History of Dorman Diesels

Founded by William Henry Dorman in 1869 on Foregate Street, Stafford, W.H.Dorman began by manufacturing cutting tools for the footwear industry, but soon began to produce more specialised machinery such as printing, sewing and grinding machines.

In 1903 W.H.Dorman produced its first internal combustion engine for the emerging motor car industry; this became the main activity of the company.

During the First World War the company was made a Controlled Establishment under the Conditions of War Act and made a notable contribution to the war effort, especially in the development of aerial warfare.

In 1929 Dorman began to move part of the plant to a new 20-acre site on Tixall Road, Stafford. By 1939 the manufacture of engines for road use had ceased and the company began to concentrate on the production of industrial and marine engines.

In 1939 the Ministry of Labour requisitioned the Foregate works for use as a training centre for engineers.  The remainder of the plant transferred from Foregate Street to Tixall Road and concentrated on the production of industrial and marine engines.

In 1959 W.H.Dorman bought the old established Stafford engineering firm of W.H.Bagnall’s Ltd.

W.H.Dorman was taken over by the English Electric Company in 1961 and by 1979 Dorman Diesels Ltd. was a subsidiary of GEC producing Dorman Diesel engines at Stafford and at the old Ruston & Hornsby factory in Lincoln.

The Dorman diesel engine business was bought in 1987 by Broadcrown and was later purchased by the Perkins Engines Company of Peterborough in 1993. The last Dorman-branded engine was produced in 1995, however the DNA of the Dorman engines lives on to this day in the form of the Perkins 4000, which is a development of the Dorman SE.

In 1998 Perkins sold the Ruston & Hornsby range to RHL Spares Ltd following the closure of the Dorman Diesels Central Spares Division in Lincoln. Formed by a group of experienced former Dorman employees to support the Ruston & Hornsby and Dorman Diesel engine ranges; RHL purchased the stock and rights to exclusively support the old Ruston & Hornsby range of engines.  The RHL Spares business was purchased in 2006.

In September 2010 Perkins Engines agreed to sell all of the Dorman Diesels non-SE related parts business including all of the technical records and intellectual property relating to the ST, DA,Q, J, L, LS, P, Y, Monair, F, and DWD engine ranges.

Above right: a selection of historic Dorman literature taken from Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.
Right: design department at Dorman Diesels factory on Tixall Road, Stafford, photo taken around 1985.
Historical advertising for Dorman Diesels from specialised machinery to motor car engines

Copyright © Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History

The Dorman design department at the Stafford factory some time around 1985

Copyright © Staffordshire Museum Service and the Staffordshire Past Track website: www.staffspasttrack.org.uk

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