Sheffield Motor Manufacturing 1900–1930 — by Andrew Swift — 7th July 2014.

(Andrew’s career was in edu­ca­tion and not in engin­eer­ing, but he has always been very inter­ested in cars and the his­tory of car man­u­fac­ture in Sheffield.  He man­aged to acquire a large archive of Sheffield motor man­u­fac­tur­ing inform­a­tion.  He brought the archive with him so that mem­bers could look at it after the talk.)

In the Fulwood area in 1900 there were no cars, but by 1910 there had been an explo­sion of car own­er­ship.   Previously, trans­port had been by horse-drawn car­riages, that left up to 4 tons of horse manure per mile per day on Sheffield’s roads.

Car own­er­ship was for the wealthy only because cars were expens­ive and main­ten­ance was very costly too.  One owner repor­ted that he spent £100 per year on tyres alone.

Many engin­eer­ing com­pan­ies in Sheffield flir­ted with car man­u­fac­ture as a side­line to their normal man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­nesses.

(1902 – 1906)  Frank Churchill per­suaded his father, owner of the Hallamshire Motor Company, that they should make cars.  By 1906 the com­pany had stopped man­u­fac­ture of cars for eco­nomic reas­ons, but still made bus bodies.

(1903 — 1905) The Cavendish com­pany star­ted the Cavendish Motor Company in Cavendish Street, Sheffield.  It seems that they did not actu­ally make cars but bought in other makes and re-modelled or re-badged them.  The com­pany was really a car deal­er­ship and later became Kennings.

(1903 – 1905) The Burgon and Ball com­pany set up La Plata Cars but did not actu­ally make the cars.  They sold Talbots etc. and per­haps re-modelled some cars, but they were really  car retail­ers.  Burgon and Ball are still in the engin­eer­ing busi­ness making garden tools etc.  At this time the Yorkshire Motor Car Company made car bodies but not the chassis and the engine.  They put a cus­tom­ised body onto a stand­ard chassis from another man­u­fac­turer.

(1907 – 1909) The Yorkshire Engine Company made engines and power trains and built sports cars, but did not make the chassis.  They used Simplex and Daimler-Mercedes chassis.  YEC advert­ised a car at Brooklands that they said they were going to make, with a Daimler-Mercedes chassis, but did not have per­mis­sion from the Benz com­pany to do this.  The prob­lems caused made YEC scrap their car com­pany and go back to  rail­way engin­eer­ing.

(1906 – 1914) Sheffield Simplex was, at the time, the only real rival to Rolls-Royce.  Simplex cars could do any­thing that a Rolls could, and do some things better! Earl Fitzwilliam moved the Simplex fact­ory from Sheffield to some land he owned in the London area. The Simplex cars were the first to have an elec­tric starter and dynamo-powered lights and elec­trics. Simplex opened a show­room in Conduit Street, London, near to the Rolls show­room. Simplex cars sold only to the very rich.
The Prince of Wales toured the West of England in one of their cars and said it was extremely com­fort­able (but did not buy one!)
To prove reli­ab­il­ity a Simplex car was driven from Lands End to John O’Groats and back again without stop­ping the engine and they didn’t need to change gear.  (Presumably some sort of auto­matic gear box was installed.)  Rolls-Royce could not beat that.

Sheffield Simplex ceased man­u­fac­tur­ing cars in 1914 because of the Great War, but con­tin­ued to make lor­ries.  (1923 – 1928) Stringer-Winco  cars were made in Wincobank using other manufacturer’s engines. A medium-light Stringer-Winco car cost £286 for the chassis only! Meanwhile, Herbert Austin (ori­gin­ally from this area) had set up the Austin com­pany in the Coventry area and was pro­du­cing a whole car for £150. In 1926 Stringer-Winco halved their prices, and in 1928 made fur­ther reduc­tions, but could not com­pete and went under.

(1919 – 1922) The Finbat Works were man­u­fac­tur­ers of tin-plate toys until the war.  After the war broth­ers Ernest and Charles Richardson began to make cars. The Richardson 2–3 seater light car model D sold for £235. (This was a reduced price.  Probably Austin’s model was much cheaper?) The fact­ory pro­duced about 600 cars, but went bust in 1921 when a strike of die-makers meant that they could not com­plete the cars. After that Ernest refused to take risks with his future and went back to an engin­eer­ing job.  Charles went into prop­erty, appar­ently quite suc­cess­fully.

(1919 – 1928)  Charron-Laycock was part of the Laycocks Company, Archer Road. The cars were claimed to be British built through­out and were aimed at the posh car market (today’s BMW, Mercedes, Porsche market). The Coupe cost £625, the 2-seater cost £525, and the 4-seater cost £575. Actually, the French com­pany Charron pro­duced the engines and insisted that their name was included with Laycocks on the brand. Problems star­ted when Laycocks bought 2000 units from Charron and found that they did not meets the required stand­ard and parts were not avail­able.  By 1929 pro­duc­tion of the Charron-Laycocks cars had stopped.

By 1930 cars were no longer made in Sheffield although steel was still being sup­plied in quant­ity to man­u­fac­tur­ers else­where. Big cities like Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford etc. that had flir­ted with making cars had all stopped doing so.