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End of an era as production switches to new £40 million factory

The curtain today fell on almost 140 years of manufacturing history in Uttoxeter as the final machine to be made at JCB's Heavy Products factory rolled off the production line.

The site on the edge of the town has been linked to manufacturing since 1871 when the agricultural machinery makers Bamfords Ltd opened for business. Bamfords Ltd went into liquidation in 1980 and in 1989 JCB bought the site in Pinfold Street and began production of its famous machines. Today the last JCB machine to be made there – a 26 tonne JS260 tracked excavator – was produced.

The manufacture of tracked and wheeled excavators is now being transferred to the new purpose-built £40 million JCB Heavy Products factory next to the A50 in Uttoxeter.

JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford said: “This is the end of an era because my family has been linked to this site since the nineteenth century when Bamfords Ltd started manufacturing agricultural machinery. But this is also the start of a new and exciting era not only for JCB's excavator business but also for Uttoxeter because the relocation offers the opportunity to redevelop and enhance an important area of the town.”

Sir Anthony's great-grandfather Joseph Bamford was one of five brothers who were the original partners of Bamfords Ltd. Sir Anthony's own father, the late Joseph Cyril Bamford, was famously sacked from Bamfords Ltd by his uncle Henry, who sent him a note saying his services were no longer required. Joseph Cyril Bamford later went on to found JCB, which has grown into one of the world's most successful construction equipment manufacturers.

Among those joining Sir Anthony and employees for a commemorative photograph today were husband-and-wife Colin and Delia Bond, of Uttoxeter, who both worked for Bamfords Ltd. Delia was an office clerk and Colin a machinist. Both eventually left to work for JCB and Delia retired as company archivist three years ago and Colin still works for the company and has notched up 39 years' service.

Delia, 61, said: “In its heyday Bamfords Ltd was a huge employer in Uttoxeter and three generations of my family worked there including my father and grandfather. In those days there wasn't anywhere else for the men of the town to work in manufacturing.”

The move to the new 450,000 sq ft JCB Heavy Products factory represents an opportunity for JCB to grow its tracked and wheeled excavator business substantially once the global construction markets recover from the current downturn. The company's excavator range comprises machines from seven to 46 tonnes.

Plans for the redevelopment of the 22-acre site in Pinfold Street are also forging ahead after London-based McDowell + Benedetti Architects was chosen as the winner of a design contest to devise the scheme's final design master plan.

Six architectural practices were initially invited to submit proposals for the redevelopment of JCB's Heavy Products site in Pinfold Street as part of a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) design contest. Now the London-based McDowell + Benedetti Architects practice has been selected as the winner over Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Architects. Both were invited to the second stage of the competition to produce further design work for the proposed redevelopment of the 22 acre site.

Sir Anthony Bamford instigated the RIBA competition and took a personal involvement in the project to ensure the redevelopment is “of the highest possible standard.”

The Bamford family has links with Uttoxeter stretching back nearly 200 years. Sir Anthony's family started out in business in the town as blacksmiths in the 1820s. An application for outline planning permission has already been submitted to East Staffordshire Borough Council.

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