All Change at Bell Punch
As with most companies, Bell Punch Co. went through various developments, being taken over and being involved in takeovers. The most significant of these occurred in the late 1950s to 1970s.
By 1952, with the success of the mechanical calculators, extra production capacity was required. Since the Uxbridge factory was fully loaded with the company's other products, with a shortage of suitable labour, and tight planning rules prevented expansion, a new factory was set up in Rodney Road, Portsmouth, to where production of mechanical Sumlock calculators was transferred in 1954. This extra capacity soon proved inadequate and another industrial unit nearby on Rodney Road was required. In the 1960s and 1970s the ANITA electronic calculators were manufactured here, and the production of mechanical calculators continued there until orders eventually petered out. For a time in the 1960s the company required a third industrial unit across the road from the other two.
Lamson Industries take over
In December 1957 Lamson Industries acquired a controlling interest in Control Systems Ltd., the parent company of Bell Punch, from the widow of the proprietor, John Black. The Lamson subsidiary Lamson Paragon had in fact already for some time been associated with Bell Punch. Lamson allowed Bell Punch to continue to operate independently under its own management in Uxbridge.
Sumlock Comptometer Ltd.
Bell Punch mechanical calculators had often been incorrectly referred to as "Comptometers". The Comptometer had actually been invented by the American Dorr Eugene Felt, patented in 1887, and was a trade name of the Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company, Chicago U.S.A. In 1957 the name of the company was changed to Comptometer Corporation.
In the difficulties following the Second World War, Britain and the British Commonwealth put restrictions on the importation of many manufactured goods including Comptometers. Sales to this area had previously been a profitable operation for the Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company, accounting for 25% of it's total production, and this loss from it's Chicago plant seriously affected the profitability there.
In 1960, following a management reorganisation, the operation of Comptometer Corporation in England, including the right to the Comptometer name, was sold to the Control Systems Ltd., which merged it with its own subsidiary to form Sumlock-Comptometer Ltd. Comptometer Corporation then contracted with Control Systems to have all its machines made by Control Systems in England and shipped back to the U.S.A. This resulted in all Comptometer production ceasing in Chicago in 1961.
The two companies were fully integrated on 1st. January 1961 under the name Sumlock-Comptometer Ltd.
The magazine of Control Systems Ltd. (the parent company of Bell Punch) explained these changes:
We are pleased to announce that the Control Systems international sales organisation for marketing our adding and calculating machines has been considerably strengthened recently by the addition of a wealth of experience and expertise in the calculating machine field.
This came about as a result of the formal arrangements made in June last year with Comptometer Corporation of Chicago, U.S.A. Resulting from these it was agreed that in the United States the future sale of Bell Punch manufactured adding and calculating machines should be in the capable hands of the extensive Comptometer organisation. Similar arrangements were applied in Canada.
In the United Kingdom, where formerly Comptometer Ltd (Great Britain) and Sumlock Ltd had worked in competition, the two companies became associated to operate as one much larger organisation called Sumlock Comptometer Ltd. The fusion of the two companies is now complete in every way, personnel, administration, premises, servicing and operator training facilities all being brought together, as well as the full sales policy, direction and effort. This process occupied the last seven months of 1960, during which the two Companies, although then both members of the Control Systems Group, continued to operate competitively. It was remarkable how few difficulties and embarrassments with customers arose during this interim period, and the way was smoothly paved for complete integration on 1st January, 1961. Mr. R. Walter is Managing Director of Sumlock Comptometer Ltd.
Advertisement from January 1961 announcing the formation of Sumlock Comptometer Ltd. from Sumlock Ltd. and Comptometer Ltd. (Great Britain).
Sumlock Anita Electronics Ltd.
In 1966 Lamson Industries, the parent company, set up Sumlock Anita Electronics Ltd. to take over the manufacturing of both the electronic and the mechanical calculators. The Bell Punch Company continued to manufacture the other products, such as ticket issuing systems, taximeters, and totalisators.
The Uxbridge Site of the Bell Punch Company
The headquarters and main factory of the Bell Punch Company, off Rockingham Road, Uxbridge, to the west of London, around 1970.
From 1952 calculator assembly, firstly mechanical and later electronic, was largely moved to new premises in Portsmouth, on the south coast. Concentrated on the Uxbridge site was the printing of tickets and the manufacture of other Bell Punch Company products, including ticket issuing systems, taximeters, and totalisators.
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 mill, and the company took advantage of the water flow to power a generator which provided some of the electricity for the site.
The following is an extract from a Lamson Industries booklet of the early 1970s which explains the structure of Lamson Industries, and the position of Sumlock Anita Electronics:
BELL PUNCH COMPANY
Our place in a family of more than sixty companies
FACTS AND FIGURES
Lamson Industries Limited employs some 15,000 people of whom about 10,000 work in the United Kingdom. Of these, approximately 400 are employed in the Bell Punch Machine Parts Division at Uxbridge and Herne Bay, making parts for the company's machines.
A further 450 work in the Ticket Machine Division at Uxbridge — some on machine assembly, some in the print shop where the tickets are produced, some on the design and development of new machines, and others in the sales, shipping, purchasing, work study and other ancillary departments.
Also at Uxbridge are 400 personnel of Control Systems Ltd., which provides central management services to Bell Punch and other companies in the group, and nearly 100 people engaged on research and development for another Lamson Industries company, Sumlock Anita Electronics Ltd.
The latter was formed quite recently to take over the Bell Punch Co.'s former activities in the field of calculating machines, another sphere in which they have been pioneers, having launched — in 1961 — the world's first electronic calculator.
To complete the count, as far as Bell Punch and Sumlock are concerned, there are 550 employed in the Sumlock factory at Portsmouth, mainly on the production of calculating machines, and a sales and service staff of 1,000 working for Sumlock Comptometer — which is responsible for the marketing of these — and Automaticket.
Bell Punch and Sumlock therefore account for around 3,000 — or just under a third — of the U.K. personnel of a group which also includes such famous names as Lamson Engineering, which makes the famous Lamson tubes, Lamson Paragon, whose business forms are used throughout the world, and Caribonum, who are foremost in the field of copying products such as typewrite ribbons and carbon papers.
Although there is no date on this booklet it must date from 1971-early 1973 since a photograph inside shows British decimal currency (new pence, dating from Feb. 15th 1971), and Lamson Industries sold Sumlock Anita in early 1973.
The Bell Punch Company & the Development of the Anita Calculator
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Text & photographs copyright © 2002 - 2023 Nigel Tout, except where noted otherwise.