Record Details

NHER Number:51665
Type of record:Building
Name:Former factory of Charles Burrell and Son

Summary

This early 19th century building was part of the former Charles Burrell and Son's agricultural engineering works. It is constructed of flint, with red brick dressings and a red brick façade under a pantiled roof. The factory is two storeys, with a 6 bay façade, and has been extended to the south-east with two two-storey bays and two one-storey bays, the latter under a gabled pantiled roof.
Although it is uncertain what date the company was founded, Charles Burrell and Son's was well established by the 1830's, and by 1875 Burrell's were the largest manufacturers of traction engines in the world as well as the largest employer in Thetford. However, following the First World War it became apparent that there was no future for steam engines. From 1920 the workforce was gradually reduced until the works closed in 1928, placing almost one quarter of the town's male workforce out of work.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 86808 83229
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Former Factory of Charles Burrell and Son. Listed 1971, grade II.
Factory. Early C19. Flint with red brick dressings and a red brick façade. Pantiled roof. 2 storeys in 6 bays, extended to south-east with two 2-storey bays and 2 one-storey bays, the latter under a gabled pantiled roof. 6 windows each floor, those to the ground floor under segmental heads, arranged in 2 groups of 3. All boarded up. Extension has one bay of similar windows and the south-east bay has a pedestrian door to ground floor. This bay without a roof. Single-bay extension to south-east with 2 segmental windows and a doorway. Gabled roof to main block. Flint and brick north-west return. Factory cross wing to rear under a gabled pantile roof. Interior not inspected.
See (S1) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 12 August 2008.

Little is known of the early history of the Burrell foundry. Although trade catalogues from the late 19th century claim that the company was established as a small foundry in 1770, there is little evidence to support this. The first member of the Burrell family to be associated with a foundry is Joseph Burrell, Charles' uncle, who is listed in the 1796 accounts of St Cuthbert's parish overseer as paying for a dwelling house, two shops, and a foundry. This foundry may have been moved to the Minstergate location in April 1802 when Joseph began paying a rate on a house, a close and a stable in St Peter's parish. This location is marked on George Burrell's 1807 map (S2) as 'Mr. Burrell's'. By 1807 advertisements were appearing for Joseph Burrell and Co. and these continued until 1820. In 1837, within a few days of Joseph's brother James' death, James' two sons (Charles and James) published separate advertisements as brass and iron founders, apparently in competition with one another.
See (S3) for further details.
Charles Burrell and Son's agricultural engineering works was well established by the 1830's. The company achieved success by early adaptation of steam engines for a variety of uses and the evelopment of locomotives which could be used as stationary engines to drive agricultural equipment. A large scale expansion was undertaken in 1846-7 during which the St Nicholas works were almost completely reconstructed. In 1848 a lightweight engine was produced which soon developed into the first traction engine and by 1875 Burrell's were the largest manufacturers of traction engines in the world. By 1879 they were also the largest employer in Thetford.
In the late 19th century Burrell and Son began to prodice sawmill engines, marine engines, trams and small steamboats, and after 1890 they specialised in fairground engines and steam roundabouts. During this time the company continued to expand until it occupied the entire area between St Nicholas Street and the Little Ouse.
During the First World War, Burrell's produced shells and gun mountings, but this represented a final period of prosperity for it had become clear that there was no future for the steam engine. From 1920 the workforce was gradually reduced until the works closed in 1928, placing almost one quarter of the town's male workforce out of work.
See (S4) for further details. See also (S5).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 12 August 2008.

Monument Types

  • FACTORY (Post Medieval to Modern - 1846 AD? to 1928 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: 1996. Photograph of Burrell factory, Minstergate, Thetford. Colour.
---Photograph: Photographs of Former factory of Charles Burrell and Son, St Nicholas Works, Thetford. Black & white.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Scheduling record: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England.
<S2>Map: Burrell, G. B.. 1807. Map of Thetford.
<S3>Article in serial: Osborne, D.. 1990. Burrells of Thetford: further research on the beginnings.. Journal of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society. Vol 4, No 5, pp 175-86.
<S4>Monograph: Crosby, A.. 1986. A History of Thetford.. 2.
<S5>Publication: Clarke, R. H.. 1952. Chronicles of a Country Works.

Related records

30551Related to: Burrell Museum (Building)
MNO795Related to: Former factory of Charles Burrell & Sons Minstergate THETFORD (Revoked)
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