Brauer's of Harpenden

The success story of a local industry

by Kitty Moores

Photo:Ray Gammons, machine shop foreman, Abdul Choudrey and Tom Chamberlain, toolroom foreman

Ray Gammons, machine shop foreman, Abdul Choudrey and Tom Chamberlain, toolroom foreman

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Based on text and images from “One” The Cope Allman Group Magazine, Volume 2, No.3, July 1965, which was donated to LHS by Works Manager Ray Gammons, who had worked at F. Brauer at 22-24 Grove Road for 30 years.

 

 


Harpenden beginnings

Photo:Brauer's toggle clamp*. See comment below.

Brauer's toggle clamp*. See comment below.

Albert Calleweart

The engineering manufacturer F. Brauer Ltd opened with a limited workforce in 1945 on the site of the former Rubber Factory in Grove Road. The founder, Mr F. Brauer, recognised there was a niche market for Toggle Clamps – a type of pivot clamp – which became the factory’s main product and quickly proved to be invaluable to the aircraft and motor industries, with Vauxhall Motors pioneering their implementation.

Brauer’s reputation for high quality and reliability (a million a year sold and none returned as faulty) grew throughout the industry, resulting in it becoming a leader in the Toggle Clamp market. 

Integration with The Cope Allman Group

The firm became part of the Cope Allman Group, and recognising Brauer’s successful formula - small, friendly teams with good interaction between management and workforce, and a policy of remuneration according to skills set, rather than standardised rates of pay - the Harpenden factory was given almost complete autonomy. With the support of Cope Allman, F. Brauer trebled its net profit, increased its turnover more than fivefold, increased its workforce to 130 and trebled its factory space.

Product Range

Photo:Lois Kovarovic and Ted Moss assembling rotary can filling machines

Lois Kovarovic and Ted Moss assembling rotary can filling machines

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

The Harpenden factory gradually diversified its portfolio of products to include semi-automatic rotary ´Jerrycan´ filling machines, small air-portable petrol fillers – both of these being adopted by the Army, the “Tavener” range of coach lamps and lanterns, and components for the motor industry, including car screw-jacks for BMC.  However, Toggle Clamps remained Brauer’s major output, with over 100 types in production. Brauer also designed and manufactured bespoke clamps according to customer requirements e.g.  a sieving machine manufacturer required a clamp to securely hold gyratory sieves whilst under violent agitation yet enable instant release for cleaning. This particular application resulted in a large overseas demand.  

Photo:Mrs Dorothy Bullen assembling porch lamps

Mrs Dorothy Bullen assembling porch lamps

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Photo:Mrs Charlotte Bush, Mrs Jean Bell, Mrs Florence Bell and Mrs Dorothy Bullen

Mrs Charlotte Bush, Mrs Jean Bell, Mrs Florence Bell and Mrs Dorothy Bullen

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Brauer manufactured goods e.g. caravan gas bracket reflectors, precision machining of fishing reel components, springs for ball pens, and tools for aircraft components, for other businesses within the Cope Allman Group and also carried out sub- contract engineering for local engineering firms.

Brauer's Personnel

Photo:Len Goodsell - accountant

Len Goodsell - accountant

Photo:Managing Director Raymond Titford and Works Director Alick Ansell

Managing Director Raymond Titford and Works Director Alick Ansell

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

 

In 1965 Brauer’s staff included Managing Director Raymond Titford , Works Director Alick Ansell, Accountant Len Goodsell, Draughtsmen Leslie James and  Alan Clark, Foremen Ray Gammons and Tom Chamberlain, and assistants Charlotte Bush, Jean Bell, Florence Bell, Dorothy Bullen, Rita Spinks, Asab Uddin, Abdul Natin, Bill Savage, Abdul Chaudrey, Kutab Ali, Babru Miah, Lois Kovarovic and Ted Moss.

Photo:Leslie James and  Alan Clark in the Drawing Office

Leslie James and Alan Clark in the Drawing Office

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Photo:Kutab Ali, Asab Uddin and Babru Miah

Kutab Ali, Asab Uddin and Babru Miah

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Photo:Mrs Rita Spinks, Asab Uddin, Abdul Natin, Bill Savage

Mrs Rita Spinks, Asab Uddin, Abdul Natin, Bill Savage

Courtesy of Brauer Ltd

Current Status

In the early 1970s F. Brauer moved to larger, purpose built premises in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, where it is still the major manufacturer of Toggle Clamps, and has a worldwide distribution.

Since the 1980s Pan Autos have occupied the site.

* The Toggle Clamp

A Toggle Clamp is an engineering production aid which operates through a system of levers and pivots to lock the clamp, enabling it to exert a holding pressure of over a ton. It may be handheld or fixed to a bench. 

This page was added by Kitty Moores on 30/01/2018.
Comments about this page

Some interesting comments have appeared on the Old Harpenden Years Gone By Facebook page, including:

"Great article thanks for sharing"  (Ali MacLeod):

Albert Calleweart wrote: "I have clear memories of walking past on summer days and hearing the Light Programme’s ‘Music While You Work’ emanating from the shop floor through the open shutters.

"In the early seventies when I lived in Kingcroft Road I became aware of a low frequency noise. I eventually traced it to Brauer's. I wrote a letter explaining how irritating this was and asked if it could be reduced. By return post I was invited to meet one of the managers who showed me that it was coming from a compressor that cut in and out sporadically. Without any pressure from me it was re-sited in an enclosed compartment at the back of the factory never to be heard by me again. Whilst being shown around the works I was handed one of the clamps as a 'souvenir'. I never expected to think of it again!  And I found it amongst a lifetime’s collection of junk (as my wife calls it) - my very own toggle clamp, pictured in open position." (We have added the photo above)

Ron Gray: "My grandmother Mrs Light from Longfield Rd used to be a tea lady there. My father fitted an air raid siren on the roof which was used as call signal for the local fire brigade". 

Bob Coulter: "I'm trying to work out how long I worked at Brauer's as a draughtsman. I designed a number of toggle clamps and had a lot to do with the machine that was dropped by paratroopers and measured out the correct amount of fuel for either the Jerrycan or American.

"Bill Tewson worked away on his own at the back of the building. He was the father of actress Josephine Tewson. There were some real characters working there and some mad moments."

Vicki Barrett says: "I feel sure my mother worked as secretary to the top man many many moons ago!"

And Barbara Kiff commented: "I worked at Brauer's in the offices from I think 1971 until they moved to Milton Keynes. Such happy days working with great people...."

By Rosemary Ross
On 06/02/2018

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.