Mather & Platt Ltd., Park Works, Newton Heath

The Discovery Debate

From the Mather & Platt archives ...

It was in 1900 that the fifty-acre plot of nearly level ground at Newton Heath was secured by the Company. It had direct access to the Lancashire and Yorkshire and The London and North-Western Railways, was on the bank of the Rochdale Canal, and was well served by main roads. Although the Boer War was in progress, building operations started at once. An administrative building two storeys in height was constructed, with the general office and drawing office open from end to end, the supervisory staff alone being provided with separate rooms. The building itself was of unusual construction being based on the design of an American firm which specialised in what they termed ‘slow burning’ buildings - solid wood built into an outer 'skin’ of brick. It is said that this remarkable structure is as good today as it was when first erected. At the same time the adjoining machine shop was erected.

John Taylor’s energy and imagination made it possible. The workshop, 380 feet long and 130 feet wide, was built to a great extent of material, which was originally erected to provide the machinery hall of the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The Hall was bought by the Company, dismantled in Paris by its own engineers, brought direct to Manchester along the Manchester Ship Canal, and re-erected together with a smaller amount of steelwork fabricated in Manchester, at Newton Heath, where, as Bays Number 1 to 4, it formed a nucleus around which the present works have been built. The first department to transfer to the new home Fire Equipment moved over a single weekend. Such was the driving power and organising genius of John Taylor that after the employees ceased productive work at Blackfriars at twelve o’clock on Saturday, the machinery was dismantled and, transported to Park Works; the millwrights worked through the weekend and production started at Newton Heath at the normal time on Monday morning. This would have been a feat of considerable magnitude in the second half of the twentieth century when powerful cranes, mobile handling and lifting tackle, supported by a fleet of mechanical transport vehicles would have been employed on the transfer but it was a triumph of organisation fifty years earlier when much of the plant would be moved twice by manual labour and horse drawn lorries were employed to provide all the necessary transport.

In accordance with an ordered scheme of development additions to the first building were made in 1903, 1905, 1909 and 1910. It was in 1909 that it was finally decided to make provision for the gradual removal of all remaining departments from the old works in Salford, and the construction of two new machine shops, each 379 feet long and 40 foot wide, enabled the Electrical Department to find a more congenial home. A year later, still following Taylor’s original plan, seven more shops, each 379 feet long, were constructed. In 1913 a building which later housed the Brass Foundry, the Forge and the Tank Shop was completed and the work of providing a new wing of four bays totalling 161 foot wide was put in hand and brought the number of bays to seventeen just prior to the 1914 War. There were further extensions in 1920, when fourteen of the bays were lengthened. In 1926 a building to accommodate the General Engineering Drawing Offices was erected and in 1939 and 1940 other shops were erected to provide new accommodation for the Tool Room and the Steel Rolling Shutter department.

Among special buildings added at Park Works were the Staff Canteen (1917), the Research Laboratory (1919), the Girls’ Canteen (1938) and the Iron Foundry (1938); while the Sports Ground at the front of the Works was not completed until 1950.

From a further source comes the following -

Very considerable extensions of their works at Newton Heath, Manchester, have been made during the last few years by Mather & Platt Limited.

The first step in the erection of the present buildings was taken in 1900 on a site measuring 50 acres alongside, and with direct access to, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway - now incorporated into the London Midland and Scottish Railway - when an administration building, two storeys high, was erected. For the first machine shop, the Machinery Annexe of the Paris Exhibition of 1900 was purchased. It was pulled down by Mather & Platt's own staff, shipped to Manchester via the Ship Canal and re-erected. The shop is 376ft long by 130ft wide and is now used for the manufacture of pumps, valves, etc. in connection with the Fire Extinguishing section of the firm's activities, as well as for a general stamping department for the whole of the works.Discovered on demolition ...

This inscribed board was discovered during demolition of the site in the 1990s. For more detail, click on the image.

With steady and constant growth of the firm's manufactures, additional buildings were erected in 1903, 1905 and 1909 when increased space was provided for the Electrical Engineering department by the construction of two more machine shops, each 376ft long by 40ft wide. It was decided in 1909 to make provision for the removal of all remaining departments from the original works in Salford, and, in 1910, seven more shops, 376ft long with bays 52ft by 40ft wide were constructed. The demand for space still continuing, further extensions became imperative and, in 1913, a new wing of four bays was erected.

This wing measures 439ft long by 161ft wide. It was fortunately completed just prior to the outbreak of war in 1914 and was let for the subsequent period of the war to A.V. Roe & Co. Limited for the manufacture of aeroplanes for fighting purposes. The two storeyed building on the extreme left had been erected in 1911. It is 238ft long by 48ft-6in. wide, and the first floor is used for administration purposes while the ground floor is made use of for a dining-room to accommodate 1000 men. Adjoining it is a well-equipped cloakroom and lavatory with supplies of hot and cold water.

At the rear of the central administration block there is a three-storey brick building with floor and roof of reinforced concrete in which are centralised all the processes of manufacture that are regarded for insurance purposes as hazardous. For example, the ground floor is utilised partly in the preparation of the cotton for the bowls of textile machinery and partly as a coppersmiths' and sheet metal shop. The first floor is used as a pattern stores and the second floor is a patternmaking shop. Another large building, measuring 275ft by 218ft ,comprises the brass foundry, smiths' shop, grinding shop and departments for the production of chemical fire-extinguishing apparatus and cast iron sectional tanks. The latest development in building is the lengthening of the fourteen bays by an additional 178ft and the building of a research laboratory and Works School.