The Works after World War 1

The Works after World War 1 1919-32

After the War, the firm of Richard Garrett and Sons went through a period of struggle, continued innovation but eventual financial collapse in the Depression of the 1930s.

Problems in 1919

Garretts had big decisions to make about the future of the Works. Sadly, the firm was not in a good position to make them.

FE2b aircraft: an original photograph and a 21st-century reconstruction

War contracts ended

During the War, the Works produced shell cases for the Ministry of Munitions. It also gained contracts to build the FE2b and Sopwith Snipe Aircraft, but these ended in 1919. The Shell Shop at Garretts, which had provided employment for hundreds of local women, closed in July.

Extract from an advert from the 'Bury Free Press'
8 November 1919

The Russian Debt

The Russian Debt was a huge blow. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had an impact on faraway Leiston. The new Russian Government refused to honour the debts of the old Tsarist regime. Garretts was badly affected and lost about £200 000 ( that is more than £12 Million in today’s money).

Loss of 'The Innovator'

The death of Stephen Garrett in 1915 was a blow to the family and the Works. Stephen was often considered to be the most progressive and innovative of the four brothers. He was keen on the diesel tractor and had helped produce the Garrett Crawley Agrimotor in 1914.

Stephen Garrett

Photograph taken in 2018 of the discovery of a Garrett steam engine in Siberia. It was one of the many that were exported to Russia before the 1917 Revolution.

The Agricultural and
General Engineers

The AGE was formed in the hope of making its member firms stronger together. On 4 June 1919, through the influence of Thomas Aveling (of Aveling and Porter from Rochester) and with 14 other firms, Garretts joined the combine Agricultural and General Engineers (AGE).

Aldwych House the headquarters of the AGE

Front cover of
The Journal of AGE 1920 (above)

Most of the member companies were in rural areas. To reduce competition within the group, members were assigned sectors of the market. For example, much of Garretts’ production of steam rollers was transferred to Aveling and Porter.

An advertisement in the
AGE Journal 1920

A 1928 advertisement for Garrett trolley buses

New products

The firm needed new products. The popularity of the new internal combustion engine was not foreseen in 1919. Garretts continued with steam power for the farm, but did also develop electric and battery-powered vehicles.

The Garrett trolley bus had a promising beginning. It was used in the Ipswich trolley bus system from 1925. In 1928 the double-decker trolley bus was launched.

A 1928 advertisement for
Garrett double-decker trolley buses

A Garrett battery electric vehicle on a test run over the Pennines c 1920

A Garrett battery electric vehicle
on a test run over the Pennines c 1920

Difficult times for the AGE

In the 1920s, the AGE firms continued to make steam products that were less in demand as the internal combustion engine thrived. The AGE had impressive, specially built headquarters, Aldwych House, in London. This became a white elephant, draining money.

Then the world-wide Depression hit most of Britain’s older industries in the 1930s. On 25 April 1932, AGE was compulsorily wound up.

Beyer Peacock & Co bought up Richard Garrett and Sons, enabling a respected name to live on as Richard Garrett Engineering Works Ltd’.

The Garret 5CD Steam Tractor - 'The Suffolk Punch'. It was designed at the end of the First World War, but couldn't compete with the light and cheaper Fordson petrol tractor in the post-war years.

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