D/170/1 - 3 Ledgers 1885-1903, 1928-1940
D/170/4 - 12 Journals (labour and materials) 1885-1899, 1915-1928, 1930-1937, 1944-1945
D/170/13 - 15 Sales ledgers and journals (brickyards) 1887-1905
D/170/16 Wages accounts 1898-1902
D/170/17 - 20 Creditors' invoices 1897-1898
D/170/21 - 26 Estimate books 1898-1899, 1902-1912, 1914-1917
The arrangement of these records is in part arbitary, as series are incomplete and the accounting methods used are not always clear; detailed descriptions are given of individual volumes to assist identification.
|Administrative / biographical background:
Webster and Cannon originated as the firm of George Cooper, builder, Aylesbury, whose name first appears in the published county directory for 1884. In 1883 his business address was given as 47 Buckingham Street. By 1887 Cooper had been replaced at this address by John Webster, builder. In the 1891 directory Webster in turn gives place to Webster and Cannon, described as "builders and contractors, cement, slate, timber and general building material merchants, brick and tile manufacturers". By 1899 the address is given as 42 Cambridge Street.
William Cannon, the Cannon of the partnership, is believed to have come from Whitchurch, where there was a firm of builders of this name in 1887. He first appears in Aylesbury in the directory for 1887, as private resident, at 49 Buckingham Street, which was to be his home until his death in 1897. William Cannon had several sons. One of these, Frank R. Cannon, who at the time of his father's death was learning the trade in Northampton, succeeded him in the business. The Webster connection ceased in 1906 with the death of Alexander Webster, the then partner. In 1935 a limited company was formed with F.R. Cannon as the controlling director owning over 80% of the shares. When Mr. Cannon died in 1939 his interest descended to his two daughters, Ida, the eldest, whose married name was first Hill, then Perry, and Elizabeth (Betty) who married Dr. Rose, a house surgeon in the Royal Bucks Hospital. In about 1978, following the death of Mrs. Rose, it was decided to put the company into liquidation, but instead an arrangement was agreed under which Mr. R. Rouse, husband of Ida Cannon's youngest daughter by her second husband, acquired effective control of the business. It was wound up in 1987.
After Frank Cannon's death in 1939 Leonard Ernest Button took over the overall management of the company; he was also a director. A native of Kent, Mr. Button first joined the business in 1903. He later married Frank Cannon's sister, Hattie, after a courtship lasting many years. Though not a practical builder, he had been greatly valued by Cannon for his exceptional talents as an estimator and clerk. Mr. R.G. Bradshaw, who had started as an articled pupil in 1925, was put in charge of outside work. After Mr. Button's death in 1954, Mr. Bradshaw became managing director and continued to act as consultant after Mr. Rouse took over the direction of the company in the late 1970s.
Webster and Cannon was for many years the largest firm of its kind in the Aylesbury area. Prior to World War II a permanent labour force of around 500 men was maintained and the total weekly wage bill averaged over £1,700 at a time when wages averaged £3 a week. After the War the number of men normally employed declined to 80-100. In the earlier period much work was undertaken in London, where three or four gangs were constantly employed, and as far afield as Salisbury in the south and Nottingham in the north. Larger clients included the Rothschilds, the Aylesbury Brewery Company, the Prison Commissioners (works at numerous prisons in the south of England), McVitie and Price and Younger's Brewery. Major public building works in Aylesbury included the Clock Tower (1876), the Rivet Works factory (1910), Lloyds Bank (re-facing, 1922), the Midland Bank (1921), the former police station in Exchange Street (1935) and the "old" County Offices (1929).
Among the works done further afield were the extension to the Eccleston Hotel, London, the Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford and the Bear Hotel in Burford.
Church restoration work was a particular speciality and at one time twenty stonemasons were constantly employed in the yard. Much work was done for the architect J. Oldrid Scott, both in Bucks and elsewhere, in the early part of the century.
Besides the masons yard the firm also had a joinery works (at first floor level), a blacksmith's shop, a wheelwright's shop and a brick yard (now Cambridge Close). The brickyard, which is thought to have belonged originally to the Websters, was in operation until the War using a Scotch kiln. The accounts show that until 1906 the firm had a second brickworks at Littleworth in the parish of Wing. In 1935 the joinery works was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt on the same site to a different design. Soon after 1900, Alexander Road (named for Alexander Webster), off New Street, was laid out to provide housing for the firm's employees. Frank Cannon also built and owned other houses and shops in Aylesbury.
During the Second World War the firm was principally employed in making packing cases for trucks and ammunition boxes, etc. Special commissions were also executed for M.D.I., the experimental unit located at Whitchurch.
After the War building operations were largely confined to the Aylesbury area on account of the conservative attitude of the directors who were unwilling to provide the extra managerial support required for any expansion of the business.
(Note. The above is mostly based on information kindly supplied by Mr. R.G. Bradshaw of Carron House, Butlers Cross, Aylesbury, HP17 0TS).