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Thurston Engineering History

The History Behind Thurston Engineering

Thurston Engineering Ltd evolved from a business started by Eric Thurston in 1938 in a garage in The Lion Yard, Ongar, Essex.

Eric purchased a Boring Bar and other small pieces of equipment to mainly specialise in Engine Repairs. Being almost the first person in Essex to do this, he soon built up sufficient business to keep him more than occupied seven days a week, but soon after getting married in 1939, the war broke out with the result that he was called up into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in early 1940. He had established an agency with Wellworthy Ltd and continued to receive an allowance of pistons and bearings throughout the war.

Thurston Engineering Factory 1938

Eric was very soon engaged in motor engineering in the RAOC but in 1941 these activities were transferred to a new Regiment to be called the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). He was posted to Northampton to run a repair unit in "Groses" Garage. He was soon accepted for an Armament Artificer Vehicles Course at Aborfield in 1942, a very valuable course lasting 18 months covering the overhaul of Tanks and all their ancillary components including RR Merlin and Wright Radial Engines which powered a number of Tanks. He then operated a mobile workshop on the 2nd front Normandy landings, going through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany maintaining vehicles and equipment. He was then charged to run a workshop in Hanover maintaining Government vehicles with British and German labour.

This was to be very useful experience for when Eric was eventually discharged in 1946, he was able to re-establish his business in Ongar to overhaul all sizes of engines. With large stocks of pistons and bearings which were now very difficult to obtain, he was overwhelmed with work and was soon employing a number of engineers with good engine experience, thus the business expanded to what it is today - and over 60 years later Eric is still with us.

In 1948 Eric was able to purchase a company in Romford and take over their lease, retaining four staff and their machines, adding a Prince crankshaft grinder, thus enabling him to cover the Romford area customers without so much running about. This business evolved into a specialised engine machine shop which also became very busy.

An Apprentice Training Scheme was introduced in 1950, some of those trained have now retired, but we still have six of our original staff, thus we have managed to maintain the quality of the work for which we are well known. Colin Baldwin was one of the above, and is now General Manager.

By this time the two premises were no longer large enough to cater for the work so Eric managed to get a long lease on land at Hallsford Bridge in Stondon Road and by 1951 had built, with sub-contract labour, our present factory. It was over two years before the next factory was built on the estate which was at that time the Epping & Ongar Light Industrial Site.

Eric's flying activities led him into taking over the Maintenance Section of the Herts & Essex Aero Club which led to a contact with the Purchasing Manager of Napier Aircraft at Luton Airport. Full AID approval was obtained at Ongar with Eric as Chief Inspector, allowing us to carry out prototype machining for Napier and subsequently for The Bristol Aeroplane Company at Bristol Filton. The manufacturing approval was then extended to meet Air Registration Board (ARB) requirements when Eric could use his Aircraft Engineer's Licence to cover the overhaul of aircraft engines.

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