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Donington's George Barnsdale looks back at history to days when they made walls of death



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One of the area’s oldest firms has looked back at the many changes it has seen over the last 70 years.

Donington-based George Barnsdale, which manufactures windows and doors, has been inspired by the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to look back at the days when they used created walls of death and doors for £3.

While the business had been founded by George Barnsdale in 1884, his sons Frederick and Walter had taken over the operations. And, in 1953, they celebrated the arrival of Helen Elizabeth Barnsdale.

The George Barnsdale anniversary party in 2014
The George Barnsdale anniversary party in 2014

A spokesman said: “The firm employed 50-60 people in those post Second World War years when timber was still rationed and there was a licence scheme for building.

“More a building firm (Barnsdale Construction) than just joinery, George Barnsdale’s men travelled throughout the country helping to build homes fit for heroes.

“Some of the more unusual requests the company received included an order for six Walls of Death often seen at fairs throughout the country and tested by local daredevils on rickety bikes before being despatched.

“The company also made seaside chalets and dodgem tack for amusement parks.”

George Barnsdale was instrumental in establishing the British Standard for timber windows and doors.

The company was also still using imperial measurements along with lead primers and paints.

A spokesman said: “The prices also looked very different in those days too. A 7′ x 10″ bay window, so popular in 1950s new homes would have cost the trade price of £11 15s.

“A set of 4.0′ x 6’6″ x 2″ French casement doors would have set you back £6 5s. Those elegant 1950s doors we see still standing in so many homes throughout the UK would have cost between £2 and £3.

“The 1960s were a bit of a boom time for Barnsdale Construction with all the houses being built to accommodate the growing population of the area.

“As car ownership increased, the need for garages increased. Garage doors in the 1950s and 1960s were typically hardwood timber and they can still be seen today.

“Fashion wasn’t reserved for clothes and make up in the 1960s, the homes needed to make a statement too. Open tread staircases, increased use of glass and plain panel doors became the order of the day.

“The 1970s was a time of economic decline nationally, the global oil crisis, the industrial unrest and high taxes like the Selective Employment Tax all took their toll on the company which reduced its number of staff to 30.

“This is when the firm focused more on joinery than building once again. It continued to focus on quality and craftsmanship and employed apprentices from the local area to ensure a competent future workforce that stood it in good stead for the future.”

Chairman Stephen Wright ran the company from 1984 to 2015 when their son Tom took over.

The spokesman said: “An engineer at heart and ever forward looking, Stephen was keen to utilise the latest technology and to improve the performance of timber windows and doors and the 1980s saw the launch of the George Barnsdale Options range.

“Stephen has been involved in numerous research projects over the years and collaborated with the BRE to improve understanding of timber performance and longevity.

“He introduced more advanced machinery and technology to the factory.

“Stephen recognised the demand for double glazing, which he has seen grow from just 9% of windows in the 1980s to more than 80% today.”

Managing director Tom started his career at Nissan and brought a number of manufacturing methods and processes, which included a robotic paint sprayer. The company opened its own research and development centre in 2017, the only window joinery company in Europe known to have this facility.



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