This is Morrison's supermarket, near Five Lane Ends, in Idle, Bradford.
Although many of us can remember what stood here before it was built, as the years roll by, there are increasingly more who are unaware of the site’s former use. It might surprise them to learn that on the very ground where they pick up their groceries or petrol, over 340,000 tractors were manufactured.
From 1955 until 1982, this was the Bradford home of the American company, International Harvester.
These images are from the CH Wood Photographic Archive, held at Bradford Industrial Museum. For most of the 20th century, CH Wood produced images, films and other publicity material for many major companies in Bradford and beyond. Fortunately for us, International Harvester was an important client, and we now have a photographic record, not only of the company’s daily life, but also of special events during its time in Bradford.
At its height, the Bradford plant of International Harvester employed more than 2000 people on this site of around 15 acres.
Perhaps the most famous tractor manufactured in Bradford was the B-250, known as ‘The Little Giant’. Almost 30,000 were produced between 1956 and 1961. Here it is again, the
25,000th tractor to be produced in Bradford, pictured with works manager, Reg Kelly, in May 1959.
This is the assembly line in October 1960. A chain drags the tractors along through to the paint booth.
Moving on a couple of years, this is a B-414 with its newly attached wheels.
The third image in this sequence shows a B-414 nearing completion. The hole in the floor was for the ‘dolly’ that carried the tractor along the final stages of assembly.
Further milestones followed as the plant completed its 50,000th tractor in May 1960 and 100,000th in 1963.
New designs were always a closely guarded secret before their public unveiling. This is a first batch of B-275 tractors leaving the works in November 1958. Each one is wrapped in a sheet with the words ‘Top Secret IH’ written on it.
These two images from the late 1970s illustrate how the company involved itself and its employees in the life of the community. They show the International Harvester float in the Lord Mayor’s parade.
For a variety of reasons, the plant was forced to close in 1982. Thankfully, the site didn’t remain derelict for too long as work began on the new Morrisons superstore.