Leeds Engine:Histories: William Cook

A Brief History of William Cook Cast Products

It tends to be considered that train building in Leeds finished in 1995 with the closure of the Hunslet Engine works, however a couple of Leeds firms continue to form part of the supply chain to train builders in operation in the UK and overseas. In Pepper Road, Hunslet, Pickersgill Kaye make door lock components in the former Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon works and in Cross Green William Cook Cast Products cast a number of components for train building firms.

The company's own website records the following details of the firms history...
"Originally from a family of Nottinghamshire farmers, William Cook, the great great grandfather of the present Chairman Andrew Cook, walked to Scotland and set up a saw factory in Glasgow in 1840."
"It survived a bank failure and in 1883 a small factory was started in Washford Road, Sheffield, making crucible steel castings for collieries. The Glasgow works was handed over to relatives by marriage in the early 20th century and from 1902 William Cook’s two grandsons concentrated their attentions on the Washford Road works. Crucible melting in clay pots over coke fires continued until after World War Two."
"In 1950 the first electric furnace was installed and in 1956 the Company, although still very small, floated on the London Stock Exchange. During the next ten years the Company outgrew its old fashioned premises in the Don Valley and between 1968 and 1974 a new works was built on an elevated, more out-of-town, site. This works grew considerably over the following 30 years and today it is one of the group’s four main plants."
"Andrew Cook, the present Chairman, took control of the Company in 1981 and began a period of rapid expansion and refocusing on new markets. By 1986 sales exceeded £10 million and, following a series of acquisitions over the next five years, by 1991 they had grown to £120 million. During this period, many famous names in the steel casting industry were taken over by William Cook, including Weir Foundries, George Blair, Lake and Elliott and Lloyds Burton. However, the Company’s stock market listing had become its Achilles heel and in 1996 a hostile takeover bid from a Midlands industrial group threatened the independence and very existence of the Company. After a long battle the bid was finally defeated by Andrew Cook, who took the Company private with venture capital assistance."
"In 2002, Andrew Cook began to shrink the group to a more manageable size which would be less vulnerable to market vagaries and over-extended management and in 2004 he bought out the venture capital shareholders. After nearly 50 years, William Cook was again back in family ownership. Since 2006 the group has been debt-free and cash rich, with its activities concentrated on its four main plants in Sheffield, Leeds and Weardale and its market focus on high specification, high-value added components and assemblies where engineering innovation, quality control and efficient, professional manufacturing are more important than mere price."
The company gained notoriety amongst steam enthusiasts in recent years when it produced many of the cast parts for A1 pacific locomotive Tornado, the A1 trust regarding it as a ‘principle sponsor’ for this work.[2]

More modern vehicles incorporating William Cook castings include the Alstom Pendolino trains assembled in Birmingham and the Turbostar / Electrostar family of trains assembled by Bombardier at Derby

External Website Links
William Cook Cast Products website[1]
A1 Steam Trust[2]

This article was produced Kris Ward based on information in the company's own website.