Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Craven Brothers

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1869. Nut making machine at J. and H. Gwynne.
1869. Machine for Turning Crank Pins.
1883. Fire box roof bar drilling machine.
1901. For GWR.
1901. For GWR.
1904. 51-30 motor driven lathe.
1904. 52 -12.5 inch motor driven lathe.
December 1906.
1906. Six-foot gear cutting machine.
1906. Six-foot gear cutting machine.
Crane Division, Loughborough.
1913. Exhibit at Launceston Museum, Tasmania.
1931. Double Railway-Wheel Lathe.
August 1933.
1933. 36-inch Centre High Speed Roughing Lathe.
1933. High Speed Milling Machine.
1933. Railway Axle Plant for Russia.
1933. Double ended Grinding Machine for Russia.
1934. Tramway wheel and axle lathes.
Aug 1935. Great Western RailwayGWR Centenary.
1942. Gear hobbing machine.
1955. 42 ft vertical boring mill.[1]
Craven railway breakdown crane at Ingrow, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, 2015
Ingrow, K&WVR, 2015

Craven Brothers (Manchester) of Salford and of Vauxhall Works, Reddish, Stockport.

Established in 1853.

Craven Brothers of Manchester were makers of machine tools and cranes (factory cranes and railway breakdown cranes).

Craven Brothers was run by the three brothers Greenwood Craven, William Craven and John Craven.

In 1839 the family moved to Manchester, and Thomas began to work for Sharp, Roberts and Co.

Later he set up his own company selling and servicing machine tools.

Greenwood Craven was educated at Bradford Grammar School. He worked for Sharp, Stewart and Co from 1840 until 1852 and then went to William Fairbairn and Sons, Canal Street, Manchester.

William Craven worked for John George Bodmer, in Cambridge Street Mills, off Oxford Road, Manchester. Bodmer was an inventor, who had more than 150 patents in his name.

1852 William moved with his brother to William Fairbairn and Sons.

John Craven, an accountant, started off in business with his father. He joined Craven Brothers a year after the company was founded.

1853 Craven Brothers was formed at Dawson Croft Mill, Salford. Initially the brothers made machine tools for locomotive manufacturers, but they later branched out into many other types of machine tools, particularly for armament manufacturers. Machine tools make metal and wood parts for other machines. They range in size from hand-held devices to objects that weigh hundreds of tonnes.

Craven Brothers specialised in outsize and individually built machine tools, such as a 42-foot (13-metre) Craven Vertical Boring and Turning Mill, weighing about 600 tonnes.

The company built up a huge export trade, with agents in India, Finland, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil and expanded so rapidly that it had to move several times.

In 1863 they moved to Osborne Street in north Manchester.

1866 Patent. '2735. To Greenwood Craven, William Craven, and John Craven, of the Vauxhall Iron Works, in the city of Manchester, Engineers and Tool Makers, for the invention of "improvements in machinery for cutting and planing iron and other metals, particularly applicable to machinery for cutting and planing armour plates."'[2]

1875 Began building powered travelling cranes

1876 Tyre rolling mill for Landore Siemens Steel Co [3]

1885 Public company.

1894 Locomotive Frame-Plate Slotting Machine for the Vulcan Foundry Co of Newton-le-Willows.[4]

1900 Further growth prompted the construction of the Vauxhall Works at Reddish, near Stockport. The company kept the Osborne Street works, with about 500 employees, open until 1920.

1902 Moved from Manchester to Vauxhall Works, Reddish.

1904 Plate from a 10-ton crane. Exhibit at Anson Engine Museum

1911 Grindley Automatic Turret Lathe. [5]

1914 Manufacturers of high class modern machine tools, electric, steam, and hydraulic cranes etc. Employees 1,500. [6]

The need for greater facilities led to the establishment of works at Stockport which were gradually repeatedly enlarged until the entire business was transferred there in 1920.

1928 the machine tool businesses of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth and Company, Joshua Buckton and Co and Thomas Shanks and Co were acquired and the staffs transferred to Reddish where the products of each of the four firms were manufactured.

1931 Transferred the Cranes Division to Herbert Morris, Empress Works, Loughborough.

1935 See Craven Brothers:1935 Review

1937 Machine tool manufacturers. [7]

1939 Craven Brothers bought the Victoria Works at Denton from Knight and Hale.

1956 during one of the company’s best periods, 250 people worked at Denton.

1961 Manufacturers of all types of heaviest class machine tools and smaller machine tools. 1,500 employees. [8]

1961 Sold a factory with equipment at Denton, Lancs to J. Brockhouse and Co; work was concentrated at the company's main factory at Reddish, Stockport[9]

1965 Acquired by Staveley Coal and Iron Co but was losing money

1968 The foundry was shut as part of Staveley Industries's rationalisation of the foundries in its machine tool division[10]

1968 Announce new plano-milling machine. [11]

1970 Faced with continued losses in machine tools, Staveley's Craven-Swift Division was closed[12]

Surviving Breakdown Cranes

  • 1885 Travelling Beam Gantry, rope driven, 16 ton, 10.7 m span, conserved at Honeysuckle Point Railway Workshops, Newcastle, NSW.
  • 1907 for North Eastern Railway Museum, York.
  • 1911 35 Ton crane at Dorrigo, NSW.
  • 1911 3'6 gauge machine at Pinjarra, W. A.
  • 1912 Originally bought for the North Eastern Railway, but later sold to the SNCB. Stored for the proposed Belgium Museum.
  • 1912 Broad Gauge crane at Rosario, in the Argentine.
  • 1928 NSWGR 70 Ton machine in NSW.
  • 1931 Two LMSR cranes at the East Lancashire Railway and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
  • 1936 3'6 crane at Paekakeriki, North Island, New Zealand. [13]

Descriptions and illustrations of many Craven Bros railway breakdown cranes may be found in a new (2012) book, 'Railway Breakdown Cranes' by Peter Tatlow [14]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia. Volume VIII. Engineering. Oxford University Press, 1955
  2. The London Gazette Publication date:27 November 1863 Issue:22792 Page:6056]
  3. The Engineer of 7th July 1876 p10 & p13
  4. The Engineer of 23rd November 1894 p445
  5. Machine Tools by James Weir French in 2 vols. Published 1911 by Gresham
  6. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  7. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  8. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  9. The Times, Jan 12, 1961
  10. The Times, Feb 20, 1968
  11. The Engineer of 5th July 1968 p30
  12. The Times, Aug 28, 1970
  13. Chris Capewell Queens Park London
  14. 'Railway Breakdown Cranes - The Story of Steam Breakdown Cranes on the Railways of Britain - Volume 1' by Peter Tatlow, Noodle Books, ISBN 978-1-906419-69-1