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Farvis - Engineering since 1840

“Quality at Trade Prices”

All Farvis Products are design copyrighted

ENGINEERING IN BRISTOL SINCE 1840

The Farvis Group of companies.

EARLY YEARS


Our company was established by William Farvis in 1840 when he started work as a journeyman blacksmith, Farvis soon became established as mechanical engineers, both in Bristol and for a time in Taunton, Somerset.

The Company worked extensively for the Great Western Railway and on some of the famous projects designed by I.K. Brunel, the Victorian Engineer.  These would have included the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Bristol - London railway line, Box Tunnel and Temple Meads Station which formed part of the Great Western Railway.

It is rumoured that William also worked on the Great Britain Steamship as well as making equipment and ironwork for the Bristol City Harbour.

For over half a century, the firm occupied premises in Victoria Street, in central Bristol, near the City Docks, GWR railway station at Temple Meads and next to George's Brewery.  If you know Bristol, the back of the Works was next to the Shakespeare Tavern which served as works canteen, customer's hospitality suite and as an overflow office!

The Firm became well known for quality steelwork, in particular marine fabrications and structural steelwork for buildings as well as being first class farriers who had the contract to shoe all the GWR heavy horses that pulled the delivery wagons  around the streets of Bristol. They also did specialist ornamental iron and brass work for civic buildings in Bristol and many of the fittings used by the Port of Bristol when maintaining the City Docks - probably replacing items made by an earlier generation of the same family !

The pictures on the right show some of the old Victoria Street Works in the centre of Bristol. The front entrance was via a small door adjacent to a cake shop although at the rear there were wide roller doors.  At the time the photographs were taken in 1993 there were still iron and steel bars lying on the ground as they had been left when the firm moved out before the Second World War, and despite being in the central area of Bristol, the building had remained almost unaltered.  The cobbles outside the rear doors were still battered by steel and equipment, the doors were still in place and even the offices were  there, although derelict.

In the first picture you can see the main fitting shop and the factory doors, dating from the 1880's and on the right, the outline of one of the forge flues on the wall.  Due to a lack of space, there used to be a second floor - reached by a ladder - with a huge lathe attached to the beams - it was said that when operating,  this machine, one of the biggest in the area - would rain swarf and oil onto anyone below as there were walkways, but no floorboards, for the upper level! Everything was powered by a Crossley hot tube ignition gas engine via leather belts and line shafting.

During the later part of the 19th Century century the Company developed a reputation as mechanical and structural engineers and remained in family ownership, William eventually retiring and handing on to his son William John ....   who in turn handed the business over to the next William and his younger brother Herbert.




20th CENTURY


As Bristol was a centre of shipbuilding, the Company also made sections of ships upper works and in particular had the skills necessary to build funnels and furnace ducting, including the techniques necessary to manufacture compound curves for ventilation systems.  During the Great War the company was mainly involved with munitions and marine fabrication but after the Great Depression during the inter war years they became involved with structural and development engineering.  As many companies were building new works and facilities in Bristol, the Farvis brothers were ideally placed both geographically and with their knowledge and skills,  to design and build  prototype equipment.  This included more fabrications for the City Docks and sand dredging and distribution plant, process equipment for the local brewery and even a fully automatic bottle washing machine for a nearby dairy.  

Following World War II when Bristol had been heavily damaged by bombing,  it was said that after rebuilding, there was no new building in the centre of the City that didn't have Farvis steelwork somewhere in the design. Other products included grain hoppers, winches and the suction pipes and equipment for the local sand and gravel dredgers that worked in the Bristol Channel. This included Bristol’s last sand dredger the ‘Harry Brown’, pictured here.










1950’s - BITUMEN BOILERS & LPG

From 1956 the company was under the control of Ken Farvis-Floyd who purchased the business from his uncles  ‘WH’ and ‘HF’ Farvis. During this time , production and development was handled by Ken’s wife Margaret who essentially ran the business while Ken handled the financial and marketing aspects.

Being involved with rebuilding inevitably lead to the repair and manufacture of coke fired asphalt heaters and mixers - ‘tar machines’ as they were called in Bristol slang.  Following approaches from some of the large civil engineering groups and a major supplier of the then 'new' LPG fuel, Farvis developed and marketed the first propane fired bitumen boilers and asphalt cauldrons, a technological breakthrough at the time.  They also designed and patented a machine for heating thermoplastic tiles and a new design of heater for mastic asphalt.

Margaret designed the original gas fired bitumen boiler and the ‘impact’ gas burner in conjunction with an ex RAF bomber pilot over a lunch in ‘The Shakespeare pub ( nothing changes ) and Farvis went on to hold the second oldest ‘Calor Gas Approved’ certification that in future years would form the basis of  ‘CE’ marking.

Margaret was one of the more colourful commercial characters of the era, well known and feared by commercial Bristolians. Engineering in Bristol was a man’s world and despite a former career in the Diplomatic Service and a law degree, she launched herself into the firm and took the industry by storm!  As well as arranging engineering training for hundreds of school leavers, she ruled the works with an iron hand and remained a director until well into her ‘80’s.  She was a very well known and highly respected member of Bristol’s business community who amongst other attributes, could claim to have been taught by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, had been single handedly responsible for re-financing the company making the new jet engine in 1944 and had extinguished an incendiary bomb while on fire watch during the London Blitz at the age of 19 ! Her presence and unmistakable voice struck alarm into the hearts of employees and suppliers alike,  but there was nothing she did not know about the bitumen industry and its people, or how a gas burner worked !



BITUMEN BOILERS

During the time of the flat roofing boom of the 1970’s and early 1980’s the company were producing huge numbers of boilers and associated equipment and eventually had to move from the old factory that they had occupied for 99 years to a much larger building in the Bedminster district of Bristol.

In the 1970's Farvis pioneered the use of thermostat control on portable bitumen boilers and developed the market leading 'Statpak' temperature control unit which could be fitted to an existing bitumen boiler without any modification to the equipment. In 2000 the company acquired the rights to manufacture and repair the Propamiser system which was the industry standard temperature control system used by all UK boiler manufacturers at the time and these are now built and serviced at our dedicated facility in North Somerset. This has been the subject of ongoing development and now represents the industry leading control system for standalone LPG bitumen boilers.

Margaret retired from day to day involvement after almost 50 years and her place was taken by her son Ross and his wife Gill with a combined experience of 52 years in the industry.  In 2007 the Company relocated from Bristol, mainly due to increasing congestion making access to the factory difficult and modern production methods that enabled more units to be manufactured in a far smaller space.

Production continued in a purpose built facility with an increasing emphasis on temperature controlled boilers and associated safety systems until 2012 when the company split into two sections.  The original family company continuing to manufacture gas equipment and temperature control systems and a new operation  ‘Farvis Boilers Ltd’ was formed to handle the manufacture, marketing and supply of bitumen boilers and contractor’s plant from a factory in Eddington, Somerset, although the two remained closely linked.

Today Farvis equipment is in use World Wide in a variety of forms, both as standard equipment for roofing and sealant heating,  Farvis Special Equipment, and purpose built plant for a wide variety of specialist 'one off' uses, including roofing,  surfacing and hot applied sealants.

…. all started by an apprentice blacksmith who worked for Brunel before setting up his own firm in 1840 - he could never have imagined where it would lead.

One of the first gas fired bitumen boilers.  Note the early gas cylinder with no valve protection and the massive lid on the boiler!

A 50 gallon boiler with a Shell Mex /BP gas cylinder - about 1960.

William Farvis, our founder  

‘W.J.’  - The man himself !

The two brothers ‘W.H’ and ‘H.S’ who ran the firm during the Second World War.

The firm's calendar from 1944 - with the title 'Well done Boys' it shows a Chelsea pensioner congratulating a sailor and an RAF man - through the window you can just make out a battleship.  Looking through the calendar, June 6th 1944 was a Tuesday - just another day.....

…and this was once the last word in mobile asphalt equipment!   Two 12 cwt units on a war surplus transporter. Note the wartime Bedford trucks in the background.

One of our early 12 cwt mastic asphalt cauldrons being used for road repairs in central Bristol - on one of the busiest junctions! No road barriers or cones - and people managing to cross the street. Note the old road lamps and a split screen Morris 1000.  How times have changed!

Ken & Margaret Farvis Floyd - the 4th generation.

The Company remains committed to personal service, safety, good quality, long lasting equipment and above all

value for money.