A History of
Shawcraft was the company commissioned to fabricate the original Dalek props for Doctor Who (and the two Dalek movies) throughout most of the 1960s. However, Shawcraft’s work for the BBC is just a small part of their story.
To understand how Shawcraft came into being and what motivated their early work, it is important to understand a little about the backgrounds of the three individuals who started the company.
Reg Haynes had previously had a career as an army aircraft recognition instructor. He was also a talented artist who regularly submitted cartoons to aviation magazines.
Stan Wilkins was ex-RAF and had previously been employed as a tool maker.
Bill Roberts, originally from Penydarren, Merthyr, Wales moved to Southall before the start of WWII and had enjoyed a career as an aircraft engineer, working for Miles Aircraft.
All three had their roots firmly in aviation and the military. With this type of experience, it was easy for them get jobs after the war, working for Woodason Aircraft Models, a company set up in the 1930s and run by master model maker Victor Woodason (1904-1964).
Bill Roberts (centre) at the gates of the Shawcraft workshops, leaning on a familiar friend.
Woodason Aircraft Models was based at Heston Airport, Hounslow and this is where Reg, Bill and Stan met and began to learn their trade as aviation modellers. By 1947 Bill Roberts had decided it was time to move on and set up a workshop of his own in his private garage, in Southall, west London. Not long after, Reg Haynes and Stan Wilkins followed, teaming up with Roberts to form Shawcraft Models, registered at companies house as company number 590084.
Reading between the lines, it would seem that the parting with Woodasons was amicable. Woodason moved their business, around 1950, to a garage at Victor Woodason’s new private address – 604, London Road, Langley. This was directly opposite the Ford Motor Company’s van works. It is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that when Ford came looking for model makers to produce miniature versions of their latest cars, they would enquire across the road at Woodasons, who would in turn recommend Shawcraft as likely candidates for the work. More on this later.
The three’s previous experience making model aircraft, and the contacts they had established while working at Woodason’s, meant that aviation modelling was an obvious choice for the newly established company's focus.
As Shawcraft began to expand, it became apparent that their premises were too small and larger workshops were rented near Iver station. These comprised of an old carpenter’s shop, found through estate agent Alfred King. This shop had originally been used to produce doors and window frames during the construction of Richings Park.
The 90ft by 25ft workshop was made from weatherboard and sported a tarred, fibre ridge roof. In order to create some space for storage, the floor of the first 60 feet of the workshop was raised by around 4 feet on brick pillars. This created an underfoot space in which moulds, patterns and raw materials could be safely stored. This area was also the home to a growing population of rats that would often invade the workshop during the night.
The rear of the workshop was converted into a wood mill where large sections of bulk timber were machined to suit the various projects going on in the main workshop. The task of milling and preparing the timber was given to Barry Edwards, the nephew of Bill's wife Anne and an ex-Hurricane pilot who had fought in the Battle Of Britain.