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I intend to put short biographies of "Team" members. I am not an expert so I would appreciate any help on offer please e-mail me if you can help!

Lewis Norris Ken Norris Maurice Parfitt Paul Evans Tony Robinson

A big thank you to Don Stevens for the following biographies of Ken and Lewis Norris

General Notes on the Norris Family.
A most unusual family, of six boys and two girls. Father was a Gas Engineer in charge of the Burgess Hill, Sussex, Gas Works. One of the brothers, Philip, was a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain and was unfortunately killed in action. Four of the others became engineers and one an accountant. Both Leslie, a Civil Engineer, and Eric, an accountant, also served in the forces during World War ll. Leslie being decorated for valor and Eric serving in the North African and Italian campaigns. Walter, the eldest followed their father into Gas Engineering.

Lewis H. Norris, C.Eng., AMIMech.E.
Born in 1924, Lewis (Lew) Norris completed his early education at Lewes Grammar School from where he joined Harland & Wolf ship buildersas an apprentice, and studied to become a marine engineer. During World War ll he worked in the shipyards of the North East, manufacturing Landing Craft for the invasion. Post war he went to the Far East to work for Burma Oil, but had to leave in a hurry when the communists moved in. Returning to England, he was asked by a relative to design some woodworking machinery for Kine Engineering of Horley, Surrey. Sir Malcolm Campbell had left his shareholding in the company to his son Donald, who, at that time was looking to up-rate his late fathers boat “Bluebird K5”, by installing a more powerful piston engine and power train with a “prop rider” configuration, to compete for the Harmsworth Trophy. It was soon realized that propeller driven boat could not reach the required speeds, so Donald decided that the World Speed Record should be attacked with a jet-propelled craft. With Ken and Lew’s experience, they were the obvious people to turn to, so Norris Brothers Ltd., was appointed as designers. Whilst Ken became the lead figure on the “Bluebird” scene, Lew took the lead in other areas of business, a vital task which kept money making projects going so that the company could survive. He was particularly responsible for the Worcester Valve Co., Norco Engineering, and Bluebird Wrapping Machines, all of which produce innovative products.

Lew Norris (1924-2009)


One of the founding directors of Norris Brothers Ltd., of Haywards Heath, Sussex, Lew is probably most famous as the co-chief designer of Donald Campbell’s world record breaking ‘Bluebird’ hydroplane and car which are still, 50 years after their design, the only vehicles to break both world records in the same year. He became involved with Donald Campbell, after narrowly escaping from Burma during the communist take- over, when he did some design work for a woodworking machinery manufacturer in which Donald was a major shareholder.

Lew was the youngest of six brothers and two sisters, children of the engineer in charge of the gas works in Burgess Hill, Sussex. Four of the brothers became qualified engineers in different disciplines, one an accountant, and one was killed in the Battle of Britain. In 1953 Lew, now a marine engineer with his brothers Eric, the accountant, and Ken, an aeronautical engineer, set up Norris Brothers Ltd., an engineering design consultancy. The company became probably the most diverse and innovative of its type. Apart from the ‘Bluebirds’ they were responsible for many original concepts, which, most famously included the automatic seat belt fitted to all cars today. Had they been less trusting of others they would have become wealthy on this alone, but they were cheated out of the patent rights. Other noteworthy ‘firsts’ were air supported buildings, a rotary engine for motorcycles, a high gap micro-switch which became an industry standard under the ‘Pye’ name, a concrete pump, what became the ‘go-kart’, and a number of others.

As the company grew, Lew realised that design alone would not make much money, so whilst Ken concentrated on the more esoteric aspects of the business, he developed the manufacturing side.

The first product was a ball valve made under a joint-venture agreement with the Worcester Valve Company of Massachusetts, U.S.A. This was eventually bought out by a major British conglomerate, but not before Lew and his team had developed a control system which he licensed to Worcester in the U.S., and became its Vice-President. Despite Worcester Valve U.K. being vastly smaller than its competitors it became, and still is, a market leader. Initially this was through Lew introducing management and computer systems long before they became a ‘must have’. Subsequently he developed and patented the ‘Flotronic’ pump renowned for its ease of maintenance in the process industries. Other companies designed and produced spool valves, packaging machinery, lift trucks and explosion proof boxes.

Success brought a good income and Lew moved to Alderney from where he piloted his own twin-engine aircraft across to Shoreham until he was nearly 75. He then relocated to Hove in Sussex and remained active in his companies until ill health prevented him. Despite their major contribution to engineering in the U.K., he and his brother Ken were never honoured by their country. He died peacefully on Friday 13th. February, and leaves a widow Beryl and three daughters, Jane, Sara and Lucinda. His funeral will take place on Wednesday 25th February. Any donations should be to the RNLI.

Kenneth W. Norris, Bsc(Eng), ACGI, FRAeS, CEng, FIMechE.
Ken was born in 1921, and, interestingly, in view of his later achievements, was the only one of the brothers not to get to Grammar School. He became an apprentice at the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft company in Coventry, and completed his formal education at Coventry Tech. His work at Armstrong Whitworth, especially on their revolutionary “flying wing” aircraft, earned him the Freedom of the City of Coventry. In 1944 he took over the responsibility of running the Mechanical Test & Research Department at Armstrong Whitworth and taught at Coventry Tech. During this time he became determined to form an engineering company with his brothers. When he completed his Aeronautical Degree in 1951 his lecturer introduced him to Lieutenant Frank Hanning-Lee, who had an outline design for a World Water Speed contender, the “White Hawk”. Norris Brothers Ltd was formed in 1952, with Eric, Ken and Lew actively involved. Ken worked on the structural aspects and aerodynamics of “White Hawk” and Lew produced the manufacturing drawings. The craft failed in its attempts, on Lake Windermere, and now seems to have disappeared. Norris Brothers Ltd. became involved with Donald Campbell through Ken’s brother Lewis (Lew). That part of the story comes in Lew’s biopic below. K7, as the “Bluebird” hydroplane was officially known was designed in the company’s offices in Hayward’s Heath, Sussex, with Ken and Lew leading a small team of three design draughtsmen working up to 80 hours a week, and earning the magnificent sum of £6 (per week!) for doing so. Construction took place at Samlesbury Engineering in Preston, Lancs., The story of it’s achievements are well documented elsewhere on this site. The design of the “Bluebird CN7” car (Campbell-Norris 7) was commenced in 1957 at the company’s then expanded offices in Burgess Hill, Sussex, with a group of five designers, led by Ken & Lew, backed up by a team of draughtsmen. Ken became the “front” man for the Norris Brothers, and went on all of the record attempts. Outside of record attempts, Ken was involved in many cutting edge theoretical and actual design studies. He was appointed a member of the Design Award Panel, and with his brothers, developed several companies within the Norris Group of Companies. He then moved more into aviation, setting up companies training general and agricultural pilots and repairing and maintaining gas turbine engines in the UK and Spain. He was closely involved with the “Thrust ll” and “Thrust SSC” Land Speed Record Projects, the latter being the first to achieve supersonic speeds, and the “Quicksilver” Water Speed Record contender. He passed away on the 1st October 2005

Ken Norris (1921-2005)

Kenneth (Ken) William Norris, B.Sc., A.C.G.I., F.I.Mech.E., F.R.Ae.S., Freeman of the City of Coventry.

One of Britain’s most innovative, but largely unrecognised, engineers died last Saturday, (Oct.1st.), peacefully in bed at 3.15 a.m.
Born on 15th November 1921, the fifth of six sons of Walter Norris, Engineer in Charge at Burgess Hill Gas Works, Ken was the only one of his family not to gain entry to a grammar school. However as an apprentice to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft in Coventry, he soon shone, and went on to develop the Materials Testing Department at Coventry Tech. where he also taught and became a member of the design team of the very revolutionary Armstrong Whitworth “Flying Wing”, which earned him the Freedom of the City of Coventry.
When studying at London University for his Degree, he determined to set up a design company with his brothers, three of whom were qualified engineers and one an accountant. One of his lecturers introduced him to Commander Hanning-Lee who had designed a craft, the “White Hawk”, to attack the World Water Speed Record. Ken did some structural and stress work, but the project never achieved its goal. Meanwhile, his younger brother Lewis, a mechanical engineer, was asked by a director (Donald Campbell) of the company for which he worked, to design some modifications to his father’s craft. When Donald decided to go for the World Water Speed Record the two brothers were an obvious choice to ask to design the craft, and Ken’s dream of Norris Brothers Ltd., was realised.
Ken became the leading authority on Land and Water Speed Record design, having led, with his brother Lew, the teams that designed the world’s fastest car and boat, the “Bluebirds”. He led, or was consulted on, the design of all the subsequent contenders through the “Thrusts” on land and the KX project (Quicksilver) on water. There is evidence that he had a design for a single vehicle to break both records!
However, his expertise was not limited to such exotic projects. He headed teams that designed the first automatic seat belt mechanism, the first piezo-electric gas ignition system, a very advanced method of transporting liquid methane in ocean tankers, and amongst many other things, a practical application of Professor Zwicky’s Morphological Design process. Most of this happened in the 50’s and 60’s.
In the late 70’s, apart from his work on record breakers, he moved into aviation, qualifying for his Private Pilots Licence. Together with his two sons, he set up a turbine/jet engine maintenance and repair facility, a “crop duster” operation, a pilot training school, and Piper Aircraft Agencies in UK and Spain. He was also a member of the Design Award Panel and Chairman of the Design Award Components Panel.
Apart from his many friends and admirers, he leaves his wife Marjorie and two sons and three grandchildren to remember his great achievements.

Websites which contain more detailed information on Ken’s high speed work are:-

Further information from Donald Stevens 01580 720367

Design Team l to R:- Lew Norris, Don Stevens, Ken Norris (standing), Fred Wooding, and Jerzy Orlowski. Hugh & Fred were responsible for the detail design of the engine modification, transmission & suspension. Jerzy for the body & exhaust lines.

Photograph by kind permission of Donald Stevens

Picture ©Paul Allonby
To purchase this or other prints please contact Paul Allonby:-

Paul W Allonby
Borrans Road
LA22 0ENPaul Evans was seconded from the 24th Signal regiment at Catterick Garrison where he was an instructor on Aerial theory and general communications. He spent from the end of November 1966 thru to the 6th of January 1967 with Donald, remaining after the 4th of January, to pack up the communications equipment, and assist in searching the Water for Donalds Body. On the recording of Donalds last run, Paul was "base" and received the message "complete accident i'm afraid" His son sent in the great picture here of Paul in the cockpit of K7. Paul was at Coniston for the recovery, along with Tony Robinson.
Paul passed away on the 11th January 2011 after a long illness.

Don Woolley

Don thenDon now!

Don Woolley is the last surviving member of Donald Campbell’s team which claimed the World Water Speed Record at Ullswater in July 1955 and later at Lake Mead in the USA.

Born in Derby in 1927, he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 15 and developed a love of the sea which remains with him to this day. His interest in mechanics, particularly engines, led him to build his own garage and small engineering business. Don became involved in the Bluebird venture through a chance remark made to Leo Villa. While staying overnight at Leo’s house he was shown drawings of Campbell’s new Bluebird and ventured to express the opinion that it might have a problem with water being taken into the air intakes. This proved to be the case and Leo remembering their conversation, sent for him to help fix the problem. This he did and he became a member of the highly successful team. To the public at large, Don was probably best remembered as being the guy who dived fully clothed into Lake Mead in order to secure a rope to the sinking Bluebird and finished up in hospital.

His love affair with boats continued after Bluebird. He built his own two masted ketch which he sailed single handed around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean . Only recently has he felt compelled to give up his boat. Don has three sons, a daughter and four grandchildren. He now spends much of his time on holidays and commuting between his bungalow in Disley and Dronfield Derbyshire.

David Lynette

I was sent this:-

"In the early 1960s I was a fettler on the Australian Commonwealth Railways and was working in the Town of Marree in South Australia as the railway’s Road Master’s clerk. At this time the English race-car driver, Mr Donald Campbell was in Australia, he was about to try and break the world land speed record in his famous car The Bluebird, which he was going to do on the dry lake-bed of Lake Eyre. When he and his car reached the railhead at Marree they found that there was no-one on the station staff who were experienced enough in the handling of such large loads, so I and a couple of other fettlers who had prior experience in acting as dog-men volunteered to help. To cut a long story short, we succeeded in unloading his car and Donald was very pleased, so he invited the three of us over to the Marree Pub for a few drinks. We had a very pleasant time. Sometime during this session I asked him if he would give me his autograph, which he agreed to do. No-one had any writing paper with them so I gave him a Marree Cricket Club membership ticket and he wrote his autograph on the back of that for me. I told him the names of my children, and then wrote the following:"

James Bendall and Sons

Alan Dodds sent me this information:
In May 1955 the firm of James Bendall and Sons, Carlisle had an enquiry for new panels to be made for Bluebird. George Bendall went to see the job and measure it up. On his return he told charge hand panelbeater Archie Scott to make two panels for the rear of Bluebird to his measurements. I at this time was an 18 year apprentice serving my time with Archie. Having made the panels in the workshop we went to Ullswater to see the Bluebird. On meeting Leo Villa he showed us where they were to fit, they only required minor adjustment. Villa was shocked as he said in all his experience he'd never seen anyone measure a job up like Mr. Bendall !! He then told Archie if he could work off measure ments like that, then would he make other panels required by them. So I worked helping Archie to make panels for the front and sponsons for the next two weeks at Glenridding. I welded the panels, and made the arms to hold the pitot heads while assisting with the larger panels. While at Glenridding we worked with the Bluebird team, met Donald and his wife also Lady Campbell his mother. Archie and the Bodyshop manager John Kenning came to Carlisle from Dumfries where they both had worked for Arrol Johnston (they went bust about 1928) In 1927 Arrol Johnston built a Bluebird car for Sir Malcolm Campbell, Both Archie and John were involved with the car bodywork. Therefore when we were working at Glenridding Archie and Leo could swap stories. I myself while working on Bluebird had a try in the cockpit during a quiet dinner hour! Hope this is of interest to you, Alan Dodds"