Talk – Tuesday 12th January 2016, ‘Syphons Made in Sussex’
This talk was a combination of the background to this largely unknown Eastbourne soda water syphon manufacturer and David’s five year engineering apprenticeship leading up to becoming a member of the I.Mech.E.
The British Syphon Company was founded in 1882 and based in Islington N1 up until 1957 when it moved to new premises in Hampden Park on the outskirts of Eastbourne
The firm immediately took on two apprentices in August 1957, so David and a fellow student from the Eastbourne Technical School, in its last year before closure, started a training period in the drawing office and on the shop floor. David outlined the comprehensive apprenticeship scheme undertaken which later included responsibility for all the tool and cutter grinding for which week-long courses at PERA in Melton Mowbray assisted. The range of syphon filling and bottling machines was covered including the responsibility of the drawing office to provide clear assembly and detail drawings for the shop floor, and which also included the compilation of instruction manuals and spares lists.
There was an attempt to diversify into cough mixture filling machines and petrol station forecourt tank level meters, but both met with limited success.
The new cooling and dispense range, marketed under the Coldflow name, was based on the existing Cornelius products made in the USA, and required the company to expand into additional premises in the Eastbourne area. Much effort and experimentation had to be put into the increasing use of EN58F stainless steel in this new range so additional machine
In due course, their main customer Schweppes identified a need for refrigerated counter units to dispense soft drinks such as Pepsi-Cola, so BSC embarked on a new range of cooling units which obviously involved a lot of new designs and development.
This was a useful new range, as sales of syphons, some of which are shown opposite, were declining with the advent of the new Sparklets version from rival firm BOC.
Tools had to be bought in including those for broaching, spot welding and vacuum forming. The business built up, especially the export market which was already strong with the Riley bottling machines, these having been supplied to all parts of the Empire in the 1900s. After David had left BSC to join Edwards High Vacuum, this expansion attracted the attention of a rival company based in Sheffield and there was a merger so creating a bigger concern, which itself was the subject of a takeover by IMI Cornelius. So eventually Coldflow, as it was now called closed the Eastbourne operation in 1990 after 33 years in the town and the building became an indoor Kart Racing centre. In due course this leisure activity folded and it is now home to Eastbourne Car Auctions, a far cry from engineering manufacture.