The Iron Duke

24th August 2016

Dorothea Restorations have been involved in relocating The Iron Duke back to its home town in Bradford on Avon. It had been stored in pieces in Bristol at the M Shed since 1973 after the Spencer Moulton Factory closed. The large machine was named The Iron Duke after the Duke of Wellington. It was the first machine in the UK to roll sheet rubber and cotton together, and vulcanise them to make them into a waterproof fabric.This formed a large part of the town's economy. When the machine is assembled it stands 12ft tall and weighs about 16 tonnes.

Dorothea Restorations had no sketches or drawings to follow. Their architectuiral metalwork specialists had to apply their engineering knowledge to several surviving old photos, but they love a challenge.

Once all the permissions were in place we had the logistics of moving the large parts of this machine from the Industrial Museum to a Bristol workshop. The first step was to clean all the parts from years of grime, rubber deposits and grease; which caked the gears and rollers. This mucky job was done by hand and a lot of elbow grease.

A trial assembly was the next step to ensure that we had all the required parts and just to see how it would fit together before installation on site in Bradford On Avon. It was then taken back down so that the parts could be sorted into two areas; those such as the large frames that required abrasive cleaning and painting, and also parts that needed abrasive bare metal cleaning and then treating with a rust inhibitor.

In July the site for the installation was ready and the road closures were in place for transportation of all the parts to be installed using the knowledge gained from the initial trial. This went smoothly without too much disruption to the nearby residents. Now came the job of reassembly; which was no mean feat when the rollers alone weighed 2.5 tonne each.

Our skilled craftsmen had completed a great job.  This piece of industrial heritage can be seen at the northern end of Kingston Road, Bradford on Avon, where it worked for over 100 years. Following its official unveiling in September 2016, The Iron Duke has been admired by many visitors.