Joseph Cockshoot & Co Ltd

In 1844 Joseph Cockshoot left the employ of his uncle’s hackney carriage business to set up his own coachbuilding firm in Major Street, Manchester. In 1851 William P Norris joined the business. In 1855 the business moved to Fountain Street followed by a move to New Bridge Street in 1865. In 1873, the business became a private company, Joseph Cockshoot and Co, with Joseph Cockshoot and William Norris in charge.

Joseph Cockshoot and Co was highly prosperous with a reputation for high quality craftsmanship and elegant design. The firm also improved technical aspects such as brakes, axles and springs. Its customers included the High Sheriff of Lancashire, with a carriage built for each new incumbent in the role. The company won numerous awards and exhibited at major events such as the Paris Exhibition of 1878, where the company won a Premier Gold Medal, and the Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester in 1887.

The company became a limited company, Joseph Cockshoot and Co Ltd, in 1895 with Joseph Cockshoot as Chairman and Sydney Norris (son of William) and Richard Randell as joint managing directors. The directors were James and Peter Hesketh, John Ainsworth and Thomas Cockshoot.

The turn of the century witnessed the emergence of the motor car and Cockshoot were involved from the start. In 1902 Cockshoot opened a garage in Deansgate, which was among the first in the county, and the next year the firm produced its first motor car body. The first agencies with which Cockshoot became involved were for the ‘Stanley Steam Car’, the ‘Rex’ and ‘Velox’ cars. However, the company was soon fitting a wide variety of car bodies including continental cars, notably Renault but also Panhard, Mercedes, Leon Bolle, Deaunay-Belleville, Lorraine de Deitrich, and British cars including Daimler, Wolseley, Talbot and Sunbeam. In 1907 Cockshoot gained the Rolls-Royce agency for East Lancashire and Cheshire and became known both for producing Rolls-Royce bodies and for selling their cars. Such was their success that Cockshoot were to become a regular exhibitor at Olympia between 1904 and 1938.

In 1906 the company moved to new premises on the corner of Great Ducie Street and New Bridge Street as it switched away from carriage to car body production and needed improved premises.

At the start the First World War there were unsuccessful attempts by the company to get involved in aircraft production. However, the company was keen to help the war effort and its main contribution was delivery of Crossley Tenders for the RAF as well as numerous staff cars and ambulances.

In the inter-war period the company ended its carriage production, broadening its range of cars. It secured the agency for the new type of Armstrong Siddeley cars, and demand for Rolls Royce cars continued to grow. 1919 saw the beginning of Cockshoot’s agency with Morris. This involved retail sale, repair and wholesale distribution throughout East Lancashire and Cheshire. This agency also entailed distribution and sale of MG cars and sale of Wolseley cars, as both were made by companies allied with Morris Motors. Thanks to demand for its car bodies, in 1927 the company acquired a building at 6 St Ann’s Square, Manchester, and converted it into a showroom.

The Second World War prompted Cockshoot to get involved in aircraft production again, although far more successfully than during the First World War. The company built major and minor components for aircraft including ‘Manchester’, ‘Lancaster’ and ‘Halifax’ bomber aircraft. This involved much investment in new capital equipment and removal of much of the carriage-making equipment as well as developing new quality control and accounting systems.

As production methods changed, the war brought to an end Cockshoot’s car production activity. The company moved into the sale and servicing of cars.

In 1947, Cockshoot acquired the Globe Works which opened in 1949 as a site used for car repair, initially for Nuffield vehicles.

Cockshoot developed into one of the largest Morris distributors in Britain and remained a Rolls Royce retailer. The company also extended its operations outside central Manchester to several sites in Stockport, Bury (previously Carrs Ltd), Marple, Disdbury, Ashton-under-Lyne (previously Stanmford Motors), Wilmslow (previously T Eadington and Sons Ltd), Handforth (MEL Engineering Co), Hyde, Bolton and Radcliffe, Kidderminster (previously T.B.C. Ltd), Bramhall/Hazel Grove and Hagley.

In 1959 Cockshoot became a public company with J O H Norris as Chairman, Graham and Brian Norris as Joint Managing directors and J Cartland, J Mitchell and H Drake as directors. Cockshoot, in a joint move with Lookers Ltd and Colmore Depot Ltd, opened a jointly owned B.M.C. parts department for warehousing and marketing in Store Street Manchester called The Parts Service Combine Ltd. Cockshoot also opened another joint company, Combine (Manchester) Ltd, for data processing, stock control and financial work. In 1965 the Cockshoot group opened new premises in Roebuck Lane, Sale. These premises incorporated offices, central accounts and publicity departments.

In 1968 Lex Garages Ltd took over Cockshoot for just under £1 million with Graham Norris as Chairman and Managing Director until he left the company in 1970.