NEWS: White Horse Plastics’ 50th Anniversary

50 Years in Photos

On the 15th January, 1973, Rod Houghton, Roy Bayston & Don Fathers set up White Horse Plastics in an old bakery in the village of Ardington, Oxfordshire.  They had three injection moulding machines and three part-time staff. The company has grown significantly since then, and Rod, Roy & Don have retired.  So to pay homage to them and celebrate our 50th anniversary, we would like to share some of the photos we have collected over the years.

The Blacksmith’s Forge, Ardington

Rod Houghton & Partners stayed at the bakery in Ardington until 1977, then they moved to the Blacksmith’s Forge a short distance away in the same village.  At the time Rod was the technician running the machines and Roy focused on marketing.  The machines featured here are a Hopfield Simplex 4, a Gretner and a Herbert.

The New Building

In 1993, White Horse Plastics moved their production facility from the old Blacksmith’s forge in Ardington, to a new building in Stanford-in-the-Vale; a few miles west along The Ridgeway.  This is a photo of the new building while it was being fitted, with Rod Houghton’s Vauxhall Carlton Estate parked outside.  Rod’s car frequently doubled up as the company delivery van, carrying mould tools to and from High Wycombe and the surrounding area.

At one time there were dozens of UK tool makers in the High Wycombe area.  During the 1990s they were priced out by cheaper tool makers in Portugal, and later the Far East, in areas like Shenzhen, China.  But since Brexit, we have seen some movement in the opposite direction and will be reshoring a quantity of injection mould tools this year.

Nick Allen, aged 13, White Horse Plastics

Our future directors learn their craft

This is Nick Allen in the mid 1980s.  His grandfather, Tom, and his father, David, both ran a successful injection moulding business in Oxford called County Industries.  Inevitably, Nick’s first job was working for his father on Saturdays in the tool shop.  He went on to complete an engineering apprenticeship at Harwell Laboratory (in the days they provided a cooked breakfast at weekends!) and now runs our sister company, IMT.

A Future Managing Director

This is Paul Bobby, working at Drennans in Oxford, in 1985.  Since then, he has spent nearly 40 years honing his polymer processing skills and has become an inestimable source of knowledge within our sector.  As an MD, he wears a suit more often these days, but you will still find him at 6am on a Monday morning, assisting with the start-up of the machines. 

Remembering an Interesting Project

In the early years, most of our customers were placed in the automotive sector, and in 2002 we were given the opportunity to demonstrate our engineering skills when an F1 team came to us for help developing a part.  With only ten weeks to go until the beginning of the season, we worked with them to produce a novel fan assisted brake duct cooler.

An average F1 car can hit top speeds of 200-220 miles per hour, and our team may well have exceeded that in their race to get parts made in time.  Sadly, the component only lasted one season, because advances in technology replaced it, but we were proud of our contribution, and it was fun while it lasted!

A History of Optics

Our portfolio of optic mouldings began in 2018 with this Seven Cell Concentrator Optic. We made the component for the talented team at Polymer Optics and it is part of a refractive light assembly.  We have since made 47 optical parts with a broad range of applications.