The first major thing I had to do was because my father and uncle had let the 190 High Street premises to Woolworths for a good rent so that my uncle could retire. So I had the job of removing what was essential to the heating and manufacturing side of the business to the Waterbeer Street premises and assist in clearing the stock with my uncle. We made more money than we have done for years out of selling items hidden in corners. The final problem was that in the attics there were three rooms into which the purchase invoices and other records over many years had been dumped on the floor so that there was 30"/36" of paper all over the floor. As the premises were coming down anyway, we thought the weight would help in the demolishing of these floors and left them.
About 1935, a notice of a compulsory order purchasing our Waterbeer Street property arrived from the City Council. They required the whole area for a scheme for a new Civic Centre. My uncle and father told me that as I was the person it could most affect, I would have to do all the negotiating and if I had got enough money, I could plan a new works and rebuild elsewhere.
I had been lucky and gone to an old Bedfordians' Dinner and sat next to a Trustram Eve who was one of the countries top surveyors/valuers and got on with him in spite of our age difference. So I wrote to him and asked if he could recommend someone expert in this work. He immediately replied that he was perfectly willing to take the work himself with his firm, and if I would do all the running about and get all the information he wanted. It would not be expensive as he would recover his fees in the compensation. The result was a wonderful education.
Unfortunately after the preliminary work had been done, Trustram Eve died, but one of his partners, Dulake took on the work most satisfactorily. Three incidents in negotiations stand out. At the first meeting of the town clerk, C J Newman, the T.C. said he wanted to make it clear that he was having no London prices or fees, or any high-powered bargaining. So Dulake said that there was really no point in wasting everybody's time. He slowly packed his briefcase. I followed suit and we were almost at the door before the T.C. said "Aren't you being a bit hasty, we could discuss some matters", so we returned - round one to us.
I used to do a lot of the design of the layout of the buildings whilst waiting in the office, in fact once we had bought the Tan Lane site, I could almost walk round the new works and offices in my mind. The Tan Lane site had been a pit, first where sand/clay was extracted for a small pottery which used to be in the sheds between the meter works (Willeys) and the railway. The pit was later filled with the rejects from the pottery.
Fortunately we had in our architect's office of F. W. Beech, a clerk of works, George Perry who looked after the whole project, and who knew this, so he made us put all foundations on concrete rafts to avoid subsidence. He also was the one who approved the site since, being a foundry, water or wetness was a major hazard. He knew that the St Thomas area had floods from time to time, but he checked the levels and predicted we might be surrounded by floods, but the site would be above water level. This was later proved correct when in the 1950s Exeter had floods and we stayed above, but surrounded by water.
The second round was the final debate which took place with Fleury, a surveyor in Plymouth, acting for the council, who proposed various reasons why our claims were unreasonable, which Dulake and I shot down, so that in the end he said he was exceeding his instructions, but he really could not disagree with us and he could tell the T.C. that he would have to pay up.
Thirdly having agreed compensation, the Council wanted us to pull our old building down, which I was not averse to doing, since we would recover a considerable quantity of scrap cast iron. However I knew that our neighbours building on the west side had no side wall and relied on our wall to keep it up. I therefore agreed to this provided the buildings on either side of us were demolished first. The Council was going to hold a sum as a retention, until the building was down. About 12 months (1940) after vacating, the other buildings were not down, so I requested the payment of the retention. The Town Clerk in person then said that I was making excuses for not pulling the building down. I pointed to the clause and with good reason for its insertion, at which he huffily went off, but our solicitor got the cheque. Final round to us.
We managed to complete the new buildings in June 1939, and removal took several weeks, getting in and starting operating in late July. The removal was interesting in that we had asked several to quote, including the Great Western Railway, who proved considerably cheaper. They did this by having a petrol motorised three wheel colt to which they could attach trailers, and also using horse drawn flatcarts. The point was that for many items the time involved was mostly in loading and unloading, so the mechanised unit could serve three trailers, two loading/unloading, and one in transit, and while the carts took longer for the journey, the cost of standing time, was so much less it saved more than the extra time in transit, also the uphill part was with the cart unloaded. At the same time, we had opened a showroom at Central Station, the rebuilt Queen Street. After the war this was moved to North Street.
© 2007 Richard Holladay
Henry Holladay was the managing director of Garton and King. In this extract from his memoirs, he describes the negotiations with the City Council on the compulsory purchase of the Garton and King foundry in Waterbeer Street and the move to the new foundry at Tan Lane in 1939. Henry Holladay died in May 2007.
Also see Garton & King in Waterbeer Street 1936
Film kindly provided by the Holladay family
Woolworths rebuilt the Garton and King shop in the High Street in 1934. The Garton and King Golden Hammer hanging on the front of the foundry in Waterbeer Street.
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