William Beardmore and Company


William Beardmore and Company was a British engineering and shipbuilding conglomerate based in Glasgow and the surrounding Clydeside area. It was active from 1886 to the mid-1930s 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.

William Beardmore and Company, Ltd.
TypeLimited company
IndustrySteelmaking, heavy engineering, shipbuilding, locomotive building, ordnance manufacture, automotive, aviation
Defunct1983 (Closure of Parkhead Forge)
HeadquartersParkhead, Glasgow
Dalmuir, Clydebank
Key people
William Beardmore
ProductsCastings, Forgings, Oil Tankers, Naval ships, Steam locomotives, Fixed-wing aircraft, Airships, Automobiles, Motorcycles


Forged steel castings, armour plate and naval gunsEdit

The Parkhead Forge, in the east end of Glasgow, became 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. Napier was given the contract to build HMS Black Prince, sister ship to the Royal Navy's first true ironclad warship, HMS Warrior. Parkead was contracted to make the armour for her, but failed, so the manager, William Rigby called in William Beardmore Snr, who at the time was superintendent of the General Steam Navigation Company in Deptford, to help. Beardmore became a partner in the business and, moving to Glasgow was joined by his brother Isaac and son, William Jr. On the premature death of William Snr, Isaac retired and William Jnr became sole partner. He founded William Beardmore and Company in 1886. By 1896 the works covered an area of 25 acres (10 ha) and was the largest steelworks in Scotland, specialising in the manufacture of steel forgings for the shipbuilding industry of the River Clyde.[1] By this time they had begun the manufacture of steel armour plate and later diversified into the manufacture of heavy naval guns, such as the BL 9.2 inch gun Mk IX–X and BL 15 inch Mk I naval gun.


British Enterprise, built by Beardmore in 1921

In 1900, Beardmore took over the shipyard of Robert Napier and Sons in Govan,[1] a logical diversification from the company'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. This work was facilitated by the construction of the Arrol Gantry, a large steel framework supporting nine high-speed electric cranes.[2][3][i] 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).[4] In 1917 Beardmore completed the aircraft carrier HMS Argus, the first carrier to have a full-length 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 for their cable-laying ships.

Merchant shipsEdit

Beardmore also built oil tankers, including:

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

Railway locomotivesEdit

An attempt was made during the 1920s to diversify into 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 locomotives 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
100–134 1920 35 East Indian Railway HGS 2-8-0 1520–1554 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 26729–26763.[5]
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 .[6]
155–173 1920 19 Nigerian Railways 4-8-0 282-300 3' 6" gauge
174–263 1921–22 90 London and North Western Railway Prince of Wales 4-6-0 various to LMS 5755–5844 (not in order) in 1923
264–268 1923 5 Burma Railways Ns 0-6-6-0 16–20 Metre gauge Mallet locomotives.[7]
269–293 1923 25 Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway H
4-6-0 540–564 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 24289–24331.[8]
294–295 1923 2 Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway W
4-6-0 784–785 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 24368–24639.[9]
296–298 1923 3 Eastern Bengal Railway LS
4-6-0 31–33 5' 6" gauge. [10]
299–303 1924 5 North Western Railway HPS 4-6-0 2875–2879 5' 6" gauge. Two to Pakistan, three to Eastern Punjab Railway 2815–2817, later all-India 24400–24402.[11][12]
304 1924 1 Exhibition locomotive Prince of Wales 4-6-0 Shown at British Empire Exhibition, Wembley 1924-5, then sold to LMS 5845.[13]
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 3F 0-6-0T 16600–16624,
Renumbered 7517–7541, 7602–7666.[14]
415–416 1928 2 Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway BE Bo-Bo 901-902 5' 6" gauge Battery-electric, later all-India 20198-9.
417–460 1930 44 East Indian Railway XE 2-8-2 2016–2031, 1981–2003, 2032–2036 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 22536–22551, 22501–22523, 22552–22556.[15]
461–486 1930 26 North Western Railway XC 4-6-2 1842–1867 5' 6" gauge. 1842–51/55/56/58–64/66 to Pakistan at Partition;[16][17] remainder to Eastern Punjab Railway, later all-India 22245–22250.[18]
487–490 1930 4 Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway XC 4-6-2 613–616 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 22241–22244.[18]
491–492 1930 2 East India Railway XC 4-6-2 1948–1949 5' 6" gauge. Later all-India 22201–22202.[18]
493–494 1930 2 North Western Railway DL B-B (de) 30–31 5' 6" gauge. 350 hp (261 kW). Renumbered 330–331.[19]

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. Canadian National also purchased two locomotives, 9000-9001, built by Westinghouse and fitted with 1,330 hp engines. Several American railroads had self-propelled cars fitted with Westinghouse engines derived from Beardmore designs.[20]


N6812, a preserved, Sopwith Camel, built under licence by Beardmore

The company first became involved in aviation in 1913, when it acquired British manufacturing rights for Austro-Daimler aero-engines [21] and later those for D.F.W. aircraft.[22]

It later built Sopwith Pup aircraft at Dalmuir under licence. Later, a shipborne version of the Pup, the Beardmore W.B.III, was designed by the company. A hundred of these aircraft were produced and delivered to the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Beardmore also built 50 of the Nieuport 12 under licence, incorporating many of their own refinements however production was delayed sufficiently that by the time they entered service the aircraft were obsolete and were primarily relegated to training duties or placed into storage and never used.

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


Own designsEdit
Licensed designsEdit
Aircraft engineEdit
  • Beardmore Adriatic engine


Road vehiclesEdit

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.

Cars and taxisEdit

After the Great War, Beardmore manufactured cars and London-type taxis under their own name. The first car was the 1486cc, four-cylinder 11.4, which had a 4-cylinder overhead camshaft (OHC) engine. It was manufactured at Anniesland, Glasgow and introduced at Olympia in 1919. The shaft drive to the camshaft proved to be unreliable and it was replaced by a chain. The engine was increased in capacity to 1854 cc and the car, renamed as the 12/30 was introduced in June 1923. This new engine was used, in 1923 in the new Super Sports. It was priced at £750 and each car came with a certificate that guaranteed that it had been driven around Brooklands track at 70 mph (110 km/h).[23] A highly modified version of the Super Sports, with a 2-litre engine broke the course record at the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in 1924.[24]

Beardmore Mk7 Paramount Taxicab
Beardmore Mk7 Paramount taxi, 4-door model
ManufacturerBeardmore Motors
Model years1954–66
AssemblyWindovers Ltd. Hendon, North London; Weymann, Addlestone, Surrey; MCW, Washwood Heath, Birmingham, later Adderley Park, Birmingham
Body and chassis
Body styleLondon taxi, fixed head
EngineFord Consul (1508 cc or 1703 cc) or Zephyr 4 (1703 cc) 4-cylinder OHV petrol or Perkins 4-cylinder OHV diesel (99 cu in or 108 cu in)
TransmissionFord 3-speed or 4-speed manual
Wheelbase8ft 8in
Length13ft 10 1/2in
Width5ft 6in
PredecessorBeardmore Mk6 taxi
Beardmore 12/30 Tourer, 1925
Beardmore 12/30 Tourer, 1925
ManufacturerBeardmore Motors
Model years1924–25
AssemblyAnniesland, Glasgow
EngineBeardmore sohc 4-cylinder petrol, 1589cc, 12HP
Transmission4-speed manual
PredecessorBeardmore 11hp

The Anniesland factory was closed by 1925 and car production was moved to the taxi factory at Paisley, where a new model, the 14.40, with a sidevalve engine of 2297 cc with an aluminium cylinder head was introduced. The engine was increased to 2391 cc in 1925 and the car redesignated the 16.40. Two standard bodies were offered, the Stewart saloon and the Lomond limousine. A large car, the four cylinder 4072 cc Thirty was made at Coatbridge in 1920 but it was unsuccessful and was discontinued.[25]

Production of the Beardmore Taxi began at Paisley in 1919 with what became known retrospectively as the Mk1. This was designed to meet the Metropolitan Police Conditions of Fitness for London Taxis. It was a very tough and reliable vehicle and it earned itself the name of 'The Rolls-Royce of taxicabs'. A car version, the Country and Colonial model was also made, as was a light van. It was replaced in 1923 by the Mk2, which had an all-new chassis, which it shared with a new range of light trucks and buses. Following a change in the Conditions of Fitness, Beardmore introduced a new model, the Mk3 'Hyper'. This had a smaller, 2-litre sidevalve engine and was lighter and more economical to run.[26]

Following the removal of William Beardmore from the board of his company in 1929, Beardmore Motors was bought out by its directors, and taxi production was moved from Scotland to Hendon, North London. Here in 1932 a new model, the Mk4 Paramount was introduced, which was essentially an updated Mk3 with a 2-litre Commer engine and gearbox. In 1935, the Mk5 Paramount Ace, with a new, longer wheelbase chassis was introduced, with the same engine. It was followed in 1938 by the Mk6 Ace, which had detail refinements. The 1930s Beardmore became known as the 'greengrocer's barrow', because 'all the best things were in front'![26]

After the Second World War, Beardmore Motors sold and serviced the new Nuffield Oxford cab, until the newly formed British Motor Corporation axed it in favour of their own Austin FX3. Beardmore Motors then returned to making their own cabs. The model they introduced, in 1954 was the Mk7 Paramount, which had a traditional style coachbuilt body, of aluminium panels over an ash frame, built by Windover. The engine was from a Mk1 Ford Consul, (later, a Mk2 Consul and finally a Ford Zephyr 4) but a Perkins 4.99 diesel was offered from 1956. In the same year, body production was taken over by Weymann at Addlestone. Production of the entire cab was soon moved there. In 1966, when Metropolitan-Cammell bought Weymann, taxi production was moved to MCW's factory at Washwood Heath, Birmingham, where it ended in late 1966. Final production of the Mk7 amounted to just over 650 cabs.[26]


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.

Diesel enginesEdit

Although heavy oil engines had been built from the early years of the century for power-generation purposes, a range of automotive diesels was under development at the time of the financial crisis; the Bank of England commissioned consulting engineer Harry Ricardo to assess these and he gave a mostly favourable report, the largest customer for the Dalmuir-built Beardmore Engine was Glasgow Corporation who took 30 6-cylinder 90 bhp engines in Albion Venturer M81 chassis during 1934, but reliability was so poor that by five years later all had been replaced by Leyland 8.6 litre units.[27]

Decline and demiseEdit

Beardmore's various companies became unprofitable in the post-WW1 slump,[28] resulting in the company facing bankruptcy.[28] Financial aid initially came from Vickers Limited, which took a 60 per cent stake in Beardmores,[28] before pulling out in the late 1920s. Beardmore himself was removed from executive control of his company by the Bank of England.[28] Most of Beardmore's various businesses were wound down over the next few years until Beardmore's retirement and death in 1936, although some persisted.[28]

Dalmuir ShipyardEdit

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 Securities Ltd, under Sir James Lithgow of shipbuilding giant Lithgows, Limited. The former bought Beardmore's Dalmuir yard in 1930 and the yard was closed and its facilities dismantled,[1][28] although various maritime engineering works persisted on the site until 1936. The Dalmuir site was re-established as ROF Dalmuir in 1939 however and was later sold to Babcock & Wilcox in 1957 to supplement their main factory in Renfrew during a peak in power station building in the 1960s, who continued to operate there until returning all manufacturing to their Renfrew Works in 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.

Parkhead ForgeEdit

Sir James Lithgow purchased Beardmore debentures from the Bank of England on favourable terms in 1934, taking control of Beardmore's iron and steel assets including – the former centrepiece of the Beardmore empire – the Parkhead Forge.[29] It was at Parkhead Forge that James spotted young engineering manager Ian MacGregor who broke a strike by driving a crane himself for two weeks. James accelerated his career and MacGregor went on himself to be a major industrial figure.[30]

After Parkhead Forge was nationalised by the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain between 1951 and 1954, it was acquired by Sheffield-based Firth Brown Steels in 1957, before the Forge was finally closed in 1983, with Firth Brown consolidating its operations in Sheffield. The land later became The Forge Shopping Centre, which opened in 1988.[28]


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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ A development of this gantry was built shortly afterwards for Harland and Wolff in Belfast, the Arrol Gantry spanning two building berths, and used in the construction of RMS Titanic and her sisters.
  1. ^ a b c d e "Industries: Beardmore". The Clydebank Story. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  2. ^ "William Beardmore and Company Ltd., Dalmuir". Engineering. 88: 455.
  3. ^ "Examples of Structural Steel Work for the Following Firms". William Beardmore and Company Ltd., Dalmuir. Bridges, Structural Steel Work and Mechanical Engineering Productions. Sir William Arrol/Engineering Ltd. 1909. pp. 150–158.
  4. ^ "Tom McKendrick's sculpture of HMS Ramillies" (movie). AND / OR Productions. Retrieved 24 September 2008.[dead YouTube link]
  5. ^ Hughes 1979, p. 54.
  6. ^ Boddy et al. 1975, p. 66.
  7. ^ Hughes 1992, pp. 48, 50.
  8. ^ Hughes 1979, pp. 62, 65.
  9. ^ Hughes 1979, pp. 66, 71.
  10. ^ Hughes 1990, p. 32.
  11. ^ Hughes 1979, p. 72.
  12. ^ Hughes 1990, p. 81.
  13. ^ Rowledge 1975, p. 17.
  14. ^ Rowledge 1975, p. 23.
  15. ^ Hughes 1979, p. 35.
  16. ^ Hughes 1990, p. 84.
  17. ^ Hughes 1996, p. 87.
  18. ^ a b c Hughes 1979, p. 32.
  19. ^ Hughes 1990, p. 78.
  20. ^ "Those people made a good locomotive", David A. Hamley, Trains Magazine, December, 1969.
  21. ^ Austro-Daimlers in EnglandFlight, 1 November 1913
  22. ^ [1]Flight, 6 November 1914, p. 1099
  23. ^ John R Hume & Michael S Moss Beardmore: the History of a Scottish Industrial Giant
  24. ^ C A N May Shelsey Walsh
  25. ^ Various entries for Beardmore in London Motor Show catalogues, 1919 – 1926
  26. ^ a b c Bill Munro London Taxis: a Full History
  27. ^ Milligan and Adams (1999). Albion of Scotstoun. Paisley: Albion Vehicle Preservation Trust.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g "James Caird Society – Beardmore". James Caird Society. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  29. ^ "No. 34514". The London Gazette. 27 May 1938. pp. 3471–3472.
  30. ^ "Sir Ian MacGregor; Obituary" The Times (London, England) (14 April 1998): 21. InfoTrac Full Text Newspaper Database. Gale. Cheshire Libraries. 16 September 2007


  • Boddy, M. G.; Brown, W. A.; Fry, E. V.; Hennigan, W.; Hoole, Ken; Manners, F.; Neve, E.; Platt, E. N. T.; Proud, P.; Yeadon, W. B. (March 1975). Fry, E. V. (ed.). Locomotives of the L.N.E.R., Part 2B: Tender Engines—Classes B1 to B19. Lincoln: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-73-8.
  • Georgano, Nick (1972). A History of the London Taxi. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-5687-9.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1979). Steam locomotives in India: Part 3 – Broad Gauge. The Continental Railway Circle. ISBN 0-9503469-4-2.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1990). Indian Locomotives: Part 1 – Broad Gauge 1853–1940. The Continental Railway Circle. ISBN 0-9503469-8-5.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1992). Indian Locomotives: Part 2 – Metre Gauge 1872–1940. The Continental Railway Circle. ISBN 0-9503469-9-3.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1996). Indian Locomotives: Part 4 – 1941–1990. The Continental Railway Circle. ISBN 0-9521655-1-1.
  • Hume, John R; Moss, Michael S. Beardmore: the History of a Scottish Industrial Giant. Heinemann. ISBN 0-435-32589-2.
  • Hurst, K. A. (2003). William Beardmore: Transport is the Thing. NMSE Publishing. ISBN 1-901663-53-1.
  • Johnston, Ian (1993). Beardmore Built: The Rise and Fall of a Clydeside Shipyard. Clydebank District Libraries & Museums Department. ISBN 0-906938-05-8.
  • MacKay, Charles (2012). Beardmore Aviation 1913–1930. A.MacKay. ISBN 978-0-9573443-0-3.
  • May, C.A.N. Shelsey Walsh G T Foulis.
  • Munro, Bill (2011). London Taxis: a Full History. Earlswood Press. ISBN 978-0-9562308-2-9.
  • Rowledge, JWP (1975). Engines of the LMS built 1923–51. Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-902888-59-5.
  • Thomas, R.D; Patterson, B (1998). Dreadnoughts in Camera 1905–1920. Sutton Publishing.

Further readingEdit

  • Johnston, Ian; Buxton, Ian (2013). The Battleship Builders – Constructing and Arming British Capital Ships (Hardback). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-027-6.

External linksEdit

  • Beardmore Diesel-Electric Train
  • Beardmore Precision motorcycle
  • Clyde-built ships database
  • The Jaimes Caird Society
  • Documents and clippings about William Beardmore and Company in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW