Engineering a bright future as new era launches after 120 years down dock

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Mar 2019

A self-styled barometer of the area’s economy, Bacon Engineering, is preparing to rise again as it launches new premises and further expansion plans, 120 years on from its formation.

Once part of a fishing and marine engineering group that employed 1,000 people, directors behind the Grimsby business – chaired by Scunthorpe construction pioneer John Clugston – are gearing up for growth in fabrication and machining for traditional and emerging industries.

It has taken on Redhall Jex’s former site on South Humberside Industrial Estate, with a two-year plan to vacate the Kasbah and create an enlarged single base fit for a further century of service to the wider business community.  

David Bacon, a fifth generation involved in the firm as founder Edwin’s great, great grandson, said: “These are really exciting times. There is a lot of nostalgia and a lot of history about where we were, but the docks are not the thriving industrial heartland they used to be. We have moved with the times and we feel our time now is to be here. We are delighted to be here, surrounded by business and enterprise. We want to be part of that.” 

Currently serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, in a tri-service role based in Winchester, he completed work experience as a 15-year-old with the firm, and spent summers in the Hutton Road workshops.

“We are hoping for another 120 years from here on in,” he said. “It feels like a barometer of the economy of the town. It rose with the fishing industry and it fell with the fishing industry, survived when many didn’t, and now there are opportunities with offshore wind, something we are very keen to get involved with, to rise again with that. This is all the first step on that route.” 

Steve Cook, who became managing director five years ago, is the first non-Bacon to hold the role. He is now working up a £250,000 expansion of the new site.

“It is all coming together,” he said. “It is fantastic for us, for the workers here and the customers. Hopefully we will have the machine shop in the next 12 months. We are looking to extend and build on this site.

“We have always been involved in specialist fabrication, complementing the machine shop, but now we have the space we have developed the capacity and capability to deliver bigger installations. We have the accreditations in place to build platforms, gantries and other structural work, which is good for us after 120 years serving customers of Grimsby.”

Welcoming guests to the dual celebration, Mr Clugston, a director with son David, recounted the firm’s history, from trawlers to repairs, and the support of the war effort at the launch. His mother was a Bacon, having grown up in what became the Conservative Club on Grimsby’s Bargate.

He told how founder Edwin,  pictured right, made his way to the town having run off to sea from an Essex farming family, starting his working life sailing to and from Hamburg, learning how to read and write in his cabin before entering the fishing industry, working his way up to skipper, then trawler owner.

E Bacon and Co was formed in 1899, and at one point 18 different trades covered all aspects of dock work. It now completes projects for operators as diverse as Grimsby Fish Market and ​Cristal. 

“Fast forward 120 years and we are now here in more modern and up-to-date premises,” Mr Clugston said. “We are investing in new machinery and equipment to lead us into the future, expanding the business and supporting the needs of our customers, be it large scale production of precision works or one-off bespoke machining. 

“We can now deliver on high-end fabrication with all the quality assurances.” 

Business leaders rubbed shoulders with civic figures, including Grimsby MP Melanie Onn and North East Lincolnshire Council chief executive Rob Walsh.

Toasting the next 120 years, Ms Onn said: “It is a proper Grimsby story of battling against the odds, establishing themselves and wanting to do better, not only creating a smashing family business but giving something back to the community too.

“It is great to see Bacon moving on, moving from the 19th century to the 21st century and hoping to improve links with the new, emerging offshore wind sector we are so proud of hosting, with all the opportunity that comes with it.” 

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