Object of the Week : O is for Opperman

Monday 19 April 2021

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week : O is for Opperman

At the turn of the 20th Century, Stirling Corner was just farm fields and tracks.  Barnet Lane, which ran between Elstree and Barnet Gate, existed prior to 1777.  Then in 1926 the Barnet Bypass was built in response to the growth of car use, and a Mr Stirling opened a garage where the Shell petrol station now stands – hence Stirling Corner and Stirling Way.

It was on the corner where Morrisons now stands that at the beginning of WW2, S E Opperman Ltd built their factory and it was the only second factory along this stretch of the A1. The roots of the company go back to 1862, with the founding of a watch making and engineering business in Clerkenwell, by Carl Oppermann, a native of Hamburg.  Between 1898 and 1907, the firm appears to have produced and sold electric cars, and then reverted to more general engineering, focussing, in particular, on weapons and aeroplane components during the Second World War. They were known for making gears, and so they undertook making gearboxes for tanks. Two products which came later were the Motocart truck 1947–53, and the Unicar from 1956-59. It was the cheapest car at the 1956 London Motor Show, but only about 200 were sold, and their next model, the Stirling, was only a prototype.  Their motor manufacturing business ended in 1959, eclipsed by the production of the Mini.

In the late 60s the company was sold to Stratford Safe Co, and later became John Tan who continued the business, and then the site became a retail park. Who remembers World of Leather, CarpetRight, Currys, Smyth’s Toys and Homebase being here?

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