W.H. Dorman & Co. Ltd

Dorman’s factory, Tixall Road, Stafford, 1938 (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service/Aerofilms Ltd.)

Dorman’s factory, Tixall Road, Stafford, 1938 (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service/Aerofilms Ltd.)

Dorman’s factory floor, Stafford, 1980s (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service)

Dorman’s factory floor, Stafford, 1980s (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service)

Dorman’s fiting and assembling room, Stafford, 1928 (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service)

Dorman’s fiting and assembling room, Stafford, 1928 (Staffordshire Arts & Museum Service)

Dorman’s, better known for manufacturing diesel engines, were originally founded to make machinery for the shoe industry, including sole and heel cutting knives. William Henry Dorman, a son of the local Congregational Minister, established his company on Foregate, Stafford in 1869. The firm also made machinery for printing and grinding.

In 1903 they began designing and producing petrol and paraffin fuelled car engines, which then became their main product.

The outbreak of the First World War saw the workforce increase from 500 to 2,000, and the munitions factory in Foregate played an important role in the war effort. Dorman’s also made Simplex narrow gauge locomotives, which carried personnel to the front line, and developed Interrupter Gear which allowed machine guns to fire through a rotating propeller.

Dorman’s made their first diesel engine in 1929; this was to become their main product, and its introduction coincided with the opening of the new factory on Tixall Road. By 1932 the new works included iron and aluminium foundries. By the outbreak of the Second World War all production had moved from Foregate to Tixall Road. The war saw the company employ large numbers of women to replace skilled men who had been called up to serve in the armed forces.

Dorman’s diesel engines were used as power units for a wide range of work: excavators, cranes, dumptrucks, compressors, marine engines and emergency electricity generators. Over 90% of the engines produced annually were exported.

In 1959 the company purchased W.G. Bagnall Ltd, another Stafford-based engineering firm, which specialised in manufacturing locomotive engines. Dorman’s in turn were taken over by English Electric in 1961.

Today, the old firm trades as Perkins Engines (Stafford), part of the American-owned Caterpillar group, producing diesel and gas engines at the Tixall Road site.

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5 Responses to W.H. Dorman & Co. Ltd

  1. Stuart Pitchford Pearson says:

    Would anyone who is interested in Dormans or Bagnalls have come across the names?
    Arthur Brown, Dormans, Lived in Mynor Street Stafford, Born about 1885 Stafford.
    James Henry Pearson, lived in Lammascote Rd Stafford 1911, Engine fitter Bagnalls / Dormans.
    Charles Pearson, Bagnalls, English Electric, LMS Crewe. Born1883.
    John Pearson Blacksmith Dormans, father of Charles born 1857.
    William George Pearson, Bagnalls then Stoke on Trent.

    I am in particularly interested in James Henry Pearson as no trace is found of him after 1911, he was not killed in WW1 as family thought.
    Any help however small would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Phil Jones says:

      Re your query on Mr Pearson :-
      I’ve checked the names on the W H Dorman Great War Roll of Honour, and there is only ‘A Pearson’ listed. The Roll of Honour includes all 300 employees who took part in hostilities. It will be on public display later this year.

      Phil Jones

      • Stuart Pitchford Pearson says:

        Dear Phil.
        Thank you for your reply, I think the A Pearson you mention may be Alfred Pearson who was half brother to James Henry Pearson, we have visited Alfred’s grave in EPEHY WOOD FARM CEMETERY, EPEHY. I continue to search for James but our detailed searches have not found him, YET!

    • David Jones says:

      Re: James Henry Pearson b 1888 (1) Stafford 6b 7.
      Hi Stuart

      I notice that a James H Pearson died 1958 (1) Birmingham 9c 374 aged 70.

      He seems to be the only James H Pearson who died in the period 1911 to 2005 with the correct birth year.

      David Jones

  2. Stuart Pitchford Pearson says:

    Dear David.
    Many thanks, I am following up and yet again quite excited. Sorry this is a bit delayed but I do not check this site all that often. I will let you know if it is James when we have death cert.
    Again thanks.

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