HISTORY OF ROSE FORGROVE LTD., LEEDS
(NOTE: The following is intended as a brief history of the way in which the company developed over the years. A more detailed history of the development of packaging machinery and processes within the Baker Perkins group in general will be found in History of Baker Perkins in the Packaging Business).
The amalgamation of Rose Brothers (Gainsborough) Ltd and the Forgrove Machinery Co Ltd took place on 1st January 1967. The new company, Rose Forgrove Ltd., was to be the co-ordinating body for sales and service in particular and would deal with long range planning in design, sales, manufacture, administration and finance.
R.H. Wilkins became the chairman of the new company, relinquishing his appointment as managing director of Rose Brothers (Gainsborough) Ltd. W.A.B. Brown, then managing director of Forgrove, was appointed as managing director of Rose Forgrove. The Rose and Forgrove companies continued as operating divisions, each with its own local board of directors. The existing arrangements whereby Baker Perkins Ltd were responsible for the sale of wrapping machinery to the biscuit and bakery industries were to continue. Key to the operation of the new company were the appointments of:
Rose Forgrove contributed almost £6m of sales to the group's 1967 total of £30.3m and was the second largest subsidiary in the Baker Perkins group, employing 2.700 people.
A new headquarters was planned at Seacroft, close to the factory built by Forgrove in 1957, into which the Seacroft and Dewsbury Road personnel would move in 1969. The thirteen-acre site allowed room for expansion and had been purchased by the group in 1960 for this purpose. The new building was to cost approximately £1.35m and was financed by a sale and leaseback arrangement with the Liverpool and Victoria Friendly Society. 225,000 square feet of office and factory space were designed to house the 950 people and operations of the existing Dewsbury Road and Seacroft factories.
A special feature was a "supermarket" in the demonstration department in which were displayed hundreds of products from all over the world that had been wrapped on Rose Forgrove machinery. It should be noted that Rose Forgrove did not only package those products made on Baker Perkins machinery. A description of the new "supermarket" declared:
"There are sections reserved for bakery and biscuit products. They include rusks, chocolate biscuits of all shapes and sizes, cheese biscuits, cream crackers, ginger nuts, cookies and flaky biscuits. There's breakfast cereal, swiss roll. Sponge cake, slab cake, slices of cake, an assortment of pies.
In the confectionery section, there are Turkish delight, pastilles, toffees, chocolates, mints, liquorice, menthol sweets and rock. They are packaged in large boxes, rolls or bars. Bowls of individual sweets show the products of high speed twist wrapping machine.
Other shelves are devoted to chemical and pharmaceutical products: shampoo, hair tint, shaving cream, razor blades, catarrh pastilles, headache pills, indigestion tablets, anti-influenza tablets, first aid plasters, toothpaste, hair cream, bath salts and make-up.
Another section is reserved for granular products : sweet corn for babies, fish and budgerigar food, stuffing mixes for poultry, soup mixes, coffee, sugar, rice, semolina, currants, sultanas, peas and a wide range of different brands of tea.
Other miscellaneous items include mousse, toilet paper, tissues, cotton wool, ice cream, photographic film, tobacco, car sparking plugs, soap pads. Sachets holding liquid shampoo and liquid ready to be frozen into lollipops".
During the move from Dewsbury Road, a fire swept through the two-storey premises one Saturday morning in March 1969. Employees from both Dewsbury Road and the Forgrove Seacroft factory salvaged as much as possible but, although no production facilities were affected, many of the offices were gutted, with sales and financial records and drawings lost.
The fire was discovered around 8am on Saturday morning and prompt action by the fire brigade prevented the flames spreading to surrounding buildings including the foundry, and a block containing training, experimental and demonstration facilities. When the blaze had been brought under control, the offices in which 60 people had worked were destroyed, together with the majority of their contents. Some of the office staff spent Sunday salvaging what they could and, by Monday, many people were back at their normal work in odd corners of the building, using make-shift office furniture. Although no production facilities were directly affected, some effect was felt because of the inevitable delays in issuing drawings The company did not, of course, face the problem of re-building as all of the people involved were due to move into the new Seacroft factory. The Forgrove Dewsbury Road and Seacroft freehold properties were sold in 1971.
The first half of the move to the new factory was complete by April 1969 and it was in full swing by July. It had taken three months to transform the empty offices and factory into a fully operational plant. There had been problems, difficulties and unusual incidents. The July 1969 issue of “Group News” reported:
“One amusing occasion – a large machine was being inched through the doors of the old factory onto the removal vehicle. A smartly dressed man jumped out of his car and immediately took charge of the group of men carefully carrying out the delicate operation. Forgrove men thought he was from Beck and Politzer, the removal men thought he was from Forgrove. It turned out that he was a cigarette salesman who just decided to be helpful!”.
Being an essentially unit machine business, the Rose Forgrove Service Department was a large and very important part of the business. Taken in 1969, the above images give some indication of the size of the operation:
Baker Perkins Holdings hired a special train to take 170 City of London businessmen, journalists, and Baker Perkins shareholders and directors from London to Leeds and the new building was formally opened by the group chairman, Mr A.I. Baker on 10th October 1969. It gained an award from Industry Week, the journal of the Confederation of British Industries, for being one of the ten "Pacemaking" industrial buildings commissioned during the year. The move had a greater than expected effect on Rose Forgrove's results that year.
With the amalgamation of the Forgrove and Rose packaging machinery businesses in 1967, a new headquarters building was erected in Seacroft, Leeds. A new apprentice school was set up in 1967 at the Seacroft factory to take over some of the work being done at Dewsbury Road. Opened by Lord Carron, president of the A.E.U., the new school catered for 24 first year apprentices on off-the-job training.
The apprentice school was located in the corner of the main workshop in the new Seacroft factory (see the layout of factory departments above) and carried on the work begun in Forgrove’s Dewsbury Road factory in 1957.
The new school was fully equipped to similar standards as that at Westwood Works, Peterborough:
A re-organisation in 1967 of the training structure of Rose Forgrove’s Forgrove Division was aimed at creating a more balanced outlook on training as a whole. Previously, there was an apprentice training committee but all the other training was not controlled by a policy-making committee. Leonard Brook, Technical Director and Chairman of the new committee, said – “For too long training in industry as a whole has been synonymous with apprenticeship training. This expansion at Forgrove is in line with the thinking of the Engineering Industry Training Board that intends taking a wider view of the scope of training. Whilst apprenticeship will continue to be one of its main subjects, the committee will also control commercial and supervisory training.”
Some views of the new apprentice school appear below:
The custom of an annual apprentice prizegiving ceremony begun at the Forgrove, Dewsbury Road factory was continued at Seacroft. Some of these are recorded below:
Despite Baker Perkins Developments, Twyford being absorbed into Rose Forgrove in 1971, the company was operating considerably below capacity but with an increase in order-taking in 1972, made an improved contribution to group profits. In 1973, the group's results were presented by industry rather than by group company. 65% of the group's packaging machinery sales were included in the "food machinery" category and the demand for packaging machinery was described as "unprecedented".
A ten-day exhibition of packaging machinery for the confectionery industry was held at the Leeds headquarters in mid-1974. Charter flights brought confectionery manufacturers from Europe and others from the Middle East, the USA and Australia. Industry leaders from many other overseas territories also attended. By now the confectionery industry formed the largest part of the company's business and over two-thirds of output was being exported.
In the year ended March 1976, packaging machines were said to have made "another most valuable contribution" but the world-wide recession was beginning to have an effect. In October 1975, it was announced that the foundry at the Leeds factory was to be closed. It had been running below capacity for some time and it was decided to concentrate foundry work at Gainsborough. As a result, 10 redundancies were announced but falling demand was also hitting the Gateshead and Skegness works, and the company's office in Paris, manning levels being reduced at all these locations.
Sales of packaging machinery worldwide to the biscuit and confectionery industries were described as "exceptionally good" in 1979. Also in 1979, Rose Forgrove installed the first of a new range of computer numerically controlled turning machines at its Gateshead factory – a Alfred Herbert Husky 1000.
Rose Forgrove’s marketing director, Jack Rodman, organised a two-week private packaging exhibition in the demonstration hall at Seacroft in October 1979. Visitors from all over the world attended, including international trade and technical journalists. Two specially chartered flights brought a party of 20 French industrialists from Paris.
A new 100,000 square feet factory at Gateshead was opened in 1981. Costing £3.25m to build the new facility was just across the road from the old Rose Forgrove factory at Gateshead. Finance for the building came from the European Investment bank, a regional development grant and the Department of Industry. The decision to go ahead with the new building, despite the depressed trading conditions, was taken with the knowledge that funds from at least two of these sources would not be available later.
A 3,000 square feet sales office and service complex (Rose Forgrove Inc.) was opened a few miles south of Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 1981. A staff of seven was headed by general manager, Doug Greig. The office was sited just across the road from Baker Perkins Printing Machinery Inc.'s first office in Elmhurst.
Rose Forgrove won a Queen's Award for Export Achievements in 1979. The emblem and grant of appointment was presented on the Queen's behalf by Sir William Bulmer, Lord Lieutenant for West Yorkshire.
Rose Forgrove was exporting nearly 70% of its output – in money terms, this had represented an increase of 80% in the previous two years. With a market coverage as extensive as any packaging machine manufacturer worldwide the company exported to nearly 90 countries every year.
However, difficult trading conditions prevailed and the early eighties saw a particular drop in investment in the sugar confectionery industry – the key market for Rose Forgrove. This continued, and in 1982, the Rose Forgrove factories concerned – Leeds and Skegness - were working only 3 and 4 days each week. The Baker Perkins Annual Report for the year ending 31st March 1982 stated – "After two difficult years, our packaging machinery business, with its four factories in the United Kingdom, recorded considerable improvements in orders, sales and trading profit. These improvements owe much to the non-confectionery interests, as little improvement has yet been seen in sales to the candy market".The following year, manning levels were further reduced at four of Rose Forgrove's five factories – Leeds, Gateshead, Gainsborough and Skegness. The total UK workforce, which in 1983 stood at just over 1250, had to be reduced by between 140 and 180.
1983 saw Rose Forgrove earning a good profit with a much higher level of packaging machinery production. Its business was bolstered by the production of tea packaging equipment for the Soviet Union, the first order for £6.5m being obtained in late 1980. Further orders in early 1981 and in the autumn of 1981 brought the total for tea cartoning machines and weighing and case packing equipment for V/O Technopromimport of Moscow to £15.5m.
R.F.B. (Bob) Wivell was appointed managing director of Rose Forgrove on 1st November 1983. The existing managing director, W.A.B. (Tony) Brown, continued as chairman of the company until his retirement in 1985.
The company failed to secure sufficient orders to offset the effect of the completion of the exceptionally large orders for tea packaging machinery and as a result reduced its labour force by a third and in the year ending 31st March 1984, made a loss. In Autumn 1984, the new managing director, Bob Wivell, reported to open meetings held at each of the companies five factories – "In 1983/84 Rose Forgrove lost money for the first time in many years. There were three principal reasons, which were:
The problems facing the company were, however more deep seated since they were the result of declining orders over a number of years, even though in recent times we have been cushioned by the large Russian order at Gainsborough. Ignoring the special tea business, the cash value of our orders fell sharply six years ago and has been static since then; if we take account of inflation, our orders have been falling steadily. It is against this background that we have budgeted this year for a 70% increase in our order taking for packaging machinery; I am pleased to say that after six months we are up to budget. In Bearings we are 20% ahead of budget after 6 months. In spite of this encouraging start we have a long way to go to recover lost ground.
In our packaging business we export 70% of our output and we are taking more orders in most parts of the world. I believe that the main reason for our progress is that we have been more flexible in our sales policy and this has given our salesmen advantages which they have not had for some time. ---- ".
Despite a higher level of orders taken in 1984/85, sales were lower and consequentially losses were higher than in the previous year. A major modernisation of systems and facilities was initiated. A new emphasis was placed on training with Bob Wivell reporting:
“In the 1960s and 1970s this company had a reputation for the quality of its training which was the envy of many other companies. But it was very expensive. It concentrated on giving traditional skills to young people and it was rather institutionalised. Another major disadvantage was that it often provided free training for other employees.
The aim in the future will try to relate training much more to the changing needs of the company. This will mean that whilst the training of new employees, whether young or old, is catered for, the main emphasis will be on re-training and re-education of existing employees.
Many employees are already finding that their jobs are changing and we have recently mounted a number of initiatives to assist them. The new group leaders on the shop floor, have, for instance, been given intensive training in human relations. Manufacturing engineers have been given training in numerical control, and a programme of training for technical staff in design for manufacturing has been started. To help meet this challenge a new company training manager was appointed".
The Leeds factory was visited by the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday 24th February 1984. Over the years there had been several royal occasions for Rose Forgrove. They started in December 1970 when Prince Charles paid a visit to the then comparatively new factory and headquarters building at Seacroft, Leeds.
Three years later, in 1973, The Duke of Edinburgh presented the company with a design Council Awards for the RF 75 FWT confectionery wrapping machine at a ceremony at the Sunderland Civic Centre. In September of the same year the Duke of Kent also visited the Leeds factory.
The Gateshead factory was closed in October 1985 at a cost of £1.3m. because of "continuing losses and the urgent need to reduce overheads". 160employees were made redundant. Total Rose Forgrove sales rose by 8% but the trading loss before exceptional costs was little reduced form the previous year.
As part of the move to create individual companies with responsibility to serve customers on an industry basis the Rose Forgrove organisation was restructured in August 1986. Baker Perkins BCS Ltd assumed responsibility for the supply of packaging equipment to the Biscuit, Candy, Snack and Beverage industries based at Gainsborough. Rose Forgrove Ltd concentrated on supplying packaging equipment to the Food, Pharmaceutical and Personal Products based at Leeds. Bob Wivell remained as managing director of the Leeds operation. As part of this development, Rose Forgrove Inc. had become an operating division of Werner Lehara Inc. in July 1986.
When Baker Perkins merged with APV in 1987, Rose Forgrove was picked out as being one of the ex-Baker Perkins companies that needed early attention by the new management – "Plans have been drawn up for the rationalisation of various UK subsidiaries, including Rose Forgrove (the loss-making packaging division) and will be implemented during 1987." The company was re-named APV Baker – Packaging Machinery Division.
Bob Wivell resigned as managing director of Rose Forgrove in April 1988 and Ron Edgar was appointed in his place but relinquished his duties in October 1988, Mark Gibbard, Group Personnel Manager, was seconded to Leeds as managing director reporting to Ray Porter, the head of the new APV Packaging Machinery Group that brought together the Leeds packaging machinery operation and the rest of the APV packaging machinery interests.
The Rose Forgrove confectionery division (Rose) was sold to AM Packaging in 1990 and became AMP-Rose, Gainsborough. Rose Forgrove was sold by APV in January 1993 to the Howden Group "for a nominal consideration". It was bought out of receivership in May 2001 by Molins and production was transferred from Wakefield to Beeston, Nottingham, now trading again as Rose Forgrove.
In common with the rest of the Baker Perkins group, the packaging machinery companies were characterised by the length of service of many of their employees. The annual Long Service Presentation was an important part of the company’s year and each year a very significant number of employees were eligible for a retirement gift from the company.
Peter Dyson describes the origin of the "Rose Forgrove Lunches" Once a rather exclusive gathering, it has attracted, under Peter's stewardship, a wider participation. It is pleasing to note that the activity is still flourishing, some 20 years after the Rose Forgrove business was sold. Peter remembers:
"The Rose Forgrove lunches started life as a fairly exclusive dining group. When I retired at the end of April 1987 Tony Brown gave me a card headed RF “Old Top Brass” Club which listed the names, addresses and telephone numbers of Leonard Brook, Tony Brown, Eric Cowell, Peter Dyson, Ted Lazenby, David Morton, Victor Naylor, Jim Naylor, Gilbert Ramsden and Jack Rodman.
As I was the last person to join, I was appointed Secretary, with the duty to arrange a lunch for members and wives in May, and a dinner for members in November. We soon changed from having a members only dinner to a members only lunch in November, but preserved the men only part of the arrangement.
At first we had several dinners at Sand Moor Golf Club – Eric’s club – and lunches at The Scotts Arms in Sicklinghall. We had a garden party at our house in May 1989 to celebrated Leonard’s 80th Birthday. The only other occasion that we went to a member’s house was in June 2001 when Hilary and I plus Pam and Eric went to Jack Rodman’s home at Newick, near Lewes. We felt that Jack had been very good to travel north to many of our lunches, so decided to go down to see him. Jack arranged for us to stay at an old pub, The Rose & Crown, Fletching. The four of us stayed three days, and really enjoyed the place, even though Eric banged his head on the rather low door frame every time he went upstairs.
On a lovely sunny afternoon Hilary and I returned from a walk round the local vineyard where we had bought a couple of bottles of wine. Eric and Pam were sitting enjoying the sunshine in the garden. The owners of the pub had all gone out for the day, so we got four glasses from the bar and sat happily in the garden drinking local Newick wine.
We tried several different pubs in the 1990’s The Park Lane Restaurant Roundhay, The Spite Inn Otley, only had one visit each, we visited The Star and Garter and The Shoulder of Mutton in Kirkby Overblow several times.
In May 2004 Victor and I, the two surviving members, decided it was time to change the rules and invite a few more people to join us. Eleven of us enjoyed lunch at the Star and Garter. In November we had found a few more addresses and nineteen old RF friends and partners lunched at The Square and Compass in November 2004. The larger group have enjoyed seven lunches at The Half Moon in Collingham, a couple across the road at The Old Star, and our current choice is The Windmill where our November 2011 lunch will be our fifth there."
Again, in common with most of the Baker Perkins subsidiaries, the company encouraged the running of a flourishing Sports Club at Rose Forgrove. Sporting activities not only took place between the Rose Forgrove employees but also football, cricket, tennis and bowls matches were regularly held against other members of the group.
TO BE CONTINUED
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