Photo of Erith Burndept’s factory before Second World War bombing

Photo of Erith Burndept’s factory before Second World War bombing

The photograph of the Burndept’s factory in Erith

St Fidelis’ Road, Erith, today

First published in Bexley
Last updated

THIS historic photograph is thought to be a thriving Erith factory before it was bombed during the Second World War.

Grandfather-of-two David Slade came across the image when he was clearing his sister-in-law Pauline Michell’s belongings and believes it could be Burndept’s, which made electrical equipment and Vidor radios in St Fidelis’ Road.

Mr Slade, 83, who grew up in Picardy Road, says he thinks Pauline’s mother Violet might be in shot.

He told News Shopper: “It came out of the blue really.

“She died recently and I was going through her belongings and came across the photo and suddenly realised it could be of interest.

“I get the impression the woman second from the front in the right- hand corner is Violet Michell, who worked as a shop steward there for many years.

“Looking at the construction of the building it looks as if it’s going back some time. I can’t identify it.

“It looks like a lot of woman are doing coil winding for radio equipment.”

Research by Simon McKeon, Bexley’s local studies and archive manager, revealed Burndept’s was based in the former Vickers-Maxim munitions factory in St Fidelis’ Road, off West Street and close to the railway line and where Bronze Age Way now runs through.

He said: “The photo looks to be the original pre-war factory, so I would date the photo somewhere between 1934 and 1942.

“In the photograph, the women are being overseen by a male supervisor who was in charge of the shift.

“It looks as though the women are making components for some sort of electrical equipment.

“The women were on ‘piece work’ which meant the more components they put together the more they were paid.

“If you look very closely you can see batteries on the conveyor belt.”

During the war Burndept’s produced military communication equipment until April 1941, when the Erith factory was almost completely destroyed by a German incendiary raid, forcing the company to relocate production to a former jute mill in Dundee.

However, after the war, Burndept’s returned to Erith where they set up business in Erith High Street and St Fidelis Road.

During the 1960s, the company manufactured the SARBE lifejacket beacon for the RAF and a number of Commonwealth and foreign air forces. The beacon sent an automatic and continuous transmission of a homing signal as soon as the life jacket entered the water.

The factory closed in 1977.

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