Monday 15th May 1972

The top photograph was taken for publicity and marketing purposes by the Dean Smith and Grace Ltd. Photographic Department on 15th May 1972. The original photograph is held in the History Society’s archive.

By 1972 the company was already over 100 years old. Three Keighley engineers, Joseph Dean (1824-1909), James Smith (1834-1906) and John Grace (1840-1904), formed the partnership Dean, Smith & Grace in 1865. The men borrowed money to buy land from the Duke of Devonshire and built the Worth Valley Works. According to their 1889 catalogue, they manufactured machine tools “for locomotive, marine and general engineering, ordnance manufacturers, boilermakers, shipbuilders etc. etc.” and had already procured various government contracts. By 1883 their debts had been cleared and in 1898 the partnership became a limited company.

In the early years of the 20th century, some rebuilding and restructuring took place and the company started to specialise in the manufacture of industrial lathes. Their reach was global, doing trade deals with Australia, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and Argentina.

At the outbreak of World War One, now trading as Dean, Smith & Grace (1908) Ltd., the firm’s efforts were recognised in a letter from Lord Kitchener. The letter, dated 22nd October 1914, acknowledged the importance of the work undertaken by the firm and its employees in playing their part towards the war effort. During this period the company also manufactured breech blocks for guns. From 1938, the firm was run by Sir Harry Smith, James Pearson and Bert Laycock.

During World War Two, Dean, Smith & Grace financed their own Spitfire as part of a nationwide drive to raise money for fighter planes. They produced lathes for all branches of the armed forces, the government’s Ministry of Supply and for the Admiralty, and became one of the first traditionally all-male firms to employ women. At their output peak they were producing 107 machines per month, meaning one-fifth of all the lathes manufactured in this country were coming from Dean, Smith & Grace. In 1948, a new range of lathes was exhibited the Machine Tool Exhibition held at Olympia in London, which led to considerable trade with Canada.

According to advertising from the time, by 1960 they were manufacturing 13” to 30” swing engine lathes, surfacing and boring lathes, and precision tool room lathes. The works at this time boasted many labour-saving devices including mechanised accounting machines, colour-coded signalling systems and index systems for accounts and stores control. Staff benefitted from a superannuation scheme, a canteen (with DSG-stamped cutlery) and a surgery “with sun-ray and infra-red lamps for treatment during working hours”. The company also had its own sports field and pavilion for its cricket team and other sporting activities. The firm boasted of its employee loyalty, recognising long periods of service – in one case over sixty years.

A new foundry in Lawkholme Lane, the Nelson Works, was built between 1962 and 1965. In 1974 the company was sold to US company Monarch Machine Tool Co. The firm then became independent again in 1992, rebranding as DSG Lathes. There was a management buyout in 2005 and former Rolls-Royce engineer Nigel Grainger took over as managing director. He initiated a rebrand and a complete overhaul of the product range, including the launch of new aerospace and pipe lathes. In 2008 the company went into administration and was bought by Newsmith Stainless Ltd. and traded as Dean Smith & Grace Lathes Ltd. In 2012 the company was sold on to Machine Tool Technology Group who in 2015 made the decision to move the firm from Keighley to Halifax.

Dean Smith & Grace is now a Belgrave & Powell Ltd. company operating out of Preston in Lancashire. According to its website “it still develops new machine tools but also offers robotics and automation, CNC retrofitted solutions, rebuilds, machine tool services and breakdown support for all types of machine tools with the same level of professionalism and pride in the name instilled in the business over a 150 years ago”. An example of a Dean, Smith & Grace lathe is held in the Science Museum Group’s collection.

The postcard is from the 1930s while the advert is from a 1960 edition of the Official Keighley Handbook. The former DSG offices on Pitt Street were photographed by Tim Neal in February 2021.

Author: Admin Tim

Tim is a committee member of the Keighley and District Local History Society, with responsibilities for archiving the physical and digital collections, and managing some of the social media channels. He moved to Keighley about ten years ago and joined the Society to learn more about the area.

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