Saturday, February 6, 2016

Vanished Makers: Beacon Brushes, Bletchworth, England

I recently found this old shoe brush in a thrift store in Brockville.

Beginning around 1880, three large brush makers were founded in Bletchley, eventually becoming the town's oldest large-scale industry.  The businesses were James Root & Son, M.A. Cook & Sons and, in 1926, Beacon Brushes.  The factory was beside Beacon Lake, a favourite swimming spot for kids and families. 

Milton Keynes Heritage Association

Based on the ad below, the company soldiered on into the 1970's, but probably couldn't adapt to changing market circumstances, in particular the replacement of organic materials by plastics.  The Root's factory was the last to close in the 1980's.

Talk About Bletchley

An adjoining town, Fenny Stratford, was home to Herbert Akroyd-Stuart, who was the first to develop "hot bulb" or "heavy oil" engine, in which ignition occurred through hot compressed air.  His prototype was built in 1886 and he patented his work in 1890, two years before Rudolf Diesel's patent, which were based on Akroyd-Stuart's.  As a result, there is a strong argument to be made that Diesel engines should properly be called Akroyd engines.  He never got this recognition.  Such are the vagaries of fate.

Bletchley's real claim to fame is an Enigma.  It is better remembered today for the code-breaking work that went on in the town during World War II, resulting in the "Ultra" intelligence.


Anonymous said...

I remember as a pupil of the Bletchley Road Senior school .We went of a tour of the Beacon Brush company .Fascinating to see how the brushes were made and I have never forgotten it and I am in my 70s now.

Mister G said...

Thanks for the note! I wonder how often classes go to factories these days.

Andrew stonell said...

My Nan used to work at Beacon Brushes, as a child I used to go to work with her on a stare day morning. Then shopping in Bletchley in the afternoon, then catch the bus to Little Brickhill where she lived. As I remember I used to love it and was well looked after by all the ppl there . Very happy memories