Page 2.   Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Spring 2017.


The Hitchin to Cambridge railway line runs almost west to east through Letchworth Garden City. When the design for the town was laid out two industrial areas were planned to the north and south of the railway. The southern area was along Works Road whilst the northern area was along Icknield Way. The main exception to this scheme was the Spirella corset factory in Bridge Road which was built in three phases (1912, 1914-14 & 1919-20). Spirella paid a premium o obain his site. Shelvoke & Drewry was based in Icknield Way and the photo shows the premises from the south. At the right hand side of the photo Cromwell Road forms  the eastern boundary, and Glebe Road formed the northern boundary  to the site. The factory was constructed in stages from 1922 onwards and the photo depicts the works after the end of the Second World War.

It will be seen that the site was divided into three main blocks with entrances between these blocks.  The following description is how the works were when I joined the Company as an apprentice in 1953. To the front the eastern block  (on the right in the photo) houses over two storeys the offices, with the reception area below  a small tower  adorned with the SD roundel and topped with a flag pole. The rest of the frontage was enclosed by a brick wall some six feet in height.

Photo supplied by Malcolm Easton.

This early photo shows the office building soon after it was constructed. At his stage only a small area extended westwards. To the right of the entrance, a mock Tudor board room was provided to Harry Shelvoke’s design. Stairs led to the upper floor which could also be reached by stairs at  the rear from the Machine Shop which covered the majority of the remainder of the eastern block. From the top photo six pitched roofs can be seen. Four of these covered the Machine Shop with the rear two housing the chassis assembly line. With fork lift truck assembly at its western end.The Machine Shop was extensive because in the 1950's S&D produced their own petrol engines, gearboxes and axles with the majority of their components produced 'in house'. At the western end (left on the photo) the Tool Room, Tool Stores, Inspection department, Blacksmith’s Shop, Goods Inwards Dept. and Offices for the Works Manager and his assistant were based, and a ramp led down as an exit to the block. To the rear the Heat Treatment plant was located. In a separate building at the rear the Overhaul facility was accommodated in its own building.

The second block was termed ‘The West Works’. Fronting Icknield Way this housed the Time Office, where the clocking in clocks were housed and on Fridays the wages were given out, the cloakrooms, works canteen and staff canteen occupied the remainder of the front block. Further back was the main  stores, which then gave on to the welding area where ‘turn over’ fixtures accommodated the welding of bodies and their sub-frames. Then towards the rear the sheet metal Dept. was housed with the steel stores to the rear of the West Works. At the western end the engine test room was housed and at this end the bodies were fitted with their doors etc. and the bodies fitted to the chassis.

Across a covered yard was the third works block. At the Icknield Way frontage the bicycle sheds were housed in front of the works garage where the staff cars were serviced. Next came the paint and finish off Dept., with the Joiner’s Shop to the rear of this block.

At the rear of the building a small car park was accessed via Glebe road. That’s how I remember the works, sadly all now gone. Those apprentices who started at S&D at the age of 14. (Yes, in the 1950’s you could leave school when you reached the age of 14)  started as Office Boys and this gave them as greater understanding of the entire works than I ever achieved, but I hope this account paints a reasonably accurate picture of the premises occupied by S&D until expansion in the form of No. 2 Factory in Blackhorse Road took place around 1960. Next to S&D across Cromwell Road the British Tabulating Machine Company (Hollerith) had their works and the Hands Trailer Company was opposite the West Works block.

Further photos can be found in the Garden City Collection:-

The Folkestone Freighter pictured in front of the Icknield Way offices. Photo sent in by Roy Rowland. 

On the next page we describe the new office block that was built in 1969.

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