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Meet the man who made B&P's marvellous machine

PUBLISHED: 15:39 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:00 02 July 2010

A delegation of potential customers taking a look at Jumbo at B&P’s Riverside Works – John Measures is on the extreme right.

A delegation of potential customers taking a look at Jumbo at B&P's Riverside Works – John Measures is on the extreme right.

Derek James

Meet the man who gave us Jumbo, the far-sighted and talented engineer, behind the big brute of a machine produced in Norwich that the world couldn't wait to get its hands on.

Derek James

Meet the man who gave us Jumbo, the far-sighted and talented engineer, behind the big brute of a machine produced in Norwich that the world couldn't wait to get its hands on.

Thank you for all your calls and letters following my story about the rise and fall of a firm which played a leading role in the development of Norwich - Boulton & Paul.

Last month Ray Pease and Lenny Aldridge told me about the machinery called Jumbo and how proud they were to have worked on it.

The man behind it was works manager of the structural steel department, the late Lionel E Measures. A boss all the men respected and enjoyed working for.

As soon as I mentioned his name messages came from around the country and across the world, one from Canada and the other from south Africa, all saying the same thing. His name was John not Lionel.

They were wrong.

He may have been known to one and all as John but his real name was Lionel Robert Emery Measures and I know that because his daughter Pamela O'Dell told me.

“Legally you were correct but everybody knew him as John. Even my mother didn't know his real name until shortly before their wedding when he dropped his driving licence and she picked it up for him,” she said.

John was the man who invented the automatic and computer controlled process for fabricating steel. It was a huge plant, around 100 yards long which cut and drilled girders to size.

Born in Streatham, London, in 1907 he was awarded a place at Cambridge to read medicine but his father lost his engineering works in the 1920s depression and was unable to fund his education so he went on to the a shop floor of another engineering works and studied at night school to become a structural engineer.

“During this time his idea for Jumbo began to germinate and became his all-consuming passion. Once fully-qualified he tried to engender interest in his scheme while working for several engineering companies,” explained Pamela.

“Eventually he joined Boulton & Paul in about 1948. Although he met some opposition, the more forward-thinking directors agreed to invest the large sum required to bring his brainchild to reality at last,” she added.

“It was a tremendous responsibility for my father and he spent many years struggling with the complexities of putting it into practice. During this time he was helped enormously by a dedicated nucleus of his workforce. Following its successful commissioning, my father travelled widely to promote the machine to potential customers…of which there were many,” said Pamela

Orders for Jumbo came from the Americans, the Japanese, the Canadians, the Australians and from all over Europe.

The massive equipment was assembled at Riverside, tested by the likes of electrical draughtsman Don Drake, dismantled and sent on its way.

Away from Jumbo John's other passion was sport, especially cricket, to the extent ringing his wife in the middle of a board meeting to find out the Test score, which she was expected to know!

Don't miss my page tomorrow for more B&P memories - this time of the drivers.

Did You Know?

On this day in Norwich of 1795 a rapid thaw caused major flooding. The Wensum overflowed and many people were washed out of their homes. The parishes of Heigham, St Mary, St Clement and St George were worst hit.

On this day in 1886 unemployed people demonstrated in Trafalgar Square and looting and rioting broke out along Oxford Street and Pall Mall.

On this day in 1924 the gas chamber was used as a method of execution for the first time in Carson City on Chinese gangster Gee Jon.

On this day in 1965 British health minister Kenneth Robinson announced cigarette ads would be banned on television.

On this day in 1990 American rock 'n' roll singer Del Shannon shot himself.

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