Thursday, 7 October 2010

J. Graven, Ely

James Graven founded his agricultural engineering business in 1860, exporting products to India and other parts of the world. These first years may have been difficult and he was declared bankrupt by the Ely courts in July 1869. However Craven rebounced after that setback and started making steam tractors and other machines, mostly for agricultural purposes. Around this time the firm was located at 1 Annedale terrace (1875 edition of the Post Office Directory) but relocated a few years later to Broad Street (1883 edition of Kelly's Directory) where it remained, apparently, until the early 2000s. In 1912, following a meeting with Henry Ford, James Craven ventured into the motor vehicles industry. Little is known about the following years. Craven continued to sell steam machines as well as Ford tractors and Ford Anglia cars. The company's name is listed in several magazines for the farming industry but nothing of major importance seemed to have occurred until 1969. That year, the Agricultural Machinery Journal, included the following short article:
Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd, agricultural engineers and agents of Fulbourn, near Cambridge, have taken over the Ford tractor and agricultural engineering side of the business of James Graven & Sons Ltd, 17 High Street, Chatteris, Cambs, and Broad Street, Ely. The service will be continued at Ely and Fulbourn.
Since then James Graven has been specialising in retailing, in particular of locally-produced food, and runs several shops in partnership with Budgens, BP and Spar in the Ely - Cambridge area.

J. Graven
Engineer and
Agricultural Machinist

The house where this sign was painted may have been the family home of James Craven and his successors. The workshop and showrooms were located just across the street. Most of the site was demolished a few years ago but one of the showrooms survived and was converted into a dwelling.

The company's website doesn't include much information about the history of James Craven, but they have a few interesting photographs, including one on which the showroom, to the left of the church, is in its original state (third picture. On the same photograph, look for the house with two windows opposite the production site's exit: you may be able to make out the painted sign, just about...).

Location: Broad Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire / Pictures taken on: 03/07/2010

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