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Shipley

Soon the Chester Street works were uncomfortably small and further growth was being hampered by the cramped conditions.

During these years all castings had to be obtained outside. Joseph Parkinson was on the look-out for premises which included a foundry. Eventually he found what he knew could be adapted to his needs and held promise for future extensions. This was the Prince of Wales Foundry in Shipley, a few miles away from Bradford. The foundry had been closed for two years and there was no enthusiasm to bid for it when it came up for auction. In fact there were no bids at all. Joseph Parkinson held his hand and shortly came to an agreement with the Yorkshire Penny Bank, which held the mortgage, to take over the foundry and other workshops on the site; a very different position from twenty years earlier, when much-needed financial help did not materialize.

The Prince of Wales Foundry was re-organised and re-named the Canal Iron Works. The removal from Bradford was spread over three very busy weeks and completed by the middle of December 1893.

Parkinson Canal Ironworks Shipley ws

Parkinson’s factory at Canal Iron Works Shipley.

At intervals over the years following extensions were made, taking in surrounding sites. Into the new works Joseph Parkinson brought his seventy-odd workmen, and men of Shipley hoped to find employment with this new firm. But trade cycles are not exclusive to our own day; shortly after the removal came a depression which lasted for the best part of two years and put the men on something less than half-time, working alternate weeks on shorter hours.

Joseph Parkinson was again to be tested and tried, and once more was not found wanting. In spite of the depression a great deal was happening in the engineering industry.

In the worst of the bad days two men came to Joseph Parkinson, enquiring if he could supply machine tools for bicycle manufacture. There would soon be a bicycle boom, they said, and they were right. Fortunately a few small lathes and various oddments, mostly duplicates of machines made for other bicycle manufacturers, were available for sale. The two men promptly bought the lot and left.

It transpired that the two men were in fact founders of a large Birmingham cycle manufacturing business, and for several years after their visit they were by far his best customer for machine tools. The Parkinson business began to thrive again, and by 1900 a wide variety of machine tools, including seven sizes of milling machines, eight sizes of lathes, capstan lathes, milling cutter sharpening machines, borers, drilling machines, slotters and shapers, sharpening machines and band saws, as well as an assortment of textile parts and vises were being produced. From now on, however, the textile side was not developed, and all interests in these had been disposed of by 1911; this included the Card Lacing Machine which was sold to a firm of jacquard machinery makers.

The turn of the century saw one very great industrial change — the invention of High-speed steel, which brought with it both possibilities and difficulties in machine tool design. High-speed steel was one of the first of the many steel alloys which have proliferated during this century, each new alloy bringing with it its own problems. Milling machines, for example, must be rigid if they are to perform accurately and safely. High speeds of operation involve the need for greater stability, machine bases must be heavier and the foundations on which they are laid must be strengthened. Spindles, overarms, arbors and cutting tools must be tougher themselves to deal with tougher materials, and always there is the drive towards greater efficiency, accuracy, ease in working and safety. Typically keeping abreast of these developments the firm produced a new type of lathe in 1902. Designed especially to take heavier cuts at higher speeds this machine, with an eight and a half inch height of centres, became known as the High Speed Lathe.

Parkinson High Speed Lathe ws

In the autumn of 1902 the firm's stationery and catalogues showed a new title, Joseph Parkinson & Son. Ernest Parkinson, born in 1869, must have been steeped in machine toolmaking from his infancy. He joined his father after serving an apprenticeship with two well known Keighley firms, Prince Smiths and Darling & Sellers, and he had also attended Bradford Technical School in the 1880s. (It became a College in 1888 and held an exhibition at which Joseph Parkinson showed his latest models.) Ernest Parkinson had all his father's practical flair as well as his enthusiasm and ability to plan ahead. In the first years of the partnership steady progress continued; many improvements were made to existing models, including plain and universal millers, drilling machines, lathes and vises. Overseas agencies in many countries were by now well-established. The firm's Scrap Books show price-lists and advertisements in a variety of languages, both western and oriental.  In the background, two third-generation Parkinsons were starting their school days.

Resting on laurels was never a Parkinson characteristic. Sometime in 1908, the partners became aware – through their chief draughtsman, Charles H. Smith — of a revolutionary idea being developed by a close friend of his, Sam Sunderland. Sunderland was well-known as a trade gear cutter in Keighley, but the idea he was now working on would make his name known the world over.

Sam Sunderland ws1

Sam Sunderland

At this time the cutting of gear wheels was carried out mainly by means of rotary cutters on milling machines or by planing methods following templates. These methods were useful but slow and complicated, and demanded great skill. Sam Sunderland's invention of a straight side rack-shaped cutter moving against a rotating blank was completely new. The gear teeth were generated in a series of automatically controlled stages which produced extremely accurate results needing much less finishing than before. As so often happens in great inventions, speed, ease in working and results were far beyond the standards of previous models for many types of work.

Sam Sunderland patented his system in 1908, and the enthusiastic Parkinsons acquired the rights for producing and selling the Sunderland Gear Planer in Britain and the Dominions. The machine was not easy to sell at first, for many prospective users, whilst appreciating the principle of the system, would not believe it to be a practical proposition. Ernest Parkinson had to persuade the engineering world that Sunderland's process was something which would, without doubt, revolutionise gear cutting. Strangely enough French engineers were of quicker perception than English and this resulted in a situation in which for every twelve machines sold each year in this country as many as fifty were sold to French companies.

The situation changed dramatically when British buyers eventually realised that Sunderland's method did work. Orders were placed by many large British textile firms which then instead of using cast gears for their machinery began cutting their own gears on Sunderland machines. The reliability of the machines was established, and it is interesting to note that the first Sunderland Gear Planer built in Shipley, though on the retired list after many years work, was preserved in full working order some fifty eight years after it was built.

This was to be the last big forward step for Joseph Parkinson. His health had been poor for some years, but he lived long enough to see the first Sunderland machine in use in 1909. When he died at Christmas time in 1910 at the age of 66 his loss was a personal grief to all his employees. All five hundred of them formed an escort to his funeral procession.

Sunderland Gear Planer 1909 ws

Sunderland Gear Planer 1909.

 As Ernest Parkinson, in his early forties, took over the sole control of the firm, many changes were coming about in the lives of everyone in this country. It was a very different world from that which gave his father a start, and before long came the upheaval of the first World War. During this time the wide variety of Parkinson products was considerably narrowed. It was, in fact, the beginning of the movement towards specialisation, and it gained momentum as time went by.

Ernest Parkinson ws

Ernest Parkinson

In the early part of the war Parkinsons specialised in the producing of lathes for turning six inch shell cases, and lathes for making and repairing tools for these lathes. By 1916 this line of production was suspended to concentrate on universal milling machines and Sunderland gear planers, which really came into their own with the invention of the Tank and the general increase of mechanised transport.

Parkinson 12 Inch Shell Lathes on Shop Floor ws

12 inch Shell Lathes on the Shop Floor at Parkinsons 1916

To the Parkinson works, as everywhere in industry, women came to work hard and loyally, replacing their men-folk who had joined the Forces.

Ernest Parkinson, in addition to running his own works, was during the war years Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bradford Munitions Factory. He had found suitable premises, and equipped and staffed them. As a member of the Ministry of Munitions Advisory Council he was involved in much travel all over the country. The reward for his dedicated services in this field was the award of the O.B.E. in 1917.

 

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