David Brown's Foundries

Steelworks History
A steelworks first opened on the Green Road site in 1863 as Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works, Penistone. The 'first blow' of the hammer took place on the First of May that year, its foundation stone having being laid the year before. This was in the days when the railway network was rapidly expanding throughout the country. The increased population caused the Methodist congregation to outgrow the old chapel on Penistone High Street (opened 1808) and led to a new chapel being built, which opened in 1872. The New Wesleyan Chapel was dedicated to St Paul. It was much later replaced by the current St Andrews on the same site.

In May 1873, a serious waggonette accident took place at Thurgoland Bridge to members of Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works Cricket Club, Penistone. Benjamin Revel was killed and several others seriously injured. In 1884, an explosion at Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works led to seven men injured, one of whom died shortly afterwards.

Penistone ShowCubley PlanCubley Plan

The history timeline is worded such that, in 1914, an Iron and Steelworks was started in Penistone by Messrs Benson, Adamson and Garnet. Three years later it was sold to Charles Cammel, to become Cammell Laird and Co. Ltd steelworks, whose main product was railway lines. The date of the above Penistone Show picture is uncertain but you can see the puther from Cammel-Laird's works in the background.

In 1921-22, the Cubley housing estate was started on land purchased in 1919. It was planned as a 'model village', mostly on the old 'Race Common' (where there used to be horse races many years ago), to accommodate workers at Cammell Laird steelworks. The centre picture above (from an old Penistone Almanac) shows it in some detail. It is interesting that it features allotments, a bowling club, village green, a monument, two churches, a hostel, recreation ground and a school. So it was quite self-contained except for (just as in modern times) no new shops.

You can view the actual plan in Cubley Hall near the bar area (also shown here, with the kind permission of Cubley Hall). The design was by top architect Herbert Baker, who had worked with Sir Edward Lutyens on New Delhi. The Chairman of Cammell-Laird's, Mr WL Hichens, said that they planned to erect about 500 houses on the estate, starting with a hundred. They hoped that the village would become a model for the rest of the country. Only part of the plan was built, mostly that which was on land transferred to Penistone Council in 1921.

In 1929, The English Steel Corporation Ltd formed from a merger of steel industry companies, which involved parts of: Vickers, Vickers-Armstrong and Cammell, Laird and Co. Penistone's Yorkshire Steel and Iron works was part of Cammel-Laird.

In 1930, The Yorkshire Steel and Iron works (formerly Cammel-Laird) closed in Penistone under the English Steel Corporation Ltd., at a time of high unemployment. At its peak, the works employed 1,500 men. Penistone MP Mr Rennie Smith raised a matter in Parliament about the availability of facilities for Penistone as a depressed area. (See this extract in Hansard).

A New Beginning
The David Brown company was founded in 1860 as a general manufacturing company in the Huddersfield area. It is named after the company's founder, David Brown, though it is more closely associated with his grandson, Sir David Brown. From 1873 it focussed its production on gear-cutting. The original Mr David Brown, Patternmaker and gear cutter, passed away in 1901 at the age of 59. The company continued under the name of David Brown and Sons.

In 1934, the DB company came to Penistone by buying the now disused Penistone steelworks for a new foundry. This opened in 1935 and brought much-needed employment into the area after the five-year hiatus. David Brown Foundries began making high grade steel and steel castings.

During the Second World War, armour plating for Churchill and Cromwell tanks and blockbuster bomb casings were made at the Penistone works. An aircraft foundry was also built for aeroplane engine castings and for cables which would be used to assist the Normandy landings.

In 1951, David Brown Corporation was formed as the parent of a variety of David Brown companies, which included Aston Martin (since 1947) and Lagonda (since 1948). The David Brown investment led to the DB series of Aston Martins and was, therefore, a connection with that great British secret agent 007, James Bond.

In 1993 the company was floated on the Stock Market as a public company, to be acquired by Textron Inc. five years later.

The history of David Brown's is neatly listed in more detail at Grace's Guide: David Brown and Sons and at the publicly-maintained Wikipedia. See also the History Timeline page on this website.

This collection of pictures is from David Brown's Foundries, Green Road, Penistone and was kindly donated by Mr Michael Selby, who is a leading light at Penistone Royal British Legion and to whom I give my thanks. Here is a small selection to get the show on the road.

The first picture, top-row was from a party night which was most likely at Christmas. The setting was most likely to have been Penistone Working Men's Club. The second is a Long Service presentation to Mr C C Purdie in 1974 and the third is a Remembrance Ceremony at the works in 1961.

A PartyMr Purdie's Long Service awardRemebrance Service
AwardsDavid Brown'sOxspring Gala

On the second row, the first picture is an award being given to David Beaumont, with Steve Faxon stood on his right. The second one has a huge children's party, which appears to have been in the works canteen, date unknown. The third shows an event at Oxspring Gala. The connection is likely to be that the Gala was on DB's sports field and it was presumably sponsored by the company.

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