General Notes on the Norris Family.
A most unusual family, of six boys and two girls. Father was a Gas Engineer in charge of the Burgess Hill, Sussex, Gas Works. One of the brothers, Philip, was a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain and was unfortunately killed in action. Four of the others became engineers and one an accountant. Both Leslie, a Civil Engineer, and Eric, an accountant, also served in the forces during World War ll. Leslie being decorated for valor and Eric serving in the North African and Italian campaigns. Walter, the eldest followed their father into Gas Engineering.
Lewis H. Norris, C.Eng., AMIMech.E.
Lew Norris (1924-2009)
|LEWIS (LEW) HUNT NORRIS, C.Eng., M.I.Mech.E.|
One of the founding directors of Norris Brothers Ltd., of Haywards Heath, Sussex, Lew is probably most famous as the co-chief designer of Donald Campbell’s world record breaking ‘Bluebird’ hydroplane and car which are still, 50 years after their design, the only vehicles to break both world records in the same year. He became involved with Donald Campbell, after narrowly escaping from Burma during the communist take- over, when he did some design work for a woodworking machinery manufacturer in which Donald was a major shareholder.
Lew was the youngest of six brothers and two sisters, children of the engineer in charge of the gas works in Burgess Hill, Sussex. Four of the brothers became qualified engineers in different disciplines, one an accountant, and one was killed in the Battle of Britain. In 1953 Lew, now a marine engineer with his brothers Eric, the accountant, and Ken, an aeronautical engineer, set up Norris Brothers Ltd., an engineering design consultancy. The company became probably the most diverse and innovative of its type. Apart from the ‘Bluebirds’ they were responsible for many original concepts, which, most famously included the automatic seat belt fitted to all cars today. Had they been less trusting of others they would have become wealthy on this alone, but they were cheated out of the patent rights. Other noteworthy ‘firsts’ were air supported buildings, a rotary engine for motorcycles, a high gap micro-switch which became an industry standard under the ‘Pye’ name, a concrete pump, what became the ‘go-kart’, and a number of others.
As the company grew, Lew realised that design alone would not make much money, so whilst Ken concentrated on the more esoteric aspects of the business, he developed the manufacturing side.
The first product was a ball valve made under a joint-venture agreement with the Worcester Valve Company of Massachusetts, U.S.A. This was eventually bought out by a major British conglomerate, but not before Lew and his team had developed a control system which he licensed to Worcester in the U.S., and became its Vice-President. Despite Worcester Valve U.K. being vastly smaller than its competitors it became, and still is, a market leader. Initially this was through Lew introducing management and computer systems long before they became a ‘must have’. Subsequently he developed and patented the ‘Flotronic’ pump renowned for its ease of maintenance in the process industries. Other companies designed and produced spool valves, packaging machinery, lift trucks and explosion proof boxes.
Success brought a good income and Lew moved to Alderney from where he piloted his own twin-engine aircraft across to Shoreham until he was nearly 75. He then relocated to Hove in Sussex and remained active in his companies until ill health prevented him. Despite their major contribution to engineering in the U.K., he and his brother Ken were never honoured by their country. He died peacefully on Friday 13th. February, and leaves a widow Beryl and three daughters, Jane, Sara and Lucinda. His funeral will take place on Wednesday 25th February. Any donations should be to the RNLI.
Kenneth W. Norris, Bsc(Eng), ACGI, FRAeS, CEng, FIMechE.
Ken Norris (1921-2005)
|Kenneth (Ken) William Norris, B.Sc., A.C.G.I., F.I.Mech.E., F.R.Ae.S., Freeman of the City of Coventry.
One of Britain’s most innovative, but largely unrecognised, engineers died last Saturday, (Oct.1st.), peacefully in bed at 3.15 a.m.
Further information from Donald Stevens 01580 720367
Photograph by kind permission of Donald Stevens
|Paul Evans was seconded from the 24th Signal regiment at Catterick Garrison where he was an instructor on Aerial theory and general communications. He spent from the end of November 1966 thru to the 6th of January 1967 with Donald, remaining after the 4th of January, to pack up the communications equipment, and assist in searching the Water for Donalds Body. On the recording of Donalds last run, Paul was "base" and received the message "complete accident i'm afraid" His son sent in the great picture here of Paul in the cockpit of K7. Paul was at Coniston for the recovery, along with Tony Robinson.
Paul passed away on the 11th January 2011 after a long illness.
|Don then||Don now!|
Don Woolley is the last surviving member of Donald Campbell’s team which claimed the World Water Speed Record at Ullswater in July 1955 and later at Lake Mead in the USA.
Born in Derby in 1927, he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 15 and developed a love of the sea which remains with him to this day. His interest in mechanics, particularly engines, led him to build his own garage and small engineering business. Don became involved in the Bluebird venture through a chance remark made to Leo Villa. While staying overnight at Leo’s house he was shown drawings of Campbell’s new Bluebird and ventured to express the opinion that it might have a problem with water being taken into the air intakes. This proved to be the case and Leo remembering their conversation, sent for him to help fix the problem. This he did and he became a member of the highly successful team. To the public at large, Don was probably best remembered as being the guy who dived fully clothed into Lake Mead in order to secure a rope to the sinking Bluebird and finished up in hospital.
His love affair with boats continued after Bluebird. He built his own two masted ketch which he sailed single handed around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean . Only recently has he felt compelled to give up his boat. Don has three sons, a daughter and four grandchildren. He now spends much of his time on holidays and commuting between his bungalow in Disley and Dronfield Derbyshire.
I was sent this:-
"In the early 1960s I was a fettler on the Australian Commonwealth Railways and was working in the Town of Marree in South Australia as the railway’s Road Master’s clerk. At this time the English race-car driver, Mr Donald Campbell was in Australia, he was about to try and break the world land speed record in his famous car The Bluebird, which he was going to do on the dry lake-bed of Lake Eyre. When he and his car reached the railhead at Marree they found that there was no-one on the station staff who were experienced enough in the handling of such large loads, so I and a couple of other fettlers who had prior experience in acting as dog-men volunteered to help. To cut a long story short, we succeeded in unloading his car and Donald was very pleased, so he invited the three of us over to the Marree Pub for a few drinks. We had a very pleasant time. Sometime during this session I asked him if he would give me his autograph, which he agreed to do. No-one had any writing paper with them so I gave him a Marree Cricket Club membership ticket and he wrote his autograph on the back of that for me. I told him the names of my children, and then wrote the following:"
James Bendall and Sons
Alan Dodds sent me this information:
In May 1955 the firm of James Bendall and Sons, Carlisle had an enquiry for new panels to be made for Bluebird. George Bendall went to see the job and measure it up. On his return he told charge hand panelbeater Archie Scott to make two panels for the rear of Bluebird to his measurements. I at this time was an 18 year apprentice serving my time with Archie. Having made the panels in the workshop we went to Ullswater to see the Bluebird. On meeting Leo Villa he showed us where they were to fit, they only required minor adjustment. Villa was shocked as he said in all his experience he'd never seen anyone measure a job up like Mr. Bendall !! He then told Archie if he could work off measure ments like that, then would he make other panels required by them. So I worked helping Archie to make panels for the front and sponsons for the next two weeks at Glenridding. I welded the panels, and made the arms to hold the pitot heads while assisting with the larger panels. While at Glenridding we worked with the Bluebird team, met Donald and his wife also Lady Campbell his mother. Archie and the Bodyshop manager John Kenning came to Carlisle from Dumfries where they both had worked for Arrol Johnston (they went bust about 1928) In 1927 Arrol Johnston built a Bluebird car for Sir Malcolm Campbell, Both Archie and John were involved with the car bodywork. Therefore when we were working at Glenridding Archie and Leo could swap stories. I myself while working on Bluebird had a try in the cockpit during a quiet dinner hour! Hope this is of interest to you, Alan Dodds"