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.


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

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 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

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. 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. Thos. W. Ward Limited, Albion Works, Sheffield. The Times, Monday, 19 November 1934; pg. 20; Issue 46915
  4. 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 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. "University of Sheffield project page". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  18. Daily Telegraph Tuesday 18 February 2914, page 6


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