B & S Massey Ltd

The company formed by two brothers, Benjamin and Stephen Massey. They had been apprenticed to various companies prior to agreeing to set up in partnership. With the help of their father they acquired some land at Openshaw and in 1861 the Openshaw Canal Iron Works was finished and ready for operation.

However, the brothers could not have chosen a worst time to go into business. The American Civil War had led to the destruction of the cotton fields resulting shortage of raw cotton for the textiles mills in Lancashire. From the outset the brothers wanted to manufacture steam hammers recently developed by James Nasmyth in 1839 and patented in 1842. However, it was not until 1862 that the Masseys’ delivered their first 15cwt hand-controlled steam hammer.

By 1873 trade had begun pick up with great demand for the company’s hammers on the continent. In 1879 Benjamin Massey died at the age of forty-two, Stephen Massey continued to run the business on his own. As the company grew other members of the Massey family joined the company, Leonard Massey in 1849 and then Harold Massey, his brother, the sons of Benjamin Massey.

The previous partnership of the brothers of the Massey family was replaced by an incorporated company in 1912, Leonard and Harold Massey becoming its first directors and John F Walker who had overseen the office for many years became secretary of the company. In 1929, the third generation of Masseys joined the company, Keppel Fletcher Massey, only son of Leonard Massey. During the 1930s B & S Massey Ltd acquired a controlling interest in Joseph Berry Limited from whose foundry the company had obtained the large iron castings necessary to build the large steam hammers.

On the outbreak of the Second World War the company again had great demands placed on it by Government contracts. Aircraft propeller blades and crank cases were required in large numbers and therefore to speed up production neighbouring works of the Victoria Chemical Company and Lees & Son were temporarily taken over by B & S Massey Ltd. Along with demands for forging machines required by other engineering companies. To resolve this supervisory staff were sent to other factory premises of foundries and engineering companies were hammers were made under licence.

The loss of Harold Massey due to a stroke in 1943 and the death of Leonard Massey six months later left a large hole in the senior management team at the company. Along with the age of other directors there was a great need to restructure the board. As a result of this Katherine Harris, daughter of Harold Massey was invited to join the board in early 1944. Harold Massey became Chairman and C. E. P. Hayton and Keppel Massey became managing directors.

In 1946 the financial reconstruction of the company was a pressing matter and as a result B & S Massey Limited was formally converted into a public limited company. This brought fresh capital into the company with an issue of shares in 1948 allowing for the long process of rebuilding and enlarging the works and replacing of plant which had not been replaced since the beginning of the war.

The programme also included the acquiring of the share capital of Brett Patent Lifter Company Limited, Coventry. In 1960 the Saxon Works, Openshaw which had been partly rented by the company during the war was offered for sale which B & S Massey duly purchased for expansion. It also acquired the share capital of Grosvenor Sheet Metal Company Limited who had been the principle supplier of fabricated steel structures.

The company addressed the increasing competition from new companies abroad by licencing the production of Massey pneumatic hammers by the New Standard Engineering Company Limited, Mumbai (Bombay). Similar agreements were made with Abando S. A., Bilbao representatives for the company in Spain who licensed and arranged for Sociedad Metalurgical Duro Felguera of Oveido for the manufacturing of B & S Massey Ltd products.

In June 1960 the great grandson of the founder joined B & S Massey Ltd. Christopher N. Massey became an assistant to the chief service engineer. In the following year the company became known as B & S Massey & Sons Limited and still carried on business as steam and power hammer manufacturers. Under the control of Keppel Massey, John H. Byam-Grounds and Cyril J. Gunton. In July 1975 a Special Resolution was proposed and it is recorded that B & S Massey & Sons Limited became a controlling interest of Head, Wrightson and Company Limited which was eventually acquired by the Davy Corporation then renamed Davy McKee until 1987 when Head Wrightson closed.

The name of B & S Massey Limited continues however it is unclear as to what the company does.