Prestcold lives! Owzat?25th June 2014
It was the company where many of the leading lights of today’s UK refrigeration industry served their apprenticeships but, sadly, Prestcold, the company and the brand, disappeared many years ago – or so it would seem. The name persists, however, in the unlikely arena of that most English of sports, cricket.
Prestcold is one of those iconic British refrigeration names now sadly disappeared. Granted, there are thousands of Prestcold compressors still providing great service in refrigeration systems around the world and no doubt there is the odd domestic refrigerator carrying the Prestcold brand still chugging away in some lonely kitchen somewhere but otherwise the name is confined to history. Or so we thought.
Originally formed in 1936 as Refrigeration (Birmingham) Ltd to manufacture refrigerators as part of the Pressed Steel Co (from whence came Prestcold), its name was up there with the best of them – J&E Hall, Sterne, Electrolux, Lightfoot. Things began to unravel when Prestcold, then part of car manufacturer British Leyland, was purchased in the 1980s by Suter – a company which also owned the UK’s leading refrigeration wholesaler NRS and equipment manufacturer Searle.
One of the largest employers in Reading at the time, Prestcold, like many large philanthropic employers of its age, operated a thriving sports and social club for the benefit of its employees. Open every lunchtime and evening, the Prestcold social club was a popular concern amongst staff and family, offering a range of activities including live bands and bingo nights. Hugely popular were the adjacent sports facilities which offered football and cricket pitches amongst other activities over an area of over six acres.
Prestcold Cricket Club was formed, somewhat belatedly, in 1981, just two years before Suter, under the leadership of David Abel, sold off the sports ground to developers. The sale of the sports ground was the precursor to a splitting up of the whole business. Prestcold was sold to US compressor manufacturer Copeland (itself eventually bought by Emerson) and NRS was acquired by the Wolseley group and became Climate Center. The Prestcold name, however, survived, at least for a while, as a product brand within the Copeland product range but eventually disappeared in the 1990s.
The old factory went and the area where the social club was, is now, ironically, a supermarket distribution centre. Miraculously, and perhaps indicative of the British passion for its sport, the cricket club survived, as did Prestcold Angling Club.
The fishing club, although currently flourishing with 160 members, now bears no connection with the former company. Its last ex-Prestcold member, Frank Walton, sadly died a few years ago. By contrast, Prestcold Cricket Club still incorporates the original Prestcold logo and two of its active members are ex-Prestcold employees – club captain Andrew Rosier and ex-Prestcold accountant Mike Christmas.
Andrew Rosier joined Prestcold straight from school as an apprentice in 1979. For a time he worked in the drawing office with Terry March, now technical sales manager at Emerson and one of only two Prestcold people still with the current owners.
“Most of the players were drawn from the factory and I was one of the younger players at the time,” recalls Andrew Rosier.
“Our greatest claim to fame was playing an Ian Botham Xl as part of the company’s 50th anniversary.”
There was some sadness, perhaps, that the game was played on the estate at Englefield House in nearby Newbury as Prestcold’s sports ground had been sold off a year previously.
While most of the other activities including Prestcold’s football team disbanded, the cricket club continued, sharing something of a nomadic existence until settling at its present ground on Lord Phillimore’s Coppid Hall Estate in Binfied Heath.
Andrew Rosier left Prestcold before the Copeland purchase, pursuing his career with an electrical engineering company before changing course in 2003 to set up his own gardening business.
“I miss the practical side of engineering,” he told the Cooling Post, “but not a lot else.”
The cricket team plays around 20 friendly matches per season and has been sponsored by Waitrose for the last few years.
“Waitrose sponsored us before the England team,” Andrew Rosier proudly informs us but he won’t be drawn on whether it was the success of Prestcold Cricket Club that persuaded them to sponsor the national side.
The team plays mainly home games throughout the season and are always keen to attract new playing members ….”and sponsorship”, adds Andrew Rosier.
If you’re interested in playing – or sponsoring – you can contact Andrew through the club’s website.