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


Gun leaving Beardmore munitions factory in Parkhead, Glasgow, 1915

image from Red Clydeside collection

William Beardmore became a partner in the family engineering business following the death of his father in 1877. The company specialised in the manufacture of armour plate and boiler plate for the thriving railway and ship-building industries and was moderately successful. However, with the retirement of his uncle Isaac a few years later, William re-founded the business in his own name. This seems to have been something of a turning point in the fortunes of both William and the company, as with a new name and a new driving force behind it the firm of William Beardmore & Company soon went on to gain worldwide fame as an engineering and shipbuilding firm.

Beardmore became a major armaments supplier in the years leading up the first world war and was involved in the development and construction of everything from battleships to submarines, tanks and aircraft. A gun-making plant was installed at the Parkhead works, and a steel works in the Mossend area of Glasgow was also acquired by the company. Beardmores also developed a building construction side to its businesses and constructed many houses for shipbuilding workers at Dalmuir, a Clydeside yard which boasted the largest fitting-out basin in the world.

In the period 1906-19 Beardmore's built four battleships, seven cruisers, 21 destroyers, 13 submarines, 24 hospital ships and a sea-plane carrier. Its contribution to Britain's war effort during the first world war included 73 warships, 50 tanks, 516 aircraft and more than 800 six-inch howitzers.

Source: Beardmore Collection, Glasgow University Archives