Catalogue description Gainsborough Engineering Company (Oldham) Ltd

This record is held by Oldham Local Studies & Archives

Details of D-GAI
Reference: D-GAI
Title: Gainsborough Engineering Company (Oldham) Ltd

A box of records was found among the records of Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd when they were being catalogued in preparation for their transfer to the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick Library, Coventry. There were also some files relating to Gainsborough Engineering in the correspondence of Sir Alfred Owen, chairman, and David Owen, his successor.


Since this small collection had no direct connection with automotive component manufacturing or with the activities of the Darlaston company, the directors of Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd agreed to transfer it to Oldham Archives Service, as a more locally-relevant place of deposit. The transfer took place in 1995.


An unusual feature of this archive is in the class of records containing copies of quarterly production returns and annual censuses of production submitted to the Board of Trade for the Government's Statistical Services. It is rare for these to survive.




D-HEN/A Minutes of meetings


D-HEN/B Statutory records


D-HEN/C Returns

Date: 1939 - 1971

D-GAI Gainsborough Engineering Company (Oldham) Ltd


D-GAIA Fielding & Son (Werneth) Ltd


D-GAIB G. Corner & Company Ltd


D-GAIC S. A. Rhodes Ltd


D-GAID S. A. Rhodes (Ironfounders) Ltd

Held by: Oldham Local Studies & Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Gainsborough Engineering Company (Oldham) Ltd

Physical description: 0.3 lin.m.
Immediate source of acquisition:

Acc. No: 1995-031

Administrative / biographical background:

The company was registered in August 1939, No. 355866, as a manufacturer of aircraft components in pressed metal. It supplied such firms as A.V. Roe Ltd and Hawker Siddeley Ltd with fuel and oil tanks, ailerons, pilots' seats and ducts and slides. The company leased premises in Wellington Street, Oldham, and later, expanded into Roscoe Mill, Roscoe Street, Oldham.


While manufacturing components for war, the company neglected any post-war planning, and as the war drew to a close orders started to contract. In August 1945 the lease of the Wellington Street Works was given up, and the company's Registered Office was transferred to Roscoe Mill. By January 1946 aircraft component manufacture had virtually ceased and very little production was taking place. The directors started to look around for a buyer.


At this point Charles Sydney Cowap and Wallace Fielding, Chairman and Managing Director respectively of Fielding & Son (Werneth) Ltd, (q.v. D-GAIA) offered to buy all the company's shares for £27,500. By May 1946 they had taken charge of the company, whose spare capacity fitted neatly into their plans, because they were looking for a pressed metal production plant to manufacture metal kitchen equipment. Fielding & Son had spent the previous six months running down their aircraft component contracts and developing the production of metal kitchen cabinets.


In June 1946, Gainsborough Engineering purchased Fielding & Son for £32,500, and transferred production to Roscoe Mill, with Fieldings becoming a sales organisation. In 1946 and 1947, patents were granted for improvements in hot water supply systems, and for improvements in cushioning metal furniture.


This highly successful strategy continued until the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a Purchase Tax of 66.66% on all metal kitchen cabinet furniture in May 1948. Sales dropped immediately from £5,000 to £1,000 per week, and the company had to find other things to make. They had been experimenting with a Chenille Preparatory Automatic Loom, and entered into a manufacturing agreement with F. Mellowes & Co. They also started to make refrigerator components and fuel tanks for motor vehicles.


In 1963 the company purchased the Pennant Street Works in Pennant Street, Oldham, from Walker & Schofield (in liquidation), and shortly afterwards sold the Roscoe Mill.


Charles Sydney Cowap, chairman of the Cowap Group


Cowap first appeared in Oldham as a director of Fielding & Son (Werneth) Ltd. Born in 1907, by June 1935 he was a motion study engineer who was appointed a director of Moston Entertainments Ltd. At the time he was living at 395 Hollinwood Avenue, New Moston. Another director was Joseph Mills, a radio and electric dealer, of 36 Oldham Road, Failsworth. Internal evidence shows that in 1937, the directors sold their shares to Mona Eliza Mills, C.S. Cowap and Wallace Fielding. The company was renamed the Chadderton Estate & Building Co. Ltd, No. 330741.


Internal evidence also shows that Cowap was associated with the firm William Wrigley & Son, later perhaps known as Wrigley Motors Ltd. In February 1939, Cowap was living at 441 Victoria Avenue, Blackley, Manchester, and was a director, with Wallace Fielding and W. Mills, of a re-structured company, Fielding & Son (Werneth) Ltd, which leased premises from William Wrigley & Son. In 1941, they sold a large part of their shareholding to a Sheffield-based company, F. Mellowes & Co. Ltd, but bought it back in 1946 to develop the manufacture of metal kitchen cabinets.


In 1946 Cowap and Fielding purchased the Gainsborough Engineering Co. (Oldham) Ltd. They then sold Fielding & Son to Gainsborough Engineering. Cowap was living at 'Canberra House', Beech Lane, Grasscroft, Oldham, with Fielding residing in Shaw, Oldham.


Gainsborough was used by Cowap in 1949 to buy shares in G. Corner & Co. Ltd (q.v. D-GAIB), but it was not fully taken over until 1957. In 1954, Gainsborough was also used to purchase for £6,637 Wrigley Motors Ltd, who were operating at the Britannia Works, Wood Street, Middleton, and at the Suffield Street Works, Middleton.


Cowap used this company in 1957 to purchase S.A. Rhodes Ltd, bakery engineers and iron founders, of Hyde Junction, Cheshire (q.v. D-GAID). Wrigley Motors Ltd became Bryn-Bras Holdings Ltd in 1958. At this time a letterhead shows Fieldings to be part of "The Cowap Group, Industrial Engineers".


In an Annual Return of 1963 Cowap is described as a director in:


Gainsborough Engineering Co. (Oldham) Ltd


Fielding & Son (Werneth) Ltd


Bryn-Bras Holdings Ltd, Britannia Works, Wood Street, Middleton


Walker & Schofield, Pennant Street, Oldham


S.A. Rhodes Ltd, Faultless Oven Works, Hyde, Cheshire


S.A. Rhodes (Ironfounders) Ltd


G. Corner & Co. Ltd


Chadderton Estates & Building Co. Ltd.


Earlier Annual Returns show that he had also been a director of Horrocks Bakery Ltd, Three Counties Bakeries Ltd and Cowap & Son Ltd.


In 1968, Cowap decided to retire and move to Jersey. By this time most of the companies seem to have been wound up or sold off, and Gainsborough Engineering was manufacturing fuel tanks for Rover Cars Ltd. Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd of Darlaston, South Staffs, (now part of Walsall, West Midlands,) was the major supplier of tanks to the automotive industry, and Cowap sold Gainsborough to them. Very soon afterwards production in Oldham was closed down and transferred to Darlaston.


C.S. Cowap died in Jersey on 17 October 1974, aged 67 years.

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