Lancashire At

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

ROF 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.


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"



Locals tend to refer to the ROF Factory as the names of its owners "Mather & Platt" (post WW2) and "Dobson & Barlow" (before & during WW2) to this day, and so its WW2 use as an ROF has been almost forgotten. But we have found references to its use.


One of the first pieces of the jigsaw was this one: 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" (


Grace's Guide tells us more about the sites' former owners, Dobson & Barlow:  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.


D&B went into munitions production during World War One. According to Grace's Guide: "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:


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."


There are also several personal accounts of working at ROF Radcliffe that we have found. They are on two excellent websites:  and


Both sites have recollections of locals who worked at ROF Radcliffe and their testimonies can be read on their websites.


Finally, Ken Howarth (Local Historian) wrote the following in a Chapter entitled 'The Industrial Archaeology of Raddiffe 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."


All ROF sites we have found so far are very close to railway lines or have their own direct link to a major line.


SAM_4090 (640x480) SAM_4087 (640x480) SAM_4093 (640x480) SAM_4092 (640x480)

Above & Below: Some of the remaining buildings of ROF Radcliffe

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Above & Below: Physical proof of the existence of ROF Radcliffe on Bradley Moor Road, Bradley fold. By kind permission of Bury Archives Service

Above: 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.

Dobson & Barlow - Bolton Archives (640x457)

Below: Dobson & Barlow's factory (formerly ROF Radcliffe) courtesy of Bolton Archives. See the original photo HERE.

Dobson & Barlow close up