Janette Knight (nee Turnbull)

I was working as a draughtswoman in the Production Drawing Office at Lagonda Motors from the end of the war until McLarens took over the factory and the Lagonda car was incorporated with Aston Martin and moved from this site.

The Drawing Offices were in Ironbarks House which was on the other side of Thorpe Road from the works and on Chertsey Lane. The design team for the new car were in the Drawing Office upstairs.

Frank Feeley, who was the bodywork draughtsman, needed a whole wall to draw the panels for the car from his scale drawings. The production drawing office, where I worked, was a prefabricated building on the end of the house which with all the wire-netting around the windows reminded us of a concentration camp so we called it STALAGONDA. The chief draughtsman was 'Spud' Ayto, a very quiet kindly man, always smoking a pipe. The chief checker was Bob Martin. Then the other draughtsmen:- 'Dusty' Coleman, Eric Macey, Ralph Smith, Brian Clayton, Jack Hughes, Frank Bush, Maurice 'Seeboots' Seibert, Frank Hasty, 'Matt' Matthews, Len Denman and Peter ? . The draughtswomen were Irene Booth and I. The tracers were Mrs. Merryfield, Mrs. Lennox, Olive, Shirley and Margaret Cadle.

Many of the men had just returned from the war, some invalided out. They would relate their wartime experiences such as Frank Bush landing an aircraft 10ft above ground, Len Denman (RAF navigator) who targeted one of our own ships. It was a very happy drawing office and there was much good humoured teasing. It was the era of the chad and one could find one of these on the top of ones drawing board and some object missing.

The men testing the prototype cars and the racing drivers would come into the drawing office so we would have first-hand information on what was happening in the experimental dept. and on the race track.

Most of us went to evening classes to improve on engineering knowledge, either at Twickenham or ar Kingston Tech. In those days Lagonda seemed to have a vast number of good-looking young apprentices, all working hard to pass their exams.

There was also a Bryce Berger Drawing Office in the Ironbarks, Jack Felgate was chief draughtsman. There was also a young man called Fred Johns, who according to Nick Pollard of SAF6 was still working in the factory drawing office when the works closed in the 1980's and so he had been there for over 40 years.

I won a design a competition once for the design of a wheel hub for the new car. I can remember the design quite well, but what became of it I do not know.

Office Christmas Party

Don't we all look serious? (photo by Jack Felgate). A very good spread of food considering food rationing.

Behind Iron Barks House was the works canteen. In the war they had 'Workers Playtime' broadcast with Tommy Handley a few times (he lived at Thorpe). Every Saturday were Lagonda dances with a real band, 1/6d or 2/- a ticket. It was a great place for romance. Many a girl met her future husband there. That is the way everyone met in those days - at dances.

In the drawing office was a talented artist called Maurice Seibert (Seeboots, as he had been in the Fleet Air Arm). He often caricatured members of the drawing office such as in this picture of me and Ralph Smith who had a problem as he was always falling asleep. Unfortunately, Seeboots was tragically killed outside the factory not many years later when our office had split up.


1947 Floods

We were working in Iron Barks House in the 1947 Spring floods. I recollect having to walk from the bridge to the office over duckboards. Some people, such as Ralph Smith who lived at Shepperton, didn't get into work at all till the floods had subsided.

The Bailey Bridge

During the war a Bailey Bridge was build next to the old bridge (upstream). When we left the factory at dinner time or end of day, we all used to stream across this wooden bridge where we didn't have to compete with traffic.

It was a very happy time working in the Lagonda Drawing Office and it was sad when it all came to an end and the factory changed hands, first to McLaren and then to Petters.