Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Contract agreement between Ministry of Munitions and Beardmores for the construction of shells, 29 Mar 1916

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During the First World War, the firm of William Beardmore & Co achieved a position of dominance in the West of Scotland economy. This dominance was achieved as a direct result of Britain's demand for munitions, a demand that Beardmores' engineering facilities were in a unrivalled position to meet. Beardmores' contribution to Britain's war effort during the First World War included 73 warships, 50 tanks, 516 aircraft and more than 800 6-inch howitzers.

After the First World War the company's fortunes began to wane and Beardmores attempts at diversification proved unsuccessful. William' Beardmore's post-war hopes that world-wide demand for aeroplane's would be at the forefront of a new manufacturing boom failed to materialise and after 1920 nearly every department and subsidiary of Beardmore & Co began to lose money.

The firm began to borrow more and cut back on costs and by 1926 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and Sir William Beardmore was ousted from executive control by a Bank of England-guided committee of investigation and reconstruction. Thereafter William oversaw the run down and dissolution of many of his privately-owned businesses until his death in 1936. William Beardmore & Co continued in business on a reduced scale before finally ceasing trading in 1975.