It all began in 1899.  As you can see from our prized document shown below that on the 14th June 1899  Charles Richard Wilson at the age of 14 signed an Indenture in the presence of his father James Wilson which began his engraving apprenticeship with Edward Horatio Thew in Durham England.  We can only imagine what it must have been like back then but the Indenture set out the pay Charles was to receive for the next 7 years.  He received "three and sixpence" per week for the first year and had increases each year reaching the dizzying heights of "ten shillings" per week for the 7th and final year.  This means that in 1906 Charles became a fully qualified engraver.  Six years later, in 1912 (at the age of 27) he and his wife Sarah immigrated from Newcastle, England to Perth, Western Australia and commenced working for a local engraving company.

 

 

We believe it was in 1921, nine years after he and wife Sarah arrived in Perth, that Charles had an engraving machine shipped from England to enable him to start up his own engraving company and  Wilsons Sign Solutions was born.  It was the same year his son Clarence (Clarrie) was born.  Charles and Sarah also had 2 daughters (Olive and Hazel) who were both older than Clarrie.  

Charles originally called his company Wilson and Co. and it grew to be a successful venture.  We're not sure when the name was changed from 'Wilson & Co' to 'Wilsons Engraving Works' but we have seen some old plaques with Wilson & Co on them.  There are plaques still to be seen on buildings in Western Australia with the "Wilson & Co" or "Wilsons Engraving Works" inscriptions on them in the bottom right hand corner.  They are always of interest to us and we are planing to add a separate photo gallery of these older plaques to this web site.  If you see one or have a photo of one we'd love to hear from you.  You can send us the details of the location or a photo via email to history@wilsonsigns.com.au and we'll add it to our web site.

 

 

 

You can see from the old invoice shown above that the company was located at 31 James St and trading as Wilsons Engraving Works in 1938.  We believe that the company moved to 3 Queen's Place (next to the old Metro Theatre) not long after 1938.  Charles was also a prominent member of the Christian Brethren Assemblies and founded the monthly publication called 'The Searcher' which was distributed throughout WA.

 

    

 

Charles unfortunately passed away from an illness (believed to be cancer) in 1940 at the age of 55.  After Charles' passing his son Clarrie took over the business at Queen's Place.

World War II had begun to impact on everyone's life in the early 1940's and Clarrie joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942.  He became a Flight Sergeant and qualified as a Flight Engineer in a Catalina Squadron.  The business operations were left during this time in the capable hands of Arthur King until Clarrie's return in May 1946 after the second world war had ended.  Arthur played a large roll in the development of Wilsons Engraving Works.  He was one of life's true characters and spent his whole working life at the company.  To this day we make a lot of honour boards and almost all of the honour boards sold by Wilsons Engraving Works prior to Arthur's retirement in 1988 were made by him.  For those of us lucky enough to work at Wilsons Engraving Works while Arthur was there we share some wonderful memories and a lot of funny moments.  The honour board below is typical of the many boards that Arthur made.

 

 

During his time in the Air Force Clarrie was stationed at times in Kalgoorlie and it was here that he formed an ever lasting bond with his brother-in-law's niece Bronwen Fariss (Clarrie's sister Hazel married Bron's Uncle Brin).  When the war ended Clarrie and Bron were married and Clarrie returned to the engraving business.  He became skilled at operating theTaylor Hobson pantograph engraving machines like the one shown below.

We have in our possession some coins that are 17mm in diameter (ie slightly smaller than a 5 cent piece) on which Clarrie engraved the Lords Prayer.  Today we have replaced all the pantograph machines with computer controlled rotary and laser engraving machines but we would struggle to match the fine detail that Clarrie achieved all those years ago.  If you click on the photo below it will be magnified to a much bigger size on your screen so try and imagine what the actual coin looks like when scaled down to the size of a 5 cent piece.

 

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Clarrie and Bron enjoyed a happy and successful life raising 5 children.  Four daughters (Roslyn, Yvonne, Shirley and Josephine) and one son, Clayton.  Clarrie built a home in Tuart Hill where they lived until 1961 when they moved to Dianella.  Clarrie also bought a property at 305 Fitzgerald St Perth in 1961 and altered it to run the business from there.  In 1973 a factory was built to replace the house and you can see from the photo below they continued operating in the house as the factory was being built around them.

 

 

Clarrie's daughter Yvonne joined Wilsons Engraving Works in 1972 after returning from a working holiday in New Zealand taking on the secretarial duties and relieving Bron of these duties.  In 1979 she married Monty Simon and spent the next 10 years living in Gelong where they had 2 daughters (Kasey and Pipa).  In 1989 Yvonne returned to Perth with her family and re-joined Wilsons Engraving Works taking over the secretarial duties once again.  She remains in this position today.

Clarrie's son Clayton graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1982 and worked for Cliffs Robe River.  In 1985 Clarrie, at the age of 64 was planing his retirement and he offered Clayton the opportunity to join Wilsons Engraving Works with the aim that he take over the reigns.  Clayton joined the company in October 1985 whilst it was operating at 305 Fitzgerald St.  Three years later (in May 1988) the company shifted to a larger factory at 30 Westchester Road Malaga.  

After the move Clarrie  and Bron decided to take a well deserved trip around Australia with their caravan in tow.  By this time Clayton was running Wilsons Engraving Works and the computer era was in full swing.  The Pantograph machines that Clarrie knew so well were gradually being replaced with computer controlled engraving, routing and vinyl cutting machines.

Clarrie passed away at the age of 74 in Jan 1995.  His wife Bronwen celebrated her 90th birthday on 9th August 2011 receiving recognition for this achievement from many dignitaries and sharing a wonderful day with her 5 children, 5 in-laws, 13 grand children, 11 great grandchildren and many other relations and dear friends.

In August 2002 it seemed that, because of the many things that the new computer controlled machinery could do, the name 'Wilsons Engraving Works' was no longer giving our customers the correct impression of what we were manufacturing.  We had evolved into a sign manufacturing company so it was decided to change the name to Wilsons Sign Solutions to reflect this.  Today we have vinyl cutting, digital printing, rotary engraving, large bed routing, laser CO2 engraving and laser fibre metal marking machines that enable us to produce a vast range of products.  By looking through the photo gallery and product items on this web site you will see what we have done in recent times.

It's been a long and satisfying journey for many who have been involved in the development of Wilsons Sign Solutions over the past 90 years.  Employees from all walks of life and from many parts of the world have contributed along the way and the 12 people who are working at Wilsons Sign Solutions today owe a great deal to the many that came before us.  Our aim is to continue the tradition of honesty and reliability that has paved the way for us to be one of Western Australia's oldest companies.

 

.............the latest news is;

May 2013 will mark the end of an era.  Wilsons Sign Solutions will be moving from the Malaga factory into a new factory at 10 Profit Pass Wangara.  After 25 years at the Malaga factory we felt it was the right time to move to a newer area and factory in Wangara.  It gives us the opportunity to fit out the factory to suit the machinery and equipment we now have.  We will also be purchasing a new TekCel big bed router.  It's an exciting time for us but since this section of the our site is for our 'History' we'll wait until we have actually moved before adding anything more.

Malaga: May 1988 to May 2013               Wangara: May 2013

   

............to be continued

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