Low Moor Local History Group
It is significant that a place with a tradition for craftsmanship in metal, stretching back 300 years, should be the 'home' (birthplace) of today's Aircraft Equipment Division.
Although English Electric's association with Carr Lane, Bradford, goes back only as far as 1941, and its first venture into today's line of business was not until 1945 - as the then Aircraft Electrical Equipment Department - the proud metalworking history of Carr Lane has had associations with the local iron ore mining and manufacturing industry since the time of the Napoleonic Wars, as the two cannons on the entrance to nearby Low Moor Iron Works bear witness.
Despite such historic associations, these age-old premises are now moving with the times...and in some instances, several moves ahead of the times. Comprising a very specialised and semi-independent unit (closely allied to the main Phoenix Works at Thornbury), its 140 strong team of workers are producing a wide range of Aircraft Actuators, Control Equipment for Industrial Actuators, Printed Circuits, small d.c motors and Turbo Alternators and Relays for missiles.
The team is headed by Mr Larry Lockett, Works Superintendent, who has worked there, on and off, for the best part of 20 years. "When we first went into the Aircraft Equipment business, straight after the last war, we were producing seven or eight actuators for the Canberra project, and in fairly modest numbers. Now ,we produce hundreds of different types, which combine to total more than half the requirements of the British aircraft industry. In addition we carry out a great deal of service repair work on the equipment.
English Electric's Carr Lane premises look more like a weaving mill - the purpose for which they were originally built, but never utilised . The shell of the building and most of the flooring, was built almost single handed by Seth Shaw for the present owner of the nearby Jacquard Weaving Mill, Mr John Morton, who died only last year. The work was not quite completed when English Electric took over the lease of the premises, to operate a 'shadow' factory making bomb release mechanisms, under carriage components and electrical equipment for the Preston Works in 1941.
However, these solidly-constructed premises now accommodate some of the most modern engineering and manufacturing facilities to be found anywhere within A.E.D. - including a plating shop which was extensively re-equipped only last year. Other facilities include a Machine Shop; an Assembly Shop for motors, actuators and control gear; Test Bays for electrical and mechanical inspection procedures; a Packing and Dispatch Department; and a rather interesting Canteen.
This latter mentioned facility is housed a few yards down Carr Lane from the main premises and was converted for the purpose from a 250 year old Coach Inn, formerly called the "Fleece Inn". This dates back to the time when the lane was the main route between Bradford and Huddersfield, when it was strategically situated at the foot of Storr Hill. It is said that horses were kept there specifically to provide more pulling power for coaches which had to climb the steep incline.
Another link with these olden times is to be found in the field at the rear of the works premises, where the famed Carr Lane Tide was held. Bear baiting was one of the side shows which attracted the locals to the social-gathering-cum-market which the fair comprised, and until quite recently coins which were lost at the fair have been turned up by the ploughs.
The present proud tradition at Carr Lane really began immediately after the last war, when work on the war effort ended and machinery that was left was put to good use developing and manufacturing actuators for the aircraft industry. A large team of designers and draughtsmen was built up there, and a small team of four skilled men carried out the development/ manufacturing work. Mr George Bucknell , now a Methods Engineer at the works, was one of that original quartet. "In those days" he says, "we turned our hands to anything and everything ... working as a team to do whatever was asked of us."
Today, that spirit is still very much in evidence at Carr Lane. Although it is part of the giant English Electric organisation, is has the atmosphere of a small family engineering firm, which is working as a happy , enterprising team, proud of the high standard of craftsmanship it enjoys.
Gradually, the team of four that started the work in 1945 was built up and as various units of the design team were moved to other locations, the accent began to change from one of a design development unit to one of manufacturing. A brief halt in this progress came in November 1949, when the staff were transferred to the Thornbury Works, while the Carr Lane premises were re-equipped with new machine tools and other facilities. They returned in July 1950, when work on the Canberra was building up to a degree where it could not be accommodated at the main Thornbury Works. Carr Lane took some of the overflow and continued to progress and increase in size and importance.
Equipment for the Canberra is still being produced there, but now these old A.E.D.premises supply specialised equipment for a great many other aircraft, the full details would take too long to relate.
This article is transcribed from an original piece from about 1960 , which was featured in "ENGLISH ELECTRIC AND IT'S PEOPLE" , the official works magazine for the English Electric Co. Ltd.
FOCUS ON CARR LANE 'HOME' OF THE AIRCRAFT EQUIPMENT DIVISION.
PROUD TRADITION CONTINUES AT THE 'MILL'.