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The Reyrolle Story: 47 - A Huge Sale

The huge New Town Works of Reyolle, the Tyneside manufacturing firm, is finally put up for sale.

Robert Owen continues his history of the firm.

To purchase a copy of Robert's book please click on 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

In desperate need of some good publicity, the Company got a little on December 21st 1982. It was then that the BBC broadcast a radio interview with well known Reyrolle character and raconteur, 83 years old Fred (Bowtie) Nicod. Son of Alfred Nicod, one of Reyrolle's first employees.

Fred, himself an apprentice in 1915, remembered Alphonse Reyrolle "as a benevolent employer who did much to establish a family spirit at work."

Perhaps that 'family spirit at work' was evidenced in the same year, eighty one years after Alphonse Reyrolle had started his small factory at Hebburn. By then the Company had awarded an amazing 1,195 employees with a gold watch for 40 years continual service and 70 with an illuminated scroll for 50 years service. However, NEI Reyrolle were soon to find out its massive redundancy policy over the last 15 years was not sufficient to solve its serious financial problems. There was an urgent need to reduce overheads and costs in other ways than redundancies Things were getting desperate and urgent action was required.

The major casuality of this urgent action was Company's New Town Works. ''NEI Reyrolle s major industrial complex of 18 acres at Hebburn New Town is up for sale at taround 1.5million" read The Gazette on 13* March 1985. The Newcastle Chartered Surveyor who handled the sale said it was one of the biggest they had to deal with.

To cope with the above, much of the work at the New Town site was outsourced and what could not be sub-contracted was moved down to Hebburn. At the same time factory stocks of material and work-in-progress were radically reduced and savings used to facilitate a much needed investment in new technology.

Other buildings closed were the 1929 Short Circuit Testing Station and the 1959 Research Laboratory. Even the much treasured sports field did not escape; it was sold to the local council with agreement that the firm's various sports clubs could rent the facilities. A headline in the local paper read "End of an Era". Perhaps it was?

About the same time, the Chairman of NEI, Dr Duncan McDonald, was awarded a knighthood. This was reported on the front page of the NEI News which amazingly, said little about the major problems back at Hebburn. This added further substance to those who thought Reyrolle was the poor relation in the NEI organisation. Possibly this was confirmed when the NEI Annual Report for 1985 stated that "NEI Reyrolle has also benefited from last year's major restructuring", or in other words, the closing of New Town Works.

While all this was going on and in the wake of a national miner's strike, Reyrolle held its own. The autumn of 1984 saw 200 engineers withdraw their labour, while objecting to management plans to divorce them as a trade union bargaining unit from the rest of the NEI Reyrolle site at Hebburn.


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