North Watford History Group

Blaw Knox

Following the opening of the railway branch line between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, land was taken over alongside the railway by a number of companies making use of the railway sidings. This area developed over time and was considered an "important goods centre" [1] by the start of the second world war. Among these factories was Blaw Knox, which occupied a site on Bushey Mill Lane adjoining the railway lines.

Mr. Albert C. Lehman established Blaw Knox in the UK, in 1921. Mr. Lehman was a leader of industry and president of Blaw Knox company of America, [2] which had formed in America in 1917 as the result of a merger between Blaw Collapsible Steel Centering Company and Knox Pressed and Welded Steel Co. [3] A.C. Lehman had been vice-president and general manager of the Blaw company since 1906, enjoying promotion to president in 1911. [4] Blaw Knox became well known for manufacturing and selling steel specialities, such as steel forms for concrete construction, transmission towers holding high-tension lines, excavating buckets and other steel construction items. Blaw Knox limited was established as British importer and agent for the Pittsburgh-based company, and other American manufacturers of construction machinery. [5]

At its incorporation in 1921, Mr. John Theodore Goddard, aged 43, became chairman of the company and he continued in this position until his death in 1952 [6] J.T Goddard had founded the London legal practice of Theodore Goddard and Company in 1902, which he served until 1950. [7] [8] He was succeeded at Blaw Knox by Sir Geoffrey Burton. [9]

In 1929 Blaw Knox limited purchased both Cowan Hulbert Ltd. and Milliken Bros. Ten years later it continued its expansions by purchasing the liquidised assets of Tractor Trader.

On 10 December 1947, shares in Blaw Knox were offered for sale. At this point it was described as being in a leading position in its products of "transmission towers, earth-moving equipment and open hearth steelworks equipment" with current orders on their books of £1,900,000. [10]

By the time of the 1947 sale, Blaw Knox and its subsidiary companies occupied a freehold premises in North Watford of 12 acres of land. They had manufacture buildings, storage, and repair rooms, as well as their own private sidings onto the railway. Approximately 425 people were employed to work in this modern manufacturing environment, [11] and further employees were based at their other premises in London and Kent.

The sale was a great success, selling the required number of shares more than 10 times over. [12] 2,856,635 shares were applied for, with only 242,800 being publicly available. This resulted in Blaw Knox being forced to limit the shares released to each applicant. [13]

In February 1948, the Watford production lines were slowed by the national coal shortage and general material shortages. [14] Despite this, over the next few years the company was generally successful, taking on contracts both in the UK and overseas for supply of machinery and equipment.

In 1951 the company announced their intention to increase the size of their manufacturing plant. [15] They had put forward plans of expanding their excavator production plant in Watford, however these were turned down by the Town and Country Planning Authority. [16]

Following a period of uncertainty, the Watford manufacturing facilities were closed down [17] and in 1962 eight acres of land in Watford was put up for sale by Blaw Knox. [18] In 1969 the company was bought-out in a share deal by Babcock and Wilcox. [19]


Research: Rebecca; North Watford History Group.
Author: Rebecca; North Watford History Group.


  1. Jenkins, S.C.; The Watford to St Albans Branch; Oakwood Press, 1990
  2. Blaw Knox Ltd. Record Volume Of Orders; The Times, 19 May 1948, page 9
  3. Hawkins, Jim; Blaw-Knox Diamond Radio Towers; website
  4. Rook, Charles Alexander (editor-in-chief); Western Pennsylvanians; Western Pennsylvania Biographical Assosiation, 1923, page 153
  5. Blaw Knox Limited Prospectus; The Times, 8 Dec 1947, page 9
  6. Blaw Knox Ltd. Substantial Volume Of Orders In Hand, World-Wide Acceptance Of New Products; The Times, 15 May 1953, page 14
  7. Theodore Goddard's entry in Wikipedia website
  8. The Foundry Trade Journal, vol. 94; Institute of British Foundrymen, Welsh Engineers' and Founders' Association, Foundry Trades' Equipment & Supplies Association, Jan-Jun 1953
  9. Civil Engineering and Public Works Review, vol. 48; Lomax, Erskine & Co., 1953
  10. Blaw Knox Limited Prospectus; The Times, 8 Dec 1947, page 9
  11. Blaw Knox Limited Prospectus; The Times, 8 Dec 1947, page 9
  12. Blaw Knox Issue Success; The Times, 11 Dec 1947, page 7
  13. Blaw Knox Limited Share Ballot; The Times, 15 Dec 1947, page 9
  14. Blaw Knox Ltd. Record Volume Of Orders; The Times, 19 May 1948, page 9
  15. Blaw Knox Limited Expansion Of Overseas Interests, Mr. J. Theodore Goddard On Progress In All Departments; The Times, 7 May 1951, page 8
  16. Blaw Knox Ltd. All-Round Progress, Continued World-Wide Demand For Products, Mr. J. Theodore Goddard On Material Supplies; The Times, 9 May 1951, page 11
  17. Blaw Knox Limited Substantially Improved Position; The Times, 17 Jun 1964, page 19
  18. Factories, Warehouses & Sites; The Times, 12 Mar 1962, page 21
  19. Bids, Deals & Mergers Plessey agrees terms for Diac takeover; The Times, 26 Nov 1969, page 30

[Added by Glen: 11:41pm 10 May 2009]

This page was last updated on 13 May 2009.