John George & Sons Ltd.
In 1911 the London firm of hardware factors, John George & Sons Ltd., decided to set up their own factory for the production of wooden hay rakes, scythe sneaths and other wooden items, in place of their previous practice of buying in such goods from a variety of local makers. In fact it was a local maker, A.G.Last, who persuaded Stanley George to take over his business and build such a factory at Welnetham, near Bury St. Edmunds. The Welnetham works of John George & Sons Ltd. were opened in 1912 and coppice woods about a mile away in Felsham Hall Woods were leased to provide a continuous supply of timber, mostly ash, birch, alder, hazel and willow. A variety of other wooden goods such as beetles, sheep hurdles, stable forks and all manner of handles and pegs, were produced in addition to rakes and scythe sneaths. Not all goods were factory made as certain simpler types of product were made in the open. The growth of the business led to the purchase of some 300 acres of coppice woods in Felsham Hall Woods in 1934.
A works fire in 1939, not only caused the rebuilding of the works, including the installation of a Blackstone diesel engine to drive the plant, but also unfortunately the destruction of many early records. By the 1960’s a decline in trade had set in which caused John George & Sons Ltd. to place their Welnetham operations in liquidation in 1967 However in 1970 the Welnetham business was purchased by the Litchfield family, the firm now trading as Welnetham Woodwork Ltd. At the same time, the firm’s woodland was purchase by the Society for the Preservation of Nature Reserves and became Bradfield Hall Nature Reserve. The concern again changed hands in 1974 when it became the property of Ron Hack, a freelance journalist. Finally in 1984, the firm was bought by Neville Graydon, a furniture designer and maker, who has kindly deposited the archives of the Welnetham business with MERL.
The records cover the period 1913-1982 and consists of factory records, legal records, accounts, production, stock and dispatch records, correspondence, sales records and records relating to the woods.