William Gray Replicas Ltd.
William Gray Replicas Ltd. (WGR) was established as “Antique Merchants” in June 1973, by a firm of Solicitors in City Road London. The business had a share capital of £1,000, with Bill Gray, Jim Carrick and Arthur Hull as directors. Jim was Company Secretary and the registered office was initially in Lovatt Lane, Eastcheap. The company was incorporated that August; with the directors as equal shareholders; and the registered address transferred to Coventry House, South Place, London EC2.
The first employee was Paul Hayashi, who was later to become Arthur’s son-in-law. Paul Hayashi, together with another employee, “Phil”, were responsible for finishing and polishing components and for casting the lead weights.
A brochure was produced to promote the clock. This showed the key features of the clock and a clockmaker (actually Dave Kempston an IPD as a turner) assembling the clock from a stock of parts.
The project received a lot of publicity, when the Luton News reported, on July 4th 1974, the presentation of a William Gray Lantern Clock by the retiring Chairman of the Engineering Industries Association, Jim Yates; to Arnold Beaumont, also retiring from active office in the EIA. The article credits “A superb 1720 Lantern Clock in Luton Museum” with the potential to bring big business to “jovial Bill Gray”. The article is illustrated with a picture of Jim Yate, presenting a William Gray Replicas clock to Arnold Beaumont. The article also includes the information that the replicas were £300 each, and were being produced at a rate of 5 per week in the “Gloucester Road premises of William Gray Ltd”.
The article also credits Jim Carrick “a keen horologist for many years” with spending “more than 12 months researching manufacturing Methods and studying Lantern Clocks to ensure authenticity”. As well as extolling the virtues of the replica’s use of “Brass cuttings (sic), taper pins, wedges instead of screws and hand engraving”, the article repeats an assertion in the WGR brochure; that the bell “has been made by the same expert London firm who made them for the original 1720 clocks”.
The company then placed a full-page advert in the Sunday Times in order that this newspaper would also run an article on the Lantern Clock. The clocks were initially sold in the UK through Harrods, Mappin & Webb and Dent (under the Dent name); and also, to countries around the world, especially in the Middle East.
Although the standard replica lantern clocks were said to be sold by retailers for up to £1,000, the price paid to WGR was actually as little as £250. This squeeze was passed on to the IPD business; which could not cover the costs of the manufactured, at the transfer prices being paid by WGR. Thus, resentment grew over the cost of Jim’s sales visits to London; and over the parking tickets that he was incurring, whilst he was there.
Arthur Hull resigned form WGR in September 1974 and his shares were re-assigned to Jim and Bill. In June 1975, the Horological Journal announced a new clock company: Belah Engineering Co formed in Luton. at 1a Newcombe Road, Luton by “Arthur Hull, a former director of William Gray Ltd.” This trade announcement stated that “Due to demand it has now produced an 8-day longcase movement in the old traditional style, which is aimed at the reproduction case makers who are using imported movements. Other movements are being contemplated and should be on offer later in the year.” In an interesting choice of words this announcement stated that “It (Belah Eng. Co.) claims since its formation to have successfully supplied the clock trade and restorers with long case spares and other parts.”
The HJ also carried an advert for the Belah Engineering Co. offering “LONG CASE MOVEMENTS 8 Day movement gut line, weight driven, rack striking. 8 Day movement time piece only, gut line, weight driven strike-on-passing. The above movements are a copy of early London type with straight cut teeth, crossed out wheels, brass pendulum bob, lead filled brass weights, tunnel pillars & pulleys”
However the December issue of the Horological Journal that year announced the Closure of business of Belah Engineering Co.
In 1977 Bill Gray resigned from the Board of WGR, and his shares were re-assigned to Dora and Richard Carrick; Jim’s son and wife, respectively. Jim and Dora relocated from Luton to Little Brickhill Buckinghamshire shortly afterwards; and in 1982, the business was renamed “James Carrick Ltd.”