Uncertain future as historic Sheffield foundry goes on sale

Darwins Castings' Sheffield Road premises are near Junction 34 of the M1
Darwins Castings' Sheffield Road premises are near Junction 34 of the M1

A historic Sheffield foundry is up for sale and bosses say its future is “up in the air.”

The Darwins Castings’ Fitzwilliam Works on Sheffield Road, Tinsley, is being marketed as ‘industrial accommodation with cranes and substantial power supply’ next to Junction 34 of the M1.

The firm, which dates back to 1774, uses sand castings to make pump, valve and equipment parts for industry.

It was bought by BondsHold Ltd in 2015. Established in Durham in 1868, it is a group of foundries with operations in Crook, Cumbria, Sheffield and Scunthorpe through its Bonds Foundry, Bonds Precision Castings, Darwins Castings and Bonds Heavy Castings respectively. It is unclear how many people work in Sheffield, but the group employs 300.

Melissa Duncan, director, said no decision about its future had been made.

She added: “We’re seeing if there is any market interest in the land and buildings. Business will continue in terms.

“It’s all up in the air. We are longstanding owners of foundries, we have been doing this for years. We are not venture capital investors in that way, we don’t set short term goals.”

Darwins Holdings’ most recent accounts, for the year ended September 30 2016, show it made a £64,824 loss, on turnover of £3.64m. It was an improvement on a £110,172 loss the year before.

The Fitzwilliam Works includes a main foundry building, workshops, first floor offices and stores. It also has two detached stores.

In 2016, BondsHold bought Bradken UK to establish Bonds Heavy Castings in Scunthorpe.

Last year, BondsHold chairman Paul Duncan said he was anticipating a “transformational year.”

On the firm’s website he states the group’s strategy is to buy engineering assets at ‘value prices’.

He adds: ‘In recent years, Bonds Foundry, Bond Precision Castings and Darwins have had a customer base primarily related to steel pump casings and impellers for OEMs in oil/gas pumps.

‘Due to the fall in the price of oil and the subsequent curtailment of new projects, this market reduced – although the aftermarket has held-up somewhat. This is a temporary aberration as oil/gas developments cannot be postponed indefinitely.

‘Castings for warships is also an important market and the group is well placed on new UK power generating marine developments. For the post-Brexit UK economy, Bonds will provide a potentially important domestic strategic capability’.

In February, Bondshold was hailed one of the fastest-growing exporters amongst private SMEs, according to the 4th annual Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100.

Over the last two-year period export sales had grown 67 per cent to £12.1 million with significant growth in exports to Germany and the USA.