G Scammell & Nephew
The earliest record of Scammell at Spitalfields, London is found in the London Trades Directory of 1848, where the company is to be found listed as a baker and wheelwright at 12 Fashion Street. In 1849, George Scammell is listed as a wheelwright at 46 Fashion Street, which in 1848 is listed as the property of another wheelwright, Mrs Sarah Alcock.
The company, though, claim an ancestry dating back to 1837, when 46 Fashion Street is listed as being the property of S. Hagger. A certain amount of renumbering took place in Fashion Street between 1841 and 1847 to relocate even numbers on the south side of the road and odd numbers the north. It is possible that S. Hagger was either an absentee landlord or that No.46 was a residential property on the north side prior to the renumbering.
George Scammell was born in 1817 to a Wiltshire family of millers. Why he moved to London will likely be forever lost by the passage of time. It was a period of rapidly growing mechanisation in the farming industry and it is possible that this provided the catalyst for George Scammell to follow his instincts and take up a career in engineering rather than continue in the family trade as a miller. When he moved will never be accurately established but in 1844 he is recorded as living at an address in Hoxton, London and married to Naomi Lines. It seems likely that she was the baker in the original business of baker and wheelwright at 12 Fashion Street.
Stock in trade for George was the building of costermonger carts, perfect for the narrow, congested streets full of market stalls in the area. The business flourished and by 1851 employed 10 men. The business continued to grow and expanded from costermonger carts to horse drawn wagons and carriages necessitating taking over further premises in Fashion Street. By the late 1860s George, now in his fifties and with no children of his own, looked to his nephew, Alfred Thomas Scammell, to join the business as heir apparent. It was on 23 May 1873 the company was changed to 'G. Scammell & Nephew', a year before George died. By 1881, G. Scammell & Nephew had expanded to employ some seventy men.
As the century drew to a close and with motors gaining favour, an agency for Mann steamers was taken on. In about 1910, Alfred's eldest son, Alfred George, born on 15 April 1878, was brought into the company as managing director. His younger son, Allan Howard also joined the company as works manager and at some point prior to 1914 a sales and administration office was established in Holborn.
A further, seemingly unconnected event at the turn of the century was to play an important part in the continued expansion and success of G. Scammell & Nephew. A consortium of people from the East End Jewish community redeveloped the slums on the south side of Fashion Street with an 11,000sq.ft. grandiose building in the Moorish style. Urban regeneration is not a new concept.
The interior of the building was divided into a number of compartments intended as indoor market stalls. The intention of the consortium was to create a covered market for the numerous barrow merchants who traded in the surrounding streets, providing a centralised market with protection from the weather.
Street traders are, however, a hardy breed and being used to all the weather could throw at them declined to pay the rent required for an inside stall when they could trade outside for nothing. Hopes that the authorities would force the merchants indoors failed to materialise when the police were unable to remove legally trading hawkers and barrow owners from the streets. The result was the building had little use.
Scammells saw an opportunity to solve their space problem which by this time was becoming critical. The freehold of the building was purchased and with very little need for modification G. Scammell & Nephew owned a particularly suitable building capable of accommodating ninety 5-ton wagons and a large, well lit and ventilated machine shop.
The newly acquired space enable further expansion of the coachbuilding side of the business and single-deck bus bodies and commercial bodies for motor vehicles began to play an increasing role alongside the traditional horse drawn carriages and vans built by the company.
The additional workshop space enabled Scammell to take on for the first time any mechanical work needed by motor vehicles instead of only having the room to build the bodies for them. Servicing and repairs to motor vehicles included private cars and the company was able to carry out any repair from the smallest adjustment to a motor car to the re-tubing of boilers for steam wagons. Machine tools installed for repair and fabrication work included a lathe capable of swinging a 7'6" road wheel.
The original trade as wheelwrights had room to expand with new wheel-making plant and tyre fitting tools established in the workshops which allowed further development of a composite wheel that in addition to its extra strength allowed the changing of tyres without the need to remove the wheel from the vehicle. The company's origins were recognised by the telegram address, 'Scamwheel'.
In 1911 the company became the main repair agent for Foden in London, carrying a full stock of parts and Foden sent several experts from Sandbach to work at Fashion Street. To facilitate a rapid breakdown service, complete units such as back axles, were kept in stock to be replaced at the roadside and returned to the workshops for repair instead of the more normal practice of repairs carried out at the roadside.
By 1914, the company had filled the workshops to capacity, had become agents for Commercial Cars and owned six Foden wagons which were available for hire. Further workshops had been added to the original building and a floor built above them for office accommodation. Under the leadership of the Scammell brothers, G. Scammell & Nephew had taken full advantage of the growing motor age and close proximity to the busy docklands to become a flourishing and ever expanding business.
Inevitably, the onset of the Great War had a dramatic impact on the company. Alfred George, who had served with the 13th Middlesex Regiment Volunteers from 1902, before transferring to the 5th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery T.F. in 1908 rejoined his regiment having been promoted to Major in 1912. He was sent to France where he served with Royal Field Artillery, 235 Brigade, 47 Division.
On 25 January 1916 he was injured at Loos when a shell exploded close to him and rendered him deaf. As a result of this he left his unit on 5 July 1916 and returned to England, via Boulogne, on 7 July. His medical report stated that permanent deafness would result if he was again subjected to the noise of shellfire in close proximity. He was therefore transferred to Home Front duties. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on 9 March 1917 and assumed command of "C" Battery, 6 Reserve Brigade RFA at Biscot Camp, Luton on 11 August 1917.
On 14 September 1918, Lt.Col. A.G. Scammell wrote to the Brigade Commander, 6 Reserve Brigade requesting an extended period of leave for six months. The reason he gave was that his brother, Allan, was seriously ill and unable to continue the running of G. Scammell & Nephew. He sought to strengthen his request by stating that the company was involved with contracts with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force valued at £250,000 (£12.6 million today). The War Office appeared not too keen on him taking six months leave and invited him to resign his commission. This he did on 19 February 1919, after receiving assurance that he could keep his rank and be entitled to wear his uniform and he duly returned to the helm at G. Scammell & Nephew.
During the war, with A.G. Scammell absent with the military, the running of G. Scammell & Nephew was the responsibility of A. H. Scammell, whom the War Office considered more valuable in that role than in the military. One of the first big jobs for the War Office was for the supply of Foden steam wagons in mid to late September 1914. The Commercial Motor records that the company was asked by the War Office to provide twenty eight fully fitted Fodens, six trailers and personnel within 3.5 days, and praises the company for finding the wagons and completing the task in the available time.
While it is likely that the company provided the men to service and maintain the column, it is unlikely that the company were instrumental in supplying the wagons and drivers. These would have been requisitioned by the War Office and as such delivered complete with crew. Steam wagons were only requisitioned if accompanied by sufficient crew to operate them. Requisitioned petrol vehicles were always taken with volunteer drivers and those that were included in the Subsidy Scheme only qualified for the scheme if the driver had enlisted into the Territorial Force. Steam wagons were only requisitioned if accompanied by sufficient crew to drive them. It was nevertheless a fantastic effort to inspect, repair and paint twenty-eight wagons within the time frame and stood the company in good stead with the War Office for future work.
In 1916 G. Scammell & Nephew came under the control of the Ministry of Munitions and the workload of the company would have been for the most part war work. This would have included work for Home Front Army Service Corps companies in addition to contracts for the Royal Navy and Royal Flying Corps. Only civilian work of the utmost urgency would have been approved by the Ministry of Munitions. The difficulties of managing an increasing workload with a diminishing staff of skilled men can only be imagined as the workshops were kept busy day and night, seven days a week.
Although war work was always the priority, civilian work became increasingly important. No new vehicles were available, but there was an increasing need for transport to and from the docks and the increasing number of factories employed on war work. Severe strain was put on older vehicles, many overdue for replacement which had to be kept running. The business was kept running day and night every day of the week and by 1917 had expanded to occupy every building on both sides of the road for half the length of Fashion Street. Even so, the pressure on space was such that the local authorities relaxed peace-time planning restrictions to permit the storage of vehicles in the street, effectively turning Fashion Street itself into an extension of the works.
The Foden agency was kept throughout the war years with Foden continuing to provide staff from Sandbach although the Commercial Cars agency appears to have been lost. This was probably due to Commercial Cars being unable to provide any new lorries as the War Office took every available lorry as fast as it was built. It was not until mid 1917 that the manufacturers were given licence by the War Office to divert some of their production to the civilian market. Throughout the war, Foden employed skilled mechanics at G. Scammell & Nephew.
The strain of keeping the company running week in week out finally took its toll on Allan Scammell, who suffered a haemorrhage of the lungs in September 1918. He was advised by his doctors to retire to Bournemouth for the cleaner air and not to return to London. Lt.Col. A.G. Scammell returned to G. Scammell & Nephew to take over the reins after resigning his army commission.
Back at the helm, A.G. Scammell turned his attention to producing an articulated lorry. The precise origin of his inspiration for this design will probably never be known. Thornycroft had produced a similar lorry in 1898, but not pursued it, and White along with several other American makers had built similar machines. The most likely inspiration is the Knox Model 35 tractor. The Scammell has remarkable similarities to the Knox and also was favoured by E.W. Rudd Ltd, haulage contractors, and sole British agent for Knox, in East London close to the G. Scammell & Nephew works.
A.G. Scammell and E.W. Rudd were close acquaintances and Rudd was an early user of the Scammell. An early photograph of an E.W. Rudd Knox even shows the bow fronted trailer that was patented by Scammell in 1920, unless the Knox is coupled to a Scammell trailer. There is no record of Scammells producing separate trailers at the time. The patent for this design of motor lorry was submitted on 6 July 1918 by Percy G. Hugh and G. Scammell & Nephew which predates A.G.'s resignation from the army by some nine months and suggests that he had maintained his interest in the company, and in vehicles, throughout his army service.
One theory voiced is that Scammell witnessed and was impressed by the performance of the Knox while on military service in France. That seems most unlikely as the British only had a handful of Knox tractors in France. The majority, though still only 120 or so, were owned by the French and often used as tank transporters. Scammell had returned to England before the use of tanks and he served in the British sector of the Western Front. The majority of the Knox tractors would have been used in the French Sector, and while there was some overlap, it is unlikely in the extreme that Scammell would have ever seen one.
Production of the Scammell began at Fashion Street during 1919 but with space already at a premium a move to larger premises was essential if the project was to prosper. In 1920, when the lorry was unveiled to the trade press, the company was listed as Messrs Scammell & Nephew of Spitalfields and Watford. Production was well established at Tolpits Lane Watford by 1921 with customers including hauliers E.W. Rudd and Fisher Renwick, Shell-Mex and the Anglo Persian petrol companies and brewers Tamplin and Fremlins. On 1 July 1922 Scammell Lorries Ltd was formed as a separate company at Watford with offices retained at Holborn and advertising proclaiming Scammell Lorries Ltd of Watford, Spitalfields and Holborn. The number of completed lorries built at Fashion Street is uncertain but is probably less than ten.
Enforced retirement to Bournemouth had not prevented Allan Scammell from following the affairs of G. Scammell & Nephew. Becoming restless and bored with a life of retirement, he persuaded Alfred to send one of the new lorries to Bournemouth where he proposed to establish an agency for Scammell Lorries Ltd. Predictably, Bournemouth was not an area where there was much need for heavy lorries and the agency idea petered out. Allan was not deterred by this and decided that if he could not sell them then he would operate them himself. That decision was the beginnings of Southern Roadways Ltd, which by 1930 had branches in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London in addition to its base in Poole. The company originally operated in conjunction with West Shore Wharf in Poole, but Southern Roadways soon took over the entire wharf and by the early 1930s was handling 1,000 tons of freight per day with a fleet of over seventy lorries which included over forty Scammells.
With the forming of Scammell Lorries Ltd, the old company of G. Scammell & Nephew appears to have been sold to a Mr Henry Rupert Hood Barrs. George Scammell's intention of keeping the original name of the company seems to have been thwarted by Hood Barrs in the courts, although Scammell Lorries Ltd retained most of the goodwill of the company, as well as a considerable number of staff. The Scammell family connection with G. Scammell & Nephew had ceased to exist after some eighty-five years.
Under the new ownership, it was business as usual, although inevitably internal combustion began to supersede steam. The machine shops were modernised and 180 men were employed in the seventy vehicle capacity workshops and machine shops. The coachbuilding side of the business continued to flourish through the 1920s and specialised in the conversion of fixed bodies into tipping bodies. The Foden agency was continued into the early 1930s when Foden produced their first diesel engine lorries.
The company joined many others in reconditioning war surplus army lorries purchased from Slough Dump and in 1923 were advertising Sentinel steamers for sale. These appear to have been sold directly by G. Scammell & Nephew but in the same year reconditioned Leyland lorries were being sold through Harford & Co Ltd, Regent Street, London who were credited as being sole distributors. How successful this venture was is open to conjecture as the advertised cost was £465 with a 12 month guarantee, which was considerably higher than most war surplus reconditioned lorries at the time, most of which were advertised at between £200 and £300.
In 1931 an advertising booklet was published, probably for the motor show, at which they had a stand promoting their body building expertise. Exhibited at the show was an open-sided brewer's body on an AEC Majestic, painted and varnished for £180, a box body fitted to a Commer 4-ton chassis for £185 and a Gas Company Sales Van built on a 2-ton Dennis chassis for £165. R. H. Hood Barrs was by this time also chairman and managing director of Mann Steam & Motor Wagon Co Ltd and Carrimore Six Wheelers Ltd.
The booklet describes in detail the services offered at Fashion Street and includes price lists quoting repair costs for Sentinel undertype wagons and overtype wagons. It would appear that they were still Foden agents at this time as a Foden is depicted on the front cover and Fodens feature throughout the booklet. Petrol engine reconditioning and repairs, frame and axle repairs and steam chassis repairs are also undertaken with prices and time taken quoted.
The reader is taken on a tour of the steam workshops with the photographs accompanied by text that invites the customer to 'Inspect the beautifully finished, accurately machined oversize firebox stays – to satisfy the most critical boiler inspector'. Or to 'Notice also the polished and uniformly shaped rivet heads produced by the pneumatic riveting plant – for such finishing touches show that Scammells take an honest pride in their work.'
The tour continues into the petrol engine workshops where the reader is invited to 'Scammelise your petrol vehicles'. A full range of repairs are offered with the attention to detail emphasised, 'A glance at the pits, for instance, shows the fine attention to detail that is evident throughout the whole organisation. Rows of these pits stretch down either side of one vast shop, and every one of them is lined with spotlessly clean white tiles'.
The body shop proclaims that in addition to the building of new bodies of any design to suit the customer that a large workshop is allocated to bodywork repairs and overhauls. 'Nowadays a van is something more than a travelling packing case. It is a valuable form of publicity. To get the full effect of this, van bodies must be smart and trim. And one trip through the Scammell shop sets the oldest body up again – at surprisingly little expense'.
In 1935, the company produced what was believed to be the highest payload capacity available at the time on a lorry weighing 4 tons by converting 4-wheel Bedford 3-tonners into 6-wheel 6-tonners with a 12' 6" body at a cost of £130 with standard tyres or £140 with heavy duty tyres. Long wheelbase Dodge 4-ton chassis were converted to 6-wheel 7-tonners with 18' 6" bodies for £532 with a dropsided body fitted.
Bodybuilding continued to be an important side to the business with bodies as diverse as mobile grocery shops built on Morrison Electricar 20-cwt chassis for Pearks Ltd, 1,600cu.ft. pantechnicons with 5-seater crewcabs and seventy-five Luton van bodies built on Ford ET6 chassis for Sketchley Ltd. In 1962 three specialised lubricant delivery bodies were supplied on AEC chassis to Alexander Duckham Ltd. These included a 1,250 gallon tank and compartments for carrying drums and were built in conjunction with the Steel Barrel Company of Uxbridge. At the 1958 motor show, a Guy 4,000 gallon articulated tanker was displayed with air suspension on both tractor unit and trailer.
The business continued in Fashion Street repairing vehicles and building bodies until 1965 when the Fashion Street property was sold by the York Trailer Group who had by then taken over G. Scammell & Nephew.