David Brown

The David Brown Foundries Company

When in 1935, the rapidly expanding David Brown organisation found it self in need of additional foundry capacity, Mr David Brown, to the surprise of many people, chose Penistone as the site for the new venture. Penistone, at that time a depressed area, certainly appreciated this move. The great iron and steel works of Cammell Laird & Co. Ltd., principal employers in the district for over half a century, had closed down in1930 and unemployment was rife in the town.

The 29 acre site formerly occupied by Cammell Laird & Co. was taken over and the David Brown Foundries Company was established. Full advantage was taken of the opportunities of introducing modern plant laid out on the most efficient lines, and today these foundries are among the most up-to-date in the country.

Although labour was of course plentiful, there was obviously a shortage of men skilled in the specialised technique of foundry work. This drawback was overcome by the introduction of a special method of cement moulding, the Rand-upson process. Within a comparatively short time, production of both steel and bronze castings for a wide range of vital industries was in full swing. With its present total of over 1200 workers, The David Brown Foundries Company have easily the largest labour force in the Penistone area,

From the first, the company has maintained a progressive policy and scientific approach to the problems involved in the production of high quality steel and bronze castings. As a result, many of the leading technical developments in foundry technique have had their origin or first application at the Penistone foundries.   Among such developments are the inspection of castings by the use of  X-ray, gamma ray, and isotopes; the development of the vertical axis centrifugal casting process; cement-sand moulding; and the production of cast armour for fighting vehicles , and high tensile steel components for aircraft.

In view of its rapidly acquired resources of technical skill and plant capacity, it was inevitable that the company, in common with the rest of the David Brown organisation, should be called upon to make a powerful many-sided contribution to the national effort during the 1939-45 war. Even in the early stages, the Penistone plant ranked as one of the country’s leading suppliers of bullet-proof castings, and in 1942 David Brown technicians were entrusted with the task of developing a method of producing high-tensile and heat resisting steel castings for aircraft. ,which are now incorporated in many types of civil and military aircraft.

Since the war the company has considerably extended both its plant and its technical resources, particularly in the production of special alloy castings suitable for land, marine and aircraft gas turbines.

Another notable post-war achievement by the company is its contribution to the successful effort made by British engineers, foundry technicians, and manufacturers to break into the oil-field equipment market, hitherto regarded as an American monopoly. Profiting by the rapid technical advances made during the war in the production of alloy steels, the company has played a leading part in competing successfully with American firms in this specialised field of production.

Yet another feature of post-war activity at the Penistone works has been the production of high-pressure steam turbine casings for power stations in various parts of Britain and overseas; one of the few foundries equipped to supply these high duty castings, The Brown Foundries Company has in recent years completed sets for 16 power stations (including Huddersfield) in the United Kingdom. In addition overseas orders have been completed for five electricity undertakings in South Africa and two in Canada.

The David Brown bronze foundry includes twenty-seven centrifugal casting machines of patented designs, and castings weighing from five pounds to two thousand pounds are regularly made for a variety of industrial applications. In another part of the plant a self-contained unit is responsible for the production of precision castings by the investment, or lost wax process, a centuries old method brought up-to-date with the use of modern techniques and equipment. This method is used to produce small intricate components for such varied items as sewing machines, jet engines, pneumatic tools, hosiery machines, aircraft accessories, etc.

So much for the production side of the Penistone works. With regard to working conditions, welfare facilities, and general amenities it can safely be said that these areas are as good as any in the country, and considerably better than most. In common with other David Brown factories, the Penistone works has its own comprehensive apprentice training scheme covering all phases of steel and bronze foundry practice. In addition there are first class canteen facilities; a self-contained medical centre controlled by a medical officer and fully trained nursing staff; shower baths and changing rooms; staff superannuation, savings, convalescent and suggestion schemes; a sports club catering for recreational activities ranging from football, cricket and athletics, to bowls.

Such, then is the general picture of a company which in the comparatively short space of twenty years has not only transformed a former derelict site into a progressive and expanding concern but has brought prosperity and fame to the town of Penistone.

Taken from an article c1955.