This page is dedicated to.....  Stories, News items...  

and any other interesting facts that have an Auto-Wrappers connection. 

If You have anything that you would like to share with the readers, please send it to us via the "contact us" page 

My Time at Autowrappers in 1962 by Les Davison

Posted 13-07-18

I left school at Christmas 1961 and went for an interview at AutoWrappers just after Christmas, ( there was only 2 days holiday for Christmas at that time, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) I was interviewed by the personnel manager Miss Margaret Burton, and had to take a written test which was made up of about 20 mathematical questions, mostly algebra and triganometry style questions. I passed this with flying colours and was immediately asked if I could start next week on the Monday, which was the 1st of January 1962, which I did. I started my Apprenticeship in the Drawing Office for a couple of months, printing the drawings, which I took over from Stephen Pope, who then moved into the factory, to start his engineering training. When I moved into the Factory I worked with George Wigget for a little while and later I shared a bench with Dick Gash, our foreman was Bert Goodings. Next to our bench was Frank Oakley and " Fred" Horne, (It was ages before I knew your real name Roderic). Opposite me and Dick in the "R " Section , building the feeders for the Roll Wrappers was Bob Bull, Paul Jarvis and Jack Hudson.

Update 10-2-19

Hi, Les. again, here,s a little story some of you lovers of fine cigars may like, (or not ).-
When I was about half way through my apprenticeship, while we were still down Edward Street,about a year or so before we moved , we got an order from a French firm to build a machine to wrap cigars. Basically it was just load the machine up with flat boxes and cigars and the machine would form the boxes, close the bottom then push 5 cigars into the box and seal the top. I was helping two other fitters with the build of this machine. When we had finished building it , and it was time for trials, the French firm sent two big tea chest size boxes full of cigars to test it with. During testing quite a few cigars got broken, while adjustments were being made, (and a few got burnt up on the line). Finally when testing was finished and the machine was running at full speed with no problems, we thought, big shareout time now.
Unfortunately this was not to be. Customs and Excise knew we had the cigars, and no duty had been paid on them, so in their infinite wisdom, decided they all had to be burnt up in one go, rather than one at a time.
I was given the job of collecting them all up, most of them loose, but a lot still in the boxes from the trials , tipping them into cardboard boxes , and putting them into a wheel barrow and wheeling them out into the yard where there was an incinerator, an old oil drum with holes in the side, which was used to burn rubbish.
I then had to tip them all into the incinerator while the Customs man stood there watching, with his clipboard and papers in his hand, You could tell by looking at him he was not the sort of bloke you could do a deal with, like you take a few handfulls and I,ll take a few for the men on the line. When they were all burnt up, without saying much he just signed a bit of paper on his clipboard to say they were all destroyed, and I had to sign it to confirm he had been there ,and then he gave me a copy for the firms records and then just walked off up the road to a little van he had parked up there and drove off.

Dalmaine Dewgarde By Kelvin Woodard 

                                        Photo Ref: AW0765 Left, Dal Dewgarde 

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Posted 03-05-18

Hi Paul and Karl 

Regarding Photo AW0765 (above)  I recognised Dal Dewgarde on the dinner dance photo when you first put it up on the web site, however I was not totally sure at that time. A little bit more info about Dal,  The correct spelling of his Christian name is Dalmaine.

I know him not from Auto Wrappers , as he was there before my time, but from my old Scout Troop the 1st Norwich. Dal was a Scout Leader there in the 1960's. He went onto work at the foundry that used to be in Oak Street. In the 1960's he lived in Pottergate before all of the slums were pulled down, and before his death he lived at the end of School Lane where it meets the ring road near the Sprowston Road roundabout. I went to his funeral which must have been about ten years ago. Dal was originally from British Honduras and for many years was associated with the Manchester Oddfellows as well as being a Broadland District councillor.

I have attached a page from the 1st Norwich book (see below) which has a picture of Dal in Germany in 1966. You might also find a picture of me as well ! 


Kelvin Woodard

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A Follow up Email From Jean Cann

Posted 12-12-17

Hello Paul

It has been a real pleasure to read your latest chapter about AW.  The names of some of the contributors came flooding back to me.  It certainly gave me a real sense of pride to read just how much my father had achieved not only in the wrapping machinery field but also for creating a company of which old-time apprentices speak so fondly.    They clearly enjoyed their time with the company. I was particularly interested in the article by Rod Horne who overlapped with me when he joined in 1958. Like him, I remember the foremen who held authority with Reg Maddison, my uncle,  They were,  as Rod says, Jack Robinson and Bert Goodings but also Ken Mirams.


I can't help admiring Ivan Mortimer's story!  How someone who was almost blind could learn to operate a lathe is beyond me. And I enjoyed his story about persuading a later employer to buy his old AW lathe.  What an engaging story it is.  I wish all of you at the Beccles factory a very happy Christmas.  You've made my year!


Sincerely    Jean Cann

Posted 10-12-17

Jean Cann Visits the Bradman Lake Factory 

In April 2017 we invited Jean Cann and her family to the Bradman Lake / Autowrappers factory in Beccles Suffolk, Jean is the daughter of Charles (Bill) Maddison the founder of Autowrappers, we had a great day discussing how Auto-wrappers was started by her father and sharing stories on the history of the company, Jean told us how her father came to Norwich leaving the family behind in Halifax, he set up the company on his own in a bombed out building in Edward St and during the difficult first year, slept on a camp bed in the corner of the workshop, she told us that later when the family were reunited in Norwich her father would design machines at home, not on a draughtsmans board but using sheets of paper laid out on a snooker table in a room that was constantly hazey from Bills love of cigars. Jean brought us some more photographs of the Autowrappers 1958 dinner dance that will be posted on the site shortly. 

After spending most of the day talking about the history of the company we introduced  Jean and her family to Sean Underwood ( Bradman Lake Beccles factory manager ) he then gave them  a tour of the Bradman Lake factory, showing them some of the old Super 2000 machines that were based on her fathers design, these had come back   for refurbishment. they were pleased to know that we still currently produce new S2000 machines, we also showed them how the Autowrappers name is still used as a brand name on our current range of flow wrappers and other equipment  and then they had a exclusive demonstration of the new Compact vision system pick and place loader, flow-wrapper, cartoner and case packer that was being shipped to the USA for an exhibition. 


The Photo below shows Jean and the family looking though the Auto-wrappers history folders in the boardroom at Bradman Lake Beccles.

Left to Right: Karl Dawson ( AW website  ) Russel Cann, Jean Cann, Richard Cann, Alex Budd 

Photo Ref: AW0728 Courtesy of Jean Cann

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The Photo below shows Jean and the family in discussion with Sean Underwood ( BL factory manager ) on modern day packaging technology in comparison to the technology that her father developed. 

Jean and family with Paul Holmes (AW website, second from right ) and ( far right ) Sean Underwood.

Photo Ref: AW0728 Courtesy of Jean Cann

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Below is a short story from Jean Cann that she left with us after the visit, it provides some insight into the time that Jean worked at the Edward St factory, and also to the apprenticeship scheme that still is a strong part of the business ethics today. hopefully she will be able to share more stories with us in the future.

Posted 10-12-17

The father that changed the world of packaging...   

By Jean Cann  ( Daughter of Bill Maddison, Founder of Auto-Wrappers )

I would like to thank Karl and Paul of Bradman-Lake for their kind hospitality and for allowing me and my family to spend some time with the machines that my father initiated with AutoWrappers in 1947/ 8. It was a complete surprise to both Russell and me when we discovered your website because I had long since thought Autowrappers had disappeared. I am computer illiterate but I asked Russell to see what he could find out whether Autowrappers still existed and, if so, where they were. I really did not hold out much hope, but I am grateful to him also for coming up with the answers.


I came to work at Autowrappers when I was 18, having first spent three months in France and then a year with Heatrae learning office procedure as a trainee comptometer operator. I was always going to work for Autowrappers but I had to earn a stripe or two first, even though I had had some experience from the age of 12 putting dirty blueprints back in order on a Saturday morning for two shillings and sixpence for the whole morning. 

Uncle Reg taught me to use a lathe - something that wouldn't be allowed today with Health & Safety inspectors around. During the five years I worked at Autowrappers I learned to  run the machines and I later went to the packaging exhibitions in Olympia and, when I was 21 I sailed to America with my parents to appear with Dad at the "Exposition" in Chicago. I was allowed to wear a white coat on the stand like Dad, Uncle Reg, and Ken Mirams. We started an unusual trend in the 50s; there were very few women in those days who were involved in engineering, let alone knowing anything about the machinery that was being displayed on the stand!  


My father was considered a genius  in  wrapping machine circles, yet he had little or no interest in how his car worked. Once I  had  passed  my  driving  test (first time!) Dad bought an Austin A30 for me to drive him to work, and if it didn't go first time he would sit in it to let in the clutch at the right time once  I  had pushed it up to speed! He also expected me to collect prospective customers from Thorpe Station and take their wives on a conducted tour of historic Norwich. Dad enjoyed travelling abroad to visit prospective customers. My one regret was that I never went with him. Our Dutch agent at the time, Bob DeJongste, travelled with him on one occasion from Holland to Barcelona. Unfortunately the flight to Barcelona was full until Dad said he was the UK champion bullfighter! Bob said they got on the flight but he was very worried when he saw the red carpet on the runway as they landed.


As far as day to day work was concerned, I got most satisfaction from drawing up apprenticeship schemes and signing up young men who aspired to become engineers and who were keen to move around the factory in Edward Street learning all aspects of their trades.


Thank you again for your hospitality and for giving me a few minutes to reminisce!

Posted 23-11-17

 Working at Autowrappers from 1964 to 1973.  


August 1964 saw the beginning of the Auto Wrappers apprentice training school.  I started there aged fifteen straight from the Lakenham Boys secondary modern school and with no particular qualifications. My father had on an earlier occasion walked me around to AW and Heatrae looking for an apprenticeship as he had told me that I needed to get a trade behind me! Other apprentices who started at that time that I can recall were Phillip White, Graham Tuddenham, Keith Ripley, Barry Moore, Oliver Chastney, Peter Clarke, Micky Hunt. Also, there was Ray Watering who went straight into the drawing office. The person in charge of the apprentice training school was a Mr. Tuck whose only claim to fame was that he got stopped for speeding through the Mersey Tunnel on a tandem! My starting wage was £3/6s/4d a week. At age sixteen I along with my farther signed my apprenticeship papers as a “fitter machinist” with Frank Salt who was the then MD. The MD’s secretary at that time was Cybil Flowerdew.


In 1964 the AW factory was still in Edward Street and the training school was located behind the tool room in the newer part of the factory to the left of the loading bay. The foreman of the tool room at that time was one Peter Marlee. For the first week in the training school Mr. Tuck was not there and the new apprentices were placed in the charge of Peter Marlee. As he had nothing better for us to do Mr. Marlee gave us each a file and a piece of mild steel, which was already cut square, and told us to get on and file it square! In addition to spending time in the training school the apprentices were also sent on “day release” to the City College’s engineering department to obtain their City and Guilds qualification.


From the training school and still at Edwards Street, my first job in the factory was in the “details section”. Here we would make small handmade machine parts and assemble items into jigs ready for welding. The details charge hand at that time was George Wigget. The only other names I can remember are Arthur Rowley and ???? Basingthwaite. The details section was located through the machine shop (the machine shop foreman was Ray Sexton he left Wrappers and took over as the landlord of the Ringland Swan) and up a set of wooden stairs. It was a long narrow room and was over the top of the tool store. This part of the AW factory consisted of an old dark Victorian type building and was separate from and to the left of the new Edward Street factory. The windows along the outside of the details section looked onto the side of the old Odeon cinema which was located on the original Botolph Street prior to the Anglia Square / Sovereign House redevelopment of the area. This part of the factory may still exists as part of the PMT shop, the rest of the site is currently a car park with bright graffiti painted on the remaining walls.


Edwards Street at that time was a dead end and the plating shop was a separate building standing at its end.  In addition to the new Edwards Street building, the machine shop and the plating shop AW also owned the end terrace house on Leonards Street. (I believe this house was demolished to make way for the road changes that have taken place over the years). The terrace house was used as the factory kitchen. The tea lady who worked in there was Ivy Greengrass. She made the tea in a big urn along with cheese rolls. At tea breaks a trolley was pushed around the factory by Tom Scrafton with the tea urn and mugs on it as well a basket with Mars bars etc. in it. Tom would sometimes start his tea round with a drip on the end of his nose. By the end of his round the drip was gone and nobody was quite sure if the drip had gone into their mug of tea!  As well as Ivy and Tom an apprentice also had to help out with the tea making etc. On one occasion an apprentice had fallen fowl of somebody in the drawing office, on that afternoon the DO’s tea pot was laced with Ex-lax resulting in some urgent visits to the toilet for some of the draughtsmen!


By 1967 AW had moved to its new site on Whiffler Road. The details section was now located at the bottom end of the machine shop in front of the welding shop. The welder at that time was George Moon. Although my apprenticeship was for a “fitter machinist” I spent little time in the machine shop as I had very little interest in working on a lathe or a mill. I was more interested in the assembly of the machines. So it was off to the assembly shop after spending a little time with George Moon. My bench was in front of Pete Marlee’s office (he had by that time become works manager) just where the door was through to the clocking in clocks and canteen. At this end of the assembly shop we built the Versoflow machine, the SIG horizontal flow wrap, the WLX over wrapper and the cartooning machines (I think they were called D machines). At the other end of the assembly shop the Super 2000 roll wrappers and feeders were built.

I worked alongside the likes of Dick Gash, Georgie Proudfoot, Ken Kalinski, and his son Dave Kalinski, Dave Reynolds, Frank Oakley, George Wigett, Roy Middleton, Roland and Martin Catchpole, Micky Gosling, John Prentice, Bob Bull, Billy Allen, Vic Harvey, Dave Garnett, Phillip White, Barry Moore, Adrian Warnes, Johnny Dye etc. The chargehand was John ??? who worked on the same bench as Morris Jones.

Incidentally Johnny Dye was the first aid man and also supplied the apprentices, from the first aid cupboard, with the necessary family planning item for the weekend!

At this time Ken Mirams was managing director, Pete Marlee was works manager, Burt Goodings was works foreman, Jack Lowe was the assembly shop foreman (he had previously been the union shop steward which was taken over by Frank Oakly). Angus Sherwin was chief engineer, Reg Suffolk was head draughtsman and John Plumstead tested the machines before dispatch.

The company ran a bonus scheme and overtime was available. So, by the early 70,s providing I worked four hours overtime during the week and a Saturday morning and achieved the maximum 50% bonus I could earn £20 per week, which was the same amount that a charge hand was paid at that time. In 1972 I got married and needed a mortgage to buy a house. The building society needed a letter from my employer for proof of earnings. Pete Marlee was good enough to write this for me and asked how much I needed to have to get the mortgage approved. So, a figure was calculated which was not necessarily the same as what I was earning! 

When the Whiffler Road factory first opened there was a proper canteen at the front of the building looking out towards Drayton Road. I believe that by the time Wrappers left the site it had been turned into office space. Two ladies, the manageress’s name I cannot recall but her assistant’s surname was Hawes (the mother of Alan Hawes), ran it and provided meals at lunch time. The canteen was segregated with one part for the office staff and the other for the factory workers. There was also a social club and I was on the committee for a while, which was good because we could skive off during working hours for meetings in the canteen. We organized coach outings to places like Felixstowe, Christmas dinner dances at the Landsdown Hotel and trips to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal for member’s children.

There was always some sort of “fun” going on and one Paul Jarvis, who worked in the development section, probably had something to do with it. Unfortunately Paul is no longer with us having died aged sixty of cancer. On one occasion a dummy camera appeared fixed high up in the toilets off of the assembly shop and looking down at the sinks. The words “Big Burt Is Watching You” were written on its side. This was a reference to Mr. Goodings who would be after you if you attempted to wash your hands before the allotted time, at going home time.

Then there was the Russian spy trawler jest. In the sixties and seventies the Cold War was still at its height and there was always stories in the Evening News about spy trawlers being off the coast. From the development section there appeared a rocket shaped object made of aluminum, about eighteen inches long and four inches in diameter with a point at one end and fins on the other. The pointed end unscrewed and a Christmas cracker was placed inside and some Russian characters were put on the outside. The rocket was then taken down to the coast and stuck pointed end into the sand. The next evening there was a piece in the paper about a local who had found the “Russian” rocket on the beach while walking his dog. It also included a picture of him holding the rocket. Curiously that was the only ever mention of the incident in the media!

I left AW in 1973 and went to work for Mayflower Packaging, which was run by Bill Sawdy who at one time had worked in AW’s sales department. The likes of Danny Tyrrell and Brian Parker also worked there. After working at Mayflower for a few years I left and went to work for myself. For twenty five plus years up to 2010 I had my own company CSS Machine & Engineering, which I sold to Scan Coin who had been the main customer. Unfortunately Scan Coin in early 2017 closed the Norwich operation and moved it to Sweden. Over the years I employed many ex AW “Boys”, and worked with others who had also gone on to run their own business. Due to the great background and training people had received at AW I always had a great team of colleagues to work with. “Good old AW”!


Posted 03-11-16

The Lemon Puff line by Nabisco's Tony Taylor 

Hello, I read the history of Autowrappers with much interest. My first project with Autowrappers was in the mid 80s when I was employed by Nabisco, Long Lane, Liverpool. Baker Perkins had laboured to develop a 4-lane creamer, collator and Rose Forgrove flowrapper to package Lemon Puff. I approached the then MD, Mike Broadfoot and Geoff Bloomfield to manufacture a collator and flow wrapper to fit onto a Baker Perkins 2-lane creamer with a view to buying 2 sets instead of another 4-lane creamer. 


Mike developed the collator and I travelled by light plane from Blackpool to Norwich with the Sales Engineer and his instructor several times to see the development. I was delighted with the result, so I introduced Mike to Baker Perkins. There was Mike and I and about 10 Baker Perkins staff to discuss uniting the Autowrapper collator with the Baker Perkins creamer. The set up was an immediate success in production. I believe Baker Perkins dropped their own collator and the Rose Forgrove flowrapper in favour of Autowrapper equipment.


I moved to Glaxo, Liverpool, in 1992 to manage the installation and commissioning of manufacturing equipment in the new Inhalations Building. If I recall correctly, Autowrappers engineered the can collators for the aerosol lines. 

Regards.....  Tony Taylor    



Posted 22-10-16

Auto Wrappers Reunion Friday November 18th 2016 

Autowrappers Reunion November 2016

This Years Auto-Wrappers Reunion was held on Friday 18th of Novemeber 2016 at the Reindeer Pub in Nowich.

The event was organised by Andrew Gill and had a fantastic turnout, great to see so many old and new faces. 

Our Official Website photographer Andy Mattless was in attendance at the event. 

To see Andys photos of the evening please click on the the image below

Posted 07-10-16

Morty's History

I am David ’Morty’ Mortimer.

I worked for Auto-Wrappers for over 42 years (1968 to 2010). I started as an apprentice on 19/08/68 at 8.00 in the morning and the very first person to speak to me was George Wiggett, who said ‘don’t look so worried lad’.

There were 9 apprentices in my first year of which we spent in the training school ,  Bob Howorth and Johnny Wright were our training officers. the traing school was situated next to the plating shop. The 1968 apprentices were Peter Blyth, Dick Bull, David ‘Jake’ Johnson, Alan Catchpole, Keith Sadler, Peter Watts, Roger Hadden, Steve Dickenson and myself. The first year was taken up by making a lot of our tools EG vices, scrapers, screwdrivers, height gauge, G clamps and main more. I remember Jake taking about 12 attempts to screw cut one 8 inch screw length for the vice we made. After the first year we were all let lose into the factory.

One job we had to do whist apprentices was to go round the factory, after the morning tea break with the lunch menu to find out what people wanted to eat, so the canteen could prepare the lunches for the one hour dinner break.

As I was doing the technical course at Norwich City College, i was required to do work experience i was to go into the planning office for 3 months, followed with 3 months working in the stores before then going into assembly shop for 6 months. The next three and half years were spent working through all the departments like details, turret and horizontal mills, centre lathe and 6 months with my "adopted dad", Ivan Mortimer on the capstan lathe. I finished the last 6 months of my 5 year apprenticeship working on inspection within the machine shop.

Drawing Office Years
After the first 5 years, I applied and got the job in the drawing office as a detail draughtsman. In these days in 1973 all the design and detail drawings were all hand drawn on drawing boards. I worked with section leader Jeff Bloomfield and fellow detailer Kelly Knott on the Mark 1 verso flow machines, One year we issued 83 sold machines to the production department to make and deliver to customers (the hey day of flow wrapping). The Mk1 versoflow did not change very much during the 70’s and 80’s but the infeed systems to feed in the product to the machines did. The main work in the Drawing office was to design and detail infeeds and new size parts. From the Mk1 evolved the 4 Sided Seal Machine, also a top seal variety, and a biscuit on edge machine (BOE). I did a lot of work on the 4 sided seal machines, normally for packed medical products and spent time at "Smith and Nephew" in Hull and "Johnson and Johnson" at Gargrave.

We also had many good times out of the office, We had drawing office fishing days on Surlingham and Ramworth broads. I remember that Roy Cook had a theory on how to catch fish... he said "The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish"  So he used a big earth worm to try and catch a big fish and to hopefully to win the match,  only to end up catching a 2 inch long Bullhead fish,  which we said "the only reason tha he had caught the tiddler, was because the worm had actually wrapped itself around  the fish like a python".

In the 80’s we also had some good times in the Drawing Office with a lot of tricks and windup’s going on by Roy Cook, Mike Harvey, Ernie Rose, Julian Woods and of course... myself.

Some of the following happened:


1 - Terry Lappen, the technical writer owned a camper van so we sent him a fake letter telling him he would have to pay poll tax on his camper van as it was his second home. It took him weeks to find out that it was a windup.


2 - We put Mike Harvey’s house up for sale whilst he was on holiday, Roy Cook managed to borrow a very large  "For Sale Bachelor flats" sign, and put it in his front garden whilst he was away on holiday. The best thing was a local councillor called round to Mike’s  to see if he was really selling his house.


3 - The lads put my car in the ‘cars for sale’ in the Eastern Evening News.


4 - We made Graham Conway a “Do it yourself operation kit” out of samples we were wrapping in the factory, we gave it to him whilst he was in hospital. The best bit was that he got told off by the hospital for having unofficial scalpels, syringes and sewing thread on the ward.


5 - We sent Jeremy Howlett a fake letter from the ambulance service for ‘frequent user insurance’ after he had been knocked of his bike a couple of times and landed up in hospital. The letter stated if he did not take out the insurance, the ambulance would not turn out the next time he was knocked off his bike. It took him 10 hours to find out it was a windup.


6 - Mike Harvey and Roy Cook doctored my packet of Golden Wonder plain crisps, by refilling it with cheese and onion crisps and then re-sealing the pack with the hand sealer end crimps. But I got the last laugh…  

by complaining to Golden Wonder and they sent me 12 free packets of plain crisps. Thanks lads.


7 – Jeremy Howlett crashed his motor bike one night so the next day we made him a Yamaha rebuild kit from old cams, brackets, electrical wire and odd parts. This was all put in a large box and put on his drawing board. On his return to work the next afternoon the box was thrown across the office by a very angry Jeremy. This cleared the office for about 15 min before he calmed down.


In the drawing office we had a ‘Take the P’ box in which we had to put in 5p very time we took the P out of each other. Over the year we would collect enough money to go out to dinner. The main ‘P’ takers were Mike Harvey, Ernie Rose, Graham Conway, Roy Cooke, John Marlee, Jeremy Howlett, Julian Woods, Chris Rayner and Carl Brooke, This went on for many years.

Meanwhile, the flow wrappers were evolving in the 80’s with the introduction of the Mk3 machine with the end and bottom crimps being driven though gearboxes but was not a roaring success, Then came the Mk5 flow wrapper, which was design like a panther tank being made out of welded thick plates, This machine was mainly mechanical with a large open back on it for easy maintenance. All the standard and special infeeds would fit onto this machine and even a Biscuit On Edge version was designed. 

In the late 80’s computer aided design (CAD) was introduced into the Drawing Office, I had to go to Barnsley and Nottingham to test two systems of CAD to see which one was the best for Autowrappers. We chose HP-ME10 and 4 units were put into the drawing office. we spent the next 6 months drawing all the standard parts onto the CAD system, Then the technical director at the time did not like or understand the system and shut it down. The sets were transfered down the road to the Europack Factory at Beccles.

We also had some sad times, I remember Reggie Suffolk the chief draughtsman having a heart attack and died in the office in the mid 70’s. Peter Flander (Poppy) died from a brain tumour, as did Brian Daynes a few years later. Mike Knights died from a heart attack and poor Roy Cooke had a rear cancer and died a week before his first child was born. 

Aftersales Years

In the 90s I transferred into the sales department to become part of the Spares and Ancillary section. This position formed, as this area of the business had been hit by redundancy the year earlier. In the section was Roger Knight, Barbara Myhill and myself. Steven Joy handed the rains over to Paul Holmes who became the department manger.
Through the 90,s and 00’s the departments turnover increased as we offered a full solution to the customers requirements for ancillary equipment and spare parts. I travelled to many customers factories, quoted for the parts required, designed and issued the change parts, chased through manufacturing, shipped to customer and briefed the engineers to fit the equipment on site.

In 2005 GEI sold the business to Bradman Lake, and a bit later we left Whiffler road and moved to a larger new factory in Old Hall Rd. But we did not know it at the time but we were not going to stay there very long, as the old Bradman Lake was suffering financial problems.
17 Oct 2007 was a very stressful day. I was working in Toronto Canada with Glyn Sparkes and was to fly down to the Bradman Lake offices in Charlotte at 6am in the morning. after boarding the plane we found it had an electrical fault on push back. so the plane returned to the gate, and I got off the plane. I now had a 6 hour wait for the next flight, so I went into a café to have breakfast, which I paid for on the company card. I then went back to the same café at about 9.00 and again tried to pay on the card. The card was denied in that time the company had gone bust.

So there i was... stuck with no money and a dud phone, as the one I had been given didn’t work in Canada. I finaly got onto the 12.00 flight and arrived in Charlotte mid afternoon with no one to pick me up as no one knew where I was, as I was 6 hours late and no phone to tell anyone had happened.

After the company when bust it was sold to the Langley group ( the current owners )  they decided that new factory overheads were too expensive, so they moved the business to the Europack site in Beccles, 18 miles away where it still is. The only apprentices from the 1968 intake left working at this time were Dick Bull, Jake Johnson and myself. I travelled to the new site for just over 2 years everyday on the bus but eventualy left AW (Bradman Lake) on 19th April 2010.

I spent 42 years working at Auto-Wrappers, I made many good friends and colleagues and when you leave after that amount of time, it’s the people you miss (even Smarty). I am now working part time at Snetterton race track as a medic which is fantastic, as I now go motor racing nearly very day.


Below are some drawings of Morty by Ernie Rose... (Click on the arrows to scroll through the drawings) 

Posted 10-4-16

A Reader Request, by Kiron Chavda

We recieved an email request from Kiron who had came accros this site whilst doing some research for a family project, Kiron also sent us a Newpaper cutting for us to use on the site as he thought it may be interesting as it is Autowrappers related, the cutting relates to an incident that happened outside  (the Whiffler Road)  Autowrappers factory in 1983, in which his wife ( who was 11 months old at the time ) was saved by a group of people from a serious car fire.  

Kiron is requesting information regarding the AW employees that saved his wife from this terrible accident and he would like to get in touch with them, the two people in question are David Mortimer and Mike Snelling. 

( editors note: we understand that sadly, Mike Snelling is no longer with us  )  if anyone has any information or memories of this incident please contact us and we will pass it on to Kiron.

Photo Ref: AW0220 Photo Courtesy of Kiron Chavda

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Posted 05-4-16

My personal history of Autowrappers, By Dick Gash

Hello my name is Dick Gash.

I joined Autowrappers in 1952 and worked there until my retirement in 1995, some 43 years. My first position was working on machine assembly and testing at the Edward Street site. At that point they employed approximately   90-100 people and the business was managed by C W Maddison. The main building had been purpose built and they had a machine shop next door which I would describe as an old converted barn. Across the road, they had another building they used for chroming parts of the machinery.

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1959 Autowrappers Dick at lunch. Taken in Edward Street in 1959.

Photo Ref: AW0211  Photo Courtesy of Simon and Dick Gash

I can remember when we first moved to Whiffler Road everybody’s opinion was that we had moved to the country. It just shows how much Norwich has been developed since then. Moving to the new site provided the company with what felt like a modern building with lots of room. I can remember feeling like a duck out of water for a while, as there was so much to organise and put right. I missed the shopping centre in Edwards Street, remember there was no Asda back then ! The nearest public house was the Whiffler, which I used to go with John Moore and Terry Bradford a couple of times a week. 

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The Autowrappers Christmas Dinner 1960. Daphne and Dick Gash 

Photo Ref: AW0212  Photo Courtesy of Simon and Dick Gash

Our main customers were Rowntree's, Cadbury's and Birds Eye. We had various types of machinery. Early machines were relatively primitive with what I call clockwork engineering. As technology developed, things like Flow- Wrappers and Roll-wrappers came along. This massively improved efficiency and reliability. With the development of computerised machinery, I felt like I needed to go back to school. I got my head around most of it and there was always other people to help.

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1978 Dick at Autowrappers.  Working on a Cartoner 

Photo Ref: AW0219  Photo Courtesy of Simon and Dick Gash

Around 1985, I was promoted to the Development team comprising of 6-7 people tasked with developing and improving machinery. I was also given responsibility with training fitters from our customers on how to configure and maintain our machines. One bonus of this responsibility was that I was allowed to take them out for lunch and a pint, which used to make my day and was paid for by the company.

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1978 Autowrappers.  Dick Gash and John Plumstead (Quality Control Engineer) 

working on Tea Bagger machine.

Photo Ref: AW0215  Photo Courtesy of Simon and Dick Gash

I occasionally visited external companies to set-up new machinery or carry out repairs. Rowntree was the most frequent, including the Polo factory in York. I found visiting other sites a nice change to working on the main site. My young children were always appreciative of any free samples I was given, that I used to bring home. 

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1977 Dick Gash presented with his Long service award by the Autowrappers MD

Photo Ref AW0214  Photo Courtesy of Simon and Dick Gash

On my retirement in 1995, the company had seen some massive changes. I look back on my time there with fond memories and I made some lifelong friends.


                                               Good Wishes to all .....        Dick Gash

Posted 26-3-16

Working at the Edward Street factory, as told by Rod Horne

Hello I am Rod Horne

I came upon this site through Facebook and thought this may be of interest. 

I served an engineering apprenticeship at Auto-Wrappers when they were based at Edwards Street, Norwich. I was there from September 1958 until July 1964. 

Charlie Maddison was top man with his brother, Reg in a senior foreman or work’s manager type of role. There were 4 foreman as I recall, Jack Robinson who was foreman of the ‘R’ (Roll Wrapper) machine assembly bay; Bert Goodings, foreman of the other bay which assembled a range of machines designed to wrap biscuits, toilet soap, toilet rolls etc. (Bert was my foreman and I remember machine classifications such as ‘RB’  (for round biscuits), ‘WL’ and ‘WWL’ etc.  - pretty much anything that wasn’t an ‘R’ ( Roll wrap machine); Ray Sexton, the machine shop foreman. The fourth foreman’s name escapes me but he was responsible for all the odds and sods, labourers, packing crate makers, and possibly the plating shop etc.


There was another man in a position of authority, perhaps on a par with Reg Maddison or even greater, but I can’t recall his name at all (possibly Robson??) but I do remember him being a mean spirited person. The workshops at Edwards Street were utilitarian in construction; single storey with concrete floors, glass roofs with brick and asbestos walls.  During the severe winter of 1962/63 it was not unusual to arrive at work to find the temperature in the factory to be about 3 C (38 F). The Factory Act of that time said it should be a minimum of 20 C (68 F) within 1 hour of starting work; with AW’s heating system and the extreme cold this was never going to be on. When requests were made to this man to have the heating left on over-night his response was “Tell them to wear more clothes and work harder!” However, there was so much unrest and ill-feeling that eventually this request was agreed to. In addition, wooden duck boards were provided for all the benches, until then we had stood on the cold concrete, During the summer months, the low roofs made it unbearable for the opposite reason!

During this period of extremely cold weather, Ken Calinski (one of maybe 4 or 5 Polish men who worked at AW (and probably left over from the war) told us that it had been even colder when he escaped from Poland to avoid the German army and had waded chest-deep across a fast flowing river! Another of the Poles, Joe Lesnik, would occasionally visit his relations in Poland, as did some of the others, Ken never did. He also never spoke about his early life so we wondered what he had experienced before coming to England.  


Under the foremen were several leading hands; Stan Ablett, who would take the apprentice boys under his wing until they moved to other work; Ken Calinski. Jack Thorn, John Plumstead, (John, I believe, was to become foreman of a development section to be set up later), Jack Nixon who was in charge of the gang making small detail parts, and in the jig and tool shop there was another, Arthur Wilson. There were others but it was a long time ago and my memory is not that good.


Arthur Wilson, of jig and tool, was a Communist and the A.E.U. representative      (A.E.U, the Association of Engineering Workers). Arthur was always treading on management’s toes and for some reason was given the sack, which gave rise to the first, and perhaps the only strike of the AW work force. This must have been late ’63/’64 as I was one of the strikers so must have finished my training, apprentice boys not being allowed to strike. After a week of striking, Arthur was re-instated. 


I mentioned the assembly shops and their rough working conditions but these were palatial when compared to the machine shop. This was Ray Sexton’s domain but he worked with what he was given. The toilets were poorly lit, dirty and very smelly. It was my job, as the youngest apprentice in the machine shop, to wash the tea mugs of the machine operators in this filthy hole. To get them ‘clean’ in the half-light was not easy and there were frequent complaints. Also stored in the toilet was a 40 gallon (200L) drum of cutting fluid. This was pumped into a bucket and then diluted before being used on the lathes, milling machines etc as a coolant. It was often splashed over the floor adding to the ambience of the place.


The machine-shop was a hotchpotch of machines; 5 or 6 centre lathes of different sizes, 3 or 4 capstan lathes, a planer, a shaper, several milling machines, a radial drill, a vertical borer. The planer was a machine from yesteryear, probably the 1930s! It rattled and clanked its way at one end of the workshop and was overseen by an old boy of Corporal Jones vintage who constantly smoked a small, soot-blackened, burned pipe. He was also responsible for the case- and oil-hardening of small components. This required him to heat the parts in a small furnace to near white-hot temperatures and, in the case of oil-hardening, plunge them into a tank of oil. This would fill his area with clouds of smoke which would eventually make its way throughout the shop, gathering in clouds under the roof. At times it was like working in a fog, a hot oil-smelling fog.


We had our share of characters too. 

One of the capstan lathe operators was one “Yorkie” Marks, a man who didn’t take life too seriously. On Friday afternoons,  just before we left off, all operators were given 30 minutes in which to clear their machines of swarf, and clean and oil all slides and hand-wheels. During the day I had lent my oil can to a lorry driver who for some reason had filled it with petrol. When it was returned, unbeknown to me, it hadn’t been emptied. I had forgotten this. “Yorkie” had filled an adjacent waste bin with swarf from his machine and wiped down the slides etc. He then asked to borrow my oil can and oiled the surfaces. On smelling the petrol he poured the contents (much less than a half a litre) into the same bin as the swarf, which, because there was so much, was like a giant Brillo pad. When his cleaning was done, “Yorkie” lit up a cigarette and threw the match into the waste bin whereupon, with a great whoosh of flame, the petrol ignited. The heat burned off the coolant on the swarf and a great cloud of white smoke rolled up to the ceiling! The oil and petrol covered slides also ignited but the whole thing was over in no time at all leaving us all in stitches and “Yorkie” looking shocked.


In the assembly shop was Bob Bull who worked on the ‘R’ machines. These machines had an aluminium hand wheel which went struck with a spanner rung just like a bell.  Bob’s father-in-law was a river pilot who would take control of the coasters which plied their trade in the port of Norwich and guide them to their berths. I think this had become part of Bob’s psyche because at the start and end of shifts Bob would ‘ring’ one of the hand wheels calling out “All ashore who’s going ashore.’


This picture below is the Autowrappers Football Club  from 1962 

The players are back row from left to right

1, Ray Cox (captain & secretary)  2, David Crisp  3, Kenny Clarke, 4, Alan Bunn (Ray’s brother-in-law) 5, Brian Crome  and 6, Derek “Timber” Linse

Front from the left to right 

7, Alwyn Gant, 8, Alan ‘Jimmy’ MacDonald, 9, Barry Moore, 10, Pennington ??  and me .... 11,  Rod (Fred) Horne.

Editors note: if anyone can help with filling in the ?? for Number 10 it would be apreciated 

We were contacted by David Crisp to say that he is the number 2 position, and to say the photo was taken at Earlham Park (many thanks Dave )

Photo Ref: AW0206

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My understanding of how Autowrappers started .... 

I was led to believe that the Maddisons, before Auto-wrappers, worked at Terry’s of York and at the end of the war, when all German patents expired, seized the opportunity to cash in on German wrapping machine technology. I can remember that a lot of the machines I worked on had that 1930s feel but as manufacturing processes improved so did the appearance of the machines, but not greatly. It wasn’t until AW’s designers (Reg Suffolk et al)   that the machines began to look more in keeping with the time.  Even the ‘R’ machine in 1964, when stripped of its covers, looked like something from the past despite its fantastic wrapping rate. 

A lot of resources seemed to be channelled towards making the ‘R’ machine, the real money-spinner, more efficient and attractive to manufacturers like Robertson Woodcock (Trebor), Roses, Caleys etc. (do they still exist?).

Editors note: yes...  but most have been taken over by Kraft or Nestle 

The assembly methods were also a little antiquated. All the pre-machined components would be assembled, drilled, bolted and doweled, casings and covers made and fitted and lubrication systems installed. This continued until the machine was pretty much complete and running perfectly. The whole thing would then be disassembled and that which needed painting, painted and that which needed plating, plated. When all this was complete the machine would then be reassembled with the attendant problems this caused. It always puzzled me why so much of the machine, concealed behind covers, needed painting.

When I left in 1964 the in-machine at AW was known as a flow-wrapper. The product to be wrapped would move along a belt or conveyor and become encase in a tube of paper, the overlapping paper at the bottom  would be heat sealed and rotating knives protruding through heated rollers would cut and seal the item to the desired length. Almost  everything in the sweet line seems to be wrapped this way now (Mars bars, Bounties, Crunchies, the whole bit). I think AW was one of the leading lights in this type of wrapping machine.

I went to Chesterfield to the Trebor works with John Plumstead (he appears frequently in pictures on the AW website) where we set up a flow-wrapper which was wrapping 3 or 4 tubes of sweets in one packet.

The last couple of years of my apprenticeship were spent working with John Plumstead and Frank Oakley on biscuit, soap, cigar, and peanut brittle wrapping machines among others. 

Manufacturers would always supply AW with boxes of sample products to enable the machines to be set up to the actual product; Frank and I had got biscuit wrapping down to a fine art. We had a job making a machine to wrap custard creams ( the small rectangular,  dreamy tasting biscuits) and we quickly had the machine working perfectly and ready for dispatch. This meant there were tins and tins of these biscuits unused - almost everybody at AW went home with bags full. I certainly did! 

I left AW in 1964 to work at Laurence & Scott. They paid more and I was soon to be married but have fond memories of my time at AW.

                                                                     Roderic ( Fred ) Horne 



Posted 28-1-16

The next story was sent to us from Ivan Mortimer. 

Ivan started at Autowrappers in 1962 as a lathe operator, skillfully machining wrapping machine parts to a precision tolerance, he left Auto Wrappers in 2002 to pursue other interests, he spent 40 years as a machinist making parts for hundreds of wrapping machines over the years, he saw all the changes within the company, working in the machine shops of both Auto Wrapper's Edward St and Whiffler Rd factories.

His story below is very different to most, as Ivan had severe impaired vision, to such a degree that during his schooling he was taught in Braille, Even today people still talk about the "Braille Micrometer" that Ivan used, we have even heard apprentices say that "its a wind up" when told about the blind Lathe operator that used to work at Autowrappers, well it wasnt a "wind up" and here is the story from Ivan himself. 

 I hope Ivan’s story will inspire those with eyesight disabilities, and also show us all, what can be achieved with determination and dedication. 

My Life at Auto Wrappers (by Ivan Mortimer)

I have had bad sight all my life, going to a school for pupils either partially sighted or blind where I was taught in Braille. Bad sight ran in my family. When I left school in 1962 I went to a government training centre in Letchworth for eight weeks to learn a bit about engineering, we did the capstan lathes, a bit of drilling and a bit of milling and a little assembly, when I left there I was unemployed for about six weeks and then I got a chance to work at Auto Wrappers.


Looking back, I bet they wondered what the hell they had taken on, I remember the very first job I made, and they were thumb nuts, 200 of them. I was put on a very small machine called a Britton.


A few weeks later one Monday morning I turned up for work to find they had sold the machine and a heap of junk was in its place. At this stage, all I had was a few tools and I depended very much on someone setting the machine up for me, I didn’t even have a micrometer at this time.


At the start I was tucked away in a corner of what was then the tool room at Edwards Street, after a couple of months I was moved into the machine shop and got a lot of help from a guy on the machine in front for which I will be forever grateful, It was about this point I decided that if I was going to survive I had to start doing a bit for myself, little by little I became less dependent on other people.


In the July  I received the birthday pay rise and in the August I opened my pay packet to find Autowrappers had given me far more money than I should have had, (Now for a laugh…) My pay went from £3. 12/ 6d, Three pounds twelve shillings and six pence or £3.62 today, to Eight pounds ten shillings, or £8.50 today,  so I must have been doing something right, later I was told I was now a trainee not an apprentice anymore.


In late 1965 Charley Barnes, the guy on the machine in front of mine left the company for a better paid job, It was at this point AW decided to stop the night shift and Lenny Beard came on to days on the capstan in front of mine. We got on well. I was becoming more independent as time went on, the only thing I was never able to do was to grind my own tooling. I owe a lot to several people over the years that have helped me with this.


In 1966 the company moved to Whiffler Road. At this point they had three capstans, Lenny was on the Herbert 4, and Harry West and I were on Taylors, these were operated with foot pedals and had only two speeds. In 1970 the company bought a new Herbert 4 and a big reshuffle took place, Lenny wanted to go on to the Centre lathe, and I was put on the new machine much to Harry’s annoyance. By this time, apart from tool grinding I was completely independent.


In the latter part of the 1970s when we started making machines under licence for SIG ( now Bosch ) The Machines required Metric parts to be made, unlike our existing machines that used imperial measurements ( inches)   I decided that I needed to acquire some new metric Braille micrometers. This became even more important as we had received an order from a German company for four S2000 Roll Wrappers, and they also had to be built with metric threads. I got a new 0 to 25mm Micrometer, and the guy who brought it to me was given three days to train me on how to use it. I sent him packing after half an hour, (so no problem there)


I am however pleased to be able to say that as time went on, and people came and left, I was able to pass on some of the things I had learned over the years. At least one person, who I know will be reading this, still bears the scars!


One of the things I was best known for was for making many of the brass distance pieces for the S2000 feeders. If I felt there was a mistake I would get it checked out, sometimes I was right, (not always) but we had a few chuckles over it. I’ve probably still got a kilo of brass splinters running round my body.


I managed to survive several rounds of redundancies in the 1980s and 90s. in 1987 I received my 25 year service award along with four others, Peter Marlee, Les Fox, (Ozie) Osbourne, and George Howell.  In 2000 I left for personal reasons to come to the midlands. I returned in briefly in 2001 and left again in 2002.


I went for several interviews in the midlands and got some strange looks when they realized about my eyesight. I went for one interview where they said I didn’t have any experience of the fastener trade to which I said, what is the difference between making nuts and bolts and making nuts and bolts, I went home a bit flat. Next day I got a phone call from them asking me if I wanted a temporary contract for three months. It was a small engineering company near Walsall, the money was very poor, and about £3 an hour less than I was getting at Autowrappers, but I worked there for five and a half years. I learned quite a lot there as the type of work was very different.


  I heard on the grape vine that Autowrappers were going to sell my old capstan Lathe so I told my governor at my new company,  who put in a cheeky bid for it which was eventually accepted. So the machine I had worked on for thirty years followed me to the midlands. It was in better shape than most of the rubbish he had.


I decided to retire at the end of 2007 at the ripe old age of 61.  The company tried everything to get me to stay, even offering more money but I thought I still had all my fingers intact and the money wasn’t an issue.                 

(That’s my story so there you have it, warts and all)



Ivan Mortimer


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AW0184 Ivan Mortimer                                                 AW0185  Ivan's Braille Micrometer                                     AW0044 The Whiffler Rd Machine shop where Ivan worked

Ivans Update 25-3-16

At Last I have at last found someone who can make use of some of my micrometers. He works for a local engineering company. He has very little sight. He asked the respective team at his local job centre for a braille or talking  micrometer and there answer was whaaatttttt!


I had been trying to find a use for them for some time. Asking people with contacts such as museums or colleges but with no joy.


I went to visit a computer instructor at the local centre for the blind up here for some advice on the new Windows 10 and if it would work with the specialist Screen Reader software I have on my computer. I just happened to mention them and he put me in touch with one of his students and the rest is history.

Editors Note ....  Great to know that they will assist someone else and make someones life a lot easier, 

good news Ivan and thanks for the update. 


Posted 30-12-15


The next story involves the AW legend that is "Phil Cullum" apart from being a really great guy and a fantastic sport, Phil is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, Back in 2004 just after the release of the "Calendar Girls" film the following situation arose..... 

The Autowrappers 2005 Calendar. ( by Andy Mattless )

Phil would work in the Paint shop and the story begins when he used to strip off down to his underpants, outside the paint shop to change into his white disposable suit to spray paint in. I said to him, "that's a bit brave"  and he said  "it didn't bother him stripping off in front of people" I then mentioned that he should be on a calendar like the film "Calender Girls", I then said jokingly that we do one here for charity every Xmas and some of the lads who worked at Autowrappers took part, Phils eyes lit up and he asked if he could be in it, "No problem" i said to Phil, i then had to prime up all the lads in the workshop that Phil was our new Calendar Star, Nigel Walker brought in his camera and the classic photos were taken one lunch time at Whiffler Rd.

We took  a series of shots in different poses and I told him that we would take a few then he could pick his best one,  He chose the one on the fork lift,  (my favourite too) we told him he would be Mr January, Little did he know we were putting him on every month. 

The front cover was produced with a few of our faces on it so that he wasn't too suspicious. I only managed to take six  photos as I had to keep turning away from him because i was laughing so much. The Calender was printed up and the big unavailing was at the Auto Wrappers Xmas drink at the "Trafford pub" in Norwich. 

                             Phils face was a picture, as you will see from the pics and video below.

                          Thanks Phil for being such a good sport and allowing us to show the calendar here 

Click on the Calendar image below and a Flip book version of the Calendar will open in a new window, 

Click on the photo of Phil and Andy to view Pictures and Video from the 2004 Xmas night out  in a new window