Around the same time that Reg was due to return to Elliott & Garrood, his brothers were in the process of setting up Claxton and Co. Ltd. at Ramsgate and persuaded him to join them there.
Claxton and Co. Ltd.
Brothers George and Ken had already been working in Ramsgate for several years at Divers & Hogben, a company which I believe the brothers bought out around 1920. They carried on with the same sort of work, much of which involved installing steam winches in the local trawler fleet. It wasn't long before their skills and competence were noticed by the Thames based tug firm William Watkins Ltd., who were at that time searching for a boat yard capable of refitting and repairing their tug fleet. They approached the brothers and with this new expansion, it was decided to form for the company Claxton’s & Co. Ltd. which officially took place on the 8th June 1922
George Claxton 10th July 1921
The new firm established itself at the harbour by overtaking the old coal store on the cross wall turning it into a machine workshop. This was very conveniently placed, as vessels could moor up right alongside. For more extensive work, the three slipways would be used were Claxtons also had their blacksmith shop. Their offices were housed in the clock house but were later relocated in arch number 24 under Military Road. Arches numbers 3, 6, 7, 23 and 28, were also used at various times for stores and small workshops etc.
One of their very first jobs and perhaps the most ambitious Claxtons undertook, was to shorten the steam tug “Hibernia” by 15 feet 6 inches. A job which occupied the Claxton workforce for around seven months and brought in around £3,000.
Reg Claxton 10th July 1921
Although most of the work came from Watkins, Claxton´s did many other jobs for other local businesses, from fishing trawlers to the Ramsgate harbour dredger. They even took on many land based jobs. Such as work for the local Water Board and doing maintenance on the miniature steam railway locomotives at Dreamland and the Harbour Railway at Margate.
Claxton’s revolutionised boiler cleaning, using their patented “Claxus” cleaning process and tool. Up until then, cleaning the scale off the boiler tubes had always been a difficult and time consuming job but this new tool made light work of it. In fact in some cases, after cleaning, the boiler would be as efficient as when it was new. It was also not uncommon for a two-furnace boiler to yield around 8 to 10 cwt. of scale.
The partnership with Watkins continued until it was decided in 1961 to move the repair work to Sheerness and this sadly meant the end for Claxton and Co. Ltd. due to the greatly reduced order book.
The war years
During the war, work went on almost unnoticed behind the harbour defences but in fact along with other local shipwrights they were keeping the local naval forces operational. Often working day and night to make sure our coast was always protected and on occasions not even stopping during air raids or under gunfire!
To show the extent of the work carried out by local shipwrights, during the war a total approaching 1,000 ships were repaired on the main slipway and slipways 2 and 3 which were built in 1943. This figure does not include the thousands of other repairs carried out on naval vessels in and around the harbour by local firms.
Had the enemy invaded, the harbour workers would have had another responsibility, to sabotage the slipway area, as well as making the capstans immobile by jamming pre made steel pins into them.
In Brixham, Charles was eventually joined at work by his youngest son Albert/Bert, who was born there in 1903. The Brixham branch of Elliott & Garrood closed in 1928 after most of the marine equipment in the area had been updated. After this they carried on their engineering services at a different location and in 1938 Bert became a partner in the newly formed Torbay Trawlers, Ltd. The family would itself own various trawlers throughout their lives. Without doubt the best documented of these being the “Master Hand”.
Model of the Master Hand at Lowestoft Maritime Museum
The author of the book “Sailing Trawlers” Edgar J. March came across the “Master Hand” while on a trip at Ramsgate, where she was awaiting the installation of a twin-screw motor. This work was of course carried out by Claxtons and it was George who gave Mr March permission to measure up the vessel, from which he made the many splendid drawings and sketches which appear in his book. The “Master Hand” arrived in Brixham on the 12th November 1946 after her refit.
Bert carried on working for Torbay Trawler, Ltd. up until his death in 1957, when the maritime links with Brixham were finally broken.
A little more about the family
Doing my research into the family has given me a little insight into the pastimes of people of the same generation as my grandfather and his brothers.
The family were great dog lovers and George loved watching greyhound racing, he probably held the attendance record at the Dumpton Park Greyhound Stadium, where he never missed a race meeting.
Reg was a keen model-maker and would exhibit his models in local model engineering exhibitions.
The picture above shows him with his working model of a vertical boiler and horizontal engine which he built in 1904-05 when he was just 16/17 years old. Everything was hand made right down to the 144 rivets in the boiler.
He was also the photographer in the family. Some of his photos will be added to this website at a later date.
Ken far left
When Ken moved to Ramsgate, he soon became involved in playing roller hockey for the local Ramsgate Rink Hockey and Skating Club. They played their home games at the County Roller Skating Rink which was situated on Dumpton Park Drive and now houses the Petticoat Lane Emporium.
When Ken was not playing roller hockey, he was looking after his poultry. He was often to be seen amongst the winners, when the Ramsgate Fur and Feather Society held their annual show at Artillery Drill Hall in the High Street (number 174).
Bert´s interests laid in the theatrical world. He belonged to the very successful Brixham Operatic and Drama Society (known locally as “Boads”), which were the first in the country to perform many of the big American musical productions. He was also a member of the local All Saints’ Church choir from a very early age.