As I pointed out in my piece about what’s left of Old Town’s Corn Exchange, I don’t intend to go overboard with long-gone buildings in this Swindon in 50 More Buildings series. Indeed, I hadn’t thought about covering the Garrard factory at all. But one of Royston Cartwright’s fab Facebook posts about the business prompted me to think I should include it. After all, Garrard was a hugely important industry for Swindon. And it was a rather super 1920s building.

Local Studies, based in the central library, have some great images of the factory but of course they’re all under copyright. But they did let me have this illustration so you can get the idea.

 The Garrard Factory - Garrard-Factory-Illustration-1920
The Garrard factory-Illustration 1920

In the beginning

The company was established in London in 1914-1918 as precision engineers, transferring to Swindon in the summer of 1919. Then they took over part of a building occupied by a Bridport firm of netmakers Messrs. Joseph Gundry and Co. 

 At this point they decided to concentrate on gramophone manufacturing. A difficult business for sure and one made harder by the lack of actual product experience to call on. Even so, they decided that the gramophone motor market offered good possibilities. Thus production began on their first model: No 1. Apt that.

Early days proved difficult but factory space was adequate until 1923. At this point they added 1,200 square feet of floor space. Further small additions followed fast and often as they increased their output and needed more staff. 1928 saw the addition, in two stages, of a block the entire length of the then existing factory comprising 23,000 square feet.

The following year, thanks to pressure on packing and storing their output the need arose to add a double storey block at the south end of the factory.

Came the revolution

The introduction of electrical recording and reproduction wrought a revolution (appropriately enough) in the gramophone industry. It became necessary to change-over from spring to electric motors. Hot on the heels of that came another development in the form of record changers. AND – almost at the same time the factory commenced the production of clock movements. This development the addition of two bays, each 50ft long and 20ft wide to house the required assembly line.

There were further developments in 1936, 37, 38 and 39. Then WWII broke out. At this point the Garrard factory had a area of 102,000 sq ft.

There came, in 1958, a huge fire. This conflagration required the company to demolish and rebuild the three-storey block and do a lot of rebuilding in the workshops. Plessey, among other factories, lent Garrard some space to keep up production while they made repairs to the original buildings.

The factory closed down in around 1982 and thus ended another of Swindon’s great and much-loved and much-mourned industries. Though … the legend lives on … – Or does it? Is that now out of date?

 The Garrard Factory diagram
The Garrard Factory diagram – Garrards Magazine article

For much, much more on the history of the Garrard business then this Swindon Web article is worth a peruse. Because, as it points out:

‘If the Great Western Railway put Swindon on the industrial map, then nobody did more to keep it there than Garrard’s. It is a name synonymous with the very best record turntables available during a lost vinyl age – and Swindon was its home for more than six decades.’

From the sapphire to the stylus

I love the fact that the founders of the Garrard Engineering & Manufacturing Co. were none other than the directors of Garrard & Co., Crown Jewellers of Albermarle Street, London. The image you see below is an extract from a Garrard journal – courtesy of Local Studies. Quite how and why Crown jewellers decided to make the leap from rubies to record decks is an intriguing one to ponder. One assumes the aforementioned possibilities of the gramophone motor market.

Garrard journal extract August 1950
Garrard journal extract August 1950
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