Archive centreWhitehaven
ReferenceYDB 68
TitleHigh Duty Alloys Ltd, Distington
DescriptionCompany magazines and brochures, 1960s-1990s; press cuttings, 1970s-1980s; time cards, 1940-1941; papers relating to company accidents, 1943-1945; plan of site, 1999; photograph album of site construction, 1940-1941; photograph album of drama group, 1948-1965; photographs of site, plant, presentations and visits, 1960s-1990s.
Extent3 boxes, 1 outsize file, 1 outsize volume, 1 outsize roll
ContextHigh Duty Alloys (HDA) was created by Colonel Wallace Charles Devereux in Slough in 1927 to produce aluminium parts for aircraft. During the 1930s HDA was producing parts for Rolls Royce in particular and demand led to construction of another factory at Redditch, Worcestershire which was opened in August 1939. The outbreak of war in September 1940 required HDA staff at Slough to plan for another 'shadow' factory of the Air Ministry and with the persuasion of 'Jack' Adams (later Lord Adams of Ennerdale), Secretary of the Cumberland Development Council, a site at Lillyhall Farm at Distington was selected. The site's sub-strata was particularly suitable for the positioning of a giant "Erie" forging hammer. Construction on the site started in 1940 by John Laing Ltd of Carlisle and production began in December 1940. Production at Distington during the war years was frenetic: the foundry, forge and extrusion presses produced parts for virtually all British aircraft and aero engines and the work force reached a peak of almost 3000 men and women working around the clock, seven days a week.
The post-war period saw some difficult adjustments: the workforce fell to around 1000 people and the reduced demand for aircraft parts saw the factory producing aluminium for pre-fab houses and milk churns. HDA restructured the company to allocated Slough for castings, Redditch for forging and Lillyhall for extrusions. A 5,000 ton extrusion press was added to the two 2,000 ton and one 3,000 ton water presses on the Lillyhall site in 1952, to be joined by a 1,250 ton integrated extrusion press in the early 1960s and later a 2,750 ton press and 1,600 ton unit to meet demand for commercial products. In the 1960s the site was producing items such as ladders, lighting, car parts, stadium seating, underground rolling stock as well as many other products. HDA won the Queen's Award to Industry in 1969 and the Lillyhall site by this time was producing over 100 parts for the supersonic airliner Concorde as well as parts for the Harrier and helicopters, warships, armoured fighting vehicles and missiles.
Recession in the aluminium industry led to further major restructing with job losses at Lillyhall and the parent group Hawker Siddeley, making each division autonomous. The Lillyhall site became HDA Extrusions Ltd from 1 January 1976. The company was taken over by British Aluminium Co Ltd in March 1979. In December 1982 British Aluminium merged with Alcan Aluminium (UK) Ltd to form British Alcan Aluminium Ltd. Lillyhall became the sole producer of high strength aluminium alloys for the aerospace, defence and nuclear industries, and changed its name to Alcan High Duty Extrusions Ltd in May 1985. There was subsequent modernisation of the site and plant to meet new demands and produce new alloys.
Restructuring and competition led to numerous disputes and redundancies during the 1980s and 1990s. The parent company sold the Lillyhall business (by then known as Alcan Speciality Extrusions Ltd) to a new parent company British Aluminium based in Manchester in 1996. In 2001 British Aluminum was sold by its own parent company Luxfer to the French company Pechiney, Europe's largest producer of aluminium. The Lillyhall site was then employing around 280 people on site. More redundancies were announced on the site in early 2006. In July 2006 Pechiney announced that all 160 employees on site would lose their jobs, as the Lillyhall site would close by the end of June 2007 and remaining production would switch to France.
Catalogue levelFonds
Subject termsAluminium smelting

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CodePerson/Corporate namesDates
NA109Lillyhall, Distington/Workington; Redditch; Slough; High Duty Alloys Ltd; 1927-2007; Manufacturer of Aluminium productsLillyhall, Distington/Workington; Redditch; Slough; High Duty Alloys Ltd; 1927-2007; Manufacturer of Aluminium products1927-2007
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