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BTH Works

Some photographs of the British Thomson Houston Works that stretched between Mill Road, Leicester Road, Boughton Road and the London to Birmingham main railway line.

Railway Frontage
In the 1930's domestic white goods were produced in the buildings on the left, in the middle was the foundry and the Control Gear factory was in the last building.

The GEC sign on the high rise section of the foundry was the last version of a series of illuminated signs. The first had British Thomson Houston in full across both buildings, hence the very large framework. During the 1960's this was replaced with an AEI insignia and Rugby.



Power House (Building 9)

The original 1902 engine room is the long building with tall arched windows. Behind are two extension boiler houses. The power house supplied electricity and steam to the works. A steam whistle also used to be sounded on the roof at shift changes until the mid 1980's.

The wedge shaped structures behind the cars are entrance stairs to air raid shelters from WW2.

The works also supplied electricity to the town's street lights, until the 1920's, when a public utility supply arrived in the town.


Research Laboratory

The tall building at the back of this photograph is Building 52, the research laboratory purpose built in 1924. It remained as such until replaced by the new AEI lab building on Boughton Road, (BR57).

It was here in 1947 that Dennis Gabor invented the theory of the hologram.

 

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Utilities

Gas

The first gas works in Rugby was opened in Gas Street in the 1830's. By the 1870's a larger works was opened beside the railway in Wood Street. Gas holders remained on the original site until the turn of the century when a holder was built in Newbold Road, opposite Wood Street. In 1929 C & W Walker built a second holder. The gas works closed on the conversion to natural gas c 1970. Both of the Newbold Road holders were demolished in 1984.

Water

A water tower was opened in Barby Lane in 1851 collecting water from adjacent fields. The Mill Road works taking water from the Avon opened in 1864. The water tower was demolished in 1965 but some buildings remained on the site until recently.

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Industry in the town

The area between Railway Terrace and Albert Street, when first developed in the 19th century was occupied by industrial and commercial activities. Apart from the gas works there were a number of timber yards and lots of small workshops and warehouses. In the last 30 years most of the area has been redeveloped.

Warehouses / workshops stood where Pinders Court is now as well as in Pinders Lane. The old Postal Sorting Office, stood in Murray Road north of the Cattle Market. All this area was demolished in 1984-85.

Canals

The Oxford Canal was built around Rugby in 1773 following the 304ft contour. This avoided having to build large earthworks but produced long loops up the Avon and Swift valleys, almost doubling the length. Between 1829 and 1834 the canal was almost rebuilt, replacing the loops with new aqueducts. Some of the old line of the canal became 'Arms' continuing to serve wharfs along them - e.g. Rugby Wharf; other lengths remained as water supply feeders - such as the east side of the Swift Valley. Other lengths were abandoned totally and the only traces of them are curved hedges in areas of square fields. The main canal in Rugby has remained in use although the settlements serving it at Newbold and Hillmorton have changed in character since freight traffic ceased.

 

Railways

At its height rails converged on Rugby from 9 directions operated by 3 different companies. In the last 30 years 5 of the lines have been closed and most of the railway buildings have been demolished. What is left is a fine collection of bridges and viaducts and some examples of railway company housing.

Railway Locomotive Testing Station

The Locomotive Testing Station was the idea of Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER. Building started in 1936 as a joint project with the LMS railway, but was stopped during the war. It finally opened in 1948 under British Railways. Testing of Steam and Diesel locomotives continued until 1965 but the station did not officially close until 1970. The building was demolished in 1984.
The plant consisted of a main testing area containing the rolling road and measuring equipment with a locomotive preparation area / workshop in a lean-to extension on the north side.


Electrical Industry

Messrs. Willans & Robinson's Victoria Works
Willans and Robinson's was the first major engineering firm to move to Rugby, opening its works in 1899. Their main product was high speed steam engines to drive electric generators both in power stations and ships. The development of the steam turbine soon made the engines obsolete and were not used for power stations in Britain after 1914.
The works was described as making "steam turbines & oil engines" when taken over by Dick, Kerr of Kilmarnock in 1916. They formed the English Electric Company in 1919.

British Thomson-Houston Co. Ltd.
The British Thomson-Houston Co. was formed in 1894 to use in the U.K the patents of what became General Electric of the U.S.A. By 1899 they wanted a factory site and chose Rugby. The factory opened in 1902 making electric lamps, motors, generators and meters, Very quickly the product range and the site expanded. At some time or other practically every type of electric powered device was produced by BTH at Rugby. By 1930 the works had expanded across the footpath towards the Leicester Road. Large factories were built for making lamps and motor frames.
The AEI group was formed in 1928 but the name was not used on products until 1961.
The Boughton Road site was developed in the 2nd World War to make magnetos for aircraft engines and other war products. The AEI research lab was added in 1960.
The size of the site peaked around 1960. Since 1970 the product range has been rationalised and the redundant buildings removed.

Some pictures of the BTH Works

 

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Transport

Canals

The Oxford Canal was built around Rugby in 1773 following the 300ft contour. This saved having to build large earthworks but produced long loops up the Avon and Swift Valleys, almost doubling the length. Between 1829 and 1834 the canal was almost rebuilt, replacing the loops with new aqueducts. Some of the old line of the canal became 'Arms' continuing to serve wharfs along them - e.g. Rugby Wharf, other lengths remained as water supply feeders - such as the east side of the Swift Valley. Other lengths were abandoned totally and the only trace of them is curved hedges in areas of square fields. The main canal in Rugby has remained in use although the settlements serving it at Newbold and Hillmorton have changed in character since freight traffic ceased.

 

Railways

At its height rails converged on Rugby from 9 directions operated by 3 different companies. In the last 30 years 5 of the lines have been closed and most of the railway buildings have been demolished. What is left is a fine collection of bridges and some examples of railway company housing.

 

Railway Locomotive Testing Station


The Locomotive Testing Station was the idea of Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER. Building started in 1936 as a joint project with the LMS railway, but was stopped during the war. It finally opened in 1948 under British Railways. Testing of Steam and Diesel locomotives continued until 1965 but the station did not officially close until 1970. The building was demolished in 1984.


The plant consisted of a main testing area containing the rolling road and measuring equipment with a locomotive preparation area / workshop in a lean-to extension on the north side.