The History Of Hoffmann Bearings




Hoffmann Bearings

Hoffmann Bearings History

The United Kingdom's first ball bearing factory was established at New Street and Rectory Lane in Chelmsford in 1898 by cousins Geoffrey and Charles Barrett and bankrolled by American ball bearing machine manufacturer Ernst Gustav Hoffmann from whom the Company took its name.

The Hoffmann Manufacturing Company rapidly expanded and soon achieved worldwide fame for their precision-made bearings boasting accuracy better than 1/10,000 of an inch (2.5 micrometres) for all their products.

Hoffmann bearings were later used in the first transatlantic flights and extensively on machinery during World War I. For many years it was Chelmsford's main employer with more employees than the nearby Marconi Company.


Motor Vehicles

Since the early 1900s when cars were first manufactured in England Hoffmann supplied all the major manufacturers including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Austin, Riley and many more.

Hoffmann Bearings advert from 1909    Hoffmann Bearings Advert From 1931

Aircraft Industry & The War Effort

Hoffmann supplied the Aircraft Industry throughout both great wars. Standard types of bearings were usually suitable for most aircraft needs, but special bearings had to be developed for some special duties such as control pulleys, hinges and so forth which required small bearings, difficult to protect and lubricate.

A special series was made by Hoffmann to meet these needs. This series of bearings had metal shields on each side to protect the working surfaces and retain grease.

In one type, which was self-aligning, the shields maintained constant clearances with the inner race at any position of alignment.

Aircraft Mechanics fitting Hoffmann Bearings    There were over 1,000 Hoffmann bearings in a WW2 Spitfire fighter's Rolls Royce Merlin engine

During World War II The Hoffman Bearings factory was attacked from the air on several occasions, both by aircraft of the Luftwaffe and by missile. This was because the Hoffman  Bearing factory was a big part of the war effort, supplying bearings for countless applications. This obviously made it a key target.

The worst single loss of life took place on Tuesday 19 December 1944, when a V2 rocket fell on Henry Road near the Hoffman factory. Thirty-nine people were killed and 138 injured, 47 seriously.  Several dwellings in Henry Road were completely destroyed, and many in nearby streets were badly damaged.

The firm became Ransome Hoffmann and Pollard (R.H.P.) after the amalgamation with the Ransome and Marles Bearing Company together with the Pollard Ball and Roller Bearing Company in 1969.

The factory that once employed 7500 employees over 50 acres (20 ha) in its heyday was wound down during the 1980s and finally closed for good on 23 December 1989.

The Hoffmann Manufacturing Company: Timeline

  • • 1892 Hoffmann patents a ball lathe

  • • 1897 Geoffrey Barrett and Charles Barrett persuade Hoffmann to come to the UK

  • • 1898 Build works at New Street, Chelmsford

  • • 1901 Single thrust bearing patented.

  • • 1903 Hoffmann left the company

  • • 1908 Roller bearings produced

  • • 1911 Electrical Exhibition. Ball and roller bearings.

Hoffmans Workers 1914
Women working at Hoffmann's ball bearings factory in Chelmsford, 1914 (Frederick Roberts Collection, Anglia Ruskin University, held at ERO)

  • • 1920 Employing 4,750 persons

  • • 1938 Open a factory for aerospace bearings at Stonehouse, Gloucestershire

• 1939 - 1945

Hoffmann Bearings War Effort:
Moral Boosting Posters Campaign

Hoffmann Bearings War Effort: Moral Boosting Posters Campaign