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Bexleyheath assembly-line production

Mick Dines, Bexleyheath Factory Manager:

In 1973, as we looked to move from Short’s Gardens, we found a place near James How Industries in Upland Road, Bexleyheath in Kent. James How was our UK distributor at the time, and the firm also manufactured Rotosound strings. During one of our visits to buy strings, we saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on a factory premises just two buildings along. We viewed the place and decided to buy it. There, we began a proper production line, and we employed local people in Bexleyheath to assemble the amplifiers – the output being about one amp per worker a day.

Staff at 17 Upland Road, Bexleyheath, Kent, circa 1976: Steve, John, Barry, Mary, Mick, Margot, Jan, Viv, Hillary (hidden), Olive, Pete, Chris, Michael, John, Bob

There was plenty of storage space which meant we could buy cardboard packaging in bulk and store it. Back in Short’s Gardens, we used to build one cabinet at a time, put it in its cardboard box and then start on another one. Now we could have twenty or thirty cabinets lined up on long benches that could all have speakers fitted and wired in sequence. We had the electronic workshop at the front of the building and the cabinet-making and finished packaged goods ready for delivery at the back. It was also, of course, useful having our UK distributor just three doors down the road. Bexleyheath marked the start of a different scale of operation for Orange. When we had a shipment going out to our American distributor, we would have a forty-foot container delivered to us at the end of the day. Most of our staff would work through the night to finish the production and then load it.

We’d go for a quick pint just before the pubs closed at 11 o’clock, and then go back to pack and load anything up to one hundred amplifiers and a hundred speaker cabinets into the container. The next morning the container was picked up, and we’d start another shift.”

The Alembic Report USA, published in the March 1975 issue of Guitar Player

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