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Upfield and Sons

From Historical Hastings

Upfield and Sons, Hastings Engineering Works, High-street. Hastings, were founded around 1850[1]. the term millwright was indication that general mechanical operations, maintenance and repairs, etc., were carried out and the work done was much more dependeut upon the individual skill of the craftsman than to-day when so much done by machinery- r. Upfield retired in favour of his two sons-in-law, Mr. Alfred Blackman (who retired 1914) and Mr. Frederick Hobbs, of Catsfield, and many early examples of both Mr. and Messrs. Blackman and Hobbs are in existence to-day daily work, thus giving definite evidence that the work was capably executed, lasting as has and years, and this is the policy still carried out the prwent partners, Messrs. Henry B. and Bernard H. Blackman.

It difficult ill these advanced days to realise that for many years after the foundation of the business Mr. John Upfield there were comparatively few steam engines, gas or oil engines or electrical power, most of the work being done waterwheels, horse gear, wind power, for windmills, and very largely hand labour, which gave that notable individual skill to craftsmen those, and later, days. Mr. Upfield was always a man well abreast of the times; the inost prevalent type of work was flour and oat milling by means of the grinding process known as Peak or French Burr stones. Several mills were designed by Mr. Upfield and his two sons-in-law. Some these windmills are still in existence, notably Mr. William Draper's windmill at Silverhill: a photograph and description this mill was given in the w Observer" of the 9th inst. I These picturesque and prominent landmarks are rapidly disappearing, but the fact that they still exist ana are daily use is proof of good design and workmanship. In nis early days Mr. Upfield assisted in the removal portions of the old tilt hammer the Ashburnbam Forge, the last of the old Sussex Iron Works, and carried out many repairs the Powder Mills at Battle. On one occasion he was able to offter a helpful suggestion with regard to set of hydraulic presses made the, then, young firm of Messrs. of Birmingham, whose works now occupy nearly acres, having agencies in all parts the world. This advice was adopted and led an established appreciation and connection representatives, which has survived through three generations up to the present time, with recent increase the representation this area of Messrs. Tangyes' manufactures the present proprietors of the firm of Upfield and Sons. addition to the windmills, several watermills were regularly under the care the firm, some still exist as practical businesses to-day. . . Two of the largest mills in this district were built by the firm, viz. Messrs. M. and A. Burton. Horsebridge, Hellingly. and Havenhurst Mills, Bopeep, St. Leonards. The Hellingly Mill is now owned Messrs. McDougall, of self raising flour fame. Mr. Draper mill marked great advance in the process of milling, for the general use of stones" for grinding wheat for flour was superseded " rolls and Mr. Draper was the first miller in this district adopt that process and the whole mill was designed with the help Mr. Alfred Blackmail extensive experience ami up-to-date knowledge. The whole mill and machinery was erected uudor Mr. Blackmail's personal supervision and much of the machinery was built Messrs. Ujifield and Sous, Works, both for Havenhurst Mill and Hellingly Mills. With the march of progress the firm of Upfield and Sons kept well in touch. When Normanhurst Court was built for the late first Earl (then Mr. Thomas) Brassey, the firm's help was requisitioned for the gas-making and plants and heating, and later the electric lighting plants; in each of the three later developments the firm continued to keep up-todate. Gas engines were installed and later oil engiues; .as these two means of power developed the firm promptly followed them up. The firm at High-street to-dav have installed several of the most up-to-date oil engines (crude oil), the largest of winch., is installed in the "Observer Office, Hastings, to generate electricity for power and lighting purposes. The firm have at present under consideration or actually being installed engines of well over horsehorse-powe 4 . The first suction gas engine plant complete installed locally was put by- the present senior partner High-street, under the supervision and to the designs of Mr. Alfred Blackmail, many years ago. the time of the disastrous fire at Havenhurst Flour Mill, St. Leonards, there VM a twin cylinder Tangye engine of over 150 i.b.p.. which was installed by the firm, and the total horse-power installs the firm since its Hastings Works were purchased I'M'"tacTodes Mr. Alfred Blackmail suction gas engines J.r. and plant at the , "Observer" Works, each 54 b.k.p., and one of b.h.p. their Folkestone Works. Later one the b.h.p. engines was removed from to Folkestone ami successfully installed under very conditions with special belt drive for electricity generation. The horse-power supplied the firm since its commencement would considerably over 3,000. Some the engines were for foreign orders, notably Rhodesia and New Zealand. The Rhodesia installation involved large amount of machinery from various makers in England which was sent to Rhodesia. Nearly 50 of the machines were designed the present senior partner of the firm. Mr. Henry aqd manufactured their works at High-street. Hastings. In 1883 the firm (then Catsfield) came Hastings, very considerable and increasing connection was developing ill this town, and Mr. Alfred Blackman came to control the. new venture. The works were then in Georgo-street. Mr. Blackmail's qualifications soon won many mora customers, and improvement was evident which steadily continued. About this time the Hastings Harbour scheme developed. The resident engineer of the contractors, Messrs. Pnnehavd, Lowtlier and Co., Mr. and the second Engineer, EIGHTY YEARS OF ENGINEERING. BOW A LOCAL FIRM COMMENCED AND GREW. Mr. Savory, won found in Mr. Blackiqan a very cupablo engineer and the engineering work for their requirements was entirely carried otit Mr. Blackman the Georgestreet works. This led to some important contracts being executed Mr. Blackman (Upfield and Sons) for Messrs. Punchnrd, and Co., Ltd., including harbour plant at Hong Kong and works for other firms the Fur East. Also a set pumps was designed, made High-street, and erected at lTofehester (Dorset). The continued growth the business soon rendered the George-street premises and plant inadequate. Opportunity arose acquire the present freehold premises of 28, High-street, where entirely new works were erected and new plant installed to replace the obsolete plant George-street and to increase the machinery. In dune, 1907, these new premises were opened. The increasing business again necessitated additional premises, which were acquired developing adjoining property, thus adding nearly per cent, the Moor space. Concurrently with the engineering side of the business, Mr. Blackmail developed central heating and hot water supply in the town and district. do not think it any exaggeration to state that he may lie considered to be a local pioneer this class of work, and it may of interest to mention that one the largest buildings in this district, the Jesuit. College, Oreplace, St. Helen's, Hastings, was fitted throughout with central heating the firm, who also d'esigned the system, in competition with London and other towns, which there are fewer than 252 radiators addition numerous coils for heating the larger rooms and the corridors. Also numerous large and small houses, etc., have been fitted with central heating by them, including several old houses of the Elizabethan period which present, as rule, special difficulties. In 1914, Mr. Alfred Blackmail retired and his two sons succeeded to the business, but on the outbreak the Great War in August, 1914, practically all the Usual course work was altered owing to the severe conditions of the Ministry Munitions. Mr. Alfred Blackmail was one of four selected for the placing and supervision of contracts for the Ministry Munitions, under the Duke of Norfolk and laml Lcconfield, in Kent an.d East Sussex. The requirements the Ministry of Munitions urgent and war work necessitated the works being run night and day continuously (except Sunday" for many months and very ninny thousands various parts were such Mills bomb parts, 18 pounder shell bodies, aeroplane hangar parts, also speciality which was the property of the firm. Very many hundreds were supplied to mechanical transport workshops and also several other component parts for various war requirements. meet the demand of the authorities and to keep the usual business connection was impossible. All but a Very few recognised the impossibility their work being done when needed and with the conclusion of the war every effort was made to complete Ministry contracts and resume the ordinary civil routine. This was eventually successfully done and the firm, under the younger management, continued the excellent example set both Mr. Alfred and Mr. I'pfield, until last your, after gradual progress, lipt only was the number of employees more than double than when the present partners assumed control 1014, but the number Mr. Henry B. Blackman.of orders was also more than doubled and the premises have been added to during the last three years by the purchase of adjoining property which will permit of considerable developments which is confidently hoped will soon begin assume definite shape. 11l all these developments the necessity of the plant has not been overlooked, for further obsolete machines have replaced with new for the particular class of work done the firm, including electrically driven tools, heavy machine tools and acetylene welding and cutting equipment, and the purchase of this up-to-date equipment has enabled the modern engineering slogan truly used many up-to-date firms "The tool to the work, and not the work the tool, to practised. The result of this, especially in the acetylene welding and cutting, is that many repairs are executed the customer's premises, instead of the older practice of removing to a works. With the acetylene plants, the development dissolved acetylene has enabled the firm to much cutting and welding the site here the articles, boilers, structural steel work, etc., are actually in position. The development of the internal combustion engine tcom town's pas and paraffin has been gradually and billowed through its various stages and many plants suction gas producers and engines have been installed, also the latest type of crude oil engine, totalling several hundred horse-power several leading makers. The great developments now taking place iu electrical power also closely followed, numbers electric motors liaviug been instullod. , Another important branch of the firm activities has also been kept quite up-todate, viz., central heating and hot water supply systems. Since the war very considerable developments have occurred, the most important perhaps being panel heating, oil fuel for boilers, domestic boilers for hot water supply, and the increasing use copper pipes for hot water supply systems. In these, hot water work generally, the firm specialises. The increasing amount work wliicli rump the firm in connection with the rapid use of motor cure necessitated the acquisition of further premises in which this class of work tie exclusively dealt with, nnd the hearier molor work only at ITigh-street engineering works. Therefore, the present premises at were acquired several years ago. This necessitated n re-arrangement of management. Mr. Henry H. Blaekman being responsible for the management the II works and Mr. Bernard H. for the motor premises. It is not intended in this 80th anniversary record more than very briefiy outline the history of the firm its present activities, bat sufficient has been said indicate that firm with 80 years record good sound work and principles has very real and substantial assets, and these are very highly prised the present proprietors and bv the employees, for the pride of honoured name ia shared by each and every member the firm. Also the accumulated experience obviously something which cannot valued with any real accuracy. From time time the question altering the name from to * has bean considered and some suggested, always has been felt very definitely the various owners of tho firm that the name of "Upfield" was well-known and highly honoured one years past, it should lie their effort to maintain and Increase its reputation the name of Blackman being in close association with it, and are sure this has been done, and not only the firm very proud its past but has every confidence in its future.

  1. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 23 February 1929 pg. 4