David Brown Ltd.

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David Brown Santasalo Holdings Limited
Fatemerged with Santasalo to form David Brown Santasalo 2016
David Brown Gears
Park Works Huddersfield 2005 David Browns Park Works - geograph.org.uk - 35781.jpg
David Brown Gears
Park Works Huddersfield 2005

David Brown Engineering Limited is an English engineering company, principally engaged in the manufacture of gears and gearboxes. Their major gear manufacturing plant is in Swan Lane, Lockwood, Huddersfield, adjacent to Lockwood railway station. It is named after the company's founder, David Brown, though it is more closely associated with his grandson, Sir David Brown (1904–1993).



David Brown

Founded in 1860 as a pattern manufacturing company by 1873 David Brown had begun to concentrate on gear systems and by 1898 was specialising in machine-cut gears.

The company moved in 1902 to Park Works at Huddersfield, where the firm is based today.

David Brown & Sons, Huddersfield (the Huddersfield group)

When David Brown died in 1903, his sons Percy and Frank took over and began the manufacture of gears, complete gear units, gear cutting machines, tools and equipment, bearings and shafts and worm drive gears. Its foundry makes steel and non-ferrous castings. Including motor vehicles, aircraft, ships as well as a wide range of British industry. [1]

In 1951 the Huddersfield and Tractor groups freehold land and buildings at Huddersfield, Penistone and Meltham were on sites covering about 150 acres (61 ha). Another 260,000 sq ft of floor space were held under lease. [1]

Gearing manufactured by David Brown Ltd. and powered by electric motors manufactured by Brook Crompton (Electric) Motors, whose factory was in Brockholes are used to rotate the top of the BT Tower in London. [2]

From 1908 to 1915 David Brown and Sons designed and developed and made the Valveless car under engineer Frederick Tasker Burgess (1879–1929) later chief engineer at Humber and later still one of the team that developed the first 3-litre Bentley engine.

In 1913 they established a joint venture in America with Timken for Radicon worm drive units. By the end of World War I the workforce had increased from 200 to 1000 as they started building propulsion units for warships, and drive mechanisms for armaments. By 1921 the company was the largest worm gear manufacturer in the world. [3]

In 1930 the company took over P.R. Jackson Ltd, another local firm of gear manufacturers and steel founders. Percy's eldest son (Sir David Brown) became managing director in 1931 following Percy's death in June that year. W S Roe was appointed joint managing director with David but he died in April 1933. Percy was appointed chairman. The firm formed another overseas joint venture with Richardson Gears (Pty) Ltd of Footscray, Victoria, Australia in 1934. In 1934 the company moved into an old Silk Mill on a site at Meltham, on the south side of Huddersfield. Brown started building tractors with Harry Ferguson there in 1936.

The company obtained a patent for a tank transmission using controlled differential steering system, known as the Merritt-Brown system, devised by Dr. H. E. Merritt, Director of Tank Design at Woolwich Arsenal, in 1935. [3] The first vehicle to use this system was the Churchill tank, and it was subsequently used on the Centurion tank and the Conqueror tank, as well as the Tortoise heavy tank.

David Brown Tractors Group

David Brown Tractor Factory Meltham Mills 1981 David Brown Tractors, Meltham Mills (RLH).jpg
David Brown Tractor Factory Meltham Mills 1981

Personally controlled since its inception by David Brown (1904–1993) the first venture into tractor production was in a joint project with Harry Ferguson in 1936 building the Ferguson-Brown tractor. David Brown became one of the biggest British tractor manufactures in the post war period, with a major manufacturing plant at Meltham, West Yorkshire England. The company broke new ground which others were only to follow later, but being a pioneering company ultimately led to its downfall. The Ferguson-Brown had many innovative features, including the use of cast alloy for many the components, which was light but prone to damage. The Ferguson-Brown used a Coventry Climax engine for the first 350 tractors. Browns developed their own engine which was fitted to subsequent production. Total production was 1350 + 1 built from parts in 1940 after production finished. [4]

1971 David Brown 990 tractor 1971 David Brown 990.jpg
1971 David Brown 990 tractor

Brown and Ferguson disagreed over tractor design details in the late 30s, which led David Brown to design his own version, the VAK1, in secret. This was launched at the 1939 Royal Show. [5] Ferguson split away from Brown and joined up with Henry Ford in 1938, after a 'handshake' agreement, to allow his 'Ferguson System' three-point linkage to be used on the Fordson N tractors. That agreement was eventually terminated by Ford's grandson in 1947 and Ferguson again split away to form Ferguson Tractors in 1948. [6]

During the Second World War Brown's new heavier tractor, the VAK1, was produced, with over 7,700 units eventually sold, making Brown a wealthy man. It is said the David Brown Tractor is the only one to be built onto a sturdy cast iron chassis where other makers bolt components together to form a chassis-less construction which is weaker. Brown also built aircraft tugs (VIG) for the Royal Air Force and for pulling the bomb trolleys used to re-arm aircraft. These tugs are distinctive, with truck like tyres, wrap round body work and HD bumpers front and rear, some being fitted with winches. In 1942 Brown started building a tracklayer version, the DB4. The DB4 was built for the army engineers and solved some of the problems found with the VTK, and got round an embargo on imported machines for military use. It was powered by a 38 h.p. Dorman Diesel and a five-speed gearbox. The DB4 was replaced in 1950 by the Trackmaster 30.

The tractors division took over the Lancashire firm of Harrison, McGregor & Guest Ltd, who produced the Albion brand of agricultural machinery to complement the tractor product line. After the takeover the company's badge was modified to incorporate the white rose of Yorkshire and the red rose of Lancashire. The Tractors division had ten subsidiaries around the world. At one stage 80% of production was exported. Sales were handled by 2,508 agents in 100 countries. [7] A worldwide recession saw tractor sales slump, and after braving the storm and with the debt of a brand new building and production line to finance, it was inevitable that the company was put up for sale, bought by Tenneco who also owned the US tractor firm J.I. Case Company. All hope to see the factory prosper was dashed when it was announced that survival was a competition between Huddersfield and the International Harvester tractor plant in Doncaster, with the odds stacked in the latter's favour, especially with access to the motorway network on the doorstep. The Meltham factory ended production and a respected British name was erased.

Tractor Group's Lagonda and Aston Martin

In 1947, Brown saw a classified advertisement in The Times , offering for sale a High Class Motor Business. Brown acquired Aston Martin for £20,500 and, in the following year, Lagonda for £52,500, followed by the coachbuilder Tickford in 1955. He subsequently concentrated all the Aston Martin manufacturing at the Tickford premises in Newport Pagnell. The David Brown years saw production of the legendary DB series of Aston Martins, which were featured in some James Bond films.

David Brown also had connections with Vosper shipbuilding, and Delapina and Radyne machinery.

Both car companies were sold in 1972 to Company Developments Limited, when Aston Martin was in financial trouble, for a nominal £100.

Sale of David Brown Tractors to Case 1972

In 1972 the tractor operations were sold to Tenneco Inc. of America, who owned the J.I. Case tractor company. The sale was due to a combination of a reduction in the UK tractor market, increased product development costs, the need to meet new regulations on health and safety, and increased competition from imported machinery. Case applied the David Brown name and branding to some of its own tractor models in the UK market until the early 1980s before abandoning it in favour of the Case IH brand.

Sale by David Brown family – management buyout 1990

In 1990 the David Brown family disposed of its stake to the business's management. It then floated David Brown as a public company in 1993. David Brown was acquired by Textron Inc. in October 1998.

This business, trading as David Brown Engineering Ltd and headquartered in Huddersfield, remains a supplier of heavy transmission systems for industrial, defense, railway and marine applications. These include transmissions for the British Challenger 2 tanks and American Bradley Fighting Vehicles. [3] Railway transmissions are produced for their Chinese branch 'David Brown China', in a joint partnership called 'Jiangsu Shinri David Brown Gear Systems' at a factory in Changzhou near Shanghai. [8]

Sale by Textron 2008

In September 2008 it was announced that David Brown Gear systems and associated companies, David Brown Hydraulics based in Poole in Dorset, Maag Pumps of Switzerland, and Union Pumps of the USA were to be sold to Clyde Blowers of Scotland — owned by entrepreneur Jim McColl  — in a £368 million deal. [9]

in 2016 David Brown was merged with Santasalo to form David Brown Santasalo. The joint company now remains in the hands of N4 Partners. [10]


Transmission systems

David Brown tractor range

David Brown light diesel tractor Mk2 at the RAF Museum, London David Brown Light Diesel Tractor Mk2.jpg
David Brown light diesel tractor Mk2 at the RAF Museum, London
David Brown 990 Implematic Tractor Made in Meltham around 1964 David Brown 990 Implematic Tractor.png
David Brown 990 Implematic Tractor Made in Meltham around 1964
David Brown 996 Synchromesh tractor (1970s) Antique tractor, Ireland.jpg
David Brown 996 Synchromesh tractor (1970s)
Export models

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  1. 1 2 The David Brown Corporation Limited. The Times, Monday, 12 March 1951; pg. 9; Issue 51947
  2. "About Brook Crompton – History". Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 "Gearbox Suppliers - Our Heritage". dbsantasalo.com.
  4. David Brown Tractors 1936 to 1964, Alan Earnshaw, Nostalgia Road, ISBN   1-903016-02-9
  5. David Brown Tractors 1965–1988, by Anthony L Heath, ISBN   1-903016-03-7
  6. "Ford-Ferguson Tractors during the 1940s". livinghistoryfarm.org.
  7. David Brown Tractors 1936–1964, by Alan Earnshaw, p5, ISBN   1-903016-02-9
  8. Zientek, Henryk (30 April 2010). "David Brown Gear Systems on track in China". YorkshireLive.
  9. Classic Tractors, issue no. 92, December 2008
  10. "Powered by Partnership | N4 Partners". www.mdpcap.com.