Memories - W Percy Stafford

Life At Smith & Grace (1924 - 1926)

W Percy Stafford

Memories of W. Percy Stafford (Summary, full version below)

W Percy Stafford worked in the machine shop of Smith & Grace Screw Boss Pulley Co. Ltd until he was ‘laid off’ in 1926.

Apart from naming principals in various departments, he describes how workers clocked in via the Foundry whistle and how latecomers were docked pay.

He tells of the machines used and the work he did as well as naming many of his Machine Shop colleagues.

(Summary prepared by Jean Swingler)



Memories of W. Percy Stafford, Islip

The Principals were (as they were known round the different departments)

  • Mr “Teddy” Smith          (although retired, he would show up now and again)
  • Mr  Sidney Smith          ( “The Boss”)
  • Mr  Theodore  Smith    ( in charge, I think, of the offices)
  • Joe Brookfield               (an inveterate tobacco chewer! and Foundry Manager)
  • Mr  Bird                           (Machine Shop Manager)
  • George Warner              (the foreman)

 Clocking In

Wireless, still in its infancy (no time signal, in a general sense) therefore the time for employees was proclaimed by the Foundry whistle, which  sounded once at five minutes before starting time, 6.55 am and twice at 7 am when the huge street doors were closed for 1/4 hour. So clocking in time for anyone late resulted in him being “docked” a 1/4 hours pay.

Dinnertime was signalled at 12 noon and 12.55 (to start clocking  in) and at 1 pm two blasts. The doors closed again for a 1/4 hour. There was an old man, Tom Hensman, by name I think,  door-keeper who, delighted  to  slam the door closed in your face just as the door was reached at 1 pm!!

There were quite a lot of employees in both ‘shops’, my number on the clock being 112.

My starting wage was 5 shillings a week. Pay day on Friday, resulted invariably in two half-crowns in my numbered tin at Pay Time!


There were two Tangye Producer Gas engines at this time. The large one to drive the line shaftings for the different lathes etc. and the smaller one to drive a dynamo for lighting some carbon-arc lamps and low wattage lamps on the machines.

Heating (in the machine shop anyway) was by three or four large combustion stoves which the men had to light with oily rags  etc. I remember quite well, if you were not nearly choked to death with smoke, you were either roasted or frozen,  depending upon your distance from them!!

Of course, besides bearings of all types, we made ring-oilers, Plummer blocks etc, cast iron hangers, keyed couplings, couplings bored to grip and tapered bush couplings.

Huge traction engines, both ploughing and threshing types, were  re-tubed by the capable hands of George Swan, besides being re-tyred etc.


Smith & Grace Screw Boss Pulleys were renowned far and wide, for ease of fitting.  The pulleys could be whole or split, so they could be placed anywhere on a line-shaft, with a minimum of trouble. The bushes, for the pulleys to be screwed on, were tapered and screwed and having emery-cloth glued inside ensured a good grip on the shafting.

My first job was to file any roughness off the insides of these before Billy Lane glued the emery-cloth inside the two halves of a complete  bush, before turning and screw-cutting upon the lathes. Tommy Essam turned the bushes, whilst Bert Harris bored the pulleys. My next job was to go on a drilling machine.  Drilling and tapping them for set-screws, to fasten this type on the shaftings.

Then for some time I went with Tommy on a smaller lathe, learning to turn and  screw  the smaller sized bushes, and from there on to turning pulley faces either  “Flat” or  “Round”.  Incidentally, a lot of these light “2″ series pulleys went to the British Empire Exhibition, to be used as “Road” wheels on the giant switchback at Wembley.

 Other People

Among a lot of other names of machine shop people I recall are

Albert  Dingley

Bill  Bygrave

John  Fletcher

Ben Groom

Ralph Wilson

Bill Winter (this one an excellent fitter)

Bill Flecknor  (the Driver of the two engines)

Alf Turner

Jimmy Ruckwood

Claude Guest

 General Strike

In company with others, I was “laid off” at the 1926 General Strike, the edict  being that the married men were kept on as far as possible.


W. Percy Stafford, Islip.

This page was added on 20/04/2014.

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