Armitage Transport

An early steam wagon in 1909.

This account of Armitage’s vehicles is by Derek Rayner whose father worked for the company as a lorry driver. Also, in the late 1960s, Derek’s Aveling & Porter steam roller, White Rose, was resident in the old stone sawmill at Woodlesford. 

The Armitage company’s Head Office was at Robin Hood between Leeds and Wakefield and they operated steam road vehicles from several other sites, including the Woodlesford quarry and brickworks. The records of the Road Locomotive Society indicate the following locations for the firm: Lofthouse Brickworks; Thorpe Brickworks; Rein Road Quarry, Morley; New Howley Park Works and Woodkirk Brickworks near Dewsbury.

It’s not known from which location the two traction engines owned by the firm worked. They were both purchased new from J & H McLaren’s Midland Engine Works on Jack Lane, Leeds and were Works No 761 of January 1903 and No 774, new in July 1903.

The first was an 8hp compound road engine which was believed to have been sold by 1918, possibly to Charles E Jackson of Owlerton, Sheffield; the latter being a 12hp road engine, which was sold after 1915 to George Hepworth & Sons of Castleford.

Over the period from 1908 to the mid-1930s, the firm owned about 25 steam wagons from manufacturers such as Mann’s Patent Steam Cart & Wagon Co of Pepper Road, Leeds; Foden’s of Sandbach, Cheshire and the Sentinel Waggon Works at Shrewsbury.

Those wagons which the records indicate operated from Woodlesford are known to be: Mann’s No 1565 of 1922, Reg no. WY 3810 – new in May 1922, being sold on to PW Spencer of Giggleswick in 1928. and Mann’s No 2004, new in March 1929, Reg no WW 9356 and last licenced in December 1933. There may, of course, have been others that went unrecorded.

As a result of swingeing government taxation relating to solid-tyred wagons in the early 1930s – particularly directed at steam wagons with their weighty boilers – it was not financially viable for most operators of such wagons to have them converted to pneumatics and huge numbers of them went for scrap following this change in legislation. In consequence, many of Armitage’s steam wagons had a very short working life.

Over the years, the firm had quite an affiliation with Foden’s and were obviously very good customers, having purchased some fourteen of their steam wagons between 1923 and 1931. Between 1928 and 1934, no less than ten of these went back to Fodens, quite likely as a result of part-exchange deals for a new petrol or diesel-engined lorry. One of the two last Foden steam wagons purchased in 1931 was one of these.

In addition to the photographs of the steam wagons in the Armitage family archives there is also one of a Foden ‘R’ Type diesel lorry, built between 1932 and c1935. These were fitted with Gardner LW engines. There appears to be no registration plate on this particular example and it may therefore be assumed that it had probably just arrived at Robin Hood and it may therefore have been brand new when the picture was taken. Perhaps, even, it may have been the replacement for the last of their steam wagons? There were undoubtedly many more Fodens after that, indeed it is known that later, Armitage Bricks are recorded as having as many as 17 of their wagons from 1964 onwards.

Another locally manufactured diesel lorry came from the Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company in around 19?? This was built at the time this firm were looking to expand into the internal combustion engine vehicle market but they were perhaps too late in this and the firm’s aspirations in this direction came to little and this line of business did not progress.

A steam wagon in 1912.
A Foden lorry from the 1940s.