David Brown Tractor Club is coming home to Meltham Mills!

May 2022

The David Brown Tractor Club is coming home to Meltham Mills, the site where David Brown started to produce tractors during the latter part of 1939.

David Brown and Company was established in 1879 in Huddersfield as a gear making business supplying loom and weaving machinery to manufacturers. In 1903 the company became David Brown and Sons (Huddersfield) Ltd based at Park Works, Lockwood. By 1910, the company was the largest gear manufacturing concern in the British Commonwealth, but it wasn’t until 1936 that the firm became involved in tractors. The founder’s grandson, also David Brown, had been Managing Director since 1932 and wanted the firm to have a complete product to put its name to, rather than components that made up someone else’s machine… Tractors would be the answer.

In 1936, space was set aside at Park works for a tractor assembly line. David Brown had done a deal with Harry Ferguson to build Ferguson’s Type A, also known as the Ferguson Brown tractor, one of which can be seen in the museum. By 1939, the partnership was over with Ferguson joining forces with Henry Ford, but the Yorkshireman was ready with his own tractor that had been designed in secret as the relationship had soured. The first few David Brown tractors, known as VAK1 (Vehicle Agricultural Kerosene no 1) were built at Lockwood with production switching soon afterwards to the former cotton mill site and the home of David Brown Tractors Ltd, Meltham Mills… The rest is history.

Tractor production ceased on the site in 1988, the last tractor being built on the 11th of March of that year. The Club owns this very tractor, a 1594 model that can be seen in the museum and occasionally be seen out and about around the Meltham area. The site continued to be used for spare parts and storage until finally closing its doors in 1993.

The Club was formed in 1996 with its aim being to preserve the name of David Brown Tractors and its rich heritage and has been based in Meltham for many years. The museum houses a fine collection of tractors, from one of the first to the very last. Along with the tractors, we have many artefacts and archives of the company’s history.

Our move to unit J2 at Meltham Mills was very exciting for us as a Club. The unit itself is a much more suitable one than our old premises and had the added bonus of being the last remaining part of H Block. H Block was the original tractor assembly building where some of the first tractors were built and continued in that role for around 40 years.

From its elevated position on the site, views are afforded across the rooftops of the other remaining tractor plant buildings, something that will appeal to many of the Club’s members and visitors alike. Inside, we will have a large tractor display area that will lead into the shop where clothing and merchandise can be purchased. Part of the shop space will be taken up with an educational area, where visitors can study the cutaway engines, gearboxes and even a cutaway tractor or two. The large diorama will also be housed in this space and shows the Meltham Mills site as it was back in the 1980s. We can now extend our open day catering facilities with the kitchen and our light and airy café/meeting room and house our archives in the adjacent office. Much memorabilia will be on display around the café walls for visitors to enjoy whilst having a cuppa and a bite to eat.

Thank you to Towndoor for all the help we have received in making the move possible and for their willingness to adapt the building to our needs. We look forward to a long and happy relationship in the place where it all started.

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