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.

Model Dates Notes
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
Declan Berridge


  1. Love to see some pictures of Morris vans,Austin vans also.
    My childhood recalls the j series vans. Later as a teenager I recall the EA van.
    I love yo see them but sadly less and less pop up here and there nowadays.
    My father was a delivery driver based at Car and Commercial in Northfield B’ham for a few years. He brought home many BMC vehicles to be delivered the next day all around the Britain inc body less chassis trucks. Great memories for me.

  2. Whilst a student at Aston University I was in accommodation just “across the tracks” at St. Peter’s College. At the time (1979-82) the buildings were still standing and B.L. (as then was) parked curtain-sided trailers there. As adventurous students we frequently explored the area, although I’m pretty certain there was nothing of vehicular interest there by then.

  3. Britain’s largest motor manufacturer or largest British owned motor manufacturer, eg Trafford Park built 295,000 Ford Model T’s between 1911 and 1927. Wikipedia (which has a good Wolseley article) says Wolseley was selling 3,000 cars per year by 1913.

    Might be worth mentioning that production of Nuffield tractors started at Adderley Park.

  4. Why was Adderley Park, rather than say Washwood Heath which hadn’t been an assembly plant before the vans were moved there?

  5. Lovely to see the pics of the JU. I drove the all new Bedfird CF in the late 60’s and it was light years ahead of the JU in terms of comfort, speed, silence, ride……but, when I was driving the JU it was loaded with a full pallet of McPherson struts plus dozens of them packed around the sides. Goodness knows how much they weighed but the JU was geared so that it did 48mph – with ’em or without em’. But the noise! Drivers today would be cuing up for ear defenders! In all honesty, I don’t think the CF could have coped with this punishing treatment every day. The JU was a tough old van for sure!

  6. What a great article this is – it brought back many happy memories . Both my dad and uncle worked at the Morris Commercial . As a child I used to go to the Morris Commercial club in Alum Rock for sat night entertainment and the judo club . I also learned to swim via the morris commercial kids club . When I left schoolI went for an interview one of the questions was ‘ do you have any relatives working here ‘ – i”m sure thats why I got the job . I was a very shy 16year old and I remember on my first day getting the lift to the apprentice training school . A man came up to me shook my hand and said “welcome to the Morris Commercial Holidsy Camp – we hope you enjoy your stay ” .

    I certainly did I loved the place and the people . We were building EA s and Travellers when I was there and JU”s I think . The place had a great buzz and I learnt a lot . Sadly after 2 years it all ended when the plant closed . Us apprentices were lucky I transferred to Longbridge but I”‘ll never forget the sadness of people like my dad who lost the bedt job they had ever had .

    It may not have been the most efficient car plant – but it had the happiest workforce

    Thank you for jogging my memory

    • Hi Dave

      Great to read about your experiences at Adderley Park, and by the sound of it, great shame it all ended.

      A friend of mine and myself are attempting to rebuild the production records of the Minor LCV, a das you say I know the Travellers were built there also.

      We’re trying to work out a couple of things, one of these being the fitting of the steering lock switch to Minor vans in around Feb ’71. Having worked there you might know if the change was done by chassis number, or was it the CAB number they went by? When cabs came from Nuffield Metal Products did the cab number have anything to do with changes on the production line, or was it all chassis or engine number? It’s weird that the steering lock seems to have been fitted to some and not others around the early ’71 period, so was it just the fact that once the central ignition lock ran out on the line they changed, by customer order, or a chassis or body number?

      Another point was the engine colour from Green to Black..again did this change at a certain chassis or body number on the LCV..

      I don’t know if yourself or any ex apprentices would be willing to meet us for a chat over a coffee or a beer, as that would be good to talk with you about Adderley Park!

      Look forward to hearing from you!


      • Hello Kev .
        Apologies for a very late reply to your reply . I”m sorry I completely missed it .
        I wasn”t involved on the production side , so wont be able to help with your questions . But would be happy to share any memories of the Morris . Please send me a PM to if you”d like more info

    • Hi Dave, brings back memories, Inserved my apprenticeship at the Alderley plant then moved to Liverpool when they closed. I was part of the team running the training department when they closed down.

      Judo was my sport, I ran the Morris Judo club for many years, being the instructor for the juniors and assisting teaching the seniors, Thursday evening was our practice day with some Sunday sessions.

      It was a friendly atmosphere in the factory with most people knowing nearly everyone working there, my father and uncle were also employees. Fond memories.

      • Brings back happy memories I worked in the experimental dept (Austin Gypsy) and I was a member of your Judo Club, I also spent a lot of time talking to your dad while his machine was down? He was always trying to get me on his weight training at his house. I have many more tales to tell re _ morris comercial . Me I’m Barrie Black (

        • You are very lucky he did not manage to get you there, he was quite brutal with his weight training and I saw many a grown man not able to walk for days after the first session

          • Speaking of works related martial arts clubs, the Marchon Judo Club, linked to a former chemical works in Whitehaven called Marchon, has been in business since 1969 and outlived the chemical works. Is the Morris Judo Club still in existence in Birmingham, or does it have a different name?

    • Hi again Dave, re read your post, I would have interviewed you for the apprenticeship as that was part of my job for the last 5 years at the company. Jack Evans would have been the other person at the interview, sadly jack passed away from Cancer many years ago. We did not like them moving the apprentices out as we thought of you as family.

      • Hello Pat,
        It”s good to hear from you – I remember my interview very well – both you and Jack were there . I was the only Commercial Apprentice in the Sept 1969 intake . Other names I remember were John Llewellyn, Jim O”Reilly and Mike Rudge . Do those names ring any bells ? It was with great sadness when I left LCVD.

        • Remember them well, not forgettable sort of people. It was a shame when the place closed, many good friends. I finished up at Triumph Liverpool as the training Manager, no where nearly as friendly as the old Morris plant.

          What are you doing now? I am well and truly retired in Australia been here since 1981

          • Hello Pat ,
            That”s an interesting career move from Adderley Park to Australia via Liverpool. I spent many years in IT in Automotive and then moved to the NHS . Most of us brummies dont leave the midlands – you must be one of the exceptions 🙂

  7. I have a brass cast plate” Morris Motors Ltd. Wolesey Works 4 x 4 – 109

    I found this in my dads tool box, its around 3.5 x 2.5″ cast bronze or gunmetal.
    Possibly from a Wolseley Mudlark made during the 1940s?
    Any interest?

  8. During WWI Wolseley produced many aero engines also complete aircraft with many flown out from their own airfield but where was the airfield? When were the works built on the eastern side of Bordesley Green Road? Could this site have been used?

    • The Wolseley East Works site was built up from 1904, but the aircraft were made in a new factory built in Bordesley Green Road, opposite the Thornley & Knight paint factory, but there was no airfield. The planes were assembled for inspection, then partly dis-assembled and transported away from the factory in railway containers and two special vans built by Wolseley for the purpose.

  9. I do not know how Vickers had a 99 year lease on the factory used by Wolseley in 1901, as the Adderley Park works was not even built until 1897 and the cycle company went bust in 1899! There was no development of the Adderley Park works before Vickers bought the factory in 1901, and of course Herbert Austin was building and selling motor cars from the Aston factory of Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co. Ltd, years before Vickers became involved.
    Only the 30cwt version of the FG model was built at Adderley Park, and that was only transferred to Bathgate because of the huge fire in 1962 which destroyed two thirds of the East Works production capacity.

    • Remember the fire, I was a part time fireman at the time, the day of the fire was my evening off. Part time fire service were employees doing night shifts. The fire started in the wood shop and spread quicker than you could run, there was no stopping it. The area was a tyre store, wood shop, paint shop, so it was the perfect area for a large fire.

      • Pat Collins, I can see you now, White coat, red collar, keeping order amongst a bunch of apprentices trying to make a pair of pliers out of a lump of metal. What strange looking pliers we made!
        I can see Nev Kelsall fanning away clouds of pipe smoke, Jack Evans explaining the intricacies of Gas Welding in a quiet calm voice, and Jack Herd looking a bit frail, but still as sharp as a pin. A fantastic apprenticeship, ‘those were the days, thank you, rgds, Warwick Grover.

    • Hi Norman, did you work at Adderley Park, maybe in the Quality Control department, headed by Tony Bonsall? rgds Warwick Grover, Hamilton New Zealand

  10. We produced the Gypsy four wheel drive there. It worked very well although I remember a few weak points in the chassis

    • Hi Roger

      Good to read your comment about the Gypsy. Supposed to be a promising vehicle but never made it in big numbers apparently. Out of interest did you work on the Minor LCV line? I’m interested in finding out more about the build process back then.
      Regards Kevin

  11. Could any one tell me if the 6 cylinder C series engine was built there?, in the early 1950s my father worked over that way building the transfer machines for it then the same for the B series engines that were shipped to Sydney Australia, he came over here to install them at Zetland and like most of the others stayed here, he was toolroom superintendent.

  12. I was an apprentice at Adderley Park from January 65 until March 69. I have a fond memories of the place. I was placed in West Works Machine Shop for six weeks and was put on cylindrical grinders for the duration. The guy who showed me the ropes had three fingers missing which didn’t fill me with much confidence. The component were hubs that bolted onto the axle case to carry the wheel bearings. Everything was manual in those days and acceptance was by means of a Go/No Go gauge. Of course I took too much off in my early days and scrapped the component. I could get away with it once or twice but was pretty frantic if it happened more than that. I remember smuggling the hubs I had scrapped out of the shop under my overalls and throwing them in the nearest skip. No one was the wiser and I must have been of some use as the guy used to give me two half crowns every Friday.
    Also I was befriended by the machine oiler called Brian. He used to push a 45gallon drum of machine oil round the factory topping up machine gearboxes and on Friday he used to display shirts and condoms (something for the weekend sir?).
    I remember working on the Gypsy line and a vehicle, painted white I think, came along and it was destined for Nancy Sinatra (these boots are made for walking).
    The training school staff were a good crew as well once you had filed you block of steel flat and square on all sides Bert Bibb was in charge when I started then Nev Kelsall. Jack Evans was there all the time and I remember Pat Collins for the last couple of years or so.
    I could go on but you’ve probably heard enough.
    Happy days

    • Hello Clive

      You have some interesting recollections of Adderley Park. The Morris Commercial Club includes around 30 members who are ex-apprentices of Morris Commercial. In most editions of the clubs quarterly magazine there is the Pinion Page, which has contributions from Ex-apprentices. You or anyone else with an interest in Morris-Commercial is welcome to join the club. Contact me at for more info.


  13. Dear Sir, Madam,
    Like thousands of others during lockdown periods have been doing some delving into my family history and I am writing to ask if in your archives if you would have records of my grandfather (George Meadows) who worked at The Morris Commercial, Adderley Birmingham for many years.
    We assume but don’t really know, that he started employment there after WW2 and we think he retired around his 60th birthday which would have been in 1970 or may have continued working for a few years after or left when the site closed.
    Both my sister and I remember him working there as our Nan worked near by at the local collage and we often used to wait for him at “the end of the road”. We also used to go to the club on the Alum Rock Road for children’s events and attended weekly judo lessons there. Also, remember car shows being held there – actually remember the free penguin chocolate bars that were available for kids to help themselves too.
    Our Nan, Elizabeth Meadows also worked on the premises during WW2 on munitions – welding of some sort to the best of our knowledge so would you have any records for her too?
    Their address at the time was

    George and Elizabeth Meadows
    78 Parkfield Road
    Alum rock
    Birmingham 8

  14. It may be worth noting that it was only the chassis cab of the Minor Traveller which was built at Adderley Park – the ash framed rear bodies were constructed and the cars completed at Morris Bodies in Quinton Road, Coventry.

  15. Glen, the morris judo club finished when they knocked down the club house, most people were members of other clubs though so continued practicing.

  16. Hello
    I have very fond and happy memories of the Wolsey Sports Club, which my Grandad John Woodcock ( ex – Wolsey factory shop floor worker ) and ended up becoming Head Groundsman there throughout the mid 1960’s until he finally closed the big green entrance gates ( which are still there I think and visible ) when it was wrapped up in I think in the early 70’s. He lived on-site next to the social club in the small house there and I spent many a time there.

  17. I was an apprentice at morris commercial from 1959, worked up to running the Apprenticeship scheme. Happy memories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.