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Kay Collins, 2008
Fred Hawkes
Fred Hawkes (NV Engineers) Ltd

company vehicles the main building
All the company vehicles outside the Portland Road Factory.
Courtesy of Clive Wood
The factory in 2008 - now Davies Odell Ltd

In 1909 Fred Hawkes joined Ernest Pack, an engineer from Higham Ferrers. Trading as Central Machinery Co. they were agents for Hornsby engines and provided a maintenance service for their customers.

In 1914 Fred resigned from the company and established the Fred Hawkes company supplying shoe machinery.

Fred Hawkes
Fred Hawkes
The following year, with Walter Tarry, Samuel Horace Wright and Sidney Fox, he founded the Tecnic Shoe Co. and was their first chairman. Mr Wright resigned in 1916 and Mr Fox was killed in action in 1917.  Fred resigned from Tecnic in 1919, leaving Walter Tarry in sole charge.

The business, now called Fred Hawkes (NV Engineers) Ltd., had patented the boot tips that Fred had invented and also dealt in grindery, but now started making machinery for the shoe trade.

Fine new premises (note the painted entrance porch and inside doors) were built in Portland Road, next to their old works, and alongside the new machines, they traded in refurbished machines branded as “Nu Value”.

A new method was devised to make the framework and add the principal engineered parts as “units” that could be bolted on to the frame. This enabled the whole section to be removed and replaced and so an exchange part could be supplied. The returned part was again refurbished and ready for re-supply. This meant nothing was wasted, only the broken element was replaced in the main unit, and the machines were more easily repaired. Wherever possible a unit was used for several different types of machine, so keeping the variety to a minimum.

This standardisation gradually enabled the customer to keep spare parts in hand to keep their own productions running almost without loss of production time. Some of the refurbished machines were adapted to use the new units, thus minimising the range of spares.

Large export contracts went to America & South Africa together with other smaller ones to India, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada and the West Indies.

Rushden Argus, 3rd August 1928, transcribed by Kay Collins
Success - Mr. Sidney Hawkes, of Church-street, has successfully passed the intermediate examination of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries (London).

In 1928 Fred took his nephew Sidney on as manager of the works. A new name, Fred Hawkes (NV Engineers) Ltd was registered in April 1936, and the company continued to prosper during the Second World War and made tips and heels for army boots. Pressure of work saw them use sub-contractors including William Lockie, tinsmith, of 6 Fitzwilliam Street.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 1st August, 1941, transcribed by Gill Hollis

A.T.C. Adjutant
Mr. Sidney Hawkes Commissioned in Rushden Squadron

Mr. Sidney Hawkes, director of Messrs. Fred Hawkes (N.V. Engineers), Ltd., has received notification that he has been granted a commission in the R.A.F.V.R., in the rank of Acting Flying Officer as Adjutant of the Rushden Squadron of the A.T.C.

F/O Hawkes has been acting both as Adjutant of the Squadron and as joint secretary of the Town Committee, but under the rules and regulations of the organisation his duties as secretary will now be transferred to a non-commissioned member of the committee, and he will be able to devote the whole of his energies as Adjutant to the support of the Squadron Commanding Officer, Flt./Lt. A. H. Whitton, and to the other commissioned officers, Flying Officers O. L. Ash and H. Coggins and Pilot Officer S. Lawrence.

These adverts from 1954, show the machines that were being constructed under the new method of bolt on units that were easily changed, for ease of maintenance and to keep production interuptions to a minimum.
In 1960 (see below) a new heel insert had been invented - it was simple to fit.
NV heel
Fred Hawkes died suddenly on 14th December 1943 at Rushden Railway Station aged 65. His son Wilfred (a school master) joined the company and set up another company, Fred Hawkes (Refrigeration) Ltd in 1946. Wilfred took his brother-in-law, G. P. Robinson, who had trained with Prestcold Birmingham, as a partner and managing director. At first they traded from a property in Coffee Tavern Lane but expansion forced a move, and in 1959 this new company moved to premises in Park Road, formerly the Echo & Argus office and works (previously the Northants Printing & Publishing Co. and East Midland Printing Co.), as they had recently moved into the Coxton Shoe Co. factory in Rectory Road. The new building was now called “Polar Works”, and their first agency was granted by Kelvinator, followed later by more well-known brands.

click here to read Fred Hawkes' obituary

old BWTA building
At the corner of Park Road - the old BWTA building was also used
by WATHES Fred Hawkes (Refridgeration) Ltd.

5 Park Road
No 5 Park Road from an aerial view showing the factory first used by
Bull & Clayton, later the NPP Co, and in 1959 Polar Works of Fred Hawkes.

In 1965 Fred Hawkes (NV Engineering) Ltd and Fred Hawkes Refrigeration amalgamated with Cox & Wright of Wellingborough Road. Just two years later the new company was taken over by Evode, and Sidney Hawkes retired.

Memories of Fred Hawkes (N.V.Engineers) Ltd

Miss Joan Butlin of Irchester Road, Rushden. 1931-1979.

I started work aged 14 in October 1931 for Fred Hawkes (N.V Engineers.) Ltd, Telephone numbers, Rushden 345 and 346, and remained for 48 years. Their premises were in Portland Road, next door to H. E. Wilmott and Co Ltd - Shoe manufacturers, which later became the school canteen.

My wages were 6 shillings per week and after 6 months I was given 1s and 6d extra for the wear and tear of my bicycle. I was in the office by 7.30a.m, having collected the mail from the GPO sorting office. Thence on to Fred Hawkes home, 'Eastonwood' in Newton Road. I got a puncture one morning and was late, having had to walk and was told off by his wife.

The business was Machinery Specialists to the Boot and Shoe trade, stocks were, 3,000 machines and 1,000 tons of grinderies, sent to customers all over the world.

Telegrams and Cablegrams were addressed to NU VALUE. RUSHDEN.

The telephone hung on an iron pedestal, my job was to answer it. We had a bad thunderstorm one afternoon, it rang and when I picked it up, it flashed. I threw it across the desk in fright. So doing, no phone until the engineer came to repair it.

The premises became too small and a new factory was built next to the connecting walk way between Portland Road and Queen Street.

The malleable iron Heel and Toe Tips used on Army boots, were made at John Richards foundry in Tipton, Staffs, packed and sold in gross pairs. Hob nails, protector studs, heel pins, tacks and wires were made by Hall and Rue Ltd of West Bromwich and sold in 28lb bags.

The above was delivered to the Portland Road entrance. Heavy machinery was handled at the Queen Street entrance, moved from the large showroom with pulley blocks running along iron girders in the roof. The floor was of concrete and there were four wheel trucks handled by storemen for loading and unloading tips and grindery.

Machinery going abroad was collected by L.M.S. railway, by horse and dray in those times. The draymen called every day, one of whom would ring the door bell and shout "Hell of a Mess". Mr. Fred Hawkes would ring the Rushden rail office and stress the consignment was very urgent and had to be on a certain ship. I often had to call at the station with documents and was greeted with "here comes 'Miss Urgent' ".

The draymen regularly came early (on purpose I think) and the crate would not be quite ready, so Mr. Fred would ask him to come back for which he was given a tip.

Another man who got a tip was the road sweeper if 'he would kindly keep leaves and debris away from the front door'.

The vestibule entrance was very ornate with lovely stained glass panels depicting emblems of the Countries we dealt with. One gentleman boot manufacturer whom I answered the door to, had his hands clasped as if in prayer and said “Oh it is like coming into a cathedral.”

The main large office flooring was mottled blue rubber tiles bought from a ship, the lady cleaner used to wash the floor on her hands and knees. The Boardroom was carpeted and contained very nice furniture. The tops of our desks were covered in plate glass.

Governing Director.  Fred Hawkes.
Director.   W. V. Hawkes (Fred Hawkes son.) He was a school master and lived in Surbiton, Surrey, he did not come into the business until after his father died.
Director. Sidney Hawkes. (Fred Hawkes nephew.)

Accounts in the early days were hand written into large Purchase and Sales ledgers.

When the business grew we moved into newly built larger premises opposite Alfred Sargent and Sons, still in Portland Road. Mr. Cyril Slater and Mr. Jack Franklin became Directors and had their own offices.

The first Burroughs Accounting Machine in Rushden was purchased, for which I was responsible having gone to Leicester for a weeks training.

Mr. Bert Mepham was foreman in the rebuilding and repair shop. Mr. Jack Lake was over the machine shop. Mr. Jack Franklin was head of the drawing office. Mr. John Wallis and Mr. George Coleman were the carpenters crating up machines to go overseas.

Every one of us had a monetary gift for Christmas.

We had a canteen employing 2 ladies and were given 10 minute breaks morning and afternoon for a cup of tea.

Working in the Office at Fred Hawkes (Refrigeration) Ltd.

I started work at Fred Hawkes when I left school in 1962. I started in the usual way as office junior for the princely wage of £3 15s 6d per week. We started work at 8.30a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. with an hour for lunch.

My duties included the all important job of making the tea, doing the filing, some shorthand and typing, and working the switchboard. Having never even used a telephone before, the switchboard terrified me, and for the first couple of weeks I hated it, but it soon became one of my favourite jobs. Filing being the most tedious.

At that time Mr. Robinson was the Managing Director, Mr. Clark was the Sales Director and Mr. Poole was the Service Manager. They sold and serviced domestic refrigerators as well as commercial, the main make, I think, was Kelvinator. They did a lot of work for the Breweries, insulating the cellars etc., and for the supermarkets.

The engineers and salesmen were based in their own areas, and only came to Rushden when it was necessary: the engineers if something had to be repaired in the workshop, and the salesmen for meetings. The sales meetings with Mr. Clark always involved a lot of shouting (and swearing) and were best avoided if at all possible.

Jim Thompson was in charge of the stores, and Don Gregg was workshop foreman. When I started there were five of us working in the main office - Eric Tompkins (who at one time had played football for Northampton), Louis Coleman, Molly Clark, Maureen (Warner?) and me. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Clark had their own offices off the main office. Mr. Poole's office was in the workshop. When Maureen left I was promoted from office junior and received an extra £1 a week. I was then working mostly for Mr. Poole, typing orders and invoices. Ann Sharp then started as office junior. We also had an Office Manager, Mr. Porter, and when he left Eric Roe took over the job.

Eventually, the flat which adjoined the building was converted into offices. Mr. Robinson, Mr. Clark and Mr. Poole had the new offices, the Office Manager had what had previously been Mr. Clark's office, and the switchboard and filing cabinets were moved into what had been Mr. Robinson's office. Mary Boyfield started as Mr. Clark's Assistant, and we also had another man, Mr. Ward, working in the main office.

When Molly left I took over her job and was then doing shorthand and typing for Mr. Robinson and Mr. Clark, which involved specifications for all the brewery work and other installations. By the time I left, at the beginning of November 1968, I was earning about £11 a week.

Not long before I left, Fred Hawkes was taken over by Cox and Wright but still carried on trading under the same name. Gill Hollis, 2008

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