Brittania Test House – Middlesbrough

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The 1250 Ton Testing Machine in this building was used by Dorman Long to test the girders for the Sydney Harbour Bridge amongst many others.
Brittania Test House
Brittania Test House
The site is now run by Durham Lifting and their website carries the following detail :-

The largest testing house in the UK holds Lloyds approval to undertake tensile and compressive testing up to 1250 tons. Its 50ft long bed can accept specimens 30ft wide and up to 4ft deep. The recent manufacture of a 1.6 mechanical advantage lever assembly for the test machine now allows tensile testing of 2000 Ton to be carried out.

15 thoughts on “Brittania Test House – Middlesbrough

  1. Back in 1963 , I worked on the Sinter Plant at Gjers Mills ( Ayresome Ironworks ) which was next to Britannia . I could see this building lit up on a night shift , and I believe it used to be their boiler house in those days .

  2. Thanks for the comments above, any information regarding the history of the building is welcomed. anyone wishing to look round is more than welcome.
    its nice to look back and remember. thanks Amanda Gardiner

  3. In the late 1950’s the Test House also was used as an apprentice draughtsman office – on the top floor. I vividly remember the constant noise generated as the machine built up pressure – and the bang when whatever parted. Although the machine has its own foundation, separate from that of the building, the whole building would shake. Once it caused the lift to stop mid floor with a colleague inside. After a few minutes whoever it was stuck decided to climb out onto the top floor, rather than to wait for someone to make the lift safe. Frightening.
    Another time we were playing cards at lunch time when something else was parted. If my memory isn’t playing tricks, everything from the middle of the bench table top jumped up and landed on the floor!
    I can’t say I particularly enjoyed working over there!

    • David, your comments are funny. and yes the building still shakes when we carry our Wire rope Breaks..

  4. I began my working life in August of 1966 in that building. As I approach retirement, seeing it sparks a jolt of nostalgia. Yes, I too remember the “bangs” from the tensile testing downstairs, and the almost Dickensian working atmosphere – learning to print at an angle of 70 degrees, toiling away doing development drawings of blast furnace dust-catchers, making the morning tea for about 50 apprentices in the antiquated kitchen etc.

  5. When I was working in this building the other day a man came in and said he served his time upstairs in the drawing school 50 years ago and it was his first time back he could not believe it was still a test house and how the area around had changed

  6. I was taken on by Dorman Long as a Technical Apprentice in september 1961 located in the drawing office, on the top floor of this building. The apprentice intake consisted of mechanical, electrical and fuel catagories on day release, at local colleges.
    The educators were a Mr. Danny Ramage (strict disciplinarian) and Mr. John Benjamin.
    When the building shook we were uncertain as to the cause being the testing, or Danny blowing his top. I was thankfully relocated to the Royal Exchange in the december of that year. It was an excellent apprenticeship scheme!!!

    • Hi-Stan
      I worked there as apprentice around the same time.
      I remember having to do drawing tests of intersecting lines and Danny Ramage would come and tear the drawing up if it was inaccurate.
      John Benjamin was a bit softer and used to question Danny’s approach. I played football for the office one day and one of our players had his leg broken.Danny didn’t know what to do and John took over.

      Tom Osborne

  7. Hello
    started my working life in the drawing school on Aug 1st 1957 , as it was a
    bank holiday ( early August in those days ! ) I had my first working day off . Like all the other 16 year olds at DL&Co , I was paid £3-41p a week .
    As mentioned , when something down below broke ,the whole building shook ,
    which usually resulted in a shower of rust coming down off the roof trusses above onto the drawing boards
    .
    Danny Ramage had only just taken over the drawing school quite recently then , his predecessor was Johnny Durnford , I still have his Dorman Long handbook of
    company products and safe load tables, dated 1938 .

    As an aside does anybody have any photographs of the 16,000 HP Davy steam engine which powered the rolling mill ( No 1 , I think ) used to roll the sections for the Sydney Harbor Bridge ?

    Tony Waddington

  8. I’m curious about what types of drawings you were making at the school. Can anyone fill me in? And does anyone have images of those drawings?

    • Proudly powere by Word press ? Have tried three times now to reply only to have my episcal dumped ? Is there a max length of reply on here ?

  9. hello
    the first few weeks were spent learning to print in a clear and legible manner , drawings with bad printing cannot convey adequate information , followed by the basics of drawing lines , joining at 90 degrees , tangential to curves etc . only when that was mastered did we progress to actual details of items , usually from a Tech Drawing instruction book , again only when this was acceptable did we progress to copying actual working drawings from the companies drawing archives , which were for practice only , not used for production purposes . This meant that there was various streams of apprentices at different levels of progress , but by the year end all were of adequate skill to work in the main drawing office in the Royal Exchange building near Middlesbrough railway station or in the smaller drawing offices attached to each of Dormans many different woks or ironstone mines .
    Regarding “images” or prints of these drawings , there was no print machine in the drawing school , but most draughtsmen kept copies of some of their work to use as samples for prospective employers to see , confirming ability .
    I still have a stack of prints of my work from 35 years on the drawing board , not entirerly
    legal but as most are now defunct who is going to object . An example of the sad decline in British manufacturing industry !
    The worst thing is that there are now very few people coming forward with such skills , the computer has destroyed this valuable thinking skill .
    Best regards
    Tony Waddington

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