By 1968 Fry’s Metals was trading in Leeds from the former T. G. & J. Jubb foundry in Jack Lane, carrying on their printing metals business. Although information about the early days of Jubb’s Foundry is sparse, it is clear to see from the advertisement below, that the company had been established in 1859, and was involved in a very similar trade to that of Fry’s Metals; supplying metals to the printing industry. They would appear to have been a good fit in terms of product and technology. In that year Fry’s moved its operations to the newly built Westland Trading Estate, the current site of the Leeds Bronze business.
In those days the Fry’s Metals business model was to collect scrap metals for melting into ingot which were then shipped back to the London foundry for refining and processing into printing metals and solder alloys. These products were then shipment back to the collection sites in Glasgow, Kidderminster, Rochdale, Ashford, London and Leeds for distribution into local marketplaces, including no doubt the flourishing local print press manufacturing businesses for which Leeds was a world leader at the time.
Around 1974 John Woodhouse, the CEO of Fry’s Metals, an ex- Spitfire pilot, decided to set up a machining operation at the Leeds site, which made good sense as Fry’s were already supplying some machined components manufactured by sub contractors from its own con-cast materials. For this he employed Ian Robinson, an ex-RAF test pilot, who eventually went on to become general manager of the plant and later was instrumental in setting up the Yorkshire Air Museum which is the largest independent air museum in Britain and is also the location of The Allied Air Forces Memorial situated on the former World War II RAF Bomber Command Station at Elvington near the City of York. By the time Ian Robinson retired as general manager in 1985, the machining of bronze components at Leeds was well established and the foundation of one arm of the current business was complete.
From 1985 to 1990 Ian Hamilton was general manager, and during this time the now renamed Cookson Group took over the operations of the Phosphor Bronze Company based in the Midlands. Ian Hamilton was succeeded as general manager in 1991 by our current managing director Peter Binnie, now a 30 year veteran of the firm. It was at this time that both George Atkinson (from Metal Castings Ltd) and Carolyn Tate (from Calder Industrial Materials Ltd) joined the firm and together with Peter would ultimately become the first group of company directors later in 1998 at incorporation.
Later in 1991 the Cookson Group transferred the Midlands based stockholding business of the Phosphor Bronze Company, together with the two salesmen Jim Webster and Alex Jankowiak (now a 20 year veteran) to the Leeds site, establishing the plant as a supplier of copper based alloys to the trade, and complementing the existing product portfolio of metals held to support its internal machining operations. The foundation of the current business at Leeds Bronze was now complete. Since then it has grown substantially, and is now the UK’s largest stockholder and distributor of bronze alloys, and manufacturer of solid bronze bushes.
Leeds Bronze Engineering Limited was incorporated as a private limited company in 1998. Since then the company has continued to grow in size and reputation. Sales have grown from £5 million in 2000 to an estimated £16 million this year, and with further identified opportunities in new and existing markets, the business is confidently predicted to continue expanding into the future.
The Phosphor Bronze Co Ltd
The Phosphor Bronze Co was originally registered in 1874 trading from Southwark, in London and later from Birmingham. It was purchased by Hardy Spicer in 1937, and by 1950 was a subsidiary of Birfield Industries Ltd.
In the 1939 Aircraft Suppliers List, the Phosphor Bronze Company, was listed as “Phosphor Bronze Co. Ltd. (The), Birch Road, Whitton, Birmingham, 6 (East 1454-7), market "Cog Wheel " brand special process phosphor bronze in the form of solid and cored sticks, phosphor bronze to Specifications 2.B.8 in various cast forms, and to Specification D.T.D. 78A, etc., etc. They have an extensive range of gun-metals, high-tensile manganese bronzes, “Vulcan" Brand and other grades of white anti-friction metals, finished machined phosphor bronze and gun-metal bushings and bearings, and centrifugal castings of all types.”
In 1988 the Phosphor Bronze Company became part of the Cookson Group, and in 1991 closed its bronze manufacturing activities and transferred its selling and distribution business to the current Leeds site, establishing the basis of the current bronze metal trading arm of the business. Due to the closure of its manufacturing activities, the business developed a world-wide nucleus of manufacturing partners, which still exist today. The company is now the largest bronze-only stockholder and distributor of bronze bars and tubes in the UK.
From Fry’s Metals, through the Cookson Group, to the Calder Group
The business was operating as a production plant of Fry’s Metals by the 1960s, from its base in Jack Lane. Fry’s Metals dates back to 1911 when John Fry, together with metallurgist Alfred Mundy, established the business for the development of print metals and, later in the 1950s, the company developed the ‘wave solder process’ which provided the soldering technology for use in the production of printed circuit boards. In 1946 Fry’s Diecastings formed Stone-Fry Magnesium Ltd for the manufacture of pressure die-castings. By 1961 Fry’s was manufacturing non-ferrous alloys, as well as specialist printing metals, soft solders, and soldering fluxes and employed over 1000 people.
In 1944 Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd bought Fry’s Metal Foundries and its subsidiaries, excluding Fry’s Diecasting. Associated Lead Manufacturers originally became a public company in 1889, and was incorporated in 1919, but its roots date back much longer as a result of its purchase of Cookson Lead and Antimony Co. Ltd in 1923. Cookson’s roots extend even further to 1704 when Isaac Cookson founded a business, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, made up of a collection of metal and glass manufacturers. This business diversified into the manufacturing of lead, sometime during 1851. The lead, antimony, and other manufacturing interests of Cookson were eventually acquired by Associated Lead Manufacturers in 1923. By 1930, after further acquisitions, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange with Clive Cookson as Chairman of the Board, although at this time each business continued to trade under its own individual identity. In 1955 Associated Lead Manufacturers finally purchased Fry’s Diecasting originally omitted from the transaction in 1944. After further acquisitions, including additional businesses in the lead manufacturing trade, and still under the Chairmanship of the Cookson family, the company changed its name in 1967 to Lead Industries Group. In 1982 the name changed again to Cookson Group.
In 1994, as Cookson re-aligned itself as a precious metals business, Leeds Bronze, together with the lead manufacturing and engineering businesses, was sold and became the Calder Group originally under the Chairmanship of David Hudson and later by 1998 John Hudson OBE. Calder is now a €165 million pan European engineering group with nine operating subsidiaries in five European countries, active in specialist engineering, lead engineering and the manufacture and distribution of lead sheet. It supplies a world-wide customer base in the aerospace, construction, healthcare, nuclear power, and oil & gas markets.
Together with Helander Precision Engineering and Midland Aerospace, Leeds Bronze is now part of Calder’s Specialist Engineering Division which manufactures niche, mission-critical components to challenging specifications, for applications that require specialist skills and experience.