Armstrong Whitworth

Armstrong Whitworth

Infobox Defunct company
company_name = Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd
slogan =
company_type = Private
fate = Demergers
Take over
Predecessor = W.G. Armstrong & Mitchell Company
successor =
Armstrong Whitworth
foundation = 1847 (W.G. Armstrong Co.)
defunct = ?
location = Newcastle upon Tyne, England
industry = Engineering, Shipbuilding
products = Aircraft, Armaments, Locomotives, Ships,
key_people = William George Armstrong Founder
num_employees =
parent =
subsid = Vickers Armstrong
Armstrong Siddeley

Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd was a major British manufacturing company of the early years of the 20th century. Headquartered in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, Armstrong Whitworth engaged in the construction of armaments, ships, locomotives, automobiles, and aircraft.


In 1847, engineer William George Armstrong founded the Elswick works at Newcastle, to produce hydraulic machinery, cranes and bridges, soon to be followed by artillery, notably the Armstrong breech-loading gun, which re-equipped the British Army after the Crimean War. In 1882 it merged with the shipbuilding firm of Charles Mitchell to form Sir WG Armstrong Mitchell & Company and its Works extended for over a mile along the bank of the River Tyne. [ [ Newcastle Industrial Heritage] ] Armstrong Mitchell merged again with the engineering firm of Joseph Whitworth. The company expanded into the manufacture of cars and trucks in 1902, and created an "aerial department" in 1913, which became the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft subsidiary in 1920.


The Armstrong-Whitworth was manufactured from 1904 (when the company took over construction of the Wilson-Pilcher) until 1919 (when the company merged with Siddeley-Deasy and began construction of the Armstrong Siddeley) in Coventry.

The Wilson-Pilcher was an advanced car, originally with a 2.4 litre engine, that had been made in London from 1901 until 1904 when production moved to Newcastle. Two models were made, a 2.7 litre flat four and a 4 litre flat six. The engines had the flywheel at the front of the engine. Drive was to the rear wheels via a preselector gearbox and helical bevel axle. The cars were listed at £735 for the four and £900 for the six. They were still theoretically available until 1907.

The first Armstrong-Whitworth car was the "28/36" of 1906 with a water cooled, four cylinder side valve engine of 4.5 litres which unusually had "oversquare" dimensions of convert|120|mm|in|1|abbr=on bore and convert|100|mm|in|1|abbr=on stroke. Drive was via a four speed gearbox and shaft to the rear wheels. A larger car was listed for 1908 with a choice of either 5 litre "30" or 7.6 litre "40" models sharing a convert|127|mm|in|1|abbr=on bore but with strokes of convert|100|mm|in|1|abbr=on and convert|152|mm|in|1|abbr=on respectively. The "40" was listed at £798 in bare chassis form for supplying to coachbuilders. These large cars were joined in 1909 by the 4.3 litre "18/22" and in 1910 by the 3.7 litre "25" which seems to have shared the same chassis as the "30" and "40".

In 1911 a new small car appeared in the shape of the 2.4 litre "12/14", called the "15.9" in 1911, featuring a monobloc engine with pressure lubrication to the crankshaft bearings. This model had an convert|88|in|mm|sing=on wheelbase compared with the convert|120|in|mm of the "40" range. This was joined by four larger cars ranging from the 2.7 litre "15/20" to the 3.7 litre "25.5".

The first six cylinder model, the "30/50" with 5.1 litre convert|90|mm|in|1|abbr=on bore by convert|135|mm|in|1|abbr=on stroke engine came in 1912 with the option of electric lighting. This grew to 5.7 litres in 1913.

At the outbreak of war, as well as the 30/50, the range consisted of the 3 litre "17/25" and the 3.8 litre "30/40".

The cars were usually if not always bodied by external coach builders and had a reputation for reliability and solid workmanship. The company maintained a London sales outlet at New Bond Street. When Armstrong Whitworth and Vickers merged, Armstrong Whitworth's automotive interests were purchased by J. D. Siddeley as Armstrong Siddeley.


Armstrong Whitworth established an Aerial Department in 1912. This later became the Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company. When Vickers and Armstrong Whitworth merged in 1927 to form Vickers-Armstrongs, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft was bought out by J. D. Siddeley and became a separate entity.

Elswick Ordnance Company

The Elswick Ordnance Company (sometimes referred to as Elswick Ordnance Works) was the Armstrong Whitworth armaments branch, and was a major arms developer before and during World War I. Writers commonly refer to Elswick Ordnance rather than Armstrongs as the armaments developer. The shells it manufactured were stamped EOC.


After the Great War Armstrong Whitworth converted its Scotswood Works to build locomotives, and from 1919 they rapidly penetrated the locomotive market due to their modern plant. [ [ Steam index web site] ] Their two largest contacts were 200 2-8-0’s for the Belgium State Railways (in 1920) and 327 4-6-0’s for the LMS (in 1935) [see below] . Their well equipped Works included their own design department, and enabled them to build large locomotives, including an order for 30 engines of three types for the modernisation of the South Australian Railways in 1926. These included ten “500” class 4-8-2’s, which were the largest non-articulated locomotives built in Great Britain, and were based on ALCO drawings modified by AW and SAR engineers. They were a sensation in Australia. [David Burke. Kings of the Iron Horse.Methuen, 1985. p108-127] AW went on to built 20 large three cylinder “Pacific” type locomotives for the Central Argentine Railway (F.C.C.A) in 1930, with Caprotti valve gear and modern boilers. They were the most powerful locomotives on the F.C.C.A. [ [ ARAR org web site] ] AW also obtained the UK license for Sulzer diesels from 1919, and by the 1930’s was building diesel locomotives and railcars. [ [ Sulzers web site] ] A total of 1,464 locomotives were built at Scotswood Works before it was reconverted for armaments manufacture in 1937. [ [ Steam index web site] ]

Overseas Operations

The company can also be credited with helping to create the Town of Deer Lake in the country of Newfoundland. Between 1922 and 1925, a hydroelectric station was built at Deer Lake by the Newfoundland Products Company and Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company. The canal system used by the hydroelectric station helped to expand the forestry operations in the area. Some of the equipment used in the construction of the Panama Canal was shipped to the small island nation. Electricity from the project was used to power the pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook. Since the 1920s, Deer Lake has grown into a major area for the lumbering industry, as well becoming a service oriented centre.

hip Building

On major division was the building of warships for the Royal Navy, Imperial Russian Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy, and the United States Navy between 1885 and 1918.

Mergers and Demergers

In 1927, the defence and engineering businesses merged with those of Vickers Limited to create a subsidiary company known as Vickers-Armstrongs. The aircraft and Armstrong Siddeley motors business were bought out by J. D. Siddeley and became a separate entity. Production at the Scotswood Works ended in 1979 and the buildings were demolished in 1982. [ [ Newcastle Industrial Heritage web site] ]


Hydraulic engineering installations

The forerunner company, "Sir WG Armstrong Mitchell & Company", was heavily involved in the construction of hydraulic engineering installations. Notable examples include:
*Hydraulic mains system, Limehouse Basin, London, 1850s
*Swing Bridge, River Tyne, 1873
*Tower Bridge, London, 1894
* A series of nine late-19th century 160-ton capacity hydraulic cranes for naval use. These were erected worldwide, in India (Bombay), Italy (La Spezia, Pozzuoli, Taranto and Venice), Liverpool, Malta and two more in Japan. The sole surviving example is undergoing partial restoration at Venice's Arsenale. [ [ Venice Arsenale crane restoration] ]


Between 1885 and 1918 they built 23 warships;
*HMS "Victoria", battleship built for the Royal Navy, 1887)
*"Yermak", Imperial Russian Navy, 1898
*"Angara", Imperial Russian Navy, 1899
*"Naniwa"(浪速) , 1885
*"Yoshino"(吉野) , 1892
*"Yashima"(八島) , 1896
*"Takasago"(高砂) , 1897
*"Asama" (浅間), 1898
*"Tokiwa(常盤) , 1898
*"Hatsuse"(初瀬) , 1899
*"Izumo" (出雲) , 1899
*"Iwate" (岩手) , 1900
*"Southern Cross", Melanesian Mission Steamer, 1903
*"Kashima"(鹿島) , 1905
*HMS "Nelson", , 1925

*USS New Orleans (CL-22), USN 1895
*USS Albany (CL-23), USN 1898
*HMS Agincourt (1913) battleship built for Turkish Navy but confiscated by British in July 1914
*HMS Canada (1913)
*HMS Eagle (1918)
*HNoMS Norge, 1899
*HNoMS Eidsvold
*HMS Erin 1914 battleship built for Turkish Navy but confiscated by the British in July 1914


Armstrong Whitworth built a few locomotives between 1847 and 1868, but it was not until 1919 that the company made a concerted effort to enter the railway market. [ [ Steam index] ] Contracts were obtained for steam and diesel locomotives in Britain and overseas, including:-
* 200 2-8-0 Nr.5001-5200 (steam) for Etat Belge Type 37 completed between 17.05.1921 and 12.01.1923.
* 5 Midland Railway 4F class 0-6-0 in 1922 for the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway
* 6 Metropolitan Railway K Class 2-6-4T in 1924
* 10 South Australian Railways 500 class in 1926
* 10 South Australian Railways 600 class in 1926
* 10 South Australian Railways 700 class in 1926
* 25 Queensland Railways C17 class 4-8-0 in 1927. []
* 30 Central Argentine Railway (F.C.C.A) Ms-6a class compound 4-8-4T suburban tanks (10 in 1927, 20 in 1930) [ GFCV1.html]
* 50 GWR 5600 Class 0-6-2T in 1928
* 30 F.C.C.A 3 cylinder 4-6-2 with Caprotti valve gear. [ GFCV1.html]
* 25 GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0PT in 1930–1931
* 4 0-8-0 Yue Han Railway, China Nr. 501 - 504 Armstrong Withworth works numbers 1266 - 129 / 1935
* 327 LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 in 1935–1937
* 1 Diesel-electric shunter for the LMS of 250 hp in 1933
* 10 Diesel-electric shunters for the LMS of 350 hp in 1936


External links

* [ Tyne and Wear Archives Service] , for records of the company

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