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This article was written on 05 Aug 2015, and is filled under AGA History.

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The archives come to life

I have just received a heart-warming electronic letter from Robin Watkins, a descendant of Allied Iron Founders’ director W.H. Watkins (1930s). He was so kind to share some of his memories about his grandfather and we gladly send him our history book ‘The House that Wren built’ revealing the story of AGA’s Board.

I am delighted show you you extract from the stories he shared with us:

My grandfather died in the early 1950s when I was only 4, though I do have a very pleasant and singular memory of meeting him at his home in Poole.

My grandparents had a very large Aga of their own in their kitchen, in fact it was a a double oven. I remember – from visits in the 1950s and 60s – that it took up one complete side of the kitchen, you couldn’t miss it! As I recall it not only cooked the food – which was always very good – but also had a role in heating some parts of the house.

  • I understand that my grandfather did go to the USA to try to sell the Aga to the Americans. I think this would have been around 1950, and he journeyed there on the Queen Mary. My uncle, who was doing postgraduate study at Yale, had met up with his father in New York. He told me my grandfather’s trip wasn’t a success; the Americans seemed to think the product a bit too quirky for their tastes. The impression was that if they were going to have a product like the Aga they would anyway prefer to produce it themselves. This insularity seems a little odd to me, especially when you consider the cross-fertilisation that was occurring elsewhere at that time, for example in the early computing industry). Also, which I didn’t know before reading the website blog, there was some American input to the design!
  • If he did know David Olgilvy (DO) personally it must have been likely there were some ‘cultural’ differences between them. From the blog it seems Mr. Wren would have had most contact with DO, and I guess my grandfather had wider responsibilities. I remember conversations to the effect that whilst DO was quite an unconventional character, it was agreed, at least socially speaking, WH (‘Bill’) Watkins was a very conventional person (and in this respect typical of his times). And on reflection my grandfather would have been quite a bit older than DO, who was a young man when he worked for AIF. 
  • I also believe my grandfather had business connections in Switzerland and I’ve always understood that this was connected to Allied Iron Founders interest in the Aga business. I have wondered how a Swedish invention could have come to be promoted through that country …. though no doubt there may be good reasons. 

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