Thos W Ward

Thos. W. Ward Ltd was a Sheffield, Yorkshire, steel, engineering and cement business which began as coal and coke merchants then expanded to recycling metal for Sheffield's steel industry, engineering and the supply of machinery.

In 1894 as part of the scrap metal operation Ward's began to set up substantial shipbreaking yards in different parts of England and in Scotland and Wales. By 1953 Thos W Ward employed 11,500 people.

Ward's business was reorganised at the end of the 1970s when it moved from being an engineering group with a motley assortment of subsidiaries to being principally dependent on cement. In 1982 it was bought by RTZ.

The Bailey Bridge (geograph 3669971)
Bailey Bridge, erected in 2006 at the rear of Albion Works, Sheffield
Field with power lines, Ketton, Rutland - - 1074132
Cement kiln 8, Ketton, Rutland


This business was founded by Thomas William Ward in 1878 with the name Thos. W. Ward. Ward's provided coal and coke and very soon recycling or scrap metal services then added dealing in new and used machinery related to the iron, steel, coal, engineering and allied industries and manufacturing that machinery.[1]

Ward's Constructional Engineering Department manufactured and erected steel frame buildings, bridges, collieries, steel works equipment and furnaces. The Rail Department supplied light and heavy rails, sleepers, switches and crossings and equipped complete sidings. De Lank Quarries produced the granite for Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, major lighthouses and prestige buildings in London and elsewhere.[2]


In 1894 Ward's moved into ship breaking at many different locations. A limited liability company was formed and registered 19 May 1904 to own and continue all the businesses operating under the name Thos. W. Ward.[3] By 1920 when raising further capital from the public the prospectus claimed these notable facts for Thos. W. Ward: "Premier shipbreaking firm in the world, largest stockholders to the iron, steel and machinery trades, constructional engineers, merchants, etc."[4]

Portland Cement

New capital was raised from the public in 1928 to establish a new greenfield Portland cement business at Ketton in Rutland on 1,170 acres of freehold land with oolitic limestone and clays suitable to produce the highest quality rapid-hardening Portland cement. It was a particular project of new chairman Joseph Ward (1865-1941), brother of Thomas Ward (1853-1926).[1] Ketton Cement Works became the core activity of Ward's in the late 1970s.

After 55 years, in 1934, when the employees numbered in excess of 4,000 people, the principal businesses were:

  • Construction, mechanical and electrical engineering manufacturers
  • Coal coke iron steel metal and machinery factors and merchants
  • Ship and works dismantlers, owners and brokers
  • Wharf owners
  • Machinery and plant valuers
  • Nut and bolt manufacturers
  • Horn handle manufacturers for cutlery
  • Brick manufacturers
  • Dry slag and tar macadam manufacturers
  • Quarry owners
Albion Works reflection (geograph 3669975)
Albion Works 2013

Freehold Premises:

Albion Works, Tinsley and Millhouses, Sheffield
and at Silvertown, Grays (Essex), Inverkeithing, Glasgow, Wishaw, Birmingham, Briton Ferry, Milford Haven, Lelant, Silverdale, Low Moor (Bradford), Albion (Mansfield) sand quarries etc and Brickworks at Longton, Newark and Apedale[3]

Leasehold Premises:

Charlton Works and Effingham Road, Sheffield
Liverpool, Dublin, Cornish Granite Quarries (De Lank), Denny, Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Pembroke Dock, Hayle and Scunthorpe.[3]


W S Laycock

This old-established business was bought in 1934. Laycock's made railway carriage and steamship fittings, underframes for locomotives and railway coaches and in 1934 also makes automobile axles, gearboxes, propellor shafts and Laycock's own Layrub flexible drive joints.[3] Two years later Laycock Engineering was sold to some investors.[5]


By 1969 the Ward group was believed to be primarily in metal supply, particularly from ship breaking, but also producing cement, supplying roadstone, providing rail sidings, building new industrial works and equipping them with the necessary plant and machinery.[6]


In October 1981 Thos. W. Ward's was split into three:

  • Thos. W. Ward (Raw Materials) the former iron and steel division active in processing and merchanting carbon scrap, special steel scrap, non-ferrous scrap metals and steel stockholding.
  • Thos. W. Ward (Industrial Supplies)
  • Thos. W. Ward (Industrial Dismantling)[7]

Within a short time RTZ began to buy a substantial shareholding and this takeover was completed in early 1982.[8] RTZ put the Ward cement operation with that of Tunnel Holdings and named the combination RTZ Cement which then had about one quarter of the UK cement market.[9] The Railway Engineers department of Thos. W Ward was bought by Henry Boot.[10] RTZ sold Thos. W. Ward (Roadstone) to Ready Mixed Concrete in June 1988.[11]

Ship and Works' dismantlers

Works dismantled before 1926: Abbott's Works, Gateshead; Bowling Ironworks; Kelham Rolling Mills, Sheffield; Derwent Rolling Mills, Workington; Dearne & Dove Works; West Cumberland Whittington Works, Crawshay's Cyfarthfa Works, Bessemer's Works, Bolton; Mars Ironworks, Wolverhampton; Effingham Nut and Bolt Works, Sheffield.[12] Thos W Ward also dismantled the The Crystal Palace.[13]

HMS Akbar
HMS Benbow
HMS Boadicea
HMS Centurion
HMS Colossus
HMS Devastation
HMS Edinburgh
HMS Narcissus
HMS Nile
HMS Prince Albert
HMS Sans Pareil
HMS Warspite
SS Adriatic
SS Alaska
SS Arabic
SS Britannia
SS Cleopatra
RMS Etruria
SS Furnessia
SS Leviathan
RMS Lucania
SS Majestic
SS Munchen
SS Servia
SS Syrian
SS Vancouver[4]
RMS Saragossa[14]
RMS Cherbourg[14]

List of ships broken up at Inverkeithing

Mauretania 2 at the breakers yard
The RMS Mauretania arrives at Inverkeithing ready to be broken for scrap, 1965

List of ships broken up at Briton Ferry

HMS Adventure
HMS Bellona
HMS Bermuda
HMS Cambrian
HMS Croome
HMS Crossbow
HMS Cumberland
HMS Druid
HMS Fury
HMS Gloucester
HMS Hardy
HMS Howe
HMS Loch Dunvegan
HMS Mutine
HMS Revenge
HMS Rother
HMS Royal Oak
HMS Shakespeare
HMS Taciturn
HMS Tally-Ho
HMS Tempest
HMS Tenby
HMS Thrasher
HMS Tonbridge
HMS Tuna
HMS Venus
HMS Zambesi
RFA Salvestor
SS Empire Rest
ST Sea Alarm
HMS Hampshire[16]
HMAS Brisbane
HMAS Napier

List of ships broken up at Grays

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Berkeley Castle
HMS Bicester
HMS Carstairs
HMS Contest
HMS Foylebank
HMS Hydra
HMS Lance
HMS Laverock
HMS Liffey
HMS Spirit
HMS Tiverton
HMS Walpole
MV Sand Star
RFA Robert Dundas
RFA Sea Salvor
SS Holdernith
Cutty Sark

List of ships broken up at Preston

HMS Dominion
RMS Etruria
HMS Hind
HMS Hindustan
HMS Holderness
HMS Nith
HMS Ribble
HMS Skirmisher
HMS Starfish
HMS Sutlej
HMS Swale
HMS Welland
SS Aleppo
SS Staveley

List of ships broken up at Barrow-in-Furness

HMS Blencathra
HMS Dido
HMS Garth
HMS Meteorite
HMS Scylla
HMS Southdown
HMS Whitehall
RFA Abbeydale
SS Baxtergate
TSS Duke of Clarence
HMS Explorer
HMS Excalibur
HMS London
HMAS Australia
RMS Empress of Russia
SS Bendigo
HMT Dongola

List of ships broken up at Morecambe

HMS Diadem
HMS Glasgow
HMS Imperieuse
HMS Northampton
HMS Orlando
HMS Raleigh
HMS Repulse
RMS Majestic
SS Ben-my-Chree
SS Ionic

List of ships broken up at Pembroke Dock

HMS Birmingham
HMS Chatham
HMS Leamington
HMS Southampton
HMT Richard Bacon
RFA Salvestor

List of ships broken up at Milford Haven

HMS Kangaroo
HMS Opportune
HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Tetcott
HMS Watchman

List of ships broken up at Lelant or Hayle

HMS Aberdeen
HMS Acasta
HMS Bellona
HMS Bristol
HMS Chelmer
HMS Cockatrice
HMS Fareham
HMS Newcastle
HMS Tartar
SS Lyonesse
Lizzie the elephant

At the outbreak of World War I, 1,235 people were on the payroll of Thomas Ward's company and a thousand tons of scrap metal per day was being fed to the country's steel makers. However, with demand so high, and many of the horses Ward had previously used to transport his goods around Sheffield conscripted by the military he had an increasingly difficult time to match supply with demand. Lizzie the Elephant was brought in as a solution to this problem.[17]

Lizzie the Elephant was drafted in from Sedgwick's Menagerie, a travelling circus ran by William Sedgwick (1841–1927), after work horses from Thomas Ward's were sent or requisitioned to the front in the First World War. The elephant was said to be able to do the work of three of Ward's horses and soon got herself the name 'Tommy Ward's Elephant' as she became a familiar sight carrying or hauling goods around Sheffield, controlled by her trainer Richard Sedgwick (1875–1931) (son of the circus ringleader William Sedgwick).[17] Lizzie was said to have inspired other Sheffield firms to creative means with their wartime transportation and a company in the Wicker area of the city was said to have used camels also from Sedgwick's Menagerie in place of their own horses.[18] Unfortunately, walking around the cobblestoned streets of Sheffield damaged Lizzie's feet, and although she continued to work for Ward's firm for sometime after the end of the first world war she was eventually returned to the circus.

Lizzie has gone down in Sheffield legend, and many stories and legends surround her adventures. She also gave name to the popular Sheffield sayings "done up like Tommy Ward's elephant" - meaning someone carrying much weight, and the self-explanatory "like trying to shift Tommy Ward's elephant". A Sheffield Community Transport bus was named "Lizzie Ward" after her and is an Optare Solo model.


  1. ^ a b Thos. W. Ward, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 18 April 1928; pg. 23; Issue 44870
  2. ^ Thos. W. Ward Limited Albion Works. Sheffield. The Times, Wednesday, 9 May 1928; pg. 22; Issue 44888
  3. ^ a b c d e Thos. W. Ward Limited, Albion Works, Sheffield. The Times, Monday, 19 November 1934; pg. 20; Issue 46915
  4. ^ a b Thos. W. Ward Limited. The Times, Thursday, 22 January 1920; pg. 19; Issue 42314
  5. ^ The Laycock Engineering Company, Limited. The Times, Wednesday, 8 January 1936; pg. 16; Issue 47266.
  6. ^ Tools to finish all jobs. The Times, Monday, 10 November 1969; pg. V; Issue 57713.
  7. ^ Reorganization at Thos. W. Ward. The Times, Saturday, 26 September 1981; pg. 24; Issue 61043
  8. ^ The Times, Saturday, 23 January 1982; pg. 15; Issue 61139
  9. ^ Cement cartel resists a shake-up. The Times, Thursday, 16 June 1983; pg. 19; Issue 61560
  10. ^ The Times, Thursday, 15 March 1984; pg. 19; Issue 61782
  11. ^ RTZ in £33m sale of aggregates firm. The Times, Wednesday, 29 June 1988; pg. 26; Issue 63120
  12. ^ Obituary, Mr. T. W. Ward. The Times, Wednesday, 10 February 1926; pg. 16; Issue 44192
  13. ^ "Dismantling by Thos. W. Ward Ltd., Sheffield & London | World's Fair Treasury". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b A review of Lloyd's Register, The Times, Wednesday, 11 January 1911; pg. 21; Issue 39479
  15. ^ Ship Modelling Mailing List (SMML): Empress of Australia
  16. ^ "HMS Hampshire". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b "University of Sheffield project page". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  18. ^ Daily Telegraph Tuesday 18 February 2914, page 6


Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.

External links

D-class destroyer (1913)

The D class as they were known from 1913 was a fairly homogeneous group of torpedo boat destroyers (TBDs) built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1890s. They were all constructed to the individual designs of their builder, John I. Thornycroft & Company of Chiswick, to meet Admiralty specifications. The uniting feature of the class was a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h) and they all had two funnels.

Explorer-class submarine

The two Explorer-class submarines were experimental vessels built for the Royal Navy to test a propulsion system based on the use of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide (high-test peroxide, HTP) and diesel fuel to achieve high underwater endurance and speeds.

Germany had started experimenting with this technology early in the Second World War and developed it into the Walter cycle. They had built some experimental boats. One of these, the U-boat German submarine U-1407, which had been scuttled at the end of the war, was salvaged and eventually recommissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Meteorite.

This eventually led to the construction of the two Explorer-class experimental vessels, which used steam turbines, the steam being generated using heat from the catalysed interaction of HTP and diesel oil. They used the Porpoise-class hull, modified with retractable superstructure fittings to help streamlining. Being purely experimental craft they had no torpedo tubes or radar fitted, only one periscope and were equipped with backup diesel engines to recharge the batteries and propel them on the surface.The first, Excalibur, was commissioned in March 1958. They were very fast boats, with a top underwater speed of around 49 km/h (26.5 kn) for period up to 3 hours and 22 km/h (12 kn) for 15 hours on one turbine. Because of the use of hydrogen peroxide as a hair bleach, the submarines were nicknamed the Blonde class. As well as providing experience with this type of technology, they also allowed the Royal Navy to practise against fast moving underwater targets. However the use of HTP was not successful, and there were several explosions, which resulted in the second nickname of Exploder being applied to the class and Explorer in particular, while Excalibur had the nickname "Excruciater". The subsequent use of HTP to power torpedoes led to the loss of HMS Sidon and the loss of the Russian submarine Kursk.

When the United States developed a nuclear reactor which could be installed in a submarine, the HTP project was abandoned. It was decided that it was not worth converting the class into normal diesel submarines. As a result, Explorer was sold for £13,500 to Thos W Ward for breaking up; Excalibur in turn was also subsequently sold to Thos W Ward.Other countries have since developed the concept of the non-nuclear air-independent propulsion submarine to the point where it is a safe technology albeit as an auxiliary power source to a conventional diesel-electric drive, although hydrogen peroxide has long been abandoned and liquid oxygen is generally now preferred.

HMS Albuera

HMS Albuera ( pennant number I51) was a Royal Navy Battle-class destroyer which was ordered on 10 March 1943 from Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne. She was laid down on 16 September 1943 and launched on 28 August 1945. The order was cancelled on 15 October 1945 and she was sold incomplete for scrapping to Thos W Ward arriving at Inverkeithing on 21 November 1950

HMS Constance (R71)

HMS Constance was a C-class destroyer of the Royal Navy launched on 22 June 1944.After the war she was allocated to the 8th Destroyer squadron for service in the Far East. This included deployments as part of United Nations operations, as part of the Korean War. She returned from the Far East and was listed for disposal in 1955. She was sold to Thos W Ward for scrapping at Inverkeithing, arriving there on 8 March 1956.

HMS Crusader (1909)

HMS Crusader was a Tribal class destroyer of the Royal Navy launched in 1909. During the First World War she served in the North Sea and the English Channel with the 6th Destroyer Flotilla. Following the War she was sold for scrap to Thos W Ward on 30 June 1920 for scrapping at Preston.

HMS Hilary (1931)

HMS Hilary, was a former passenger liner launched in 1931, as SS Hilary, which was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War and used as an ocean boarding vessel in the North Atlantic. It was later converted back to a merchantman but subsequently recommissioned back into the Royal Navy as an infantry landing and headquarters ship. At the end of the war in 1945 it was returned to civilian service, and scrapped at Thos W Ward Inverkeithing in 1959.

HMS Leamington (1918)

HMS Leamington was a Hunt-class minesweeper of the Aberdare sub-class built for the Royal Navy during World War I. She was not finished in time to participate in the First World War and was sold for scrap in 1928.

HMS Mars (1848)

HMS Mars was a two-deck 80-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 1 July 1848 at Chatham Dockyard.She served as a supply carrier in the Crimean War, and was fitted with screw propulsion in 1855. She then saw service in the Mediterranean. In 1869 she was moored in the River Tay. She served there as a training ship until 1929, when she was sold and towed to Thos W Ward Inverkeithing to be broken up.

HMS Vectis (D51)

HMS Vectis (D51) was a V-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I and the Russian Civil War.

HMS Venturous (D87)

HMS Venturous (D87) was a V-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I.

HMS Violent (D57)

HMS Violent was a V-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I and was in commission from 1917 to 1937.

HMS Walpole (D41)

HMS Walpole (D41) was a W-class destroyer of the Royal Navy.

The ship was built under the 1916-17 programme in the 10th Destroyer order. Walpole was assigned to the 13th Destroyer Flotilla in the Grand Fleet after completion. she was assigned to the 11th Destroyer Flotilla in September 1939 and served until almost the end of the Second World War. Her role was mostly convoy escort duties, but she took part in two combined arms operations (Operations Amsterdam and Jubilee) and the D-day landings (Operation Neptune). She hit a mine on 6 January 1945 and was subsequently declared a constructive total loss and broken up in Thos W Ward Grays, Essex in March 1945.

Laycock Engineering

The Laycock Engineering Company Limited of Archer Road, Millhouses, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England was an engineering business established in 1884 by W S Laycock which made small and major components for railway rolling stock.

After Laycock died in 1916 the business passed through the hands of Charron, a French automobile manufacturer, into receivership from where it was bought by Sheffield engineer and shipbreaker Thos W Ward. Laycock was bought from Ward by a group of investors and put into the ownership of a new holding company, Birfield Limited, along with Hardy Spicer. Both Laycock and Hardy Spicer made transmission or driveline components for the automotive industry.

In 1966 Birfield, with Laycock and Hardy Spicer, were bought by the GKN group which was entering the automotive components field following government's announcement of the intended nationalisation of its GKN Steel.

RFA Abbeydale (A109)

RFA Abbeydale (A109) was a fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and was originally one of six ships ordered by the British Tanker Co which were purchased on the stocks by the Admiralty. She was built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd and launched on 28 December 1936. Abbeydale served until being decommissioned on 18 September 1959 and laid up at HMNB Devonport. She was then sold for scrapping, arriving at the Thos W Ward breakers' yards at Barrow-in-Furness on 4 September 1960.

RFA Salvestor

RFA Salvestor (A499) was a King Salvor-class salvage vessel of the post war Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Salvestor was built by Wm. Simons & Co. Ltd. of Renfrew, Scotland. Laid down on 20 September 1941 as Assistance, and launched on 28 August 1942 as HMS Salvestor.

The ship was decommissioned in September 1959, laid up at Pembroke Dock, and sold for breaking up to Thos W Ward at Briton Ferry in July 1970.

RMS Majestic (1914)

RMS Majestic was a White Star ocean liner working on the North Atlantic run, originally launched in 1914 as the Hamburg America Line liner SS Bismarck. At 56,551 gross register tons, she was the largest ship in the world until completion of SS Normandie in 1935.

The third and largest member of German HAPAG Line's trio of transatlantic liners, her completion was delayed by World War I. She never sailed under the German flag except on her sea trials in 1922. Following the war, she was finished by her German builders, handed over to the allies as war reparations and became the White Star Line flagship Majestic. She was the second White Star ship to bear the name, the first being the RMS Majestic of 1889. She served successfully throughout the 1920s but the onset of the Great Depression made her increasingly unprofitable. She managed to struggle through the first half of the 1930s before being sold off for scrapping to Thos W Ward. She was taken possession of by the British Admiralty before demolition commenced after an agreement was reached with White Star and Thomas Ward. She served the Royal Navy as the training ship HMS Caledonia before catching fire in 1939 and sinking. She was subsequently raised and scrapped in 1943.

SS Aleppo

SS Aleppo was a British passenger cargo vessel, launched on 1 November 1864, measuring 292.5 feet by 38.2 feet, 2,057 gross tonnage, built in Glasgow by J & G Thomson, Govan. She made her first North Atlantic voyage from Liverpool to Halifax to New York City beginning on 15 September 1865. The Aleppo had accommodation for 46 first class and 593 third class passengers. The ship was commissioned for the British & Foreign Steam Navigation Company, Glasgow, a company established in 1855 to run the Mediterranean shipping interests of the investors of the British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company, the forerunner of the Cunard Line. In 1878 the firms were reorganised, the British & Foreign Steam Navigation Company and its ships were merged into the Cunard Steam Ship Co. Ltd., and Aleppo was transferred on 7 September 1878.In 1880, the ship was fitted with compound engines and in 1890, the SS Aleppo was re-engined with triple-expansion engines by J. Howden & Co. The ship made its last North Atlantic voyage from Liverpool to Boston on 24 March 1892. In 1905, the SS Aleppo was broken up at Preston by Thos W Ward.

Her figurehead is preserved in the collections of Mystic Seaport, Connecticut.

Thomas William Ward (industrialist)

Thomas William Ward (1853 – 3 February 1926) was a scrap metal merchant and shipbreaker from Sheffield, England, most famous for the establishment of his company Thos W Ward Limited (Company No. 81020), and its First World War-era 'employee' Lizzie the Elephant.

Town-class cruiser (1910)

The Town class was a group of twenty-one light cruisers built for the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN). These vessels were long-range cruisers, suitable for patrolling the vast expanse covered by the British Empire. These ships, initially rated as second class cruisers, were built to a series of designs, known as the Bristol (five ships), Weymouth (four ships), Chatham (three RN ships, plus three RAN ships), Birmingham (three ships, plus one similar RAN ship) and Birkenhead (two ships) classes – all having the names of British towns except for the RAN ships, which were named after Australian cities.

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