Radcliffe, like most northern towns, converted many factories to "war work" during both world wars. Much of this has been forgotten and little was written down. But with some research we have found accounts of some of these factories and even a Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) in Radcliffe.
ROF Radcliffe, Lancashire was a mystery to us for a while. There seemed to be little on-line evidence of it and when we asked local historians they didn't know there was an ROF site - but we can confirm there was.
Often confused with ROF Wigan, ROF Patricroft and others, we can now say with absolute certainty that there was a Royal Ordnance Factory in Radcliffe at Bradley Fold. It was an Engineering factory, this type of ROF usually produced bomb and shell casings and other metal-based components for all types of munitions. But it produced other things too.
One of the first pieces of the jigsaw was this one:
http://www.localmouth.com/go/bradley-fold/show_topic?topic_id=503 where someone asked for information on the site, stating that "I understand that the Ministry of Supply bought land from the Earl of Wilton in 1939, and that John Dickinson of Bolton started construction in April 1940".
While several websites "list" ROF Radcliffe, its Official Number evades us. It is often given a number in people's lists, but this is still not its Official Number. If anyone can help, please get in touch.
In case you need "Official" recognition of ROF Radcliffe, here is a Hansard entry that we have found:
"The following Royal Ordnance Factories have been allocated by the Board of Trade to private firms for industrial purposes: R.O.F. Radcliffe to Mather and Platt, Limited, on 5th November, 1945" (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1945/dec/10/royal-ordnance-factories-peacetime).
After the Second World War, Mather & Platt Ltd took over the site: "After negotiations with the Ministry of Supply, a ten year lease of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radcliffe"
There are also several personal accounts of working at ROF Radcliffe that we have found. They are on two excellent websites:
www.boltonswar.org and www.ainsworthhistorysociety.org
Dobson & Barlow
While the ROF was built specifically for the Second World War, Dobson & Barlows was already manufacturing weapons during the First World War. Grace's Guide tells us more about the sites' owners: "they were manufacturers of textile machinery and were one of the oldest engineering companies in the world. They had two sites, the first one in Kay Street, Bolton, the second, built in 1906, was in Radcliffe"......"During the First World War Dobson and Barlow Ltd became one of the most important producers of munitions in the region. They produced a wide range of war equipment including Mills No. 5 hand grenades, artillery shells, field kitchens, mobile workshops, naval mines and search lights."
To see some of these munitions go to this site: http://www.millsgrenades.co.uk
Both factories produced munitions, as the company ceased the manufacture of textile machinery between 1915 and 1918. When the Second World War came, the company once more answered its country's call. More specifically, according to Grace's Guide: "Dobson and Barlow produced bomber wings at the Bradley Fold plant. These units were totally unlike their normal production and were mostly hand built using mainly skilled male workers. By the end of the war the company had built 6,065 pairs of wings."
Ken Howarth (Local Historian) wrote the following in a Chapter entitled 'The Industrial Archaeology of Radcliffe and the Irwell Gorge': "On the borders of Radcliffe with Bolton are two important engineering works, that of Dobson & Barlow, formerly of Bolton (760085) and Mather & Platt Ltd (764082). Both works carefully chose their sites close to the Bolton to Bury railway line."
Ken also told us: "One things I do recall my late father telling me was that there was a fair amount of damage the cats' eyes in Radcliffe Moor Road caused by tracked vehicles, he mentioned tanks, but that may not be correct -- possibly though tracked vehicles of some kind... Tanks could have come in by road and been unloaded either at Bradley Fold sidings or the works sidings without the need for conspicuous obserbable large cranes".
Above & Below: Some of the remaining buildings of Dobson & Barlow near the Radcliffe - Bolton border.
(Middle photo by kind permission of Jane Milne
Above & Below: Physical proof of the existence of ROF Radcliffe on Bradley Moor Road, Bradley fold. By kind permission of Bury Archives Service
Below Left & Below Right: Dobson & Barlow today. Were these earth covered stores or air raid shelters? These structures are better observed on the 1963 image on the Bolton Archives website - a close up is shown (Below Left). They could also have been magazines for storing munitions in some form.
Above and Right: Dobson & Barlow's factory courtesy of Bolton Archives. See the original photo HERE.
The railway line is on the bottom right of the photo.
One of Racliffe's largest factories was the CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) Cabinet Factory, on Dumers Lane. During World War Two it changed from making furniture "to utilise the joinery and assembly skills of its workforce in the manufacture of wings for Horsa gliders and fuselage sections for Mosquito aircraft" according to K. Inman & M.H. Helm in their book Bury and The Second World War.
On P79 they have two photographs courtesy of Bury Archives, one showing the assembly of sections of Mosquito aircraft. The other shows workers "making sections for landing craft".
The factory site is now a housing estate but several images can be seen on Britain From Above including this one RIGHT:
Above: Mather & Platt, Radcliffe (ROF Radcliffe)
(photo credit unknown)
The site of Mather & Platt is today a housing estate. No evidence if its former use remains.
The Royal Army Pay Corps were based at Black Lane Mill (seen Left). The workers here looked after the pay for the troops. Accounts of working in this mill can be found on various websites including Bolton Remembers, BBC WW2 People's War and Ainsworth History Society.
This former textile mill, also known as Constellation Mill, in Radcliffe served another purpose in the early days of the war - it was set up as a Decontamination Centre. You can read more about it on our page about them and see a close up of the photo (Left) which still bares the Second World War ghost sign on the bricks today.