Article Index

In addition and using the same agents, they rented four nearby lock-up terraced garages, around 40 yards away, accessible from a cinder track, next to Hoey’s haberdashery on Bathurst Walk. Two of these were converted into a spray shop, managed by Charlie Carlton (another relative of Bill Roberts), who lived above Hoey’s shop. A third garage was used as storage for redundant moulds etc, while the fourth was set up as a small satellite workshop, dedicated to producing animated Rolls-Royce Dart turbo-prop engines, commissioned as part of a long running contract. These were made by Shawcraft employee, Ron Giddings, another former Woodason employee.

The main body of the workshop was divided into two main areas, one which housed lathes etc for woodworking and metalworking and one kitted out with benches for the use of the model makers.

The machinery consisted of a Drummond lathe (often used to make wooden bullets for films), a larger metal working lathe, a combined jigsaw and disk sander, a profile shaping machine and a pillar drill.

The internal partition walls which separated portions of the workshops were designed in such a way that they could be either hinged away or removed completely in order to facilitate the removal of larger props and models.

Shawcraft BEA Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador

Shawcraft model of a BEA Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador.

The office was at the opposite end of the workshop, near the main entrance. Due to the modification of the internal workshop floor, the bottom half of the office door was lost, below floor level! Next to the main entrance was an old electric cooker, which was used by the staff to make tea, heat up soup and melt blocks of Vinatex rubber for mould making.

The job of Foreman was given to Vic Bowden, an ex-RAF Meteor pilot. He joined the company in 1952 and remained with them for the next 42 years.

Note that despite the move to Iver, the company’s early links with Southall did continue. Many years after their move, in the mid 1960s, a Dalek on loan from Shawcraft was often seen on display, on a float at the Southall carnival.

At this point, almost everyone involved with the company had connections with the military and aviation. It is not known whether this was a deliberate choice made because of the types of work that they were taking on at this time or whether the management were more comfortable with staff from backgrounds they were familiar with.

This bias towards aviation-experienced staff paid off around 1952/53 when Shawcraft were commissioned to produce some components for the Somers-Kendal SK-1 – an actual, real lightweight jet aircraft. The work was put their way by aircraft designer and ex-test pilot, Hugh M Kendall who had previously worked with Bill Roberts at Miles Aircraft.

This lead to Shawcraft becoming ARB and AID approved, making the fuselage assembly jig, the jig for pre-moulding the front fuselage plywood skin, the jig for making the aluminium engine cowling, moulds for the fuel system’s synthetic rubber components, the wooden mould to make the vacuum formed acrylic cockpit canopy, the fibreglass nose and tail cones, the drag-chute housing, wing tips, undercarriage doors and footwell boxes.

An ash skid, fitted to the plane by Shawcraft actually saved the plane from severe damage when it bellied down the runway after a badly timed retraction of the undercarriage. Minor defects prevented the plane from participating in the 1956 Air Races and the aircraft suffered turbine failure while in the air, on 11th July 1957, and was grounded. After Storage at Cranfield it passed through various hands but was never restored and did not fly again. It’s current whereabouts are unknown.