A FOUNDRY which has survived two world wars, 29 Prime Ministers and countless national and international economic crises celebrated its 150th anniversary this week.
The William Lane Foundry – Middlesbrough’s only remaining foundry (there were 140 in the heyday of Teesside steel) – cast a commemorative plaque unveiled at a ceremony attended by elected Mayor Ray Mallon.
Founded in 1862 by the Lane family, the foundry relocated to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Park Industrial Estate in 1907.
Despite feeling the effects of the economic downturn and the mothballing of the Corus steelworks, the foundry, which provides specialist services to companies locally and nationally, has found new markets, diversified its business and built on its strengths for bespoke quality products.
The company has worked with Middlesbrough Council’s economic development team to develop initiatives to support its growth, including manufacturing and engineering support and offshore wind supply chain programmes.
The foundry has also developed relationships with the local community and schools, recently taking part in the annual Discover Middlesbrough festival led by the council.
Edward Bilcliffe took over as managing director after parent company Parson and Crosland was sold to the Murray Group. He said: “We’ve installed two induction furnaces and bought cranes, shot-blasting and sand mixing equipment. Despite the changes in equipment, the fundamentals of the manufacturing process remain unchanged.”
The company is now working with the council to take on an apprentice to work alongside experienced staff, such as Stuart Duffy and Dave Stuart, who started out as 15-year-old apprentices in 1984.
The company continues to grow and now works with a host of clients, from individuals who only want a replacement grate for their fireplace, to large multi-nationals looking for process plant components.
Mr Mallon said: “The William Lane Foundry is one of the oldest companies in Middlesbrough, and it links the past with the present in so far as the town’s industrial heritage is concerned. On my visits to the company I have always been impressed with the tradition of the foundry and the high quality of the work produced there.
“As a town we should be really proud of the William Lane Foundry, and I do believe it will still be here in another 150 years.”