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Manufacturers Index - Wadkin Ltd.
Last Modified: May 30 2016 3:34PM by Jeff_Joslin
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In 1897 Joseph William Wadkin (1862-1919), along with seven workers, established a company to manufacture his newly invented pattern miller. A note-paper is still in existence dated 1898. This note-paper is headed with an illustration of his London Street, Leicester factory. Wadkin & Co. is first recorded in Wright’s Leicester Directory for 1900.

By 1904 Mr. Wadkin was making a range of single purpose machines for pattern shops in addition to the pattern milling machine. He took out a U.K. patent in 1901 and a U.S.A patent in 1907 for a machine he described as a “Mechanical Woodworker” which could do any operation in “Pattern Work also Joinery and cabinet work” outside conventional ripping, planing and thicknessing, due to its universal spindle and table movement. A number of post cards are still in existence which he sent to members of his family from Brussels, Cologne, Basel and St. Petersburg between 1906 and 1909 whilst travelling on business. In the one from St. Petersburg in 1906, he comments “I have just seen the Villa where at a reception by the Minister of the interior, 23 people were blown up by a bomb. The Minister escaped but his daughter was killed. The centre of the Villa is a total wreck. This happened on a Saturday afternoon just before I arrived”.

Wadkin & Co. evidently promoted their mechanical woodworker over a wide area of Europe and the USA. The American franchise was given to the Oliver Machinery Company, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1908. There is an illustrated article in the May 1909 issue of The Foundry describing the machine in considerable detail, which concludes "this machine is made by Wadkin & Co., Evington Engineering Works, Leicester, England, and is sold by the Oliver Machinery Company Grand Rapids Michigan U.S.A." Wadkin was probably the first U.K woodworking machinery maker to actually promote sales of U.K woodworking machinery in the States and in Russia.

Joesph Wadkin is shown in Wright's Leicester Directory as being in Partnership by 1900 with Densil John Jarvis, who was married to Wadkin's sister. Mr Jarvis is shown in late 19th Century directories as a shop fitter and builder of shop fronts for which he had his own company D. J. Jarvis and Co. By 1908 this partnership was dissolved and Joseph Wadkin left the Company which he had founded and went into Partnership with Thomas Scott-King. They patented a new machine to "produce irregular forms which will stand relative to all other single function wood working machines as the universal milling machine stands to all other metal working machines". This machine was substantially similar in its outline to the present day Wadkin WX pattern milling machine.

In 1912 Densil Jarvis was lost in the Titanic disaster and the ownership of the original small Wadkin Company passed into other hands who built the Company up to be one of the world’s leaders in woodworking machinery.

Whilst Joseph Wadkin offered his machine with attachments for many varied operations, it was probably always mostly sold to pattern shops and shipbuilders. As a consequence Wadkin’s customers were not primarily woodworkers, but engineers who well understood machinery. For the first time therefore, woodworking machinery had to be built to satisfy engineers and this was the start of woodworking machinery built to machine tool standards. In retrospect this was probably more important to the long term interest of the industry than the invention of the pattern miller. Joseph Wadkin with Thomas Scott-King started a company in Nottingham known as Wadkin Mills, which after his death from pneumonia in March 1919 was sold to his original company.

Following Densil Jarvis's death in the Titanic disaster the small Wadkin company was taken over by J. Wallis-Goddard, a manufacturing chemist in Leicester. Mr Goddard’s eldest son, Joseph Holland Goddard. had emigrated to America via Canada, and was in the process of becoming an American citizen when his father invited him to return to England and manage the Wadkin Company. The invitation was accepted and until 1927 when J. W. Goddard died, the Wadkin letter heading showed the father and son as partners. Within two years after J. H. Goddard had taken over the management from Denzil Jarvis in 1912, the FIrst World War broke out. J. H. Goddard immediately joined up. He was commissioned and served the whole length of the War as a despatch rider in France. In the meantime the business was managed by senior employees. He returned to full management in 1919 to find the Company with enormous order books quite beyond their limited production capacity. Sub-contractors were use to cope with the immediate situation; one supplier was Preston Woodworking Machinery Co. of Canada. The two Goddards planned and built a new factory at Green Lane Road, Leicester. The factory was equipped with the latest single purpose machine tools for batch production. By 1922 the backlog following the First World War was gone, and in 1923 J. H. Goddard started on a world tour to set up agents and build a more substantial export business for their U.K. machines, the principal one of which the pattern miller. The range included one or two specialist machines, such as the wood propeller shaper developed during the War, and a range of single purpose basic woodworking machines. This tour encircled the world and makes selling history because of its mammoth duration without his return, lasting two and a half years. The first country to be visited was India in November 1923. This was followed by visits to Ceylon, Singapore. Java, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan, Canada and the U.S.A. Some of the countries particularly Australia and New Zealand, were visited more than once. Agencies would be set up, machines ordered for stock from the U.K and then the country would be revisited to ensure that the stock was satisfactory and sales were being made. The last report from Mr. Goddard is dated April 1926 and was written from New York prior to sailing to England. He was back again in Canada and the U.S.A by September 1926, checking up on the agents performance and attending the Foundry Convention in Detroit, where the pattern miller was on show. He returned to England in January 1927 after selling several pattern millers during the final U.S.A visit.


Besides the manuals available under the "Publications" tab (above), the A. L. Dalton website has a selection of Wadkin manuals.

Information Sources

  • Two hundred years of history and Evolution of Woodworking Machinery By William L. Sims