Article 2 - Arterial Roads, Industry and CommerceAfter the demise of the market garden town and the soft fruit production, a serious opportunity to put Orpington on the map as an up-to-speed leading edge area of light industrial production was proposed.Similar to the arrival of the railway (as mentioned in my previous issue) the advent of the motor car and a general attitude to expand the boundaries of London preceded the inevitable creation of a well planned road network. Driven by central government there wasn’t much choice for the ‘Village’. Change came and now few would look back and complain. The companies that dominated Sevenoaks Way from the 1930s up to the 1980s employed thousands of people from the nearby housing estates and Orpington in general. Some of the commerce is still present but not as dominant as it was when house hold brand names were being manufactured in the Cray Valley.In the 1920’s Orpington was expanding. The whole of London was expanding. The suburbs were increasing and a strategy for a road network to cope with the technological advances in auto-mobiles was top of the development and planning agenda. As part of this strategy a main arterial road was planned to run from Foots Cray through the Cray Valley and past Orpington to Pole Hill to connect up with the A21 road and on to Sevenoaks. In 1924 work started on what we call the Orpington Bypass. Remember Orpington was relatively undeveloped and all the housing either side off the road from Goddington Park to Crittall’s Corner is all post 1926. The men building the road would have literally been in the middle of nowhere!Light commerce and housing appeared all along the road but in 1938 the Barlow Commission was set up to site manufacturing industries along arterial roads in Greater London. This was the first significant step in 'Cray Avenue's commercial development. Here is a very high level account of the most significant companies to be present in the Cray Valley.Joynson’s Mill– Would have been visible from miles around. A huge chimney would be seen from the northern end of Orpington High St. The mill was first recorded in 1817 it was a well established printing mill printing stamps and banknotes for the government. In 1967 it closed and made way for further industrial estate development along Sevenoaks Way.Coates- Still present today as part of the Sun Chemical Corporation, Coates Inks are a printing manufacturer that has had a site on Sevenoaks Way since the 1930’s. The current ‘campus’ is one of the biggest in the Cray Valley. Coates boasts a truly world wide presence. They are experts in ink colours, commercial ink production, screen printing and as a supplier to a number of household name printer manufacturers.Tip Top– Allied Bakeries needed a new location for a huge bread manufacturing plant. As part of the drive to establish large organisations along Sevenoaks Way, they built a huge ‘Art Deco’ building. The Tip Top bakery was one of the UK’s biggest producers of bread. It still is today. Sunblest sliced bread was first produced in Orpington. “The best thing since sliced bread” came from Orpington! Today Allied Bakeries is a huge company and Tip Top still produces the majority of bread for the supermarkets and shops of Southern England!Pinnacle Records– Had a huge production factory on Sevenoaks Way where the current JD Sports is. In the 1960’s and 1970’s they were a massive producer of vinyl for a number of the biggest music distributors. It became a record label in its own right but could not sustain output and in the late 1980’sized down and relocated to Swanley.Oertling Ltd– In 1956 Oertling established a huge operation on Sevenoaks Way alongside the railway. Oertling were considered to provide the most accurate measuring apparatus in the world. The company was purchased by Avery in 1925 but kept the Oertling brand. They subsequently became Avery Berkel which established the standard weighing apparatus in the vast majority of UK retail shops. Unfortunately they closed down the operations in the mid 1990s and relocated to the midlands.Morphy Richards– The most famous. Mr Morphy and Mr Richards started manufacturing gramophone stylus’s and electric bar fires in 1936; they soon started mass production of a number of household electrical appliances, most famously electrical irons and bed blankets. They built a huge factory where the Nugent Shopping Centre is currently. They employed 1000s of people from the local area. By 1964 they were producing 1000 electric irons in an hour! In the same year they had produced their 20 millionth! Expansion was needed and for a while production of small electric appliances was carried out in St Mary Cray and larger appliances like fridges and washing machines were carried out at Dundee. A new plant was created in Swinton as by the late 1960s export to the world was at an all time high. In 1970 the St Mary Cray plant was closed for good and was demolished to make way for a commercial trading estate.
Figure 1. The men and machines creating the A224 Orpington ‘bypass’.
Figure 2. The Joynson Mill.
Figure 3 An advertisement showing the works carried out as part of the Orpington By Pass.
Figure 4 A hair dryer from 1953, Iron and shaver from the same period. Both manufactured at St Mary Cray in their 1000’s!