Hidden from the roadside in the bowels of an old stone quarry in Combe Down is an engineering business that has quietly but confidently – over the past 70 years – ensured that Bath stays firmly on the industrial map.
Not only that but its workforce has helped make history. Manufacturing engineering parts for everything from Battle of Britain Spitfires to supersonic Concorde and today’s commercial Airbus aircraft.
Cross Manufacturing is named after Roland Cross – the Company’s founder. Born in Bath and – after an engineering apprenticeship – he joined Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd at Filton in 1915 and became part of the design team on the Bristol Fighter.
In 1922 he set himself up as an independent engineer and took on contracts for experimental work and acted as a consultant engineering.
He used the money he earned to spend on experimental work of his own – designing the Cross rotary valve engine in the 1930s. High-performance piston rings created for these engines were the cornerstone of subsequent product and technological developments.
Roland’s original workshop has been turned into the Company’s private museum.
The three motorcycles on display are examples of the types of motorbikes he used for testing his engines and pistons.
Though there was much interest – and a separate department was set up in the 50’s to deal with motorcycle and automobile development – things took a different turn in the 1970’s when the company decided to focus on the production of seals and rings.
They are now world leaders in the field – providing components for everything from commercial and military aircraft to generator turbines.
The Virtual Museum was invited to join other local enthusiasts on a tour of the factory and museum.
With commercial and defence contracts obviously photography in the factory is not allowed but it’s the museum that is so fascinating.
I was there with Dan Brown from Bath in Time, local historian Johnny Branston and postcard collector Paul De’Ath.
Our guide was Cyril James – a man who joined the company from school – as a trainee production engineer – at the age of fifteen. Cyril spent his time – during his early years – test riding many of Roland Cross’s motorcycle ‘adaptations’ and has fond memories.
Almost sixty years later – and a career that took him to Head of Production – he is still only ‘semi-retired’ and able to tell me more about those early days when engineering life was all about motorbikes and cars.
Breaking off from our tour, Cyril took the Vincent HRD outside of the museum to bring a little bit of Bath history to noisy life!
Cyril’s short trip was up and down an alleyway at the factory!
Cross Manufacturing also has a factory at Devizes in Wiltshire – providing employment across two counties.
The company is a world-leading manufacturer of aerospace seals, aircraft piston rings and custom seal rings for aircraft engines, steam turbines, vehicle turbochargers, control valves and many other industrial environments.
Contact via http://www.crossmanufacturing.com