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British Industrial History

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Vickers (Crayford)

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November 1927.
December 1927.

Part of the Vickers company at Crayford, Kent. Telephone: Bexley Heath 300. Cables: "Vickers, Crayford"


1884 Hiram Maxim founded the Maxim Gun Co, located at Crayford, with financial assistance from Vickers, the Sheffield steel firm.

1888 Under pressure from Rothschild and Vickers, the Erith firm of Nordenfeldt and the Maxim Gun Co of Crayford were combined to form the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co. Maxim's self-loading and firing machine gun, and the larger calibre pom-pom, were made at the Crayford works.

1896 Vickers, having decided on a greater commitment to arms, bought the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Co.

1897 Vickers bought the Naval Construction and Armaments Co Ltd at Barrow, and changed the company name to Vickers, Sons and Maxim

Until 1903 Vickers in Crayford prospered with the manufacture of the Maxim gun for the South African (Boer) War; the end of this war brought a decline in trade.

c1902 Made cars for Siddeley Autocar Co.

1905 Siddeley merged with Wolseley

By 1907 the Crayford Works were still making early Wolseley cars under the name Siddeley Autocar Co.

1910 The making of cars ceased, when their manufacture was moved to Birmingham.

The years between 1910 and 1912 were bad ones for Crayford but, with the re-opening of the works in 1912, and the increase in demand for weapons brought about by the First World War, Crayford was transformed in a way that made Vickers the most important firm ever to operate in the area.

WWI. The workload caused a huge jump in the population, making Crayford an important industrial town. The Barnes Cray Estate was built by an organization connected with Vickers', in order to house a good proportion of the 12,000 people employed by the firm at that time.

The main function of the Vickers Crayford Works was the manufacture of the Vickers machine gun, a development of Maxim's invention, and of aircraft like the FB5 Gun-bus. Towards the end of the war, larger aircraft, such as the Vickers Vimy, were ordered from the Crayford Works, but it appears that only 12 were completed there. (One of them may have been the machine that was piloted across the Atlantic by Alcock and Brown in June 1919).

Post-WWI. Peace brought a cut-back in Vickers' activities in Crayford, and the firm had to adjust to peacetime conditions. The work force shrank to 3,500 and new products were introduced. Erith took up the manufacture of matchmaking machinery, machine tools, box-making machinery and gas meters; Crayford began making motorcar parts, sewing machines (see Vickers (Sewing Machine) and, from 1921, sporting guns; and Dartford made furniture, wooden toys, washing machines and other small items.

1919 Aircraft production was moved from Crayford to Weybridge.

Between 1921 and 1926 Erith, Crayford and Dartford made losses, and for a period Crayford and Dartford were virtually closed.

1927 On October 27th, the heavy and armaments parts of Armstrong Whitworth and Vickers were amalgamated to form Vickers-Armstrongs; considerable rationalisation followed.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Sporting Guns. Single and double barrel Express Sporting Rifles. 22 Target and Sporting Rifles. Barrels and Tubes for rifles and Sporting Guns. (Stand No. AB.10) [1]

1931 Erith works were closed.

1934 The government's decision to re-arm identified Crayford's contribution as fire-control equipment, the manufacture of which had been transferred from Erith when those works were closed, a computer for anti-aircraft fire and a binocular sextant rangefinder. The rejection of the Vickers-Berthier machine gun by the government meant that the machine gun shops were half empty but the capacity was absorbed by the manufacture of gas-operated guns in the early years of the war.

Post-WWII. After the war, the naval equipment made at Crayford was no longer needed and the works took up the construction of petrol pumps for Standard Oil and accounting machines for the Vickers subsidiary Powers-Samas.

1949 Started making bottling machinery

1950 Before manufacture of arms began for the Korean War, Vickers at Crayford made a wide variety of items: box-making machinery, machines for paint manufacture, bottle-making plant and valve-grinding machines.

1955 Vickers bought the remaining shares in Powers-Samas.

1970 The Crayford Works escaped closure when the ABC Motors business and bottle-washing machinery manufacture were moved there.

1971 The workforce at Crayford were told that the Ministry of Defence work would be phased out with the obvious threat of redundancies.

1972 Efforts were made to prevent those redundancies and in May, Vickers agreed to investigate the construction of a new factory which was opened by Lord Robens in 1975.

1973 Vickers acquired Dawson and Barfos Manufacturing, of Gomersal and Thetford, making Vickers the largest manufacturer of bottling equipment in the UK[2]

The factory enlarged its bottle machinery business which, by 1979, was the largest in the United Kingdom.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Page 172
  2. The Times, Nov 29, 1973
  • [1] Bexley Council - Local Studies