C. and W. Walker: The History
Note: This is a sub-section of C. and W. Walker
Extracted for pages 4-6 of C. and W. Walker: 1955 The Progress of C. and W. Walker
The firm began its activities in 1837 in a small establishment at 21, Little Sutton Street, Goswell Street, Clerkenwell, London, under the direction of Charles Walker. Smiths’ work was undertaken and later, stamps, presses, press tools and plant were made as shown in the facsimile of an advertisement card which was printed about that
Charles Walker had three sons, Matthew, Charles Clement and William Thomas. The two younger sons, Charles Clement and William Thomas, were associated with their father in the business in Clerkenwell.
In the year 1857 the Works were transferred from London to Donnington, near Wellington, Shropshire, when the founder handed over the control of the undertaking to his sons, Charles and William, and the firm then became known as C. & W. Walker. When first established at Donnington, Charles Clement Walker supervised the Works, while William Thomas Walker devoted most of his attention to the firm’s interests in London, where an office at Finsbury Circus was opened.
Later, William Walker also developed and managed the firm's business on the Continent and abroad.
About the year 1882 Friedrich Week a nephew of Mrs. Charles Clement Walker, joined the firm and introduced the famous Week Valve for controlling the flow of gas to purifiers. The patent was communicated to an agent in this country while Mr. Week was in Berlin. Records show that shortly afterwards he took up residence at Lilleshall, near Donnington, where he lived with Mr. C. C. Walker for a short time. Other patents were taken out by F. Week, but the centre valve was the most important. Unfortunately, the activities of this promising young man were cut short by his death about 1890 while on a voyage between Australia and New Zealand.
There is practically no information available about the original Works in Clerkenwell, but the Works at Donnington were first centred in a small blacksmith's shop m which repairs to farm implements and the shoeing of horses had previously been carried out.
In the early days of the firm at Donnington the operations were largely of a general engineering character. Only thirty or forty workmen were employed, and the curtilage of the Works embraced only two or three acres of ground. A glance at the first order book, which dates back to July 1857, shows that the first order entered at Donnington was for a brewer's still, but a pencil note evidently added at a later date, suggests that the still was required for tar distillation. Whatever the true purpose of this still may have been, it is clear from records that the firm was well established as of gasholders long before the business was transferred from Clerkenwell to Donnington.
It was during the building of the Beckton Gas Works, near London, by the Chartered Gas Company (now incorporated in the North Thames Gas Board) in 1868, that the firm came into considerable prominence as builders of large gasholders and purifiers From that time C. & W. Walker's business developed rapidly, and during the next twenty-four years more land was rented, machine shops were extended and larger numbers of workers were employed. On the death of William Walker in 1892, Charles Walker carried on the business alone for some years. After his death the undertaking was formed into a limited company in 1899, with an authorised capital of £100,000. At a later date the capital was increased to £150,000, and in 1954 was further increased to £300,000 of which £183,947 has now been issued. The capital of the undertaking is small in relation to its size, and this is due to the kindness oi the executors of the estate of Charles Clement Walker, who expressed a desire that the Company should be floated at a comparatively low figure.
The Midland Iron Works at Donnington now cover nearly 18 acres of ground and employment is found for some hundreds of workpeople. The Works comprise a well equipped steel department, pattern shop, foundry, fitting shop, machine shop, planing yard, saw mill and general stores, together with a large erecting yard, an iron and steel stock yard, a timber yard and tackle stores. A modern system provides electric power for driving the machines in all the shops, and is so arranged that electric current may be obtained either from the Midland Electricity Board or from the Company’s own steam-electrical generators. The offices were until recently, practically the only brick building on the Works, with the exception of the original smithy. In general the shops consist of steel-framed structures covered with corrugated sheeting and timber glazing frames. This particular construction is due to the fact that the original leasehold terms for the land, which constituted part of the Duke of Sutherland's estate, called for brick buildings to be so constructed that they could be readily converted into dwelling houses. This was intended as a precaution against the possible failure of the business. In 1942, however, the freehold of the land on which the Midland Iron Works are situated, was purchased outright by the Company, so that this particular restriction on building no longer applies.
An up-to-date canteen provides meals for the staff and work people.
Sources of Information