Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,675 pages of information and 235,472 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Craven Brothers

From Graces Guide
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 Vauxhall Works, Reddish, Stockport; and Victoria Works, Denton.

of Salford (1853); and Osborne Street, Manchester (1863).

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.

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.

1853 Business established.

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. These ranged in size from hand-operated devices to objects that weighed hundreds of tons.

1854 John Craven, an accountant, started off in business with his father. He joined Craven Brothers a year after the company was founded.

1854 'Two well-lighted ROOMS TO BE LET, with Power, on ground floor, suitable for a machinist, a short distance from the Exchange.- Apply at CRAVEN BROTHERS, engineers and tool makers, Collyhurst Road, Manchester.'[2]

1860 Death of Benjamin Gee, 30, planing machine operator, at Craven's Vauxhall Ironworks. He died after an iron casting fell on him, due the failure of a sling.[3]

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."'[4]

1875 Began building powered travelling cranes. They provided many overhead travelling cranes driven by high speed cotton ropes. Examples are preserved at Newcastle in Australia and at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. It is understood that the latter is no longer accessible to the public. By 1929 upwards of 3,000 cranes of various types, having capacities from one ton to 200 tons, had been made.

1876 Tyre rolling mill for Landore Siemens Steel Co [5]

1884 'Large Gun-boring Machines.— Two of the largest boring machines that have ever been made for ordnance purposes have just been completed for the English Government by Messrs. Craven Brothers, of Manchester, and the machines, although they have not yet been set to work, have now been put down at the Woolwich Arsenal. Each of these machines weighs 165 tons, and they are capable of boring 30 inches diameter to a depth of 50 feet. They are similar in construction to smaller machines of the same type previously made by Messrs. Craven for the Government, the special feature being the extra length of bore required for the new guns that are now being built.'[6]

1885 Public company.

1894 Locomotive Frame-Plate Slotting Machine for the Vulcan Foundry Co of Newton-le-Willows.[7]

1900 Further growth prompted the construction of the Vauxhall Works at Reddish, near Stockport. The company kept the works at Osborne Street, Rochdale Road, with about 500 employees, open until 1920. The 1915 O.S. map shows 'Vauxhall Engineering Works' with its south-east corner on Osborne Street, Collyhurst, and bounded on the north by streets of terraced houses and to the south by the L&YR Manchester-Normanton line.

1900 'The Developement of Reddish. — Quite a number of Manchester firms are prospecting the neighbourhood of Reddish, writes a correspondent, while Messrs. Heywood are about to erect electrical engineering works in Sandfold-lane, and Messrs. Rowley and Co. [Rowland?], boiler-makers, are fitting works in the neighbourhood. Messrs. Craven Brothers, engineers, of Salford, have purchased 14-acres of land near the Reddish Station, on the estate of Mr. H. P. Greg, on which they intend to erect large engineering works. The first sod was cut on Thursday afternoon by Mr. William Craven, in the presence of his brother directors.'[8]

1901 Supplied eight 50-ton overhead electric cranes having a span of 90 ft, for the new works of British Westinghouse at Trafford Park.[9]

1901 'FATALITY AT SALFORD ENGINEERING WORKS. A married man named John Tomlinson, 25 years of age, of 30, Morton-street, Harpurhey, died at Salford Royal Hospital last night from injuries received on the 27th inst. whilst engaged following his usual occupation at Craven Brothers' engineering establishment, Adelphi-street, Salford. He was working near a crane when it smashed and piece about 13cwt fell upon him. His left side was cut open and his thigh shattered.'[10]

To the Editor of the Manchester Evening News.
Sir,— I observe that in the report which has appeared in the various Manchester papers of the unfortunate accident which occurred on the 27th inst. at the Salford branch works of my company (Craven Brothers, Limited), the cause is stated be the breakage of a crane near to which the deceased was working. This is very misleading, and it is calculated to injure the high reputation that my company enjoy as crane makers, I shall feel obliged if you will kindly give prominence in your next issue to the following explanation. An overhead travelling crane was being taken down in order to remove it to our works extension at Reddish; part of the crane was already down, and the portion being handled at the time of the accident was one of the end carriages. This was being lowered when the block rope broke and precipitated the piece to the floor. Deceased, who was assisting with the work, in getting clear of the falling piece stumbled, and very unfortunately the end carriage, after striking the floor, fell over to his leg. It is unnecessary to add that my directors very deeply regret the sad occurrence, which is the first fatality that has occured in their during the history of the concern.— Yours, &c, Geo. Johnson, Secretary, Vauxhall Iron Works, Osborne-street, Manchester, August 30th, 1901.'[11]

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. [12]

1914 Manufacturers of high class modern machine tools, electric, steam, and hydraulic cranes etc. Employees 1,500. [13]

1920 Having established works at Stockport, which were repeatedly enlarged, 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.

1929 Armstrong Whitworth Securities Co had a controlling interest; the business was reorganised which, it was hoped, would result in a return to profitability[14]

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

1935 See Craven Brothers:1935 Review

1937 Machine tool manufacturers. [15]

1939 Craven Brothers bought the Victoria Works at Saxon Street, 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. [16]

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[17]

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[18]

1968 Announce new plano-milling machine. [19]

1970 Faced with continued losses in machine tools, Staveley's Craven-Swift Division was closed[20]

Surviving Railway 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. [21]

Descriptions and illustrations of many Craven Bros railway breakdown cranes may be found in the book 'Railway Breakdown Cranes' by Peter Tatlow (2012)[22]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia. Volume VIII. Engineering. Oxford University Press, 1955
  2. Manchester Times, 22 July 1854
  3. Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser, 3 November 1860
  4. The London Gazette Publication date:27 November 1863 Issue:22792 Page:6056]
  5. The Engineer of 7th July 1876 p10 & p13
  6. Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser, 30 August 1884
  7. The Engineer of 23rd November 1894 p445
  8. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 31 March 1900
  9. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 6 July 1901
  10. Manchester Evening News, 30 August 1901
  11. Manchester Evening News, 31 August 1901
  12. Machine Tools by James Weir French in 2 vols. Published 1911 by Gresham
  13. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  14. The Times June 4, 1930
  15. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  16. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  17. The Times, Jan 12, 1961
  18. The Times, Feb 20, 1968
  19. The Engineer of 5th July 1968 p30
  20. The Times, Aug 28, 1970
  21. Chris Capewell Queens Park London
  22. '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