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Gordon Cox, 2007
Cox & Wright

Albert Cox - centre - founder of the Company
B. Colman, Archie Berrill, --- Bird, Albert Cox, --- Brown, A. Tomkins, Percy Cox
(Later Archie Berrill became Factory Engineer for CW Horrell and Percy Cox the Factory Engineer for B Denton)

Albert Cox served his Engineering Apprenticeship at Woolwich Arsenal and moved from Erith in Kent to Rushden in 1893 to take up the job of Chief Engineer at the factory of John Cave and Sons. In 1899 just before Cave's disastrous fire of 1901 he decided to go into partnership with an electrician, Fred Brown.

Note by H Packwood in 1988:

Cox & Brown Engineers, Lime Street.

Makers of the COX & BROWN SLUGGER for putting on leather top pieces - about 1919
Employee:- Chip Randall on maintenance.

Together they created the company of Cox and Brown Engineers and commenced business in some old stables in Higham Road. Later they moved to larger premises in Lime Street.

In those early days they could install telephones, their own Telephone number being 1Y. They also serviced the large oil engines which most of the factories powered their machinery with in the Rushden area. This led to a demand for Belting, Pulleys and all the other ancillary products that were needed to keep the wheels turning.

slugging machine
Slugging M/c - £75.0.0
Albert also designed and built shoe machinery, and was granted several patents. One of his most successful was the Cox and Brown Slugging Machine. From a coil of wire, rectangular in section, it would shear off 'slugs' of the wire and drive them in a neat row around the heel of boots, this extended the wear life of the heel.

At sometime before the First World War the partnership was dissolved, but the business continued as Cox & Sons for many years. Later, after the war Machinery Sales became more difficult, this was partly due to the firm's main competitor, The British United Shoe Machinery Company. Their vast range of machinery was leased to the customer with the stipulation that competitors machinery could not be used in the production line alongside theirs. By the slump of 1932 the firm had collapsed, but Albert managed to keep a good supply of spares in stock which he was still sending to his customers in the early years of the Second World War. Albert died in 1943.

Edgar Cox, one of Albert's sons left to start up his own general engineering business E Cox (Engineers). This was situated over Mr Chettle's horse stables in Fitzwilliam Street. In 1938 he was joined by his son who had left school in that year. By this time a larger workshop had been acquired at No. 65 Moor Road.

During those early years of the war there was an acute shortage of new machinery, and spare parts were difficult to obtain. The firm specialised mainly in repair work for the Boot and Shoe Industry. Machinery was predominantly belt-driven so there were always plenty of pulleys to be re-bushed and worn shafts to be replaced. If a broken part was unavailable the old part would be welded and refurbished.

The association with George Wright began during the war years while he was working for the British United Shoe Company. He would often bring in repair work from factories around the area thus establishing what eventually would become a permanent connection between the two surnames.

During the war the firm also contributed to the war effort by manufacturing small aircraft parts. Moulds for incendiary bomb moulds were also made for Alumasc Ltd of Burton Latimer. Also manufactured were large quantities of brass screwing wire, this material was used in the manufacture of munitions footwear. The use of other metals being prohibited, because of the danger from sparks, which could trigger an explosion. Production ceased shortly before the end of the war.

Another move was made to shared premises in Higham Ferrers, but 1944 they had moved yet again to East Grove in Rushden where they remained for several years.

Hand skiving machine
Hand Skiver - Price £7.10.0
New shoes were in short supply because coupons were required. The only alternative was to have them repaired, the worn part of the soles were removed and replaced with new leather half soles and new heels. The Hand

Skiver was used to feather the edge of the new half sole so that it blended smoothly into the remaining part of the old sole to create a neat finish.

For companies producing Half Soles in quantities a larger, motorised version was available at £18.18.0. The last known request for a spare part was 1977.

In 1945 the company, now well established changed its name to Cox & Son (Rushden) Ltd. It had also become a leading manufacture of machinery for the Shoe Repairing industry, at one time producing in excess of 200 Hand Skivers a month to satisfy demand. Several other small hand operated machines were also made.

hand ranger machine cost £10
Hand Ranger - Price approx £10.0.0
The Hand Ranger consisted of a rotary knife on the top shaft and a large diameter knurled wheel underneath. This was used for cutting strips of leather up to 12" wide. The adjustable guide can be seen on the front of the machine. This could be set for cutting handbag material or belts. Heavy duty leather shoe laces could also be produced on this machine by taking the guide down to its minimum setting.

The "Victory" Machine for boot studding

The Victory - machine for football boot studs
Football Stud M/c - £14.15.0
The 'VICTORY' Football Stud machine was also very popular in the post war years. Studs were made from scrap pieces of sole leather, obtained free of charge from most of the shoe factories. Nails were dropped into the bottom die, three discs of leather were cut by means of the top lever forcing each piece into the cutter. With the lever down on the last cut the lower lever was pulled forward pushing the nails up through the cut pieces. The finished stud could then be ejected. Some machines were bought for home use and bolted to the kitchen table to enable the lady of the house earn some extra money.

Large quantities of hand operated Stick-on-Presses were produced for repairers, for the attachment of adhesive coated soles. The lower pressure pad was leather over a rubber membrane and the container filled with Water Glass, a liquid usually used for pickling eggs.

stick on presses for shoe repairers
A safety devices - presses now needed two hands
The second model of safety device for presses
A third safety device for the presses
Stick on Press

With safety in the workplace becoming an issue three versions of Safety Devices were designed for British United clicking presses converting them from single handed operation to two.

The partners - Edgar Cox & George Wright
George Wright & Edgar Cox

In 1947, on July 3rd, the association that had been built up over the years between Edgar Cox and George Wright became a formal merger of Cox & Son, and George's Irthlingborough metal fabrication business. The new company was to be called Cox & Wright (Shoe Machinery Services) Ltd.

The company gradually expanded the existing premises in East Grove to accommodate the space required for the new fabrication department, which was first housed in a Nissen hut, and later by adding a brick built extension.

A toe lasting machine
An early Ferrari vulcanising press
Albeko Toe Lastinq m/c
By the mid 1950's, all the available manufacturing space at East Grove had been used up. To give more room for the ever expanding fabrication department part of the engineering division was moved into a factory on the corner of Station Road and High Street (originally Ingles) where the ground floor was converted into a showroom for the newly acquired machinery agencies of Albeko (Germany) and Ferrari & Figli (Italy). The two upper floors of the building were used for light engineering and the fitting of small assemblies.
new metal shoe racks were replacing the old wooden ones
In the years after the war most of the factories in the shoe industry were still using the old wooden Shoe Racks, these had served them well all through the war, and many years before. This was the era of the metal Shoe Rack. The picture is just one of numerous designs that were made to replace the old wooden ones. The one shown is fitted with a component tray.

The early 1950's saw significant changes in the shoe industry, with a move to get rid of line shafting and the big oil engines. Machines became individually driven by having their own electric motor; giving more production flexibility throughout all the departments.

This gave the company the opportunity to produce hundreds of Closing Room self contained individual Benches to cover a customers requirements. Sometimes, removal of the old and installation of the new would part of the deal.

Closing rooms benefited by having small 2 or 3 tier metal trolleys for speeding up the movement of upper components through the department. Thousands were made, of various designs.

aerial view of the site of the new factory
Aerial View of the first phase of the Cox & Wright site.
Situated at the junction of the old A45 and Wellingborough Road.

In 1958-9, with the firm's growth demanding ever more space, a new factory was built on a 1.56 acre site at Sander's Lodge - 3,000 sq. ft. of office space and 9,000 sq. ft. of work area.

Heel attacher
Another heel attacher for the new "stilletto" heels
With all this growth in the Shoe Industry the Shoe Repairers were not forgotten. When heel styles changed the Heel Attacher that had been made for many years could not accommodate the new slim styles like the stilletto. A new model was produced that could drive the securing nails inwards at an angle rather than vertical.

In 1960 the firm acquired the agency of Benton & Stone Ltd (later known as Enots), suppliers of pneumatic equipment, which was later augmented by the Norgren agency to lay the foundations of the pneumatic division.

George Wright gave up his position as Managing Director in 1963 and his place taken by his son Malcom Wright. Gordon Cox became Technical Director, assuming responsibility for design and development, whilst Edgar Cox, by now retired, enjoyed a well-earned rest after a lifetime in engineering.

Diversification was a key theme in the sixties: for instance, 1,000 vending machines were made for Autobars Ltd. in 1965. That same year the company was floated on the Stock Exchange and became a public company and Roy Peake was appointed Production Director.

machine by Fred Hawkes for pre-shaping the forepart of the shoe
preshaped vamp
Forepart Shaping
M/c developed
by Fred Hawkes
Example of a preshaped Vamp
Also in this eventful year of 1965 Cox & Wright acquired Fred Hawkes (NV Engineers) and Fred Hawkes (Refrigeration), although the latter was subsequently sold off. Fred Hawkes' products, the result of many well-respected years in the shoe industry, were added to Cox & Wright's range of machinery.More manufacturing space was required for this acquisition coupled with the steady increase in Cox & Wright's expanding range of products. This led to an additional 10,000 square feet of production area and 3,500 square feet of office space being added to the Sander's lodge site.

The Company's products during the late sixties were directed mainly at the Shoe Industry in which it had made it's name, Powered Making room tracks, and the Eatough-Satra Work Transporter System for Closing rooms, followed later by Rotary Moist Heat Setters and Mulling cabinets were all in constant demand.

powered track with heat setter
rotary moist heat setter
Powered track with Heat Setter
Rotary Moist Heat Setter
closing room conveyor
Upper Mulling Cabinet
Closing Room Conveyor
Upper Mulling Cabinet

The first Travelling Head Presses were made in 1969 followed by the development of High Frequency Welding Presses. These new products enlabled Cox & Wright find outlets in many other industries. In 1970 the new CW120A Swing Arm Clicking Press made its debut.

travelling head press
clicking press
Travellina Head Press
Clicking Press

technical bulletin A technical bulletin from the 1970s for a new machine.

A 'Material Multi-feed Unit' operated by factory manager, Clive Sawford, c1973.

Chase Feed Systems
To add to the range of cutting presses now being made the CW80 was developed. This large area press of 80 tons capacity found it's way into a variety of industries. One, similar to the picture, but with extra ancillary loading features and storage was ordered by British Leyland at Cowley.

The complete system was set up in the factory for Leyland to view before installation. Management and staff arrived in a fleet of cars on the morning of the demonstration and assembled around the machine. The Trade Union representatives took one look at it and said. 'We are not working that'. With that comment they got into their cars and left. The dispute was eventually settled and the machine was installed

Click here to see an interactive e-book presentation of the Technical Bulletin
for the CW 80 and other Cox & Wright machines

and to see an interactive e-book presentation of the images on this page

then click Run to view the album

Please note that because of the limitations of the software package used, it will at present only display on-line in Internet Explorer, other browsers will download the file to run locally

Ken Haverson, 2007 (Salesman)

The Pneumatics department was also enjoying a steady growth. In September 1972 it became Cox & Wright (Pneumatics) Ltd., trading as a separate company.

In 1974 Evode announced its intention of selling Cox & Wright, seeing its future interests in chemical-based products rather than engineering. Their decision was followed in June 1975 by severe redundancies culminating in a complete reconstruction of the company's staff and employees, from top to bottom. When efforts to find a buyer for the company failed the directors themselves tried unsuccessfully to raise the capital themselves.

In December Cox & Wright was purchased from Evode and became a subsidiary of West Group International. (W.G.I. Ltd.). The company, by now, with a much smaller workforce continued to manufacture a much reduced product range. Slowly the boot and shoe industry in the UK declined, it was losing out to Europe and the Far East on pricing and footwear manufacture moved overseas to Europe, Korea and finally China.

By 1980 the company were faced with another round of redundancies as the need for machinery in the UK grew less, and the last of the family directors, Gordon Cox, left the company. The demand for Research and Development was drastically reduced and sales were increasingly directed to other industries.

Manufacturing, Sales and Service of Presses continued but with sales reducing and with the company having to downsize on two occasions plus another change of ownership it finally ceased to trade as Cox & Wright in the mid 1990's.

For many who worked for the company during the 50's, 60's, and 70's, they will remember how busy they were in those years with an ever-climbing trade graph. When the end came with a workforce of a dozen employees, it was a very sad demise for a once very successful Rushden based company.

Albert Cox would have been proud of the way the company prospered, and developed it's huge range of products, and also of the workers and staff that had passed through the company over the years all adding their particular style of expertise along the way.

From Bob Cosford (via email)

I have read with great interest the details regarding Cox and Wright.

I worked there from 1968, becoming sales manager in 1976. Along with my colleague, Rennie Houghton, I was instrumental in developing the general industries cutting division which carried the company in its latter years after the demise of the UK shoe industry.

In 2000 I set up Global Cutting Technologies which imports high tech cutting systems which we distribute to [what is left of] manufacturing industry in the UK.

We also rebuild some of the more recent Cox and Wright die cutting machines and employ a number of ex-Cox and Wright personnel.

I am very proud to have worked at Cox and Wright for all those years and the methods and values which were instilled into me remain to this day.

Vacuum cleaner label
Plate off a vacuum cleaner
kindly sent by Gareth via email

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