Weyburn Engineering Works
Toggle site summary [+/-]
What: Engineering works
Where: Elstead, Surrey
Visited: 2012, 2013, 2014
Last Known Condition: Empty, becoming derelict
Page Updated: August 2014
In 1913, engineer Hamilton Gordon bought a hand-laundry on Shackleford Road, Elstead from his sister and brother-in-law. He transformed the building into a workshop for repairing & servicing motor cars and at the outbreak of War the following year, began making camshafts and valves for military vehicles.
In peacetime, Weyburn Engineering (as it was now known) benefitted from the growth of the motor industry, making marine engines, camshafts for the Model-T Ford and components for aircraft including the De Havilland Tiger Moth. Weyburn parts soon gained a worldwide reputation for reliability and durability, powering record-breaking flights by the likes of Amy Johnson and Flight-Lieut. T. Rose.
During the Second World War, the company made camshafts for tanks and fighter aircraft (including the Supermarine Spitfire and the de Havilland Mosquito), gun and torpedo components. To cope with the extra demands of wartime, the company had about 800 workers, many of them women, and a second manufacturing works was soon opened at nearby Eashing. During the 1950s, demand for Weyburn products steadily increased, leading to the opening of additional factories at Portsmouth and Liss, Bath and Tonbridge.
During the 1970s, the company employed between 600 and 700 workers and had acquired camshaft companies in the USA, Mexico and Germany: the Elstead site had a lively sports & social club which allowed workers to play table tennis, snooker and bowls and to take part in clay pigeon shooting, fishing and dancing. The factory was also an important part of village life, originally drawing around 90% of its workforce from its immediate surroundings and held regular fêtes, sports and open days for local people.
At this time, the majority shareholders were Messrs. Royston and Buckner, who oversaw the sale of the company in 1977 to Carborundum Universal Ltd, a multi-national conglomerate with offices in Niagara Falls, USA and Madras, India, forming Weyburn-Bartel Ltd. In 1982 the company became part of J.P. Industries and changed hands again in 1990 to become a subsidiary of Turner & Newall (T&N), one of the world's largest manufacturers of asbestos-based products. The new owners continued to invest in new technology and automation and by the mid-'90s, the Elstead works alone was producing over 800,000 camshafts every year for companies including Volvo, Peugeot, Rover and BMW.
In 1998, T&N Group was acquired by U.S. corporation Federal Mogul, one of the world's largest manufacturers of automotive components. However, by the late 1990s, years of asbestos-related industrial diseases and pollution incidents had begun to catch up with T&N, and Federal Mogul inherited millions of pounds worth of compensation cases. This proved too much for the corporation and in 2002 Federal Mogul filed for bankruptcy. Extensive re-organisation saved the company from liquidation, but it was too late for Weyburn Works, which closed for the last time in December 2008 with the loss of 140 jobs.
Six years on, there isn't a great deal to see here any more. All of the valuable precision machinery has long gone, leaving huge factory halls echoing and empty. Here and there there are some reminders of the factory's not-too-distant past: from posters and signs on walls and noticeboards to a fully-equipped medical centre and a social club complete with (vandalised) piano.
The site's present owners, an estates company based in Oldham are currently (Spring 2014) working with consultants to plan a mixed-use redevelopment including a care home, business units and housing. At present no planning applications are known to have been submitted.
Graham, 2010 'History of a Camshaft Company' [http://historyofacamshaftcompany.blogspot.co.uk/], Accessed 21/3/14