G.R.Averall 2017

Turner and Newall - Maufacturers of Asbestos Containing Materials

Turner & Newall was a leading manufacturing business based in Manchester, United Kingdom. At its peak, it was a constituent of the FT30 index of leading companies on the London Stock Exchange.


INDUSTRIAL giant ... the huge Turner’s site in Rochdale at the height of its power.



The business was founded in 1871 in Rochdale as Turner Brothers by John, Robert and Samuel Turner to manufacture cotton cloth based packaging.

In 1879 it became the first business in the United Kingdom to weave asbestos cloth with power-driven machinery, and the company changed its name to Turner Brothers Asbestos Company.

Shortly before World War I the business opened an asbestos cement plant at Trafford Park.  One of its major products was Trafford Tile asbestos cement sheets, which were widely used for roof and wall construction in industrial and agricultural buildings.


In 1920 it merged with the Washington Chemical Company, Newalls Insulation Company and J. W. Roberts to become Turner & Newall and became listed on the London Stock Exchange in that year.  The company's Turnall brandname is a contraction of Turner & Newall . The third (Sir) Samuel Turner (1878-1955) was chairman from 1929 to 1944: he endowed a School of Industrial Administration at Manchester Municipal College of Technology as well as a Dental School at the Victoria University of Manchester (the Dental School and Hospital donation was £99,000) The company's development under the third Samuel was rapid: it acquired Bells' United Asbestos Companies and several asbestos insulation companies in the UK.

From 1939 until 2001, the company operated an asbestos mine at Havelock in Bulembu in the Kingdom of Swaziland, Southern Africa. Since the company left, former employees have experienced sickness in their lungs because they lacked safety-wear to protect them from the hazardous material. The miners of Havelock have recently failed in their efforts to bring a legal action in Britain against the company. The attitude of management, combined with the absence of trade unions or an effective regulatory authority meant that work conditions at Havelock were harsh.

It moved its Head Office to Manchester in 1949. After World War II it diversified into components for the automotive industry including gaskets.

In 1953, the company bought Porters Cement Industries Ltd, a major producer of chrysotile asbestos products, based in Harare and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, and changed its name to Turnall Fibre Cement (Pvt) Ltd. Turnall Fibre Cement Ltd still operates in Zimbabwe but as an independent company, mainly producing asbestos cement sheets and pipes. According to the company, "there is not an industrial, agricultural or residential area of Zimbabwe that does not have one or more of the company's many [asbestos cement] products in use or on display".

Demise of the business

In 1998 the business was acquired by Federal-Mogul which itself got into financial difficulties and filed for Chapter 11 protection as a result of asbestos claims.  In the United Kingdom the business went into administration in October 2001 leaving a pension fund deficit estimated at £400 million. UK victims of the company's asbestos pollution, such as those in Armley, Leeds, were offered a fraction of the compensation to which they were entitled.

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