Power and Production

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Architects: G. Grenfell Baines and H. J. Reifenberg ◦ Theme Convener: C. J. Whitcombe
Display Designer: Warnett Kennedy and Associates

Our native skills and the minerals of our island made us the first workshop of the world. Industry is now our lifeline.

It was in Britain that the machine age was born. It came from the well-timed union of outstanding discoveries of new sources of power with the mechanical genius that could harness them. Such men as Watt, Faraday and Kelvin had their counterparts in Newcomen, Whitworth, Parsons and many others – practical men who could think through their fingers. Together they gave the world power, illumination and machine manufacture, and they brought the metals fully into the service of man.


The development of power from coal, and from the force of water, is the subject of the Exhibition of Industrial Power in Glasgow. In this Pavilion we are concerned only with the part of the story that shows the conversion of the latent power in coal into energy for factories, cities, farms and homes throughout the land.

A modem power station enshrines the contributions of the masters of the past. On the grates of the boilers the coal is burnt, and steam – the force whose mastery Watt begun – is raised to turn the turbine rotor blades. The turbine is the monument of Parsons, and drives the alternator which, by the undying genius of Faraday, generates electric power.

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But electricity produces light as well as power. Whenever you switch it on, you tap the mind of Faraday.

This country has itself made the pace in developing several sources of light in turn – oil, gas, and then the incandescent lamp which Swan showed first in Newcastle in 1878. Now it is discharge tube lighting that holds the field – a source preferable for many purposes to the incandescent lamp because it produces virtually no shadows and is relatively cold. Such lighting, which was first commonly seen as neon signs in shopping streets, derived from the academic studies of Ramsay and Rayleigh at the turn of the century. Now it is being developed fast to give the nearest substitute we know for daylight.

At first, with improved light it was sufficient of a wonder that such brightness and convenience should be possible. Now it is the practice to study the placing and intensity of the light directly in relation to the men and women working by it. Already we know that improvements in this field have marked effects upon industrial production and in reducing fatigue in the operatives themselves. The basic knowledge now is ours; its application rests with the proper placing of the sources of light and with the right design for fittings.

Metals and man

The British have grown up always with metal in their hands. The very structure of our civilisation is metallic.

How iron is extracted from its ores, and how the metals are alloyed in all variety, was told in the previous Pavilion. How scientists are prying into the inner secrets of the metals structure and using their knowledge more exactly to control their properties, is shown in the Science Exhibition in South Kensington. Here, we are concerned with metal as food for our factories – how large bulks of it are manipulated into smaller shapes so that the engineers can work their will upon it.

The highlights of the story are caught in full-sized coloured photographs. The huge ingot, like a glowing monster sugarloaf, is taken to the cogging mill; and then the process of turning it into useful shapes and sizes begins between giant rollers. Later, the metal is passed on to other shops where, heated again, it may be rolled out into rails or heavy bars, or forged in great machines which do titanic blacksmiths work. It may be extruded through holes and pulled out into rods or wire, or melted and poured off again into moulds of special shape. The results are all materials ready for the engineer to use.

The whereabouts of industry

Our main industries derive directly from our land, so they have grown up where the raw materials lie – iron by the ore-beds of Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, steel near the coal, textiles where the climate is exactly right, and shipbuilding where the coastline favours it. Labour has come and bred beside these works until there are human hives around our industries.

But industry is not just raw materials and work; it is cogged in firmly with the economic system of the world. So, in the past, when there has been material and labour ready there has not always been the call for work. In spite, then, of the peoples need and willingness to labour, in spite of the generosity of the land, these erstwhile hives of industry at times have lapsed into idle, hungry towns-areas of acute distress.

The solution has been in the replanting of the distribution of industry so that new and profitable work is brought to where the people live. The heavy industries must stay tied to the locality of one, at least, of their raw materials. The lighter industries, however, can be located near the great centres of our population, and this is the principle of the planned development in operation here to-day. These lighter industries, being very varied, can be balanced so that useful work is there for all sections of the population.

So, just as parts of our population have sometimes got out of step with each other, sometimes the harmony between the people and the land has developed an ugly period. We are resolving one of these now.

The make-up of industry

The core of industry is, of course, the operative controlling his machine and the craftsman at his bench. The way in which he carries out his job, however, is the result of knowledge and experience directed upon him from a number of special sources.

These sources, in the corporate structure of modern industry, are: research, design, inspection and management.

Research for industry

Many of the outstanding advances in our industry have been due to pure scientific research done for its own sake. This is part of the story in the Dome of Discovery. But, in these days, scientists also play a full-time role in modem industry to solve current problems and to provide fundamental knowledge on which new developments can be built.

A number of industrial concerns have scientific staffs of their own. But so many problems are common to whole industries that so-called Industrial Research Associations have been formed to carry out research for them. There are now 40 of them in the British Isles.

Examples of these Research Associations contribution to industry are taken from the widely different subjects of dyestuffs, footwear, metals and flour.


Everything that is manufactured must first be designed. It is in the drawing office that the idea in the mind of the designer takes visual shape, and all the products of contemporary industry are born. They may be complex, as in a motor car, or relatively simple, like a gas cooker.

But even the design of a simple appliance must be based on research, the designer must know precisely what he has to cater for. In the case of the gas cooker he must know, for example, the height of the average housewife, the sizes of the ordinary range of cooking vessels and the heating value of the gas itself, which must control the design of the burner. As well as all this, the cooker must be easy to clean, have enough space to store baking tins, and it must look as well as possible.

For industrial design to be good it must include – efficiency in use, good appearance, the best use of materials and workmanship, economy in production and ease of maintenance.

Testing ensures quality

Britain still leads the world in quality. This is largely maintained through products being tested at several stages in their manufacture.

20160315 60As a raw material, cotton yarn, for example, is tested for strength, oil for viscosity, and timber for moisture. The various components of a composite finished product must also be tested – cloth for wear, for instance, or radio valves and loudspeakers for full efficiency before they are assembled into the wireless set. Many machines and instruments have been designed in this country to cut out the element of human error in testing.


Although only a few of the components of industry have so far been mentioned, it must be clear that, in so complex an organisation, there must be a nerve centre that co-ordinates the activities of all the parts. This is management. It ensures production efficiency by arranging a smooth flow of materials, fuel, products and man-power. It is responsible for the layout within the factory-the dispositions of plant, lighting, colour and safety. Policy, accounting office routine, marketing, welfare and labour relations are also the responsibilities of management.

The man, the process and the machine

No amount of effort given to research, testing and management, however, can replace the operatives and the craftsmen at the hub of the whole industrial machine. To their work the main hall of this Pavilion is devoted. In layout, it gives the impression of a symbolic factory.

Machines that make machinery

In the metal-working shops are born the machines that serve all the other industries – machines that take a vast number of different forms. Here, three machine tools can be seen at work.

Probably the most familiar machine in any shop is a lathe. A 16-in. general-purpose high-speed lathe is shown here. As a more specialised tool of industry, a boring machine designed and produced in 1950 is displayed. The third example is a gear hobbing machine capable of cutting the teeth of gear wheels from six to sixty inches in diameter. In addition to these three exhibits a number of products of the metalworking industries are shown.

Here, then, are the machines that help to make production machinery, examples of which are shown further down the same hall – plastic-moulding machines, textile machines, machines for packaging, polishing, printing and brush-making.

Six British industries

So far the Power and Production story has passed through various parts of industry. From here the visitor is invited to see how many processes performed in sequence go to make the whole.

For this display six groups of British industries have been selected: woodworking, rubber and plastics, glass, textiles, pottery and the story of paper-making and printing.

Machines at work

In the centre of this Pavilion are a dozen machines, each the most modem of its kind. They are all working, and each comes from a different industry. Together, they show something of the diverse problems which are overcome by British engineers.

Where the craftsmen cannot be replaced

Machines, such as those displayed in the main hall of this Pavilion, make mass-production possible, and mass-production is the target of most industries to-day. But there are some trades where the craftsman cannot be replaced and in many of these the British craftsmen are pre-eminent.

The products speak for themselves in quality, and the world will pay their special price. But there is rare quality also in the motions of the craftsman; to watch him is to see a work of art performed. His tools seem a living prolongation of his hands; his touch responds to the variation in the material he is working. We are proud of these men, they are basic to our way of life, of which machines will never quite take charge. So, for the world to see, in this Pavilion are British craftsmen making silverware, fine instruments, boots and shoes; blowing and cutting glass to capture the colours of the spectrum, hand painting pottery with ceramic colours, making paper for other artists to express themselves upon.


For all its vastness, and the number of lives that keep it in production, industry is not an end in itself. Goods are made for mankind, they must reach the consumer. It is commerce that maintains this flow. Wholesale merchanting, warehousing, transportation, banking and insurance – all these are parts of the world-wide organisation that keeps the shops full of wares. In the creation of all this British contributions have been large – although, in an exhibition of tangible things, they cannot occupy space commensurate with their real importance.

The Pavilion story ends with a showroom of British products. From so great a field of industry it is impossible to show more than a sample – but even the greatest shop cannot display all its wares at once.