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photo of man in uniform standing in front of building

Group Photos Browse our collection of portraits of the workers

Gallery Images from the foundry

Poet's Corner A selection of poems by former employees

Project Find out more about the Meltdown project

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Dr Gary Firth spent hours trawling through local archives and company files to research and write the first and only history of West Yorkshire Foundrys. His full text is reproduced in the book Meltdown. The results of his research along with other material (old photos, maps, press clippings) have been deposited as a collection in Leeds City Archives, Chapeltown Road, Sheepscar, Leeds LS7 3AP.
T: 0113-214-5814

For more details visit www.archives.wyjs.org.uk
The collection can be viewed by arrangement with the archive.

1844 Dye works of a Mr Sayner occupied the site.

1854 O.S. map

1854 OS map of above shows the dye works surrounded by fields. Click the picture to view a bigger image.

1893 O.S. map

1893 OS map the whole area has become industrialised dominated by the Clarence Iron & Steel works. The works was surrounded by rows of terraced houses built for the workers and their families. Click the picture to view a bigger image.

1932 O.S. map

1932 OS map shows the Clarence Iron & Steel works as disused. Click the picture to view a bigger image.

1938 The derelict foundries were now occupied by the Airedale Light Alloy Company owned by the Yorkshire Dyeware and Chemical Co, which the Bedford family of Leeds ran.

1939 After the declaration of war in September - the Airedale Light alloy Co. secured a small contract to manufacture aircrafts parts.

1941 They could not meet the Ministry of Aircraft Productions tight deadlines. So MAP decided to ask Leyland motors to step in and manage the foundry.

1942 Leyland sent a small team of foundry specialists to Leeds. Led by two of their most senior sand technicians Walter West and John William Mackenzie. West was given overall operational responsibility. The foundry was now producing the carburettors for the RAF's fighter aircraft. Ms Kathleen Barratt, the oldest surviving employee, became Walter West's PA.

image of lorry with tank on the back

1943 Sir Stafford Cripps Minister of Aircraft production made a top secret visit to the site. A third foundry was built and the core shop automated and production increased.

pic of street with tank

1944 The war was coming to an end, but the transition to peacetime production would not be an easy one. Workers were being released as wartime production decreased.

1945 Production reached its lowest and West reported to Leyland that the foundry had only enough work for 5 weeks.

Old poster reads: Cast well and true...

1946 Leyland bought the foundry from MAP for £96,250 and the land from the Bedford family for £37,500. Walter West was appointed Managing Director and Charles Robertson Company Secretary. The company name West Yorkshire Foundries was suggested by Walter West at a Leyland board meeting.

old black and white photo of display with sign reading "West Yorkshire Foundries"

1950's there are few surviving company records from this period but West Yorkshire Foundries prospered under Walter West's skilful leadership?

photo of man working in foundry

1961 The foundry expanded dramatically due to the boom in car sales. The company now employed 2,000 people to make 14,000 different parts for the motor industry. West Yorkshire Foundries supplied most of the motor manufacturers in Great Britain with cylinder heads and engine blocks. Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Daimler, Ford Humber, Rover, Vauxhall where just a few of their customers They also supplied the tractor manufactures International Harvesters and David Brown Ltd.

photo of men working in foundry

1966 The Clarence public house and surrounding terraced streets were demolished and a new Gravity Die casting foundry was built.

1968 The main Aluminium Sand Foundry was producing six-cylinder heads for the Jaguar V12 and Rover V8 engines.

1969 Walter West retires. West Yorkshire foundries employed over 2000 men, its order books were full, it was at its peak with 10 foundries spread over 18 acres of South Leeds.

1979 Proposed building of a new foundry at Cross Green.

photo of man in uniform standing in front of building

1980 580 production staff were made redundant.

1981 Two sites at Sayner Lane were closed and sold off. The work force was reduced to 230.

1986 West Yorkshire Foundries was sold to the German company Eisenwerk Bruhl.

1992 Eisenwerk Bruhl was acquired by VAW and West Yorkshire Foundries became know as VAW Motorcast Ltd.

1997 The workforce was increased to 700.

2002 Norsk-Hydro joined forces with VAW and as part the merger, the foundry was renamed Hydro Aluminium Motorcast Ltd.

2003 The closure of the foundry was announced.

2004 The vast majority of the workforce left.

2005 The foundry closes.

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