerald Simpson and John Murray as heads of Dept. and that is more years ago than I care to remember. I have happy memories of the Company and the Sports Club in Alma Road, where I worked part time behind the bar.
Gordon Bloodworth 07/12/03

Memories - Biscuit Electrical; all the gang in Biscuit; all the plant we produced that went all over the world; Field Service - including Tucker! The lads and lassies in Commercial; product development meetings; visits to Bedewell to see the lads; the Bedewell translation hat; Brazil; Grand Rapids; all the gang in C&C; Experimental. The systems guys on the sixth floor; Industrial Design, Purchasing; Malton's Boys; beer on a Friday; getting stuck in the lift on the way to the sixth floor (intentionally); 1070, then Bakery. Memories, sweet memories.
Mike Bowthorpe 10/12/03

I worked in 'Bakery' from 1977 through to 1987. I still smile when I think about some of the characters - Keith, the spares estimator; Peter 'Hoohah' Spencer's 'Lord Byron' quiff; Jim MacLachlan, engulfed in a cloud of smoke, holding simultaneous telephone conversations; Tom Edwards' dagger fetish; Arthur Hitch's "convoluted telephone messages"; Les Nightingale explaining the French origin of the noun 'tirfor' to a supposedly learned Geoff Midgley. Happy memories indeed!
Adrian Mcmanus 09/12/03

I worked there from 1969-74. Started in the Typing Pool (remember girls?.....ruled with a rod of iron by Gill Wortley), then Sub-Contracts (Bob Fuller was my boss), then I worked for Joan Usher in Travel. Seeing the photos of the Machine Shop reminds me how scary it was to walk through there! Also remember the great times we had at the office parties (say no more, but the old lifts always used to get stuck between floors) and spending Christmas Eve lunchtime in the Halcyon and being scrutinised when we returned to work.
Linda Tilney (nee Bembridge) 12/12/03

I began in the Typing Pool when I was 17, progressed to Purchasing and then to Sub-contracts. I left in 1992. The people became like a second family to me and helped me through some tough times.
Wenda Woods 20/02/04

The Telephone Exchange - I joined in 1978 and there were 6 of us: Fay Dunham (in charge), Maria Lenton, Angela Swann, Sue Brice, Val Shaw and myself. Norman Johnson was our manager. The telephone room was quite small - I believe it was originally a store room. We had a kitchen opposite across the corridor. Next to us was the computer room, with Jean Sparrow as manager. The telex room was a separate room nearly. We were on the first floor near the clock, and overlooked the old Co-op.

The switchboard was the old-fashioned sort - high backed with cords. It was mainly wooden, highly polished and got very dusty. Five of us could be seated at a time. Fay used to sit at a desk but took her turn on the board. To the left of the switchboard, if I remember correctly, we had a file of information - who's who and what's what.

We wore the old-fashioned headsets with a piece round to our mouth. We answered in-coming calls, external and internal, and a light would glow to show a call was waiting. The cords were in sets of two - the back one for answering, the front one for connecting to an extension. To dial out we plugged into a jack, tapping it or looking down the line to see if it was free, then we would get the dial tone and continue. For calls to Bedewell, Stoke, etc. there were trunk lines straight through - I think the term was "tied lines" - we would plug in a jack and it would ring automatically on their switchboard.

To switch over the night lines at the end of the day was quite complicated compared to just pressing two buttons now. It was about six lines and necessitated dialling the right numbers in a sequence.

The computerised switchboard was installed after I left to have my daughter in 1981. But anyone who has used an old corded switchboard would still say they loved them.
Liz Scarr 06/08/04

I left Spalding High School in July 1948 aged almost 17 and went straight into the Commercial Training Department (situated on 'M' floor behind the lift shaft!), there to be taught typing by Miss Yewen and her assistant Mary Jessop; (four of us from similar schools started together, but I was the only one who stayed for 20 years). Our machines were old Barlocks, built like Sherman tanks, and all the keys were covered with blank caps, so that it really was "touch typing" - no cheating by being able to see the keys. One day and evening per week were spent on day release at Technical College, where we absorbed the mysteries of Commerce and Book-keeping, and continued our studies of English and French. After 6 months of intensive training, we were deemed competent to be unleashed upon the Typing Pool, under the supervision of Miss Phyllis Stafford. At first we carried out copy-typing, then we were initiated into "Dictaphone typing" (or audio-typing to a later era). The Dictaphone machine used black wax cylinders, just like the old-fashioned music cylinders from the very earliest gramophones, and once the letters etc. on it were typed, the cylinder was put on a special machine which shaved off the top layer and left a clear surface ready for the next correspondent to dictate his deathless prose - but as the wax got thinner, so the quality of the recording deteriorated; it was wonderful when the first lightweight plastic sleeve machines were introduced and quality remained constant.

After several years in the Typing Pool, those of us who were considered secretarial material were again consigned to the Training Department (mornings only this time, afternoons were spent back in the Typing Pool) to learn shorthand and office practice, prior to being assigned to a post within the Company. After this further training, I was sent to Norman Mountain, then Biscuit and C&C Manager (he later became Managing Director, of course) and remained with him for a year until, with the sponsorship of the Company, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to join a 6-week tour of the West Indies and South America as part of an "Education of Youth through Travel" programme. On my return I went to work for Mr Dick Webber, Chief Financial Accountant, as his secretary, and also did the typing work for the Accounts sections which he controlled. For the last three or four years of my time I was also secretary to one of the directors, Mr. Stephen Hargreaves - as he was on the 5th floor and RJW was in the old building, life could get hectic!

When I started work I received 1.17s.6d. (1.75p) per week; the bus fare from Crowland was 9d. (4p) worker's return, and subsidised lunch in the Canteen was 6d. (2p) up to the age of 18.
Sheelagh Blood 09/08/04

Working for Baker Perkins

They were one of the first companies to introduce a pension scheme, in 1948. I paid half-a-crown a week. If an employee went to do his National Service, the company would pay his dues while he was away.
Allan Dan 29/04/04

I worked there for 45 years. It was the people, the attitude and the commitment. If you were part of Baker Perkins, you were part of an exclusive club.
Tony Malton 29/04/04.

I was at BP from 1969 to 1988. I worked in the Outdoor Dept. I enjoyed every minute of my time working there. I met some real characters who enriched my life. I am still in the bakery business and I meet ex-BP people who are spread all around the world.
Les Nightingale 06/12/03

For me the best bit of the website is the 'rogues gallery'. It brings back all sorts of memories, almost all good! I had a very happy 20+ years and learnt a lot from some very talented engineers. Being part of the Printing Division through the glory days when sales were rocketing and we won the Queen's Award was brilliant.
Ian Selinger 09/12/03

I worked at BP from 1951 until 1959, in the Outdoor Dept. office, then in the Toolroom Office. Many happy memories of that time. The Sports Club was a big part of my life, too. I enjoyed hockey and table tennis, also the dances at the Club. I remember racing from the parking lot to clock in on time - a mad dash generally! The fun we all had at Christmas time, especially the childrens' parties. We volunteers enjoyed it as much as the children.
Shirley Gillard USA 13/12/03

I started in 1974 and served my apprenticeship, then moved into the Milling section of the main machine shop, then worked night shifts for a couple of years in the Heavy Mills. I left BP to work in Germany, working in about 17 different factories - aircraft industry, motor industry, etc., none of which came close to the work quality turned out at Westwood Works. I returned to BP, not once but twice between contracts overseas. It was an honour to take part in a wonderful team and a bloody good laugh at times, too.
Nigel Crowson, Germany 19/12/03

I started at BP in 1971 and had what was possible the best apprentice training in the country. Remember Jack Hurst, Stan White & co? I'm still with the company after 32 years - now fitting shop manager.
Paul Holland. 18/12/03

My fondest work and social memories are of Baker Perkins. Apprentice in 1986 and moved on in 1998. A real family experience for me as my mum Sheila, dad Les and brother Dave all worked there at some stage.
Gary Bennett 17/12/03

I started in 1967 as an apprentice. Moved into the Toolroom in 1970 with many good memories and old friends - remember these party animals? - Brian Chick, Eddie Newton, Ray Pond, Geery Woodhouse, Jim Fountain, my good mate Roger Tuttlebee, Jimmy Jackson, Alf Goddard, Jim Rippon, Charlie Symonds, Doug Harbour, Tubby Whybrow.
Colin Bingham 17/12/03

How nice to look back on the photos and see the old faces. The Directors and Senior Managers were then seen as professional gentleman and all had the respect of their staff, they in turn having respect for their employees.
Sandy Rycroft 23/12/03

I had very happy times there between 1944 and 1950, initially in the main office building and later as an apprentice in the fitting shops. My training was first class, with hands on experience from day one under the guidance of qualified tradesmen. I can remember many friends of that period - Johnnie Costin, Alan ("Claud") Ward, John Lynch - to name a few. I also remember the help and support I received from Foreman Kirby and Chargehand Jack Rouse during my final years on the BCM assembly floor.
Laurie Goddard - Australia 11/01/04

What a great Company. I stumbled on BP in 1946 when I left grammar school. I spent 5 years getting the best training as an engineer, finishing up in C&C design. It served me well as I finished up in Canada as Sen. VP - Operations for the largest company making chocolate, ice cream and dairy products.
Ray Laxon - USA 08/01/04

I ride by the site most days and my mind goes back to the great times I had during the 1970's/80's. Would love to meet the old faces again - maintenance electricians Les Clark, Les Foremen, Jack, Stan Howes, Ken, Freddy Ashwell, Gibby, Tom, Wilf, Hank (he's probably still there on overtime, has anyone checked?), Reg, Dennis and Bernard.
Martin Walpole 22/01/04

Joined as an apprentice in 1976, trained as a fitter under Bob Bull until 1980 in Bakery Fitting shop, then spent another 4 years working on Bakery FED (anyone remember John Murray in London?) Still involved in engineering. I always say that the mates I made at Westwood and in the field set me up for life. Good times!
Andy Parr 25/01/04

My dad (Bert James- Patternmaker, 1979 retirement photos) advised me to accept my Baker Perkins apprenticeship (Intake photo, Christmas 1958, first on left front row) and I have never regretted his advice. I learnt skills that I still use today and made many friends, some of whom are still part of my life. I was a member of the motor club, shot small bore rifles and played rugby, all of which left me with a fund of fond memories of the people and places. Treasure hunts where the pubs en route were more keenly sought than the objects of the provided clues, rugby games that are remembered not for the result of the match but the drinking after and the singing on the bus home. 40 odd years ago and I still chuckle when the faces come to mind, it was a truly wonderful time and I would like to thank all those people and of course BP for making the experience possible. I served five years apprenticeship as a fitter with a year on nights which included eating fish and chips in the locked foreman's office and sitting on the fitting shop roof watching the dawn break. I moved up to the offices to become a correspondent in the Bakery sales office before setting out into the wide world. Like many BP blokes before me I ended up running my own business based around the education gained at Westfield Road and BP personnel have come in and out my life over the years in many ways as employees, suppliers and customers.
David James 13/05/04

It was the convention at Westwood always to refer to your superior as "Mr" or "Mrs/Miss", regardless of relative age, both to their face and in conversations with managers from other departments. It also seemed that the higher the status in the organisation, the more likely that a person would be universally referred to by his/her initials rather than by name.
Peter Williams

Baker Perkins was a real "family" firm and it was considered a feather in your cap to have passed the interview and start working there. I believe that Baker Perkins was one of the first firms nationally to have an "in-house" commercial training scheme, and we received tuition which was second to none. Our trainers, supervisors and ultimately our bosses were strict but fair - life was much more formal than it is today but that was how we were brought up, so we didn't really complain.

I wouldn't have missed my time there for anything, and often think back to the happy times, the laughter, and the friends made, sadly many of them now dead. I left in 1968 to start a family, but still think of Baker Perkins as "my firm".
Sheelagh Blood 09/08/04

Life as an Apprentice

The firm would send a quarterly report to the parents of each apprentice. It was a report on your timekeeping, discipline and projects. You would be rewarded by so many 11ths of a penny but, if you did not do as you were told, you would be given a kick up the backside! But, anybody who trained as an apprentice at Baker Perkins could get a job anywhere in the country. It was hard work but you learned the skill of engineering.
Brian Crack 29/04/04

I was a Student Apprentice from 1960 until 1965 and then stayed on, in various drawing offices, until I left in 1969. The Baker Perkins apprenticeship was a good one and it formed a sound basis for my subsequent engineering career.
Roger Jackson 04/12/03

At Westwood, a Craft Apprentice moved up to Student Apprentice when he got his National Certificate. In 1949, this opportunity was offered to apprentices at Bedewell. I was the first Student Apprentice to come from Bedewell Works to Westwood. I lived at the Staff Hostel on the corner of Bishops Road, opposite Woolworths. Two legendary figures lived there: Miss Baxter who ran the Comptometer Room and Walter Hardware, the gear cutting Foreman. I returned to Bedewell in 1953 and married Pamela Willoughby who worked for Eric Reynolds in the CPO.
Marshall Grey 05/12/03

Had some of the best and funniest days of my life as an apprentice at this fine establishment. I started in 1974 with an intake of 51 others - the last of the big apprentice runs. The Experimental Dept. is where I finished my time. I've never met any other craftsmen like it since. Happy days!
Trevor Williamson 18/12/03

I started in 1974 with Ferret Ramsdon, Trev Williamson and Butts Crowson. What a shower we were but what a great place to work - and we all turned into great engineers. The Baker Perkins name is still held in great esteem wherever I have worked.
Colin "Clogs" Holland 28/01/04

Back in 1986 when I started my Student Apprenticeship, I was part of a group of 25 eager young things. We were split into smaller groups for our Workshop Training, so while some of us were learning about turning, others were playing around with electronics, milling machines and... fitting.

After spending nearly two days trying to file a 4" x 1/2" piece of metal flat and square to the satisfaction of Mr Baird, one of my fellow students suggested that I might consider asking one of the others working on the mills to "take care of it", just as he had done. I was sorely tempted.

It was also around this time that we soon learned to keep our hands out of our pockets while Mr Stonebridge was around. The penalty was usually pressups in multiples of five. Even years later, whenever I saw Dave coming towards me, I'd make sure that my hands were out in the open.
James Preston 09/08/04

Family History

I worked in the typing pool from 1948 until 1954. My father, George Strickson, was with the firm from approximately 1933 to 1966, as a foreman and later as the first Safety Officer. I was a member of the Musical Society and played for one season on the hockey team (the worst player ever).
Jean Watier (Strickson) - Canada 04/12/03

I worked at Baker Perkins for 9 years, from 1970 to 1979. I met my husband Brian there and we have been married for 28 years.
Angela Swann 07/12/03

I am an ex-BP employee, so was my father, J.R. Chamberlain, my brother P.J. Chamberlain and my wife, Barbara (nee Woods). I served a 5 year apprenticeship as a tin smith, then 2 years as an improver draughtsman and finally, ten years as a design draughtsman in the Oven Section on the third floor. I, like many others, owe a great deal of thanks to this company.
Noel Chamberlain 07/12/03

I have spoken to Peter Robinson today and he confirms that the foreman (wearing a suit, tie and cap) in the 1923 photographs of the Patternmakers' shop is his grandfather, George Robinson.
Gabrielle Abbott 02/12/03

Both my Dad (Norman) and Mum (Lucy) worked at BP when I was a child. Good picture of my Dad in the 1943 picture of the Home Guard, right in the middle of the middle row.
Norman Saltmarsh 05/12/03

Both my wife and I worked there. I started work as an apprentice in 1967 and left in 1976. Angie started in 1970 and left in 1978, having worked in the typing pool, Personnel and Telephone room.
Ernie and Angie Pell 05/12/03

I have fond memories of Baker Perkins as my grandparents' shop, Belson's Stores, was opposite. I often used to sell the Evening Telegraph outside the main office entrance when I was allowed. Every lunch time the shop was packed with people buying filled rolls or cakes, etc. My stepfather, David Brewin, worked in the offices for many years and my father, Les Pilarski, worked there for a while. It is ironic that, as I am now an engineer with the electricity board, I had the job of disconnecting the final HV electricity supply to the old factory before demolition.
Martin 05/12/03

My father, Jim Kinghorn, worked at Westwood Works from the late 1920's until he retired in 1971. For several years he was AEU Convenor. I started in the Personnel Dept. (Commercial Training Section) in 1950 and stayed until 1962.
Gloria Kinghorn 08/12/03

Both my grandads, (Gerry Wortley and Bob Wilmot), worked for many years at BP. My grandad Wortley lived just opposite in Westfield Road. he could leave home at the start of the buzzer (how many people remember that?) and be at work by the end of it - and he was usually late!
Kevin Wilmot 08/12/03

I worked for Baker Perkins from 1961 to 1971. I joined as a typist in the CPO and then transferred to Personnel as a secretary. I spent my last six years with the company as secretary to Bill Byles, Director of the Biscuit and CC Division. My dad, Don Hill, was manager of the Spares Dept for many years. My uncle, Derek Hill, was based in the Works Office in Peterborough (1960's) before transferring within the company, initially to Stoke on Trent and then to Basingstoke.
Carol Blant 08/12/03

My dad, Frank Brown (Fitting Shop-Biscuit) would have loved the website. I have such great memories of the children's' Christmas parties and the many Open Days. Also, I remember the wonderful holidays arranged for the retired members by Len Yarrow, Mr. Strickson, Mr. Pullman and others, which Mum and Dad loved (me as well as they even found room for me). Made such friends as Mr & Mrs Pacey, Tommy and Drusilla Woods, Ivy and Jack and so many more.
Pat Brown 26/02/04

I recently came across your website on the Internet and was delighted to see my Grandfather's name mentioned. My Grandfather, Mark Grammer, was a fettler and retired through ill health about 1943, not then passing away until 1969 at the age of 86.

He often talked about Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins, and almost without fail, he would produce from his waistcoat pocket his 'token' used for toilet breaks, etc. He was my Victorian Grandfather, a wonderful man, and I feel privileged to have known him and my Grandmother, Annie, for the first 21 years of my life.

He never accepted modern gadgets. His crystal radio was never switched on and, as far as television was concerned, it never existed!! It would be somewhat ironic therefore for his photograph to be displayed on the Internet.
John Fairchild 29/10/04

Mrs Miriam Fletcher's reminiscences

My name was Miriam Rice and I started at Werners, as it was always called, in about 1934 and worked under Bill Fowler in the Inspection Office. I started at 7.30 am to 5.30 pm for 7/6d per week. I always remember the broken and partly melted man's watch he had hanging at the back of his desk - it was the only thing that he retrieved from the ruins of the fire that almost destroyed the factory.

After about a year, I transferred to the other side of the Inspection Office to the Machine Shop office under Matt Fowler (brother of Bill). It was a larger department and in overall command of a Mr. Dougal but with Doug Cave and Percy Bartram running different sections. Percy Bartram married Mary Marris, daughter of Mr. Marris who was in charge of the Spec.Office near to the main entrance hall. Later, I had a promotion upstairs to the Section Fathers, on the other side of the O+I corridor.

My boss there was Les Jordan who was in charge of the Bread Section. At the table behind us worked Mr. Plowman (Laundry), then Mr. Hotchkiss (Biscuits). I can't remember the name of the next table - it was a father and son - and the last two tables were ratefixers under Mr. Trotter. I think that his son, Alec, worked with him.

I was 22 years old by this time and earning 1-8-6d per week and hoping to get married. It's laughable now, thinking back, especially as we had to give up work to get married. Two or three weeks later, a notice appeared asking for operators for war work on the shopfloor. I applied, was accepted and signed on again on Monday morning as a payroll employee as opposed to salaried staff.

After a meeting, I was sent to one of the big engine lathes at the bottom of the steps leading to the Machine Shop. My foreman for 2 weeks of days was Jack Baxter followed by his son for two weeks of nights. Mr. Whiteman was my setter-up. I liked the work very much, most of my friends ended up on the turrets under Maurice Seago in Mr. Farmery's bay. Some of the work was commercial repairs but mostly we made parts for two pounders, Bofors, A.A. and 25 pounder guns.

It was through the latter that I met my husband. He was Bill Fletcher who came from Scunthorpe when he was made redundant from David Brown's in 1935. He was foreman of the Recuperator Bay, his opposite number being Russell Bullard. Towards the end of the war some men were returning, so most of the women were finished and the factory was getting back to normal. One day, Bill was asked if he would be interested in going to Bedewell to help set up the new factory there. He went with Cyril Panter, Stan Price, Lila Leach (daughter of the Plateshop Foreman) and two or three other people. We wanted to move up there but there was a terrible shortage of housing, most having been bombed during the raids on Newcastle. During this time I stayed in Peterborough with our son and daughter, so he came back and joined the ratefixers until he retired. He was a very good bowls player and enjoyed his games with the BP teams. He also played for the County.

Bill died 9 years ago, aged 87. So ends our connection with BP. We had some lovely times.

A view from the outside - Laurence Garey's memories

I grew up in Westwood, and my everyday life was very much influenced by Baker Perkins and Westwood Works, and several members of my family worked there (2 grandfathers, 3 uncles and 2 cousins: is this a record? See below).

I was born in 1941 in my maternal grandparent’s house in Cavendish Street, Eastfield. My mother, Dorothy, worked in my grandmother’s (Sally Garey) grocery shop in Priory Road, Westwood, and my father, Cyril, was in the RAF. So I spent the war days between Eastfield and Westwood. My paternal grandfather, Marcus Garey, Sally’s husband, was a pattern maker with what was then Werners. He was born in 1882, and I have a photograph of him with the pattern for a giant mixer blade: the date on the back is 1912, so he was about 30 years old. Maybe someone can identify just where the picture was taken.

Grandfather Marcus Garey with his mixer blade pattern

On the Baker Perkins website are photographs of the pattern shop in 1923 and 1927 (here, here and here). I understand it was constructed in 1922, after the “Great Fire”. It is quite possible that Marcus is on those photos, but everyone looked the same in those days (moustache, collar and tie, and often a nice white apron) so I cannot recognise him. He was 65 in 1947, and I think he was with Baker Perkins until he retired. He died in 1957.

Grandad Marcus Garey enjoying his retirement, still with his collar and tie!

My mother told me recently that he was involved in some way with “a fire”, and was even slightly injured. I presume this was the “great” fire of 1922.

As I cast my mind back to those days during or just after the war, I recall making fires at home with what, I presume, were old or broken wooden patterns. I still have visions of these brightly coloured (mainly red I think) wheels and things. I hope it was all above board!

At the end of the war, my father took over the grocery shop and ran it with my mother until we left a few years later. I went to West Town School in Williamson Avenue from 1946 and later to St Mark’s in Gladstone Street until 1952. I walked across Westwood bridge 4 times a day, and so past Westwood Works. I remember the field guns parked in the car park near the end of Grange road. They figure on photos on the web site, for example here, but I am not sure until when there were guns parked there. It must have been after the war, unless I have a very good memory from when I was 4 years old!

The web site is really top class with so many photos of the Works and Westwood, and the airfield. One that really struck me was the Luftwaffe map of the Works and the surrounding area, on which you can easily see my house in Priory Road! (Just to the right of the “58” in “GB 82 58”)

I remember having to go to the air-raid shelter a few times during the war. Wasn't there a minor bombing attack on the works or the railway sidings at one stage? We got a cracked upstairs wall, which was supposedly linked to that incident. Our family tradition has it that B-P was not bombed seriously because it had been Werners, but I never swallowed that one. Odd though, isn't it?

I recall the walk back to school after lunch when we (I used to walk with a friend most days) used to exchange greetings with some of the men returning to work. Two of them were particularly entertaining: a big man and a little man. We called them Laurel and Hardy. The ritual was that we called out, “What’s your name today?” and they replied with some funny name or other. Who were they, and what happened to them, I wonder?

Other contacts with the workmen were when they came into our shop, mainly to buy cigarettes I fear. I think Garey’s shop must have been quite well known at the Works.

Yet another uncle was Eddie (“Ted”) Fleming who came down from South Shields to take up a position with B-P, and met his wife, Lily, my mother’s sister. Ted was with B-P from 1934 until he retired in 1972 as a foreman in the sheet metal shop. Their son, Peter Fleming, my cousin, joined in 1965 at age 18 when he left school with A levels and did not want to go to university. He was there until 1970 and praises an excellent student apprenticeship and says B-P were known country-wide for their progressive apprentice training schemes. My uncle Reg Savage, the husband of Ada, my mother’s other sister, was a charge hand in the pattern shop, and his son, David Savage (my cousin) also worked for B-P. He took a degree and was a Project Engineer in the Chemical Division. Peter reminds me that Baker Perkins produced a super book of their history, which was issued in 1968 and every employee received a free copy. He still has his. He tells me: “It's really great that people have taken so much trouble to prepare it (the web site). Everybody was proud to work for such a super company. I was privileged to undertake an apprenticeship with them which gave me invaluable experience in all parts of the factory production areas and offices together with an excellent formal engineering qualification from a 'thin' sandwich course. The social club amenities were first class and I also spent many happy hours in the Motoring Section garage which was fully kitted out as a service centre. I well remember the large book 'Baker Perkins - the War Years' with pictures and articles of their wartime arms production. Alas, this has disappeared.” Peter later worked for British Aerospace in Stevenage, and is now growing macadamia nuts in Australia!

I saw the Apprentice School being built in 1952, at the end of Grange Road.

I have been interested in aviation and aeroplanes as long as I can remember. I used to watch the, mainly ex World War II, planes flying around in the early 1950s. From 1954 to 1959 I belonged to 115 Squadron Air Training Corps (ATC) on Westwood airfield, that was formally called RAF Peterborough.

A very interesting photograph on the web site shows the entrance of RAF Peterborough in 1955. It shows at the bottom the Officers’ Mess, that still exists, with three huts above it, then the main gate, with the tiny guard post. Above that are four more huts, with to their left a solitary hut, which was our ATC headquarters. I think the white sign you can just see on this hut is the one saying “115 Squadron ATC”. Further up the white road on the right are the buildings of Hartley’s canning and jam factory where I use to work during school holidays. The entrance to the airfield at that level is watched over by the real guard house, just visible. After that is the new apprentice school followed by the main office tower. What memories! Even the abrupt change from the tarmac of Westfield Road to the white concrete of the RAF road that leads on towards Horrell’s farm and the virgin countryside. What a picture!

Another superb picture is here, showing, in the distance, the aircraft at the Flying Training School on the airfield. At that time, 1939, the resident unit was 7 FTS equipped with Hawker Harts and Audaxes, and those are the aircraft that can been seen on the flight line as far as I can make out.

Even before joining the ATC I used to spend a lot of time on the airfield. There was quite a lot of civil activity going on. I took some photographs in 1952, that I put on this web site. In the first one, you can see Westwood Works in the background.

But closer to home, from 1960 Baker Perkins based their company plane there. Not the multimillion executive jet that they would have today, but a very modest Piper Aztec that I used to see landing at Westwood, as well as a Dove and another Aztec both belonging to Mitchell Engineering. I even saw the B-P Aztec just before it was delivered to the company, while it was still at Kidlington, at the Piper dealers’.

Also related to flying, I note on the web site the section about gliding. There is a photograph of Slingsby Sedburgh T21B registered BGA765. I actually flew that glider in 1958 at the Perkins (not Baker Perkins) Gliding Club at Polebrook. I think the pictures on your web site must have been in or after 1960. I recall seeing Tiger Moth G-AHUE towing gliders at Westwood in 1960. There was an arrangement between the Perkins and Baker Perkins clubs that equipment would be shared, but the new Skylark 2 glider was B-P’s own. For more information, please visit the PSGC website.

I hope someone will recognise the events that I describe and will want to correspond about them. I also salute the enormous work achieved by Dick, Margaret and James Preston, the web site creators and managers. Thanks to them for such great memories.

Laurence Garey, 1/1/2008

A Preparation for Life

I arrived at Baker Perkins in 1959 from Lincoln Road School, did a pre-apprenticeship period and then an electrical apprenticeship working under Les Foreman on maintenance work and Mick Mitchell on production. However, I was never actually employed as an electrician. By the end of my apprenticeship I had moved to the electrical drawing office, briefly working under John Leach and then Lionel Brewster, when he came back to BP (from Square D I think), to work on printing electrics. By the end of 1966 I had departed to pursue my own broader education, spending much of the intervening time working in schools, colleges and universities. When I came to leave Baker Perkins, it was not on the basis of - "I can't stand being here any longer". On the contrary, I had loved every minute of it, learnt so very much both formally and socially and had slowly started to grow-up. I was ever the slow learner. I had worked with characters the like of which I would rarely see again. It was simply that I was now looking for something else.

Although my stay at Baker Perkins was but a relatively short one it was, predictably, a very strong and positive influence on my development. Indeed, Baker Perkins was virtually in my blood from day one! My father, Alec Bartlett, worked for the company from 1938 until the early 80's, initially as a vertical borer and then as a m/c shop inspector. My mother, Eileen Beryl Jeffery, had been at the company from 1931 to about 1943, initially in some sort of works office and later I think in the Laundry Department. I know that at one time she worked under a Mr. Harry who was presumably connected with the takeover of Aublet-Harry. Up to the age of 6, I lived in Taverners Road. Most of my parents' friends were or had been Baker Perkins people. People like Jack Wildman and John Warwick (not much more than a boy then!) were visitors to our house in connection with table tennis. The sports club in Alma Road, Christmas events for us children, the annual Musical production, sports days, watching cricket at Alma Road, table-tennis tournaments, open days at Westwood and so on and so on were all part of my life before I even arrived in the place myself!

When I departed and became something of a permanent student for some years, still the Baker Perkins experience served me well. Even though I was then studying Philosophy, I had no trouble getting a temporary electrical drawing office job for the 14 or so weeks of the summer vacation. In fact, two of the places I worked for on that basis tried quite hard to get me to stay with them.

By then, I had learnt that Baker Perkins was very special. That the outside world was, so to speak, a very different place to Baker Perkins whatever sort of field one was in and that it was changing very, very quickly.

Glyn Bartlett - January 2008

Tales from the Steel Stores/Material Centre

A certain young labourer was asked to degrease a rather large casting - a 7ft diameter end cap to be precise. To make the task easier, the casting was hung from a crane. Suitably attired, he commenced his task using quite a copious amount of thinners. On completion of the job he was heard to remark that he was glad that bit was over and he threw off his protective apron, stepped back, lit a cigarette and threw the match on the floor, not realising that the bottom of his overalls and boots were still damp with thinners. The ensuing fire dance, although brief, was very entertaining!

This tale was related to me by reliable witnesses. A remark by a certain Storeman's wife regarding his greying hair, prompted him to try Grecian 2000 but, apparently, his wife liked the effect even less. Not being the sharpest knife in the box, the Storeman then tries to remove it by using white spirit. He was later asked why he was keeping his hat on all day. On removal it was discovered that the action of the thinners had resulted in patches of pink and orange hair. The only advice his colleagues could offer was - "Let it grow out".

It appears that the same person once walked into the Stores Office and dialled 999. On being asked where the fire was he answered in all innocence - "Oh, there's no fire, I have a parcel for Ben Reynolds, he is the Fire Chief isn't he?"

Anthony Brightman - April 2008

Memories from "some of the best times of my life"

I remember a Tape-Driller, Dick Boyd, getting caught on the Friday before he got married. We covered him in marking-out blue, water and sawdust, put him in a dustbin and hoisted him in the air with the crane. He was up there for quite a while!

You will remember that some fish were introduced into the static water tank situated between the Plate Shop and the Apprentice School. When on nights in the L70 Bay, we used to try to catch them during our half hour break. Of course we put them back but what fun in the dark!

We had a microwave oven in the L70 Bay Office that was used mainly on the night shift under "Ginger" Olsen (foreman). One night I brought in a huge potato and put it in the microwave at full power for half an hour. Of course, I was talking too much at break time and forgot all about it. It was a very big and powerful oven and the next thing I knew, somebody said - "Get the Fire Brigade out." The Office was full of thick smoke. I rushed in and found a very black potato and parts of the microwave had melted. The smell of smoke lingered for weeks! When I clocked on for my next shift, every electrical item had on it a notice - "NOT TO BE USED BY MICK GOODMAN".

When I first went on nights aged 18 years 1 week, it was extremely hard to stay awake. In those days, we worked Friday shift from 10 p.m. Friday to 5.30 a.m. Saturday morning. One week Keith Allies, Peasnell Brothers, Ray Mabbutt and about ten others invited me to the Alma Road Clubhouse at 10.30 a.m. on Friday for a ‘couple of beers’. Needless to say, they made sure I had about eight small bottles of brown ale! (I didn’t really drink at all then!) So off I went home at about 2.45 p.m. to Eastgate, on my bike, for some sleep. I slept like a baby.

It was December time, and when I woke up it was dark, so I thought ‘okay, get up, have some dinner’, etc., looking at the clock, which said 5.45. I thought ‘all right, it’s tea time’. I went downstairs and nobody was about. No mum, no sister and no brothers! I went back upstairs and saw that everybody was asleep. It was 5.45 a.m. on Saturday morning and I had missed my shift, having had 15 hours’ sleep! When my mum woke later, I asked her why she didn’t get me up. She said, “Son, I tried everything but you were ‘dead to the world’.” On Monday morning, of course, everybody said “Where the hell were you, Mick?” Luckily, Mr Hampshaw, the foreman didn’t have a go at me!

This is only a short one. I was about 20, I think, when I was talking to Ray Mabbutt and a chap called George Morgan (two extremely big, nice people, I might add) down the horizontal boring bay. George was a marker out and Ray was working on a 5 ft chuck borer. George said to Ray, “You’re too fat!” upon which I quipped in and without thinking, said “You want to go home and look in the mirror, mate!” George went red, picked up his hammer and chased me down the bay. I kept out of his way for a couple of days. After that, we were good pals.

Mick Goodman - October 2008.

Up On The Roof....

After graduating in Summer 1990, I was seconded to the Experimental Department. Around this time, preparations were well underway for marking the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Rehearsals were based at RAF Wittering just down the road from Peterborough. In the days leading up to the September 15th Flypast over Buckingham Palace, the RAF types would have a daily afternoon practice which took them slap bang over Westwood Works.

Ever dedicated to their work, the Experimental Team of Charlie Webster, Geoff Callum, Graham Adcock, Neil Frame, Colin Burton and myself would head up to the roof above the Experimental Department and wait for the first spec to appear in the clear afternoon sky. Armed with video cameras, both personal and (ahem) company-owned, we'd record the progress of the formation flying directly overhead. And what a sight it was to behold too. To the left is a cutting from the Daily Telegraph at the time listing the aircraft involved. It is debatable whether such a formation could be mustered again!

James Preston

A well-known local solicitor, Roger Terrell, who was employed by Baker Perkins between 1983 and 1988, has written a book - "An Unusual Brief". In chapter two he details some of his experiences whilst working at Baker Perkins and in particular a business trip to Nigeria.



All content © the Website Authors unless stated otherwise.