Rubery Owen (Warrington) Limited

In 1939 Rubery Owen acquired Electro-Hydraulics based in Warrington, makers of undercarriages and hydraulic equipment for aircraft. In March 1943 its engineering work was transferred to a new company, Rubery Owen (Warrington) Limited, and its machine shop was built beside the Electro-Hydraulics factory in Liverpool Road, Sankey, Warrington.

The company had a three-storey office block, supported by steelwork produced by Rubery Owen’s Structural Department. It rested on around 60 piles driven 30 feet into the ground.

The main workshop covered around 60,000 square feet, and was divided into three areas, road making and material handling equipment, lathes, and front and rear axle assemblies for motor vehicles, and for the company’s Conveyancer fork lift trucks, built in the factory next door.

There was also a toolroom, an inspection department, stores, a maintenance department, light plate shop, joiners’ shop, a compressor house, and the constructional shop where main frames, and thousands of fabricated parts were produced each week. The shop was dominated by a large press brake. In the yard stood the boiler shop, canteens, and kitchens.

Mr. J. Pratt, Managing Director. From the Christmas 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Yuletide".

The first Barber-Greene Ditcher produced by the company. From the summer 1951 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

During the Second World War the factory produced around 600,000 anti-aircraft and field gun shells, mortar bombs, 11,000 Bailey bridge panels, 3,700 tail wheel assemblies for heavy bombers, 2,500 castings for Bofors guns, 2,300 axle and brake assemblies, and 600 paravanes.

The factory employed around 550 people, under the leadership of Mr. J. Pratt, Managing Director, and Mr. A. W. Hill, General Manager and Director.

One of the company’s products was a road-making machine known as the Barber-Greene bituminous finisher which could lay vast amounts of tarmac in a very short time.

They were originally used in this country for laying aircraft runways during the Second World War. There were only twenty one of them in the country, and because of the high demand in North America, the Illinois-based Barber-Greene company decided to concentrate on their home market.

A Barber-Green 879A Road Finisher. From the summer 1951 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

A Barber-Greene 44C Ditcher. From the summer 1951 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".
In 1946 Barber-Greene Olding & Company Limited, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, placed an order with Rubery Owen which involved drastic modifications to the American design.

Soon a new version of the machine came into being, which was manufactured in its entirety by Rubery Owen (Warrington) Limited.

Other road-making machines including the Barber-Greene Ditcher, and the Barber-Green Bucket Loader were produced by the company.

Another of the company’s successful products was the 'Eaton' two-speed axle for heavy lorries, produced for the Eaton Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, USA., and also trailer axles produced for Trailmobile (Canada) Limited.

The factory also produced Harrison seven inch centre lathes, most of which were exported to North America and Canada.

Production ended in the late 1980s as a result of the industrial recession. The company was finally dissolved in 1993 when Rubery Owen moved away from manufacturing.

A Barber-Greene Model 522 Bucket Loader. From the summer 1951 edition of the staff magazine "Goodwill".

A Barber-Greene Olding bituminous finisher for road maintenance.

A Barber-Greene Olding Model 44C vertical boom ditcher. It could cut trenches from 18 to 24 inches wide, and up to 8 ft. 3 inches deep. It was powered by a Henry Meadows diesel engine.

Production on a large scale of 'Eaton' 2 speed rear axles.

Another view of the 'Eaton' 2 speed rear axle production line.

An 'Eaton' 2 speed rear axle.

Another product, a rear axle for taxis.

Jimmie Bennett, and Jimmie Norton machining wheel hubs for Eaton axles.

From the Christmas 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Yuletide".

A Harrison lathe being finally inspected.

From the Christmas 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Yuletide".

A line of completed Harrison Lathes awaiting despatch.

From the Christmas 1947 edition of the staff magazine "Yuletide".

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