Mather & Platt Ltd

Mather and Platt was established in 1852 when Colin Mather entered into a partnership with William Mather.

Prior to this, in 1836, Colin Mather had established a partnership with his brother William, trading as William & Colin Mather from Brown Street, Salford. The brothers later leased part of the Salford Iron Works from John Platt in 1845 and entered into partnership with him. John Platt died in 1847, and his son William continued in the partnership with William and Colin Mather. In 1851, the partnership between William and Colin Mather was dissolved and the following year Colin Mather formed the partnership with William Platt that created Mather and Platt.

Colin Mather's brother William died in 1858, and his son, also called William, became assistant manager of the company in the same year. In 1863, William Mather became a partner with his uncle Colin Mather and William Platt. Colin Mather and William Platt retired around 1868, and William Platt's son John joined the company. He became a partner with William Mather in 1878.

William Mather travelled around the world promoting the company. During a trip to the United States in 1883 he obtained rights to manufacture Thomas Edison’s electric dynamo. Dr John Hopkinson and his brother Edward, who became head of the company’s new Electrical Department, modified the design to produce the famous Edison-Hopkinson dynamo, also known as the Manchester dynamo.

Mather and Platt also became famous for manufacturing centrifugal pumps. In 1873 Osborne Reynolds, Professor of Engineering at Owen’s College, designed an innovative turbine pump. Mather and Platt went on to manufacture this pump for use in water works, collieries, mills and power stations.

In 1883 Mather and Platt obtained the exclusive rights to manufacture a new automatic sprinkler system, patented by Frederick Grinnell, outside North America. This would prove to be a crucial turning point in the company’s fortunes. There was an enormous market for the Grinnell system in the textile industry where mills were at considerable risk from fire. A Bolton based firm, Dowson Taylor and Company, manufactured the sprinkler heads under licence, until it formally joined Mather and Platt in 1896. John Taylor’s expertise formed the basis of Mather and Platt’s hugely successful Fire Engineering Department.

As the company’s business expanded in the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Salford Iron Works was enlarged. In 1873 the company acquired Drinkwater’s Mill in Deal Street and absorbed the whole of Foundry Street. Mather and Platt became a private limited company in 1892.

In 1900 the company purchased a larger site at Newton Heath in Manchester. The company gradually moved its operations over to the new Park Works, which had better access to the railways and waterways.

Park Works expanded over the following years, eventually incorporating a canteen, a research laboratory, a school and a sports ground. The iron foundry was the last part of the Salford Iron Works to be moved before the old factory was finally sold in 1938.

During World War One part of the Park Works was leased to A. V. Roe for manufacturing aircraft. In 1915 the works was taken over by the Government so it could be dedicated to munitions production. Before World War One Mather and Platt had a major export market in Imperial Russia. Until the Russian Revolution of 1917 the company provided textile machinery for mills in St Petersburg and Moscow owned by, among others, the firm John Hubbard and Company.

Sir William Mather died in 1920. Aside from his business career he had played an active role in politics and civic life. He began his parliamentary career as Liberal MP for Salford in 1885. He went on to represent the constituencies of Gorton and Rossendale in the House of Commons before retiring from politics in 1904. He was knighted in 1902 and served as a Privy Councillor from 1910. His son Loris took over the business and guided it through the turbulent years of the Great Depression.

During the Second World War, Park Works was also brought under Government control with Mather and Platt not only producing munitions, but also pumps for the war effort. Some of the equipment manufactured at the Park Works was shipped to the Soviet Union for use on the Eastern Front.

After the war Mather and Platt relocated its Food Machinery Department to the former Royal Ordnance factory at Radcliffe in order to make more space at the Park Works. After the initial economic austerity of the immediate post-war period, this side of the business expanded with increased consumer demand for foodstuffs in the 1950s.

As Mather and Platt held the exclusive licence for manufacturing the Grinnell sprinkler system the company enjoyed a dominant position in this lucrative market. However, when these rights expired in the 1970s the firm entered terminal decline in a climate of increased competition from abroad. In 1978, the company was taken over by the Australian-based company Wormald International. Wormald International was originally founded by Joseph and Harry Wormald whose brother John worked for Dowson Taylor and Company.

Today an Indian company continues to manufacture pumps under the Mather and Platt name as a subsidiary of the German multinational Wilo AG.