Smaller British-made Metal-turning Lathes for
Amateur and Light Professional Use
From the late years of the 1800s until the 1970s there were well over 200 British manufacturers of small metal-turning lathes of up to 5-inch centre height and, in addition, a number of companies either copying or re-branding machines to sell as their own. Some models were not offered to the public but intended for in-factory use - examples being Rolls Royce and Roper & Wreaks - while others were inexpensive, simple lathes of almost crude construction without backgear or screwcutting and intended for use by impecunious amateurs. A number were very expensive machines of the "Plain-turning Bench Precision" type intended for use by toolmakers and in production shops, these being manufactured to a very high standard and with prices to match. A handful were ornamental turning models - an expensive lathe usually aimed at wealthy gentleman and whose value has always been maintained thanks to ingenious and complex design, superb cosmetic finish, remarkable versatility - and a beautiful appearance. While illustrations of ornamental turning lathes can be hard to find, makers of the type included Birch, Bower, Britton, Buck, Evans, Fieldhouse, Gill, Goyen, Hines, Kennen, Lukin, Milnes, Muckle, Munro, Overton, Paterson, Sibley, Smith, and Wilson.
As a further example of muddying the waters, Granville lathes not built in Nottingham or Hull, but in the machine-tool works of a Mr. Freddie Coals in Woodford Avenue, Southend Road (just off London's North Circular Road) in Woodford Green, Essex. As might be expected therefore, a degree of confusion surrounds the origins of Corbett/Granville machine tools, with some of the 'Senior' models carrying an inscription on the screwcutting chart that read Granville Senior, F. Coals while others have been found numbered both with and without an "FC" prefix as in Machine No. FC 1021 - an example still giving good service in Aberdeen, Scotland - and No. 0913 in New Zealand. Its also possible that either Corbett or Coles (or both) sub-contracted manufacture to other builders, and the serial numbers are a reflection of this. For example, the Corbett "Senior" has also been found with taper-roller headstock bearings badged as the "Olympic" (in which form it was sold through the once well-known Rex Hacksaw Company of Wembley, Middlesex) and as the "Lindeteves N.V." - presumably the name of a Dutch importer.
In addition to known or recognised manufacturers, many smaller makers failed to put any branding on their machine; some examples of these being amongst the mystery items seen here.
Amongst the better known and more commonly-found makes from pre-WW2 years (i.e. before 1939) were: Adept, Britannia, Challenger, Churchill, Drummond, ETA, EXE, Excell, Granville, Grayson, Holmes, Willimott Ideal, Mellor, Pools, Portass, Randa, Relm, Wade-CAV, Winfield and Zyto. Post war the number of makers expanded somewhat - though as financial conditions improved during the early 1950s and the need for inexpensive machines dried up, few of the newcomers (together with many of the established makers) failed to survived beyond the middle of that decade.
The following list of over 200 examples is thought to account for nearly all makers who produced more than a handful of examples - together with what is thought to be almost all the "badge-engineered" types (these being indicated by the use of inverted commas). Should I have failed to include any - they do keep turning up - or you know others so far unlisted - please do let me know.