Key Events and Significant Dates in Paxman's History 1920 - 2020
Information on this page has been taken from various sources including Paxman publications, newspaper cuttings and personal notes. If you know of other events which should be added, or can add more on those mentioned below, please contact me with details.
1920 - Paxman joins Agricultural & General Engineers Ltd.
The Company's founder, James Paxman, dies at his home in Bournemouth at the age of 90.
1926 - Edward Paxman joins the Company.
Edward Paxman, youngest son of James Paxman who founded the Company, joins the business after gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge and subsequent industrial experience with Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical in Manchester and Blackstone & Co at Stamford.
1927, February - Launch of Paxman's First Compression-Ignition Oil Engine.
Paxman exhibits its first compression-ignition Heavy-Fuel Oil engines, a VH and VK (both single cylinder), at the British Industries Fair in Birmingham in February. Later the same year the Company exhibited its new engines at the Royal Show at Newport in July and at the Shipping, Engineering and Machinery Exhibition held at Olympia in September.
1929 - Paxman introduces its first Turbocharged Engines.
In February and March 1929 Paxman receives its first orders for turbocharged oil engines. Both 8 cylinder VNS types, they were delivered in September and October that year. The first, for Basingstoke Corporation Electricity Works, was claimed to be the first Büchi turbocharged diesel to be put to work commercially on any land installation in the British Isles. When they entered service they were the two largest airless injection pressure-charged engines in ordinary commercial use in Britain at the time.
1931, February - Paxman launches its Heavy Duty Diesel Engine.
Paxman launches its second generation of compression-ignition oil engines, the Heavy Duty Diesel, exhibiting it at the British Industries Fair, Birmingham in February.
1932 - Failure of AGE.
Agricultural & General Engineers Ltd fails in bankruptcy, bringing down Paxman with it.
1932, 2nd August - Davey, Paxman & Co is reconstituted.
The Company is refinanced and reconstituted as Davey, Paxman and Company (Colchester) Limited, being incorporated on 2nd August.
1934 - Paxman launches its first High-Speed Diesel.
The Company launches the RQ engine, its first high-speed diesel designed to run at between 1,000 and 1,500 rpm. The indirect-injection engine was developed in collaboration with Sir Harry Ricardo and featured his "Comet" cylinder head and combustion chamber. All subsequent Paxman engines had Ricardo "Comet" heads until the introduction of the direct-injection YH and YL in the 1950s.
1935, September - Launch of Paxman's First Vee-form Engine.
Paxman's first vee-form diesel engine, the VeeRA, makes its debut at the Shipping, Engineering, and Machinery Exhibition at Olympia.
1940 - Ruston & Hornsby Ltd gain control of Paxman.
Through the acquisition of Paxman shares, following the death of Sir Bernard Greenwell, Ruston & Hornsby Ltd of Lincoln gain a controlling interest in the Company.
1941, January - Change of Company Name.
The name of the Company reverts to Davey Paxman & Co Ltd.
1949, 25th March - Death of Edward Paxman
Edward Paxman, the Company's Managing Director and youngest son of its founder, collapsed in his office at Standard Ironworks on the evening of Thursday 24th March 1949. He was taken to Essex County Hospital where he died the following day at the age of only 47.
1949, 5th May - Official Opening of Paxman Social Club Building
During the post-war period the Company was very supportive of the Paxman Athletic & Social Club. A building was acquired on Hythe Hill, opposite the end of Standard Road, for the use of the Club. The official opening of the Edward Paxman Memorial Club house took place on 5th May 1949. This building was demolished very early in the new millennium for a new housing development which now occupies the site.
1949 - Senior Management Changes at Paxman and Ruston
After a long illness, Victor W Bone, decided to resign from his Chairmanship of Paxman and from the board of directors. H Riggall was appointed Chairman and Percy A Sanders as Deputy Chairman. Sir John B Greaves, who had recently retired from his family firm of Greaves Cotton in India, was elected to the board and appointed Paxman's Managing Director in succession to the late Edward Paxman. Geoffrey W Bone (son of Victor Bone) was appointed Paxman's Works Director. Victor Bone also resigned as Chairman and Managing Director of Ruston & Hornsby at Lincoln (which held the controlling interest in Paxman) and from the Ruston board. J H W Pawlyn was appointed as Chairman, and H Riggall as Managing Director of Ruston.
1954, January - Formation of Ardleigh Engineering Ltd.
The engine governor and control side of Paxman's business is formed as a separate company, Ardleigh Engineering Ltd.
1954, October - Geoffrey Bone appointed Managing Director
Consequent on Sir John Greaves's retirement in September, Geoffrey Bone was appointed in his place as Managing Director of Davey, Paxman & Co.
1954-55 Building of the Main Office Block
A large new office block was built in 1954-55, in Port Lane, opposite the recreation ground. Known as the Main Office Block, during the latter part of the 20th century it housed the Directors' offices, the Diesel Engine Design and Applications Engineering Offices, the Personnel and Finance Departments, Purchasing, Business Systems, and several other departments. During the latter part of its life the three storey front part of the building was plagued with roof leaks and other structural problems. To save on costs this was demolished in Spring 2005. The rest of the building is still used as offices by the Company.
1965 - Davey Paxman Celebrates Its Centenary
1965 was Paxman's centenary year and a number of events were held during the year to mark this milestone in the Company's history. On May 14th the Essex County Standard published a Paxman Centenary supplement which covered not only past achievements but gave valuable information about the Company in 1965. In its 100th year Paxman was employing 2,250: 800 in technical, clerical and administrative occupations and 1,450 engaged either directly or indirectly in manufacture.
The supplement contained articles by E J (John) Cove, Marketing Manager, A G (Albert) Howe, Engineering Director, and B R Bensly, General Works Manager, among others. Bob Bensly explained that the manufacturing facilities, including Britannia Works, covered a total area of approximately 26 acres, of which 11 acres were covered by buildings. The foundry was producing approximately 1,200 tons of iron castings a year, representing more than 60,000 component parts. A non-ferrous foundry had been added in 1958 and this was now in full production, producing over 50,000 aluminium castings a year which were incorporated into the Company's engines and other products. Britannia Works at that time housed a number of important manufacturing functions including a large proportion of the Company's machining activities. All cylinder heads and blocks were produced at the Britannia together with vast quantities of smaller components produced from bar material. Here also the majority of spares were manufactured for engines no longer in production. Other activities at Britannia Works were the manufacture of hydraulic governing and control equipment for Regulateurs Europa, development testing of engines, and engine overhaul.
Paxman's Works & Plant Department, employing 130 men in a variety of trades, was responsible for the maintenance of services and 1,300 machine tools and other plant on the Standard and Britannia Works sites.
1966 - Ruston Paxman Group Taken Over by English Electric
From 1940 to 1966 the controlling interest in Paxman was held by Ruston & Hornsby of Lincoln. Towards the end of this period Ruston was struggling and financially stretched. A 'company doctor' Mr J (Jack) F Mallabar was brought in as Chairman with the undisclosed aim of preparing the Ruston Paxman Group for sale. In 1963 Paxman made a loss of £142,649. In the year to April 1966 it made a profit of £603,004. Later in 1966 Paxman and Ruston were acquired by the English Electric Group.
1967 - Shell Boiler Manufacture Transferred to Lincoln
A significant part of Paxman's business up to this time had been the manufacture of large industrial shell boilers, such as the 'Economic' which the Company brought out in 1875 and the Ultranomic introduced in 1936. The Company had earned a reputation as one of Britain's leading boilermakers, whose products were renowned for both their efficiency and longevity. During 1967 all shell boiler manufacture was transferred to Ruston & Hornsby at Lincoln. The only part of the boilermaking business to remain at Colchester was the building of Autonomic boilers. This range of compact, self-contained boilers had been developed by Paxman and was launched in March 1965.
1968 - English Electric Taken Over by GEC
English Electric and its constituent companies, including Paxman, become part of the General Electric Company (GEC) of Great Britain run by Arnold Weinstock, later Lord Weinstock.
1968 - Queens Award
Paxman received the Queen's Award to Industry.
1969 - Boilermaking Finally Ceases at Colchester
The manufacture of Autonomic boilers was transferred to Ruston's Vulcan Works at Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire. This marked the end of boilermaking at Paxman. (The famous Vulcan Foundry became part of the English Electric Group in March 1955, and in 1962 became the Vulcan Works of the English Electric Company Limited.)
1969 - Napier's Deltic Division Becomes Part of Paxman
As part of GEC's business re-organisation, following its takeover of English Electric in 1968, the Deltic Division of D Napier & Son Ltd is integrated with the Paxman Engine Division of English Electric Diesels Ltd.
1970 - Formation of Ruston Paxman Diesels Ltd
Ruston Paxman Diesels Limited was formed as a management company of English Electric Diesels Limited, both with their headquarters at Vulcan Works, Newton-le-Willows.
1970 - Napier's Deltic Engine Is Transferred to Paxman at Colchester
As part of GEC's post-takeover business re-organisation, design and manufacture of the famous Deltic engine was transferred to Colchester in 1970. The Deltic engine was designed by D Napier & Son Ltd, of Acton, London, which had been acquired by English Electric in 1942. Until 1970 Deltic design and development work was done at Acton and production engines were built at the English Electric/Napier Liverpool site on the East Lancashire Road. The first Colchester-built Deltic engine was despatched from Paxman's Standard Works in 1972. The last new Deltics to be manufactured by Paxman were probably five engines ordered by the Royal Navy in 1982. In the Nov/Dec 1982 issue of Paxman World it was reported that this order would extent production through to the end of 1984. After the mid-1980s repair and overhaul of Deltics continued to be a regular and important part of the Paxman business up until 2002. Typical of this work was the complete strip down, rebuild, and retest of 9 cylinder Types 9-59K and 9-55B for the Royal Navy's Hunt Class minesweepers.
1970 - Test Running Commences on Paxman's New Valenta Engine
During 1970 Paxman commenced test running of its new Valenta engine, successor to the Ventura. The Valenta was formally launched in 1972 and one of its first applications was in the record breaking High Speed Train.
1972 - English Electric Diesels becomes GEC Diesels
English Electric Diesels Limited changed its name to GEC Diesels Limited.
1973, 12th June - World Speed Record for Diesel Rail Traction
Just a year after it was built, the prototype High Speed Train, powered by two 12 cylinder Paxman Valenta engines, established a world speed record for diesel rail traction at 143.2 mph (230.4 kph) between Northallerton and Thirsk on the East Coast main line. The High Speed Train was to break further speed records for diesel rail traction, in September 1985 and November 1987.
1974, March - Engine Order for the New High Speed Train (HST)
British Rail placed a £2.5 million order for fifty four 12 cylinder Valenta engines for the new HST, now better known as the InterCity 125. A further large order was to follow in February 1975.
1975, January - Clerical Workers Strike
350 clerical staff, belonging to the Association of Clerical, Technical and Supervisory Staffs (ACTSS) trade union, came out on strike. Their action was precipitated by the suspension of four women for refusing to do a job which had been declared redundant in the Buying Department. The strike lasted two weeks and ended with a return to work on 27 January.
1975, February - British Rail Orders 78 Valenta Engines
British Rail placed a £5 million order for 78 more Valenta engines for the High Speed Train programme. The engines were to be delivered over a two year period. Together with the order placed the previous March, and a further one for 9 spare engines, this brought the total value of orders for the High Speed Train to £9 million. (141 engines in total.)
1975, 5th May - First HST Run on Western Region
The High Speed Train's first run on British Rail's Western Region took place on 5th May when it ran from Bristol Parkway to London Paddington.
1975, August - Opening of New South Shop Extension
The original section of the South Shop, later known as shops 3 and 4, was well established by 1965. Malcolm Frost joined Paxman that year and remembers working there during his apprenticeship. At the time RPH and 'flat' 6ZH engines were being tested on open beds in No 3 with CSR (Customer Special Requirement) across the gangway and the pipe shop. No 4 was mainly taken up by the paint spray booth and despatch. In the 1970s the building was extended to the west, by the addition of what became known as shops 5 and 6, enclosing much of the space between the original structure and the east wall of the Main Office block. It was also extended to the east by the addition of enclosed engine test cells. This expansion of the works cost £3 million and provided an additional 30,000 square feet of working space, comprising engine assembly areas and engine test cells. The enlarged facility was opened in August 1975 and as at 2010 is still used for engine assembly and test, together with repair and overhaul work.
(The South Shop is situated close to the southern edge of the Standard Works site.)
1975 - Paxman and Ruston become separate companies
The business of Ruston Paxman Diesels Limited was split. Paxman Diesels Limited and Ruston Diesels Limited became separate companies within GEC Diesels Limited. From mid-September 1975 Paxman started to trade under its new name which was retained until the formation of the joint venture company GEC ALSTHOM in 1989.
1976, April - Threat of Redundancies
100 jobs were under threat because of a fall in forward orders due to a downturn in the merchant shipping (during the 1960s and early 1970s Paxman supplied large numbers of engines for auxiliary power generation on merchant ships) and offshore oil industries. At this time the Company had a workforce of 2,300.
1976, 22nd June - New Test Beds Formally Opened
Vice-Admiral Richard Clayton, Controller of the Royal Navy, opened the new South Shop test beds which cost £1.5 million. A plaque commemorating this event is on a wall at the entrance to the test cells.
1977, 21st April - Queen's Award to Industry
The Company received the Queen's Award to Industry for Technological Achievement in recognition of its work on the Valenta engine.
1978, February - The Paddy Donnelly Affair
Les Gooch, the Works Convenor of shop stewards, had been invited to go to Buckingham Palace with Peter Myers, Managing Director, in connection with the Queen's Award to Industry which the Company had recently won. Following a meeting of the shop stewards committee Mr Gooch turned down the invitation, saying he wanted to draw attention to the poor conditions at Paxman, the strikes and record of industrial unrest. The invitation declined by Les Gooch was then accepted by Anthony (Paddy) Donnelly, Chairman of the Machine Shops Shop Stewards Committee. The other shop stewards put pressure on Mr Donnelly to withdraw his acceptance of the invitation but he refused to bow to their wishes, saying he was not prepared to be dictated to. After the Machine Shops Shop Stewards Committee passed a vote of no confidence in him, Mr Donnelly stepped down from the Committee. Despite this censure he did go with the Managing Director and Mr Roly Bond (representing supervisory staff) to Buckingham Palace.
1978, June - Plan to Close the Foundry is Announced
Paxman declared its intention to close the foundry on the Hythe Hill site which was no longer economically viable. This was because of the reduction in the numbers of RPH and YH engines being sold and a consequent reduction in the requirement for crankcase castings. An increasing number of engines (Venturas) were now being built with fabricated rather than cast crankcases. The foundry's output was down to 500-600 tons per annum whereas the minimum viable level was around 2,500 tons per annum. In September the Company officially confirmed its decision to close the foundry with about 70 or 80 jobs disappearing over the following 18 months.
1978, 14th July to 16th October - The Inspectors Strike
One of the longest and bitterest industrial disputes in the history of Paxman took place during a period of prolonged industrial unrest in the Company. Several disputes and strikes took place during 1977-78, at a time when government pay policy imposed tight limits on the size of pay increases employers could negotiate with their employees.
At Paxman the annual pay deal covering all manual workers was normally negotiated and agreed during December each year. At the time of the inspectors strike, agreement had still not been reached on the pay deal which should have been settled the previous December. For several months negotiations had dragged on, with various attempts to hammer out an acceptable self-financing productivity deal, but with no agreement. On 19th July 1978 a union claim for a pay increase, brought under the Fair Wages Resolution (which applied to employees working on government contracts), was heard at a Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) hearing in Ipswich. Before the end of August the CAC came out with its recommendation that skilled grades at Paxman should be awarded a 5% increase. No award was made in respect of semi-skilled or unskilled personnel so the decision only applied to about 600 of the Company's 1,100 shop floor employees. Although inspectors were skilled men, and therefore covered by the award, the CAC hearing was not concerned with the inspectors' particular grievance. However, there were initially hopes the CAC award might open up a way for a speedy settlement of that dispute. These hopes were not realised.
At the heart of the inspectors strike was a deep-seated grievance among inspectors about their rate of pay which was less than that of those whose work they inspected. Emotions finally boiled over on Friday 14th July 1978 when management suspended an inspector for refusing to inspect work done by a sub-contractor. All 36 inspectors walked out in protest at the suspension and their absence soon began to affect production. The following Friday, 21st July, was the start of the annual two week factory shutdown. Peace talks the previous day had broken down and the inspectors decided to continue their strike. The rest of the factory returned to work after the summer shutdown on Monday 7th August but within days the Company started to lay men off because there was no one to inspect their work. From the following Monday, 14th August, all 1,100 manual employees were laid off without pay and the factory was at a standstill.
The dispute between the Company and the inspectors dragged on for weeks with abortive meetings and negotiations. The inspectors were led by their two shop stewards, Alec King and Ralph Rowsell, and received strong public backing from their union, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW). Eventually lengthy four-way talks were held over two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, 3rd and 4th October, between shop stewards, full-time trade union officers, the Company and Engineering Employers Association officials. The next day, Thursday, a new offer was put to the inspectors. On Friday the strikers met and voted to reject the offer. The Company's response was to send letters to each of the strikers with an ultimatum: they were to return to work the following Wednesday morning (11th) or else their employment would be terminated. Although the inspectors decided not to report for work on the Wednesday, discussions continued. Two days later, on Friday 13th October, another deal was put to the inspectors which they voted to accept. They returned to work on Monday 16th October after having been out on strike for 13 weeks. Because the factory had been shut down for so long, a good deal of maintenance work had to be done before full production could be resumed. As a result there had to be a phased return for other shop floor personnel and it was not until the following Monday (23rd) that all 1,100 manual employees were back at work.
During the dispute five of the 36 inspectors left the Company to seek employment elsewhere as did more than 100 other employees.
It is worth noting that throughout their long strike the inspectors received a large measure of support from their fellow manual workers. That was despite the fact their colleagues were laid off without pay for several weeks, resulting in real financial hardship for the men and their families. Their support was no doubt explained by the widespread dissatisfaction on the shop floor about the level of wages in the Company (which led to the CAC claim) and the ongoing failure to reach a settlement in respect of the previous December's pay round.
The deep feelings of animosity generated by this long-running dispute were to persist for years and had not entirely disappeared by the time of the next major dispute, the lock out of 1986.
1978, September - Further British Rail Order
British Rail placed an order, worth more than £4 million, for 39 more Valenta engines for the High Speed Train.
1978, November - Engine Testers' Dispute
31 engine testers, led by their shop steward Eddie Westlake, were in dispute with the Company and refused to work on the new RP200 (Valenta) engine.
1979, September - Foundry Closes
Paxman's foundry finally closed. The last casting was that of a 12YJ crankcase on 13th September 1979. Some of the foundry's 65 employees were redeployed elsewhere in the works. Those for whom no suitable alternative employment could be found within the Company were declared redundant.
1979 - National Campaign for a Shorter Working Week. Industrial Relations in the Engineering Industry
At this time GEC was one of Britain's largest engineering companies, if not the largest. All its constituent companies, including Paxman, were members of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) the main employers' organisation for the engineering industry. Trade unions in the industry were members of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU). Issues such as basic rates of pay, working hours, shift arrangements, allowances and disputes procedures were negotiated and agreed nationally between the EEF and CSEU.
During 1979 the CSEU unions campaigned hard for a reduction in the length of the industry's normal working week, from 40 to 35 hours, without any reduction in pay. Not unnaturally the EEF and its member companies strenuously resisted the demand. To press their claim the trade unions organised a series of national strikes during which they withdrew their labour for two days a week. (Eventually the unions were successful in achieving a phased reduction in the length of the working week from 40 to 37½ hours.)
The EEF and the CSEU were involved in extensive negotiations as they sought to reach agreement on the contentious issues of pay and working hours. However GEC, and in particular Lord Weinstock, was not at all happy with the EEF's conduct of negotiations. It was felt that on highly important issues the EEF was making concessions and entering into agreements without seeking or paying due regard to the views of one its largest member companies. Not long after the national dispute, all GEC companies withdrew from membership of the EEF. From then on collective bargaining in GEC companies was done locally within operating units, although both managements and unions continued to look to the industry's National Agreements as a basis for their negotiations and local agreements. During the Thatcher administration the power of both the unions and the EEF waned while the shape of British industrial relations changed beyond recognition.
During the last two decades of the 20th century the recognised unions for manual workers at Paxman were the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW) representing mainly skilled machinists and fitters, the Electrical Electronic and Plumbing Trades Union (EETPU) representing production and maintenance electricians, the General Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB) representing platers and welders, and the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) representing semi-skilled and unskilled grades. The four unions negotiated together as a single body on issues affecting all shop floor personnel and individually on those matters relating only to their own members. The blue collar unions at Paxman appeared to work well together, successfully avoiding the inter-union rivalries found in some other industries and organisations. They were not prepared, however, to sit down with representatives of white collar staff unions in negotiations with management even on issues where it might have been in the interests of all three parties to do so.
1980, April - Australian XPT Order
A £2 million order was received for twelve 12 cylinder Valenta engines for the Australian express passenger train, the XPT, closely modelled on the British HST.
1980, 7th October - 200 Redundancies Planned
Plans for 200 redundancies, nearly a ninth of the workforce, were announced on 7th October with dismissals due to start taking place in January. At the time of the announcement the Company employed approximately 1,870. Redundancies are a regular feature of life in medium and heavy engineering. Paxman was in the business of manufacturing high value capital goods. Orders depended on major projects receiving approval and the necessary funding, often from government or government-sponsored bodies. Economic cycles and political factors are outside the control of manufacturers and major fluctuations in the size of the order book leave management with no alternative but to adjust the size of the labour force to match demand.
1981, January - Jeff Herbert Appointed Managing Director
J (Jeff) W Herbert was appointment as Paxman's Managing Director, in succession to Peter Myers.
1982 - Closure of Paxman's Britannia Works
Popularly known as 'the Brit', the Works which Paxman had taken over during World War 2 for assembling and testing TP engines was closed in 1982. The main activities at Britannia immediately prior to closure were Engine Development, Repair & Overhaul, machining cylinder heads and other small components, and cylinder head assembly. These moved back to Standard Works.
1983 - Royal Navy Engine Order for the New Type 23 Frigate
An order worth in the region of £10 million was received for thirty two 12-cylinder Valenta engines for the Royal Navy's new Type 23 Frigates. Deliveries were due to take place over the following four years.
1984, August - United States' Coast Guard Service (USCG) Order
An order for forty eight 16-cylinder Valenta engines was received for USCG "Island Class" Patrol Boats. This was a major coup by Paxman in the face of stiff competition from American and German manufacturers. The contract for the boats was initially awarded to a shipyard which had specified MTU (German) engines. The Bollinger Shipyard, which had specified Paxman engines, mounted a legal challenge to have this decision overturned. A ruling by an American court that there had been irregularities in the procurement process led to the contract being awarded to Bollinger instead. Winning this work was important to Paxman not only because of the size and value of the order but because it marked a major breakthrough into the North American market with a high-prestige customer. Paxman went on to win more business in the USA including further orders from the USCG, engine orders for US Navy "Cyclone Class" Patrol Boats and others for non-defence applications.
1985, April - Jack Fryer Appointed Managing Director
J (Jack) G Fryer took up his appointment as Paxman's Managing Director. He succeeded Jeff Herbert who had left to take up a position outside GEC.
1985/86 - Heavy Recruitment Activity
Recruitment activity in the Company was at a very high level from mid-1985 to mid-1986. There was a constant drive to find people to fill vacancies at all levels in the business as the Company geared up to produce engines for the US Coast Guard programme.
1985, 27th September - Another World Record for Diesel Rail Traction
The High Speed Train, powered by two Paxman 12 cylinder Valenta engines, broke another world record on 27th September 1985 when the Tyne-Tees Pullman ran from Newcastle to London King's Cross, a distance of 268 miles, in under 2 hours 20 minutes at an average speed of 115.4 mph. Over a 19.9 mile stretch just north of Peterborough the train averaged a speed of 140.1 mph. To mark the achievement Frank Paterson, General Manager, Eastern Region - British Railways, had a commemorative medal struck, one of which was sent to Jack Fryer, Paxman's Managing Director.
1986, Summer - Launch of the 12SE Engine
Paxman launched the 12-cylinder vee form version of the SE engine (later named the Vega) which had been developed jointly with Dorman of Stafford. An impressive launch presentation was planned and organised by Eric Youlden who at the time was responsible for publicity. (Mr Youlden had long service with the Company and was recognised as being a very able engineer as well as an imaginative Publicity Executive.) The event was staged in a large marquee erected on the Recreation Ground in Port Lane (opposite Paxman's main office block - demolished in 2005), in front of an invited audience of potential customers, members of the technical press and other guests.
1986 - The Lockout - Overtime Working, and Management's Right to Manage
This most bitter of industrial disputes at Paxman commenced during the summer of 1986 and continued through to October. The dispute centred around the issue of overtime. Overtime working provides management with vital flexibility to cope with fluctuations in factory workload, temporary labour shortages and unforeseen production problems. At this time Paxman had an exceptional need for overtime to meet its heavy commitments on the US Coast Guard engine programme. Although under their contracts of employment Paxman's workers were required to work reasonable overtime as requested, in practice the trades unions controlled the amount of overtime worked in the factory. It was also union policy nationally to limit the overtime worked by their members. Paxman's management had to seek agreement each week from shop stewards on the amount of overtime to be worked, providing details of the relevant departments, additional hours to be worked, and the work to be done. The unions also controlled the amount of overtime it would allow particular employees to do. No doubt sensing the strength of their position in the light of the demands of the US Coast Guard order, the unions and their members became more than usually restrictive in the amount of overtime working they would allow or agree to work. It was the issue of overtime working which triggered the dispute and led to the lockout of all manual employees for 17 weeks; the longest industrial dispute in Britain during 1986.
More fundamentally the dispute was about who ran the factory: the Company's management or the Works Convenor and a small group of shop stewards. The unions were challenging the authority of management and its right to manage the business. Some might argue it was an issue the management should have grappled with much earlier. Now the battle commenced at great cost to many employees and to the Company which lost £4 million in profit. The dispute also lost Jack Fryer his job as Managing Director: he left the following summer. The power of the unions was broken and within a few years the industrial relations climate in the Company changed radically with the departure of the more hard-line shop stewards.
1986, December - Chinese Order for Dewaxing Filters
In late December Paxman Filtration signed a US$1 million contract for de-waxing filters for China. The order placed by Sinopec, the State Oil Corporation of China, was for three 55m2 filters for a refinery at Maoming in the south and two 30m2 filters for Dalian Refinery in the north. The larger filters weighed about 35 tons each. All five were delivered during the latter part of 1987.
1987, April - Second Large Engine Order from US Coast Guard Service
A £27 million pound order was received from the USCG for sixty two 16-cylinder Valenta engines for additional "Island Class" Patrol Boats. At the time it was the largest export order achieved by the Company. Orders for twelve of these engines were subsequently cancelled when the US Government had to review its spending following Black Friday, the ensuing collapse of the stock market and major currency fluctuations. When the order was originally signed the exchange rate was USD1.56 to the GBP but by early 1988 it was more than USD1.80 to the pound. The cancellation was a disappointment but also a backhanded compliment to the reliability of the Valenta in USCG service.
1987, 22nd June - Jack Fryer Leaves
Jack Fryer, Paxman's Managing Director, left to take up an appointment with GEC in India. Dr Harvey Perkins, Group Managing Director, acted as Paxman's Managing Director until a successor was appointed.
1987, 30th June - New Training Centre Opened
A new training centre, costing £100,000, was opened on 30th June by John Lampon, Mayor of Colchester. (Mr Lampon was a long service employee of the Company who at this time was Contracts Manager of Regulateurs Europa, Paxman's engine governing and control business.) Situated on the north side of the Hythe Hill site, adjoining St Leonard's Road, this excellent facility had two large rooms available for formal lectures and presentations and a large area for practical training on engines. The Centre was heavily used for customer training, with delegates coming from all over the world, as well as in-house training courses and presentations.
1987, 3rd July - Queen's Award for Export
At a ceremony on the Hythe Hill site, in front of the whole workforce, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Admiral Sir Andrew Lewis, KCB, presented Paxman with the Queen's Award for Export Achievement. Jack Deighton, an Engine Tester, was selected because of his long-service to receive the award on behalf of the Company. The award was in recognition of the Company's export sales of both diesel engines and dewaxing filters, the greater part of these being engines for the USCG Service.
1987, August - Process Plant becomes Paxman Filtration
The name of Paxman's Process Plant Division changed to Paxman Filtration, a Division of Paxman Diesels Limited. It was a cosmetic change. The Process Plant name had been adopted in 1969, at a time when the Division manufactured not only filters but a number of other items for process industries.
1987, 5th October - Will Pavry Appointed Managing Director
Will Pavry took up the invitation to return to Paxman as its Managing Director. Prior to leaving in 1986 he had been Director of the Company's Spares & Service Division.
1987, 1st November - World Speed Record for Diesel Rail Traction
The High Speed Train, using power cars 43102 "City of Wakefield" and 43104, achieved a new world speed record for diesel rail traction at a speed of 148 mph. This was over a measured mile between York and Northallerton, with peak speeds of just under 150 mph. The previous record was also achieved by a Paxman-engines High Speed Train, the prototype, when it reached 143.2 mph on 12th June 1973.
1987, November - Second Chinese Order for Dewaxing Filters
Following on from its success the previous December, Paxman Filtration negotiated another contract with Sinopec International of Beijing. This order worth US$1.135 million was for five 50m2 Lubemaster dewaxing filters for Ta-Qing, 700 miles north of Beijing, the most northerly refinery in China.
1987, December - First CAD Stations Received
After a detailed study of various packages available on the market, the Company reached a decision in 1987 to install Computer Aided Design (CAD) facilities in its Design Offices. The first four Apollo workstations, using Anvil 5000 software, were delivered to the Company in December 1987. Further workstations were added subsequently with facilities for Finite Element Analysis and other modelling techniques as well as design and draughting. By spring 1991 the CAD system had thirteen workstations: nine running CAD software and the remaining four being dedicated to analysis work.
1988, 22nd September - 150 Redundancies Announced
The Company announced 150 redundancies, with the aim of reducing the workforce from 1,150 to approximately 1,000 by April 1989. This was the first of eleven redundancy programmes during the period up to November 1994. The repeated reductions in numbers employed were the consequence of a number of factors including a worldwide downturn in business, over-capacity in Paxman's segment of the diesel engine market and stiff competition from overseas engine manufacturers. Paxman had always traded at the premium end of the market and much of its business was in the defence sector where, traditionally, purchasing decisions were based not on price alone but also on engine performance and technical specification. Now the world was rapidly changing with the end of the Cold War and reductions in defence spending both in the UK and some overseas markets. The industrial market, where price was critical, became the dominant one and Paxman's ageing Valenta engine was relatively expensive. Paxman's response to this challenge was to develop the VP185 engine and to become more pro-active in selling.
1989, April - Sale of Paxman Filtration
The Paxman Filtration business was sold to Brackett of Colchester. Forty Paxman employees, together with a good deal of plant and equipment, were transferred with the business and moved to Brackett's premises on the Severalls Industrial Estate.
1989, May - 50 Redundancies Declared
The Company announced 50 redundancies, reducing the total number of employees in Paxman and Regulateurs Europa to 950.
1989, September - GEC ALSTHOM Joint Venture is Formed
GEC formed a joint venture, GEC ALSTHOM, with Alcatel Alsthom of France, each partner having a 50% stake in the new business. The rationale behind the move was to create a larger business which could compete more effectively in international markets when bidding for major power generation projects. GEC and Alsthom on their own were each significantly smaller than their main competitors for this type of work. Some business commentators suggested that part of Lord Weinstock's motivation was to make GEC less attractive as a takeover target; a real issue at the time. Any successful bidder would be faced with the thorny problem of how to unravel the joint venture.
Probably more for reasons of convenience than any clear commercial logic, Paxman (together with Regulateurs Europa) was one of several GEC companies incorporated into the joint venture. For a time Paxman's inclusion in the new business was an embarrassment. Shortly before the formation of the joint venture, Alsthom had sold off its Pielstick diesel engine business and agreed with the purchaser not to acquire any other diesel interests for a specified period. This point was overlooked when it was decided to put Paxman into the joint venture and so for a time Paxman avoided advertising itself as part of GEC Alsthom. After a suitable interval Paxman started to trade as GEC ALSTHOM Paxman Diesels Ltd.
1990, January - Royal Navy Engine Order for the Type 23 Frigate
A £10 million order was received for sixteen power modules for the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigate programme. Each module, powered by a 12 cylinder Valenta engine, was built and fitted out by Paxman at Colchester. The order was placed by Yarrow Shipbuilders with engine deliveries scheduled during 1991 and 1992.
1990, 10th May - 50 Redundancies Announced
The Company announced 50 redundancies due to lack of orders.
1990, August - United States Navy Engine Order
Paxman received a £14 million order for thirty two engines for the eight US Navy "Cyclone Class" fast patrol craft initially ordered. The 52 metre coastal patrol boats, each with four Paxman 16-cylinder Valenta engines, were built by Bollinger Machine Shop and Shipyard Inc of Lockport, Louisiana. The first 'boat set' of four engines was despatched from Colchester in March 1991.
1990, 28th September - 35 Redundancies Announced
The Company announced 35 redundancies bringing the number of jobs shed over the previous two years to 250.
1991, 31st August - First Running of VP185 Prototype
The 12 cylinder prototype of the VP185 engine first ran on the test bed on the night of 31st August. A good deal of further design and development work was undertaken, including endurance running, before the new engine was launched in May 1993.
1991, Autumn - Second US Navy Engine Order
Paxman received a second large engine order from the United States Navy. The order was for twenty 16-cylinder Valentas for five additional "Cyclone Class" patrol boats.
1992, January - Redundancies Announced
In January 1992 Paxman announced its fifth redundancy programme since September 1988. At the start of January about 750 were employed in the Company. Two further redundancy programmes were announced during 1992, one in June and one in December.
1992, August - Engine Order from Sri Lanka
Paxman received a £700,000 order from Sri Lankan Government Railways for seven 12 cylinder Vega (12RP160) engines. These were for re-engining some railcars for which the Company had provided the original Ventura engines in 1974. Paxman's Applications Engineering Department did the design work necessary to adapt the railcars for the new type of engine.
1993, 26th May - Launch of the 12VP185 Engine
The Company's new 12 cylinder, 90° vee form VP185 engine was publicly launched, in a theatrical display, in the Training School on the north side of the Standard Works site.
1993, 3rd September - 30 Redundancies Declared
The Company announced thirty redundancies which were blamed on government defence cuts. The move brought the size of the workforce down to 530.
1994, 7th January - Redundancies Announced
Paxman announced three redundancies during 1994, the first being announced on 7th January. The second, involving a proposed reduction of about 40 people, was announced on 1st July. At this time 490 were employed at Colchester. The need for redundancies was due to a continued delay in placement of major defence contracts, both in the UK and in export markets, and a reduction in the level of spare parts business. It was the continued recession in defence markets and the reduced level of spares business which led to the third announcement on 29th November. By this time the Colchester labour force was down to 450 and a further 60 redundancies were proposed.
1997, January - John Branscombe becomes Managing Director
At the end of December 1996 Will Pavry relinquished the position of Managing Director to take up another appointment in the Group. He was succeeded by John Branscombe who up to that time had been working for a GEC ALSTHOM company in Rugby.
1997, May - GEC ALSTHOM acquires Mirrlees Blackstone
Paxman became associated with the long-established and well-respected manufacturer of large slow speed diesels, Mirrlees Blackstone of Stockport, Cheshire when it was purchased by GEC ALSTHOM from the Hawker Siddeley Group.
1998, 8th May - 50 Redundancies Announced
On 8th May the Company announced its intention to reduce the manpower level by approximately 50 people. At the time of the announcement Paxman was employing 384. The need for redundancies was created by difficulty in winning orders in a very competitive market where the Company was handicapped against its competitors by the relative strength of sterling. There was also a need to reduce operating costs. More than half of those declared redundant were professional, managerial and technical staff. Following the implementation of this redundancy programme the average number employed in the Paxman engine business in 1999/2000 was about 330 with a further 50 to 55 employed in Regulateurs Europa, the Company's governing and control business.
1998, 22nd June - Flotation of GEC ALSTHOM
The joint venture company GEC ALSTHOM was floated on the Stock Exchanges of Paris, London and New York, and became a French public company, Alstom. The diesel interests of Alstom, which comprised Paxman and Regulateurs Europa at Colchester, Ruston at Newton-le-Willows and Mirrlees Blackstone at Stockport became Alstom Engines Ltd. Paxman became Alstom Engines Ltd, Paxman Division.
2000, 9th June - Paxman Acquired by MAN B&W Diesel AG
By the middle of 1999 the financial performance of Alstom as a whole was less than satisfactory and it became clear that Alstom did not see a future for Paxman, Ruston and Mirrlees Blackstone within the Group. Alstom was in a great hurry to sell its British diesel businesses and disclosed a wish to dispose of them by August 1999: the month when most French businesses closed down for their summer holidays. That was not to be. For several months Paxman employees lived under a cloud of uncertainty about their future. The business was obviously up for sale and a number of potential purchasers cast an eye over it. Eventually on 9th June 2000 ALSTOM Engines Ltd was acquired by MAN B&W Diesel AG of Augsburg, Germany, and became MAN B&W Diesel Ltd. Paxman became MAN B&W Diesel Ltd, Paxman. Herr Dr Schulter of MAN gave John Branscombe an assurance that he was keen to retain the Paxman brand name but within two or three years there were moves to virtually extinguish the Paxman branding in favour of MAN's.
2001, December - Paxman's last Managing Director Leaves
At the end of December 2001 John Branscombe, Paxman's Managing Director, left the Company. He was not replaced and from that date Board level management of the Paxman business moved to the Mirrlees Blackstone site at Stockport, under Alan Marsh, Group Managing Director.
2003 - Manufacturing Ceases at Colchester
On 6th February 2003 MAN B&W Diesel Ltd announced its proposals for transferring manufacture of the flagship Paxman VP185 engine to Stockport. At this time 249 people were employed in Paxman's engine business and a further 49 in Regulateurs Europa. The transfer progressed relatively rapidly. The last production (i.e. not overhaul) VP185 engine to be built at Colchester was despatched from the Works on Monday 15th September 2003 to a railway customer. Manufacture of components finally ceased at Colchester at the end of November 2003 when the few remaining machine shop staff were dismissed. Those machine tools and other items of plant not required at Stockport or for the overhaul facility at Colchester were auctioned off the following week, on 2nd December. This marked the end of 138 years of manufacturing by Paxman at Colchester. All that was left on the Standard Works site were the Diesel Service (Spares, Service and Overhaul) activities, employing around 100 people, and Regulateurs Europa.
2005, February - Proposals for Redeveloping Part of the Standard Works Site
The Essex County Standard of 11th February 2005 carried a report about outline draft proposals for redeveloping part of the Standard Works site. Under these proposals old workshops and factory buildings, on then unused parts of the site, would be demolished to make way for new housing, business premises, and a 330-pupil school.
2005, April - Demolition of the Main Office Block
By mid-April 2005 work had commenced on demolishing the front section of Paxman's Main Office Block in Port Lane, opposite the recreation ground. By July nothing was left of the front three storey section of the block, which was built in 1954-55.
2005, July - VP185 New Build Assembly returns to Colchester
When manufacture of the Paxman VP185 engine was transferred from Colchester to Stockport in 2003 a number of Paxman and ex-Paxman employees questioned whether a factory which lacked Paxman's experience in high speed diesels could successfully build the VP185. In the event the Stockport factory struggled to machine components to the required standards, in the necessary quantities, and at economic cost. They were also unable to build VP185 engines profitably and it is said substantial losses were made on each one they produced. This led to a decision to cease production of the VP185. However there remained substantial customer interest in the engine and from the end of July 2005 Paxman's Colchester factory re-commenced the assembly and test of new build VP185s. Most components, however, had to be bought in as the machine tools transferred to Stockport in 2003 were sold to South Korea and machining of VP185 parts ceased at Stockport in Spring 2006.
2005, November/December - Demolition of the Old Office Block
The Old Office Block on the north side of the Hythe Hill site was where James Paxman, the Company's founder, had his office after the business moved to Hythe Hill in 1876. That this historic building was at risk became clear when newspaper reports about plans to redevelop the north side of the site appeared in February 2005. There were hopes that the old offices would be preserved, perhaps becoming a small industrial museum for Colchester. These hopes were dashed when demolition of the Old Office Block commenced in early to mid-November. By mid-December 2005 it had been razed to the ground.
2005, 16th December - Regulateurs Europa sold to Heinzmann
MAN B&W Diesel Ltd, Regulateurs Europa was sold by MAN to the privately owned Heinzmann GmbH Co KG of Schönau, Germany. Regulateurs Europa Limited at Colchester, and its sister company Regulateurs Europa BV at Roden in the Netherlands, continued to trade under the Regulateurs Europa name, but now as Members of the Heinzmann Group.
2006 - Demolition of Hythe Hill Factory Buildings
By the end of March 2006 most of the old machine shops on the north side of the Hythe Hill site had been demolished. The wall forming the northern boundary along St Leonard's Road had gone so most of the site could then be viewed from the road. By the end of August 2006 the wall along Port Lane had also been knocked down. Virtually all the buildings on the north side of the Hythe Hill site had been demolished, with only bricks and rubble awaiting removal. The machine shops, the Old Office Block, production and spares stores, the training school, development shop, spares despatch, etc which were so familiar to many were no more.
2006, 1st September - MAN B&W Diesel Ltd becomes MAN Diesel Ltd.
MAN B&W Diesel Ltd changes its name to MAN Diesel Ltd.
2009, May - Planned Residential Development on Former Northern Half of Paxman Site.
Bellway Homes Essex, based at Chelmsford, applied for planning permission to build 224 new homes on the former northern half of Paxman's Hythe Hill site. The application was successful and the proposed residential development went ahead.
2010, 1st June - MAN Diesel Ltd becomes MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd.
MAN Diesel Ltd changes its name to MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd. Following a re-organisation of the business, the Spares and Service activities which were previously undertaken at Paxman's Colchester site were transferred to Stockport. The Colchester site continued to undertake repair and overhaul of Paxman and other engine ranges. It also continued to build some new VP185s and received orders for new Valenta engines for the United States. By the end of June the number of people employed at Colchester fell to 71.
2012 - Electronic Fuel Injection on the VP185
MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd started to offer versions of the VP185 with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). Development of EFI for the VP185 was carried out by engineers at Colchester.
2012, January - Major VP185 Order Received
MAN Diesel & Turbo UK's Colchester Business Unit received an order for eighteen 18-cylinder VP185TCM engines. The engines were for the Vietnamese Marine Police and the Vietnamese Navy which, between them, already had eighteen 18VP185 engines in service.
2013 - £39million VP185 Engine Order for Colchester
MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd secured a £39million contract for VP185 engines to be built at the former Paxman Works at Colchester. The order was for sixty 12-cylinder VP185 engines for installation in 28 fast patrol boats for the Taiwanese coastguard service. The engines to be supplied over a six-year period.
2015 - Paxman celebrates its 150th anniversary.
2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Paxman business by James Noah Paxman in 1865.
2018, 26th June - MAN Diesel & Turbo UK Ltd changes its name to MAN Energy Solutions UK Ltd.
All MAN Diesel & Turbo's subsidiaries were renamed: the 'Diesel & Turbo' part of their names being replaced by 'Energy Solutions'. It was suggested the reason for the change was the bad reputation acquired by diesel engines following VW's 'dieselgate' scandal and public concerns about diesel engine exhaust emissions.
2020, 15th July - MAN Energy Solutions announces its plan to close the Colchester Site.
MAN Energy Solutions announced that it proposed closing the Hythe Hill, Colchester, site by the end of December 2020 and that the closure could affect up to 80 people employed at Colchester.
Articles about the proposed closure were published in the local press, such as the Essex County Standard (on Friday, 17th July) and its sister papers. Jan Zebitz, UK Managing Director of MAN Energy Solutions, was quoted in the local press as saying: "It is clear that the global crisis has had, and continues to have, a major impact on our business" and "The shipping industry has been heavily affected, while the market situation for the engine type we build in Colchester was already difficult even before the pandemic's arrival" and "We simply lack the order volume necessary to carry on, and, therefore we must review production at Colchester." The firm planned to concentrate its UK operations in Stockport.
MAN Energy Solutions issued a press release on Wednesday, 22nd July, about its 'Program for the Future'. It was clear from the press release that the planned closure of the Colchester site was part of a much bigger plan for the business. The executive board of MAN Energy Solutions expected that the implementation of its Program would result in the elimination of up to 3,000 positions in Germany and 950 abroad.
Closure of the Colchester site would mark the end of Paxman's 155 year history in Colchester and the end of its 144 years of operation on the Hythe Hill site.
2020, 5th November - MAN Energy Solutions Confirms Closure of the Colchester Site..
On 5th November MAN Energy Solutions issued a press release confirming its decision to close the Colchester site. According to the press release the decision "was taken after consultations with employee representatives failed to produce any alternative scenario for a viable business at the site." Up to 80 employees would be affected by the closure.
2020, 26th November - Despatch of Last VP185 Built at Colchester
The very last VP185 engine to be built at the Colchester works was dispatched on Thursday 26th November 2020, by road to a shipyard in Turkey. The 18-cylinder engine, an 18VP185TCM, is the last of four that are to be installed in an offshore patrol vessel (OPV).
This marked the end of new engine build on the Hythe Hill site which the Paxman business had occupied since 1876.
2020, end December - First Group of Employees Leaves Prior to Closure
The first of three groups of employees leaves the company as part of the closure programme. A second tranch are due to leave at the end of February 2021 with the remaining staff due to leave a month later. Some people question whether the outstanding work at Colchester can be completed by the end of March and thus whether the site will close on the planned date.