ANOTHER huge area close to the Ipswich town centre is being cleared for redevelopment today. The works that was home to engineering company Reavell's in Ranelagh Road from 1898 is now mostly demolished ready for apartment blocks and housing to be built.
ANOTHER huge area close to the Ipswich town centre is being cleared for redevelopment today.
The works that was home to engineering company Reavell's in Ranelagh Road from 1898 is now mostly demolished ready for apartment blocks and housing to be built. The company was formed as Reavell and Company limited in 1898 by William (later Sir William) Reavell after serving his early years with firms on the River Tyne.
Ipswich was chosen and a site was bought from the Great Eastern Railway Company.
Until the 1950s Ipswich, like many other towns traded locally. Even the largest projects were equipped from local companies. Ransomes Sims and Jefferies made the town's trolley buses and many Suffolk farmers used their agricultural equipment. Gardeners cut their grass with a Ransome's mower. Ransome and Rapier built cranes and other large industrial equipment, these would be a familiar site at building projects.
When the first Ipswich power station was built in Constantine Road, to provide power for the new electric trams which came into service in 1903, it was Reavell's who took on the job of building six steam generators that were installed in 1902 at a cost of £6,564. The units drove German built dynamos made by the Allgemeine Company of Berlin. Reavell's works was within site of the town's power station and the workers could proudly see the power station, which provided electricity for the town. Again a local firm was used to build the power station, and workshop. Kenney's built the station at a cost of £26,948 for the generating station and £6,704 for the car shed. This impressive looking building is still partly used by Ipswich Buses.
Although the station was built primarily for the electric trams, spare capacity was soon on sale to local industry and homes who could afford the new technology. The power station was replaced by Cliff Quay in the early 1950s as demand outstripped the original power station.
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With an eye on using the towns rubbish to provide power an incinerator plant was built at the Constantine Road power station. The 178-foot chimney, which was taller than the spire of St Mary Le Tower Church, was demolished in the 1950s.
Memories of family connections with Reavell have come from Mrs K Ruegg of Lomond Road, Attelborough. The story is typical of how generations of families worked for the same company. Mrs Ruegg said: “My Great Uncle William Jones worked at Reavells from its inauguration as an engineer. I presume that whilst he was still at Reavells he persuaded two of his brother's, George and Albert Jones, to move from Wiltshire to work for the company. George Jones was my grandfather, eventually two of his sons, William (Bill) and my father Walter (Mick) and also two of Albert's daughters, worked in the office. My father left Reavells in 1951 being the last of our family of Jones' to work there.
“As a child I can recall seeing Sir William and Lady Reavell arrive at sports days. They would arrive in a grand car which stopped in front of the sports pavilion. Lady Reavell would emerge (always, it seemed to me) dressed in grey and walking with a parasol and looking just like Queen Mary, she would then present the prizes. They then returned to their car and drove off. My father, being very fond of all sport, was often a recipient of one of these prizes. He played for the works football team for quite a few years.
“Another childhood memory is being taken for a walk on Sunday mornings to the sports ground to gather mushrooms and on the way passing a cottage in the lane where we fed a donkey. All this area is now I believe given over to housing. This all sounds an idyllic life but my father worked very hard, especially during the war years, when at the height of production he worked 12 hours a day for four days and the other two days eight hours and occasionally also on Sundays, also one night a week volunteering for fire watching on the roof. My husband started his apprenticeship at Reavells, but this was interrupted by war service after which he worked elsewhere.”
Did you work for Reavell's at the Ranelagh Road works or have memories of Sir William and Lady Reavell? Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.
The company now operates as CompAir UK Ltd at Reavell House, White House Road, Ipswich with a staff of 130. My thanks to Carl Bartz the refurbishment manager of CompAir for the historical information and photographs from the company files.
The Reavell's works was used as the setting for the British cinema classic, The Angry Silence, starring Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes and Bernard Lee. Oliver Reed also appeared as an extra in one of his first films. The film premier in 1960 was at the Ritz Cinema in the Buttermarket, Ipswich, where Richard Attenborough greeted Reavell's workers who featured in the film.
The story was about a young factory worker who decided to stand up against his work-mates and fellow union members when they want to hold a wildcat strike.