Detailed history of engineering in Chatteris on the Metalcraft site

The Chatteris Engineering Works was started during the early 1890’s. They specialised in making equipment for South African diamond and gold mining industries around Johannesburg and Pretoria. Production was severely affected during the Boer War between 1900-2, causing the firm to consider different markets. In the early 1900’s Chatteris Engineering Works were to provide many forms of travelling cranes found in dock yards and railway depots. We still have three of the original cranes manufactured by the Chatteris Engineering Works in use in the factory today; other cranes have been seen in places such as India, South Africa and the Isle of Wight

In 1910 Chatteris Engineering Works constructed a water tower on London Road in Chatteris.

In the 1920’s Chatteris Engineering Works started a football team and by the 1950’s they had built new changing rooms which is now on the site were the Sportsman is today.

During both World Wars the business worked practically non-stop night and day to support the war effort.

In the 1950’s Chatteris Engineering Works had become Fairleede Engineering Company Ltd, manufacturing equipment such as gear boxes for the aircraft lifts on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Bulwork.

During the 1960’s Fairleede Engineering Company Ltd became involved in the manufacturing of switch gear chambers for high voltage power distribution.

In 1963 Fairleede Engineering Company became Stainless Metalcraft.

By the late 1970’s / early 1980’s, Stainless Metalcraft had become involved in a new technology for healthcare known as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) manufacturing the first equipment for this industry anywhere in the world. The first prototype machines were called Star and Fish. Around the same time Metalcraft also started working in the nuclear industry; notable projects include a Stillage Support Structure for Sellafield which, at its peak, employed 450 people on the Chatteris site.

At the turn of the century the MRI industry had started to grow significantly and as a result Metalcrafts business also grew peeking with an annual turnover of almost £25million in 2009. During the same period the business diversified into a number of different markets, in addition to the medical and nuclear industries. Notable projects include pressure vessel hulls for submarine rescue, Navies supplied include UK Royal Navy, Korean, Singapore, Swedish and US. Large pressure vessels for oil, gas and petrochemical projects and vacuum vessels for Big Science research including large parts of the CERN LHC experiment.

Today Metalcraft employs 165 people, which includes a total of 12 apprentices. We are very proud to have been developing our own skilled engineers for over 100 years; more than 50% of our current employees have been trained in house. The business now has the Fenland Engineering Skills Centre (FESC) located on our site which is helping to continue this long tradition. In recent years one of our apprentices has been awarded National Young Adult of the Year, a current apprentice has also taken part in a regional final of a welding competition earlier this year.

In the next 5 years Metalcraft has ambitious plans to grow the business to more than three times its current turnover. This should create significant employment opportunities for the area and help increase the general prosperity of the town.