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A local history and genealogy site for Wimpole, a village and parish in South Cambridgeshire.
Curated by Steve Odell.


The Old Brewery Building 1908-1918
Cundall (Orwell) Folding Machine Co Ltd.
Cundall's Munitions Works, Government Controlled Factory (War Work).

The Old Brewery Building from Cambridge Road c1908

The Old Brewery Building c1908
A badly faded photograph of the Foreman's House on the left [now demolished]
and the rather larger Manager's House (now 'Rose Villa' No 39 Cambridge Road) on the right.
The old Brewery building can be glimpsed in the upper right corner.
Compare this with the Cundall's publicity image below.

[Image from Steve Odell's collection]

"The Meyerses at the "Hardwicke Arms" used to brew their own beer; and rattling good beer it was. We used to say that the water from their horsepond brewed the best beer in the county. My uncle [Lord Hardwicke] too used to brew his own table-beer, and that for the Rent Dinner. All through the winter he insisted on a Loving Cup of hot spiced ale being served, and drunk with the usual ceremonies, at his table. The brewery at New Wimpole was not built until after 1873. It was built, so it is said, because my uncle had rowed with them for using the "Hardwicke Arms" as a private residence and not as an Inn."

- Alexander Campbell Yorke in 'Wimpole As I Knew It'.

For some fifty years, there was a large industrial building located behind houses 29 to 39 on the south side of Cambridge Road, New Orwell [now Wimpole]. It was originally built by brewers Philip Meyer and Arthur Hugh Meyer in 1874 as a malthouse and brewery (the 'Orwell Brewery') after a falling-out with Lord Hardwicke. The brewery building featured a tall chimney which quickly became a local landmark. The Meyers also built a terrace of nine brewery worker's cottages fronting onto Cambridge Road and 'Oatlands' a large imposing residence at the rear of the property.

The Brewery Worker's Cottages c1905
[Note the factory chimney and 'clocktower' over the cottage rooftops.
The main entrance to the (then) J & J.E Phillips brewery
was just beyond the far end of the terrace.]

By 1897 the Meyer Brothers retired, selling out to brewers J & J.E Phillips Ltd. Brewing ceased a decade later and by 1908 the building had became home to the Orwell Iron Foundry and Cundall's, a company making paper folding machinery. The promotional article below gives a 'conducted tour' of the premises.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Cundall's became a Government controlled munitions works. Over 50 local women were employed to sew military webbing and harnesses.

When the First World War finished, the building fell into disuse and the whole 'Oatlands' Estate was sold by auction on Tuesday 27th September 1921 to settle death liabilities (see also 'The Grange Sale 1921' [page in preparation]). It is believed the main factory building was demolished the following year.

'Oatlands' (now 'Orwell Grange'), the nine worker's cottages (I live in two of them!) and the 'Manager's House' ( now 'Rose Villa', 39 Cambridge Road) all survived the demolition.

This local history page ends with three photographs of Cundall employees plus three c1916 photographs of the women from Wimpole, Orwell and Arrington employed on war work.

I must also refer you to David Miller's excellent history of the Oatlands Estate page on the 'Orwell Past and Present' website. If our two accounts appear to conflict, my money would usually be on David....

The following promotional article appeared in the October 1909 edition of the "British Empire Paper, Stationery & Printing Trades' Journal". Think of it as an advert. The article and two Cundall product catalogues were kindly lent by Joy Miller of Orwell in 2002.

The Cundall (Orwell) Folding Machine Co Ltd

The Outside of the Works
[This is a distorted view made from various photographs stiched together.
Hence the weird perspective. One result is to make the building appear
probably twice the size it actually was. - Ed]

Where the "Cundall" Folding Machines are Made

"At the kind invitation of Mr William Denton Cundall, who, as we announced in a recent issue, has acquired the whole of the business relating to folding machines hitherto carried on by Messrs Cundall, Sons & Co Ltd at Shipley, Yorkshire, of which branch he had had control for many years, we have had the pleasure of paying a week-end visit to his new works, and to his beautiful home [The Grange] at Orwell, Cambridgeshire. Here he is in possession of one of the most up-to-date works that could possibly be found for the production of the machines which have made a name for themselves throughout the world.

"Feeling that there are many of our readers who would be interested in a short description of the method of manufacture of machines with which they are in daily contact, we had not the slightest hesitation in accepting Mr Cundall's invitation, so we might see for ourselves how these really marvellous pieces of mechanism were constructed, and, to the best of our ability, to transmit our impressions into cold type, assisted by the camera and the blockmaker."

"The new works of the Cundall Folding Machine Co., under which name the business is worked (Mr W D Cundall being the sole proprietor), are situate on the main Roman road running from Cambridge to the West, about one-and -a-quarter miles from its juncture with the Old North Road (formerly known as Ermine Street). The works themselves lie back from the road about 80 to 100 feet, and are approached by a wide roadway lying between a row of workman's houses on the one side and the manager's and the foreman's houses on the other, these buildings occupying the space between the high road and the main building.

"On the right of the entrance road, there is a building which is being fitted up as a recreation room for the use of the employees, next to which is the store room, for oils, paints etc. The entrance road then leads right direct between the main, or manufacturing portion of the factory, and a large building of three floors used as general stores. This latter building is plainly shown on the illustration above, and covers a ground area of some 135 by 45 feet. This roadway, dividing the two buildings, continues through to the private gardens surrounding the residence of Mr Cundall, and also affords ready access for carts to all the different departments of the works, which cover a floor space of 35000 square feet, exclusive of the quadrangle or courtyard, round which the buildings are erected and occupied, as shown in the ground plan above."

The Machine Shop

"As will be seen, the end of the rear section, which is two floors high, is occupied as a coach house and stables, the whole of the remainder of the section being taken up by the foundry. At right angles to the foundry we have the fettling shop, over which are the foundry stores, and then the forge, and across the court-yard there is fitted a crane by which heavy castings can be rapidly transmitted to the large room on the opposite side of the courtyard, where the planing, drilling, boring, grinding and other machines of the most up-to-date British and American makes, are all ready to do their share in the transforming of the rough casting to the finished machine. This room, which has a floor space of some 100 by 40 feet is the ground floor of the front of the building as seen in the photograph, and is excellently adapted for the purpose, the floor being as rigid as though it were on the solid ground; in fact, this remark applies to every floor in the building which is of very unusual strength."

"The first floor of this section is occupied by the erecting and fitting shops, and the tape making, French polishing and carpenters' shops, so that there is no loss of time in passing the various parts of the machine from one department to another, special attention having been paid to the economic production by saving of unnecessary haulage. The top floor is where the patterns of the various machines made by the company are kept and is admirably adapted for this purpose, the ventilation and other requirements being all that can be desired. "Descending to the basement, we find a well ordered array of small castings, spindles, and other similar parts, so that any part or parts required can be at once drawn upon and removed with every facility to the machine, erecting or fitting shop. At the northern end of this block and in immediate connection with the erecting and fitting shop, whence the goods are carried by a travelling crane, is the delivery wharf, on the right of which is the engine room, the gas making plant and the electric lighting plant. The gas making plant provides the power for the "Cundall" gas engine of 35 b.h.p., which in its turn drives the various machines and the electric generating plant."

The Erecting Shop

"At the north-east corner of the main building is to be found the general offices, draftsmen's rooms and private offices, all equally well appointed as the other parts of these up-to-date works. "Although the works have been established but little over twelve months, it is astonishing the progress which has been made and the constant necessity for increasing the output which is required, owing to the numerous orders received by Mr Cundall since the establishment of the new firm. This steady increase is without doubt due to the fact that Mr Cundall lays himself out to produce machines to meet the requirements of his customers instead of simply making a machine and endeavouring to force it on the trade without regard to the necessities of their particular work, which varies in almost every establishment."

"At the present time there are some fifty hands constantly employed, and there is room for two other fifties to be accommodated should the exigencies of the trade demand such a large staff, which, in view of the go-a-head business methods adopted by Mr Cundall and the sterling value of the machines turned out by him,is not by any means a unlikely result, and that in the near future. "Notwithstanding foreign competition, the Cundall machines have always held their own, and their superior merits have been recognised both in this country and overseas. More especially is this so in the case of machines specially built to meet the requisitions of foreign and Colonial makers; many large firms abroad have these machines running, and have sent repeat orders for them,which sufficiently demonstrate their eminently satisfactory qualities. To be able to successfully compete with strong foreign competition of this nature surely constitutes one of the most convincing arguments, one of the very best testimonials in favour of these machines...."

The Carpenter's Shop

"Realising that the machines vary so greatly not only in character and capacity, but also in size, ranging from a miniature machine which will fold to a slip (1.5 inches square) for insertion in packets of tobacco to one taking a double eight crown sheet, it is somewhat difficult to decide as to which to lead off with....
[There follows several pages of detailed specifications of the various folding paper machines] .....

"There are many other machines, each deserving of special mention, but we think we have shown sufficient to impress upon our readers the fact that, confining their attention as we have mentioned, solely to the production of folding machines, the Cundall Folding Machine Company, can produce anything required in this class of machine of a quality and at a price which favourably competes with any make on the market. "In conclusion, we may say that the works, being conveniently placed within easy reach of the Royston and the Shepreth stations on the Great Northern Railway and the Lords Bridge and the Old North Road stations of the London and North Western Railway, there can be little delay in the conveyance of machines to any part, a fact which can only be appreciated by those who have experienced the disappointment of the slow conveyance from towns where traffic is great and has a habit of getting blocked sometimes for days together."

A Cundall Folding Paper Machine

Related Photographs (Below)

(a) Cundall's Workers outside the main entrance. (1915/16)
David Miller says the girl is Florence Freestone, the Company Secretary, who appears to be wearing a wedding ring. Florence got married in 1915 which means this photograph dates to mid-WW1. Edward Skinner is in the back row, second from the left. He worked for Cundall's until he joined the Army on October 5th 1914. The following summer (August 1915) Edward was sent home from the army to aid urgent war work at 'Cundall's Munitions Works', until being recalled and sent back to France on 6 July the following year . He was killed in action at the Somme just four weeks later. I don't wish to make light of the circumstances, but yes, Florence's wedding ring and Edward could have appeared in the same photograph together in late 1915 or early 1916.

(b) The Foundry. "Orwell Iron Foundry, Cambs". (1915/16?)
Casting frames in sand for Cundall's Folding Machines so I assumed a pre-war photograph. But that is Edward Skinner second from the left and there appears to be face and clothing matches with image (a) above. Would manufacturing paper folding machinery count as priority war work?

(c) Cundall's Workers outside the main entrance. (c1912?)
Edward Skinner is in the middle row, third from the right.

(d) Women Workers employed on Government controlled War Work (c1916)
at 'Cundall's Munition Works'. They are holding examples of their work. This photograph was taken in the garden of the 'Manager's House' (Now 'Rose Villa', No 39 Cambridge Road).

(e) and (f) Women Workers employed on Government controlled War Work. (c1916) at 'Cundall's Munition Works'. They are sewing harnesses and webbing items for military use. Images (d) (e) and (f) were clearly taken on the same day. Perhaps (a) and (b) were also taken on that day as well?

Photographs (a), (b) and (c) are courtesy of Brenda and Michael Skinner (2002).

Please let me know if you can put names any of the faces in the photographs.

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