Harvey’s was a metal fabrication factory on the Woolwich - the East Greenwich Fire Station is in front of what would have been the site and Holmwood Villas led to the entrance. The firm had a sports ground in Hervey Road and a housing for their workers – the most obvious being Harvey Gardens in Floyd Road, and Prentice Court nearby.
So – Keith Clarke writes:
I worked at Harvey's for six years in the early 1950's, but the story starts back at the beginning of the century. The Clarke family lived in Lewisham in the same area as George Harvey, and at some unknown date, my paternal grandfather Arthur Clarke joined the company, in its earliest years. By 1924 he was Works Manager, and later a Director, as was his brother Edwin.
My father was Arthur Clarkes, eldest child and only his son – and was also christened Arthur, but always called Bob. The remaining six children were all girls. One would expect the only son to have been fussed over and spoilt by his sisters, but this was far from the case. Before going off to school my father he had to clean the shoes for all the girls and not leave until his grandfather approved. Grandfather doted on the girls and appeared to dislike his only son.
Dad went to school in Brockley and then London University until he joined the Army in the First World War as a lieutenant in the South Staffs.
After the war he joined what was thought of as the family firm - Harvey's. Grandfather said "expect no help from me". Dad got none, and starting as a draughtsman, worked his way to becoming, eventually, Manager of the Perforation Department. He also seems to be remembered for his sporting and social activities - in the years up to the Second World War he was, at various times, Captain of the football team, Secretary of the tennis club, and pianist in the Harvey Dance Band.
Grandfather and the rest of the Clarke family were wealthy, middle class, and living in a large Victorian house adjoining Blackheath. Dad meantime was courting a pretty young girl from the typing pool, and they married in 1925. This did not meet with Grandfather's approval, to marry into a lower class, and this rubbed off on the daughters who were never very nice to my Mother.
Grandfather died in 1931, but left all his considerable wealth to his daughters by way of a trust fund. A small amount in the trust was to go to the son at a date determined by the trustees. Eventually my Mother needed a life saving operation just months before the National Health started and the cost was far beyond their ability to pay. Dad approached the trustees, and they released the money, but a smaller amount than was needed since "the due date had not been reached". I wonder if Grandfather was laughing.
My own memories of Harvey's start in the 1930s with the Christmas parties for employee's children. These were held in the Victor Institute on a Saturday afternoon and all the children were given a present. The Victor Institute was an old building just outside the works - to the left of the imposing main entrance. It belonged to the Company and was always in use for social events, dances, amateur dramatics, snooker etc. The main entrance to the offices was for use of senior staff only, which I found to my cost later.
More strenuous activities took place at the Harvey Sports Ground, in Hervey Road. At the start of the war in 1939, my father was considered too useful at Harvey's to be called up, but after Dunkirk he started Harvey's own Local Defence Volunteers, later to become The Home Guard.
I was evacuated at the start of the war, but returned to home in Wricklemarsh Road, just in time for the blitz. There were no schools open in London, so Dad sometimes took me to his office and I was given some minor tasks to occupy the time. Later, emergency schools started and I had to go back to being a schoolboy.
My next Harvey contact was sheltering in the basement of the transport bay, together with many other Harvey families, every night for many months during the V1 and V2 attacks.
I left school in 1945 and was drafted into an electrical company in New Cross, on war work for the Navy, and had taken an engineering apprenticeship.
From 1946 onwards sport was my father's passion. Cricket was now paramount - he was captain of the 1st team on Saturdays and Sundays and I was proud to be 1st team scorer.
Eventually Dad was requested to go Sydney Harvey's office and asked: "In which department is your son working"? "He is not yet with the company sir". "Well make sure he joins soon, we should have the third generation of Clarkes here". I felt rather pleased with this and Dad said he would keep his ears open for a possible opening. That was in 1949 and I joined in 1950. My Dad was by then the senior manager, and Chairman of the Sports Club.
The Engineers Drawing Office was in the Victor Institute, in what had been the snooker hall. It was a very happy place, and being away from the main offices, was not so formal. This was still the time of surnames, pin striped trousers, black coats, or suits and so we were ‘rebels' in grey flannels and fair isle jumpers. If we had to go to the main building we had to borrow a coat or the security officer would not even let you into the corridors. It was during this time that I went into the main office via the senior staff entrance - or nearly did - I was grabbed by the collar and frog marched out to the street, lectured at great length about my insignificance in the world, and should there be a next time - the sack.
I married in August 1951, and we lived with my parents in Wricklemarsh Road. Helen joined the company shortly after, working for Mr. Hughes, the personnel manager, initially filing, and later, when Myrtle Holt left, she interviewed prospective female employees. John Roberts looked after the male side. Our marriage got a photo and write up in the house magazine.
Another family connection with Harvey's Dad’s sister, Mildred. She was Sydney Harvey's Private Secretary and a very formidable Lady - she frightened me and terrified my wife. Because of the family rift, we had never got to know her as an Aunt, and fortunately did not move in her elevated circles at work.
Harvey's owned many properties around Greenwich & Woolwich, which were rented to employees. The main estate was Harvey Gardens, alongside the 'valley' in Charlton. An application for housing had to be made to the Estates Manager. We had to wait some time, but in October 1953 were offered a 3rd floor flat in Harvey House, Nightingale Place, Woolwich Common. We loved it. The front rooms looked across the common to the Royal Artillery Barracks, and beyond to the Thames and Docks. Then in 1956 we applied for a ground floor flat, since the stairs had become a problem with a baby. The new address was The Anchorage, Vanbrugh Hill, Greenwich, so the stairs were replaced by the struggle to push a pram up Vanbrugh Hill. We were on the ground floor; the middle was empty I think, and Mr. & Mrs. Brighty loved on the top floor with their children Kay & Geoffrey. Mr. Brighty worked in the wages office and Helen already knew him from work. Helen and Mrs. Brighty became friends. Geoffrey is now a Conservative Councillor on the London Borough of Greenwich.
In the far south east corner of the Harvey works, hidden away, was a small subsidiary company which made high quality oak shelving for libraries. This was Libraco, run by Mr. Mandry. His pleasant and clever son Bill took over our Drawing Office and instigated a planned maintenance scheme for all the plant, a lot of work, looking at every machine and deciding how and when it should be maintained. Each draughtsman was allocated a number of machines to study and become familiar with. In the event of a breakdown or repair, we would then assist the maintenance staff by drawing up any parts wanted and arranging manufacture. It all seemed to work well.
At a later date and out of the blue, our cosy office was moved to the top floor of one of the two 'new buildings'. Concrete floor, concrete ceiling, and the smell of paint drifting up from the Steel Equipment spray shop below. Not ideal for a drawing office, and one or two of my friends left. The happy days had gone. I started to scan the job adverts and went to a few interviews. At that time it was quite usual for young draughtsmen to move around to gain experience.
Sydney Harvey had died, and his son Gordon took over as Chairman. He started bringing in young "whizz kids" who were going to make this old fashioned firm into a modern commercial success. My Father, by then acknowledged as the leading expert in metal perforating in the UK, was to be 'advised' by a 30 year old, "still wet behind the ears”. Other senior staffs were similarly treated. My Parents, we visited my parents, who by now lived at Orpington, and Dad, visibly upset, told us of the changes occurring at Harveys. "It was going downhill fast, it may last 20 years, it could be gone in 5, and my prime concern is to get you out of the Harvey tied house". This was all a great shock. Although I'd only worked there a short time, our whole family life had revolved around Harvey's. It was suggested that we move into their Bungalow for as long as it took to buy our own place.
Friday 22nd Feb 1957 was my last day at Harvey's. I like to think that Sydney Harvey would have been sad. I wonder if he ever found out which department I worked in. Two weeks later we moved from our nice, but tied flat.
Dad soldered on until retirement in 1962, in increasing bitterness and dismay at what was happening to our family firm. Aunt Mildred had long gone, so Dad had the sad honour of being the last of the Harvey Clarkes.
My connections and interest with Harvey's stopped in 1962, and only now, in old age, do I wonder how it all ended, and would my life have taken a different path if Sydney Harvey’s son had been different.