Priestman started in Hull in 1876.
The Company was founded by William Dent Priestman (1847-1936) who was a strict Quaker and who worked with his father, at Holdernes Foundry in Hull, and later his brother to Found Priestman Brothers.
The brothers manufactured dredging equipment, cranes and winches. Later the company would become known for building first rope operated then hydraulic excavators.
The Priestman story began when William Dent Priestman in 1876, who had founded an engineering firm in Hull six years earlier, was asked to build a winch and grab for work off the west coast of Spain, in an attempt to locate lost gold. Though nothing was ever found, the mechanism that William Dent created was found to be equally effective at dredging mud and silt in docks, rivers and harbours. William set up with his brother to manufacture the new grabs.
By the 1870s William Priestman had developed an interest in the developing technology of the internal combustion engine. William Priestman developed an engine that had a pressurised the fuel tank using an air pump. The outlet from the tank leading to a fuel atomizer which continuously injected warm fuel into a vaporizing chamber heated by exhaust gases, with lamp oil being used as the fuel. (Richard Hornsby & Sons another local company was also building similar engines to the patents of Herbert Akroyd Stuart).
These Patent grabs were soon used at Hull Docks – with such success that they were soon in demand all over the world. Success after success followed, before the firm went into liquidation in 1895.
Restructuring followed, and Priestmans began to shine brightly once more. By the First World War, its cranes were being used to rebuild French villages , and by 1921, a small "ditcher" for field drainage was produced, followed by funding from the Ministry of Agriculture for further developments.
Face shovels, dragline excavators and backactor ditching machines as well as power grabs became the mainstay of the expanding Priestman company.
In 1928, Priestmans produced the first of their "animal-named" excavators. Such names as the Lion, Tiger and Panther would later become synonymous with Priestmans. Early machines were very crude with the driver sitting next to the engine.
The machines an be configured as Draglines, Face Shovel, Bach hoe, Skimmer and Cranes, by changing the Jib / Boom and ancillary equipment.
Work started on their Marfleet base in 1950. It would eventually cover 63 acres in Hull, and by 1963, when the firm embraced hydraulic power, it had long been a household name.
In the 1970s they developed a range of hydraulic excavators. The VC range of dredging machine with long reach booms to replace draglines. his had an innovative sliding counter weight to balance the boom at long reach. These were popular with small sand and gravel pits and with the drainage board and water companies in Lincolnshire for cleaning dykes. They also built special versions on tall pedestals for dock side un-loading duties.
The Priestman division was sold off in 1984 to the near by firm of Sanderson of Skegness in Lincolnshire. The Excavators complimenting their lineup of sitedumpers, mixers & site batch plants and forklift trucks.
The remaining Acrow Group collapsed in 1985 when the company went into administration and the Crane division, by now slimmed down to one production plant in Sunderland, was picked up by the American crane builder Grove.
Even as recently as the late 1980's Priestmans produced special "to order" excavators and plant machinery for the Home Office to meet MOD specification, with the Lion range of excavators and cranes produced even then 20 years after mainstream sales had been discontinued.[citation (source) needed]
The Sanderson Group then got into trouble in the early 1990s, due to the recession and cheap foreign imports from Japan and the far east of Hydraulic excavtors. The Priestman operation were then sold to another local company RB Cranes, from Lincoln. RB sold the VC line of long reach machines for a short period, as they complimented there draglines for dreding operations. RB Cranes following there break up/restructuring of the Ruston-Bucyrus group were then taken over by NEI Group and merged with the crane buiding firm Coles of Sunderland operation and, began building offshore cranes for then booming North Sea oil rig platform market.
Following the Sanderson Forklift era the part of the company was bought in a management buyout by Tim Dillon, the former manager and continued to provide Spares back up and support for machines built from 1900 onwards until the companies demise in the 1990's. The resurrected company produced access platforms mounted mostly on LDV van chassis for local Kingston Communications telephone vans amongst others through the 1990's.The replacement parts business became unsustainable after the last Priestman employee retired in 2007. All the drawings and specifications exist. These are all in storage slowly deteriorating with age.
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Today, what is left of the firm trades in Bradford under new owner, Gardner Denver, the American based compressor and blower manufacturer. No longer are cranes or excavators manufactured.
The Priestman Grabs & VC Excavators operations along with RB Cranes were sold in October 2009 to Delden CSE Ltd, who continue to offer a full range of spares and new grab manufacture from their premises in Selston, Nottinghamshire.
Today the former Priestman factory site on Hedon Road, Hull, exists as a diverse industrial estate with numerous business using the former excavator manufacturers old premises and site.
- Crawler cranes & Universal excavators
- Priestman Cub
- Priestman Lion
- Priestman Panther
- Priestman Tiger
- Priestman Wolf
- Wolf Mk.I
- Wolf Mk.II
- Wolf Mk.III
- Crawler cranes
- Priestman LC 51
- Priestman Bison BC 80
- Priestman MC 250
- Priestman MC 300
- Priestman MC 350
- Priestman MC 400
- Priestman Lion 40H
- Priestman Lion 50H
- Priestman Lion 85H
- Hydraulic excavators
- Mustang Mini (Priestman badged Takeuchi model) 3 machines in range.
- Priestman Mustang range
- Mustang 90 Wheeled excavaor
- Mustang 120 Perkins 6.354 / Ford 365 engine option
- Mustang 150 (wheeled version of 120)
- Mustang Swing Shovel - A 120 with 1¼ Cu yd front shovel gear
- Mustang 160 16 ton servo control with Ford engine.
- Mustang 220 22 ton servo control with Perkins V8 / G.M.engine option.
- Mustang 320 - 30+ ton m/c Perkins V8 engine ? (rumoured to be only 4 built)
- Mustang 108 S Ford 365 6 cyl
- Mustang 168 Ford 380 6 cyl turbo.
- Mustang 2-12 (Sanderson) Ford 4 cyl.
- Mustang 2-11 Wheeled version of 2-12 (Sanderson)
- Mustang 2-15 (Sanderson)Perkins 6.354
- Mustang 2-18 (Sanderson)Perkins 6.354
- Priestman VC excavators
- Industrial cranes
A range of Cranes for fixed industrial dockside and Oil Rig pedestal mounting were built from the 1970s onward.
A testament to the longevity and quality of Priestman Brothers machines is the dredger which was in use for over 100 years on the River Ouse at York till the late 1980's. Priestman were still producing spare parts for this machine to keep it running, when in reality the sales staff should have been selling a new machine - had they done so Priestmans may still have existed today, but the truth is the product they made was just too good and lasted too long. Their competitors undercut them and sold similar machines, some of them allegedly blatant copies, at a lower prices.
Preserved Machines ListEdit
A large number of machine still survive today. Some ar still used in commercial work, mainly in 'occasional use' roles such as dreging ponds and canals.
A increasing number are being restored by enthusiasts and used for demonstrations and 'play'.
- Collection of machines owned by Adrian Patterson and displayed at the Vintage Excavator Trust site at Threlkeld, Cumbria.
- Beaver Mk I of 1965 (S/N A12202) @ Threkeld, fitted with Lister HB4
- S.E. Davis & Son Ltd. have a Cub in their collection, at Astwood Bank Redditch.
- Several are kept at Andrew Beaulahs farm near Hull, owned by several private collectors. These can be seen working at regular 'open days' and some feature in classic plant videos.
Scale Models / ToysEdit
A number of toy manufactures have included Models of Priestman machines in there ranges going back to the early twentieth century.
- Tri-ang built tinplate models from the 1930 of cranes and offered a Priestman Grab to go with the Jones KL44 crane model as optional extra. http://www.triang.nl/cranes.htm (photos)
- add details of other models here please
- List of Construction Plant Manufactures
- Ruston (engine builder)
- NCK Rapier
- Ransomes & Rapier
- Vintage Excavator Trust
- Shows and Meets
- Classic Plant & Machinery Magazine
- Web site on Coles (see below)
- ↑ Science museum Photos Short history with photo of William Priestman
- ↑ Graces guide - Acrow article
- ↑ CP&M V6 no.12 August 2008
- Site with some Info and photos
- National Archives index of Priestman related material held
- Priestman dredger wreck in Australia - built in 1889, sunk 1893