Lowestoft site of aircraft manufacturer Boulton & Paul brought back into use

An aerial view of the Boulton and Paul timber factory in Lowestoft taken in 1978.

An aerial view of the Boulton and Paul timber factory in Lowestoft taken in 1978. - Credit: Archant

Boulton & Paul (B&P) was a jewel in the industrial crown of Norfolk.

The Boulton and Paul timber factory under construction in 1961.

The Boulton and Paul timber factory under construction in 1961. - Credit: Archant

From humble beginnings as an iron mongers to its heyday building aircraft which fought across Europe, the company spread across East Anglia.

Now its former site at Lowestoft has been brought back into use after a haulage firm took on 72,500 sq ft of warehousing.

The site had been out of use since the 2010 closure of the Jeld Wen factory, the company which had bought B&P in the late 1990s.

While the heart of its operation was the Riverside Works, which has since been redeveloped, the Lowestoft site was built in 1963 so the firm would not have to ship wood up the river to Norwich.

Aerial shot of the Boulton & Paul site now closing down completely at Lowestoft.
Picture: Mike Pag

Aerial shot of the Boulton & Paul site now closing down completely at Lowestoft. Picture: Mike Page. - Credit: Mike Page

B&P built a remarkable variety of products from wood and metal including some of the sleds used by the ill-fated Scott Expedition to the Antarctic, a wooden fridge and hangars and wire mesh for the military.

The company began life in 1797 as an ironmongers shop in Cockey Lane, now Little London Street, in Norwich.

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It was founded by William Moore who went in to partnership with a man called Barnard. After Moore's death in 1839 he in turn went into partnership with William Staples Boulton and they took on a 12-year-old apprentice called John Joseph Dawson Paul in 1853.

By 1864 the business had grown and moved to a site in Rose Lane and 10 years later Paul became a partner and the firm became Boulton & Paul.

Boulton & Paul Riverside Works. Picture: submitted

Boulton & Paul Riverside Works. Picture: submitted - Credit: Archant

The First World War launched the company onto the world manufacturing stage as it provided 5,372 miles of wire netting for the battlefields of France and in 1915 began to build aircraft.

This increase in production sparked the move to Riverside where B&P bought 12 acres of land from Colman's for £12,000. More than 2,500 aircraft were built by the firm during the war as well as hangars.

During the 1920s it fought on through difficult economic times and started to build giant airships.

By 1934 aircraft production moved to the Midlands but come 1940 the Riverside base was still part of the war effort – producing plane fuselages, tank transporters and 85,000 air raid shelters.

Boulton and Paul Factory, Lowestoft
. Dated: September, 1963
. Picture: Archant Library

Boulton and Paul Factory, Lowestoft . Dated: September, 1963 . Picture: Archant Library

This meant it became a target for the Luftwaffe and several people were killed by bombs hitting the works.

After the war the business slowly declined with various departments and offshoots being sold gradually.

In 1986 240 manufacturing jobs were axed and the steelworks and joinery works were closed over the next few years.

The deal has been made by property firm Arnolds Keys, which is marketing further units on the site.

Norwich-built Boulton 8 Paul Sidestrands of No 101 Squadron at Bircham Newton in the late 1920's. Pi

Norwich-built Boulton 8 Paul Sidestrands of No 101 Squadron at Bircham Newton in the late 1920's. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

'This is an important first move towards bringing this strategic industrial site in Lowestoft back into full use,' said Robert Flint, head of commercial agency at Arnolds Keys. 'Not only will this move bring employment back to Waveney Point, but hopefully it will be the catalyst for a renewal of activity on what is sure to be a vital commercial site in the coming years.'

Devastation caused at Boulton and Pauls Riverside Works by a German bomber. Picture: Jack Fincham

Devastation caused at Boulton and Pauls Riverside Works by a German bomber. Picture: Jack Fincham - Credit: Archant

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