The early days


The Linotype works, Broadheath, 1901. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL2534.

Broadheath Industrial Park, founded by the Earl of Stamford in 1885, was the world's first industrial park, pre-dating Trafford Park by a decade. Covering 101 hectares, it was an important site for engineering companies, particularly machinery and tooling workshops.

The Linotype Company was set up in 1889 by a group of British businessmen in order to buy Linotype and other patents from American interests. These men included the publisher Sir Joseph Lawrence, founder of the Railway Magazine, later Sheriff of London and an MP; Lord Kelvin, the famous scientist, and other well-known men of the time. In 1889, Lawrence and Stilson Hutchins, a representative of the American manufacturer, brought three experimental machines to England. These caused great interest amongst the printing and newspaper industries. In 1895 Lawrence became chairman of the Linotype Company and remained so until his death in 1919.

Funding for the project did not come from British banks, but from the American Mergenthaler Company, which granted the Linotype’s licence in return for shares. (By 1909 Mergenthaler controlled the British company and by 1921 both the chairman and the managing director were American.) The British company’s head office was at 188-9 Fleet St, London until 1947 when it moved to John Street, London, WC1.

TRA377 - Inauguration souvenir.jpg

The Linotype Company's Works - Souvenir of the Inauguration, 14 July 1899. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. LHC/377

The Linotype Company started life at Hulme Street, Oxford Road, Manchester, where a factory for assembling machines and making some of the simpler parts was built. Manchester had an abundance of skilled labour and also had good rail and canal networks for transporting raw materials, such as iron and coal, and for distribution of the completed machinery. As the company became more successful, the Hulme Street factory became overcrowded. In 1896 the Linotype Company took land at Broadheath, Altrincham for a new factory, which was formally opened by Lady Kelvin on Friday 14 July 1899. The Altrincham plant was sited next to the Bridgewater Canal which brought coal for the furnaces directly from the Worsley mines to the works. On 11 August 1903 a public company was registered, amalgamating the Linotype Company and the Machinery Trust.


Lawrence Road, Broadheath, 1987. The street was part of the Linotype housing estate. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL3328.

The factory needed hundreds of reliable workers, many of them skilled, and to accommodate them and their families a nearby housing estate was built, complete with social amenities, sports facilities and allotments. A large amount of land was required for the factory and accompanying estate which needed to be within walking distance of Altrincham town centre. There was a suitable site to the south of the Bridgewater Canal, but the Earl of Stamford was opposed to the development of industry south of the canal. However, only four acres were needed next to the canal, with the rest of the land used for housing and leisure and so the development went ahead.

More than 170 houses with 5-7s were built and were let at half the rent charged in the rest of the neighbourhood. There were 2 football grounds, a cricket ground, 4 tennis courts, 2 bowling greens, a children’s playground, allotments let to employees at nominal rents, and a wooded park available for workers’ recreation. It is probable that the Linotype estate was inspired by the industrial villages of Port Sunlight on the Wirral, Bourneville in Birmingham or Saltaire near Bradford.

Inevitably the development of the Linotype and the other large companies in Broadheath had an effect on the growth of the area. The population of Altrincham increased, a nearby bank was opened, as were Navigation Road Primary School, St Alban’s Church and the Broadheath Recreation Ground.

The company gradually developed its holdings, increasing its output, but also improving working conditions. The factory was said to be light and airy with large, clean dining rooms, where food was sold at cost price.

Linotype machines were exported early in their history. Linotype had branches in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Borneo. The Linotype machine was adapted for printing in many scripts, including Devanagari, Gujarati, Tamil, Telegu, Kanarese, Malay, Hindustani, Uriya, Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic.

The early days