Charles Stewart Drewry Julia Fava Wood Maude Stewart Drewry Annie Isabel Drewry William C. F. Drewry Mabel May Hyde Vincent Harold Drewry Julia Theresa Drewry Alfred F. Vere Drewry Barbara Cecelia Drewry Christine Hilda May Drewry Mini tree diagram

James Sidney Drewry

Jim, 1910

19th Nov 1882 - 14th Dec 1952

Life History

19th Nov 1882

Born in London, Clapton

5th May 1883

Baptised in St John's, Walworth

9th Apr 1910

Married Mabel May Hyde in St. Albans, Teddington.

6th Nov 1911

Birth of daughter Barbara Cecelia Drewry in Yardley, West Midlands.

8th Jan 1913

Birth of daughter Christine Hilda May Drewry in Hitchin, Bedfordshire.

14th Dec 1952

Died in Letchworth.


Jim, 1908

Designer/inventor; Locomotive and equipment builder.

In January, 1889, enrollment in the Jessop Road (Lambeth) School record. He had already attended a Private School.

In January, 1894, in the Jessop Road (Lambeth) School record.

In 1901 census, aged 18; occupation: Mechanical Engineer

Jim and Alf The First Railcar

(Click on the image for a full size picture).

In his book 'Municipal Refuse Collection Vehicles', Barrie C. Woods suggests that James had "risen to fame with his petrol-driven railcar." Is this the railcar?

The cutting (see below) showing the obituary of James S. Drewry from a local Letchworth newspaper has an unfortunate fold where the text from the reverse side shows through. The owner of the cutting believes that the text says: "In 1903, at the early age of 21 he designed and manufactured the Drewry railcar .. which he later sold to the B.S.A. Co. of Birmingham".

I believe the above photograph is from 1903 or 1904. Alfred (furthest from the camera) said he was sixteen when the photo was taken.
In 1902, James (the older of the brothers) took the railcar ('Trolley No. 1' - in the pictures below) to South Africa where he worked on the proposed Cape-to-Cairo railroad.

Trolley no 1 James on Trolley no. 1

See photos of James Drewry in Africa, 1904-1906.
The photos have captions dated 1904, 1905 and 1906. In one shot of James in Bulawayo, the date has been changed from 1905 to 1908. This could suggest he made more than one trip to Africa.

James_1934_Whos_Who_in_the_Motor_Trade.jpgThe railcar in the 1904 photo appears to be a redesign of 'Trolley Number 1'.

Recorded production of Drewry railcars began in 1905, probably as soon as James returned from Africa.

The entry in the '1934 Who's Who in the Motor Trade' says that James worked on the Cape To Cairo railway between 1901 an 1904.
The cutting of James' obituary describes his work in South Africa as experimental.

More information about The Drewry Car Co. and images of early cars can be found in Charles Stewart Drewry's page.

Lacre Obituary


"James met Harry Shelvoke when Chief Engineer of Lacre.
Earlier he had founded the Drewry Rail Car Co., and claimed to be the originator of the petrol railcar, having run the line from Cairo to the Cape for a time, and having built his first machine at Teddington in 1902.
[see above]
Subsequent designs were built by BSA, where he worked until 1911. He was a partner in Baguley-Drewry."
"Drewry was described as having the air of a slightly 'absent minded professor' type. He was a greatly respected engineer
[from 'Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry' by Nick Baldwin & William Negus, 1980, (ISBN 0906116 17)]

Lacre RoadSweeper At Lacre, in 1912, he designed and built their famous three wheeled sweeper. (While he and Harry Shelvoke were working there.)

A 1920 version of the Lacre Roadsweeper, left, is at the Museum of Transport at Stondon, near Henlow, Bedfordshire. The vehicle was in use in Scotland until 1952.

LacreBusBrisbane1912sm.jpgLacre vehicles were exported widely.


A Lacre truck carrying timber in Australia in 1919. Similar trucks were used by the Belgian Army in WW1. [Source]

First World War

(See also Charles Stewart Drewry)

Lacre1920.jpg During the first World War James designed and produced pontoon equipment for the Belgian Army and was later decorated by the King of Belgium.

Lacre provided many vehicles to the Belgian and British armies.

James also designed "much special equipment for the British Army." [see Obituary, above, right]

hospital car_sm.jpg The Drewry Car Co. was also involved in the war effort, at one point selling 20 armoured railcars to the Tsar of Russia (though the Tsar's deposition meant that payment was deferred.)

On the right is an ambulance car destined for the French Government and Mesopotamia. Baguley workers are demonstrating the loading of stretchers.

Drewry_War_1_sm.jpg Drewry_War_2 These images are from 'Armoured Trains' by Paul Malmassari. (Found in Google Books

As he says:
"Possibly the ugliest trolleys ever built".

These were sent to Mesopotamia.

Lacre1940sm.jpg After the war James helped design the successful Lacre T type road-sweeper.
(The East Anglia Transport Museum has a 1938 Lacre Road Sweeper designed by James Drewry.)

Shelvoke & Drewry

At the heart of the new company, was the Freighter:



freighter_brochure_1sm.jpg freighter_brochure2sm.jpg freighter_brochure3sm.jpg

SDmilksm.jpg Dustcart

Paperweight SD_Advert1926sm.jpg Paperweight

S_D_freightemedsm.jpg freighter_pic2sm.jpg

freighter_pic1sm.jpg freighter_pic4sm.jpg

freighter_pic3sm.jpg freighter_pic6sm.jpg freighter_pic7sm.jpg

"James Drewry would come to the assembly benches to mull over design and production problems with favoured workmen over a four ounce tin of his favourite Afrikander tobacco."

The next two pictures show James, first in a Rail Car and then at the S&D works with Freighter 1000.

jamesdrewryRCsm.jpg jamesdrewryFreighter1000sm.jpg

"The development of a power broom is thought to be the cause of friction between James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke."

" In the mid 1930's Drewry left for a senior position with Hands Trailers."

Hands HandsTrailers_ad.jpg


World War II

"For a while in World War II, James Drewry crossed the road to act as technical consultant on the tank trailers S & D were producing. James Drewry designed one-man counterbalanced loading ramps for these trailers."

welfreighter.jpg I believe that some of the work James did during the war is secret.
Vince, James' brother, said that during the second World War James was involved in the design of a mini-submarine (called the 'Welfreighter'). Surviving workers from the Welfreighter project have denied Jim's involvement. However, given the secrecy surrounding the project, it is quite likely that a person working on the project might not be known to others. Shop floor workers would not need to know who was involved in design and consultation. It seems very likely likely that an inventive engineer of Jim's standing (and renown) would have been called in to help with the project, particularly as he had been the design-engineer partner in S & D and was already working as a consultant in he design of tank trailers at S & D. He had also designed special equipment for the army during the first World War.

"The S & D company ceased trading in 1991, but the company is remembered with great affection".

Following is derived from UK Electoral Roll 2000 - Shelvoke:

"Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd of Letchworth - makers of refuse collection vehicles, heavy duty fork lift trucks, and other specialised commercial vehicles. Harry Shelvoke (1878 - 1962) and James Drewry (1883 - 1952) were employed by the Lacre Company that moved to Letchworth Garden City in 1910. (Harry Shelvoke as General Manager, and James Drewry as Chief Engineer) They set up Shelvoke & Drewry in October 1922. The company merged with W. P. Butterfield in 1966. In 1971 a merger with G. A. Harvey formed the Butterfield - Harvey Group of Companies. S & D was the largest subsidiary of the group."

See also the S & D entry in Wikipedia.


Some 50 or so patents that he held or was a partner in can be found at Clicking on the patent links provides descriptions and sometimes drawings of the patents.

Some of the machines invented and built by James Drewry and Harry Shelvoke. A Web search (e.g. using 'Drewry' as criterion in an image search) will uncover a large number of Drewry machines and give an indication of the many countries in which those machines were operated.

Baptism Record Grandfather Jim

I cannot find a birth record in FreeBMD. However, there is a Baptism record:

Baptism record

From freebBMD:

Marriage: Jun 1910, Drewry James Sydney, Kingston 2a 739

In 1910, James got married. Did James and May then move to Birmingham? James almost certainly was moving to manage the production of Rail Cars at BSA in Birmingham.
In 1913, James' and May's second daughter was born in Bedfordshire - so the sojourn in Birmingham probably did not last long. One gets the impression that James moved on to new things quite quickly once he had completed a task successfully.

In the 1911 Census

James DrewryHead26MManager of Motor Manufactoryb. Hackney London
May DrewryWife22Mmarried under one year b. Kingston, Surrey
Cecilia Pinckneycousin14b. Walthamstow, Middlesex

Jim's signature Cecilia Pinckney is the daughter of Ann Easton Wood, James' aunt, and Thomas W Pinckney.
Ann Easton Wood is sister to James' mother: Julia Fava Wood.

In the National Register of September 29th, 1939, James and family are shown living at 11, William Way, Letchworth.

There are four others in the house: Frederick Dainton, an ARP Warden aged 30; and three whose records are redacted.

James is described as: 'Designer Transport Machinery M.I.A.E Company General Manager'.



Drewry Family, 1925


Jim died in Hitchin, aged 70, in 1952.
and 45 years before:

Death: Dec 1907, Drewry, James S. - 70 - Hitchin, 4b 104 (born abt. 1837)
and another James died in London that year:
Death: Dec 1907, Drewry, James - 67 - Camberwell 1d 517 (born abt. 1840)

Some inventions

The sliderule below was probably made by James

"A very unusual Shelvoke & Drewry triple slide rule with ivorine scales held by 35 brass screws to an aluminium base plate. The rule shows the cost of manpower to load freighters and contains 8 non linear and 1 linear scale. The rule dates from late 1920's." [Source]


The Testometer

DrewryTestometer2.jpg DrewryTestometer1.jpg

Drewry testometerFunction.jpg

click to go to site The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Website.

multimedia/Freighter_narrow_bodied_sm.jpg "A website created to preserve the name and history of Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd., of Letchworth, Hertfordshire. U.K. who were manufacturers of municipal vehicles for almost 70 years."
The S & D Site is manageded by Brian Carpenter, who sent me the above extract from 'Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry'. The site is informative with news items and details of 'S & D Remembered' gatherings in Letchworth.
Brian would particularly like to know the connection, if any, between James and later Drewry railcars.
Brian can be contacted via The Unofficial Shelvoke & Drewry Site.

multimedia/Freighter_restored_sm.jpg A Restored Freighter

"McCreath Taylor's works at Flush Park Industrial Estate, Knockmore Road in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, have a beautifully restored Freighter as well as a number of other S&D vehicles.