The History of Blundell Harling

Blundell Harling was an offshoot of Blundell Brothers (Luton) Limited, a family firm established in 1852 as drapers and furnishers in Luton. Since about 1922 its activities included felt-hood manufacture for the hat industry and a dyeworks; during the 1939-1945 War, these activities had to be restricted but a machine shop was opened in order to supply machined components for the then Ministry of Supply.

At the end of hostilities, it was imperative to develop other types of manufacture if the Machine Shop was not to be closed down. Blundell Brothers therefore obtained permission from the Ministry to divert four key workers for experimentation in the manufacture of slide rules. Slide rules were chosen because not only was the machinery suitable for such diversification but also nearly all slide rules had been manufactured for years in Germany.

By 1948 sufficient progress had been made to form a separate company named Blundell Rules Limited, although manufacture continued in the same premises owned by the parent company, just outside Luton. Progress was very slow and difficult in those first years, partly because of lack of technical know-how and partly because of the re-building of factories damaged by German bombs. By 1955 however, the company had fully developed its own manufacturing techniques and was beginning to satisfy a limited market. It was also beginning to make specialised instruments for Government departments.

This was just in time, because the parent company was taken over in 1955 and Blundell Rules Limited was served with notice to vacate its premises. Rather than close down, two or three of the principals were anxious to move away from Luton and the Midlands, where large industries had first call on skilled and semi-skilled labour. Five members of Blundell Rules decided to sever relations with the parent company and throw in their lot with this new venture.

Weymouth was selected in consultation with the Board of Trade, and Weymouth Corporation offered a site on their small industrial estate. A factory was built and the company moved into it in January 1956. At first, approximately twelve employees from Luton agreed to relocate and about thirty people from Weymouth were trained. From then the company developed stage by stage. By 1963 it had secured a place as a manufacturer of quality slide rules, scales and associated specialist instruments – many for the Government and technical colleges. All these were equal in quality to the best produced by long-established German companies.

In January 1964 the company purchased the assest of W H Harling Limited of Clapton, makers of high quality brass drawing instruments, mahogony T-squares etc. The growing range of drawing office and specialist products ushered in a period of considerable growth for the company, necessitating the employment and training of many more local people.

The 1970’s saw a decline of the slide rule – replaced by the electronic calculator. The company’s attention was directed at further product development, drawing stands, parallel motion units and boards.

Another fast growing area was that of Navigation instruments for off-shore sailing.

In 1986 the company acquired the freehold of a site on the Granby Industrial Estate in Weymouth and built and equipped a modern factory of 31,000 sq ft in order to handle all metal-fabrication operations and board making. This opened in May 1987 and continues to manufacture high quality drawing equipment, navigational instruments, promotional products, furniture and bespoke products.