This week’s article will explore the history of Wingard, from its formation to its move to Chichester after the Second World War.
Wingard Ltd was founded in April, 1930, by Mr P.N. Matton for the prime purpose of acquiring the rights to a device known as a Width Indicator (a “wing guard”) for cars and commercial vehicles, and to manufacture and market this product.
The first premises, located at 36 Sunny Gardens, Hendon, London, consisted of just one room, the spare bedroom of managing director Mr Matton. The room played the part of the company’s boardroom, office, assembly and despatch room. The facilities were not suitable for the company to manufacture the Width Indicator themselves and so the manufacturing was instead outsourced.
The product was packed by the company name and sold through freelance salesmen. The salesmen were offered an attractive quarter of the selling price in commission.
Progress was steady and the company made a name for itself. They expanded their product lines, introducing Lighthead and Telescopic “winguards”, plus other products such as billiard tables (which were soon discontinued) and cycle lamps.
In 1935, the company experienced financial problems. They re-organised and subsequently re-registered Wingard (M.A) Ltd on May 31, 1935, the M.A standing for motor accessories. Investment in the company had come from several new directors, including D.J. Battersby and Mr Allcard. At this time, the company sought new premises and moved to a private house at 81c Church Road, Hendon. An affiliation with a manufacturing unit in Birmingham was also established whereby products, such as the telescopic mirror bracket designed by Mr Battersby, were manufactured exclusively for the company.
The company also began to provide novel products such as width indicators with union jacks for the coronation of George VI, a greater range of commercial mirrors, tow ropes and more.
After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Wingard were quick to manufacture blackout discs for vehicle headlamps. These were compulsory and prevented light from the car being seen from the air by enemy aircraft. However, government quotas for the supply of general motor products were negligible so the factory at Church Road, together with another factory at Staples Corner, Hendon, were converted for the production of numerous items for the war effort, including incendiary bomb parts, components for aircraft seats, tanks, Mosquito aircraft and trucks. The connection to the motor industry was not lost completely, however, and the company continued to design and produce various parts as sub-contractors for other vehicle manufacturers.
In 1943, the Ministry of Aircraft Production allotted the company the more spacious premises of the requisitioned factory of Mess. Eugene Ltd. (Eugene hair company) at Edgeware Road, West Hendon. During this time the company employed around 100 people.
Following the end of the Second World War in May, 1945, the rental arrangement with Eugene Ltd came to an end, making it necessary for the company to find alternative accommodation. The search for suitable premises proved very difficult and in 1946 Wingard found themselves moving out of London, taking possession of a factory in Kingsham Road, Chichester. Production at the factory, which had previously been used as a wool storage depot, commenced on September 1, 1946.
Twelve of the original Hendon staff moved to Chichester and they soon found that the equipment they brought with them from London – lathes, grinding and milling machines, presses, drillers etc. only took up one half of the space in the new factory, which was approximately 10,000sq ft. in total.
In 1948, Wingard designed and produced the framed interior mirror. In the next few years the range of products was further extended to include chrome wing mirrors, stop and tail lamps, interior lamps, car heaters, sump heaters, sun visors, wiper blades, roof racks, windscreen washers, petrol caps, fuel pump diaphragms, flexible pipe connections, locker and door keys, reflectors, licence holders and seat belts.
Contracts for original equipment on cars and commercial vehicles covered not only interior and exterior mirrors which of course was by now the company’s basic business, but also specially designed ash trays, name plates, petrol caps, roof lights, door handles, coat hooks and body hardware generally.
Next week’s article will continue to examine the history from the 1950s onwards.
Compiled using information from Britax Wingard Ltd A reflection on 70 years. The History of Britax Wingard 1929-1999.
By Amy Roberts, collections officer at The Novium Museum