Leeds Engine:Today: Hunslet

Hunslet – the Engine Building Neighbourhood


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All | Kitson | Fowler | Round Foundry | Manning Wardle | Hunslet | Hudswell | McLaren | Mann | Yorkshire

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.

Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company
Immediately behind the former Mann works on Pepper Road is the former Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co works. Famous for their distinctive double ended Patent Yorkshire Boiler they made steam lorries in this works from 1903 until 1931, later producing specialist bodies for commercial vehicles, a spin off from the various specialist steam lorries such as gully emptiers that the firm had produced. Remarkably the company retained the name until 1971 when they finally became known as Yorkshire Vehicles Ltd. The company closed in 1993. Though it has been rebuilt somewhat since the days of steam lorry production the works is now used by Pickersgill Kaye. Pickersgill Kaye continue to supply specialist locks for the rail, architectural, high security and custodial industries. Pickersgill-Kaye has also been involved in supplying components to railway rolling stock manufacturers across the world, even to far east based manufacturers Rotem and Hitachi.
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

Acknowledgements
This article was produced by Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.

Page last modified: 08 January 2022

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