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 162,480 pages of information and 244,521 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.

William Beardmore and Co

From Graces Guide
1881. Wine decanter presented to Gracie Beardmore on the inaugeration of "Samson" the massive steam hammer.
January 1888.


1901. Stoking plant installed by Graham, Morton and Co.
1901. Rear view of stoking plant installed by Graham, Morton and Co.
1904. Duff gas producers at Dalmuir Works by Stevenson.
1912. 130 B.H.P. Reversible Semi-Diesel Marine Engine.
ca.1920s. Drawing office with Robert Humphrey Burne-Jones (1881-1949).
ca.1920s. Drawing office with Robert Humphrey Burne-Jones (1881-1949).
1920. Hot-bulb engine.
January 1920.
January 1920.
January 1920.
Dec 1921.
1922. The Launch of Liner Conte Verde.
1923. Gear Cutting.
ca1925. Inspection Table probably taken at Dalmuir.
1928 Tornado. Exhibit at London Science Museum.
December 1929.
Naval Tool Chest.
Naval Tool Chest.
Naval Tool Chest.
1933. 85 B.H.P. 5 Cylinder Oil Engine.
April 1952. Steel forgings and castings.
WB (William Beardmore?) Pioneer Road Roller. Exhibit at Vintage Vehicles Shildon.

William Beardmore and Company of Parkhead (Glasgow) and Dalmuir.

Beardmores was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding company based in Glasgow and the surrounding areas. They produced commercial vehicles, armaments including shells and tanks, aircraft, airships and motorcycles.

The company was active between about 1886 and 1930 and, at its peak, employed about 40,000 people. It was founded and owned by William Beardmore, later Lord Invernairn, after whom the Beardmore Glacier was named.


c.1835 Robert Napier the 'father' of shipbuilding on the Clyde, acquired a yard at Govan and commenced shipbuilding there in the 1840s.

1848 Robert Napier purchased a forge at Parkhead in the east end of Glasgow to supply wrought iron plates and forgings for his works.

1860 Napier's company was on the verge of bankruptcy. William Beardmore senior, father of William Beardmore, was recruited to join Parkhead

1861 Beardmore entered into partnership with William Rigby, for the purpose of carrying out on a more extensive scale the rolling mill and forge at Parkhead. In addition to the manufacture of all classes of heavy forgings for marine engine work, the firm erected rolling mills for the production of plates for ship and boiler purposes. For several years from the start-up of these mills, large quantities of armour plates were produced for the home and foreign navies; these were the only rolled armour plates made in Scotland. Subsequently heavier armaments were adopted so Parkhead lost the business but, by 1877, plates up to 3 or 4 inches in thickness were still produced at Parkhead [1].

1862 Messrs Rigby and Beardmore of Parkhead Forge had completed 2 large castings for ships being constructed by Napiers [2].

1863 On Mr. Rigby’s death [3], the management of the business devolved upon Mr. Beardmore.

By 1871 Robert Napier was forced to sell his company's interest in the Parkhead Forge

c1871 Isaac Beardmore (who for a number of years had been managing the forge department) became a partner and the company was called W. and I. Beardmore

1877 William Beardmore senior died

1880 The partnership became I. and W. Beardmore when William Bearmore senior's wife left the partnership[4]

1881 June 1st. A massive steam hammer called "Samson" was installed, under the direction of William Beardmore. [5] [6]

1886 William Beardmore, Junior, took sole charge of the business. Initially the company operated a steelworks and gun arsenal at Parkhead, in the east end of Glasgow. This was the most profitable part of the company and was the last part to be disposed of in the rationalisation of the company in 1928/30.

1888 William diversified the Parkhead business into armour plate production.

1889 The Parkhead company began making plates for high pressure Scotch boilers.

1895 A 12,000 ton press was installed to make American Harveyized armour plate. At the turn of the century Beardmore embarked on a massive extension to the works: these included a new office block, a gun factory, and additional armour plate capacity.

By late 1899 William was also contemplating building a large naval shipyard at Dalmuir on the lower Clyde. He acquired the goodwill of the insolvent shipbuilding business of Robert Napier and Sons. Work began on the new yard in 1900. At the same time he joined a syndicate that bought J. I. Thornycroft and Co of Chiswick, torpedo boat builders; Beardmore was subsequently appointed chairman.

1900 Purchased the Dalmuir works for the building of warships and ordnance.

1902 The company was registered on 21 January, to acquire the business of steel manufacturers, armour plate, gun and ordnance makers of the firm of the same name. [7] In order to bolster the finances, almost 60 per cent of the capital was exchanged with Vickers, Sons and Maxim for an equivalent stake in that company and a seat on the board for Beardmore.

1902 Installed a gun making plant.

By 1903 Arrol-Johnston was effectively a subsidiary

1903/4 Beardmore, in co-operation with Vickers, established the Glasgow Electric Crane and Hoist Co, which was sold in 1906.

1904 The additions and extensions to Parkhead were completed

1905 gun manufacture was introduced at the Parkhead Works - naval guns ranging from 12-pounders to 15-inch guns were made.

1905 Purchased the Mossend steel works from the Summerlee and Mossend Iron and Steel Co to secure supplies of ship plates and angles. Work began at once on the reconstruction of the plant, with the installation of a new three-high plate mill.

1906 The Dalmuir naval shipyard was opened.

William Beardmore and Co's experience in building engines for ships led them into building engines for airships and aircraft.

1908 The first Beardmore aero-engine was built

1911 Details of their four-cylinder crude oil engine published

By 1913 Vickers' nominees on the board had resigned - William Beardmore regained full executive control and immediately took the opportunity to diversify into aircraft manufacture.

1914 Steel, Armour Plate and Ordnance Manufacturers, Forge masters, Shipbuilders, Engineers. Specialities: Armour Plates, Ordnance, War Vessels, Cargo Vessels, Steamers, Forgings, Shafting, Castings, Steel Plates, Boiler Plates, Nickel Steel Plates, Beardmore Gas Engines, Beardmore Oil Engines, Motor Car Frames, Tyres, Axles, Wheels and Axles, Flanging of all kinds, Furnaces, corrugated or plain. Employees 12,000 to 15,000. [8]

WWI During the war, Beardmores purchased Alley and MacLellan, owners of the Sentinel works at Polmadie, Glasgow, and the Sentinel steam-wagon factory at Shrewsbury; the Glasgow works were separated from the rest of Sentinel which was concentrated at Shrewsbury. Also licensed builder of the Sopwith Pup; produced the Beardmore WB 111 aircraft for carrier operations and the Nieuport 20.

WWI The authorities brought Frank Halford back from France to develop the 160 h.p. Beardmore engine with a view to designing a more powerful unit, which he did with Arrol-Johnston in Dumfries. The outcome was the B.H.P. (Beardmore-Halford-Pullinger)engine — a 230 h.p. vertical six-in-line water-cooled engine embodying cast-iron cylinder heads, steel cylinder liners, and sheet-steel water jackets, which was then taken over by Siddeley-Deasy who developed it for aircraft use[9]

1919 The Dalmuir premises were converted to build railway locomotives. Started to make taxicabs in London. Beardmore Motors Ltd was established in London as the sales organisation.

1920 William Beardmore and Co joined with Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson of Tyneside to acquire the Glasgow Iron and Steel Co. Also began to make cars and motorcycles.

After 1920 nearly all the departments and subsidiaries of his firm began to lose money.

1924 Advert mentioned steel for shipbuilding, boilers for locomotives and marine use and many more products. The steel works were at Parkhead, Glasgow and Mossend with other works at Dalmuir, Coatbridge, Paisley and Annieslend.

1924 Mr George N. Cook relinquished his position as general manager of the Beardmore Steel Foundries at Parkhead.[10]

1926 Vickers sold its shareholding to William Beardmore.

1926 They appointed Squadron Leader de Haga Haig as "outside" manager in connection with their aviation and aero-engine departments. Squadron Leader Haig was responsible for tests, equipment and delivery of aircraft and aero-engines, and acted as liason official between the company and its clients in connection with the completion and delivery of each contract.[11]

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history.

1928 After investigation of the company by a committee chaired by Montague Norman, William Beardmore was ousted from his position; over the next two years many of the diversifications of the company were closed down.

1930 Started to make lorries.

1930 Built the engines for the R101

1930 Due to the financial difficulties of the parent company, many of the diversification activities were closed.

1934 Closure of their ship-repairing premises in Rimrose Road, Bootle.[12]

1937 Steel manufacturers. [13]

1951 Nationalised under the Iron and Steel Act; became part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain[14]

1957 Sold by the Holding and Realization Agency to Thomas Firth and John Brown[15].

1967 One of the larger steel makers not subject to nationalisation[16]


See William Beardmore and Co: Aircraft


See William Beardmore and Co: Buses


See William Beardmore and Co: Cars


Aircraft engines, see

1920 February. Motor Boat and Marine and Stationary Engine Exhibition. Showed 120 bhp four-cylinder two-cycle hot-bulb engine.


See William Beardmore and Co: Lorries


See William Beardmore and Co: Motorcycles


See William Beardmore and Co: Railways


See William Beardmore and Co: Shipbuilding


See William Beardmore and Co: Taxicabs

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Obituary of William Beardmore (1824-1877)
  2. The Times, 23 April 1862
  3. Obituary of William Beardmore (1824-1877)
  4. London Gazette 17 August 1880
  5. Glasgow:1830 to 1912
  6. Wine decanter owned by Roy Siggery commemorating it's inaugeration.
  7. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  8. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  9. Flight Archive [1]
  10. The Engineer 1924/06/27
  11. The Engineer 1926/03/12
  12. The Engineer, 27 April 1934, p.429
  13. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  14. Hansard 19 February 1951
  15. The Times, 18 January 1957
  16. The Times, Apr 26, 1967
  • British Lorries 1900-1992 by S. W. Stevens-Stratten. Pub. Ian Allen Publishing
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • Biplanes, Triplanes and Seaplanes by Michael Sharpe published in 2006
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press
  • The Engineer of 13th August 1920 p149
  • The Engineer of 29th June 1900 p665
  • Ian Allan - British Buses Since 1900 - Aldridge and Morris
  • Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) by J. M. Bruce. Published 1982 ISBN 0-370-30084-x
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • The Engineer of 2nd April 1920 p346
  • 1924 Naval Annual Advert page x & xi
  • The Engineer of 22nd September 1911 p304
  • The Modern Diesel edited by Geoffrey Smith. Published by Iliffe & Sons 1944
  • AA. [4] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • Biography of William Beardmore, ODNB [5]
  • L. A. Ritchie, The Shipbuilding Industry: A Guide to Historical Records (1992)