The new Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton, last week met the man who put Devizes company Cross Manufacturing on the world industrial map.

At the age of 85, Ralph Flower still works three days a week for the business he joined at the age of 15 in 1942, and travels extensively to meet potential new customers.

He trained and studied as an engineer in Bath with Cross Manufacturing Co, the independent, family-owned business, which still has its head office and factory in the spa city.

In the early 1960s the job of starting up the company’s Devizes factory in the former Central Wilts Bacon Factory in Bath Road fell to Mr Flower.

He said: “It needed a lot of work doing to convert it to manufacturing.

“There was a long cellar with tanks of brine for curing the bacon and we inherited a pungent smell.

“There were piles of sawdust lying around for smoking the sides of meat.”

Under his management it steadily flourished, starting with just six employees to 350 staff today.

It eventually outgrew the site, making it necessary to move to a purpose-built factory on the Hopton Estate in 1998.

Growth has continued, resulting in two substantial extensions to the building and recently the purchase of another large unit across the road.

Today Devizes is the centre of Cross Manufacturing’s design and manufacturing operation, developing heat-resisting metallic seals for the aerospace, automotive and power generation industries worldwide.

Managing director David Spencer said: “Ralph has been the driving force behind the success of the Devizes operation.

“With his unique combination of engineering flair, tenacity and commercial acumen, he has recognised opportunities and turned them into successful products.

“To achieve this, Ralph has travelled extensively in North America and Europe and has gained the respect of influential people wherever he has gone, always demonstrating not only technical expertise, but also integrity, ethical standards and a gentlemanly manner.

“Ralph’s influence is evident throughout the company and his continuing active service, after more than 70 years with one company, must be almost unique.”

Mrs Troughton had been invited to meet Mr Flower to recognise his 70 years’ service to the company.

Claire Perry MP had met Mr Flower the previous week and was also highly impressed with his achievements and the company’s production.

Mr Flower said of Mrs Troughton: “She is a very lively lady and very easy to talk to.”