In production : Adderley Park Wolseley Works
The Adderley Park plant entered the BMC fold by way of the Nuffield Group.
It had been home to the Wolseley motor company from 1901 until the late 1920s when, following William Morris’s purchase of Wolseley, the plant was given over to commercial vehicle production.
Arden Road/Bordesley Green Road, Adderley Park, Birmingham.
A potted history
Wolseley’s factory at Arden Road was originally the premises of a company called Starley Bros & Westwood Manufacturing Co. Limited, which went bust in 1895. The following year, the Vickers engineering company took a 99-year lease on the site (then standing at around 3½ acres), with a view to entering the car production business.
It was around this time that Herbert Austin, then working for the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co. Limited, had begun to experiment with car building in a private capacity. Although Wolseley failed to take an interest in Austin’s work, Vickers recognised its potential and, following considerable development of the Adderley Park site, they formed the separate company, Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co. Limited, in 1901.
The story starts in 1914
Production of Wolseley cars started there later that same year and, by 1914, the site had grown to some 21 acres, with new factory and office buildings reflecting the company’s growing status. Indeed, between the wars, Wolsleley became Britain’s largest motor manufacturer, turning out some 3000 cars per annum, and the Adderley Park factory was at one point the largest plant in Europe devoted to motor vehicle production.
The Adderley Park factory following its expansion around the beginning of World War One. Bordesley Green Road can be seen separating the two main areas, with the Birmingham-to-London railway line running east-west in the foreground
However, by the mid-1920s, Wolseley had begun to operate at loss, largely as a result of inefficiencies in the way its business was run. When the company went bankrupt in February 1927, it was snapped up the acquisitive William Morris, who gained both the Adderley Park plant and Wolseley’s other factory at Drews Lane.
Morris relaunches Wolseley
Morris relaunched the company as Wolseley Motors (1927) Limited, and thereafter production of Wolseley cars was concentrated at the Drews Lane site, for he had it in mind to use Adderley Park for his Morris Commercial Cars operation (which had been based in the Soho area of Birmingham since its formation in 1924).
Thus, by 1933, Adderley Park had become established as the home of Morris Commercial Cars, which – as the name implied – mainly produced taxicabs, vans and trucks, although there had been a short-lived venture into passenger car production in the early 1930s. Production of smaller car-derived vans, generally with payloads of up to 1 ton, continued to take place at Cowley.
However, after the Second World War, Morris started building its long-running J-series vans at Adderley Park, starting with the J-Type in 1949. This was succeeded by the JB in 1957, which in turn gave way to the more familiar J4 in 1960. Meanwhile, in 1956, the larger J2 had entered production there, and remained so for some 11 years before being replaced by the 250JU in 1967.
Morris after the formation of BMC
Incidentally, following the 1952 Austin-Morris merger, the Morris Commercial badge was eventually laid to rest as BMC decided to sell its commercial vehicles under both the Austin and Morris brands, although Morris Commercial Cars Limited continued to exist as a legal entity into the 1960s. Adderley Park subsequently became part of BMC’s Light Commercial Vehicles Division and, in 1968, the marketing policy would change again, as the BMC brand was applied to many of the light commercial vehicles.
In 1960, production of the chassis for the FX4 taxicab and FL2 hire car was transferred from Longbridge to Adderley Park, which was also building chassis and diesel engines for the light commercial vehicles. In 1962, assembly of the FG truck (with its distinctive “thrupenny-bit” cab) was moved out to BMC’s new purpose-built truck plant at Bathgate, which had been financed with Government backing to help regenerate a depressed area of Scotland.
That same year, some of the spare capacity at Adderley Park was taken up when supplementary production of the Morris Minor van and pick-up derivatives was transferred from the Abingdon plant, where they had been built (along with the Traveller) since 1960, although primary production of these models continued at Cowley, alongside the saloon and tourer versions. Two years later, in 1964, Adderley Park became the sole producer of the van and pick-up, and in July 1969, production of the Traveller was also transferred there.
Adderley Park on borrowed time
A large batch of J4s and just-launched 250JUs are seen here in the Adderley Park dispatch yard in 1967, waiting to enter service with the GPO’s Telephones division
However, with the formation of the mighty BLMC in 1968, the Adderley Park plant’s days were numbered. In his new role as chief of the Austin-Morris division, George Turnbull was on a mission to rationalise the glut of closely-grouped factories which had been inherited by the company, and Adderley Park – which, at that time, employed almost 3000 people – was one of the first to be earmarked for the chop.
In 1970, production of the remaining light trucks was moved to the Bathgate plant (which was by then known as Leyland Motors (Scotland) Limited). That same year, Turnbull negotiated a deal with Bill Lucas of Carbodies to take over the production of the FX4/FL2 chassis; Carbodies had always built the bodies for these models and, from Spring 1971, they began to produce the complete vehicles at their Holyhead Road premises in Coventry.
Around the same time, the final UK-built Morris Minor Traveller also left Adderley Park, in April 1971. That just left the commercial varieties, which were kept going until the end of the year – chiefly due to the continued loyalty of the Post Office, which took delivery of the very last examples built and stockpiled them to be commissioned into service the following year.
End of an era
Thus it was that, with the production of the final Morris Minor van at the end of 1971, the Adderley Park factory closed its doors for the last time. The J4 and 250JU vans continued to be built there until the closure; production of these models was then suspended at the beginning of 1972 while the plant was moved to nearby Washwood Heath.
Today, over forty-five years after the closure, there is little left of the former Adderley Park site, which is now home to an industrial estate. Apparently all that remains of the original buildings is part of the wall of the office block that used to face onto Bordesley Green Road, although as can be seen on the map at the top of this page, a nearby road has been named Wolseley Street at some point, in recognition of the site’s former occupants.
Post-war production models produced at Adderley Park (1945-1971)
The following table is not yet comprehensive – if you can help to fill in any of the gaps, please get in touch.
|Morris J-Type||1949-1957||Superceded by JB-Type|
|Morris LC4/LC5||1952-1960||Replaced by FG series|
|Morris LD/Austin 1-ton, 1½-ton||1952-1968||Replaced by EA|
|Morris J2/Austin 152||1956-1967||Replaced by 250JU|
|Morris JB-Type||1957-1960||Replaced by J4|
|Morris FG/FM series||1960-1962||Production transferred to Bathgate|
|Austin FX4/FL2 chassis||1960-1971||Production transferred to Carbodies in Coventry|
|Morris/Austin/Austin Morris J4||1960-1971||Production transferred to Washwood Heath|
|Morris Minor van/pick-up||1962-1971||Production transferred from Abingdon (and from Cowley in 1964), and ceased with closure of Adderley Park|
|BMC/Austin Morris 250JU||1967-1971||Production transferred to Washwood Heath|
|BMC/Leyland EA||1968-1971||Production transferred to Bathgate|
|Morris Minor Traveller||1969-1971||Production transferred from Cowley, and ceased in April 1971|