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Binns Road Meccano Factory, site of
Binns Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  1914
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ385905
The model-building system called Meccano was invented in the UK by Frank Hornby, who went on create the train sets that bear his name and Dinky Cars. Hugely popular around the world, Meccano brought the ability to make many different models of all sizes and complexities out of a single set of components. This made it a toy appreciated by both children and parents everywhere.
Hornby patented his system of perforated flat metal strips and connectors in 1901. He commenced manufacturing on a small scale with some financial help and eventually was able to give up his day job in 1906 in favour of his product. A one-room factory was set up at Duke Street, Liverpool, but by 1909, the whole building was leased. Around this time Meccano Ltd was founded and Hornby's toy received its famous name.
The factory moved to an old carriage works in West Derby Road but by 1914 the Meccano company was in a position to purchase 2.4ha in the Old Swan area for the purpose-built Binns Road factory, which opened just before the outbreak of World War I. Dinky Cars were later manufactured here as well as Meccano. The site was eventually crowded with red brick buildings with series of pitched roofs. Nothing remains of this complex on the site today, unfortunately.
Production continued during World War I and in 1922, washers, plates, couplings, screwed rods, curved strips, girders, trunions and special parts were introduced. By 1925, there were more than 100 pieces in the Meccano range, including the first electric motors. The nickel plate and brass pieces were sold unpainted until 1926, when red and green colours were introduced. Several colour schemes have been used since then.
During the 1920s and 30s, Meccano was Britain's largest toy manufacturer, with factories in Speke and Aintree as well as the headquarters at Binns Road. There were also a number of factories overseas. Production stopped during World War II when the Binns Road premises was used for the war effort. Production slowed a decade later during the Korean War when metal was scarce.
In the 1960s, Meccano made more than 300 different pieces. The factory employed some 2,000 people in 1963 but by then profits had begun to decline. The toy seemed old-fashioned to a generation of children hooked on TV, space travel and robots. A change to model sets that were simpler and quicker to build, with more modern themes, came too late to save the company. Meccano Ltd was taken over by Lines Brothers in 1964 and then Airfix in 1971-2.
The Binns Road factory closed in 1979 and most of the complex was had been demolished by the end of 1980. In 1989, the site was sold and the remaining building removed. The site is now a car park.
Meccano Ltd UK was bought by General Mills, who already owned Meccano France. All operations then moved to France, where Meccano is still manufactured by a joint venture between Ingroup and 21 Centrale Partners.
Meccano remains popular with model makers and is still used by engineers testing design theories. In 2009, engineering students at the University of Liverpool and members of the North East Meccano Guild joined forces to build a temporary Meccano footbridge 5m above the Leeds & Liverpool Canal extension outside the Liver Building.
The structure was designed by Hayden Nuttal of Atkins and was made from 12.7mm wide strips of Meccano. The 300mm wide bridge consisted of two parts a 9m sliding beam and a 12m drawbridge section. It contained 100,000 pieces of Meccano and weighed half a tonne. On 8th August 2009, television presenter James May tested the bridge by walking across it unscathed.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
www.dalefield.com
www.frankhornby.com
www.liv.ac.uk
www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
www.meccano.com
www.nce.co.uk
Location

Binns Road Meccano Factory, site of