W. H. Dorman

  That William Dorman could impress his own nature on that of his workmen and apprentices so successfully was due to the general attested strength of his character and personality; however, he was not just the self-assured late Victorian businessman that his photograph reveals but the possessor of an eager, curious and inquiring temperament which led Dorman's along ever more fruitful lines of endeavour in the engineering field.
   Stories have come down to illustrate this side of his nature; for example his predilection for suddenly materialising in person to inspect the handiwork of employees, or of rising by night to make his way from his house into the adjoining works where he would stand clad in nightgown and candle in hand gazing in fond pride at some successful item of new machinery or engrossed in the solution of problems which had arisen during the day.

 Within a few years of its foundation the firm launched into the manufacture of a wide range of specialised machinery including cutting tools for the footwear industry, bag-making machines, and machines for making horse shoe nails, to say nothing of the earliest meat refrigeration plant to be installed at Smithfield Market in London. In all this the skill and competence of the firm's craftsmen was of direct or indirect service to other Stafford industries. Dorman grinders utilised the local grinding wheel industry which had existed since 1865; Dorman cutting tools were used extensively in the local factories of the boot and shoe industry. Ultimately at about the turn of the century all manufacturing rights for the cutting tools and other implements for the footwear industry were transferred to what is now the British United Shoe Manufacturing Company; it was at approximately this time, in 1897, that the firm became a private Limited Liability Company.

Foregate Street Works


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some 75 leading manufacturers in this country alone who produce equipment relying on Dorman's for diesel and gas engined power.
   The story of the development of the business which W. H. Dorman brought into being into what today is that of an orderly and gradual process and its telling requires to begin at the beginning — one hundred years ago.
  What was the man who founded Dorman like? History reveals that not merely was he a skilled engineer, but a man with a fortunate gift of inspiring his employees to dedicate themselves to attain his own remarkable exacting standards of craftsmanship and quality.
Mr. Dorman was able, in addition, to demand, and receive, from his employees the same high degree of sterling personal conduct and self discipline which he had, as the son of one of Stafford's leading Congregational ministers, himself inherited.

  In 1870, when Britain's prosperity under Queen Victoria was approaching its height, a talented young engineer of staunch Congregationalist background, by the name of William Henry Dorman, founded a relatively modest enterprise with the object of producing sole and heel cutting knives for the local boot and shoe industry in the county town of Stafford — on the site of a monastery formerly occupied by monks of the Order of Grey Friars.

  The firm he created, later to be known as W. H. Dorman and Company Limited, has during the intervening century developed into a diesel enterprise producing over 6,000 diesel and gas engines annually of which 60% are exported through 170 overseas distributors, to meet all marine and industrial requirements within a power range of up to 1,000 b.h.p., in countries throughout the world; a further 30% are exported following their initial supply to


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Foregate Street Works extensionn opened in 1913.
The former residence  of W. H. Dorman can be seen on the left.

W. H. Dorman, founder of the Company, one hundred years ago.