The business which took boys and made them into craftsmen
PUBLISHED: 16:07 04 July 2017
Former workers at the last industrial giant operating in Norwich, the world famous Laurence, Scott & Electromotors, could be gathering for the final time later this week.
In recent years the numbers attending the annual reunions has been falling and now organiser Bernard Rose thinks it may be time to call it a day.
“Times change, people move on and of course many of those who used to turn up every year have passed away. We will see what happens on Friday. This could be the last one.” he said.
There was a time when some men spent their entire working lives at LSE. Fifty years.
Over the decades, LSE has played a leading role in the development of Norwich and has employed tens of thousands of workers and while other engineering factories have gone to the wind, it has survived.
It was in 1883 when William Harding Scott arrived to shed light on the City of Norwich – well, Colman’s to start with.
A brilliant man, Scott achieved a degree in Electricity and Magnetism in London and he came to Norwich with his colleague E A Paris to install electric lighting at Colman’s Mill and Mustard Works.
But Scott thought the equipment he was given by his firm Hammonds, (later Ferranti) was second rate, so, with help from Jeremiah Colman, he and Paris established their own company in nearby King Street.
Paris and Scott were the high-tech masters of their day and at the beginning the workforce consisted of just four men – including a former fisherman who was a good winder – and handy with his fists if any trouble broke out. It was a tough old area in those days.
Scott was a brilliant engineer but, as it often the way, not much good at making a profit.
He needed someone with a hefty wallet to help him... and up popped Reginald Laurence. He joined and then business really started.
At last Scott had the money he needed to invest and the company started to expand and flourish. Designing, testing and installing machinery – lighting up Carrow Works and then other parts of the city.
Paris eventually left and the firm became known as Laurence & Scott but they were running out of room and land for a new works on the north bank of the Wensum was bought from Jeremiah Colman.
The deal was done in 1898 and Gothic Works was up and running, employing about 150 men making a range of large machinery.
The company was taking boys off the streets and turning them into skilled craftsmen – and over the years they made huge and complex machinery which was sought after across the world.
The First World War was busy time for the company. It is estimated men and women working in tough conditions made millions of pounds worth of shells using home-made tools in corrugated tin sheds.
During the 1920s, business boomed. The Thorpe Road Works, known as the Switchworks, were opened. A rival company, Electromotors of Manchester, was bought so the name Laurence Scott & Electromotors came about.
The number of people LSE employed rose to around 3,000 between the wars and the social side was thriving.
After the war there was more expansion as the company made electors motors for the oil and gas, petrochemical, nuclear and defence industries.
A factory in Scotland was established in 1959.
The workforce has been reduced over the years, but today ATB Laurence Scott is still making world-class machinery at its Hardy Road factory.
Over the years the annual reunions were run by John Jones – a great character who spent half a century at LSE.
When he died, Ivan “Spider” Whurr took over and then Bernard Rose stepped forward.
The reunion is at The Cottage, Thunder Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, on Friday July 7 from 7pm. Wives and partners are welcome. More details from Bernard Rose on Norwich (01603) 436990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org