Page 3.   SD Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Winter 2023.

Harry Shelvoke



The Editor

James Drewry

S & D Ltd.

It appears to be impossible at this time to determine the exact roles that Harry Shelvoke and James Drewry took in conceiving, designing and making a prototype light lorry whilst they both worked at Lacre Lorries in Letchworth Garden City. Clearly the believed that they could work together to form a successful engineering company, and Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd was launched in 1922 to manufacture the SD Freighter.

A very basic early SD Freighter.

James Drewry had a lively and inventive mind and in 2022 Malcolm Easton published an excellent account of his grandfather’s life and achievements with the title: From bicycles to Dustcarts. Little biographical evidence about Harry Shelvoke appears to be available although on a website Mark Grace comments that Harry used the coat of arms of the "THORNES of Shelvock & Melverley" although he had no entitlement to use it.

The Freighter was designed as a light two ton lorry and many prestigious customers were persuaded to purchase the vehicle controlled by two levers known as:- “tillers”. They had an automatic gearbox and were built with meticulous accuracy. It appears it was almost by chance that many local authorities realised the potential of the Freighter for refuse collection duties where it often replaced horse drawn carts. By 1929 S&D were celebrating having produced 1,000 Freighters. The World Wide Recession of the 1930’s made sales difficult to find but the company survived this difficult time. However all was not well in the Boardroom and James Drewry felt he had no option but to leave the company in 1935.

In the Second World War (1939 – 45) numerous military contracts were obtained, including parts for tanks, landing craft and aircraft undercarriages. In addition a complete 30 ft long miniature submersible was under construction in 1944.

There is evidence that once the war was over Harry Shelvoke believed that there was still a market for the SD Freighter, although C.K. Edwards was charged with a designing s replacement. This arrived in 1946 as the ‘W’ type and was basically of standard commercial vehicle design. In 1948 a Fore & Aft tipping body became available where by tipping the body forwards a degree of compaction was obtained. This was welcomed whole heartedly by waste operators and S&D entered a very successful period in its history.

An early ‘W’ type Fore & Aft tipper tips forwards.

1952 saw a complete new venture for the company when it was commissioned by the London Brick Company to design and build heavy duty fork lift trucks. These were termed Freightlifters, built in three sizes, and made a welcome addition to SD’s output.

A Model 82 Freightlifter.

In 1958 C.K. Edwards retired as Chief Engineer to be replaced by John Huggins, who had joined SD to work on the Freightlifter. Sadly John’s prototype design of an enlarged version of the Fore & Aft tipper failed spectacularly when being demonstrated and John left the company.

S&D discovered that Tom Tillson, Chief Engineer at their customary main rival, Dennis Bros, was willing to move and join the company. Tom immediately set about designing a new range of vehicles designated the ’T’ type. The range included the Pakamatic with an aluminium alloy body and a hydraulically operated packing mechanism based on the French Rey design, which was launched in 1960.

An early TY Pakamatic.

The Freightlifter range had been superseded by the Defiant range of fork lift trucks in 1962, and in 1974 it was decided to close the fork lift division. In its place a Special Purpose Vehicle Division was created, which had varying fortunes, the SD Fire Appliances were well regarded and a large order from the London Fire Brigade was an endorsement of their quality. But many of the projects produced workmanlike useful vehicles, but if they were successful the much larger commercial vehicle manufacturers could produce similar vehicles at much lower cost.

Ex-London Fire Brigade WX Pump Escape.

In 1978 the ‘P’ series came into production with an all steel tilting cab made in house. Normally supplied with a Revopak body the ’P’ became a market leader in the home market achieving a 60% share of the market.

A PY Revopak Demonstrator.

In 1980,Managing Director, Stan Quin, was moved on to other duties within the Butterfield Harvey Group of Companies to be succeeded by Fred Hooson. It would appear that Fred Hooson was cut from a very different cloth to other SD managers, many of whom were former SD apprentices, and the company began to lose its way.

A loan was taken out with the Dempster Division of the American Krug International, and when the company could not repay the debt it was taken over by the American Company who closed it down in the autumn of 1991. A sad end for a once market leading enterprise.

I make no claims to be historian but hope this account gives an idea of the highs and lows for SD So far as I have been able to discover only limited evidence remains of the company’s finances, which would be a trues test of its fortunes over nearly 70 years of trading.

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