Garretts of Leiston (HC30)
The records of the firm Garretts of Leiston are preserved in the Ipswich branch of the Suffolk Record Office, reference HC30. Deposited there in stages from 1973 onwards, they were purchased by Suffolk County Council in 1982 with grant-aid from the Fund for the Preservation of Scientific Material. At the same date, the historic buildings and artefacts at the Town Works site in Leiston passed into the care of the Long Shop Museum (http://www.longshopmuseum.co.uk/). The Long Shop was built by the firm in 1853 as one of the world’s first flow-line production assembly halls.
The Garrett family have lived in Suffolk since the 14th century, but the firm traces its origin to the arrival of Richard Garrett in Leiston in 1778, when he acquired a blacksmith’s shop and forge. His grandson, Richard Garrett III, was in charge of the business by 1836 and promoted a rapid expansion, especially of the manufacture of agricultural machinery for export. The firm became a limited company in 1897. At its peak, there was a workforce of over 2,000 and in 1913 a new works adjoining Leiston railway station was built to increase capacity. Despite a serious fire in 1913, the old Town Works site continued in use.
The collection mainly reflects the trading, technical, manufacturing and publicity activities of the firm in the fields of agricultural and general engineering, transport (steam and electric traction on roads) and to a lesser extent wartime munitions work, from the 1890s until its insolvency in 1932. Although many of the corporate and administrative records are lost (probably by accidental flooding during World War II) there is a wide range of material concerning the manufacture, marketing and sale of products, especially steam engines and agricultural machines. Of particular importance are the order books, specifications and drawings – many thousands of which survive.