‘Nod to the past’ for Crossley Motors’ site

Land that was home to an historic Manchester motor factory is being transformed into houses that feature a nod to vehicles made on the site.

Housing provider One Manchester is building 45 properties on the old Crossley Motors factory in Gorton.

The new homes in Crossley Street will feature vertically stacked brickwork to the front elevation in an architectural homage to the striking metal radiator grilles found on Crossley cars, vans, trucks and buses.

The bricks will contrast against the horizontal pattern used everywhere else and be further highlighted by a white surround.

Crossley Brothers was founded by Francis and William Crossley in 1867. Originally manufacturers of textile machinery and rubber processing plant, they began the licensed manufacture of the Otto internal combustion engine around 1880.

They launched Crossley Motors in 1906 producing cars, until re-armament in the 1930s saw car-making was run down, and stopped completely in 1936 by when 19,000 high quality cars had been built

Crossley Motors went into full scale bus production in 1926 with models including the Eagle, Hawk and Mancunian.

It was a major supplier of military vehicles during the First and Second World Wars making cars and trucks for the British Armed Forces and Allied countries.

Production was originally in the Crossley Brothers factory in Openshaw, Manchester but in 1907 moved to a nearby site in Napier Street, Gorton. Napier Street was later renamed Crossley Street.

With the steady increase in vehicle production, the limits of the Gorton site were in turn soon reached, and in 1914 a 48-acre site was bought in Heaton Chapel, Stockport which became the Errwood Park Works.

Construction of the new factory started in 1915, and although intended to relieve congestion on the old site, it was rapidly given over to war work.

The western half of the site, built in 1917, but only managed by Crossley Motors, became National Aircraft Factory No. 2.

In 1919, this factory was bought from the government and became the Willys Overland Crossley plant, but was eventually sold to Fairey Aviation in 1934.

In 1938, the eastern side became another aircraft factory, this time managed by Fairey, and after World War II, it became the final home of Crossley Motors.

Re-armament work caused the search for more space and in 1938 a factory was opened in Greencroft Mill, Hyde, about 3 miles east of Errwood Park.

The ‘new’ Crossley Motors, Errwood Park Works, Stockport, in June 1949

After 1945, the directors decided that the company was not large enough to prosper and looked for a partner. This resulted in a take over by Associated Equipment Company (AEC) in 1948.

AEC’s parent company changed its name to Associated Commercial Vehicles and Crossley became a division of this.

Production of the Crossley range of vehicles continued at the Stockport plant until 1952. After then, production was of badge-engineered AEC designs and bus bodywork, until the factory was closed in 1958 and sold in 1959.

Although no longer trading, the company was never formally wound up. In 1969 AEC’s new owner, British Leyland, restarted the company with a new name – Leyland National – and production of single-decker buses recommenced at Workington, Cumbria.

Henry Ford, who visited in the early 1900s, is said to have based his revolutionary production line technique on methods he witnessed.

The factory was closed in 1958 and the site is now being transformed by One Manchester to help first time buyers on to the housing ladder.

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