In 1886 Francis Henry Crittall took over his father's ironmongery shop in Braintree where he expanded to making window frames. He purchased this site from the Co-op in 1917 and built a factory to mass produce steel office furniture. By the 1920s the factory had moved on to metal windows and by the 1930s was the world's largest metal window manufacturer. During World War II the factory switched to many things from armaments to bailey bridges. In 1947 Sir Valentine, Francis's son, became Lord Crittall. He died in 1961 aged 77.
One of his finest achievements was the creation of the garden village of Silver End. However, mergers and take-overs started in the mid-1960s and in 1974 the company was taken over by Norcros, and re-named 'Crittal Windows'. In 1990 a new factory was built in Braintree to handle all window production, and the Witham factory closed. The buildings were demolished in 1992 and the site cleared.
Planning permission was given for a new Safeway supermarket in 1993, on appeal as the original application was refused on the basis of the need for housing and the effect on the town centre by another large superstore. However, the planning inspector disagreed and allowed the development. The reasons given were '... the level of housing land within the District is already sufficient to meet strategic requirements... and the loss of this site from the residential allocation will have a very marginal impact...the vitality and viability of Witham centre would not be seriously affected by this proposal...'. Morrisons took over the store in 2006.
Below: The Crittall factory soon before closure.
Sources: Janet Gyford; Cyril Taylor; Witham & Countryside Society.