Thos. W. Ward Ltd was a Sheffield, Yorkshire, steel, engineering and cement business, which began as coal and coke merchants. It expanded into recycling metal for Sheffield's steel industry, and then the supply and manufacture of machinery.

Bailey Bridge, erected in 2006 at the rear of Albion Works, Sheffield
Cement kiln 8, Ketton, Rutland
Early Thos. W. Ward Steel Girder

In 1894, as part of the scrap metal operation, Ward began to set up substantial shipbreaking yards in different parts of England, and in Scotland and Wales. By 1953, Thos. W. Ward employed 11,500 people.

Ward's business was reorganised at the end of the 1970s, when it moved from being an engineering group with a motley assortment of subsidiaries to being principally dependent on cement. In 1982, it was bought by RTZ.

History edit

This business was founded by Thomas William Ward in 1878 with the name Thos. W. Ward. Ward's provided coal and coke, and very soon recycling or scrap metal services. It added dealing in new and used machinery related to the iron, steel, coal, engineering and allied industries, and manufacturing that machinery.[1]

Ward's Constructional Engineering Department manufactured and erected steel-framed buildings, bridges, collieries, steel works equipment and furnaces. The Rail Department supplied light and heavy rails, sleepers, switches and crossings, and equipped complete sidings. De Lank Quarries produced the granite for Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, as well as major lighthouses and prestige buildings in London and elsewhere.[2]

Shipbreaking edit

In 1894, Ward's moved into ship breaking at many different locations. On 19 May 1904, a limited liability company was formed and registered, to manage all the businesses operating under the name Thos. W. Ward.[3] By 1920, when raising further capital from the public, the prospectus claimed these notable aspects of Thos. W. Ward: "Premier shipbreaking firm in the world, largest stockholders to the iron, steel and machinery trades, constructional engineers, merchants, etc."[4]

Portland Cement edit

New capital was raised from the public in 1928 to establish a new greenfield Portland cement business at Ketton in Rutland, on 1,170 acres of freehold land, containing oolitic limestone and clays suitable for the production of the highest quality, rapid-hardening Portland cement. It was a particular project of new chairman Joseph Ward (1865–1941), brother of Thomas Ward (1853–1926).[1] Ketton Cement Works became the core activity of Ward's in the late 1970s.

After 55 years, in 1934, when the employees numbered in excess of 4,000 people, the principal businesses were:

  • Construction, mechanical and electrical engineering manufacturers
  • Coal coke iron steel metal and machinery factors and merchants
  • Ship and works dismantlers, owners and brokers
  • Wharf owners
  • Machinery and plant valuers
  • Nut and bolt manufacturers
  • Horn handle manufacturers for cutlery
  • Brick manufacturers
  • Dry slag and tar macadam manufacturers
  • Quarrying
Albion Works 2013

Freehold Premises:

Albion Works, Tinsley and Millhouses, Sheffield
and at Silvertown, Grays (Essex), Inverkeithing, Glasgow, Wishaw, Birmingham, Briton Ferry, Milford Haven, Lelant, Silverdale, Low Moor (Bradford), Albion (Mansfield) sand quarries etc and Brickworks at Longton, Newark and Apedale[3]

Leasehold Premises:

Charlton Works and Effingham Road, Sheffield
Liverpool, Dublin, Cornish Granite Quarries (De Lank), Denny, Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Pembroke Dock, Hayle and Scunthorpe.[3]


W. S. Laycock edit

This old-established business was bought in 1934. Laycock's made railway carriage and steamship fittings, underframes for locomotives and railway coaches, and automobile axles, gearboxes, propeller shafts and Laycock's own Layrub flexible drive joints.[3] Two years later, Laycock Engineering was sold to some investors.[5]

1970s edit

By 1969, the Ward group was believed to be primarily in metal supply, particularly from ship breaking, but also producing cement, supplying roadstone, constructing rail sidings, and building new industrial works and equipping them with the necessary plant and machinery.[6]

Division edit

In October 1981, Thos. W. Ward's was split into three:

  • Thos. W. Ward (Raw Materials) the former iron and steel division active in processing and merchanting carbon scrap, special steel scrap, non-ferrous scrap metals and steel stockholding.
  • Thos. W. Ward (Industrial Supplies)
  • Thos. W. Ward (Industrial Dismantling)[7]

Within a short time, Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) began to buy a substantial shareholding and the takeover was completed in early 1982.[8] RTZ amalgamated the Ward cement operation with that of Tunnel Holdings, and named the combination RTZ Cement, which then had about one quarter of the UK cement market.[9] The Railway Engineers department of Thos. W Ward was bought by Henry Boot.[10] RTZ sold Thos. W. Ward (Roadstone) to Ready Mixed Concrete in June 1988.[11]

Ship and Works' dismantlers edit

Works dismantled before 1926: Abbott's Works, Gateshead; Bowling Ironworks; Kelham Rolling Mills, Sheffield; Derwent Rolling Mills, Workington; Dearne & Dove Works; West Cumberland Whittington Works, Crawshay's Cyfarthfa Works, Bessemer's Works, Bolton; Mars Ironworks, Wolverhampton; Effingham Nut and Bolt Works, Sheffield.[12] Thos W. Ward. also dismantled the Crystal Palace.[13]

Ships broken up at Inverkeithing edit

The RMS Mauretania arrives at Inverkeithing ready to be broken for scrap, 1965

Ships broken up at Briton Ferry edit

Ships broken up at Grays edit

Ships broken up at Preston edit

Ships broken up at Barrow-in-Furness edit

Ships broken up at Morecambe edit

Ships broken up at Pembroke Dock edit

Ships broken up at Milford Haven edit

Ships broken up at Lelant or Hayle edit

Lizzie the elephant edit

At the outbreak of World War I, 1,235 people were on the payroll of Thomas Ward's company and a thousand tons of scrap metal per day was being fed to the country's steel makers. However, with demand so high, and many of the horses Ward had previously used to transport his goods around Sheffield requisitioned by the military, he had an increasingly difficult time to match supply with demand. Lizzie the Elephant was brought in as a solution to the problem.[17]

After work horses from Thomas Ward's were sent or requisitioned to the front in World War I, Lizzie the Elephant was drafted in from Sedgwick's Menagerie, a travelling circus run by William Sedgwick (1841–1927). The elephant was said to be able to do the work of three of Ward's horses and soon got herself the name "Tommy Ward's Elephant" as she became a familiar sight carrying or hauling goods around Sheffield, controlled by her trainer Richard Sedgwick (1875–1931) (son of the circus ringleader William Sedgwick).[17] Lizzie was said to have inspired other Sheffield firms to creative means with their wartime transport, and a company in the Wicker area of the city was said to have used camels, also from Sedgwick's Menagerie, in place of their own horses.[18] Unfortunately, walking around the cobblestoned streets of Sheffield damaged Lizzie's feet and, although she continued to work for Ward's firm for sometime after the end of the First World War, she was eventually returned to the circus.

Lizzie has gone down in Sheffield legend, and there are many stories about her adventures. She also gave her name to the popular Sheffield sayings, "done up like Tommy Ward's elephant" — meaning someone carrying too much weight — and the self-explanatory "like trying to shift Tommy Ward's elephant". A Sheffield Community Transport Optare Solo bus was named "Lizzie Ward" after her.

References edit

  1. ^ a b Thos. W. Ward, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 18 April 1928; pg. 23; Issue 44870
  2. ^ Thos. W. Ward Limited Albion Works. Sheffield. The Times, Wednesday, 9 May 1928; pg. 22; Issue 44888
  3. ^ a b c d e Thos. W. Ward Limited, Albion Works, Sheffield. The Times, Monday, 19 November 1934; pg. 20; Issue 46915
  4. ^ a b Thos. W. Ward Limited. The Times, Thursday, 22 January 1920; pg. 19; Issue 42314
  5. ^ The Laycock Engineering Company, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 8 January 1936; pg. 16; Issue 47266.
  6. ^ Tools to finish all jobs. The Times, Monday, 10 November 1969; pg. V; Issue 57713.
  7. ^ Reorganization at Thos. W. Ward. The Times, Saturday, 26 September 1981; pg. 24; Issue 61043
  8. ^ The Times, Saturday, 23 January 1982; pg. 15; Issue 61139
  9. ^ Cement cartel resists a shake-up. The Times, Thursday, 16 June 1983; pg. 19; Issue 61560
  10. ^ The Times, Thursday, 15 March 1984; pg. 19; Issue 61782
  11. ^ RTZ in £33m sale of aggregates firm. The Times, Wednesday, 29 June 1988; pg. 26; Issue 63120
  12. ^ Obituary, Mr. T. W. Ward. The Times, Wednesday, 10 February 1926; pg. 16; Issue 44192
  13. ^ "Dismantling by Thos. W. Ward Ltd., Sheffield & London | World's Fair Treasury". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b A review of Lloyd's Register, The Times, Wednesday, 11 January 1911; pg. 21; Issue 39479
  15. ^ Ship Modelling Mailing List (SMML): Empress of Australia
  16. ^ "HMS Hampshire". 30 May 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b "University of Sheffield project page". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  18. ^ Daily Telegraph Tuesday 18 February 2914, page 6

Publications edit

External links edit