Kershaw Leedse - The Tubbs - online

Kershaw of Leeds

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The name of Kershaw would not impinge deeply on the Tubbs family history if it had not been for the fact that at one time I was a student, of sorts, living in Leeds in various houses under the shadow of Kershaw’s works on Harehills Lane, now the site of a mosque. The delightfully named fforde Green public house down the road was said to be the biggest outlet for Tetleys on their estate. We tried to assist. It is now offices and showrooms, so they are still missing me. Hands up if you know where Yorkshire’s finest was brewed in Wolverhampton for a while before returning nearer home. Yep! Wolverhampton.

The historian of Kershaw is John Vaughan. His book The Kershaw Camera Story  has been privately published using Blurb in four editions of ilmited numbers. He was highly assisted in his research by the late Pam Caudwell. I came late to serious Kershaw collecting and was lucky to buy one of the last copies of the Final Edition. The cameras are mostly  listed in detail on Camerapedia, and therefore this is a personal account. One of these days I will reach up to a copy of McKeowns Camera Guide which is the price of a middle of the range collectible camera. Kershaw folders are not particularly expensive, with a few rare exceptions and the hard to find Peregrine fitted with Taylor Hobson (TTH) lenses. The two major public resources are at Leeds Industrial Museum and the Leicester Pumping Station Museum next to which is the National Space Centre.

By that time Kershaws was part of the Rank Organisation under the directorship of the fearsome John Davies who had rescued the Rank Organisation from near bankruptcy in the early 1940’s. Rank’s primary interest in Kershaw’s was probably its wish to vertically integrate, and also to get its hands on some nice contracts with the military. Rank Organisation were distributors of films and owners of cinemas, which later led them into Bingo and other leisure activities. How a cinema organisation could get into difficulties when most people went twice a week is anybody’s guess. Their trade mark of course is the big brute beating the daylight out of a gong, which one is told was in reality made of plaster of Paris. So many childhood illusions, alas!  And where did they get the noise from? It can just be seen in its stylized logo form on the attached picture, purchased at some cost from Leeds City Libraries. One of Kershaw’s main lines of business was the production of cinema projection equipment. This was sold under the Kalee brand. The name derives from the initials of A. Kershaw and Leeds, their home, and they were making projectors from at least 1906. Later the Kalee equipment was branded  by British Thompson Houston, so possibly Kershaw’s involvement was then just the optics. BTH features most prominently in history through the dotty antics of Lady Houston (with an O Lord Hattersley) who sponsored the Schneider Trophy aeroplanes developed by Supermarine and Rolls-Royce, but they also made printing equipment bless them and were later sponsors of Whittle’s jet engine development when the Air Ministry was in denial, so dottiness has its uses. They provided the site in Lutterworth for Power Jets Ltd, Whittle’s company.

Who made Marion?

Kershaw had been making cameras for a long time, though this is masked by the Blue Book, the camera collectors’ handbook. The made field and studio cameras, press cameras including the famous Reflex and a wide variety of folding Vest Pocket and other medium format cameras. For many years they billed the press camera as the best camera in the world, an increasingly exaggerated claim, alas.They never branched into 35mm miniature cameras and withdrew from the consumer camera market under Rank Control. They list camera production only under Marion & Co Ltd, which makes the whole story a little inscrutable to the outsider. Marion et Cie were stationers based in Paris in London as early as 1862. The Blue Book lists Marion cameras from the 1890s and then as being made by Kershaw in 1905 using a Kershaw patent mirror reflex mechanism. Marion was based at 3 Soho Square, London and the telegraphic address of Noiram (geddit?) was retained after the later merger. The building still exists.

It was designed in 1903 by (site unavailable 2016)

Show that their interest was in Fibre Optics. Somebody joined the ranks and filed patents. Their work in the 1970s  was either commercially secret or subject to the Official Secrets Act but it was concerned with two major projects I believe, EVR or Electronic Video Recording and night sights for the military. My picture of the Rank EVR was taken in the national collection in Bradford. Bunches of fibre optics were known to escape the works for use in ornamental lamps.


Perfect Harmany

The Rajar company was based at Mobberley in Cheshire. They built a new factory there after moving from Liverpool around 1903. This is approximately the same site that now houses Harman Laboratories, the successors to Ilford who still make film and chemicals hooray! The Ilford name was selected by Mr Harman following a trade mark dispute with Marion over the original Britannia trade mark. So you see it is all rather incestuous and complicated. The works in Watford and Southgate were also APeM companies which finally merged with Ilford in 1928.