Greenwood & Batley Limited – Albion Works – Leeds

Greenwood & Batley Limited, Albion Works, Leeds, c.1930s.

Facility Type & Function:

A private engineering manufacturer with a very wide range of products which included various types of small arms ammunition, self-propelling torpedoes (Whitehead type),   paravanes, machine gun mountings, tanks and ships lighting dynamos as well as  horseshoes for the British Government. They also manufactured a range of specialist plant and machinery for making armour plates as well as a wide range of ordnance plus gun mountings and gunpowder. Over its history the company supplied products in the above listed categories for both the British as well as various overseas governments.

Brief History:

Thomas Greenwood and John Batley set up their own engineering business in the Albion Foundry, Leeds in 1856. Before this the two had been in partnership with Peter Fairbairn and Company, a Leeds based flax spinning machinery maker.

In 1859, having outgrown their original premisses Greenwood and Batley constructed a new operating site premises in the city known as the Albion Works. It was located between Armley Road and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. They continued to operate from here for the rest of their trading history.

By 1862 Greenwood and Batley had already supplied rifle making machinery for the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield as well as wood working tools for the Royal Carried Works at Woolwich. They also supplied arms to the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

In 1888 Greenwood & Batley became limited company. By this time their By Albion Works in Leeds covered 11 acres and employed approximately 1600 men. By 1890 it was served by a rail connection with the Great Northern Railway via which much of its raw materials were delivered and finished products despatched. Greenwood and Batley rapidly became a giant of a company, manufacturing an incredible range of products.

By the 1890s Greenwood & Batley were producing versions of the Whitehead Torpedo for the British Navy. While the torpedoes were manufactured in Leeds, they were sent to Woolwich Arsenal to have their explosive charges added. During the Boer War the company also produced horseshoes for the British Government. A trade advertisement of 1899 states that the company comprised the following departments each producing the products as stated.

  • Machine Tool Department: Producing machine tools for Railway, Marine and General Engineers, including Hydraulic and other Forging and Stamping Machinery, Lathes, Punching, Shearing, Planning, Milling, Shaping, Drilling and Boring Machines. Bolt, Nut and Screw Machinery. Testing Machines for strength of Material. Wood Working Machinery.
  • Special Plants and Machinery: for making Armour Plates, Ordnance, Gun Mountings and Ammunition; also for Small Arms Cartridges, Gunpowder, etc., and every description of War Material. Rolling Mills for Metal Coining, Presses and Minting Machinery.
  • Oil Mill Machinery Department: The “Albion,” “Leeds” and Anglo-American systems for Extraction of every kind of Vegetable Oil including Machinery for Preparing and Decorticating Seeds, Nuts etc. Presses for making Cattle Feeding Cakes, Seed and Grain Elevators and Warehousing machinery. Oil Refineries. Cotton and other Baling Presses.
  • Textile Machinery Department: Improved Patented Machines for Preparing and Spinning Waste Silk, China Grass, Rhea, Ramie, and other fibres. Whyte’s patent Cop Winding Machine.
  • Engineering Department: Frickart’s Improved Corliss Steam Engines, single compound and triple expansion of the largest powers, for driving Factories, Mills, Electrical Installations, etc. Sole Manufacturers of The Brayton Patent Oil Engine.
  • Electrical Department: Producing all kinds of Dynamos and Motors for Lighting or Transmission of Power. Speciality: Motors for electrically driven Machine Tools etc. De Laval’s Patent Steam Turbine Motors, Turbine Dynamos, Turbine Pumps and Fans.
  • Ordnance Department: Manufacturing of all kinds of Military Small Arms Ammunition. Self-propelling Torpedoes (Whitehead’s) for the Navy, and Horse Shoes for the British Government.
  • Printing and Sewing Machine Department: Patent Platen Printing Machines. Patent Boot Sewing Machines. Cloth Cutting Machines. Patent Boot Sewing Machines. Cloth Cutting Machines for Wholesale Clothiers, etc.

Women workers making small arms cartridges at the Albion Works, c.1914-1918 

The huge increase in demand for ordnance and ordnance production machinery, generated by the Great War, saw further British Government orders being placed on Greenwood and Batley. The company continued to produce small arms (0.303) cartridges and bullets for War Department as well as supplying similar to the French Government.  During this period the company was also selected to manufacture some of the first tanks for the British Army as well as paravanes, machine gun tripods and torpedoes.

In 1918 Greenwood and Batley’s Albion Works employed a total of 2,177 men and 2,726 women. According to one source there had been hardly any women employed on the site prior to the Great War.

A tank during assembly at the Albion Work, 1916

After World War I it appears that Greenwood and Batley slowly moved away from its earlier production lines of ordnance manufacture to concentrate on traditional branches of engineering and machine making.

In the 1960s Greenwood and Batley became part of Fairburn-Lawson Group of companies. Under its new ownership the fortunes Albion Works site declined and in 1980 the company went into receivership. Remnants of the company were then purchased by Hunslet Holdings. The Albion works were finally closed in 1984 and demolished in 1987.

Location Details:

Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I

Image courtesy of Malcolm Johnson

Function:   Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Copper

Design: Bifacial with a plain edge.

Shape & Size: Circular,  35.4 mm

Obverse: Raised die stamped legend around outer upper edge reads . ALBION G. & B. LD. WORKS . and in lower part LEEDS all within raised inner and outer circular line borders. In upper field the legend No. below which is the incuse stamped identification number 8154 above a raised line. Below the maker’s signature ARDILL LEEDS in small lettering.

Reverse: Raised outer beaded and inner circular line border designs.

Date:  c.1880 to c.1930s (Note 2)

Maker: Ardill of Leeds

Published References:  Mal’s Tokens Website – Factories.


Type II

Function:   Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Brass

Design: Bifacial with a reeded milled edge edge.

Shape & Size: Circular,  31.5 mm

Obverse: Raised die stamped legend around outer upper edge reads . ALBION WORKS LEEDS . and in lower part G. & B. LD.  all within a beaded outer and inner raised circular borders. In upper field the letter A below which is the incuse stamped identification number 144 above a raised line. Below the maker’s signature ARDILL LEEDS in small lettering.

Reverse: Raised outer beaded and inner circular line border designs.

Date:  c.1880 to c.1930s (Note 2)

Maker: Ardill of Leeds

Published References:  None.


Notes:

  1. These checks are thought most likely to have been used as part of a work’s employee registration and time recording system.
  2. The reference to “Limited” in the legend of this check dates it to post 1888.

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