Beyer Peacock & Co Ltd

In 1854, Charles Frederick Beyer and Richard Peacock founded Beyer, Peacock & Co, a mechanical engineering company. Their works were at Gorton, east of Manchester. A legal partnership was formed between Charles Frederick Beyer, Richard Peacock, and Henry Robertson, a sleeping partner which took effect from 1 January 1855. In the early days of the company it was the partners who managed the affairs of the company. Beyer acted as Chief Engineer with control over the Drawing Office and Works, Peacock as Commercial Manager handled the commercial side of the business, and Robertson acted as Financial Advisor. Under the Chief Engineer were the Chief Draughtsman and the Works Manager. An accountant was also employed.

In July 1855 the first locomotive engine left Gorton. It was made for the Great Western Railway Company and was used on the Paddington to Oxford route. Between 1854 and 1868 Beyer, Peacock built 844 locomotives, of which 476 were exported. The company sold mainly to the colonies, South Africa and South America, but never broke into the North American market.

In 1883 the company was incorporated as a private limited company and renamed Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd, with registered offices at 34 Victoria Street, Westminster. In 1902 the company became a public limited company, Beyer, Peacock & Co (1902) Ltd. (The (1902) was dropped the following year). In 1908 the registered offices were moved to Gorton and the new London office was at 14 Victoria Street, Westminster. In 1919 the London offices were given up and then in 1923 new premises were acquired at Abbey House, London. During WWII the registed offices were moved to Flore Manor in Northamptonshire. In 1956 the London offices of the company were moved from Abbey House to Locomotive House, Buckingham Gate.

One of Beyer, Peacock's most successful locomotives was an articulated locomotive called the Garratt. Its designer, H. W. Garratt, had a wide knowledge of locomotive design and construction from his work in various countries including Argentina and Cuba. In 1908 Garratt was granted a patent. Beyer, Peacock had sole rights of manufacture in Britain. In 1928 the patents ran out and the company began to use the name Beyer-Garratt to distinguish their locomotives.

During WWI Beyer, Peacock began to manufactire artilliery and in August 1915 Gorton Works was put under Government control with production switching almost entirely to the war effort, especially heavy field artilliery. During WWII the company was again brought under government control but continued to build locomotives throughout the war.

Beyer, Peacock was faced with competition from tramways and electric railways. They began to look for alternatives so that they were not dependent on one product. In 1932 they acquired Richard Garratt Engineering Works Ltd who made steam traction engines, steam road lorries, and agricultural equipment. In 1949 Metropolitan-Vickers, Beyer, Peacock Ltd was formed which was jointly owned by Metropolitan Vickers and Beyer, Peacock. The company was created to build locomotives other than steam. By 1953 Beyer, Peacock had acquired the following subsidiary companies: Denings of Chard, makers of agricultural machinery; Theramic Ltd, makers of theramic siphons for locomotives; Maiuri Refrigeration Patents, Low Temperature Developments Ltd, and some other companies concerned with sales, such as Rail Traction Supplied Ltd. In 1957 Beyer, Peacock acquired Anti-attrition Metal Co and in 1958 Air Control Installations Ltd. In this year Beyer, Peacock (Hymek) Ltd was formed.

The late 1950s saw a rapid transformation in locomotive manufacture. In 1955 British Rail decided to switch from steam to diesel and overseas users followed suit. Beyer, Peacock all but closed down the Gorton plant at the end of 1958. They had chosen to make diesel-hydraulics but British Rail opted to use diesel-electrics.

In 1960 Beyer, Peacock’s subsidiary companies became members of the Beyer, Peacock Group and Beyer, Peacock Co. Ltd became the holding company. In 1966 all production ceased at the Gorton foundry. Shares in Beyer, Peacock were eventually bought by National Chemical Industries Ltd and in 1980 Beyer, Peacock and Co. Ltd became a dormant company. The name was resurrected in the 1990s as a trading name, based in Devon.