A Brief History of Clayton, Son & Co Ltd

Established by Lawrence Clayton in 1862, Clayton, Son & Co Ltd had works on Pepper Road, the Moor End Works off Balm Road and the Dartmouth Works just off Dewsbury Road in the Hunslet area of Leeds. Key products were mill boilers, gas holders, water tanks and pipes, they also produced boilers for Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co, a member of the same group of companies. Claytons also made many boilers for use in steam cranes produced by Joseph Booth and Thomas Smith in the Rodley area of Leeds.[5]

Above: Joseph Booth steam crane 4154 at Staveley Ironworks in the late 50s / early 60s. This crane was fitted with a Clayton boiler. (Photo J.S.Brownlie Collection)

Having been an important part of the history of the Middleton Railway the following article was written for the Summer 1990 Old Run magazine at the 30th Anniversary of the preservation of the line [1]

The Yorkshire Post Leeds Tercentenary Supplement was published in July 1926. In 1926 the ‘The Clayton Group’ was in existence, not merely the original firm. Below are the particulars given of the firm, then in its heyday[2]

CLAYTON, SON & CO. LTD. The firm was founded in 1862, in Belinda Street, Hunslet (near the junction of Church Street and Low Road). Its founder and subsequent Chairman is named in the article as Lawrence Clayton. He had died recently, aged 84, and so apparently was only 20 years of age when the company was founded. The White’s 1870 Directory of Leeds and the Woollen District lists Lawrence and Leonard Clayton as being of the firm Clayton, Son & Company, but the relationship is unclear. As Lawrence was only 20 when the firm was founded, it is probable that Leonard was either his father or elder brother.

In 1874, the firm moved to Moor End Works, becoming a private limited company in 1896. From the beginning, Clayton’s specialised in gasholder and tank production, the 1870 directory listing them as “boiler & gasholder manufacturers and general smiths”. Their first gasholder order was of 8,500 cubic feet capacity, for Spilsby Gas Company (Lincolnshire) in 1864, but in 1926, the firm was working on two gasholders for Birmingham Corporation, of a twin capacity of 12,000,000 cubic feet. The article related that “Gasholders and Oil and Water Tanks have been made and erected at places varying as widely as Stockholm in the North, Falkland Islands in the South, India and Singapore in the East, and Winnepeg in the West.”

Above - 1891 advert for Clayton (Graces Guide)

A recent product of Moor End was an elevated steel reservoir, constructed and erected for the Corporation of Calcutta. The Reservoir was actually a steel tank, 321 feet square and 16 feet deep, supported on a veritable forest of steel stanchions, the total height from tank top to ground level being 110 feet. The tank was divided into four independent compartments, and had an overall capacity of 9,000,000 gallons or 40,000 tons. 7,000 tons of steel were used in its construction, and it was erected in only fifteen months, three months within the time specified by the contract. It would be interesting to know if the reservoir still stands.

[This tank does indeed survive, in fact it is quite a notable landmark of Calcutta, the Tala Tank.][3]

Clayton’s own Pepper Road Works was started in 1906, for the production of welded and riveted steel water mains, and large contracts had been fulfilled for many water boards, including those of London, Manchester, Leeds and Aberdeen.

Above - 1909 advert for Clayton (Graces Guide)

DEIGHTON’S PATENT FLUE & TUBE CO. LTD. The Company was founded in 1896, and had premises built for it in Pepper Road, where it specialised in the manufacturing of corrugated furnaces for steam engine boilers, both land and marine. Its founder and first Managing Director was William Deighton, who had died in March 1926. It is not stated when the firm became a member of The Clayton Group.

THE YORKSHIRE PATENT STEAM WAGON COMPANY. Founded in 1903, in connection with Deighton’s, their works was adjacent to the Patent Flue & Tube Company’s premises. The firm manufactured steam transport wagons, embodying the “Yorkshire” patent double-ended loco type boiler. These were supplied in large numbers, both to general traders and to public bodies - municipal corporations etc. A related product was “their “Yorkshire” Patent Vacuum Gulley Emptier with Sealing Tank, Street Washers, Tractors etc.”.

Claytons supplied boilers for most of Yorkshire's steam wagons. Above is Yorkshire number 70 of 1905 which spent its life with Clayton, Son & Co, it is seen here hauling a rather long example of the company's water pipes

Much more about this member of the group can be found in the Brief History of Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co by Michael Walters.

GOODALL, CLAYTON & CO. LTD. Founded as a private firm in 1908, they became a company in 1914, and specialised in elevating and conveying machinery for handling all types of material. This included “coal screening and separating plants, picking belts, tipplers, creepers, & c. for Collieries, pit headgears, gantries, steel structural building, roofs, etc., complete gas retort installions of the horizontal, vertical, or inclined systems”.

In 1893, the Hunslet Railway Company was incorporated to build a line from the Great Northern at Beeston to Hunslet, or more specifically to Knowsthorpe, in Hunslet but across the river. This was taken over by the Great Northern under its Act of 1894 and duly opened on 3rd July 1899, including a connection with the Middleton Colliery line near New Pit. Among the promoters of the Hunslet line was Lawrence Clayton, who had sold land to the Middleton Estate & Colliery Co for the building of the Balm Road branchline of the Middleton Colliery railway. His firm, Clayton, Son & Company, was to play an important part also in the twentieth century development of the railway.[4]

Clayton’s Dartmouth Works was connected to the Middleton Colliery Railway in 1920. When the northern most section of the line was closed part of the Railway was actually purchased by Clayton’s at the end of 1959. They behaved in an extremely benevolent way towards the preservation society which was set up at that time, and even after they ceased using rail transport themselves, they gave the Middleton Railway Trust a ‘home’ in the Dartmouth Works yard until that works was sold, and were largely instrumental in the Railway still being in existence today. Without the firm’s goodwill, the Middleton Railway Trust probably would have been unable to continue preservation and operation of the Railway.

The exterior and main rail exit of the Dartmouth Works building was used as a setting for the half-hour children’s feature film Fred the Steam Fugitive, occasionally aired on Channel 4.

Above - The first part of Fred the Steam Fugitive, filmed around Clayton's Dartmouth Yard

Film of Clayton’s Moor End Works might also exist at the B.B.C. It was used in the filming of the drama series Seaforth, some time after the works closed, and both the works yard and the interior were used as sets for scenes in the first few episodes. At this time, works equipment appeared to be still in place.

In the early 1970’s, I believe the big Dartmouth Works shed was mainly in use for shot blasting of metal components - they had an enclosure built within the shed for this purpose. The Dartmouth Works closed down in 1983 and was demolished, the land being sold for ‘redevelopment’ as a light industrial/warehousing estate. The Moor End Works closed down c.1994 I think, and was demolished, the land being sold for the building of a retail trading estate.

Above – Photo of Clayton’s Moor End Works, circa 1974 (Photo Sheila Bye)

According to the Tercentenary Supplement, the total area occupied by The Clayton Group in 1926 amounted to 23 acres, and it is sad to remember how little of this substantial local employer is left. All vestiges of the Pepper Road Works disappeared during the 1980’s, as did Dartmouth Works, the Pepper Road complex having been replaced by a housing estate. Some of the streets bear the name ‘Clayton’.

Bibliography

The Old Run, the Middleton Railway Trust’s members’ magazine, in Summer 1990 [1]

Yorkshire Post Leeds Tercentenary Supplement, published in July 1926 [2]

A History of the Middleton Railway Leeds, ISBN 0-9516205-5-X [4] Available from the Middleton Railway Shop

Various works records from Thomas Smith and Joseph Booth [5]

External Website Links

Graces Guide page about Clayton, Son & Co

Information about the Tala Tank in Calcutta [3]

Acknowledgements

This article was produced using material provided by Middleton Railway Historian / Archivist Sheila Bye


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