Catalogue description R Garrett Ltd., engineers, Leiston

This record is held by Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch

Details of HC30
Reference: HC30
Title: R Garrett Ltd., engineers, Leiston

Business records


The collection mainly reflects the trading, technical, manufacturing and publicity activities of the firm in the fields of agricultural and general engineering, transport (steam and electric traction on roads) and to a lesser extent wartime munitions work, from the 1890s until its insolvency in 1932. Less has survived concerning the more recent products of the firm, such as motor tractors and peat harvesting equipment, machine tools (lathes and shaping machines), refrigeration and dry-cleaning equipment, box-making machinery etc. although a small quantity of drawings in bad condition await conservation, identification and cataloguing.


Records open to inspection


Copyright is assumed to have passed with the records to Suffolk County Council on liquidation of Richard Garrett Engineering Ltd




HC30/A1 General records


HC30/A2 Patents and related papers


HC30/A3 Financial records


HC30/A4 Staff and wages records


HC30/A5 Plant and property records


HC30/A6 Miscellaneous records




HC30/B1 General Order Books


HC30/B2 Home Machinery Order Books


HC30/B3 Home Wearing Parts Order Books


HC30/B4 Export Machinery Order Books


HC30/B5 Export Wearing Parts Order Books


HC30/B6 Other Order Books and related records


HC30/B7 General Sales Day Books


HC30/B8 Home Machinery Sales Day Books


HC30/B9 Home Parts Sales Day Books


HC30/B10 Export Machinery Sales Day Books


HC30/B11 Export Parts Sales Day Books


HC30/B12 Burrell Parts Sales Day Book


HC30/B13 Depot Sales Day Book


HC30/B14 Sundries Sales Day Book


HC30/B15 General Ledgers


HC30/B16 Distant Counties Ledgers


HC30/B17 Home Sales Ledgers


HC30/B18 Foreign Sales Ledgers


HC30/B19 Burrell Parts Sales Ledger


HC30/B20 Depot Stock Ledgers


HC30/B21 Suspense Ledgers


HC30/B22 Transfer Journals


HC30/B23 Purchase Day Books


HC30/B24 Purchase Ledgers


HC30/B25 Commission Accounts


HC30/B26 Railway Ledgers


HC30/B27 Miscellaneous


HC30/B28 Journals


HC30/B29 Cash Books


HC30/B30 Miscellaneous Trading records


HC30/B31 Correspondence files




HC30/C1 Drawings


HC30/C2 Engine Drawing Registers


HC30/C3 'Z' Drawing Registers [Electric Vehicles]


HC30/C4 Other Registers


HC30/C5 Small notebooks


HC30/C6 Sketchbooks and related material


HC30/C7 Miscellaneous Drawings (or material concerning drawings)


HC30/C8 Registers of Engines and Machines


HC30/C9 Registers of Engines


HC30/C10 Works Order Books


HC30/C11 Thresher records


HC30/C12 Memoranda Books


HC30/C13 Specifications - Portable Engines


HC30/C14 Specifications - 'SSW' Engines


HC30/C15 Specifications - Tractors


HC30/C16 Specifications - Traction Engines


HC30/C17 Specifications - Steam Rollers


HC30/C18 Specifications - Steam Wagons


HC30/C19 Specifications - Steam Wagon Bodies


HC30/C20 Specifications - Peat Harvester and Ditcher Tractors


HC30/C21 Specifications - Half-Track Tractors


HC30/C22 Specifications - Agricultural Machinery and Sleeping Vans


HC30/C23 Specifications - Portable Air Compressors


HC30/C24 Specifications - Vertical Boilers and Furnaces


HC30/C25 Specifications - Miscellaneous Machines


HC30/C26 Specifications - Peel Ovens


HC30/C27 Specifications - Special Motor Wagons, Electric Vehicles and Conversions


HC30/C28 Specifications - Shell Lathes and Thread Milling Machines


HC30/C29 Specifications - Sundry Machines


HC30/C30 Binders containing various Specifications


HC30/C31 Files and other loose Specifications


HC30/C32 Miscellaneous lists, Schedules of Parts, and related papers


HC30/C33 Pattern records


HC30/C34 Test records


HC30/C35 Costings


HC30/C36 Stock Books


HC30/C37 Files re Shell Production


HC30/C38 Miscellaneous records




HC30/D1 Catalogues


HC30/D2 Publicity and Posters


HC30/D3 Photographs, Negatives etc.


HC30/D4 Printing Blocks



Date: 1842-1980
Held by: Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Richard Garrett and Sons Ltd, 1897-1920, Leiston, Suffolk, engineers

Garrett, Richard, fl 1778, blacksmith, of Leiston, Suffolk

Physical description: 79 Series
Immediate source of acquisition:

Received by Suffolk Record Office on 9 May 1973 and 18 January 1982 (Acc. nos. 1746, 1750, 1769, 1782, 1795, 1808, 1820, 4973, and 6341)

Custodial history:

Records, notably specifications, drawings, files and legal papers relating to railway work sub-contracted to Leiston from the Beyer Peacock works at Gorton have been re-deposited on loan to the Greater Museum Museum of Science and Industry where the main Beyer Peacock archive is held; a list of this material is held on file at SRO(I). The principal products were mechanical stokers and the Hadfield powered reversing gear fitted to steam locomotives supplied to South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and elsewhere.

Publication note:

The history of the firm is well documented in the following publications, all by R.A. Whitehead: 'Garretts of Leiston' (Percival Marshall, London, 1964); 'Garrett 200' (Transport Bookman, London, 1978); 'Garrett Diesel Tractors' and 'Made by Garretts' (both Whitehead, Tonbridge, 1994). The family's history was extensively researched at the behest of Col. Frank Garrett, by V.B. Redstone whose 'The Suffolk Garretts' was published in 1916. Obituaries of members of the family can be found in the 'Suffolk County Handbooks' and other sources at Suffolk Record Office.

Administrative / biographical background:

The Garrett family have resided in Suffolk since the 14th century, but the firm traces its origin to the arrival of Richard Garrett in Leiston in 1778; he married Elizabeth Newson and acquired a blacksmith's shop and a forge. Their son took over the forge in 1805 and married Sarah, daughter of John Balls of Hethersett (inventor of an improved threshing machine).


The third Richard Garrett, born in 1807, was in complete charge of the business by 1836 and the following thirty years were a period of rapid expansion, the workforce increasing from 60 to over 600. Two of his sons entered the firm (which remained a family partnership until 1897, when it was incorporated as "Richard Garrett and Sons Ltd") while a third founded a similar business in Magdeburg, Germany. At its peak, the labour force numbered over 2,000 and exports of agricultural machinery were the dominant part of the business. Part of the works, including the pattern shop, were destroyed by fire in 1913 and a number of records were lost or damaged. A new works, adjoining Leiston railway station, was built later in 1913 though the original Town site continued in use. Military work carried the firm forward until 1918 but the repudiation of foreign debt by the revolutionary Russian goverment precipitated a financial crisis. Garretts were forced into an amalgamation with eleven other firms (including Aveling and Porter of Rochester, Davey Paxman of Colchester and Charles Burrell and Sons of Thetford) under the title of "Agricultural and General Engineers" in 1920.


The new organisation, which built and operated from Aldwych House in London, never achieved its full potential due to difficult trading conditions, inter-firm rivalry, and over-diversification. After 1930, financial problems loomed ever larger and following the resignation of the Chairman of A.G.E. in 1931, a Receiver was appointed. The constituent companies were sold independently, Richard Garrett and Sons Ltd being purchased in 1932 by Beyer Peacock and Co. Ltd of Gorton, Manchester and re-named "Richard Garrett Engineering Works Ltd" - the word Works was later dropped.


In 1976, the equity of the Beyer Peacock group was acquired by N.C.I., a construction company based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At that time Garretts were the largest and indeed almost the only active constituent, the Gorton works having closed in 1965. In 1980, Garretts were sold again to the Nicol Industries Group who appointed a Receiver and the firm was sold in five divisions; the Town Works had already closed in 1978. The foundry was taken over by the Henry Boot Group and part of the Station Works site was occupied by S & S Engineering Works Ltd (a subsidiary of S & S of Brooklyn), who continued to build box-making machinery until it too went into Receivership in 1985. The Works House and offices at the Town Works site have subsequently been redeveloped as housing, but a nucleus of historic buildings (including the "Long Shop" dating from 1853 where portable engines had been erected on an assembly line system) and associated artefacts were purchased by the Long Shop Museum Trust and the surviving archives were purchased by Suffolk Record Office. Both these purchases were assisted by grants from the Fund for the Preservation of Technological and Scientific Material.

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