Sunday 29 October 2023

'What's a typewriter, grandad?'

I spotted this advert in an edition of the Nottingham Official Handbook that was published c. 1949.

Many younger people will not have encountered, let alone used, a typewriter. It marks a person out as 'getting on a bit' if they can remember using one. As I'm in the latter category myself, the clickety-clack of a manual typewriter isn't an entirely alien concept.

I decided to find out a little more about the Bar-Lock Typewriter Company.

The Bar-Lock typewriter was invented by Charles Spiro, an American, in the 1880s. Its name refers to a feature which used a set of metal pins to ensure that each individual typebar was properly aligned and locked into position when it arrived at the contact point.

The works mentioned in the advert were in Basford. The company's products must have been held in high regard, because in early 1928 it placed adverts announcing that it had 'been honoured with the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Typewriter Manufacturers to H.M. King George V.'

The Nottingham Journal, reporting on a visit of the Nottingham Society of Engineers to the factory in September 1948, informed its readers that, 'Every 18 minutes, a new standard typewriter is completed at the factory of the Bar-Lock Typewriter Company, Nottingham. This rate of production means that 160 finished machines are turned out each week. Up to a month ago, 70 per cent went to the export market, but it is now hoped that more will reach the home market, and next month production of portable models, stopped since 1940, will begin. With certain adjustments the standard machines are sent to all parts of the world, including the Argentine, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and the Malay States... Each machine contains over 2,000 parts, and more than 10,000 operations are needed.'

Over 500 people were employed at the Basford works at the beginning of the 1950s.

The company became known as Byron Business Machines in 1953 and had a somewhat convoluted history thereafter, in various guises.

The Basford factory is long gone, but it is recalled in the name of Barlock Road, which runs between Arnold Road and Valley Road.

A circa late 1930s OS map showing the location of the typewriter works, overlaid on the present-day street pattern (source: Nottinghamshire Insight Mapping)

Detail from a 1936 image, showing, in the centre, the Bar-Lock works, facing onto Barlock Road (source: Britain from Above)

View from Barlock Road looking towards where the frontage of the factory used to be

View towards the former location of the factory, taken from a position to the north of where it once stood

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