Audrey Wood: Oxford Instruments and the shed at the bottom of the garden

Audrey and Martin Wood discuss how Oxford Instruments began at the Clarendon Laboratory and moved into their garden shed.

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AW: One of the sorts of magnets that they tried to bring in from what they were doing in America was not really suitable for the – for the parameters of the generator. It was flat plates with a lot of holes through. And I remember coming back from shopping and finding Martin inside the playpen with one of these magnets and a very fine file, going through – trying to make these holes bigger, while our son was roaming around the rest of the room outside [laughs].

Did you work from home much?

MW: No, no, just occasionally. I didn’t have much room in the – in the lab to begin with. Later on I had a workshop more or less dedicated.

AW: You hadn’t got much room in the lab. You probably had much more peace to do a thing like that at home. 

MW: Yes, yes.

When does Oxford Instruments actually start?

AW: 1959. Can’t give you a date because it’s sort of – wasn’t an actual date, I think.

MW: That was when I’d said to the man, Nicholas Cotie [ph], I said, ‘There are lots of people outside wanting magnets. Is it alright if I design …?’ And he was perfectly happy. He wanted to spread his technology, give them anything. I actually made some magnets for other laboratories in the Clarendon and then that got too big and machines got held up and other people in the workshop – in the research committee said, ‘These workshops are for us. Not for Newcastle Physics, or something.’ And I went to the Prof and said, ‘Look, I’ll take it out of the – out of the laboratory.’

Where did you actually take it to?

MW: Oh, I [inaud] built a workshop at the bottom of the garden.

AW: When we started actually making things much, it was – we had a shed – we built a shed at the bottom of the garden to do this [laughs]. It was a completely residential area and the chairman of planning lived opposite, so when this man – this retired technician used to come along and do a few jobs occasionally. And I remember one day when we had the wife of the chairman of planning to tea and I – in the garden, I think it was, it would be in the summer. And I saw Joe coming and I went down to have a word with him and said, ‘Joe, you’re the gardener [laughs], if you’re asked any questions.’

  • Interviewee Audrey Wood
  • Duration 00:02:26
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 1/16/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/58

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