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Westwood Works 1903-2003

Training Facilities

NOTE: For more details of the development of training facilities at Westwood Works and at other Baker Perkins Group Companies - see the BPHS publication - "Growing Our Own Wood - The Development of the Baker Perkins Apprenticeship Scheme" - by Dick Preston and Jim Deboo. Details are available by clicking here.

Some Background

In his "The History of Baker Perkins", Augustus Muir page records that apprentice training at Westwood Works was suspended during the war years. Roland Maycock, who was an apprentice between 1940 and 1945 suggests that this is not correct. He recalls that - "The A.I. Baker apprentice bay established before the war was continued, located at the west end of the ground floor of the 1933 office block, adjacent to the machine shop. The Foreman/Instructors were Mr F. Angel, Mr E. Cole and Mr Churchman. The scheme was monitored by the works office under Mr Paul Baker, Works Director, The training was excellent – as near as you could get to one-to-one instruction and produced many engineers who progressed to management level in the company".

Jim Deboo also remembers the apprentice activity during the war:

"The original apprentice bay developed by "AIB" himself in the late 1930s had been producing small mechanisms – breech blocks and gun sights – during the war years".

Bob Hay, later to become a member of the Heating & Ventilating Department, also remembers becoming an apprentice during the War - "I do remember that I was one of four apprentices selected to become student apprentices in a scheme starting in 1943. I cannot be sure, but my impression at the time was that this was the beginning of a brand new apprenticeship category. A really significant disturbance to my own Student Apprenticeship occurred in late 1945, when H.M. King George VI demanded that I report on 3 January 1946 to Britannia Barracks in Norwich. I believe that a serious appeal by Personnel/Jim Deboo/Keith Gerrard to obtain deferment was only partially successful. The other three were deferred, but the War Office refused to withdraw my already issued call-up papers".

In order to ensure an adequate supply of trained drawing office and works technicians after the Second World War, Baker Perkins invested heavily in facilities for Training. The pre-War apprentice bay was fully engaged with urgent apprentice training and efforts were being made to cope with returning Forces personnel under the Interrupted Apprenticeship Scheme.

As there was insufficient room in the Apprentice Bay, this was reserved for fitting and machining training and a new "small jobs division" was set up at the west end of P4 bay in the Plate Shop under Charles Durance which later became the Plate Shop apprentice section. An apprentice section for twelve trainees, with its own core drying oven and sand mixer, was created under Ben Killips in the Foundry.

Apprentices who joined in 1952 outside the original Apprentice Bay under the 1933 office building.

With the retirement in 1947 of Albert Newby as Apprenticeship Supervisor and J.A.W.D's appointment as his successor, the opportunity had been taken to re-appraise the whole apprentice training system and learn from current best practice across the engineering industry. The result was the building of a purpose-built, state of the art Apprentice School which was opened in 1954.

See also:

Training at Westwood Works - a development history.
Trainees in Action and Reminiscences - for more memories of ex-apprentices.
"Growing Our Own Wood - The Development of the Baker Perkins Apprenticeship Scheme" - Click on the "BPHS Shop".

The Apprentice School

1952: Steel framework in place (August) 1952: Depositing a Time Capsule beneath the Foundation Stone 1952: Laying the Foundation Stone 1952: Mrs Dumbleton lays the Foundation Stone

1952: The building work progresses

1953: The facade takes shape (January)
1953: The Stone Mason at work 1953: The completed building 1953: The completed building prior to opening 1954: Sheet Metal and Fitting Sections 1954: Machine Tool Section 1954: Some of the facilities 1954: The Lecture Room/Gymnasium
1955: Inside the Apprentice School 1958: The Apprentice School Drawing Office 1965: Apprentice School Drawing Office

The Opening of the Apprentice School

The arrival of the guests The Apprentices form a Guard of Honour Harold Watkinson Opens the Apprentice School Harold Watkinson speaks Model of a Bread Dough Kneader presented to Harold Watkinson A present for the Chairman of the Apprentice Advisory Committee
The Mayor of Peterborough tries his hand Demonstration of Fitting Work In the Erecting Section The Apprentices put on a Gym Display 1954: Staff, Instructors and Apprentices at the Opening of the Apprentice School


The opening of the Apprentice School in 1954 is remembered on each significant Anniversary.

1977: 25th Anniversary of laying the Apprentice School Foundation Stone 1979: Apprentice School 25th Anniversary 1984: Apprentice School 30th Anniversary 2002: 50th Anniversary of laying the Apprentice School Foundation Stone. 2004: 50th Anniversary of the Apprentice School opening

Commemorative Plaque

In a short ceremony organised jointly by the Baker Perkins Historical Society and the Peterborough Civic Society, a Plaque describing the history of the Apprentice School was unveiled by Jim Deboo - ex-Baker Perkins Training manager - on 23rd July 2007. The event was attended by the Mayor of Peterborough, representatives of Peterborough City Council, Peterborough Civic Society and BPHS, and ex-employees.
A plaque, which was originally mounted on an internal wall and which commemorated the opening of the School in 1954, has been moved to the outside of the building.
These plaques, together with the three History Boards (see HMP Peterborough) already in place on the landscaped area between Westfield Road and HMP Peterborough, will help to remind Peterborough residents of what existed on this site for 100 years.

Some of those who attended the Unveiling. How many of the ex-employees can you recognise 50 years on?

The Opening of the Apprentice Sports Ground

An area of land adjacent to the Apprentice School, after being cleared of stones with the help of some of the Apprentices, was officially opened by Mr. H. Crowther in May 1957 as the Apprentice Sports Ground. The continued growth of the Company required that this land was needed for Staff car parking and a much larger Sports Ground was built behind the Experimental Department, and opened in 1961. This Ground was also used for the very popular Annual Fireworks Display, at which the Baker Perkins Fire Brigade provided safety cover.

1957: Harold Crowther opens the Apprentice Sports ground Cutting the Tape Howard Pettit making presentation to Mr Crowther Mr Crowther receives a blotter from John Bushnell Wally Blades makes a presentation to Mrs Crowther A bouquet from Tom Appleyard

Trainee Accommodation

These facilities took care of the needs of the locally recruited trainees at the start of their life with the Company but, as Apprentices and Commercial Trainees were recruited form outside the Peterborough area, there was a need to accommodate some recruits locally. "High Trees" in Eastfield Road housed a number of Apprentices whilst Commercial Trainees lived in the City Commercial Hotel in Bridge Street. This latter establishment had been leased by Baker Perkins to accommodate female staff during the War.

High Trees - Apprentice Hostel

1954: High Trees from Eastfield Road 1954: High Trees Apprentice hostel 1954: High Trees from the garden 1954: The Lounge at High Trees 1954: The Dining Room 1954: A bedroom at High Trees 1954: High Trees - the Student study
1960: Extension to building

A large building in Eastfield Road, close to Peterborough Technical College, No 270 - known as "High Trees" - was purchased by Baker Perkins at auction in 1954 having been previously owned since, it is believed, 1937 by William Beecroft Buckle, the local solicitor. Prior to this, it was owned by P.J. Fairweather, a local coal merchant, known to be living at No 270 in 1925, when the building was called - "The Limes".

Jim Deboo was despatched to the auction by Claude Dumbleton with strict instructions not to disclose that the Company was interested in case that affected the price. After bidding successfully, Jim handed over a personal cheque for £4,700 and was greatly relieved to be rapidly reimbursed by the Company.

Roy Westcombe’s company carried out internal alterations and Peter Thomas, MP, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, declared the building open. Some memories of one of the Apprentices who lodged at "High Trees" can be found here. "High Trees" was substantially extended in 1960.

The first Student Apprentice intake to be accommodated in "High Trees" - 1956-57.

Back Row - Ray Daw, Barry Kraushaar, John Ballinger, Peggy Johnson (Housekeeper), Barrie Reeve, Dickie Barrass, Brian Harlock, Ian Howie.
Front Row - John Stamper, John Atkin and Alec McGlashan.

(Apologies for the poor print)

"High Trees" was managed by Major Hooper and his wife, Constance. Major Hooper MM, MBE, worked in one of the drawing offices as an Electrical Engineer and it was really his wife who ran the show at "High Trees"; cooking breakfast and an evening meal and fussing over the apprentices. Each apprentice paid about 3 pounds, 10 shillings a week and slept dormitory style with 3 or 4 sharing a room.

An extract from a 1959 Briefing Note aimed at potential recruits read - " At the present time, Student Apprentices are accommodated at "High Trees" during their first year of apprenticeship but plans are being considered to extend this building so as to enable the Company to retain these apprentices at "High Trees" during the first two or three years of their training.When Student Apprentices left "High Trees", the Personnel and Welfare Officer finds them suitable accommodation and makes regular visits to the accommodation to ensure that the standards and amenities are up to Baker Perkins standards".

"High Trees" closed in February 1964 and it is thought that it was sold to Lincolnshire Education Authority, it being known that at least during the period 1973 to 1976, it was used by Kesteven College - the main teacher training establishment in Stoke Rochford Hall just outside Grantham - as a hostel for its female students on teaching practice in the Peterborough area.

"High Trees" was later taken over by Peterborough Technical College.

A superb shot of Peterborough Technical College with High Trees in the lower foreground. It had been understood that High Trees was soon to be demolished as part of the development of the "University Centre" collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University on the site of the Technical College but we have been contacted by 'Family Care in Peterborough' - a voluntary agency working in risk assessment of vulnerable families and community support for children and families - who have bought the premises. High Trees became part of Peterborough Technical College when sold by Baker Perkins and we understand it to be in a fairly sorry state of repair. The new owners plan to refurbish it to its former glory.

The Commercial Hotel - Commercial Trainees' Hostel

The Baker Perkins Staff Hostel (City Temperance Hotel) in Bridge Street, Peterborough Some Residents of the Staff Hostel in 1950 1952: Marshall Grey and colleagues outside the Hostel.

John Smythe remembers staying at the City Commercial Hotel for about 18 months between 1952 and 1954 as a young apprentice, along with about 20 of his fellow employees. John spent the first nine months of his stay in a dormitory on the top floor, and the last nine months in the comparative luxury of a double room he shared with another resident. He paid 45 shillings each week for bed, breakfast and evening meal, plus an extra five shillings to have his laundry done.

"There was quite a nice community spirit and I really enjoyed my time there. I had been at boarding school, so I was quite used to the set-up and knew what to expect. Although the name "City Commercial Temperance Hotel" was written on the coloured glass door we used on the side of the building, I seem to remember it was only Temperance in theory, though the no ladies rule was strictly enforced.They were good days. We used to go to the City Cinema on Saturday nights for 9d."

Ralph Batson also stayed at the Hotel and recalls the rather severe lady who at one time ran the establishment - Nelly Washington (incidentally Margaret Preston's great-aunt). Ralph tells the story of inviting another work colleague for a meal at the hotel. Mrs Washington asked if they would like some of her apple pie and the visitor suggested that he would "risk a piece". "How dare you say you will risk some of my apple pie" was the redoubtable lady's reply and then refused to let them have any!

John Paton, who completed a three week attachment to Baker Perkins in February 1950, told of his 'brush with the law' during his stay at the City Temperance Hotel:

"I mentioned that during my stay in Peterborough I had been accommodated in the Company’s Student Hostel.  What I did not mention was the occasion of my arrest by the local police force!  One evening I had been out-on-the-town with a group of graduate apprentices.  We got back at the hostel some time after the live-in Warden had locked up for the night!  “No matter” said my friends, “we can get back in via this small window at the side of the hostel!”  One by one they showed me how it was done.  However, when my turn came I had only managed to wriggle my head and half my body through the tiny window opening when my legs were firmly grasped from the outside and I was pulled back from whence I came! The “puller” was a policeman on patrol.  When I explained I was one of the residents, his only response was “a likely story”.  He then took me off to the police station (I like to think with a private chuckle?) from where – some time later – he telephoned the hostel to checkout my story.  The Warden, disturbed from his bed, was anything but pleased, but he did confirm that I was one of the residents and agreed to open up the front door for me when I returned.  Only later did I find out that I was by no means the first resident to have been “arrested” in this way.  But Mum’s the word!"

A complete version of John's report on his secondment can be found here.

Baker Perkins gave up the Commercial Hotel in July 1953, the furniture was sold by Fox & Vergette and the premises bought by Hardy & Co. - a furnishing retailer - for 15,600.

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