History of Joseph Cockshoot 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 was employed and 1873 saw the business converted into a private company, Joseph Cockshoot and Co., with Joseph Cockshoot and William Norris in charge. In 1855 the business moved to Fountain Street and then New bridge Street in 1865. The Norris influence was furthered when Sydney Norris, apprenticed in 1881, became the Works Superintendent in 1886. He would be succeed by C Estill Norris, who was apprenticed in 1881, as Works Superintendent.
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 building a carriage for each new High Sheriff of Lancashire. The company won numerous awards and exhibited at major events such as the Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester in 1887 and in Paris Exhibition of 1878 when the company won a Premier Gold Medal.
William Norris became involved in public service and trade institutions. For example, he was a founder member of the Institute of British Carriage Manufacturers and the Northern Counties' master Caochbuilders Defence Association. However, he died in 1894 ironically from injuries gained in a tram car accident.
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 Cockshoots were involved from the start. In 1902 Cockshoots 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 Cockshoots 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 Cockshoots 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 Cockshoots 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 also due to pressure from the owners of the Works which had reverted to the Executors of Joseph Cockshoot Senior after Joseph Cockshoot died in 1895.
During this period J O H Norris became more involved in the company as in 1903 he replaced his older brother, C E Norris who left the firm, as Works Superintendent.
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 Crossley Tenders for the RAF as well as numerous staff cars and ambulances and related work.
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. Meanwhile the demand for Rolls Royce cars increased enormously. 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. Overall it was such a busy period for Cockshoots so much so that in 1927 the firm acquired the building at 6 St Ann's Square and converted it into a showroom.
During the inter-war period J O H Norris became Joint MD after the death of Peter Hesketh in 1923.
The Second World War prompted Cockshoot to get involved in aircraft production again, although far more successfully than during the Great War. The company built major and minor components for aircraft including the '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.
However, the war also put an end to Cockshoot's own car production as the production methods changed. Cockshoots consequently moved into the sale and servicing of cars. On the personnel side in 1941 Sydney Norris died and in 1943 J O H Norris became Chairman.
At the end of Second World War, in 1947, Cockshoots acquired the Globe Works which opened in 1949. This site was used for car repair, initially for Nuffield vehicles
After the war, Cockshoots 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 Eadingotn and Sons Ltd), Handforth (MEL Engineering Co.), Hyde, Bolton and Radcliffe, Kidderminster (previously T.B.C. Ltd), Bramhall/Hazel Grove and Hagley.
In 1959 Cockshoots 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. Cockshoots, in a joint move with Lockers Ltd and Colmore Depot Ltd, opened in Store Street Manchester a jointly owned B.M.C. parts department for warehousing and marketing called The Parts Service Combine Ltd.. Cockshoots also opened another joint company- Combine (Manchester) Ltd, for data processing, stock control and financial work. In 1965 the Cockshoot group were opened in Roebuck Lane, Sale. These premises incorporated offices, central accounts and publicity departments.
In 1963 J O H Norris retired and handed over Chairmanship to his eldest son, Graham. J O H Norris then turned his attention to his library of books and models which mostly went to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu while Cockshoot material came to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
In 1968 Lex Garages Ltd took over Cockshoots for just under £1 million with Graham Norris as Chairman and Managing Director until he left the company in 1970.