Wolseley WD8 engine 1949

Wolseley WD8 1.5 hp engine of 1949 E/No.28797

The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Ltd of Newark England was founded by Irishman Fredrick Yrk Wolseley in Australia , in 1887 originaly. The company expanded into car and bycycle product which became the Wolseley Motor Company. The original Wolseley Company diversified and today is best known for the chain of builders and plumbers merchants. The company also has several subsidiaries manufacturing building products and related brands.


The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Ltd, and was the first company to produce a mechanical sheep shearing machine. In 1889 Wolseley transferred his patents to a new company registered in London, because he was unable to find adequate subcontractors to build the parts in Australia.

The future car magnate Herbert Austin joined the company, in Australia, in 1888; and he returned to England with Frederick York Wolseley in November 1893 when they moved into a factory in Broad Street, Birmingham, England. Austin was a major influence on the direction of the company after Wolseley himself resigned in 1894.

Car manufactureEdit

Main article: Wolseley Motor Company

Austin moved the company to a bigger factory in Aston, Birmingham, and also took on the manufacture of bicycles to keep the factory busy, as the production of sheep shearing equipment was seasonal work . In 1896 Austin designed the first Wolseley car, which was based on a model he had seen on holiday in France. The production run for "Autocar Number One", advertised at £110, was just one, but later models were more successful. In 1901 the car company, Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company Limited, was purchased by Vickers. Austin resigned from the Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company Limited in 1905 and built up his own Austin empire at Longbridge. In 1926 the Wolseley Motor Car Company went into receivership and Austin attempted to buy it, but he was out-bid by William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield (see Wolseley Motor Company for the later history of Wolseley cars). Forty five years after Austin left the Wolseley Motor Company and 11 years after his death, the rights to the name resided with the British Motor Corporation, latter to become British Leyland then Austin Rover Group, who ironically resided at Longbridge.

Herbert Austin, however continued to work, part-time, for the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Ltd, which continued to manufacture sheep shearing machines and other agricultural equipment. He was Chairman of the Board from 1911 to 1933. The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Ltd made ?


In the 1950s it introduced a range of electric fencing and motor cultivators (Merry Tiller cultivator) under licence from the American Merry Tiller Company.Then in 1958 it merged with Geo H Hughes, a Birmingham based manufacturer of wheels for prams and later wheels for industrial use, and was renamed Wolseley-Hughes. In 1958 the company was renamed the Wolseley Enginering Ltd.In 1960 the company bought Nu-Way Heating Limited which was the beginning of its transformation into a heating and building supplies company. Nu-Way's spare parts components business developed into OBC (Oil Burner Components). In 1965 Wolseley purchased Granville Controls and Yorkshire Heating Supplies to complement OBC's product range. From 1973 the products of these three manufacturing businesses were sold through Wolseley-Hughes Merchants, which was founded in that year.

It later changed its name to Wolseley Centers, which have evolved into the "Plumb Center" and "Builders Center" chains.


Wolseley engine of 1947

Wolseley 1.5 hp engine of 1947 driving a Wakes & Lamb pump


  • Wikipedia extract for History.

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