P h o t o B l o g

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

National Gas Engine Company

The National Gas Engine Company was opened in 1890 by Henry M. Bickerton at Wellington Works in Ashton. His engines ran on town gas and were used in cotton mills and other factories.

Bickerton had previously been involved with the Mirrlees-Bickerton & Day company, which had built the Mirrlees diesel engine. The National Gas Engine Company became the National Gas and Oil Engine Company in 1932. It was taken over by the successors of Mirrlees-Bickerton & Day and in 1966 the company changed its name to Mirrlees National. In 1977 it became Mirrlees-Blackstone, part of Hawker Siddeley, finally losing the "National" label.

The buildings are now rented out for warehousing and light industrial use.

The photo shows the back of the works, seen from across the railway, from the rear of the Hollywood Bowl, seen in yesterday's photo. On the walls, the original lettering "National Gas Engine Company" has, at some stage, been overwritten with "Mirrlees National".

More about National engines can be read here.


  1. my husband did his apprenticeship at the national ,from 1947 to 1950,as a marine engine fitter ,he then got his call up papers and did three yrs in the RAF.when he got out he went to get his job back but was told they were closing ,so he went to ferranti in hollinwood and did another four years training as a transformer erecter ,

    1. Hi there. Does your husband remember a man named Frank/Francis who worked there around that time? He would have liked cricket and went on to become a councillor for Oldham. He would have been high up enough to have a secretary (my grandmother, Cecilia Miller). He could be my grandfather!

  2. hi ashton national it had a big work force there when the buzer went there use to be hundreds came out at home time , i remember going there with my dad , when he use to pick up and deliver in is three wheeler railway wagon,

  3. Interesting that you mention going home time. There were special blue and cream liveried Ashton buses laid on Richmond Street to take the workers home and I remember the cycle sheds full of bikes and workers strapping on their bicycle clips and riding home. It was quite a sight. New homes sit where the cycle shed were.

    At it's height, the National Gas Engine company occupied both sides of Richmond street.
    Michaels photo shows what's on the western side. Newer buildings and houses occupy the eastern side.

  4. I seem to remember there was a huge overhead crane at the works that could be seen when walking down Richmond Street in the 1950s (nearer the Kenyon Street end). Anyone have memories of it?.

  5. hi mentioning bicycles there use to be loads most of the big firms had a cycle shed , they most have been a lot fitter then

  6. My Grandfather (Sam Smith) did his apprenticeship at the national gas engine works and appears in a photo in a book called Ashton In Old Photographs by Alice Lock.
    If you get to look at the picture he is the second from the right. He is photographed with 4 other apprentices who my grandmother remembers.

  7. You may be interested to know that there are two Stothert and Pitt Railway Cranes on the Swanage Railway in Dorset which have National DAA-4 engines in them.
    Any information about them or the National Company would be welcomed.
    See the Swanage Railway Website - ref:-cranes

  8. Hi, my dad worked for the National Gas Engine Co. as an Auto Setter, it is his 90th birthday in July his name is Harold Brocklehurst, and we are hoping to put a "scrap book" together for his birthday celebration and wondered if anyone has photo's of "the nash" that he may recognise also pictures of the machine shop etc., we also interested in the pictures of the Park Hotel on Park Parade also known as the "seven sisters".
    any info please email info@showcasesonline.com
    Many thanks.
    His daughter Sandra

    1. Hi,my dad worked at the national ashton from being a 14 year old apprentice,he also played football for the nash,my dads name is Tommy Heeney, he worked in the heavy
      machine shop,
      sadly he died in 1964.
      any info please email johnheeney5@sky.com
      with thanks is son John

  9. ashton moss back in the 80,s when me and my mates would ride our m/bikes up and down reyner lane shareing it with the horseriders from alan.e.stables.we knew every inch off the moss.the white bridge,angelo,s and franco,s,all the allotments near the white bridge,vinney c old white farm,a.gents,alan edens stables,to name just a few people who use to share the community and have respect for eachovers property back in the 1980,i use to love riding my honda 50 around the V WITH MY OTHER MATES.ilived just of sandy lane near carriges,jones farm,mr rattclifes pig farm/old cottages.my name is andrewsleeman@btinternet.com

  10. I am at present restoring 2 horizontal National diesel engines a single cylinder 66HP N.A.W and twin cylinder 132Hp N.A.W. These engines were second hand when installed in a Australian gold mine in 1935 to generate electricity.I am looking for information on the dates of manufactue and any other information I can get hold of. If anybody out there in cyberspace can help me it would be very appreciated could you please email me at rflegg@westnet.com.au Cheers Rod

  11. My late father James Edwin Wood worked at the National gas engine, he was a crane slinger, sadley he died in 1950, I remember going to the Christmas parties for the children of the workers there, My late sister had a photo of our dad and other workers outside the factory but sadley it is lost.

    Yours sincerely


  12. I have a heavy cast iron exhaust box for a large National engine, in good usable order.

  13. My father was the Managing Director at National from late 1958 until mid 1961. He died of cancer in early Jan 1962. His name was Jim Smith.
    Anyone remember him?
    His son..........Mike Smith
    Perth Western Australia

    1. Was your father previously the manager of the diesel engine design division at English Electric?

  14. i have under restoration the mirrlees national 3 wheeled scammell scarab, anyone out there who has any information or pictures your help would be most welcome.

  15. Hi, I have recently restored a National Hot Bulb Engine, model M of about 8hp. It's engine number is 0241 and I'd be most interested to be able to find out mainly it's yr of manufacture but other info wouold be greatfully accepted,I have other smaller engines awaiting restoration but they are gas engines and a little more common.my email is okepuha@xtra.co.nz Cheers Will Coop

  16. Just spent a great day at the Anson Engine Museum in Poynton where there are several National Gas Engines not only on display but working. My great aunt, Annie Roberts worked as canteen cashier there as I remember and her boss was a woman called Kathleen Taylor (???). I still have a couple of alumininum trays which Annie "saved" from there when the works closed. I also think my grandfather James (Jim) Jones and my great uncle, (Annie's brother), Harry Roberts did their apprenticeships and or worked there at some stage. Harry ended his days at Joshua Heaps just over the road from "The National", and Jim moved over to AVRO to make Lancasters at Greengate during the war. He died in 1958/59 just before retirement whilst on the bus coming home from work. Oh that they were all still around to recount the facts !!

  17. Referece Mike Smith Blog in June 2011.I remember
    your father Jim Smith very well.I worked at Nationals during 1950/1961 mostly on marine engine sales.He joined us as MD from NEM at a time when I was based at Nationals office on
    Quayside Newcastle on Tyne

  18. Hi.
    I am looking for information regarding the "Aston" Dynamos that were provided with National Engines around 1920-30. I have a dynamo which was part of a complete unit from National Gas & Oil Engine Company Ltd. Ashton - under- Lyne England. The New Zealand agent was Turnbull and Jones Ltd.
    Unfortunately it had been broken up by the time I found it but have rescued the dynamo with control panel (incomplete) and intend to run it with a New Zealand made Anderson stationary engine of around the same vintage.
    There is no local information and hours of searching Google have not turned up with much.
    The label is a bit hard to read but something likes 70-50volts, 30.30amps run 1000RPM Number 49
    Any information at all would be greatly appreciated
    Thank you
    Michelle Webster
    Auckland, New Zealand

  19. Peter Wood - Anson Engine Museum - Poynton Cheshire 22/11/2012

    Good to read all the comments as we have a lot of "National" history at our museum and I served the first year of my apprenticeship at Ashton before returning to Stockport.
    It is also worth mentioning that a colleague from Ashton now runs the engine department at the museum in Melbourne which also includes a number of Nationals.
    I would like to invite everyone to the Midsummer Mingle at the Anson Engine Museum which usually attrcts over 100 people includes ex Nash employees. Next years event is Wednesday 26th June 3pm until about 9pm, see the website for details.
    As a matter of interest, yesterday we recovered the revolving doors which were originally housed in the main building at Ashton circa 1928 and more recently the reception area at Stockport. When we reopen the museum next Easter we plan to have them alongside some of our National engines.
    Peter Wood

  20. Hi there,

    My dad had a business on Kayley Industrial Estate (the previous National Gas Engine site) from 1974 onwards. The building that he occupied was the single story building on the left hand side on the estate, behind the security lodge. I would be interested to know what this building was used for during the time that the engine works was in operation (I know part of it was a toilet block!) and also, when was it that NGE/Mirrlees moved away from the site? Any information would be really appreciated.

    Andrew Higgins (ah.bfm@hotmail.co.uk)

  21. From its opening in 1904 until sometime in the 1950s the power for the Empire Hippodrome Theatre on Oldham Road was supplied from a National Gas Engine at the rear of the theatre (it also supplied the Palais on Gas Street which was back to back and under the same ownership. Does anybody know anything about it - or where it went? Any information would be great. Keith (CEO The Hippodrome Ltd)

  22. John Dunstan (dunny.seven@hotmail.co.uk) 18th Oct 2017
    My dad was an apprentice engine fitter at the Nash from 1925. He played for the National Apprentices and the National team. He also managed the National Apprentices. He left in 1956 (30 years). He is now 97 and counting.
    His name is Sam Dunstan.

    1. Hi,
      My name is Anthony (Tony) Littlejohn. I've just seen your email regarding your father on a National Gas Engine website.
      I believe it would be your father I worked for as a 'Rate Fixer' aka Work Study at Carlson-Ford Ltd on what is now the Aldi site. Happy days as I remember.
      Your email is dated Oct 2017 and you say your father is still going strong. if so can you please mention me to him... he'll hopefully remember me as the 'ginger' turner he took under his wing when he offered me a job as his Assistant.
      I have very fond memories of 'Sammy'... he taught me an awful lot.

      many regards

      Tony Littlejohn


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