Farlows letterhead

After being demobbed in February 1948, I found myself at the crossroads of life, something that happens to everybody. What am I going to do, how was I going to support my family? After serious thought, of whether to return to my original trade, printing, or carry on in some form of engineering. I thought the experience I had gained both on war work and in the RAF, I would continue in engineering. The result, go into partnership with my brother Laurence, and start up all over again as we did ten years ago, in the garage beside the house, with 2 lathes and other machinery. This time, things were very different. Everything was on ration; food, petrol, and steel, which would be our life blood in business. Work was also scarce, as the rebuilding programme had not started. Laurence contacted his old boss's son George Tufnell, who had started an engineering company with a chap called William Farlow, they had been working through the war, and were well established, meaning they had contacts and a larger steel ration. Mr Farlow wished to retire from the business and George was looking for a partner and people with skills. In 1947 we formed a limited company, retaining the name W. Farlow & Co Ltd purely on the strength of their bigger steel ration ( we were still going 35 years later) We occupied two railway arches at Leytonstone London E11 with a staff of eight. Working twelve hour shifts night and day, six days per week. It was quite normal to work a night shift and then deliver a truck load of goods into London.


We were making steel cutting blades for shearing machines, which had to be electro-engraved with the name SAMSON. The routine was to drive home the loaded truck, get a few hours sleep while my wife Irene would sit and engrave hundreds of blades. She also used to paint various machine parts. Come to think of it, I don't think we ever paid her! Within a year, we decided to find larger premises and as a result, increased the company from three directors, Laurence, George and myself, to include George's mother (company secretary) and my father, who was a qualified toolmaker. Dad was awarded the task of finding new premises. He came back a week later and said he had promise of premises at Sudbury, Suffolk. We, being Londoners said "where is Sudbury?" He explained, he had visited Sudbury Town Council, who put him on to a man called Arthur Fulford of Akins Fulford Ltd who had land behind their factory in Cornard Road, and would build us a factory of 4000 sq. feet. We raised the necessary and told Mr. Fulford to go ahead. The site was originally a lime pit owned by Allen & Boggis.

In the summer of 1949, I came to Sudbury and began the electrical installation in preparation of the arrival of our machinery from Leytonstone, over a period of three weeks. Each of the five families found houses within a radius of five miles of Sudbury. As the work slowly closed down in London, the machines were moved by our own transport and installed at Cornard Road, so the directors moved to their new homes Laurence rented a house in Twinstead, George bought a house at Edwardstone, Dad went to Acton, Mrs Sherratt (Georges mother) to Little Waldingfield, and I bought a house at Bures.



The only employee we brought with us, was Cyril (George's brother-in-law) who was our foreman. This meant going to the Labour Exchange (Job Centre) for labour. We were told that only men were available, most of them coming off the land. The only engineers in the town, were Bruntons Propellors, Atkins Fulford and ourselves. All the women were employed in the silk weaving factories. However, after twelve months we had trained a labour force of 45. Before leaving Leytonstone we had a sub-contractor Cliff Rayment ( Laurence's brother-in-law) an ex toolmaker of Fords Dagenham. When we moved to Sudbury, Cliff decided to come as well, so he bought a house at Little Cornard, and operated from his garage beside the house. Eventually, he took a Nissen hut on Sudbury's old airfield and expanded over the years to become C. Rayment Engineering Ltd on Chilton Industrial Estate, and continues today. Alas, poor Cliff passed away.


Assembly of shearing machines - Cycil bottom left


During our early days at Cornard Road, we found very little industry in East Anglia. In fact, it was said, that Sudbury had hardly altered in 100 years. No representatives were calling at a small market town, I remember when the cattle were sold in the market square. We found things very difficult to get delivered, mainly steel, remember, Chilton Industrial did not exist. We were delivering our finished products mainly to London, and found it useful to collect steel on our way home. When Chiltern Industrial started to develop, we found other companies wanting us to bring goods back and also to deliver for them. In those days we used a 'C' licence for our lorries, which would not allow us to carry other peoples goods. After many tribunals, we obtained a 'A' (go anywhere) and 'S' which was restricted to a certain mileage radius. So we formed a separate company called General Transport, and for a few years had four trucks delivering all aver East Anglia. Eventually, as industry grew, the London companies opened branches and depots in the area, and our venture came to an end. I do remember one occasion, when one of our drivers became sick, I had to take over. This entailed, getting up at 4.00am, driving to Barnham, Norfolk, picking up 8ton of carrots and driving to Eastbourne, Sussex. Then driving home, and going to work in the office.


Pipe bend samples

One of our first big contracts was, the manufacture of a range of hand operated shearing machines for sheet metal, bars, rods and angles, and a range of tube bending machines for copper and steel steam piping. A later addition was a range of triple-gear chain lift pulley blocks from ton to 5ton. This type of equipment was in great demand overseas, where power supplies were limited (African states etc.)


Cutter designed by local farmer
Hand chain pulley block
Hand tool polishers (South Africa)


Listed are some of our products: Filter equipment for ships engines and fuel supply, to Lloyds Inspectorate Pressure vessels to Lloyds Class 111 Storage tanks, skips and hoppers Valve equipment and pipe work Special purpose machines, as for CAV, Fords, Metal Box, Harcostar Conveyors and mechanical handling equipment Steel structural work, including stairs, balustrades and fire escapes Base-plates for pumps, filtration etc. Agricultural equipment including cattle feeding products Fabricated and machined parts for water screening, sewage and silage tankers Hammer and bore piling and earth moving equipment, including hard-faced welding All classes of sheet metal work including, acoustic and electronic cabinets Ductwork and machine guards.

We supplied castings and machined parts for a rotary cylinder petrol engine, for a Professor, for a patent. This before the Wankel Rotary Cylinder Engine was adopted for inclusion in Mazda and Rover cars.


Farlows make many self cleaning ships fuel filters
Plastic bottle print oven
Jig for Ford knock-down bodies
Filter gluing machines for CAV


CAV Ltd. had a small outfit in New Street, Sudbury, from the war days, and having seen our factory, made an approach to Atkins Fulford to develop the rear end of the pit. This was the start of the CAV/Lucas Empire in Sudbury. They eventually bought our factory for their expansion. We moved to the Bulmer Road Industrial Estate in January 1956 (was, until recently Sampson Furniture) CAV wanted to build a large factory (700 workers) at Chiltern and were instrumental in getting the Sudbury Council to arrange the London overspill, hence the expansion of Great Cornard from a small village, to a large suburb of Sudbury. Fancy, all this started from a lime pit! The pit is now residential and called Lucas Road. I believe that the Council were concerned about the imbalance of the large labour force under one management, hence the rapid expansion of the Chiltern Estate. It can be seen how Atkins Fulford and W. Farlow were historically intertwined in the industrial history of Sudbury.


Premises at Bulmer Road Sudbury


The total number of employees who passed through the company up to 1982 was 143, Our foreman came to us when he left school and stayed until almost retirement. One of our employees was interested in the early days of The Stour Valley Railway, at Chapel. We allowed him to use the firm's equipment, in his own time to repair and manufacture equipment for the refurbishment of the locos. Someone asked us to repair the chimney-stack.on his steam roller. We were asked to supply the coin chutes, boxes and reject mechanism for foreign coins on juke boxes. We supplied and fitted a hood for an inglenook fireplace for Group Captain Cheshire VC We machined the bases of the replacement entwined cast iron dolphin motif lamp standards used along the Thames Embankment. An aluminium replica was also machined for a fountain in Bessborough Gardens London presented to the Queen Mother on the occasion of her 80th birthday.


London Embankment lamp standards
Queen Mother fountain


When Ballingdon Hall was moved up the hill in Sudbury we repaired shackles and other items for the contractor Pynfords. We were employed by the owner Mrs Hodge to make 48 opening casement windows to match the existing antique windows.


Ballingdon Hall on the move


In delivering our products, it was not unusual with very wide loads to require police escort. On delivering a storage tank and base, 12ft x 12ft x 16ft, we required Suffolk police escort from Sudbury to the county boundary at Nayland, and Essex police from there to Colchester. A small humpback bridge at Nayland (demolished when the bypass was built) was tricky - only 3 inches to spare each side. On delivering a 20ton cement silo standing 20ft high x 9ft square to Kent, it meant passing through Dartford Tunnel. All traffic was halted, while we went through with a police escort.

During our stay at Bulmer Road, my son Roy and I started a sheet metal fabrication company on land at the rear of Farlows and named it Sudbury Sheet Metal. This venture expanded and was eventually taken under the complete control of Roy. It later became Phillips Engineering.


The experts


We built a 4000sq.foot extension at Farlows to cater for fabrication. The advantage was that we were able to install a 5ton traveling crane to cover the whole floor area, with also increased headroom to 16ft. To carry the extra weight, we had to have the steel roof uprights (stanchions) mounted on piles sunk into the ground. The proximity to the River Stour meant extra support was required. During the piling operation, which Roy and I found very interesting, we put our heads together. The possibilities of a piling company was envisaged. A company was formed, experienced men employed, and plant bought, which Farlow converted for use as piling machinery.The maintenance of the plant (the wear and tear was high) Farlow was able to offer assistance.

The company is known as Central Piling Ltd. and has grown from strength to strength, and is based in Halstead, Essex. I severed all connection with the company many years ago, Roy and his wife Linda having sole control.


Central Park Halstead


In the early sixties we took another director into W. Farlows. Although not an engineer, he had strong connections in the motor car and commercial vehicle trade. The outcome was that we branched-out into a garage, Suffolk & Essex Motors, with a car and commercial vehicle franchise, and from my point of view, a strong contact with the farming community of East Anglia. This side of the business was of great help to Farlows, because, as well as supplying new Ford trucks, we also fitted hydraulic tipping gear of which we held the agency (Anthony and Edbro gears). This side of our business developed, and we were receiving enquiries for special bodywork for lightweight aluminium bodywork, sugar beet, tarmac, cattle floats and horse boxes. The later involved opening a special coach building section with specialized joiners.


Tipper body
Tipper frame
Cattle float
Cement silo
Self loading cement silo
Straightening rolls
Mechanical handler

The big desk
Time recorder
Decision room


Due to various diverging interests, the company was split in 1964 with two directors leaving and taking the garage and commercial vehicle contracts as their share of the company. The three remaining directors, including myself, retained the basic engineering business. It continued in this form (except for the death of Mrs.Sherratt) until its closure in 1984.

The last week



1934 Started work at 14 years at W. Canning & Son, High Street, Peckham, London as a compositor.

1936 Left Cannings to start a 7 year indentured apprenticeship, as a compositor at Pirie, Appleton, Chadwell Heath, Essex.

1939 Released from apprenticeship after four and half years, due to war, and started e engineering business with Laurence (brother) named The Rawden Engineering Co. Hornchurch Road, Romford.

1940 Merged with Albert Mann Engineering, Romford, to form Upminster Engineering Ltd employed as works manager over 400 employees, right through the war.

1946 At end of war was called up for military service in RAF as airframes mechanic Spent time servicing Lancasters, Mosquitos, Rolls Royce engines, at Lasham, Gosport Thorney Island and Colerne, Wiltshire.

1947 Demobbed and within 1 month had renewed partnership with Laurence to start up Rawden Engineering again.

1948 Formed Limited Company with W. Farlow & Co. of Leytonstone and 12 months later, moved to Sudbury, Suffolk at Cornard Road. Makeup of Directors as follows:

George Tufnell - General Manager

Herbert Rawden Father

Ronald Rawden - Manager

Laurence Rawden Manager

Mrs. Sherratt - Company Secretary

1956 Firm moved to Bulmer Road Industrial Estate. The firm continued in business until it was wound up with 2 directors in 1982

1964 We purchased the business of Suffolk & Essex Motors, Sudbury, with connections in the motor trade. This part of the business was taken by 2 directors when leaving the company.

1968 Formed Sudbury Sheet Metal Company with Roy Retired October 1977

1978 Formed Central Piling & Foundations (East Anglia) Ltd. with Roy

1986 Started Engraving business, in Long Melford, which continued until 1999

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Ronald. H. Rawden 1920-2011