Leyland Historical Society

Gas Works

When the Gas Works was demolished in the early sixties to make way for Churchill Way, there not only disappeared the sight but also the smell of an industry. This was built after the Leyland & Farington Gas Company was registered in 1856 and empowered in 1863, the first Gas Works being sited previously behind the Ship Inn in Towngate.

The now demolished showrooms and offices on Chapel Brow were opened in 1927. The output in 1938 was about 134.5 million cubic feet, which rose to 497.5 million cubic feet by 1955. The local company was taken over by the United Kingdom Corporation before being nationalization in 1949. The production of gas ceasing around 1959 / 1960. The retort house was demolished in May / June 1964 to make way for the new roundabout.

Even though the Gas Works only just intruded on Hough Lane in a physical sense, its presence through to the end of gas production in September 1956 was hard to ignore. A Fishwicks bus conductor during World War Two always referred to the Gas Works bus stop as " Leyland Perfumery ".     

When Balshaws moved into their new premises on Church Road in 1931, the old school was sold to the Roman Catholic Church. They bought it for £ 6800 in 1932 and moved in from their old premises in Towngate.

The school had been long vacant and much maintenance was needed along with replacement of old-fashioned fittings and the gas lighting. Besides the school buildings and playgrounds, the whole site was about four acres including an old farm, barn and orchard, these being demolished in the 1950's to make way for further expansion.

The Roman Catholic school was " all age " catering for infant, junior and senior pupils. This continued until 1957 when the Secondary School was opened in Royal Avenue, followed by the new Infants School in Haig Avenue in 1959 which expanded until it took the Junior classes as well. 

The buildings now have varied uses mainly as small firms sites though the original school building is still ringing to sounds of children as it is the home of the Stonehouse Nursery  

For ten years the American company retained its financial control, but in 1934 it disposed of the greater part of its holding. The Company then changed its name to British Tyre and Rubber Co Ltd and, though retaining a right to Goodrich's technical assistance, was not in American control nor subjected its overseas markets.

  When the firm extended their works towards the Hough Lane area, they took over and demolished the former wire works on Herbert Street which was disused according to the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, building a new warehouse in 1938, the final new building on the site being the blister hangers in 1945. 

The name B.T.R. Industries came about in 1957 when the old B.T.R. (British Tyre and Rubber Co) ceased production of tyres and felt that the old name was inappropriate.  

The Golden Hill factory survived into the seventies until it was demolished and the site was redeveloped. However, the original Ajax factory (SD 543 224) was sold to Iddon Brothers across Quin Street. It was then sold to Heatons Engineering Group and was used until they relocated to Blackpool in 2016 and the factory has now been demolished awaiiting redevelopment.

Golden Hill Terrace

This row of houses adjacent to the Leyland and Birmingham Rubber Company offices were built in 1905 to house the manager class of the rubber works, making them very handy for work, no excuses for being late.

They had to be very careful when demolishing the L & B to safeguard the roof of the first house in the terrace

Paul Threlfall has set up a Facebook Group to share peoples pictures and memories of Fishwicks which is too be make available as a film which the Historical Society is aiming to add to the site

The variety of items made by the Wood Milne Company included rubber heels, soles and tips, pneumatic tyres and inner tubes for motor cars and motor cycles, solid band tyres for motor vehicles, belts for motor cycles, foot pumps for motor tyres and golf balls.   

          By 1924, Wood Milne Ltd. had moved their rubber heel business over to Littleborough and thereafter conducted their business from that site. The Ajax Works in Leyland was then sold with the tyre business to the American company, the British Goodrich Rubber Co, a subsidiary of the B. F. Goodrich Company of the USA. When formed as British Goodrich in 1924, it acquired the  existing Goodrich selling organisation in the United Kingdom, the sole right to manufacture and sell Goodrich products in the United Kingdom and to sell to Dominion countries (except Canada) and certain specified foreign countries together with the benefit of the technical knowledge and experience of the Goodrich Company.

           In the mid 1930’s they also took over the land formerly known as Mr William Higham's Hay and Straw Works established since at least 1901, part of which disappeared under Churchill Way.  The hay and straw business provided the carting establishments with food and bedding for their horses. The raw material was purchased from local farmers and often the hay was chopped and steamed. The planning book mentions a engine house in 1901 and a steaming room in 1907. The process produced a very strong yet not unpleasant smell which filled the air along that part of Golden Hill Lane.

The plaque reads
" In the Year of our Lord 1784
This Charity School was founded, endowed and erected by Richard Balshaw Gentleman
For Instructing the Children of the Poor only of this Parish
In Reading, Writing and Arithmetic in the English Tongue
And in the principles of the Church of England As By Law Established
The Girls to be taught also to Knit Sew and Mark."

Leyland & Birmingham Rubber Company

It had been previously thought that James Quin brought the new rubber industry to Leyland in 1862, however, it would seem that he married into the business as was owned by Sarah Smith, the widow of William Smith,  who had been described in the 1851 census as a waterproof manufacturer at his factory on the Leyland Workhouse site.

It would therefore seem logical that James would learn the developing business from a recognised pioneer.  Thomas Hancock of London had developed vulcanisation in 1844 and was beginning to discover the benefits of additives such as carbon black and fillers. James Quin learned these techniques from his nephew and successor, James Lyne Hancock.

The company James Lyne Hancock, manufacturers of vulcanised India Rubber goods, was formed in 1842 at 266 Goswell Road, London ‎‎when Thomas Hancock’s part of the business was split from Charles Macintosh and Co later of Manchester and sold to his nephew, James Lyne Hancock.  The ‎result being that Hancock's employees were sent to Leyland to pass on their skills to and some eventually join the Leyland workforce.

Butec Electrics

The original building was developed in the war as a Ministry of Supply factory for gas mask and associated items manufacture and storage. The site being acquired by Leyland Motors and Butec Electrics was established in 1966 by Leyland to build alternators for their commercial vehicles.

It then became an independent company within the British Leyland group with a factory floor area of some 200,000 ft. In the early 1970's, 230 people were employed here, producing a variety of electric components including starter motors, alternators and transistor regulators for automotive, industrial and marine applications. At first the factory manufactured electric components just for the Motors and its subsidiaries though they then obtained orders from outside companies broadening their customer base. Following the purchase by D.A.F. they were acquired in 1988 by Prestolite Electric Inc. of Ann Arbor, Michigan. U.S.A., Leyland now being the European headquarters of the American company.

The factory has now been demolished and replaced by a new housing estate.

Leyland Motors - Farington Works

In the early 1950's the new Farington Works was completed in the new Industrial Zone of Leyland, the majority of the buildings having been built in the preceding fifteen years.

The first building on the site was the foundry with its power station for steel melting. It was completed in 1918 to supply cast steel wheels and the large casings of the double reduction axle then fitted to Leyland vehicles. The 8 bay B/X factory for tank manufacture was added during the Second World War.

It was then converted to be the chassis assembly shop, with the tool room being relocated from the North Works. There then followed the building of a new assembly and machine shop with a floor area of 250,000 sq. ft., making the site extend to a total of 246 acres. This included the land off Golden Hill Lane, which enabled the site to have a direct entrance to the centre of town, rather than the previous entrances on Northgate or on Carr Lane.

Following the split up of the British Leyland business, the Farington Works then became the Farington Business Park with numerous small businesses established on the site, though now it is the home of Arnold Clarke, Morrison's and yet another housing development.            

J. E. Baxter & Co  / Leyland Medical

This now closed and demolished factory (you will start to see a trend here) was the result of a board room disagreement  when J.E. Baxter, the chairman of the board of  directors of the Leyland & Birmingham Rubber Co., set up another company in another factory next door to his employers in Tuer Street in 1900. He then ran the two firms until he was forced out of the L & B in 1909.

During the First World War, the factory developed one of the first gas masks and so when the Second World War started a Government owned factory was built next door, the Butec site, with gantries between the two factories.

In 1961, the company was taken over by the L & B who then proceeded to transfer the  latex rubber work from their factory in Mitcham into the Baxters works creating what they called the Mitcham Department. This when combined with the Surgical Department of the L & B became Leyland Medical in the early 1970s until its closure in 1991.

Hall Lane

Hall Lane as its name suggests was the lane that lead down to the Hall. This hall being Lower Farington Hall, the first home of the Faringtons and the mansion of Sir Henry Farington. He was the squire of the bodyguard of Henry VII and Knight of the bodyguard of Henry VIII. It remained their home for at least 370 years. There was a moated Manor House and " Greate Barne " on this site though traces of the moat have almost all disappeared.

Before the hall became part of the old Ministry of Supply Tank Factory (later Leyland Motors) test track site, the old hall was used as a farmhouse for many years. The farmhouse was last owned by a family called Forshaw, the grandfather having brought the farm from the previous owners, a family named Wright in about 1920.             

Leyland Motors - North Works - Golden Hill Lane Entrance

At the entrance to the North Works on Northcote Street on the wall of a small office building, there used to be a brass plate, which read " The Lancashire Steam Motor Co. - Registered Office ". The office and the adjoining shop constituted the whole of the factory in 1902. Building on this site continued until 1916, when lack of space prevented expansion south of Bannister Brook. However in 1932 when Balshaw's  sold their old site Leyland Motors purchased the plot of land north of the brook up to Golden Hill Lane.

However, the whole of the Leyland output of chassis was produced from this plant until after the First World War. It undertook all the machining, the assembly of units and the erection and testing of the chassis. Following the departure of the other departments, the North Works became engaged solely on the machining and heat treatment of parts for subsequent assembly in other parts of the factory complex. When the North Works was closed and the site cleared, the area was then redeveloped with housing and offices. Here pictured are the gates to the North Works on Golden Hill Lane when they were still in situ, they are now at the entrance to the Commercial Vehicle Museum.

We have recently conducted further research into the history of the Wood Milne name and have discovered many interesting stories, just click on the button to learn more.  

Market Place & Billiard Hall

With the coming of the railway in 1838, a market was established on Golden Hill Lane. This remained on the site until the new market place was created on Towngate following the demolition of the step houses in 1936.

Both markets worked until 1939 when the old market closed down. The long building next to the market was the village's billiard hall, before becoming a stationers warehouse. It has now found a use as a doctor's surgery.

Leyland & Farington Co - op Golden Hill shop

This was the original shop and distribution centre and still shows signs of its original use even though it is now a restaurant. A well-known manager in the 1930's and through the years of World War II was Tom Marsden.

The Co - operative Society built their stores to a regular plan, ground floor shop and upper storey for storage of the bulk supplies. These were " chuted “ down to the cellars where the " bagging up " of the flour, sugar, rice etc., was done on a Monday morning.

The hoist can still be seen on the west side of the building down the back entry between Golden Hill Lane and Grundy Street with "Leyland & Farington Co - operative Society " picked out in cast iron.

Queens Hotel

This public house was built in the 1850's, with the Leyland and Farington Co-op Store next door being built as one building. In Chapel Brow, the Vaults was a separate building with entry through a door onto the Brow.

As Golden Hill Lane meets Station Brow (B5254), the walk continues left up the brow and over the bridge, followed by a right turn into Moss Lane.

Leyland Workhouse

Leyland Workhouse was situated on the corner of Golden Hill Lane and Wheelton Lane with a garden fronting Golden Hill Lane. The land was purchased in 1780, the mortgage being raised by people of means in the vicinity including the Faringtons.

It was a substantial block of buildings covering 130 feet square with a quadrangle or yard. There were two weaving departments, bedrooms, sick rooms, schoolroom, offices for the warden and a separate building called on the plan " The Nessecaries " and " Bog ".

When the Workhouse was closed after the New Poor Law Act of 1834, it was let in 1851 to Mr William Smith, the forerunner of the rubber trade whos family story  is told above. 

However as I update this website (December 2015)  a small team of students from the University of Central Lancashire are researching the companies records, interviewing ex staff and workers about the company and their experiences inside the factory.

This will eventually form part of the Historical Society website so I will place a link here.

Balshaws Grammar School

The stone tablet in the centre of this Grade II listed building, states that it was built as a charity school by Richard Balshaw in 1784, the trust having been established in 1782. It was to instruct the poor children in reading, writing and arithmetic and the principles of the Church of England. The girls had to be taught to knit, sew and mark. The most famous headmaster was Mr Jackson, often referred to as " Pa Jackson ", who lived in the house attached to the school, his wife being the headmistress. The original regulations stated that the headmaster and schoolmistress should be members of the Church of England. The schoolmistress should not be the wife, daughter or relation of the schoolmaster.

In 1817, the schoolroom was enlarged and the room formerly occupied by the schoolmistress was used to form a school for girls. At the same time, a schoolmistress's house was built. Before the enlargement the numbers were limited to 50 boys and 50 girls, while by 1889, there were 110 boys and 70 girls attending the school. A new hall and classrooms being added in 1904.

Following the fire at " Th'owd Rubber " on January 17th 1913, the rebuilding of the three-storey frontage to Golden Hill Lane enabled the company to reach new heights with the two world wars making it ever busier.

In 1961, the take over of J.E. Baxter & Co, (Mr Baxter having being a former director of the L & B until the turn of the century) by the L & B, led to a friendly merger in 1969 of the L & B with their close rival, B.T.R., the L & B continuing to operate as a separate company within the B.T.R. group until it closed in the summer of 2002 and was demolished in the following September and is now a new housing estate.

John Fishwick & Sons

The company was founded by John Fishwick in 1907 as a road haulage company. The first vehicle was a steam wagon made by the then Lancashire Steam Motor Company that later became Leyland Motors. The vehicle was used to haul rubber from Leyland to Liverpool or Manchester at a stately speed of eight miles per hour.

John Fishwick started a Saturday only passenger service in 1911 from Eccleston to Preston via Croston Road. The fare to Preston was nine pence from Eccleston, sixpence from Seven Stars and Earnshaw Bridge and three pence from Tardy Gate. The vehicle used carried goods during the week and the bus body was substituted at weekends.

In 1920 the firm bought their first twenty-seater omnibus with solid tyres and acetyline lamps. This purchase enabled them to introduce a service to Chorley and subsequently take over other smaller local firms and services. By 1930 the fleet had risen to twenty with around sixty public transport and road haulage staff.

The joint service agreement with Ribble Motors Services was established around this time, only ceasing when deregulation came in 1986. The first double decker was brought by Fishwicks in 1931. Following the road improvements on Euxton Lane with the building of the Royal Ordnance Factory, a new joint service, the 119, was established from Leyland to Chorley on 25th June 1938.

The road haulage side of the business, namely ten lorries, was sold to J. Canning and Sons Ltd in 1952, the present small office block being built at this time. The company bought W & H Fowler, a local body builder in 1962, eventually transferring the business to the Golden Hill Lane Garage on Tuer Street. The street was named after a family associated with the Redmaynes who were connected with the rubber industry.

In 1963, the company purchased Singletons, who besides being bus and coach operators had also been funeral directors, cab proprietors and general carters. The company still garages the coaches in a purpose built garage behind Chapel Brow. The majority of buses that the company run today continue to be those with a Leyland name on the front.

The name of the lane probably originate from the Gold of Marigolds or buttercups, which indicates permanent pasture land.

The sparse buildings along Golden Hill Lane from the 1844 Map included the terrace of Tup Row, Starkies House, Leyland Workhouse at the bottom of Wheelton Lane and Golden Hill House.

By the time of the 1896 Map other houses and farms had appeared, namely Workhouse Farm, which was probably an extension to the Workhouse on Wheelton Lane and Richmond House, which was situated opposite the junction with School Lane. Whilst further east Rothwell House and Pearfield were on the future sites of Leyland Motors - Farington Works and B.T.R. Works respectively.

In 1868 the expanding business moved to their new site on Golden Hill Lane adjacent to the workhouse. Following the increase in business, the firm became a public company in 1873 as Mr Quin's Indian Rubber & Hosepipe Works.

James Quin & Co Ltd., were described as " manufacturers of all kinds of india rubber articles, valves, sheets, buffers, washers, rings, cylinders, steam packing, hose tubing, india rubber machinery, belting, woven linen hose pipes for agricultural, fire brigade and mill purposes, and all india rubber articles used for engineering purposes, elastic steam rope, round or square, with core in the centre, and all kinds of water proof covers made to order, also water proof horse cloths etc. "

Heaton Street Cottages

This street of hand loom weavers cottages were known as Tup Row which could mean a ram perhaps indicating that there was a sheep fold hereabouts. The name of the street probably commemorates the landlord of the Wheatsheaf named Heaton between 1810 and 1815, who probably financed the building of the cottages.           

Unfortunately there is not an happy end to this story because in the least week of October 2015 Fishwicks ceased trading. They had seen off other previous bids to take over their prime 111 route from the Garage via the centre of Leyland to Preston by other companies such as Blue Bus but the latest proposal by Preston Bus to challenge for this route with all their resources left Fishwicks no options. As the 111 route helped to support the other less cash able routes such as the 115, 117 and 119, those routes have now gone. 


Employment Office

This Employment Office was opened here in the 1930's having moved from the previous site opposite the Post Office in Chapel Brow. The office, now known as a " Job Centre " transferred to a new building in Towngate in the early 1980's.

Wood Milne Rubber Company later BTR (British Tyre & Rubber)

According to the planning records book of the old Leyland Council, a rubber works was established in 1905 as Whitehead & Roberts in the Ajax Works which is situated at the bottom of   Quin Street behind the church and can be seen on the 1909 Ordnance Survey map and confirmed in the trade directories of 1913 and 1922. The site was extended into Newsome Street along John Street between 1907 and 1912. 

It was incorporated in 1907 as the Wood Milne Rubber Company. By 1911 Tom Hartley Roberts was living in Farington House, the house later became the Wood Milne social club in 1919.  The planning book goes on to record that in 1911, a petrol store was applied for, followed by offices, warehouse, tyre room, laboratory, boiler house and chimney in 1915 on Golden Hill Lane.

The site would seem to be the buildings between Pearfield House and Golden Hill House, both of which would become part of the site in future years. Whether these buildings were purpose built or had a previous use we have not yet been able to confirm.

Wesleyan Chapel

The Chapel was built in 1814 following the use of a room in Towngate. As the movement continued to expand, all the seats were taken and the Sunday school attendances doubled. The building was then enlarged by the erection of a gallery with extensions being made to the front and the side.

The foundation stone for a replacement church in Turpin Green was laid by J.G McMinnies, the owner of Farington Mill, on September 18th 1875. The site was then taken by the County Bank, now being the National Westminster Bank.

The full story of this site can be found on the Chapel Brow page of the Festival Route walk.

Following the death of Mr Quin in 1886, the works then became the Leyland Rubber Company in 1886, while the amalgamation with the Birmingham Rubber Company in 1898, led to the company we now know as The Leyland & Birmingham Rubber Company.

The early 1900's witnessed a steady expansion of the product range to include solid and pneumatic tyres, hoses, belting, waterproof clothing and a range of surgical products that was later to become the foundation of Leyland Medical International.