'Archibald Dawnays Ltd, constructural steelworks company founded in 1922 at Battersea, opened a branch in WGC in 1923. It was the first manufacturing firm established in the town. The site, with sidings from the main LNER railway, had a factory, yard, tackle shed and office building. In the 3 bay factory were the Foreman's office, template shop and designated areas for plating, riveting & welding and, later on, a bending machine. Overhead cranes moved joists, stanchions, plates as required. The maintenance department and first aid room were close by. The steel stock delivered by rail was stored in the yard. The office was at the end of the lane leading to the tackle shed. There was a reception area and telephone, manned by a young girl, who also did general office duties; the main office staff were Joan - secretary; Andy - wages clerk; Len - transport and stock. Manager Mr Wiles had an office overlooking the yard. There were over 100 employees, the only 2 females worked in the office. Men came from London, the North East and South Wales, few were local. There were few houses in WGC to begin with and it was only in 1932 my father was able to move to W.G.C. In the thirties most men lived in Council houses in the Peartree, Ludwick Way, Knella Road part of town and able to walk or cycle to work. Their day started by clocking on at 7.30 and finished with clocking off at 5.30 with an hour for lunch and a tea break mid morning and afternoon. There was an independently run canteen on the site. Wages were paid weekly, in cash, in a brown wages packet on a friday evening. Staff included template makers, platers, welders - Dawnays was one of the first firms to introduce arc welding, riveters, slingers, crane drivers, lorry drivers & an odd job man. The factory closed for 2 weeks in July for maintenance work. The men organized their own Social club including a bowls section, darts teams & cricket. Day trips were made to the seaside and dinner dances held at the Cherry Tree. There were some keen gardeners who competed in local shows particularly with dahlias and chrysanthemums, one man becoming a national judge. Local examples of Dawnays steelwork are Welwyn Stores and the pedestrian bridge at the station. Also, during the war, parts for tank landing craft and the Mulberry harbour although staff did not know what they were building. The company featured twice on the BBC’s Workers Playtime and World Parade. Mr R H Wiles joined the firm in 1925 as Assistant Manager, became Manager in 1931, local director in 1958, Director in 1963 and retired 1967.’ This information was kindly supplied by Marion W.

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A very early town plan of Welwyn Garden City showing Messrs Dawnay & Son (yellow highlight), Shredded Wheat and not much else! It was donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Tony F (whose father Chas worked as an architect for the WGC Ltd company from the 1920s) as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
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A.D.Dawnay & Sons Ltd - factory. Image from WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
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A.D.Dawnay & Sons Ltd - factory interior. Image from WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
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A.D.Dawnay & Sons Ltd - interior shot - factory staff at work. Image from WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
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Dawnays Ltd workforce - photographed in the early 1940s. Harold Barnes (Joyce's father) is seated in the second row 2nd from the right. This wonderful image was donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Joyce D as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
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Dawnays - a meeting of managers of the various branches of the company was recorded in this photograph. Taken beside the offices the Tackle Shed is at the rear. At the front left is Reg Wiles whilst the gentleman in the white coat with his back against the office wall is Gus Lee who was maintenance manager. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust Archive by Marion W.
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This B&W photocopy of an original cartoon of Reg Wiles the Managing Director of Dawnays engineering company was drawn by John Garling and it was published in 'Who's What in WGC'. Donated to the WGC Heritage Trust by Marion W.
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Welwyn Times dated 6th January 1967 - article on retirement of Reg Wiles - managing director of Dawnays. Clipping donated by Marion W.
 
 
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