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Boulton and Paul

The firm of Boulton and Paul survived for nearly 200 years old. Boulton & Paul Ltd, was a Norwich based manufacturing company that started life as an ironmonger's shop. It was situated in Cockey Lane, Norwich, and opened by William Moore in 1797. The retail and wholesale ironmongery grew steadily; some 40 years later, on Moore's death, Williams Staples Boulton became a partner In 1853 a 12-year-old boy named John Dawson Paul joined as an apprentice and history was in the making. A decade later he became manager of the business, on a salary of 100 a year. The business of WS Boulton and Paul came into being in 1869.Over the next century it changed its name several times, becoming an ironfounders, a wire netting manufacturer, and became famous for the construction of prefabricated wooden buildings. The company produced the huts for Scott's Antarctic expedition, and also made motor boat engines and structural steelwork.

The extensive agricultural and horticultural implement works of Messrs. Boulton and Paul, at Norwich, were greatly damaged by fire on 11 August 1876. The building in which the fire originated had been erected but little more than twelve months, and was known as the horticultural department. It was an immense structure, more than 160ft. long by 70ft. wide, and consisted of four floors. The basement was used as stores, and was filled with finished goods, such as lawn mowers, etc., and on the first floor was the office, in which were kept not only the books, but a large quantity of drawings, 4c. The upper floors were used as carpenters' and painters' shops, and were full of work in progress, machinery, &c There was a fine large engine and boiler in the building, used to drive the various saws, planing, morticing, and other machines.

A large range of workshops, stores, and machinery devoted to the manufacture of horticultural requirements was totally destroyed; but though disaster did not in any way affect any other department of the works, where business was carried on as usual. Although the horticultural workshops were destroyed, fortunately the entire stock of well-seasoned timber, which was stored in sheds at a distance from the scene of the fire, was saved, and arrangements were made to resume this special branch at the earliest possible date, and to continue it during the rebuilding of the premises.

As early as 1878 Boulton and Paul, of Norwich were selling an improved portable poultry-house, peasantry, or aviary. The roosting and laying house is made of wood, painted green outside, and lime-whited inside, with run underneath for shade and shelter; new circular-shaped galvanized roof, which is very ornamental, and affords good ventilation; fitted with shifting porches, sliding window, &c, strong galvanized wire run, as illustrated, with door and lock, and all necessary bolts and nuts complete.

In 1907 Boulton and Paul, Norwich, exhibited a useful 16ft. unsinkable boat, the hull of which is of galvanized sheet steel. The engine is a 2 h.p. two-stroke reversible type, and could propel the boat at a speed of seven miles an hour, draft loaded, making the craft very suitable for harbor or river work. They were so successful in their first race that everyone else withdrew from racing for the remainder of the season.

In 1914 Boulton & Paul Ltd began to manufacture items for the war effort. Boulton & Paul became extremely busy fulfilling many contracts which included a Naval Hospital at Dover, huts and stables for 6,000 men and horses which had to be completed in ten weeks, a prisoner of-war camp in Jersey, hangars for the Royal Flying Corps, Naval and Military Installations, steel framed buildings in arsenals and dockyards, hospitals in France and warehouses in Mesopotamia.

As part of this the company was asked to produce aircraft, and in 1915 began building RAF factory designed FE.2B's. The company built a total of 550, and then received an order for Sopwith Camels, producing an average of 28 a week. The famous Sopwith Camel fighter aircraft was built in Norwich, so named for its hump-shaped fairing covering the machine guns. Boulton and Paul made 28 Camels a week at the height of production, and a total of 2,500 military aircraft in all during the war.

It was decided that aircraft production would continue after the war, and so the company opened a design department with John North as chief engineer. War machines were designed for speed and not for durability. One feature, however, was developed as a result of the war which would have a great effect on the future use and development of aviation. That was the application of metal to the structure of the airplane. The Germans were driven to this by the lack of a reliable supply of suitable lumber. Some French and English firms also worked on this problem, notably Boulton and Paul in England and Louis Clement in France. Many inventors had brought forward alloys, new structural combinations, etc., with the object of using metal in whole or in part. This development has been foreseen for many years, but presents a difficult problem. The effort to obtain the maximum of strength with the minimum of weight resulted in vastly refined types of internal structure and thorough investigations into the strength and properties of the available materials.

Mr. J. D. North, the Chief Engineer and Designer, who was a trained engineer before he turned his attention to aviation, was convinced that metal aircraft construction was the thing of the future, and he succeeded in getting his firm to see eye to eye with him in this matter. The consequence was that the huge plant established during the war for the production of the usual composite wood and metal type of aircraft was scrapped. Boulton and Paul, Ltd. decided, as a result of very extensive experimental research work on metal construction, to specialize on all-metal aircraft, and since that decision was taken several different types of all-metal machines were produced for the Air Ministry.

B&P produced an all-steel P10 biplane that was a great success at the 1919 Paris air show. The Boulton & Paul Commercial biplane of the year 1920 may be said to be similar to the machine built by this firm for the Transatlantic flight. The deep fuselage extends right up to the top plane, thus giving ample accommodation inside for passengers or packages. Since, however, the imain fuel tanks are mounted inside the body, the cargo or passenger space is divided into two separate compartments, one in front of the tanks and one aft of them. As at present fitted up, the machine is not provided with its full complement of seats, etc., as it is intended to obtain a certain amount of experience with her in the air before finally deciding upon the arrangement of seats. Also the arrangement will be largely dependent upon whether the machine is to be used for passenger flying, for carrying mails, or for a combination of the two. It will, therefore, be understood that this part of the design is still left open, so to speak, and is subject to alterations as requirements demand. Obviously there was a wide choice according to the use to which the machine will be put. For instance, by fitting relatively small tanks and installing a large number of seats, the P.8, as this machine is called on the B. & P. series list, will be able to carry a large load for a relatively short distance. On the other hand, the tank capacity may be increased and mails substituted for some of the passengers. Or, again, all passengers and mails may be left out, the whole carrying capacity being taken up by fuel, in which case the machine would have a very long radius of action.

Boulton & Paul became devoted entirely to the subject of all-metal construction. Novel methods were evolved, the firm having spent a very great deal of time and money in discovering the best ways of employing metal to the best advantage. So successful had they been that it was no exaggeration to say that by the mid-1920s Boulton and Paul, Ltd., held a leading position in this very specialized form of construction. It should be noted that the metal employed is high-grade steel, and not duralumin, Boulton and Paul construction differing entirely from the methods adopted by many French and German aircraft constructors.

The Government wanted airships, and with North acting as consultant, the R101 was designed at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington but much of it built in Norwich. The contract for R. 101 with the firm of Messrs. Boulton and Paul, of Norwich was an exceptional contract. There were several exceptional conditions connected with it. It was for a new kind of work, work of a very novel description, stainless steel of various kinds, new kinds of light girders that had never been constructed before. Although it was the desire of the Air Ministry always to place orders of this kind out to tender, this kind of work was not susceptible to tender. Indeed, the Air Ministry advisers were satisfied that the firm in question were really the only firm that could successfully undertake the work. The Air Ministry gave the work to the firm on condition that the Air Ministry paid them for the labor and the material, and had a definite limit from the very start upon their "overheads" and their "profit,". The Air Ministry made so good a bargain from their point of view that it appeared as if the firm would be "substantially down" on the transaction. The work took longer to completed and was more costly than initially thought, and the firm were quite definitely out of pocket.

The main girder work for R.101 (which was built at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington) was manufactured by Messrs. Boulton and Paul, Limited, of Norwich. Certain difficulties arising out of the novelty of the design caused a delay. Construction was started at the Riverside Works and 27 miles of tubing, 11 miles of bracing cables, 65,000 nuts and bolts, made up the sections, all of which were manufactured at Norwich. By mid-1928 Messrs. Boulton and Paul, of Norwich, had delivered the whole of the metal elements for the construction of the framework of R.101 airship. Sadly, on a stormy night in October 1930 she crashed at Beauvais, on her way to India.

Its Sidestrand bomber entered RAF service in 1929. Two large biplanes of unusual layout, as far as British techniques in power arrangement were concerned, emanated in 1931 from Boulton & Paul and de Havilland as a result of the companies' tenders to Specification B.22/27, which was drawn up to produce a four-seat, long-range, heavy night bomber. But the Air Ministry's plans changed, and the requirement was abandoned.

During the 1920's and 1930's orders were few and far between. Boulton and Paul, whose works spread over a very considerable number of acres, had been struggling along making losses, like many other big contractors and heavy industries, owing to the nature of their work. So the company decided to sell its aircraft department. This became Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd, and moved to a new factory at Pendeford, Wolverhampton, in 1934. Most of the 800 strong workforce moved to Wolverhampton but further skilled labor was required. A number of people were recruited from Ulster and Scotland, and a training school was set up at Cannock.

The Boulton and Paul Defiant was classified by the Air Ministry, as it then was, as a fighter and accepted. It was not very successful. The Albemarle was classified as a bomber transport and was not very successful. Often maligned as a failure, the Boulton Paul Defiant found a successful niche as a night-fighter during the German 'Blitz' on London. It is necessary to have a heavier gun in a machine which can be maneuvered to make an attack on the bomber not merely from one position, namely, exactly behind, where the armor is, but from the sides as well. There was the Defiant.

The company carried out a lot of modification work on the English Electric Canberra's. The last two Boulton Paul aircraft to fly were the P.111 and P.120 delta wing jets. The P.111 used a Rolls Royce Nene jet engine, and had a top speed of 650m.p.h. at 35,000ft. It first flew on 6th October 1950 and was developed into the P.120. In 1961 Boulton Paul joined the Dowty Group to become solely an aircraft component manufacturer. Today it is a part of the even larger TI group.

Although manufacturing ceased in 1986 at Norwich, Boulton & Paul continued to have a presence in East Anglia at its Lowestoft factory and claimed to be the largest joinery manufacturer in Europe and the market leader in the supply of wood windows to the UK building industry. Boulton and Paul were acquired by the Rugby Group in 1997 before being sold on again two years later when the company was subsumed into Jeld Wen Inc a privately owned worldwide joinery manufacturer.

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Page last modified: 09-05-2013 17:37:44 ZULU