How Fielding's Slab Presses were different from the rest?

Al Adams explains and recalls the Hexagonal Slab Press made in the late 1960s

Concrete slab presses, 1966 (click on the image above to enlarge it)
D5926, Gloucestershire Archives
Alistair Adams describes why Fielding's slabs were so highly regarded and recalls an Hexagonal Slab Press featured on the BBC's Tomorrow's World
"Al_Adams_7_Concrete_Slab_presses1". Genre: Vocal.

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  • Chippy! I am very pleased to be able to add this full-page description of the ‘spares bench’; the people who worked there and the type of work undertaken. Normally, we would try to condense it a bit, however, your description is so accurate that it is worth including it in full, with a bit of my own added in for good measure! Keep an eye out on the Machinery ‘Balers’ section because I will be uploading soon a view of a Scrap Baler (for Johnson Matthey), that, if you look carefully, you will see the ‘spares bench’ and people in the background. I will leave it to you to identify them!     John B

    By John Bancroft (29/09/2013)
  • The spares bench was made made up of Bill Dowdswell, Harold Longley, Bill Moseley and later I seem to remember Don Keyse joining them from the maintenance dept. They dealt with all of the lighter spares, tooling for stone plants was a ‘staple diet’ of the spares bench. Many a time as a young apprentice returning to work after the lunch break and going past the door to Hydraulic 2 I would hear a strange sound coming from within side the building. I eventually found out that it was the sound of the exhaust air coming from the ‘air brace’ that Bill and Harold were using to drill the holes in ‘stone plant’ moulds prior to them being ‘tapped out’ with 5/8th BSF threads. These were for holding in the ‘mould ends’ which formed the end part of the mould assembly. Against the sides of the mould and the mould ends were fitted mould ‘liner plates’ which were in turn held in place with ‘capping strips’ on top. Obviously there were more parts than just the moulds ordered as spares, but it was that sound that I remember so well. There were also a lot of H3 pump spares done there too. Con rods and guides, suction and delivery valve assemblies, crankshafts and their white-metal bearings that had to be hand-scraped to bed into a dummy crankshaft. In fact, as I said earlier, any of the lighter spares that were needed most likely went through the ‘spares gang’. When I first arrived in Hyd. 2 to ‘finish’ my time as a fitter, it was on the spares bench that I found myself under the guidance of Bill and Harold. They taught me something that I still use when I doing anything with metal, and that is to make sure all the sharp edges are removed. Bill said to me, if you can rub your fingers around the edges and not cut yourself, then the customer won’t get hurt either! He was right, it still serves me well that bit of simple advice, thank you Billyboy! There were days when all you seemed to be doing was polishing things and coating them in preserving oil, but it all had to be done, and when you were the apprentice, well, need I say any more!! I have so many happy memories of those guys, even to this day! The spares bench area was always a place where various people passing through the workshop would stop for a chat and a laugh! I know whenever any of these, Brian Mince, Arthur Rigby, Arthur ‘Father’ Lodge, Harolds brother Lionel, Ivor Dyer, Wally Windridge………..the list could go on and on, stopped there, there was ALWAYS a lot of laughter, it was THAT kind of place and they were GREAT guys! All of them! Hope this gives a small insight to what the ‘spares bench’ was like way back then. Chippy Aston

    By Graham Aston (25/09/2013)
  • Thanks Chippy, have you heard David Prouse’s memories of the Pickford’s low-loaders coming out of Fielding’s? Check them out here:

    http://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/davidprouse 

    Your memories of the spares bench and the guys who worked on it are very interesting and not something that’s come up before. I take it that was spare parts for machines, or was it screws fixtures and fittings? Further memories of the spares bench and its crew would be great!

    I hope someone will recall further details about the Romanian order for slab presses.

    Cheers, Ollie

    By Ollie Taylor (26/04/2013)
  • I remember the presses that Alistair was talking about as I worked in the same fitting shop, Hydraulic 2, at that time. For some reason I seem to think that the presses were destined for Romania? Maybe someone else could help me with that detail? Bob Blowers was the fitter who went out to install them from what I can remember.

    The picture of the single mould press and the three mould were taken in Hydraulic 2 in bay 2A near to the roller door which was to the right of the three mould press. The man operating that one is John Mabbet, unfortunately, try as I may, I can’t remember the name of the other man.

    I worked with John many times over the years, both as an apprentice and as a skilled man. John was a very good fitter and you learnt a lot about doing a good job when working alongside him.

    The gangway behind the man on the single mould went through to 3A bay and just out of sight, on the left, was the spares bench. That was the domain of Billy Dowdswell, Harold Longney and Bill Moseley.

    As Alistair said in his interview, there were at least six of the single mould presses made for the hexagonal slabs. There were always ‘stone plant’ presses being built in Hydraulic 2. They were a staple product of Fielding and Platt along with extrusion presses and scrap metal balers. The amount of machinery that went out of the doors at Fielding’s was amazing, and as the factory was where it was, it would only be evident to the public when a Pickfords low loader pulled out into Southgate Street with some very large pieces of equipment on it! Chippy Aston

    By Chippy Aston (13/04/2013)

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