Thos W Ward

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Bailey Bridge, erected in 2006 at the rear of Albion Works, Sheffield The Bailey Bridge (geograph 3669971).jpg
Bailey Bridge, erected in 2006 at the rear of Albion Works, Sheffield
Cement kiln 8, Ketton, Rutland Field with power lines, Ketton, Rutland - - 1074132.jpg
Cement kiln 8, Ketton, Rutland

Thos. W. Ward Ltd was a Sheffield, Yorkshire steel, engineering and cement business which began as coal and coke merchants then expanded to recycling metal for Sheffield's steel industry, engineering and the supply of machinery.


In 1894 as part of the scrap metal operation, Ward's began to set up substantial shipbreaking yards in different parts of England and in Scotland and Wales. By 1953 Thos W Ward employed 11,500 people.

Ward's business was reorganised at the end of the 1970s when it moved from being an engineering group with a motley assortment of subsidiaries to being principally dependent on cement. In 1982 it was bought by RTZ.


This business was founded by Thomas William Ward in 1878 with the name Thos. W. Ward. Ward's provided coal and coke and very soon recycling or scrap metal services then added dealing in new and used machinery related to the iron, steel, coal, engineering and allied industries and manufacturing that machinery. [1]

Ward's Constructional Engineering Department manufactured and erected steel frame buildings, bridges, collieries, steel works equipment and furnaces. The Rail Department supplied light and heavy rails, sleepers, switches and crossings and equipped complete sidings. De Lank Quarries produced the granite for Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, major lighthouses and prestige buildings in London and elsewhere. [2]


In 1894 Ward's moved into ship breaking at many different locations. A limited liability company was formed and registered 19 May 1904 to own and continue all the businesses operating under the name Thos. W. Ward. [3] By 1920 when raising further capital from the public the prospectus claimed these notable facts for Thos. W. Ward: "Premier shipbreaking firm in the world, largest stockholders to the iron, steel and machinery trades, constructional engineers, merchants, etc." [4]

Portland Cement

New capital was raised from the public in 1928 to establish a new greenfield Portland cement business at Ketton in Rutland on 1,170 acres of freehold land with oolitic limestone and clays suitable to produce the highest quality rapid-hardening Portland cement. It was a particular project of new chairman Joseph Ward (1865-1941), brother of Thomas Ward (1853-1926). [1] Ketton Cement Works became the core activity of Ward's in the late 1970s.

After 55 years, in 1934, when the employees numbered in excess of 4,000 people, the principal businesses were:

Albion Works 2013 Albion Works reflection (geograph 3669975).jpg
Albion Works 2013

Freehold Premises:

Albion Works, Tinsley and Millhouses, Sheffield
and at Silvertown, Grays (Essex), Inverkeithing, Glasgow, Wishaw, Birmingham, Briton Ferry, Milford Haven, Lelant, Silverdale, Low Moor (Bradford), Albion (Mansfield) sand quarries etc and Brickworks at Longton, Newark and Apedale [3]

Leasehold Premises:

Charlton Works and Effingham Road, Sheffield
Liverpool, Dublin, Cornish Granite Quarries (De Lank), Denny, Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Pembroke Dock, Hayle and Scunthorpe. [3]


W S Laycock

This old-established business was bought in 1934. Laycock's made railway carriage and steamship fittings, underframes for locomotives and railway coaches and in 1934 also makes automobile axles, gearboxes, propeller shafts and Laycock's own Layrub flexible drive joints. [3] Two years later Laycock Engineering was sold to some investors. [5]


By 1969 the Ward group was believed to be primarily in metal supply, particularly from ship breaking, but also producing cement, supplying roadstone, providing rail sidings, building new industrial works and equipping them with the necessary plant and machinery. [6]


In October 1981 Thos. W. Ward's was split into three:

Within a short time RTZ began to buy a substantial shareholding and this takeover was completed in early 1982. [8] RTZ put the Ward cement operation with that of Tunnel Holdings and named the combination RTZ Cement which then had about one quarter of the UK cement market. [9] The Railway Engineers department of Thos. W Ward was bought by Henry Boot. [10] RTZ sold Thos. W. Ward (Roadstone) to Ready Mixed Concrete in June 1988. [11]

Ship and Works' dismantlers

Works dismantled before 1926: Abbott's Works, Gateshead; Bowling Ironworks; Kelham Rolling Mills, Sheffield; Derwent Rolling Mills, Workington; Dearne & Dove Works; West Cumberland Whittington Works, Crawshay's Cyfarthfa Works, Bessemer's Works, Bolton; Mars Ironworks, Wolverhampton; Effingham Nut and Bolt Works, Sheffield. [12] Thos W Ward also dismantled The Crystal Palace. [13]

List of ships broken up at Inverkeithing

The RMS Mauretania arrives at Inverkeithing ready to be broken for scrap, 1965 Mauretania 2 at the breakers yard.jpg
The RMS Mauretania arrives at Inverkeithing ready to be broken for scrap, 1965

List of ships broken up at Briton Ferry

El Inca 1979

Marrakech 1979

List of ships broken up at Grays

List of ships broken up at Preston

List of ships broken up at Barrow-in-Furness

List of ships broken up at Morecambe

List of ships broken up at Pembroke Dock

List of ships broken up at Milford Haven

List of ships broken up at Lelant or Hayle

Lizzie the elephant

At the outbreak of World War I, 1,235 people were on the payroll of Thomas Ward's company and a thousand tons of scrap metal per day was being fed to the country's steel makers. However, with demand so high, and many of the horses Ward had previously used to transport his goods around Sheffield requisitioned by the military, he had an increasingly difficult time to match supply with demand. Lizzie the Elephant was brought in as a solution to this problem. [17]

Lizzie the Elephant was drafted in from Sedgwick's Menagerie, a travelling circus ran by William Sedgwick (1841–1927), after work horses from Thomas Ward's were sent or requisitioned to the front in the First World War. The elephant was said to be able to do the work of three of Ward's horses and soon got herself the name "Tommy Ward's Elephant" as she became a familiar sight carrying or hauling goods around Sheffield, controlled by her trainer Richard Sedgwick (1875–1931) (son of the circus ringleader William Sedgwick). [17] Lizzie was said to have inspired other Sheffield firms to creative means with their wartime transportation, and a company in the Wicker area of the city was said to have used camels also from Sedgwick's Menagerie in place of their own horses. [18] Unfortunately, walking around the cobblestoned streets of Sheffield damaged Lizzie's feet, and although she continued to work for Ward's firm for sometime after the end of the first world war she was eventually returned to the circus.

Lizzie has gone down in Sheffield legend, and many stories and legends surround her adventures. She also gave name to the popular Sheffield sayings "done up like Tommy Ward's elephant" - meaning someone carrying much weight, and the self-explanatory "like trying to shift Tommy Ward's elephant". A Sheffield Community Transport bus was named "Lizzie Ward" after her and is an Optare Solo model.

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  1. 1 2 Thos. W. Ward, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 18 April 1928; pg. 23; Issue 44870
  2. Thos. W. Ward Limited Albion Works. Sheffield. The Times, Wednesday, 9 May 1928; pg. 22; Issue 44888
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Thos. W. Ward Limited, Albion Works, Sheffield. The Times, Monday, 19 November 1934; pg. 20; Issue 46915
  4. 1 2 Thos. W. Ward Limited. The Times, Thursday, 22 January 1920; pg. 19; Issue 42314
  5. The Laycock Engineering Company, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 8 January 1936; pg. 16; Issue 47266.
  6. Tools to finish all jobs. The Times, Monday, 10 November 1969; pg. V; Issue 57713.
  7. Reorganization at Thos. W. Ward. The Times, Saturday, 26 September 1981; pg. 24; Issue 61043
  8. The Times, Saturday, 23 January 1982; pg. 15; Issue 61139
  9. Cement cartel resists a shake-up. The Times, Thursday, 16 June 1983; pg. 19; Issue 61560
  10. The Times, Thursday, 15 March 1984; pg. 19; Issue 61782
  11. RTZ in £33m sale of aggregates firm. The Times, Wednesday, 29 June 1988; pg. 26; Issue 63120
  12. Obituary, Mr. T. W. Ward. The Times, Wednesday, 10 February 1926; pg. 16; Issue 44192
  13. "Dismantling by Thos. W. Ward Ltd., Sheffield & London | World's Fair Treasury". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. 1 2 A review of Lloyd's Register, The Times, Wednesday, 11 January 1911; pg. 21; Issue 39479
  15. Ship Modelling Mailing List (SMML): Empress of Australia
  16. "HMS Hampshire". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  17. 1 2 "University of Sheffield project page". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  18. Daily Telegraph Tuesday 18 February 2914, page 6