How war shaped industrial estate

The Niissen huts purchased from Burtonwood
The Niissen huts purchased from Burtonwood

Tash Tales with Alf Ridyard...

Today as we travel from Leigh to Lowton we see the fringes of the Moss Industrial Estate, which is now a modern purpose-built area of office accommodation.

The workshops all have pristine grass and shrubbery surrounds making it one of the North West’s premier work locations.

To look back where the company started we go back to 1920 when George and William Moss started a building contracts company, the office and workshop of which was on St Helens Road.

It stands to this day as workshop units in a position where Windmill Street once stood.

The company was responsible over the years for some spectacular buildings countrywide, one locally was Bedford High School.

William Moss was also chairman of Leigh Rugby League club back in the 1930s and was responsible for the building of the main stand at the Mather Lane ground.

There is no doubt it stood the test of time as it was still there at the death knell of Mather and served its purpose until the ground also met its fate.

The changes in the company came slowly and WW2 played a big part in its transition, a three-way scenario of compulsory purchases by the war department gave us the outcome we have today.

I will try and explain the how it all came about. Firstly a farmers’ land was requisitioned in Hesketh Meadow Lane in 1939 by the war department.

The land was acquired to build accommodation blocks for the munitions workers at the Royal Ordinance Factory bomb filling factory at Risley, the land’s proximity to Lowton St Marys station making it ideal.

Building work was started in 1941 and was eventually to accommodate 600 workers.

However, before anyone had taken up residency plans changed as the war intensified and it became a land-based Royal Naval signalling school, HMS Cabala which opened in 1942. The proposed munitions workers accommodation was now to be built where today’s Moss Industrial Estate now stands on land then known as “the Hostels”.

Building did make a start but got no further than laying of the main drains and a few bases for the accommodation units.

This is now where the Moss’s become involved George Moss owned a large piece of land in Risley adjoining the ROF site also alongside the RAF base that was also there.

Once again the war department put a compulsory purchase order on the land owned by George Moss and this is where the accommodation was finally built.

Compulsory purchasing never gave the owner the true value of the land so with some help from the Leigh MP Harold Boardman who was heavily involved in “development areas and financial assistance” after WW2, in 1952 they persuaded the powers that be to allow “the Hostels” to become part of the compensation.

The Moss’s started to place small industrial units on the land, purchasing some now defunct accommodation Nissen huts from the fast-changing Burtonwood US army airbase which was rapidly building more permanent family accommodation due to the escalating Cold War and the Berlin air lift.

George Moss also used the existing bases left over from the abandoned ROF workers accommodation blocks.

Initially the area stretched from just one entrance on Sandy Lane and ended before it reached Reeves Mill.

Over the years the Moss grew and now stretches as far as Aspull Common.

In 1982 the younger generation of the Moss family Philip and Jonathon took over. And by 1989 they had concentrated their efforts on the estate and ceased the contract building side of the business.

The outcome is what we see today, an aesthetically pleasing work environment.