Garton and King

a history

Wheels, cogs and pulleys

Garton & King were justifiably proud of some of their more unusual and interesting products - luckily to the extent that they took certain examples to trade and agricultural shows and photographed them. Some were captured on film when the Machine Shop had finished preparing them for the customer.

Harold Williams

Although called to serve in H.M. Forces in 1945, Harold Williams joined Messrs Taylor & Bodley as an apprentice at the age of 14. After the War Taylor & Bodley moved to Tan Lane and on being demobbed he joined Garton & King as a Fitter and Turner.

Show programmeGear wheel display
Royal Show Catalogue and the display of gears at the G & K Stand.

He describes the works as consisting of the following: the Main Foundry Area where Iron, Aluminium, Brass & Phosphor Bronze were cast, the Pattern Shop (carpentry), a Core Shop (used in castings) and a Fettling Shop where, amongst other things, castings were cleaned,a Blacksmith's Shop for forgeing and welding and a Pipe Fitting and Plumbing Shop.  There were also the Offices (upstairs) and the Stores.

The Queen visits the show
A very young Queen Elizabeth at the Newton Abbot Royal Show -
Garton & Kings stand is to the far right and the large gear can just be seen.

In July 1952, the Royal Agricultural Society of England held, over the period 1st - 4th, the Royal Show at a site to the north west of Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton and to the south of the A38 at Stover Park. One section of the show was designated "Devon Reports Progress" which highlighted Devon made Engineering Products. Garton & King Exhibited a Display of Castings and an Historical Display of the Foundry Industry.

Machine shop
A view of the Machine Shop at the Tan Lane Foundry.

Other firms with engineering exhibits included Glanville & Sons of Bovey Tracey, agricultural engineers, G.M. Engineering of Otter Mill, Ottery St Mary, electrical control equipment, Hobart Manufacturing Co. Ltd (Frandor Engineering) of Barnstaple, food mxing machines and food preparing machinery and the Harper Aircraft Company of Exeter Airport who exhibited their Type CH3, Series 4 "Skyjeep" single engined high winged Monoplane. The picture at the beginning of this article, next to the copy of the catalogue, shows some of the Garton & King exhibits, the large gear wheel shown was moulded by Dick Lomas and was machined by Harold Williams. A further picture shows Harold at a lathe in the machine shop at the Tan Lane premises.

Harold Williams
Harold Williams (who machined the large Gear) at a lathe in the Machine Shop.

Gear Wheels, little and large.

The Company’s expertise in producing Gears of all kinds has often been overlooked by the general public throughout most of the 20th century. Joe Public’s general knowledge of the Company’s products centred around the products beneath their feet,  the ubiquitous Manhole Covers that flaunted the name or, on the Domestic Front, the celebrated AGA Cooker or Bendix Washing Machine. If you were a Builder or Surveyor you’d probably be aware of the Heating and even the electrical and plumbing side of the business. If, however, your business centred around the Papermaking, Tannery, Brickmaking, Cement or Quarrying Trades and Industries then you would in all probability associate the company with Gears of all types, kinds and sizes.


Here are the ‘innards’ of a leaflet published by the Company sometime prior to 1957 going by the telephone number which stated on the outside of the leaflet as being Exeter 3904.  Around about 1957 it changed to 54945 and survives to this day (with an added 2) as the number for 19 North Street Showroom of Garton King Appliances. As can be seen in the top left image on the leaflet the gears manufactured came in all sizes. The largest gears were for the Cement Industry, one customer being  Bamberton Cement in British Columbia, these can be seen on this site and are doubtless the ones that attract the most attention.

Pre 1957 Advert

In the August 6th 1948 Issue of “Mechanical World” Henry Holladay, B.S., M.I.H.V.E. at that time Managing Director of Garton & King Ltd wrote “We ourselves supply gear rings and gear wheels with straight spur teeth or helical teeth, and also bevels, all with machine moulded teeth, up to 11ft diameter for slow speed work.” The illustration shown bottom right of the leaflet appeared with the article in “Mechanical World.”

Royal Show 1952Royal Show 1952

In 1952 the Royal Show was held at Newton Abbot (see above.) Apart from the large gear wheel shown in the image next to the Catalogue, the Company’s stand had a display of some of the gears and wheels that they manufactured at that time as well as, if you look carefully, a couple of Manhole Covers and a large valve used in the Paper Making Industry (Hele, Silverton & Ivybridge Mills come to mind) The Golden Hammer was also having a Day at the Show and can be seen on display in the second image.

Big LatheBig Lathe

The big lathe, above, was used to machine the large wheels, gear wheels etc. The lathe could take wheels up to 13’ in diameter and was the only one available to machine the big gears and pulleys. (see the Cable Pulley section below). It was located inside the Machine Shop opposite the big sliding doors to the yard so wheels could be moved in and out using the overhead crane rail. In the right hand image at about 10 o’clock looking at the lathe wheel, on the very left hand edge of the image are two boxes mounted on the wall. These were the two blowers that powered the pneumatic tube system that conveyed cash/documents between the offices upstairs and the front office or machine shop (if it didn’t get stuck!).

Pneumatic tubePneumatic tube

Systems like this, many on a far grander scale, were installed in some of the bigger stores in Exeter. In example shown the whole system is at below atmospheric pressure, so a carrier can be sent on its way simply by pushing it into a tube. In the left illustration a carrier arrives.    Its momentum and weight push open the discharge door, the carrier drops out, and air pressure closes the door again. On the right, a carrier is sent by pulling open the inlet door and allowing the carrier to be sucked in. The inlet door is then closed by its counterweight. Note that the carrier is wider at its ends, to prevent the central part binding against the tube wall in curves – in theory at least!

PulleyLarge gear ring

The gear in the upper right hand picture was machined, so Mrs Brealey tells me, by her husband Michael back in the 1960s. The tool post is the table looking assembly fixed to the floor, much cheaper (I am told) to affix it to the floor than to make a big lathe bed out of iron. The lathe tool can be seen at 9 o’clock in the left hand image and the end result of machining can be seen in the first of the Pulley Images above with the swarf accumulating on the floor. The machine was originally belt driven, as most of the machinery in the Machine Shop was, and the drive passed through a former bus Daimler pre select gearbox and with a final chain drive. It was still there in 1970 and survived up until the closure of the foundry.. Henry Holladay was apparently quite proud of it! It was rather a lash-up but typically he would say "but it does the job!" After a time it became unreliable and the pre select gearbox was removed and an old lathe was cannibalized and adapted to drive it as the old lathe had its own electric motor. It was adapted by chopping off the bed leaving just the headstock and pedestal; this was mounted alongside the big lathe, and the chuck was replaced with an appropriate cog for the final chain drive, the lathe gearbox having a better selection of speeds. (Thanks to PHH and CJH for this information!) The image above, left image shows a pulley mounted on the lathe and the image to the right is another view of the Company’s Stand at the 1952 Royal Show held at the Stover Showground.

Mortice Wheel

The last image in this section shows a Mortice Wheel cast in 1962. It had a diameter of 8ft 3⅛ins. The wheel would be fitted with wooden teeth, some 180 in total, often made out of apple or seasoned hardwoods such as hornbeam, hickory or elm. Notice the difference in the centres of these last two wheels. The pulley wheel has a centre for mounting on a circular metal shaft with a keyway whilst the mortice wheel has a hexagonal centre for mounting on a shaped wooden shaft.

The images on the pneumatic tube system are courtesy Douglas Self. All other images are the property of Garton & King Ltd, www.exeterfoundry.org.uk

Modbury Engineering

Modbury Engineering, Printers' Engineer commenced trading in the late 1960s at 23 Modbury Street in North West London. The business was created by Christopher Holladay, (the second eldest of the three brothers, Peter being the eldest, I the youngest) and is well known within the Art Printing fraternity. Garton & King produced to order Spur Gears and Spur Pinions and an example of one of Gears G & K produced for Modbury Engineering was for an Etching Press similar to the one pictured below located at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College of London, manufactured by Hughes & Kimber, London.

Etching Press
A Hughes & Kimber etching press at the Slade School of Fine Art, London.

Gear for an Etching Press
The gear cast by G & K for Chris Holladay, Modbury Engineering
(l.) fitted in position on a similar Etching Press and (r.) prior to fitting

A ring for Mexico

Products from the foundry were often destined for far away places, here we see a 10 foot diameter ring casting for a Mexican Cement Works.The sidings off the Teign Valley branch line where it left the main line served the Exeter Basin, the Gas Works, Exeter Power Station and Kings Asphalt (whose premises can be seen on the right of the picture). The Mexphalte Tanker would have its contents heated up before it was fluid enough to offload. The line passes extremely close to the Northern fence of Garton & King's premises, so one presumes it was hoisted over the fence, and then loaded onto a railway truck. 

The crane's handle is long enough for another man to hold, who would stand opposite the poor fellow working on his own. The crane's "match" truck, on which the jib would rest when in transit, is just out of sight to the left. The wagon being loaded is a bogie Weltrol (well trolley). It was equipped with a longitudinal beam for carrying the likes of ships' propellers. These wagons were designed to keep the load as low as possible to keep within the very restricted British loading gauge. Thanks to Colin Burges for this information.

Cement ring for Mexico
10' Diameter Ring
The 10' Diameter Ring for a Mexican Cement Works
being loaded on a Railway Wagon by Hand Crane
on the railway line adjacent to the Tan Lane Foundry site.

Chapter 9 of the Golden Hammer shows a picture of Gear Wheels destined for Canada.

The cable pulleys

Our final subject is of this Aluminium Pulley. It was cast at the foundry and machined by the Company. It was destined for HMTS Monarch.

Cable laying pulley
Side view of the finished casting.

The proper name for it is a Cable Engine Sheave and the colour photograph, below, shows a series of them that make up the machinery that feeds the undersea Telephone Cable from the on board Cable storage tanks out and over either the bow or stern sheaves. HMTS Monarch was launched on the 8th August 1945 and was, at the time, the largest cable ship afloat. It was handed over to the GPO (as was then) in February 1946. She had the capacity to carry 1500 nautical miles of deep sea telegraph cable. In 1969 the GPO ceased to be a Government Department and the HMTS prefix was dropped;  the ship was sold to Cable & Wireless Ltd and became CS Sentinel. In October 1977 she was sold for scrap.

I am indebted to Bill of the Atlantic Cable Website and for the permission to use the photograph of the Ship and the Cable Laying machinery.

The pulley mounted on the big lathe
Man beside the pulley gives some idea of size of the casting.


Cable laying pulleys
End view of the Pulley suspended from the
gantry outside the Machine Shop

Cable laying pulleys
The Cable laying engine installed in a sister ship to
the HMTS Monarch, showing the bank of Cable Sheaves
similar to the one cast by Garton & King.

Cable laying ship
HMTS Monarch

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