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. 
1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with magneto equipment for commercial vehicles. 
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 Smiths. Joseph 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.
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
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Timeline taken from: www.gracesguide.co.uk
Recollections of Mr John Castle: https://www.sunprintershistory.com/factColourRetoucher.html
Storey Brothers: https://www.stampprinters.info/DS36.pdf
Directory of British Architects
Henley Homes website and http://thedesignsoc.com/henley-homes-shortlisted-regenerationrestoration-award/
New to Watford - Blog December 2016
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If anyone has any recollections of working in Rembrandt House, we would be happy to hear from you.