Thursday, 2 July 2020

Rembrandt House

Rembrandt House in Whippendell Road is a locally listed Edwardian building from the early 1900s, once the Watford Speedometer and Magneto Works. They supplied speedos for the Vickers Vimy’s first transatlantic flight in 1919 and also manufactured all Rolls Royce engine magnetos until 1932. Later the building housed printing works associated with the Sun Engraving Company and Rembrandt Photogravure.


North & Sons of Watford - timeline, taken from Graces Guide
of Watford, Herts. (1923)
1839 Formed as a watch-making company
1904 Commenced making automotive components
1905 Moved to Watford
1920 February. Issued catalogue of magnetos. [1]
1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with magneto equipment for commercial vehicles. [2]
1926 Employing 630 on a 115,460 sq. ft. factory
1927 Watford magnetos.
1933 North and Sons Ltd, then one of the leading manufacturers of magnetos and also a manufacturer of speedometers and other instruments for motor vehicles, was purchased by Lucas in 1933 for £22,347. Lucas subsequently recovered half the purchase price from SmithsJoseph Lucas Ltd took over the magneto side of the business and Smiths the instrument side.

Below is a Timeline of the Sun Engraving Company: taken from www.gracesguide.co.uk

Sun Engraving Company

1911 Edward Hunter and his partners established a new firm at Milford House, just off the Strand in London.
1918 Absorbed the Mezzogravure Co.
1919 Sun Engraving absorbed Andre Sleigh and Anglo and consolidated all production operations at Whippendell Road, Watford.
1932 Sun Engraving acquired the Storey Brothers interests in Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Co; Storeys moved the company from London to Watford, and renamed it Rembrandt Photogravure. 
The story of Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Co is an interesting one and this link tells you about them:  https://www.stampprinters.info/DS36.pdf  
1934 moved the Rembrandt operations to Watford, renamed as Rembrandt Photogravure.
Developed large rotary photogravure facility to produce magazines and catalogues. By about 1935, the firm was producing 70% of Britain’s mass-market magazines.
1937 Odhams Press was one of the largest customers; made an offer to Sun Printer’s owners to buy their company, which was declined. Odhams than set up its own photogravure printing operation in North Watford - Odhams (Watford) Ltd[1].
WWII Printed propaganda material as well as all manuals of aerial reconnaissance photographs used for the invasion of Europe. The firm was also involved in the production of munitions, and in activities connected with the production of the atomic bomb.
1945 Sold the printing operations to Hazell, Watson and Viney of Aylesbury. Formed Hazell Sun Group.
1968 The engraving company was sold to C. and E. Layton Ltd. and ceased operations at the Whippendell Road site.

 

  

Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2012

The link below will take you to the detailed recollections of Mr John Castle who worked at  Rembrandt Photogravure (1955-61) and Sun Printers (1961–66).  Illustrating the account are several photographs including one of staff members outside the Highwayman Public House in Tolpits Lane. 



In later years Rembrandt House passed into multi-occupancy use, housing at one time Castile Games and Toys Ltd by Rembrandt Games Ltd, which included jigsaw puzzles.
But by the 1980s the building and site of 3.4 acreas was vacated and left empty for almost two decades until Henley Homes developed the building into 43 apartments. The industrial buildings at the rear were demolished to make way for flats.
The project by Henley involved the conversion and restoration of the locally-listed Edwardian print works into 43 modern apartments, where the exterior had become dilapidated, the windows and roof needed replacing, the brickwork was dirty and the decorative details of the plasterwork had eroded away. The restoration of the decorative plasterwork frieze and pediment would require a specialist trade, but it was key to completing the restoration, so this went ahead. The missing parts were recreated using skilled moulding techniques and the rest was gently cleaned and stabilised, before all being repainted in a neutral stone shade. The surrounding brickwork was also cleaned by hand to ensure that the surviving decorative detail was not further eroded. For this conversion Henley Homes won the Regeneration/Restoration Award in the International Design and Architecture Awards 2017. 

    




Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2020

A last point of interest is the feature on the exterior wall towards the lower end of the building. Perhaps it once displayed a plaque for the Speedometer and Magneto Works? (The writer of this piece has not, so far, been able to find any photo depicting this).


Photograph copyright Lynda Bullock 2020


Though now defaced, I believe this is Henry James Wise, Architect 1873 - 1940


- oOo -


References:

Timeline taken from:   www.gracesguide.co.uk



Directory of British Architects


New to Watford - Blog December 2016

- oOo -


If anyone has any recollections of working in Rembrandt House, we would be happy to hear from you.


  

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

WEMCO

A Timeline of WEMCO - Whippendell Marine Company

Whippendell Marine can trace its history back over 100 years to the early days of electro-mechanical technology. Over the years the Company has been an innovator of products for the controls industry and its equipment and systems can be found in a broad range of industrial applications across the globe.

1900 - Thomas Kesnor & Co Ltd., founded in Fulham, London.

1911 - The Company moved to its purpose built site on Whippendell Road, Watford.

In 1916 The Company changed its name to the Watford Electric & Manufacturing Company Limited as a consequences of its concentration on Automatic Switchgear.

The 1930's saw the Company grow rapidly with the development of many patented devices for motor starters, such as the Eddy Drag Retarding Device. In 1936 it became a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

During WWII the Company's output was concentrated on manufacturing for the armed forces, including electrical assemblies for the de Havilland Mosquito, and control gear for the Royal Navy, the foundation of today's business.

Throughout the 1950s the Company was active in many areas of industry, and in particular was building large switchboards and motor control centres for the power generation and water treatment industries.

During the 1960's the Company developed a range of modern contactors and fuse switches, as well as its shockproof MCA contactor range for use in Naval Applications. These components are still in use today across a wide range of industries and in the most demanding Naval Applications.

In 1967 the Company was bought by Harvey Hubbell Inc. of the United States for it's range of standard control products such as the UCA contactors and the UFS fuse switches.

1975 saw a management buyout of the systems business and the creation of Whippendell Electrical Manufacturing Company (Watford) Ltd (WEMCO). The new Company continued to supply a broad range of industries but with a special emphasis on Naval and Mercantile Marine applications.

During the 1980's the focus of the business switched more to Naval and Marine applications and the Company won major contracts on the Trafalgar Class and Vanguard Class nuclear submarine programmes.

With business expanding, the Company acquired The Electrical Apparatus Company (UK) Ltd., which helped expand its portfolio into embarked aviation ground power systems.

2000 - Development of the latest ground power control system was completed and the Company was awarded a contract from the UK MoD to supply a capability upgrade to HMS Invincible. 2 years later a further system was awarded for HMS Illustrious.

2004 - The Acquisition of RAMAC Engineering Ltd., in 2004, confirmed the Company's position as the leading supplier of aviation ground power systems to the UK Royal Navy and one of the world leaders in the field. Further contracts were awarded for the supply of the aviation ground power system to the Type 45 AAWD and a capability upgrade to the Type 23 frigates.

2005 - The Electrical Apparatus Company is renamed Whippendell Marine and the naval and marine operations of all the businesses are brought under one company.

2010s - The Company expands its support business and is awarded a contract to support aviation ground power systems across the UK RN and RFA fleet. Work also continues for the Astute Class submarines and in 2013 Whippendell Marine is selected to design and supply the aviation system for the new MARS fleet tankers.

2015 - Whippendell Marine was awarded Supplier of the Year by BAE Systems Marine Submarine Solutions for its work on the Astute programme.

2019 - After 107 years in Watford, Whippendell Marine moved to new premises in Milton Keynes, providing a modern manufacturing facility within a greener environment and more secure building.






Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock


-oOo-


In January 2018 plans to redevelop "an icon of Watford Industrial Heritage" were released. 

Oakford Homes planned to turn the Whippendell Marine site on Whippendell Road into 81 homes comprising 51 one-bedroom and also 27 two-bedroom apartments. In a letter to residents of the area and ahead of their planning application, Oakwood Homes stated that:
"All the buildings on site are in a poor state of repair and there has been no interest from other companies to buy the site for continued employment use due to concerns about access for larger lorries and the changing nature of the area".  

As of 2020 the site is under development. 


References: 
https://www.whippendell-marine.co.uk/Company/History.html

Watford Observer - January 2018

Photographs by Lynda Bullock taken 2012


Monday, 18 May 2020

Tolpits Lane


'There is only one street named Tolpits Lane making it unique in Great Britain' so perhaps it is worth writing about.

From an ‘Anonymously Recorded History of Croxley Green’ – Croxley Green History Project:-

The name Tolpits had existed well before Wolsey’s time as ‘Tolpade’ in 1364, evolving to ‘Tolput’ in 1803 and ‘Twopits’ in 1822 (as noted on an 1822 Ordnance Survey Map and still referred to as Twopits in 1862). According to a Watford Rural District Guide, Tolpade seems to come from ‘toll path’ and was an alternative name for Cassio Mill mentioned in 1086.

About 1416, the Manor of the More (later Moor Park) was conveyed to William Flete (Fleet) who, a few years later in 1435, put up a claim to have a right of way for himself and his cattle from the More across the fields to the market place and church of Watford; in other words, along what would become Tolpits Lane. The Abbot of St Albans went to law and William Flete failed to gain his point. The More did not get its road to Watford till a century later when a greater Cardinal, even than Beaufort - Cardinal Wolsey who, after enlarging the house, sought to also enlarge the park by 170 acres. Seizing land to secure the building of Tolpits Lane, he expelled one of his tenants from a messuage (farmhouse or cottage) called Tolpotts and rebuilt it nearby.

Another story of the common rights is associated with this.  The (Little) Tolpits Cottage (built c1640) caught fire and the villagers turned out en masse to extinguish it.  As a mark of gratitude the tenant is said to have granted the use of the Moor to the villagers for all time as common grazing land for cattle and horses.  Unfortunately the date of this particular event is lost in antiquity and it cannot be said whether it was before or after Wolsey’s time (but Tolpits Cottage still exists).  The dictionary definition of “Moor” is “poor, peaty, untilled ground, often covered with heath”, so the “tenants of the manour” are in any case probably grimly standing their last ground!

According to Alan W Ball’s Street and Place Names In Watford, ‘Tolpits appears in 1365 as Tolpade, which had become Tollepathe by 1529 with a mention of Tolpott bridge in 1594. It seems to have been some form of toll path with the ‘pit’ a modern corruption, but all trace of a toll being exacted in this area has long since vanished. There was also a farm in the area and in the eighteenth century provided ‘Tolpulls’ as another variant in the form of the name.’
Tolpits Farm stood on the corner of Tolpits Lane (just up from Little Tolpits Cottage) opposite Olds Approach and is now part of Merchant Taylor’s school.

In Fitzherbert’s “Book of Surveying and Improvement”, published in 1539, he describes the system of communal agriculture then in use.  “To every townshyppe that standeth in tillage in the playne country, there be errable lands to plowe, and sowe, and leyse to tye or tedder theyr horses and mares upon, and common pasture to kepe and pasture their catell beestes, and shepe upon, and also they have meadowe grounds to get theyr hay upon.”  

Thus we find in Croxley ancient reference to “The Common Moor for the Tennants of Croxley Manour”, the Horse Moor, and Lott Mead. Stories persist of the maintenance of common rights in Croxley, and it is notable that in 1886 when Dickinson’s Mill was greatly expanded, land was purchased by the firm from Lord Ebury to be exchanged for Common Moor land adjoining the Mill.

It was noted, even in the early part of the 20th century, that the exercise of Common Rights persisted with dairymen’s cows pastured on the Common Moor by day, and driven home (as required by ancient law) by night. Cattle are still grazed on the Moor from June to October, but they do not have to be driven home again at the end of the day! The “Commoners” of today are the surviving representatives of those tenants with property entitled to Common rights, and as such they have some say in matters concerned with the Green. Although the land lies almost entirely within the parish of Watford, the inhabitants of Watford have no rights with respect to it.

Tolpits Lane becomes Moor Lane just after you cross the River Colne on the way from Watford to Rickmansworth.

References:

‘Anonymously Recorded History of Croxley Green’ – Croxley Green History Project

British History Online - Parishes, Rickmansworth 

Various Maps of the area





Sunday, 3 May 2020

Taynton Murder

The sad and tragic case of the Taynton Murder in West Watford

The following developed from an original post by Brenda Ambrosone on The Original Watford Memories and History Group page in April 2020. The post garnered a lot of interest and the following accounts are from various contributors, a large amount of information being from a Mr Rob Cassidy who submitted the following:

From a newspaper article posted by Mr Rob Cassidy from:
 https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3786214/3786220


MURDER AT WATFORD. A man and woman named Taynton, residing at South-terrace, Vicarage-road, Watford, went out about eight o'clock on Monday night, leaving in the house a son, Walter Joseph, aged 15, and a daughter, Jessie Maria, aged ten. When the mother returned at half- past ten she could not get admission to-the house, the doors being locked. She prevailed upon a neighbour named Williams to force an entrance by the back window, and he found the daughter lying on the floor of the living room in a pool of blood, the brains being scattered about her. A hammer was lying by her side, covered with blood and hair. The poor girl was still alive, but she expired immediately after the arrival of Dr. Stradling's assistant. The boy was returning home, apparently unconcerned, about half-past eleven, and was arrested in the road by the deputy chief constable of the county, who was waiting for him. On the boy's clothes were found stains of blood; blood was also found on the thumb of his right hand. The inquest was held on Tuesday evening at the Police-station, Watford, before Mr. R. W. Brabant, Deputy Coroner. Joseph Taynton, the father, said he left home at twenty minutes to nine. The deceased and her brother Walter Joseph were then in the kitchen, Walter reading and the deceased knitting. They appeared quite happy. When witness returned, about ten minutes to eleven, he was told what had occurred by the. police. He had left his tools in the kitchen. Caroline Taynton, the mother, said she left home at a quarter to eight, and returned just after ten. She knocked at the door, but got no answer. She heard a moaning inside. She called Mr. Williams, a neighbour, then went into the house by the scullery window, and opened the front door for her. The deceased was lying on her back in the kitchen, covered with blood. She had in her hands the knitting needles and piece of stocking she was knitting. Walter could not be found. Superintendent Hammerstone produced a shoemaker's hammer, which he found in the kitchen, covered with blood. He apprehended the prisoner at half-past eleven, and found stains of blood on his right hand and clothes. He cautioned him. The boy said nothing. Dr. Cox said the deceased died a few minutes after his arrival. There were three puncture wounds above and a little in the front of the right ear, and a large depressed fracture of the skull on the whole of the right side of the head, about five inches long and four inches wide. The wounds were such as would be caused by both the flat and the sharp ends of the hammer. They could not have been caused by a fall, or self-inflicted. The jury returned a verdict that there was not sufficient evidence to show by whom the injuries were inflicted.


Mr Cassidy then provided a link to the Journal of Mental Science, Vol 35, p385 - 389

(copy and paste the link into your search bar if you wish to see actual pages, but it is reproduced below in full)

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K9RLAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA385&lpg=PA385&dq=walter%20taynton&source=bl&ots=HiYebabVCo&sig=ACfU3U3c2RLlGAgDS__I2mJPKHo8zQ6IBg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwisgKzfztnoAhVOY8AKHfZmAxMQ6AEwEHoECAcQAQ&fbclid=IwAR1ti6-MRihQpc32IclA-W0tBf2plYlT7wq4isikiIERfSVWsZXkJUbAo5g#v=onepage&q=walter%20taynton&f=false


'Case of Walter Taynton, Charged with killing his Sister, by Geo. H. Savage, M.D.'


"Case of Walter Taynton, Charged with Killing his Sister. By Geo. H. Savage, M.D. From time to time it is worth while recording trials in which persons have been tried for crimes which might have been com mitted while the criminal was of unsound mind, and it seems to me that the case of "Walter Taynton is one of such cases, for though there was some conflict in medical evidence, it was of small moment when compared with the ruling of the judge and the verdict of the jury. In this case a boy of 15 was charged with killing his little sister, aged 10, without sufficient, if any, cause, and the real question was whether he was to be considered insane and detained at her Majesty's pleasure or if he should be treated as having committed murder or man slaughter and punished accordingly. If he were insane, it seems to me to illogical to send him to prison simply for the reason that in the one case the incarceration would be for a limited time, and in the other it would be indefinite and, as the judge suggested, it would be for life. I had always understood that the consequences were not to be treated of by expert witnesses, that, in fact, they had to give an opinion on the facts irrespective of the result of the evidence. If this be not the aspect which we should assume in these cases, one would be inclined to say that as soon as one is called in, if opposed on principle to capital punishment, one ought to stretch every point to avoid the consequences. I have not done this hitherto, and I do not think the case under consideration will alter my action in such cases. I shall now give some details of the case, adding the notes as supplied to me concerning the crime itself. To begin with, the boy is a very small, ugly-looking lad, with a low forehead, narrow palate, and heavy, sullen aspect. His father is a shoe maker, a steady, sober man, whose paternal uncle died in Wandsworth Asylum, and whose maternal aunt committed suicide. The mother, a delicate-looking woman, is said to be healthy in mind and body. She has heart-disease and curiously coloured pink eyes, without being a true albino. Her father is said to have died of "paralysis and damaged brain," but it must be remembered that he was 77 at the time of his death The boy had convulsions when only 18 months old. He was not noticed as in any way very peculiar, though very back ward in walking and also in learning to speak; he could never dress himself, and up to 12 years old his mother actually had to be present when he was dressing. When old enough to go to school he was found to be very dull, especially in anything to do with figures, so that he could not be made to do the simplest sums of addition. This defect was never overcome, so that as time went on he failed at all the standards for arithmetic, and the school inspector made a special report on him, excusing him from his examinations at school as "obviously dull." He was solitary, not given to playing with his fellows; he was sullen, at times easily roused so as to strike his companions. He seemed all this time to be greatly given to reading books, but both his parents and the schoolmaster said he seemed to carry away nothing from his reading. The books selected were quite natural ones for a boy—books of travel and adventure, and they were not markedly sensational, or what are generally known as bad books. He had no special aptitude, and when he left school his father wished him to take up his trade, but found him hopelessly dull, so that he could not be taught even the most elementary parts of his trade. His father did not think this was due to any special distaste to the work.* He would get away and read his books, but never entered into home-life and pleasures like the rest. He was not a bad or untruthful boy; he went to chapel and to Sunday school; he was not emotionally religious. It should be remembered that he was ugly, and that, with a big, fat nose and slight strabismus, it is not surprising that he accused the boys of making fun of him, and he is said also to have complained, rightly or wrongly, of his little sister doing the same. This was not substantiated; but I am quite willing to admit that this may have been the case for a time, and that later he passed into a state of morbid self-consciousness, in which he imagined others made these remarks.

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