Baker and Bessemer
John Baker was born in Nottingham in 1843 where he later became apprentice to a locomotive builder. In 1870 he moved to Rotherham as manager at Owen’s Patent Wheel, Tire and Axle Co. Four years later he entered into partnership with Thomas Burnett and moved to premises in Conisbrough where they produced wheels and axles.
They initially bought the components from other manufacturers, but as trade increased he decided to relocate back to Rotherham and acquired large premises at New York, Masbrough. There he began manufacturing hot spoke or welded wrought iron wheel centres.
As it was becoming clear that the manufacturers from whom he purchased tyres and axles would soon begin to assemble finished wheel sets, in 1903 he decided to buy a his own steel works at Kilnhurst and installed a forging press and disc wheel mill.
One year later in 1904 John Baker died while clearing the Kilnhurst site. The business was taken over by his son. During the first world war the company was turned over to munitions and the company produced over 6 million shells. Women made up a large part of the staff force.
The company became a public limited company in 1920 and 1927 took over Harrison and Camm. The 4,000 ton wheel press they acquired by the taker proved very useful with the introduction of solid wheels and integral tyres and centres. Early in the 1930s the company took over Henry Bessemer Limited and became Baker and Bessemer Limited.
During the second world war they again became a munitions factory producing not only shells, but aircraft catapult pulleys, amour-piercing nose caps, anti aircraft rocket bodies and bogie wheels for the Churchill tank.
In 1963 the company was taken over by United Steel Companies Limited and English Steel Corporation
A 15 ton drop hammer from the Kilnhurst site now stands at the entrance of the industrial museum at Beamish.