Travelling by London Transport Underground tube during the 60's on the Central Line from Northolt to Greenford. If you were awake enough in the morning and looking to the right, you may have spotted two squat chimneys belching smoke.    These were above the smelting furnace of the British Bath Works in Long Drive, Greenford.  The foundry belonged to the Allied Ironfounders Group manufacturing cast iron enamelled baths, the most popular design from Greenford in that era being the 'Vogue'.    British Bath Works (BBW) operated 24 hours a day producing cast iron baths for domestic and world markets.   Having worked there in for a short time, I can remember walking down Long Drive where the houses were covered in soot and the ground vibrated to the constant thump of the factory's castings shop.   When the molten iron had set and the rough castings released from the moulds, the baths entered the chasing shop for de-burring. It was deafening and the air thick with metal dust glistening in the light. Health and Safety standards were not as high as today. The men, known as Fetlers,  were using angle grinders to smooth off  the enamelling surface, most of whom neither had ear-defenders, nor respiratory masks. The smoothed castings, now coated with flux, then entered the enamelling shop. I remember the row of white-hot furnaces and the line of men dressed in 'asbestos' suits and hoods. These were the highly skilled enameller operatives who were  just a few feet from the gaping furnace doors taking the red-hot baths out of the intense heat using a large barrow-like 'forked leaver' and manually sprinkling the enamel powder coating using a sieve.  The operatives work was very hot, dangerous and dusty, not to think of the health hazards to themselves and, indeed, to all who lived in the area local to the works.  Around 1969 early one August morning, before the summer holiday shut-down there was a huge explosion at the works.  Without going into technicalities, this is an employee’s account of the incident, “The foundry commenced melting iron and at a pre determined time would ‘tap out’. That would simply mean tapping, more like hammering, a bar through the bottom tap hole to let the iron out. This tap hole would have been pre sealed during preparation of the cupola. They failed to tap out, but did not close down the melting process. It gets a bit more involved, but basically they carried on melting iron until abandoning trying to tap out. The floor under the cupola had been washed down and they dropped the contents of about two tons of molten iron onto it. Bang! Nobody was hurt but it blew all the asbestos covering off the furnace and smashed all the windows in the lab where I worked. Luckily no one was in there. On the explosion people panicked and one man tripped and another chap ran over him leaving boot marks on his back. When I arrived the place was crawling with fire engines and emergency services.” As one of our BBW colleagues said, “It was a rough place, noisy, dirty and generally unwholesome place to work but as one old foundryman put it ‘it's a place where men are men, and boys become men’ - he could have fooled us!” This was at the height of British Manufacturing. Quality control was stringent.  A slight blemish in the final product, a pit or bump in the enamel, and the bath was smashed and recycled into the smelting furnace.  If the consignment of baths was destined abroad Crown Agents would normally carry out a secondary quality check before shipping could take place.  Most of my time was spent either in the office under mounds of export documentation, or progress chasing consignments between quality control and the packing shed.  I remember goods coming into BBW from other factories (e.g. Chrome Taps and Fittings) for inclusion in shipments destined to far-off exotic sounding places.    Allied Ironfounders bought the ailing Bilston foundry and kept it running in competition to Greenford and Cockburns at Falkirk. This resulted in Bilston becoming the head company of Vogue Bathrooms in the 1970s after the subsequent take-over by Glynwed. They shut down British Bath Works in 1975 and Cockburns in 1983, and finally ceased production at Bilston in the early 1990s.
British Bath Works Central Line
Vogue Bath
Enamelling Furnace Smelting Furnace Chimney
British Bath Works   Greenford’s foundry lost - Good or bad?  
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