Hunslet – the Engine Building Neighbourhood
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Shepheard & Todd, Kitson and Co, John Fowler, J&H McLaren, Hudswell Clarke, Manning Wardle, Hunslet Engine Co and E.B.Wilson are names which many who are interested in steam engines will recognise at least a few of. These companies all operated next door or across the road from each other making Hunslet very much a neighbourhood of engine builders. To understand why this happened we need to look at a little of the history of these companies, and ideally to look at the area itself to try and get an idea of how it might have been years ago when the whole area was a mass of engineering companies.
The beginning of engine building in Hunslet In 1837 Charles Todd left Fenton, Murray & Jackson's of Holbeck to establish a new firm with James Kitson and financial backer David Laird. The first engine works is said to have been established in old mill buildings on Pearson Street leased from John Fretwell. The reason the firm was established here was largely due to family connections. John Fretwell had a great niece called Ann who was married to James Kitson and a niece called Isabelle who was married to Charles Todd. The firm built 6 locos for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, of which Lion still survives in Liverpool Museum. Legend has it that when the first engine was built it was too big to get it out of the mill’s doorways and a hole had to be knocked in the wall. The use of old mill buildings must have been very short lived however as on the 1st September 1837 the firm advertised in the Leeds Mercury that they were working in 'entirely new buidlings erected for the purpose.' The Todd Kitson & Laird partnership was short lived and in late 1939 Kitson & Laird formed the Airedale Foundry on the north side of Pearson street while Todd teamed up with John Shepheard to form Shepheard & Todd’s Railway Foundry on the south side of the street.
Manning Wardle’s Boyne Engine Works Jack Lane was once the address of four engine building companies, today two of their head offices still survive. Walking along Jack Lane from the Leeds the first one we come to is the former office of Manning Wardle. Also still in evidence is the gateway to the former works with the cast iron gateposts bearing the inscription "BOYNE ENGINE WORKS", though nothing survives of the works themselves.
Manning Wardle were the first company to emerge in the wake of E. B.Wilson’s and their early engines were practically identical to E. B.Wilson products. People within E. B.Wilson’s, including manager Alexander Campbell had established the new works alongside the Railway Foundry. Opening in 1858 for the first year or so it started business as a general engineering facility producing all manner of metal work but after the collapse of E. B.Wilson’s Manning Wardle purchased the intellectual property and took on their good will.
When Manning Wardle ceased production in the 1920s the goodwill transferred to Kitson, though this arrangement was short lived with Kitson themselves not surviving much longer. The Manning Wardle works site saw a number of industrial uses as well as making arms in the war.
Picture of the former Yorkshire PSW Co works
Bibliography Several books have been published about the Leeds engine building industry, a list is displayed in the Links and Further Reading section.
External Website Links steamindex.com:
This site features a comprehensive list of loco manufacturers and includes greater detail about the history of the local firms
Hunslet Remembered's section about the locomotive building industry and about steam road vehicle manufacture
The current Hunslet Engine Company website
This article was produced by Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.