Where’s there’s muck, there’s brass

The Providence Foundry which was home to Pitts Yorkshire Machine Company.
The Providence Foundry which was home to Pitts Yorkshire Machine Company.

This week we explore the industrial history of our sewing machine pioneers, as well as our rich brass heritage.

The brothers Pitt

In 1851 four Cleckheaton brothers - James, Joseph, Edward and William Pitt founded Pitts’ Yorkshire Machine Company.

The company quickly won world-wide acclaim both 
as a maker of one of the world’s first sewing machines and as the designer of 
then-advanced machine-tools – lathes and milling machines.

It is well documented that the company was based at Alma Foundry at Holmes Street, Mill Bridge (now the site of Apollo Beds): in the early 1860s the Pitts also worked (briefly?) from Brookhouse Mill on Balme Road Cleckheaton.

In 1886 the Pitt brothers evidently acquired a new fitting shop to accommodate their expanding business. From around that date, the company displays addresses at both Alma Foundry and Providence Foundry: the latter site is variously ascribed to Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Heckmondwike!

The picture, extracted from an 1888 advertisement (courtesy of Graces Guide©) claims to show the “new” fitting shop which, presumably, was at Providence Foundry. Where was Pitts’ Providence Foundry?

Where’s the brass?

Three long-established Brass Founders in the 
Spen Valley share the name of Birkett - Francis W Birkett, Birkett & Robinson and Samuel Birkett Ltd all had works in Cleckheaton, the last named in Heckmondwike also.

Prior to their moving to Hightown Road in 1952, Francis W Birkett was located at “The Old Brass Works” at the junction of Northgate and Horncastle Street.

There are two mysteries however! From the time of their founding in 1864 until the mid 1970s Samuel Birkett’s Cleckheaton address was always given as the “Lion Brass Works”. Kelly’s Iron Trades Directory of 1883 gives Birkett’s address as Lion Works, Northgate: the 1897 directory merely quotes “Lion Works”.

By 1908 and in all subsequent publications the 
address had grown into 
Lion Works, Carr Street, Cleckheaton. How many addresses did the company actually have in Cleckheaton and when was their move into Carr Street?

The second query relates to Birkett & Robinson. From at least 1891 until 1908, this company’s address was given as Albion Brass Works, Northgate, Cleckheaton. Does any reader know where was the Albion Brass Works?

Anyone with information on either Pitts’ Providence Foundry or on Birketts can email grylls@dsl.pipex.com