The company started in a very humble way from Kenneth (now
Sir Kenneth) Corfield's house in Lonsdale Road. Sir Kenneth had been
interested in photography since the age of ten when he acquired a Kodak
box Brownie camera. Photography became his hobby, but a schoolboy's pocket
money didn't go very far, so he built his own enlarger, mixed his own
processing chemicals and used out of date government surplus photographic
paper. He was a pupil at Elmore Green High School in Bloxwich and even at that early age
had developed a high level of initiative.
He grew up in Walsall and so it was a natural step to join Walsall
Photographic Society. He used to enter his prints in their competitions
and at the age of 16 he won first prize for a photograph of roses covered
Where it all began. Sir Kenneth's old house in Lonsdale Road.
|When Sir Kenneth left school he decided to go into
engineering. He was inspired by his grandfather, who built up a
successful business as an iron-founder. At the age of sixteen and
a half he joined Fischer Bearings, initially as an apprentice, and
later as a management trainee. Whilst there he obtained a diploma
in Mechanical Engineering at Wolverhampton and Staffordshire
College of Technology, which gave him a good knowledge of
mechanical and electrical engineering. By now the family had moved
to Wolverhampton, and in 1947 Sir Kenneth read an article in 'Miniature Camera
Magazine', which described the construction of an accurate enlarger
exposure meter. It compared light from a spot-source on a negative with
light from a reference source, in this case a torch.
He built an
experimental version which worked extremely well, and demonstrated it
during a lecture he was giving on developing and enlarging to Walsall
Photographic Society. The people in the audience were extremely
enthusiastic about the meter, which was not only accurate but could
greatly reduce wastage of expensive photographic paper and chemicals. One
member of the audience, who was connected with the photographic trade, even asked if he could buy
one; but the answer of course was
'no'. Word did quickly get round and Sir Kenneth was approached by a
gentleman from a company who wanted to manufacture it . While considering
the offer, Sir Kenneth realised that if the company could make money from
manufacturing it, so could he.
The next step was to completely redesign the crude
prototype into a high quality product that could easily be manufactured
and sold at a reasonable price. It took about six months to complete the
new design, and by early 1948 he was ready to produce the final version. Using his contacts in the engineering
trade Sir Kenneth got a small number of parts made, and twelve units were
assembled with the able assistance of his younger brother John.
Like Sir Kenneth, John grew up in Walsall and went to Elmore Green High School.
When the family moved to Wolverhampton, he finished his schooling at
Wolverhampton Art College, and so was the 'artist' of the family. After
school he became an engineer at Villiers and acquired the engineering
skills that would become so important to the family business.
The assembled units were
sent as free samples to the leading photographic retailers of the day in
the hope that orders would follow. After a lot of consideration it was
decided to call the device 'The Corfield Lumimeter'. Soon talks were underway with R. G. Lewis, one of the
country's leading photographic dealers, which led to an order for 250
units. They first went on sale in 1948 at a retail price of £4.10s.
John's artistic skills were put to good use as he produced all of the
artwork associated with the product, including the various scales which
were hand-drawn in black ink and then photographed by Sir Kenneth. The
photographed scales were stuck on to the Lumimeter and varnished.
|In use the light from a small part of a negative is
projected onto a vertical screen in the reflex head at the
top. Initially the lamp is turned off and the Lumimeter is
positioned so that a dark part of the negative is displayed on the
screen. A dial on the lamphouse is set to the correct paper speed
and the lamp is turned on. In the centre of the screen is a
luminous spot. The lamphouse is now moved to and fro until the
spot just disappears. The exposure time can then be read from the
scale on the baseplate.
They were now faced with the difficulties of manufacturing
the Lumimeters. The attic in Lonsdale Road was hastily converted into an
assembly area and the coal shed became the press shop. A press had to be
purchased as it was essential for producing the rounded edges on the
baseplate. As Sir Kenneth and John were in full time employment, every
minute of their spare time was now occupied in the assembly work.