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The Reyrolle Story: Twenty-Five - Overseas Trade

...The Nuclear Power Plant Co was formed in 1955 with Reyrolle as a constituent member. A few years later Calder Hall the world's first Nuclear power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale, was opened by H.M Queen Elizabeth when she switched the station onto the National Grid...

Robert Owen continues his history of Reyrolles, the huge Tyneside engineering firm.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_reyrolle_story/

To purchase a copy of his book visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

Another connection with South Africa was in 1954 when a Barton Welding Co. in Johannesburg received an order from Reyrolle's agents for some fabrication work. The amazing connection was that Alan Barton, the owner of the business, was a former Reyrolle apprentice from 1904.

As the 1950s progressed, Reyrolle continued to recruit more and more workers. In an age long before equality, the recruitment process kept Wilf Pollard (male) and Madge Hunter (female) very busy. In 1958, to accommodate the growing army of office workers, a new, slim and fashionable seven storey building was constructed on the Hebburn site. Situated right along the railway track it became a new landmark on South Tyneside.

In 1959, in accordance with a national 'agreement', a shorter working week was introduced for both hourly and salaried staff. At the same time of declaring a net profit of nearly 1.5 million and a dividend of 17.2% to shareholders the new Chairman of the Board, Sir Harold Mullens warned "the immediate effect will be to increase costs at a time when it is essential to reduce prices to overcome intense competition from foreign manufacturers".

Ever since the first export of switchgear to Australia in 1906, Reyrolle have always devoted much time, effort and money to develop its overseas trade. Possibly it reaped the benefits during the 1950s, when several countries were either developing or expanding their technological infrastructures. By then Reyrolle was exporting to 78 different countries and exports were amounting to near 40% of the Company's annual turnover. Just as Fred Crawford effectively managed the Home Market, John Bird developed the more complex Overseas Market. Coincidentally, both joined the Reyrolle Board in 1965.

During the 1950s the Testing and Research Department (T&R) was renamed the Research & Certification Department (R&C). One of its main tasks was to test the new ranges of high voltage switchgear and the only option appeared to be a new larger direct test facility. Once the Board of Directors agreed to such a major change, the next question was where? Space was limited and the preferred site was near the 1929 Testing Station. The result was the sacrifice of the firms' rugby pitch!

The new test facility cost a million pounds and took three years to build. Called the "Reyrolle Research Station - High Power Division", it was opened by Lord Citrine, Chairman of the British Electricity Authority, on the 23rd March 1954. The event attracted many distinguished guests. After frightening them with some demonstrations of high-power arcs, buses took everyone off to the Old Assembly Rooms, Newcastle for a "high-powered lunch".

The busy 1950s also saw an innovative new power source in the UK. The Nuclear Power Plant Co was formed in 1955 with Reyrolle as a constituent member. A few years later Calder Hall the world's first Nuclear power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale, was opened by H.M Queen Elizabeth when she switched the station onto the National Grid. Not only did Reyrolle supply the switchgear and ancillary equipment but also the control desk complete with meter, lamps and switch used by the Queen.

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