Engineering

The growth of the textile industry was dependent on the building and maintenance of machinery. Initially much of this machinery was brought in from places like Leeds and Manchester but by the late 19th century local firms were building looms and other machinery. One side effect of manufacturing textile machinery was the development of the machine tool industry, an industry which made the machines that make machines.

Asquith was founded around 1865 by William Asquith a native of Halifax who had spent time in the gold fields of Canada and California. Right from the start the company operated from the Highroad Well area of Halifax. The company became specialist manufacturers of radial drilling machines and one claim to fame was that they supplied 40 drilling machines used during the building of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in 1924.

This site expanded to service several branches of the Asquith business which included a foundry.

The company has had numerous changes of ownership and is now part of Asquith Butler. Although no longer operating from the Highroad Well site, there is still plenty of evidence of over 100 years of engineering by Asquith on this site.


Butler's Works, Adelaide Street

The founder of this company was James Ryder Butler who was an apprentice engineer at the Dean Clough Mills in the 1850s. By 1872 he had set up his own business and had changed from making textile machinery to machine tools. In 1880 he moved into premises on Adelaide Street, Halifax which included a foundry. In 1917 the larger Mile Thorn Works opened a short distance away. This company made a wide range of machines including lathes and planing machines. The company is now known as Asquith Butler and still operates form the Mile Thorn Works.

Mile Thorn Works, Gibbert Street, Halifax.

Butler's Works, Adelaide Street


This engineering works on Claremont Road Halifax was the home of Crawford Swift the final incarnation of a machine tools manufacturers started by George Swift in 1884. Specialising in the manufacture of lathes by the 1930s the company became part of Asquith Machine Tools in 1955. Since then it has had several changes of ownership until it recently ceased trading from this site.

Rose Mount Iron Works on Huddersfield Road, Elland was founded by Richard Dempster who had been appointed as manager of the Elland-cum-Greetland Gas Company in 1855. Dempster's consultancy work advising local textile manufacturers on the building and running of their own small gas plants led to the establishment of the Rose Mount works which specialised in the production of gas retorts and gasholders.

Other Engineering Works

Refelecting Roadstuds home of the "Cats Eye".

A product invented in Halifax and used all around the world the Cats Eye was invented and is still manufactured in Boothtown, Halifax. The inventor Percy Shaw lived in a house at the heart of the works which is still approached by a driveway studded with cats eyes.

One story suggests that the idea for his invention came after a cat stepped into the beam of his car headlights on a foggy unlit road from Queensbury, however another less dramatic version suggests that it was his headlights reflecting on a road sign.

Which ever is true there can be no doubt that the Cats Eye has and will continue to contribute to road safety.


Wire making began in the Calder valley in the late 18th century to provide wire for the cards used in the textile industry for yarn preparation.

Smiths Caledonian Wire Works in the centre of Halifax was established by Frederick Smith in 1859. Products included fencing wire and later telegraph and telephone wire. By 1866 it was employing 100 men and boys, produced 1500 tons of wire each year and dumped lime and sulphuric acid into the Hebble Brook!