AIMS - to research, publish and promote the industrial history of the London Borough of Greenwich
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Francis, tin box makers
Recently, a comment was added asking for information about Francis and Co. who made tin boxes, etc. locally. By chance we have many photographs - but little information. Here are some pix - No captions, but plenty more pictures available
I worked there for a couple of stints, loading trolleyfuls of flat tinplate onto an enamel paint machine. And then I took the painted sheets away. And I spent a lot of time cleaning the old and messy machine - paint would get everywhere. The machine only did one colour at a time so if it was a multi-coloured design, the whole procedure had to be repeated once one coat of paint had dried.
It was noisy, old-fashioned (for the 70s) and smelled strongly of paint and hot metal. It was actually extremely unpleasant.
As a former employee of F Francis & Sons Limited, latterly Francis Packaging, I am in the early stages of gathering material to create a web presence for the Company which operated for over 100 years mostly in the borough of Greenwich at the Thames Ironworks, site of the former John Penn marine engine works in Blackheath Road but originally at Trundley's Road in Deptford.
Thames Ironworks was a very large site but could almost be overlooked as it had a minimal road frontage, just an entry gate at the end of John Penn Street and rather anonymous offices on Blackheath Road.
The company was a hive of industry turning out vast quantities of tinplate containers almost entirely from components made on site. The first photo above shows the stages in the manufacture of a 5 litre or 1 gallon tin. Tinplate sheets were received in mostly from the Park Royal railhead then printed to the customers' designs in the print shop where as well as the single colour machines there was at least one 'tandem' printer which printed two colours at each pass, the sheets being oven dried before being stacked at the end of the line for transfer to the printed stock store. I agree with Marmoset that the print shop was the place to be in winter but very hot in summer. As one who did not have to work there I found the noise, heat and smells of the place to be quite atmospheric.
There would be a number of can bodies printed on each sheet depending on the size of the container to be produced and these sheets would be slit prior to manufacture. The second picture above shows cut bodies on the two trolleys.
Customers would call off their designs by the thousand with the large oil companies placing orders for say 100,000 5 litre rectangular cans with if I recall right approximately 10,000 per vehicle.
As well as the 5 litre oil cans they made 2.5 litre, 1 litre and 500 ml rectangulars as well as all the same sizes in round paint cans which were offered internally lacquered (to stop rusting where water based paints were being packed) as well as in plain tinplate for oil based products.
Additionally they produced 20 and 25 litre tinplate drums as well as 205 litre steel drums (shown in the third picture above)
In its time the company was highly successful opening an additional plant at Wrexham to service the Liverpool based oil companies and acquiring Shemtec Packaging of Leeds and Drummond Packaging of Greenock.
The site is now occupied by Franklin Close roughly where the print shops stood, Franklin Place the site of the drum lines and Crosslet Vale which covers the round and rectangular tin lines and the tinplate stores before emerging on to Blackheath Road through the personnel office which was a portacabin to the east of the main office block. The entrance was at the corner of John Penn Street and Coldbath Street and the exit was between the main office block and the personnel office
I would like to hear from any former employees with as much information and reminiscences as they can offer. I would also be pleased to hear of any souvenirs of the company that people might have with a view to creating a photographic record for inclusion in a future website.
I am pleased to say that I have contacted Greenwich Heritage Centre who advise me that material that I delivered to the old Plumstead Local History Museum on closure in 1988 survives, including a large portrait of the founder Frederick Francis that hung in the boardroom
If enough people come forward and if there is sufficient interest we might also be able to arrange some sort of reunion although the Royal Albert did not survive to host it!
Anyone who worked for the company or who has knowledge of it or relevant material (or indeed anyone who remembers me) would be most welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing, Sales and Production Planning
F Francis and Sons Ltd
the following web address displays information I have collected on F Francis and Sons
further contributions would be welcomed
I just wanted to briefly say thank you very much for the insight into F Francis & Sons Limited. I'm a student studying energy and environmental engineering at leeds university and your comments have been very interesting. They've also been a fantastic help as I'm carrying out a study into the possible contaminants due to the previous industrial activity of this area.
Just on the off chance, does anyone know what the site was used for during the first world war?
Thanks again, Tom
F Francis & Sons did not buy the site until 1916. At the time of the First World War they were still in Deptford.
From there they made thousands if not millions of camp kettles, mess tins, pails and meat tins.
Can't help you with the Blackheath Road site
I have a tin tray(?) stamped F Francis & Sons London E13 in an oval shape, with C & M 1940 in the centre. It's an oval tray, about 12" x 8", 2" high, with outwardly sloping sides. Two handles on the long sides. Would you have any idea what it was made for?
I also wonder how it got to Vancouver, BC, Canada!
Your tin tray is actually the top to a pail that I have in Minnesota. We work for an ornamental iron importer / wholesaler. We purchased about 200 of them in Wisconsin. Not sure how they ended up there. All are stamped with F.F. & S. LTD. Some are also stamped with
E (crown picture) R, C&M, or W (upward facing arrow) D. They are all stamped with a year as well, ranging from 1943 - 1952.
We'd be very interestd to know what these buckets were made for and what the logos signify? They look like milk pails or mess tins.
Contact me if you'd like photos:
GA DAY, IM IN AUSTRALIA(QLD). I HAVE A TIN MADE BY F.FRANCIS STAMPED 1945. WHICH IS MY AGE! I HAVE HAD THIS TIN FOR YEARS, IT CAME FROM ENGLAND ABOUT 1980. I THINK IT MAY HAVE CONTAINED CIGARETTES ORIGINALLY.IT IS NICE TO KNOW THAT THIS COMPANY IS STILL GOING ? THOUGHT THIS MAY BE OF INTEREST.
I'm going through some WWII stuff and found a tin stamped "F Francis Sons Ltd" in a circle with the year 1942 in the middle. The tin contains a pair of resistal type goggles. Does anyone know if the tin was made for the goggles? Thanks D. Bradbury
Hi Richard. My dad Jon Murphy worked there. I'm trying to find the company my dad payed for his pension could you help please.
Hi, i am looking for a gentlemen named Johnny Jackson who worked at the factory in 1956, does anyone know him??? Please contact at email@example.com
I worked in the Personnel Department in the 1970's for several years based next to main offices in a portakabin. Have a few memories of the place & its work practices plus some names of families that worked in Manufacturing Depts......Jarrett (mr & mrs) Cheesesmans, Ennis....I had to go on a First Aid Course to cover the Nurses lunch break which was an arduous hour hoping a patient didnt come knocking minus a finger or worse!
Christine Trezies Smith
Hi I'am Colin k Clarke I was an toolmakers apprentice & worked in the toolroom in 1967 I remember tea breaks where we had the old sugary condensed milk in tins which was stirred into the tea in the tea pot. & when we went to wash our hands & go to the toilet it was in a outhouse with no hot water it used to freeze solid ice in the winter.
Also the smell of the printing fluid cellulose I think it was & you could it hundreds of yard up the road & yet the workers were smoking almost on top of it, dear dear where was health & safety then. what a story A.
Hi - I am Roger Francis`s daughter and have fond memories of visiting the factory as a child. Frederick was my great grand father - have a few photos and other info - wonderful you still have such amazing memories. Love to hear from you.
Anyone who worked at Lacrinoid Products in 1965, owned by F.Francis and Sons then. Please get in touch.
Hi my name was Sheila Young, I worked at Francis & Son, for 13 years, from 1970 until 1983, worked in most of the Factory, I always did evening work, from 5-30 till 9-30, have many happy memories from there, and met lots of nice people, remember Flo Green, Joan White, who was in charge of the evening shift, also Martin Magill, Richard Jackson, and his Father Vic, Roger Ennis, and his uncle John Ennis, Brothers, Ray & Dennis Cheeseman, and Dennis Sweetlove, Ron Pope, Larry Hathaway. Love to hear from any one, who may remember me. Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org
Love to see more photos, if any one has any.
Hi - my dad was roger francis. He passed away three years ago but I have lovely memories of visiting the factory and he seemed well loved.
I am trying to trace history of origins of his great grandfather Frederick Francis - any thoughts would be welcome. Regards: Sally Francis (now Treganowan)
Sorry Sally can't help, I would love to hear from any one that worked there, really enjoyed working there, hope some one can help you. Happy New Year, sorry to hear your Dad has passed away. Regards Sheila Moffatt, formerly Sheila Young. Xx
hi Sally there is a page on Facebook dedicated to the history of f francis and sons I'm not sure your aware of it was set up by a previous employee by the name of Richard niel who has asked me to administer it for him while he is away I'm sure u will find it quiet interesting as there's many photos on there and the name of past employees myself included ... I was given an Apprenticeship starting in summer of 1980 ... mark campbell
Hi Sally, Richard Neal here, I've been trying unsuccessfully to make contact. My email is higher up this thread. Would love to hear from you
I was a driver for F. Francis back in 1971-72 and used to deliver products all over the UK. My favourite journeys were to Elsmere Port and overnighted at Grindley Brook near Witchurch, Shropshire. My other favourite was to Truro in the West Country.
The time I spent at Francis would have to be the most enjoyable of my working life.
I returned to Australia in '72 and have had a successful life since including running my own transport company. I have now retired.
I can still picture in my mind, my co-driver colleagues and the transport dispatch people though their names now escape me. The only name that I remember is Ron Steer who was an absolute gentleman as was everybody that I had the fortune to work with.
Best of luck with this site. I will check in again very soon.
Keith C Munro (Western Australia)
Hi Keith enjoyed reading your blog, lucky you being in Australia. I remember Kenny Mitchell, think he was transport manager.
We spent 8 years in America, travelling in our Motorhome, now spend 6 months, in France Spain, and Portugal, during the Winter, we live in Cambridge, love to hear from any one, who may remember me. Sheila Moffatt, was Young when I worked at F Francis.
I recently bought a tin box containing letter stencils (entire alphabet) and numerals 1 - 10.
When I cleaned the box lid, I could just make out the name Francis & Sons London 1943, with, I think, an indecipherable postcode.
I would like to know what a set like this would have cost in those days.
What an interesting site!
Hi, great little blog,
I’ve been doing research on goggles and wrote –
I was interested to recently see a pair of British Army General Purpose goggles in a case marked 'FRANCIS & SONS LTD, 1943, LONDON'. Other exact same goggle cases are marked ‘E.I.S’. and ‘M.B.’, any relation to Francis & sons?
I’d like to know if Francis & sons could have been involved in the making of the goggles themselves? Or if not are there order details in existence which will help me trace the companies involved in the goggles manufacture?
I’m particularly interested in a company who marked their goggles SLM, who may have used Francis & Sons tin cases? Also D. Lewis; Wm Stephens & Sons Ltd and S. Lewis manufactured of marketed these goggles and may have got tin cases from Francis & Sons.
I worked there for a couple of stints, loading trolleyfuls of flat tinplate onto an enamel paint machine. And then I took the painted sheets away. And I spent a lot of time cleaning the old and messy machine.
health and safety courses
The company was a hive of industry turning out vast quantities of tinplate containers almost entirely from components made on site.
food hygiene certificate
Can someone help me find johnny jackson?? Het WORKED there in 1956. Please contact my facebook susie koops for a picture
Hi Richard, my nan WORKED there in 1956 and we are trying to find her co worker johnny jackson. Can u maybe help us
Hi,I think my Nan worked her probably in 1920/1930's is there a list anywhere of the workers names that I could have a look at,it would be lovely to be able to verify this.
Regards Debra Hawkins
My mum worked at Francis and sons in the 70's, her name was Joyce Hopkins. I remember going to the Xmas parties for staff and their families as a young child. If anyone remembers her and has any photos please contact me at email@example.com.
I recently bought a 2 gallon petrol can all stamped up with Shell Logo's in relief and a Shell mex brass cap it was originally green but latter been painted red on the base is stamped FF&S Ltd. 1949.
My nan Violet Jessie Green worked for F Francis and sons from 1934. She was given a watch for 25 years service in March 1959 and I believe she was still working there in the 60s. It would be nice to hear from anyone else that might of known her.
Hello... Just come across this site .
I was employed at FFS in John Penn Street back in the early 80s,, I cannot remember the exact date. I was one of the assistant buyers. THe chief buyer was a man called James Keenan, There wa also a lady a Miss Laight if I remember correctly..
I had to travel to Deptford from my home in North London, that involved trains to New Cross and then a bus up the hill. All in all a nightmare journey as the train and buses never co-ordinated their service.. Some names I remember are Joyce who was our secretary and an Olive Medhurst who ran the accounts department.. A Mr Wilson who was the works manager and his assistant named Sam - who was a pretty decent person. Memories are faded now mainly due to the treatment I got from James Keenan. He was not a nice person. I can say that from first hand experience. He sacked me a couple of days after I was on sick leave having been involved in a serious car crash that left me injured and my then new wife dead. We had only been married a few months No employment protection act in those days.. All in all I met some nice people at FFS but all overshadowed by the treatment I was given by Keenan.. Oh another thing I remember about him. We left work at the usual time for me to head to the bus stop but it was pouring down with rain, very heavy rain that had started just before I was leaving, He did not have the decency to offer me a lift to the bus stop that he was passing on his way home.. Not a nice man at all... He is probably now long dead,, I will shed no tears.
I worked in Wrexham for f.packaging. great memories. Best job I ever had.
I just purchased a pair of WW2 era goggles of the type worn by LRDG in the desert. They came in a tin box that had Francis & Sons Ltd, London in a circle. It also has 1939 in the centre. They are a perfect fit for the goggles so wondering if they may have been made for these?
Hi that was my first job at in 1976 brings back very happy memories pete
It's lovely to hear all this information. Please can anyone help with the address I should use to claim a pension? F Francis &sons Deptford, S.E 8. Thank you!
Hi I have my grandads origanal document for his appentaship from 1902 at f Frances and son if you are interested let me know
I worked there doing my appretership from 1967 TO Aug 1971.
Iworked in the toolroom.
Names I remember.
Fred Mckinley Chief Engineer.
Arthur Honeyball Foreman.
Mr Patmor ? Manager
Dick Ford and Chris Ford Motorbike supremos
Freddy Coverdale lovely Sunbeam Rapier
Bob Evans Fitter
Harry Palmer later days the tea boy
Freddy Stubbs and his old pipe
Ithink it was Brenda in quality control who is holding one of the cans in the advert.
Good days still remember the smell
F Francis & Sons Ltd, Blackheath Road, Greenwich were awarded £1,000pa for the part military occupation of their factory by the Defence of the Realm Act Claims Commission at their meeting on 6 February 1916.
I worked in the offices for a while in the 60s, my immediate boss was a 'Francis' but I can't remember which one. It was a happy office though and I do remember Mr. Nobbs and fellow colleague Linda. Betty Watson.. as was.
Way back when I was a student in about 1974 to 1975. I used to come in and man the security desk at weekends. Terrible pay, but it fitted in with my studies. My job seemed to be mainly there to be seen, right by the front gate. We never did get any robberies or vandalism. Fondest memory is of rough tough maintenance guys, coming in at weekends to feed the works cats :-)
My Grandad, Harry Palmer, worked for the company for many years before, during and after the war. According to various records I have he is named as a 'Stoker', a 'Furnace Hand Stove Enamel Works Heavy Worker' and an 'Enamel Fuser'. One of the comments above mentions him as 'later the teaboy' which Mum and I assume was just before he retired and the heavy work he had done all his life had become too much for him.
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