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The Vickers Armstrong factory was built in Eddington in 1940/41, and made small machined parts for Spitfires, Walrus Amphibian aircraft and Wellington bombers throughout the rest of the war. It closed in 1943-44.
John Adnams & Sons then used the area for grain storage and offices, until, in the early 1950s, Agricultural Services Ltd used the site to make weed killers and fertilizers. This became Fertiliquids, which operated until 1987.
The site was re-developed as Hamblin Meadow housing.
- Fertiliquid old tanks, Aug 1988 (John Allen).
- Fertiliquid / Hill's old factory, Aug 1988 (John Allen).
The Vickers Armstrong Factory:
John King was a well-known farmer at Folly Farm, Eddington, a tenant farmer on a large estate, but he was nevertheless a keen capitalist. He bought cottages and land wherever and whenever he could. During his long tenure of Folly Farm, he acquired many properties in the village of Eddington, which, in many cases, was instrumental in changing the physical shape of the village for all time.
One of his acquisitions was a small paddock along Upper Eddington Road, which stretched down to the mill tail of Eddington Mill. The sale of this piece of land to Mr. King by mill-owner Mr. Hofland, did not please his tenant, Mr. Robinson, the miller, who used this field extensively as grazing for his large delivery horses.
This small field was to be the site of a most unexpected source of local employment - never dreamt of by those who bought and sold this land.
Early in the Second World War, the Luftwaffe bombed the Vickers-Armstrong' s main armaments factory at Woolston, Southampton on 26th September, 1940. It was realised that sites had to be found for the establishment of shadow factories, where piecemeal aircraft production could continue. Len Gooch was instructed to find suitable sites, various other dispersal sites for factories to be called shadow factories- where piecemeal aircraft production could continue. In six weeks, he had found 35 sites, and the small field, tucked under a hill to the north of Eddington, was one of theme
In strictest security, the factory building was erected, although we do not know who actually built it, but it not a local concern. By early 1941 it was in production. Many local garages were requisitioned for this same work - in Newbury, Messrs. Stradlings and Nias Garages were involved, besides that of Pass & Co. It was as an offshoot of the latter concern that Eddington operated. In reality, it was a machine shop, producing various, small machined parts, such as nuts, bolts, washers and other small using mostly small automatic lathes, even though there were a few larger machines. The bulk of the production being for Spitfires, with some being used for Walrus Amphibian aeroplanes and Wellington Bombers.
The factory possessed its own canteen and first-aid room, and was staffed, in the main, by female labour, apart from a few highly skilled tool setters and tool makers. Initially, a twenty-four hour, two-shift system being 8 to 8, seven days a week was in operation, while later a slight reduction was introduced, whereby some had Saturday off one week and Sunday the next.
In order to support the local women working at the factory with crèche facilities, a Wartime Nursery (later re-named Day Nursery) administered by the Ministry of Health, was opened in The Croft. This became The Croft Nursery School.
It has proved impossible to accurately detail the number of persons employed, but it must have been exceeded fifty. Many residents in Hungerford, Eddington and neighbouring villages worked there during the dark days of war.
The production of the various local factories which produced these Spitfire parts, was to come together at Chilbolton Airfield, near Andover, where the erection and test-flying of completed aircraft took place. So it was that this little village could unexpectedly be very proud of its contribution in our nation' s supremacy of the skies, which had such a dramatic effect in turning the tide of war in our favour.
However, it would seem that the Eddingtor factory' s most effective role was probably drawing to a close around the end of 1943-beginning of 1944, but, during its short life, it had not only, as aforementioned, given a valuable service to the nation as a whole, but had played a major role in bringing employment and much-needed income to a great number of local residents, even if under a cloak of secrecy,
Adnams & Sons:
As the war ended, these large buildings became empty, but not for long. The Hungerford-based firm of seed and grain merchants, John Adnams and Sons, whose main offices were at 28, High Street with works at the Granary behind, were the first to cast eyes on this large expanse of covered area. It is not known whether they purchased the buildings or leased them from the ministry, but they used them extensively as a grain store and an extension to their business.
Christopher Hill Ltd:
Before long, the large, Poole based firm of millers and corn merchants by the name of Christopher Hills Ltd. took over the premises and Adnams business. They used the buildings as an outstation for the storage and distribution of large quantities of their products and had an office staff as well as representatives working from that address.
Agricultural Services Ltd:
In the early 1950s, a firm known as Agricultural Services Ltd was started at Emmer Green Garage, near Reading. They specialised in the sale and application of all manner of fertilisers and weed killers to the farming industry.
One of their most successful ventures in later years was the promotion of a nitrogen-rich by-product of the gas making industry, called Gas Liquor. This was extensively sold locally, and used by dairy farmers to promote the growth of kale, a valuable source of green winter food for milk-producing cows.
In the early days, this firm operated a small fleet of portable sprayers mounted on the back of Land Rovers. However, I believe that this same firm fell under the banner of Christopher Hill Ltd, which brought about a move. and they joined forces with the former Adnams team at Eddington.
The undoubted success to the farmer of a liquid form of fertiliser- readily available and easily spread, coupled with a home base sufficiently large enough for the manufacture of an. increasing range of these products - in turn led to a rapid expansion of not only sales, but activity at the Eddington plant.
Large square tanks now appeared, together with the first batch of small, round, vertical tanks - an omen of what was to follow. A workshop for the erection and maintenance of portable tractor-hauled sprayer tanks was incorporated into the works, as well as the usual office facilities. The now familiar sight of large lorries carrying liquid fertiliser, Fertiliquid, a name and trade mark established at that time, now became part of everyday life.
Rank, Hovis, McDougall:
It was not long before the still expanding firm of Christopher Hill attracted the attention of the large conglomerate firm of Rank, Hovis, McDougall, who bought the site in the 1960s, and paved the way for even greater activity.
Fertiliquids of Eddington, under the banner of Dalgety since 1984, became leaders in their field, and their volume of business grew from an annual total of just over two thousand tons with seven sprayers, at the time of 'RHMs acquisition to a staggering fifty thousand tons and two hundred and fifty sprayer's in the 1987s. The firm employed twenty six people, and offered a comprehensive service to agriculture over a large slice of Southern Britain.
It was announced in the local press on 14 Apr 1987, that the Dalgety would close the Eddington site by the end of the year, and Fertiliquid production was moved to Calne.
The land was eventually sold, and re-developed as Hamblin meadow housing estate.
[With thanks to John and Brenda Newton, 2017.]