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William Beardmore and Company, Ltd.
Former type Limited company
Fate Wound down and dissolved
Founded 1887
Defunct 1975
Headquarters Parkhead, Glasgow; Dalmuir, Clydebank
Key people William Beardmore
Industry Steelmaking, heavy engineering, shipbuilding, locomotive building, ordnance manufacture, automotive, aviation

William Beardmore and Company was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding conglomerate based in Glasgow and the surrounding Clydeside area. It was active between about 1890 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.


The Parkhead Forge, in the east end of Glasgow, would become the core of the company. It was established by Reoch Brothers & Co in 1837 and was later acquired by Robert Napier in 1841 to make forgings and iron plates for his new shipyard in Govan. William Beardmore became a partner in the business in the 1860s and was joined by his brother and son, William Jr, who became sole partner and then founded William Beardmore & Co in 1886. By 1896 the works covered an area of 25 acres (100,000 m²) and was the largest steelworks in Scotland, specialising in the manufacture of steel forgings for the shipbuilding industry of the River Clyde,[1] later diverging into the manufacture of guns and armour, such as the BL 15 inch Mk I naval gun.


British Enterprise, built by Beardmore in 1921

In 1900, Beardmore took over the shipyard of Robert Napier in Govan,[1] a logical diversification from the comapny's core steel forgings business. In 1900, Beardmore also began construction of what would become The Naval Construction Yard, at Dalmuir in west Clydebank; the largest and most advanced shipyard in the United Kingdom at the time.[1] HMS Agamemnon was the yard's first order to complete, in 1906. Beardmore eventually sold the company's Govan shipyard to Harland and Wolff in 1912. Other notable warships produced by Beardmores at Dalmuir include the Dreadnoughts, HMS Conqueror (1911), HMS Benbow (1913) and HMS Ramillies (1917).[2] In 1917, Beardmore completed the aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, the first carrier to have a full length flat top flight deck. Beardmore expanded the activities at Dalmuir to include the manufacture of all sorts or arms and armaments, the site employing 13,000 people at its peak.[1]

The post war recession hit the firm hard, and the shipyard was forced to close in 1930. Part of the site and some of the existing buildings later became incorporated into ROF Dalmuir, part was used by the General Post Office(GPO) for their cable-laying ships.

Merchant ships

Beardmore also built oil tankers, including:

  • British Commerce, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, (1922)
  • British Enterprise, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, (1921)
  • British Merchant, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, (1922)
  • British Trader, Red Ensign British Tanker Company, (1921)

Railway locomotives

An attempt was made during the 1920s to diversify in to the manufacture of railway locomotives at Dalmuir. Twenty 4-6-0 tender locomotives were built for the Great Eastern Railway as part of their class S69. Ninety London and North Western Railway Prince of Wales class locomotive were built between 1921 and 1922, along with an extra exhibition locomotive for the LNWR's successor, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1924. They also built 90 ‘Jinty’ tank engine for the LMS between 1928 and 1929. Beardmore's locomotive production was small compared with the established competition.

Year Quantity Customer Class Wheel
1920 Indian State Railways HGS
135–154 1920–21 20 Great Eastern Railway S69 4-6-0 1541–1560
not in order
To LNER 8541–8560 in 1923; renumbered 1541–1560
174–263 1921–1922 90 London and North Western Railway Prince of Wales 4-6-0 to LMS 5755–5844 (not in order) in 1923
304 1924 1 Exhibition locomotive Prince of Wales 4-6-0 to LMS 5845
305–324 1927 20 London and North Eastern Railway N7/3 0-6-2T 2642–2661 Renumbered 9683–9702 in 1946 scheme
325–414 1928–29 90 London, Midland and Scottish Railway LMS Fowler Class 3F 0-6-0T 16600–16624,
Renumbered 7517–7541, 7602–7666

In concert with US and Canadian Westinghouse, diesel engines were developed and installed for railway self-propelled car use. Canadian National Railways had two articulated cars powered with Beardmore 320 hp engines, eight cars with 185 hp engines, and seven cars with 300 hp engines. Several American railroads had self-propelled cars fitted with Westinghouse engines derived from Beardmore designs. [3]


N6812, a preserved, Sopwith Camel; this was one of the Camels built under license by Beardmore

In 1913, Pre-empting The Great War, the company ventured into aircraft production, building Sopwith Pup aircraft at Dalmuir under licence.[4] Later, a shipborne version of the Pup - the Beardmore W.B.III - was designed in-house. A hundred of these aircraft were produced and delivered to the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The company built and ran the Inchinnan Airship Constructional Station at Inchinnan in Renfrewshire. It produced the airships R27, R32, R34 and R36.

In 1924, the company acquired a licence for stressed skin construction using the Rohrbach principles. An order for two flying boats using this construction idea was placed with Beardmore. It had the first aircraft built for it by the Rohrbach Metal Aeroplane Company in Copenhagen, building the second itself and they were delivered to the RAF as the Beardmore Inverness. In addition, a large, experimental, all-metal trimotor transport aircraft was designed and built at Dalmuir and delivered to the Royal Air Force as the Beardmore Inflexible. Beardmore produced a line of aircraft engines, including the Cyclone, Meteor, Simoon, Tornado (used in the R101 airship), Typhoon and Whirlwind.

The Beardmore Inflexible at the Norwich Air Display, RAF Mousehold Heath, May 1929


  • Beardmore W.B.1
  • Beardmore W.B.1a
  • Beardmore W.B.2
  • Beardmore W.B.III
  • Beardmore W.B.IV
  • Beardmore W.B.V
  • Beardmore W.B.XXIV Wee Bee I
  • Beardmore W.B.XXVI
  • Beardmore Adriatic
  • Beardmore Inflexible
  • Beardmore Inverness


  • R27
  • R32 (airship)
  • R34 (airship)
  • R36 (airship)

Road vehicles

Beardmore–Precision motorcycle advertisement, 1925

In 1917, Beardmore bought Sentinel Waggon Works, a manufacturer of steam-powered railway locomotives, railcars and road vehicles. In 1919 a range of cars was announced, to be made by a subsidiary company, Beardmore Motors Ltd, based in factories in Glasgow and the surrounding area; Anniesland, Coatbridge and Paisley.


The smallest of the initial offerings was the 1486 cc, four-cylinder 11.4 with an overhead camshaft (OHC), manufactured in Anniesland. The camshaft system proved to be unreliable and the engine was replaced by a 1656 cc side-valve unit in 1919. Development work was continued on the OHC system, and an engine of this type was re-introduced in 1921 of the same size as, and replacing, the side-valved one. It was increased in capacity to 1960 cc in 1924 and the car's name

Beardmore Taxi ca 1965

changed to the 12.8. This increase was reversed with the 1854 cc 12.30, which continued in production until 1925. The Sports 12 version was announced in 1924 with a guaranteed top speed of 70 mph (110 km/h) and priced at £550. A large car, the four cylinder 4072 cc Thirty was made at Coatbridge in small numbers from 1920.

The most famous Beardmore range was the 1924 14.40 made at Paisley, where the engines for all the cars were also produced. This had a 2297 cc side valve-engine with an aluminium cylinder head. The engine was increased to 2391 cc in 1925 and the car redesignated the 16.40. This latter vehicle was the basis for the Beardmore Taxi. Production ended in Scotland in 1929 but a London assembly plant was then opened for making Taxis in what had been the service depot, continuing in operation until 1967. The "Paramount" models, built in the 1950s and 1960s were based on up-to-date Ford mechanicals, with 1940s-styled coachwork. In all about 500 private cars were made, with taxi production nearer 6000.


Main article: Beardmore Precision Motorcycles

Between 1921 and 1924 Beardmore took over building the Precision range of motorcycles that had been developed by Frank Baker, selling them as "Beardmore Precision". Engine sizes ranged from 250 cc to 600 cc. They also supplied the engines to several cyclecar manufacturers. After Beardmore stopped manufacture, Baker set up his own company again and restarted production.

Decline and demise

Beardmore's various companies became unprofitable in the post-war slump,[5] resulting in the company facing bankruptcy.[5] Financial aid initially came from Vickers Limited, which took a 60% stake in Beardmores,[5] before pulling out in the late 1920s. Beardmore himself was removed from executive control of his company by the Bank of England.[5] Most of Beardmore's various businesses were wound down over the next few years until Bearmore's retirement and death in 1936, although some persisted.[5]

The crisis in the British shipbuilding industry after the First World War resulted in the formation of a company with the purpose of taking control of and eliminating loss-making shipyards to reduce capacity and competition; National Shipbuilders Security Ltd, under Sir James Lithgow of shipbuilding giant Lithgows, Limited. The latter bought Beardmore's Dalmuir yard in 1930 and the yard was closed and its facilities dismantled,[1][5] although various maritime engineering works persisted until 1936. The Dalmuir site was re-established as ROF Dalmuir in 1939 however and was later sold to Babcock and Wilcox in 1957, who continued to operate there until 1969. During the 1970s the site was converted into the Clydebank Industrial Estate and in recent years has also formed the location of the Golden Jubilee Hospital and the Beardmore Hotel.

After the former centrepiece of the Beardmore empire - the Parkhead Forge - was nationalised by the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain between 1951 and 1954, it was acquired by Firth Brown Steels in 1957, before the Forge was finally closed in 1976, with the land later becoming the The Forge Shopping Centre, which opened in 1988.[5]


The archives of William Beardmore and Company are maintained by the "Archives of the University of Glasgow" (GUAS).

See also

  • Beardmore Precision Motorcycles
  • Arthur MacManus and David Kirkwood, notable Scottish socialists and trade unionists active in the Beardmore workforce.
  • Timeline of hydrogen technologies


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "TheClydebankStory - Industries: Beardmore" (html). The Clydebank Story. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  2. "Tom McKendrick's sculpture of HMS Ramillies" (movie). AND / OR Productions. Retrieved on 2008-09-24.
  3. "Those people made a good locomotive", David A. Hamley, Trains Magazine, December, 1969.
  4. Günter G Endres, 'British Aircraft Manufacturers Since 1908', (Ian Allan, 1995)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "James Caird Society - Beardmore". James Caird Society. Retrieved on 2008-05-27.

Further reading

  • Hurst, K A, (2003). William Beardmore: Transport is the Thing, , Edinburgh: NMSE Publishing, ISBN 1-901663-53-1.
  • Johnson, Ian, (1993). Beardmore Built: The Rise and Fall of a Clydeside Shipyard. Clydebank: Clydebank District Libraries & Museums Department. ISBN 0-906939-05-8.
  • R.D. Thomas, B. Patterson, Dreadnoughts in Camera 1905-1920, 1998, Sutton Publishing

External links

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