Mirrlees Fields Action Group

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The Mirrlees Company buys the Fields

From the local 1842 tithe maps Dave Mann has ascertained that the Mirrlees Factory site was principally owned by a Mr James Rhodes (or James Higginbottom ) while the Fields and New House Farm were owned by Lady Maria Davenport. The factory site was occupied by Mr James Rhodes. The Mirrlees Blackstone company which first began diesel engine production in the current site at the beginning of the last century, traced its origins back to a partnership founded in 1840 in Glasgow dedicated to the manufacture of cane sugar machinery. After investigations into the practical possibilities of a new internal combustion engine patented by Dr Rudolf Diesel, an agreement was signed in March 1897 whereby the patentee was granted an exclusive licence for the manufacture and sale of the ‘diesel engine’ in Great Britain. Following this agreement, the first engine was completed in November 1897. It was shortly after this that the diesel engine business of the Company at Glasgow increased so rapidly that a decision was reached to manufacture diesel engines at Hazel Grove, near Stockport in Cheshire. To this end Mr. Charles Day, then Chairman of the Company, came to Cheshire and with the financial assistance of Mr H.N. Bickerton of the National Gas & Oil Engine Company Limited they formed Mirrlees, Bickerton & Day Limited and the construction work culminated in the factory being opened during October, 1908, for the manufacture of diesel engines. The first diesel engine Mirrlees built, Mirrlees No1, still exists and is on display at the Anson Museum, Poynton, which opens to the public at Easter.

Evolution of the Mirrlees Company

1840 P & W McOnie
1848 McOnie and Mirrlees
1858 Mirrlees and Tait
1868 Tait and Watson
1883 Watson, Laidlaw & Company
1885 Mirrlees, Watson & Company
1889 Mirrlees, Watson, Yaryan & Company Limited
1899 Mirrlees Watson Company Limited
1906 Mirrlees, Bickerton & Day Limited
1961 Mirrlees National Limited
1969 Mirrlees Blackstone Limited
1977 Mirrlees Blackstone (Stockport) Limited
1991 Mirrlees Blackstone Limited
1997 GEC ALSTOM Mirrlees Blackstone Ltd
1998 Mirrlees Blackstone Division of ALSTOM Engines Ltd
2000 MAN B&W Diesel AG

Why did Mirrlees Bickerton & Day set up the factory here?

There could have been three reasons and each is outlined below.

Charles Day’s Origins
Charles Day, manager and co-founder of the new company, appears to have been a ‘local boy’. Although born in Staffordshire in 1867, he attended Stockport Grammar School, and then the Manchester Technical School. He remained in the Manchester area for further studies in electrical engineering and industrial chemistry and undertook an apprenticeship in engineering with Emerson Murgatroyd and Co., Stockport, and J and H Andrew and Co., makers of the ‘Stockport’ gas engine. In 1890, he was appointed chief draughtsman at the boiler works of Joseph Adamson and Co., Ltd., Hyde.

He joined the Mirrlees Watson Company, Ltd. in Glasgow in 1902 as general manager. Day was instrumental in helping the company to develop its first working Diesel engine and establishing its Diesel engine department. (Mirrlees Watson had acquired the patents for the early engine from Rudolph Diesel, an engineer based in Augsburg, Germany in 1897. Charles Day went to Augsburg, probably in 1902 or 1903 to gather more information on Diesel engine manufacture. An interesting fact here is that MAN AG, parent company of today’s MAN Group had already started to manufacture Diesel’s engines in 1903 in Augsberg. The name ‘MAN’ originates from Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nürnberg which translates as Engine Manufacturers Augsburg and Nuremberg) By 1906, the Mirrlees diesel engine business was developing quickly and new manufacturing premises had to be found.

Perhaps it was Charles Day’s desire to return to Stockport that brought about the choice to base the new company, Mirrlees Bickerton and Day, Ltd. in Hazel Grove in 1907. He resigned in 1946, at the age of 79, but continued as a director, and still took an active part in the business until his death in 1949 at the age of 82.

And, perhaps, rather more speculatively, Charles Day, a keen golfer, may have been attracted by the fact that the Davenport Golf Club had already established a golf course on the Fields.

Mr H. N. Bickerton’s Interest
H.N. Bickerton, who owned the National Gas and Oil Company based in Ashton-under-Lyne, had a financial interest in the new company, and his desire to keep an eye on the company’s operations may have influenced the decision to base it in the Manchester area.

The Midland Railway and Bramhall Moor Goods Station
Many local residents are aware that there were railway sidings on the site of what are now known as the Rhino office blocks. The sidings were shown on the 1910 Ordnance Survey map as the “Bramhall Moor Goods Station’ on the ‘New Mills and Heaton Mersey’ railway line which was opened in 1902, providing a southern access route into Manchester from Derbyshire and beyond. The line cut through some of the original field boundaries to the south of the site. By 1946 the Goods Station had been renamed the Bramhall Moor Lane Goods Yard, plans for which reside in the Greater Manchester County Record Office.

This perhaps could have been one of the reasons why Mirrlees Watson Co. Ltd chose the site to expand their manufacturing operation. Having such close access to a railway line must have been attractive, given that road haulage at that time would have been largely confined to horse and cart and the parts required for diesel engines, made of cast iron, would have been of significant size and weight. Equally dispatching the engines to various parts of the UK would have provided a challenge without an easily accessible distribution network. The Midland Railway New Mills and Heaton Mersey railway line, opened in 1902, obviously provided the means to do both.


Greater Manchester County Record Office
LMS - Hazel Grove - Bramhall Moor Lane Goods Yard and Mirrlees
factory 1946 – 1950 A/MR1/1/14