Historic factory may be bulldozed for units

The Victorian canalside works where steam engines and implements were made until after the First World War.
The Victorian canalside works where steam engines and implements were made until after the First World War.

One of Banbury’s last links to the age of steam will be lost if plans to demolish the former Burgess site are agreed.

The Victorian brick buildings in Canal Street were last used as the Burgess agricultural supplies showroom, but in their heyday were the works where steam implements were made and exported all over the world.

“If the demolition is carried through, it will mean the end of Banbury’s last substantially intact Victorian steam engine and agricultural implement manufactory and the loss of the last substantive reminder of the town’s once internationally significant Victorian agricultural engineering industry,” said Rob Kinchin Smith, chairman of the Banbury Civic Society.

The applicant, Swan Directors SIPP, wants to replace the old canalside works with six new brick industrial units.

The application says Swan Directors have discussed the proposals with Adrian Colwell, head of strategic planning and economy at the Cherwell who felt it was a positive step.

The buildings, previously the Cherwell Iron Works, were built in 1861 in the new industrial suburb of Newlands by Tipton coal-master Thomas Barrows and local engineer and millwright Joseph Kirby, who had been building steam engines and threshing machines in North Bar Place from 1855.

Kirby and Barrows, Barrows and Carmichael, Barrows and Stewart and Barrows and Co ceased trading in 1919.

“With 100 employees, Barrows fell between Thomas Lampitt’s Vulcan Foundry and Bernhard Samuelson’s world-famous Britannia Works. These three engineering works were not only the town’s largest employer but Barrows and Samuelson famously exported their wares to the four corners of the globe,” said Mr Kinchin-Smith.

Barrows made pioneering portable steam engines, steam ploughing machinery and threshing machines, street sweepers and pumping engines for coal mines. The company was wound up when war contracts came to an end.

“The surviving buildings are on the Local List as a reminder of a now vanished industrial heartland from Morrisons to Bridge Street,” said Mr Kinchin-Smith.

“It would seem a great pity to lose this last reminder of a lost world to a new-build shed – but given the old building’s age, lack of obvious beauty and its parlous condition, it may make economic sense. It remains to be seen if the owner and/or the council can be persuaded that a more imaginative alternative scheme is desirable and deliverable.”