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Friday, July 14, 2006

Enfield Rolling Mills


This company, often called ERM for short, at Brimsdown on the Lee Valley in Enfield was my father’s biggest customer. Strangely in recent years, we have met, Ray Agnew, one of the people there that dealt with my father. I learned a lot about how my father worked to create sophisticated stationery for unusual applications.

I also worked there during three vacations from school in the electronics and instrument department. It was an interesting grounding for what I have done since. It is rather a pity that kids today don’t get the opportunity as easily as I did all those years ago, as all experience is valuable.

One of the jobs I did at ERM in the mid 1960s, was to investigate the detection of small ferrous inclusions in copper wire. This is important as inclusions damage wire drawing machines and also increase the electrical resistance. I was able to detect micro-gram particles with ease. It surprises me that with more modern techniques, we can’t do better than we do to detect knives and guns!

But then I got the job because my father phoned the excellent and much admired John Grimston and asked! So if you want something for yourself or your family a well structured approach can often get the right results.

This company as the name suggests rolled and formed copper, aluminium, bronze and other non-ferrous metals. To me it was an engineer’s paradise, as I used to walk around fitting instruments on to fearsome machines that squeezed and pressed hot and sometimes cold metal into any number of shapes. I can still see images in my mind of men catching hot copper wire in tongs and turning it on the wiremill. That was extremely skilful and highly dangerous.

Interestingly, that wiremill had been taken from Krupp as reparations after the First World War, to setup ERM. It still had the Krupp symbol of three interlocked railway tyres in the castings that held the rolls. The company logo for ERM was four interlocked rings, so they even took that as well!

But Enfield Rolling Mills was also part of one of my worst gaffs!

Their phone number was Howard 1255 or 1266. (I can’t actually remember which, but the story works both ways!) I was about thirteen and was setting some type for my father. I needed some 5’s so I borrowed them from the Enfield Rolling Mills letterhead that was always setup in a chaise ready for printing. I stupidly replaced them with 6’s. What I should have done was put the 6’s in upside down so the replacement was obvious.

Luckily they were spotted before the letterhead was used again. It was one of the few times my father ever seriously told me off.

I have always been pedantic and very careful since. Perhaps, that is why I have been such a good programmer.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi James
This is a long shot but i was just searching in a vain hope i would find something relating to my father who worked at ERM all his life though sadly past away a few years ago. He worked his way up to some kind of Foreman? His name was Donald (Don) Victor Powter Did you know him? I would be greatfull for any info.

David Powter

Sunday, September 07, 2008 2:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi i worked at delta enfield cables in the 80s and the encon dept as a furnaceman i also used to go into southwire which was the tail end of the rolling mills and even applied for a job in the hammer shop,i got to know a lot of people there i knew a don but did not know his second name,but i wish them days was back as i loved working there,shame its all gone now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009 10:58:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Monday, November 23, 2009 10:10:00 am  
Blogger James Miller said...

Sadly, I have no photos otherwise I'd have posted them here.

I'm not in contact with anyone who I worked with then, although I do now Ray Askew, who worked there and actually remembered my father.

Monday, November 23, 2009 2:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

men catching hot copper wire in tongs .
Yes this was a dangerous job,
I have seen a catcher miss with the tongs and the hot rod flow up in the air and rapped around
the overhead crane, the driver had to escape by means of a rope ladder,
also on many accusations the rod missed the slopes (the steel part of the floor) and payed out on the floor.
(a change of pans may be wanted if you was walking past when this happened)
The catcher wore lady's tights to protect there legs from copper dust, and you sweat GREEN, the copper was in you skin.
good old times or was thay?


Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:19:00 am  
Blogger James Miller said...

I watched the catchers for quite a time, whilst I was working there. Fascinating!

You remember that the catching was only on one side as a guided channel did the other side. This I think had been brought in about 1960. One of the guys I worked with, reckoned that they could have used a similar system on the side with the catchers, if they'd put the channels upside down.

I never actually saw a rod go missing, but it must have been pretty spectacular. And dangerous!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:37:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes towards the end of the mill life, it had repeaters ( guided channel) on both sides of the mill with chuckout to throw the rod out of the repeaters,
only two catchers work on the finishing rolls, and men at the back of the roll with sticks (stick men ) .


Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:32:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A film on youtube that may bring back memories of the rod mill it's not quite the same as ERM, but interesting
(black and white film by cedrickrusty 3:37 STEEL MILL )


Thursday, December 03, 2009 8:08:00 am  
Blogger Lyfsabeech said...

I worked in the laboratory at ERM from 1952 to 1954 and after National Service went back to the Test House near the Sheet Mill. I was there from 1956 to 1961. I remember the rod mill well. A catcher missed the rod on one occasion and it wrapped around his ankle. He was given a job for life as many other accident victims were. I met quite a few men who had lost fingers, hands, arms and even legs from contact with hot metal. There was at least one serious accident each year as I remember. During my second period at ERM I was mostly working in the Sheet and Strip mills on process control. This involved sampling the product and testing its properties at various stages in production.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 4:08:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm currently overhauling my loco, Hudson Hunslet HE1944. She worked at your mill at some point between 1939 and 1970, and I'm DESPERATE for any info of ANY kind! Can you help? Do you know anyone who can? Thanks for your time,

Sam Bentley (Mrs)

Monday, August 30, 2010 9:43:00 pm  
Blogger James Miller said...

Sorry! No!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:24:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice Story.

I am also an entrepreneur and manufacturer of steel rolling mill machines and other industrial equipements and tools.

I have been in the business since six years and have a quite well experience in the manufacturing and machines industry, we at our manufacturing unit in New Delhi, India produce high quality machinery parts and equipments with state of the art technologies.

Some of the things which we produce are different types of roller conveyors, best quality sprockets for any purpose, gears,, fly box wheel, gear couplings, rolling mill plants machinery, metal straightening machines, hot saw machines to cut any hard stuff including metals, shearing machines, cooling beds to cool newly produced red hot metal products, and many more.

Saturday, November 03, 2012 10:28:00 am  
Blogger mrs mandy jane said...

Hi I also have great memories of erm but as a child at Christmas pantos in the rolling mills club! My father who worked there many years was Len Dingle any information would be greatly appreciated . I also am still in contact with Donn Gunn if any one would like to contact me regards Stuart Dingle 07768946100

Monday, August 12, 2013 7:24:00 pm  
Blogger Lyfsabeech said...

Sorry Mandy I dont remember your Dad, i was only a teenager at the time.

Monday, August 12, 2013 10:17:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

From1956 until 1972 I was a maintenance fitter,(later a foreman) in the Copper Refinery where the two Hunslett diesel were used. One was always in use whilst the other was being overhauled before going back for her turn on duty.We also maintained the extensive two foot gauge railway.

Monday, February 10, 2014 5:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Peter Saunders said...

Hi, I worked in the die shop of The Cable Works which in the 1960's was transferred over to ERM along with the wiremill. I used to repair diamond dies ant tungston dies for the wire drawing mills. The people I worked with was Joe Bright (Chargehand) Ken ???, Maureen Pateman (always singing) Barbara?// Fred Harvey, Elsie Pinching (now deceased) and several others. It was a great place to work.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 7:49:00 pm  
Anonymous John Taylor said...

Hello I wonder if anyone can help me I am researching for a book which features an Ex Tottenham footballer called Albert Hall who worked at ERM in the 50s.Any information good or bad would be welcome.With thanks

Tuesday, March 03, 2015 1:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Roger King said...

Reference Peter Saunders comments on working in the die shop, I did a 6 month stint in there polishing the dies, I think the Foreman's full name was Ken Matthews...........wonderful times, great bunch of people

Roger King

Monday, March 23, 2015 12:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Peter Bacon said...

I also would love to from anyone who remembers my father he was a sale's director after the war and also helped with the company airplane his name was Max Bacon and work with i believe John Grimston. I also remember going to the children's Christmas Party held at the works club house, canteen ?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 10:48:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It has come back to me now the foreman of the die shiop was Ken Clarke, Joe Bright also sadly died a few years ago.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 10:47:00 am  
Anonymous said...

My father was Norman Bush who sadly passed away some years ago. He worked up from Lab Tech after the war to Managing Director. He loved the mill. It nearly crushed him when Delta closed it down and he lost his second family. I was allowed into the mill on very few occasions - it was overwhelming for a youngster, fire, heat, smells and wonderful heavy machinery. I have one or two photos if they are of interest to anyone. Characters i remember were Huge Dye and John Northrop. The company plane actually belonged to the Earl of Verulamium (who sold it to ERM just before they sold it on - draw your own conclusions) It was a DH Dove. Dad navigated and the Earl piloted it to India in 1952 apparently. It eventually ended up with Capa Verdi Airlines where its derelict hulk can still be seen. Best wishes to anyone who knew Dad and worked at that great institution.

Monday, April 09, 2018 10:13:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

I worked for you father for ten years before Rolled Metals Division (The department which he was a director for) closed in 1980. He was a great guy to work for; a very experienced manager whilst I was a young engineer. We had some heated arguments but he was always fair and usually right.
He used to talk about you when you were growing up. I remember you had a Kart which you used at Rye House and your dad hurt his back lifting it onto the roof rack of his car.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:42:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

they shouldn't of closed alot of guys had breakdowns when my ex husband went to Dartford erith he left me hope you find your answers take care!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 1:59:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,
I worked with your dad Don a great guy. I remember he did me a big favour when a pools syndicate he ran came up in I guess would have been early 70s and I was owing several weeks subs thinking I had blown it but no thanks to your dad he came up to me on the start of our shift and payed me out over £1000, he had chipped in for me. I was just starting out trying to get a deposit to buy our first house.
I have loads of fond memories of my times in the wiremill.
Ron Cannon.

Thursday, December 20, 2018 12:13:00 pm  
Blogger Vishal Sharma said...

Really nice post thanks for sharing it. Get the best rolling mill manufacturers in India

Tuesday, July 09, 2019 10:19:00 am  
Anonymous Lyfsabeech said...

I worked for your dad in Test House next to the Sheet mill from 1956 to 1960. He was a lovely man Very fair and even handed. He was promoted to mill manager just after I left.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019 10:55:00 am  
Anonymous v.r bennett said...

Hi I am an author looking for photos of the copper refinery in the 1960s I worked there from 63 to 72 and would like info on all of those employed at that period

Sunday, June 14, 2020 10:49:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...


Friday, November 20, 2020 10:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone know a John A. Jones? He was given a watch in 1969 in recognition of 25 years of service.

Sunday, March 07, 2021 7:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad was George Evans..He worked as the pensions and welfare officer for 40 odd years before moving to Delta Enfield Cables, sadly passed away in 2019. I did find some old photos of that time.
I remember my dad organising trips to the Christmas pants on ice for all the kids. There was also the firework display at the clubhouse. He sorted the children's Christmas party and Santa. Such good memories as a child.
He loved it there and helped such a lot of people

Sunday, March 14, 2021 7:41:00 pm  
Blogger gazpots said...

During the mid seventies my brother and I worked as contractors delivering the products from ERM ,copper wire in yellow stillages, phosphor bronze tubes and rods, brass and copper sheet the oily remnants of which we had to bring back when they had been through a stamping machine, a nightmare to secure on a flatbed lorry.
Our main contact there was with one of the true gentlemen I have met in my long working life called Topper, he ran the weigh bridge, I often wonder what happened to him, a true character and a great help to a young man at the start of his working life.

Sunday, July 10, 2022 5:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad was (John) Egbert Alexander Ferguson. Passed away 23rd July 2022.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022 1:58:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roy aylott worked delta cabled

Thursday, March 09, 2023 9:30:00 pm  

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