Kingston Aviation
Harry Webb
Transcript: 2
Belt-driven shafting in the Machine Shop  

Harry took an apprenticship in the Machine Shop – which was on the ground floor on the north side of the Canbury Park Road factory. The machines were closely packed together and you had to be very careful as you moved around. Dating from the First World War, individual machines were driven by overhead lineshafts and belts – a system that was not replaced, as Harry here recalls, until World War Two. 

It was a pretty enormous place – I’d never seen anything like it before. It was filthy. And, as I think Tommy Sopwith,  or whoever, had bought the odd machine, it had been put in, in the main factory floor. It was linked up – all the machines were driven, all with the exception of a few – were all driven by belt driven shafting. And they weren’t in any order as we now see them of mills, drills, centre lathes, capstans. They were a ‘hotchpotch’. You might get four or five capstans then a couple of mills, all facing in different directions. All linked up to the belt.


There were a main …  There was a motor at each end of the factory. And I am guessing now but I would imagine that the belt, the main drive belt on there was possibly eighteen or twenty inches wide.

Right yep. What per,per, coming from the shaft, to the drive shaft.

 To the drive shaft.

Which is a massive drive shaft in the ceiling.


And then you’d have a belt that runs from the drive shaft down to each individual machine.

That’s right.

And the belt would be about…

Oh no, the main drive belt from the motor to the shafting was an enormous belt probably eighteen or maybe twenty inches wide.

Oh the main drive belt, I got you. Ah, right yes,yes.

Getting back to the machines – they were obviously heavy and they couldn’t have been supported by just the wooden floor, I suspect that they were concreted under.

But there were large areas of wooden floorboards still in existence and with years, and years, and years of soluble oil and that you can imagine it was a pretty unhealthy place. And the only actual windows that you could see daylight were a couple of small windows at the extreme end. And running the whole length of the shop were some old buildings. They had previous …  they weren’t purpose built. And these were the stores and so forth, that you would go. So it was a pretty dismal place. 

But getting back to, I imagine it must have been in ‘forty one’, they opened this factory [the new Hawker factory at Langley]. And then they began to get in new machines that had their own motor and they put them in bays of capstans, mills, drills, centre lathes and so forth. And all the old shafting was taken away.

So it was slowly becoming electrified rather than mechanical drive.

Yes that’s right, yes.