ELHAS News - November 2018

Meeting Report November 2018

November was the last meeting of 2018 and we were delighted to welcome Mr John Pease who delivered an illustrated talk about the history of Thomas Green & Son, Leeds makers of lawn mowers and road rollers. John is a former electrical engineer who has been retired about four years. John has been interested in this great Leeds engineering works for many years as he had two family members actually worked there.

He began his talk with a brief history of the company, which Thomas Green founded 1835, so this was a truly Victorian company. John explained that Thomas was born in Nottingham and was originally a carpenter but moved to Leeds and opened a shop in the Lower Headrow. He quickly moved into the manufacture of wire products and opened manufacturing works on North Street in Leeds and also two premises in London. The Leeds site was also home to an iron foundry. The business grew substantially and the family became very wealthy, evidenced by the photos of the very fine family homes in Harrogate and Roundhay which John showed. This was a family business which, after the early death of Thomas's son Willoughby, was taken over by his stepson Penrose Green.

Unfortunately he proved to be not the most exemplary of leaders, but the business was rescued by father and son William and RobertBlackburn (of the famous aircraft company) and went from strength to strength. The range of products the company made was phenomenal, from lawn mowers to road rollers, steam engines, steam trams and even industrial washing machines; as well as iron fences and bench frames some of which are still in evidence today. To our great delight John had marvellous photos and images of all these products to show us. We were amused by the design features of some of the products, but marvelled at the ingenuity and skill which went into producing them.

He was keen to emphasise that the company was foremost in its field and amongst other things was producing electric lawn mowers as early as 1905. In the 1960's the company, which was still economically sound, was sold to Hawker Siddley and was sadly closed down by 1970. The lawn mower side of the business went to the Reekie company in Arbroath Scotland who continued to manufacture their designs until 1975.

We thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating account of one of the great engineering companies of Leeds and mourned the fact that unfortunately, the historic industrial life of Leeds is no more. The evening ended with tea and mince pies.

The first image is of Smithfield Iron Works, North Street, Leeds
The second image is of Wembley Stadium being mowed by a Thomas Green mower

The third image is of one of the early Thjomas Green Steam Rollers

The next meeting on Monday 28th January 2019 will be an illustrated talk by Mike Turpin entitled "From Antiquarians to Archaeology"