A Tour of Company Sites

 

This page features photographs of the main Bell Punch and Sumlock-Anita Electronics sites remaining in 2003 and 2004.

 

The Sales Headquarters in London

Bell Punch had a separate sales and distribution organisation for its calculators, initially called London Computator Ltd.  It was renamed Sumlock Limited from 1950 due to the success of the Sumlock range of mechanical calculators, and was renamed again to Sumlock Comptometer Ltd. when the UK operations of Comptometer Corporation were taken over in 1961.

The first sales head office was at 1 Albemarle Street, London, W1., off Picadilly.  It then moved directly across Piccadilly to 39 St. James's Street, London, SW1.

1 Albemarle Street

The first London head sales office at 1 Albemarle Street. The entrance is in shadow through the second archway, see below.

The later London head sales office was at 39 St. James's Street, which is part of the block of buildings in the distance, across Piccadilly.

1 Albemarle Street

The entrance to 1 Albemarle Street, "Albemarle House".

39 St. James’s Street

The second London head sales office at 39 St. James's Street. The entrance is just behind the man.

The Headquarters and Main Factory at Uxbridge

As described in the section Origins of the Bell Punch Co., in the early 1920s the company moved to a new site called "The Island", off Rockingham Road in Uxbridge, to the west of London.

An aerial view of this site, taken around 1970, is repeated below:

Bell Punch Headquarters

Key to the aerial photograph:

  1. The modified air-raid shelter where development of the ANITA calculator began.
  2. The purpose-built research and development centre of Sumlock Anita Electronics.
  3. Metalwork shops, for pressing and machining metal parts for calculators, ticket machines, and other products.
  4. The print factory which was full of machines printing tickets.
  5. The two arms of the River Colne.
  6. The canal.
  7. Rockingham Road.
  8. Waterwheel house which at one time had a water-powered electrical generator for generating some of the power for the site.

One arm of the River Colne flows through the site and one arm flows just past it, which led to the the company's address of 'The Island', Uxbridge, Middlesex.  This had been the site of a water-powered mill, and the company took advantage of this to power a generator which provided some of the electricity for the site.

 

From 1952 calculator assembly, firstly mechanical and later electronic, was largely moved to new premises in Portsmouth, on the south coast.  Concentrated on the site at Uxbridge was the printing of tickets and the manufacture of other Bell Punch Company products, including ticket issuing systems, taximeters, and totalisators.

In 1976, Lamson Industries (the parent company of Bell Punch) sold 'The Island' site to the Percy Bilton property-development group, and a portion was leased back[1].  This is often the sign that a company is struggling financially.

In the years since the the above aerial photograph was taken and the Bell Punch Company and Sumlock Anita Electronics were closed, most of the buildings on this site have been demolished and replaced by a variety of business and industrial units.  However, this appears to have taken place in a piecemeal way and the overall layout of the site at the time of a visit in 2004 had been largely preserved.  However, a recent study of aerial images on one of the well-know internet mapping sites show that 'The Island' has been redeveloped with modern commercial units.  The only original building remaining is "Mill House" ('H' on the aerial photograph above).

 

The following photographs of the Uxbridge site, 'The Island', were taken during a visit to the site in June 2004, on a very wet day !

Metalwork shop, Uxbridge

The only part of the original Bell Punch factory structure remaining was this section of the metalwork shop (marked 'C' in the aerial photograph above, and seen here looking from the direction from the top of that photograph).

Metalwork shop, Uxbridge

Having walked to the left of the above scene, this view shows how intimately the site is linked to the River Colne.

The building in the background is a modern replacement.

Metalwork shop, Uxbridge

Going to the right around the metalwork shop shows a further section of it, flanked on both side by later replacement buildings.

Metalwork shop, Uxbridge

View through a broken window of the inside of the empty metalwork shop.

Mill House

The other significant building to be seen remaining on the site was this one which is labelled 'H' in the aerial photograph above and is called "Mill House".
This is likely to be the original mill building on the site before Bell Punch moved there in the early 1920s.  Part of this was used as the electricians' shop, and the small structure with the sloping roof on the right housed the waterwheel which was used to generate some of the electricity required on the site.  It still had a warning sign saying "Danger Live Wires".

Mill House

Another view of this handsome building shows that it has been renovated and was still very much in use.

The Portsmouth Factory

In the early 1950s the "Sumlock" and "Plus" adders were proving very successful and production was increasing. However, due to planning constraints on expanding the site at Uxbridge and a shortage of a suitable additional workforce in the area, additional premises were opened at Portsmouth, on the south coast, in 1952. These were on the then new Fratton Industrial Estate, at the rear of Portsmouth soccer club's Fratton Park ground. Soon a further building nearby was required, and at least for a couple of years in the 1960s a third building, on the opposite side of Rodney Road, was used by the company.

In these premises on Rodney Road the "Sumlock", "Plus", and in the 1960s the "Comptometer", mechanical calculators and later the "Anita" electronic calculators were assembled. Other Bell Punch products, such as the ticket issuing machines and the taximeters may also have been assembled here, and some ticket printing may have been undertaken.

The photographs below were taken on a visit in November 2004.

Rodney road factory 1

The first premises occupied by the Bell Punch Co. on Rodney Road, in 1952. In Novemeber 2004 it was occupied by a company specialising in fire and security equipment, and there have been some additions and alterations made to the buildings.

Rodney road factory 1

A view from the other direction. Note the floodlight towers of Portsmouth soccer club's Fratton Park ground in the background.

Rodney road factory 2

This is the second premises which Bell Punch started to occupy in the 1950s on Rodney Road, on the corner with Anson Road. The roof of the first premises can be seen behind the white van on the left. Separating the two is the set back building of Remploy Ltd., which occupied its site at the same time that Bell Punch moved to Rodney Road.

Checking Anitas

An old photograph showing ANITA 1000 series calculators undergoing their final checks before despatch in one of the Sumlock Anita Electronics factories on Rodney Road in the late 1960s.

Reference:

  1. "Bilton share deal will permit bumper dividend", The Times, September 29, 1976.

The Bell Punch Company & the Development of the Anita Calculator
< Previous page    Next page >

Click here to go to the Vintage Calculators Web Museum

Text & photographs copyright © 2002 - 2017 Nigel Tout, except where noted otherwise.