Crabtree and Co: 1900 Business Overview
Note: This is a sub-section of Crabtree and Co
1900 Business Overview.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AT YARMOUTH. NEW WOBKS STARTED AT SOUTHTOWN Yarmouth, as a growing and steadily prospering town, has, the past, suffered from the lack of great manufacturing industries within its borders, but this deficiency, so vital from a labour view point, is slowly being remedied. Such commercial concerns as already exist in Yarmouth of any magnitude are thriving and extending, and is with pleasure can report the inauguration of an important undertaking in Southtown, where Messrs. W. F. Crabtree & Co. have just reared a block of engineering works unequalled in size, equipment, and capacity for output within radius of many miles.
The new works stand on a most suitable site of 3.25 acres, extending from the river on one side, to Southtown Road on the other, which was formerly a shipyard. These fine premises with a frontage of 200 ft. and a length of 700 ft. at once arrest the eye their scope and magnitude. They are substantially built of constructional ironwork on concrete walls and foundations, the exterior being of corrugated iron, painted a dull red, pierced with long series of windows. Over 200 tons of these galvanised iron sheets and girder framework were used in erecting the building, which has a concrete floor raised between two and three feet above the highest tide known, this precaution being taken to secure immunity from the possibility of damage tidal inundation such as occurred in this district a few years since.
Entering the works from Southtown Road one first encounters the office of that indispensable personage in all large manufactories, the timekeeper. Every employee has a number and a key bearing his number. Every hand, entering or leaving, places this key in a Bundy clock recorder, and instantaneous record is made endless strip of paper indicating the number on the key and the precise second of time. Beyond this office is lofty, spacious department, where the thousand and one articles, genetically termed stores and fittings, are carefully kept, each kind in separate drawers and compartments, and also tools for the use of the men. The miscellaneous fitments required in piecing together the parts of intricate machinery are here all to be found in orderly arrangement on systematised plan.
The next division of this hive of industry is the power room, where the huge marine return tube boilers 8 ft. long and 8 ft. in diameter, are installed, and beside them are the main engines, all being the handiwork of the firm. The chief engine is of the compound type, of 120 indicated horsepower. Close at hand is the dynamo that generates the electric light with which the long range of buildings is magnificently illuminated. This dynamo makes 950 revolutions per minute, producing voltage of 200 amperes. It supplies twenty high power arc lights and one hundred incandescent lamps of sixteen and twenty candle power. In the engine-room arc also two powerful fans, ingenious machines, the product of American inventiveness, one, the smaller of the pair for supplying the air blast to the forges in the smith’s shop, and the other a larger one, for the foundry. The air currents generated by the latter arc carried distance of 100 feet in huge pipes to the foundry and melting furnaces, of which we shall have more to say presently. All this motive power and force is concentrated in one room as to under the immediate eye and control of the engineer in charge.
In the blacksmiths’ shop, which was next taken our tour of observation, a Massey steam hammer in course of installation. This potent instrument has a six cwt. head, and will descend with a crushing weight of tons, and yet, the aid of steam, is under the most perfect control. Beyond is the most important and the largest department the whole works, technically termed the machine shop. all sides elaborate machinery has been installed, embodying the latest product of mechanical genius, and overhead run from one end to the other two 12-ton travelling cranes. Here a small army of workmen are engaged shaping huge masses of steel into cylinders, shafts, piston rods, cranks, and all the parts that go to make up that wonderful instrument of human ingenuity the steam engine. The various machines cut and carve ponderous masses of steel, as they arrive in blocks from the foundry with the ease of child cutting dough. There are powerful drills, borers, and pi an ere working away ceaselessly and almost automatically, but as methodically though it was not mere piece of metal that was operating but rather a sentient being.
Several marine engines were in process of construction and completion in this large machinery hall at the time our representative passed through, and it will illustrate the extent to which the country calls upon Yarmouth for its requirements that while one engine was being prepared for Aberdeen, another was almost completed for despatch to Southampton, en-route to the Channel Islands. Another feature that noted is a big machine recently laid down, which was formerly employed boring out the cylindrical casings for torpedoes.
Beyond this vast erecting shop, hall perhaps is the more suitable term to describe it, is the interesting foundry section, where the casting is done. Deft artificers with the utmost skill, and infinite variety of tools, prepare earthen moulds from the wooden patterns cut to scale, and the molten steel is then poured into them. At the east end of the works and outside the buildings are two cupolas for melting purposes. They are each ft. high, and in appearance somewhat resemble boilers stood end. One is 3 ft. in diameter and the other ft. The furnaces are at the base, and the raw metal is deposited from platform staging erected half way up. When the cupolas are charged the coke fires, stimulated the air blast already mentioned, throw up a column of flame that roars out at the apex, and the metal, as it liquefies under the tierce heat, drops through the fire into the receiver, whence it is drawn off, as required, into huge fire-clay lined “ladles,” which have a capacity of three tons. These by no means of cranes, “ five ton travellers ” the technical term, are conveyed to the perfectly prepared moulds, and are thus emptied exactly where and as desired. These cupolas have an internal lining of tire bricks, of which fewer than were employed upon the pair, and can deliver under the persuasive influence of the air blast seven tons of molten iron per hour.
On the south side of the works is block of airy and well lighted offices, on the first floor of which the draughtsmen prepare their plans, while below pattern makers are busily engaged preparing wooden facsimiles of what is be ultimately in metal. What an essential feature of the business this is may be gauged from the fact that the wood patterns of machinery the firm has already turned out are alone worth no less than £3000. Large as the works are, they are already being added to and two new bays are now in course construction, one of which be 110 ft. by 50ft. and the other 40ft. 50ft.
The history of the firm is told in the modem development of marine engineering science. Originally it was of very modest dimensions and its first stride forward was made with the manufacture of small steam capstan engines for fishing boats, which, few years back began to use steam power to haul their gear. Another step onward wag taken when the river steamer Waterfly was built with twin screws, fitted with marine return tube boiler working at 130 lbs. pressure to the square inch. This undertaking haring proved very successful, Messrs. Crabtree, then installed in premises next Southtown Station, gradually launched out builders of propelling machinery, and obtained important contracts for marine engines from prominent Greenwich and Millwall shipbuilding firms. With the advent of the steam trawler upon the North Sea the scope of their business was vastly enlarged, and in equipping the steam trawl fleets of Hull and Grimsby Messrs. Crabtree laid the foundations of a reputation that secured for them in rapid succession orders from most of the porta between Southampton and Aberdeen. Within the past year or so this firm has turned out no fewer than 200 sets of engines, fact that has given Yarmouth fame afloat as great it has achieved ashore with the herring, which has conferred so much of its prosperity.
The constant growth of the business entailed various enlargements and additions to the Southtown works in the course of the last fifteen years, but it anticipated that a permanent home has at length been found for this flourishing industry, which has a permanent staff of hundred hands, shortly be considerably augmented. Under the energetic and enterprising direction of Mr. W. F. Crabtree, the business he has so steadily and creditably built certainly in its newest home enter upon a fresh era of prosperity and usefulness. With its excellent riverside facilities, one development that may certainly be anticipated, and which must give fresh impetus to the progress of Yarmouth’s trade and commerce, will the introduction of iron shipbuilding, industry that in the north has proved such an unfailing source of wealth and opened an avenue of such lucrative employment to labouring populations. Already Messrs. Crabtree & Co. have built a steam yacht, iron-hopper barges for the Conservancy, and other seacraft, while scarcely a damaged steamer has put into Yarmouth that they have not been called upon repair. With the facilities now at their command this new branch can hardly fail to achieve the same success that has rewarded Messrs. Crabtree’s work in other directions to the great benefit of Yarmouth, which has already reaped such direct advantage) from their energy and enterprise.
Sources of Information
- Norfolk News - Saturday 29 December 1900