Get out them old records: the Decca plant in New Malden

When Edward Lewis founded Decca Records in 1929 he acquired the Duophone Record Company, and with it its premises on Burlington Road, New Malden. This was to become the only Decca pressing plant in the UK and a major local employer, hiring hundreds from Kingston and the surrounding boroughs at any one time. Of the records pressed here in New Malden – at peak production up to 60,000 a day – many can now be found dispersed all over the world.

Decca UK – which split from its sister Stateside label in 1939 – originally focused on jazz records, receiving rapid acclaim for its sound quality. Although the musical offerings would later diversify – with rock ‘n’ roll, pop music and progressive rock coming to the fore – dedication to ground-breaking techniques continued to characterise Decca Records. The company pushed innovations like the Decca Tree and LPs (long-playing records), with the pressings at New Malden driven by such technologies.

Richard Oakley at the Decca press. Credit: Ethel Oakley, Copyright Creative Youth.

Richard Oakley, husband of Kingston RPM interviewee Ethel Oakley, at the Decca press. Credit: Ethel Oakley<br /> Copyright Creative Youth.

In 1962, Dick Rowe at Decca Records infamously rejected The Beatles, but would go on to sign The Rolling Stones, allegedly at the suggestion of George Harrison. Other successful signings included Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and The Bachelors, several of whom visited the factory and played for the staff. Notable figures like Prince Philip and Princess Margaret also came to the plant, and resulting coverage ensured that the Decca factory drew national attention.

As vinyl fell out of fashion, Decca Records began to lose momentum. Following the death of Lewis in 1980, Decca UK was sold to PolyGram. The New Malden plant closed the same year putting hundreds out of work and having a significant impact on the local economy. Kingston RPM explored various aspects of this local history, speaking to Decca employees from all levels of its hierarchy.

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Learn about some of Decca’s technical processes through the infographics accessed through the buttons below (pdfs)