PARKER PEN COMPANY

Photo:Advertisement for female workers for the Felix Works

Advertisement for female workers for the Felix Works

Photo:The Felix Macauley workforce taken around 1925

The Felix Macauley workforce taken around 1925

Photo:Valentine Pen Factory staff mid 1930s

Valentine Pen Factory staff mid 1930s

Photo:Valentine Pen Factory 1939

Valentine Pen Factory 1939

Photo:The Parker factory in 1945 - to the left is the air raid shelter which was turned into a storage area after the war

The Parker factory in 1945 - to the left is the air raid shelter which was turned into a storage area after the war

Photo:The Parker Pen factory 2008

The Parker Pen factory 2008

A Brief History

By Carol Walton

THE BEGINNING.
In WW1 an army transit camp consisting of a few huts was constructed on the site where the Parker Pen Factory now is. Throughout the war the camp played a major part in the transportation of men and materials across the channel to France then in 1918 it was used as a rehabilitation centre for troops returning from the front.

THE FELIX FACTORY.
In 1921 a man named Felix Macauley established a fountain pen factory in the now redundant army camp, and during the mid-1920s a few additions were made in order to improve the working conditions of the employees. These improvements including among other things, a small building to house the laboratory, a brick boiler house and a small dining room.
Unfortunately the depression in the late twenties and thirties forced Felix Macauley to reduce his workforce, but luckily at about the same time Mr Valentine, who was the Managing Director of a private company called Valentine & Son, was looking to extend his pen manufacturing capabilities and he considered the ex-army camp the ideal site for this, so in 1930 Valentine & Sons became sole owners of the Felix Works.

THE VALENTINE PEN COMPANY.
In 1932 after Valentine & Son took over the site, a few small additions were made to the factory then in July 1934 local builders Oxley & Bennett commenced some major works on the site which doubled the size of the original factory unit. These included a large extension to the Turning Shop and an increase in the size of the Assembly Department. At that time there were around 100 people working for the Valentine Pen Company.
With the onset of WW2, the factory was assigned to manufacture firing pins and precision torpedo parts and this "War Work" necessitated the factory being run twenty four hours a day for six days a week, using both male and female staff.  Some pens were still being made but with most of the machinery converted to munitions work, only 20% of normal production was being achieved.

THE PARKER PEN COMPANY
In 1888 George Safford Parker, a 25 year old teacher from Janesville, USA, invented his first successful fountain pen and established the Parker Pen Company.

The 1940's . The Parker Pen Company had a factory in Canada and in 1941 the company acquired an interest in the Valentine Pen Company at Newhaven. The first products despatched out of Newhaven under the name of the Parker Pen Company were assembled from components delivered from Canada.
The first product to be made solely in the Newhaven factory was the Parker Victory Pen.
In 1945, Parker Pen UK completed the purchase of the Valentine Pen Factory after which time Parker Pen UK grew in manufacturing capacity and prosperity, not only in the UK but also in Europe.
In the Newhaven factory many things which had been instituted during the war years were still in place. These included the services of an 'errand boy' to collect shopping from the town for employees particularly those women on shift work and also the twice daily broadcasts of the BBC programme 'Music while you work' which were piped through the factory Tannoy system.

The 1950s were a time of extensive building works on the Newhaven site where approval had been given for construction of General Offices and a Works Canteen.  In 1951 the first major factory building known as 'Bays 1-9' was carried out.  Although constructed basically of war-time materials and poorly insulated, it actually lasted for forty years before being demolished. In 1955 a solid brick built office complex was constructed because the general office area was not big enough to house the rapidly expanding office staff.  That building was in the form of a large 'H' and is always referred to as 'H Block'.

The 1960s , just like the previous decade, were a time of exceptional change and growth at Newhaven.  In January 1960 the first two-storey extension of the factory was completed by local builders, Oxley & Bennett and was described at the time as 'one of the most modern factory buildings in the south of England'. Further work was carried out in 1968 when a new canteen and kitchen were constructed on the site of the old tennis courts.

The 1970's . At one time over 1,000 people were employed in the Newhaven factory, however, the Senior Management realised that this could not continue and plans were put in place to automate many of the operations.

The 1980's In early 1983 Newhaven became the new Area Headquarters for the European, African and Middle East operations, and also the centre for distribution for the whole of Europe of Parker products.  In order to cope with future volumes of orders, a purpose built warehouse was constructed to the east of the factory. The warehouse, now affectionately known as 'The Barn', covered 4,645 sq mtrs and was, at that time, one of the largest warehouses of its type on the south coast.
In 1985 the company was losing money and when the Directors of the Company became aware of the imminent sale of the writing instruments group, they discussed possible ways of affecting a management buy-out.  A buy-out team was put together and after significant negotiations, the business was acquired in January 1986 and Parker Pen Limited established its headquarters in Newhaven.  In a relatively short space of time the fortunes of Parker Pen were turned round and it once again became a profitable company.

On Monday 10th October 1988 during the Centenary celebrations in Newhaven of the establishment of the Parker Pen Company, the Prime Minister the Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher, visited the new Headquarters of Parker Pen Limited.  It was an inspiring visit by the Prime Minister who was given a detailed tour around the factory and offices after which she gave a speech to all the staff which was a fitting end to a momentous decade.

The 1990's. In 1991 the offices were refurbished in order to provide a new prestigious complex, accommodating the Distribution, UK Sales and Marketing sections all under one roof for the first time.

1993, At the time of 'the Buyout' in 1985, although the Directors owned the majority of the shares, they never intended to become permanent shareholders and in the spring of 1993 when the Parker Pen Company was acquired by the Gillette Company and the acquisition was complete, there was a certain amount of 'decentralisation' at Newhaven, with some operations being moved to Gillette's headquarters in Boston, while at the same time Gillette moved some of its own managers to Newhaven, particularly in the Personnel Department, which is now called Human Resources.

The New Millenium. August 2000. The Gillette Company sold their Stationery Division to USA Company 'Newell Rubbermaid' and Parker Pen now became part of Sanford their Stationery Division at that time the largest stationery division in the world. Following this, Sanford shifted some of its other product lines such as 'Rotring' and 'Berol' to the Newhaven factory, thus providing more work for the factory to assimilate.

November 2007, it was decided that manufacture of many of the lines would be moved to other factories outside the UK.  Newhaven would retain some of the products but it would mean that the factory would be scaled down, and most of the office functions would move to Birmingham making nearly 200 people redundant.  The idea behind the proposal is to make Newhaven 'a centre of excellence' for pen manufacture.

My thanks to Malcolm Troak for allowing me to use his book, Pen to Paper, as a reference for this 'brief history'.

This page was added by Carol Walton on 03/04/2008.
Comments about this page

My Dad (Dick Stovell) was involved with the factory extension built by Oxley & Bennett. During that time, I believe the radio show "Workers' Playtime" visited the Parker Pen factory. Dad came home full of it. The stars for that particular show were Bert Wheedon and Dennis Lotis. I remember listening to the show, on the radio, at lunch time, with mum. The audience were very appreciative and cheered the place down.

By William Stovell
On 17/10/2008

Local author, Malcolm Troak, has written an excellent book on the history of pen manufacture in Newhaven, from Macauley to Valentine to Parker. The book includes many photos of workers and outings. Although this is now out of print Malcolm donated a number of copies to the museum for fundraising and these are available (below cover price) from the museum any weekend 2-5pm

By Peter MASON
On 08/12/2008

The building of the first Pen Factory after the war was what really got Oxley & Bennett into the big time after a war spend repairing windows and war damage. Shortly before the war my father Arthur Bennett had built a development of houses at the top of Brighton Road and he occupied No. 91 himself (Where I was born). His next door neighbour was Jack King, at that time manager of the Valentine Pen Company, and it was through this contact that Oxley & Bennett got the job. Pre war our firm had a nucleus of employees who had been at school with my father and they, on returning to civvy street, were the backbone of the company. Dick Stovell, Freddy Beal, Tommy Bray (and his son Jack) and Curley Palmer.

By Trevor Bennett
On 03/02/2009

Parker have just donated a display of pens and photos to the Museum -come and see it and buy the book while you're there!

By Peter MASON
On 15/03/2009

A most interesting synopsis of the Parker Pen company

By james
On 19/06/2009

My Grandfather was Jack King, and as a young child I was enthralled by his stories about the early years at Valentines & Parker Pens, his trips to the US and about day trips & picnics with the employees. A really magical era.

By Debbie Firman
On 19/07/2009

And now we hear the news that the factory is to close, after all these years. Yet another sad day for Newhaven.

By Andy Gilbert
On 20/07/2009

I currently work at Parker Pen although I may moan about my job I do rather enjoy it. It will be a shame as I am leaving soon but I can say this, I am proud to have worked for a Company with such a history. I will miss the old girl when she has gone as that is where my parents met. If it wasn't for the factory I would not be here today so I suppose I have a lot to thank her for.

By Darren Smith
On 26/01/2010

Memories ... it seems that we all have our own special recollections. For myself and my family it has always been of the people of Newhaven. Jack King, Jimmy Moeller and many more who visited Janesville often enough so that we could call them not just  "Associates" but "Friends" .... part of the family, you might say. I've had that same feeling on my visits to Newhaven.

By Geoff Parker
On 01/04/2010

My father's sister, Rose Howard worked there for years; she died in 1980. My brother and I are trying to trace a bit of history of her. Our father never told us, but apparently she married and had a child.  We would love to hear from anyone who can throw any light on this.

By Terry Howard
On 15/11/2010

My mother and aunt, Frances and Dorothy Stonestreet both workerd at the factory, as did my sister Janice Sweatmen!

By ginny miller
On 30/07/2011

The factory closed in 2010 with production moved to Waterman in France, also owned by Newell Rubbermaid. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/8154432.stm Photos from August 2012 here. http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php/73219-Parker-Pen-Factory-Newhaven-%28Update%29-Aug-2012 The management had to sell the company because it was financed by a very large short-term loan. This is common in such buy-outs where the management has 3-5 years to sell the company on or float it. Although the management may have owned the shares, the lenders be they banks or private equity controlled it.

By Andrew
On 24/08/2012

I was very proud to work for the wonderful Parker Pen Company between 1980 and 1995 as a Sales Consultant out in the community. When I joined the company I was Ann Lyst, then in 1988 I married and became Ann Gallagher. Parker were the kindest and best company I have ever worked for and I have such very happy memories of 15 wonderful years. So very sad that the Newhaven factory had to close.

By Ann Hannah nee Gallagher
On 28/01/2013

My Father Bill Call was the manager of the dispatch department at Newhaven, he worked in Dover in the Parker factory on the Eastern docks. In 1968 we moved from Dover, as the factory there closed, to make way for the extension of the port. He stayed at Parker up to the age of 60 at which time he took early redundancy. The people that worked for him gave him a fantastic send off when he left and I have some very nice large photos of the event and of all the people that were there at the time, its like a time capsule of a day at the pen factory. I would be more than happy to have some of these photos reproduced on this site should anybody wish to see how they were then. Sadly he died at the age of 67. 

By Les Call
On 17/10/2013

This is an enquiry rather than a comment. Most Sunday mornings I spend at local boot sales or antiques markets. I collect writing items, tobacco stuff, pen knives, and radios. I have several hundred pens and pencils etc, including a large biscuit tin full of Parkers. Recently I noted a shiny metal clip in a box of rubbish which proved to be a Parker clip on a black and grubby partially completed pen. I bought it for 25p. Cleaned up at home it proved to be a silver plated machine turned bodied pen made in the USA according to the cap. However I also found that it had a tiny "SHELL" insignia set in the tip of the cap. I presume that Shell representatives were giving them away to their fuel station owners as gifts but I can get no information from Shell. I have turned the thing into a ball pen, but for all I know it could have been a fountain pen originally. Does anyone have any information about this item ?

I have spoken to someone who worked at Parker for many years and he knows nothing about this pen because, as you say, the pen was made in the USA. Perhaps someone else knows something - Carol (Editor)

By Allan J Moore
On 29/11/2013

My name is Peter.

I'm 50 years old and from the age of 14 I've been writing with the same Parker pen.

I guess I'm the only person in the World with a pen that's been writing as long as this. Can I have a prize?

Translated as best I can from Dutch. Comments should be in English please. I've also removed your address as we can't publish that. Andy-Editor

By Peter Nelis
On 10/10/2014

I have a 1928 hallmarked silver Valentine safety pen. How does this fit into early history?

By Jeffery
On 12/11/2015

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