A Short History of Hunwick Engineering Ltd by Trevor Beal
The Hunwick story began during World War Two when Mr W.A. Hunwick, a farmer and general engineer, having been ‘bombed out’ during the war, moved his small business from the outskirts of London to Halstead where he leased the old Paper Mill buildings in Chapel Street which was then owned by Messrs Portway and Son (the Tortoise Foundry), incidentally these buildings still exist today and have been made in a row of terraced houses, aptly named Papermill Cottages. It was at the Tortoise foundry that he met Mr Bill Harrison who was the Works Engineer there. It was not long before the two gentlemen became friends and decided to combine their skills with the formation of a new company in October 1941 called W.A. Hunwicks and Company Limited.
Paper Mill Buildings
Papermill Buildings Chapel Street
At this early stage production was concentrated on the war effort, fabricating torpedo loading trolleys for the Admiralty. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before Mr Hunwick had to retire from the business in December 1944 due to ill health.
After the war, great progress was made in the fabrication and machining business and more floor space was needed so in 1949 the company bought a plot of land at the end of Kings Road and built new purpose built workshops and offices.
W.A. Hunwick, Kings Road, circa 1949
Kings Road factory
Capel diesel engine
During the early 1950s the company bought out Capel and Company Limited of 168 Dalston Road in London, Capel’s had been producing a range of internal combustion engines since the turn of the century. It was thought to be a benefit having an in house product although sadly it was never really a major success and production of these stopped in the early 1960s.
It was also during the 1950s that W.A. Hunwicks began manufacturing one of their most famous projects, the mechanical elephants! It was the brainchild of Thaxted inventor, Mr Frank Stuart with Hunwicks making the steelwork for several of these life size mechanical elephants for him.
Following on from this, it was decided to use these mechanical elephants as part of their advertising slogan, being able to manufacture anything “From a Pin to an Elephant”.
From a pin to an elephant
In 1978, W.A. Hunwicks was acquired by The Patent Lightning Crusher Company Ltd, a company based at 14A Rosebery Avenue in London and in April 1982 they relocated to Halstead and the combined company became known as PLC Hunwick Ltd (the PLC standing for Patent Lightning Crusher and not, as many people thought at the time, Public Limited Company!).
The roots of the Patent Lightning Crusher Company went back as far as 1903 but officially date back to 1911 when it was registered as a Limited Company. The crusher company had already built up a very close relationship with Hunwicks from the early days when it was decided to manufacture the crusher casings from welded steel plates (having originally been castings produced at the nearby Tortoise Foundry).
During the 1980s PLC Hunwick Ltd began to get involved with high specification projects including pressure vessels and ventured into the offshore business, it was also at this time that PLC Hunwick acquired JPS Process Plant, a company involved with the design of plant for all water and waste liquid treatment processes. Other regular and varied projects during the 1980s & 90s included escalator tracks for the London Underground, conveyor systems, large ventilation ducts, expansion tanks, belt and drum filters, sewage treatment equipment along with car transporter parts. It was due to some of this higher specification work that they gained their approval certificate for BS5750/BS EN ISO9002 by Lloyds Register Quality Assurance.
More diversification came during the late 1990s and early 2000s when they began manufacturing a range of BBQs and also acquired Stuart Garden Furniture, a company which designed and manufactured bespoke wooden furniture.
June 2002 marked another change when a joint venture between Payze Engineering Ltd and Transporter Engineering Ltd purchased all the assets, all employees and good will from PLC Hunwick Ltd and began trading as Hunwick Engineering Ltd.
Payze Engineering were an engineering company based in Gosfield predominantly manufacturing agricultural bagging and conveying units along with some of the smaller car transporter parts.
Along with all the existing sub contract manufacturing of both PLC Hunwick and Payze Engineering, Hunwick Engineering Ltd became much more involved in the fabrication of larger parts for Transporter Engineering.
Following the economic downturn during 2010, the company went full circle with Hunwick Engineering acquiring the assets of Transporter Engineering Ltd and began trading immediately as Transporter. Following this, and with the rapid growth of the car transporter sales, it was decided in 2013 to cease all sub-contract fabrication work in order to concentrate solely on manufacturing and building the car transporters. The following year the Kings Road site in Halstead closed with all staff and equipment moving to a new purpose built factory at the transporter site on The Old Airfield in Gosfield. In 2015, all connections with Halstead finished when the Kings Road site was sold off with all production now based on the one site at Gosfield.
Torpedo trolley in action