The Rover shadow factory at the Vineries
The site where the shadow factory was built was known as the Vineries. It is shown on the 1904 O.S. map as a nursery by the track running north of the canal bridge at Woodcock Lane. The 1916 map shows a wind pump there. The water raised was stored in an open tank. Flowers and vegetables were grown there by the Westwood family, a well-known grocery family in Birmingham. There was also a house with rose gardens, fruit trees, bowling green and a pavilion. Pigs were bred there, and poultry was kept. Doubtless at one times vines were also grown. It was this market gardening site that came to change its purpose.
The Air Ministry asked Rover in April 1936 if it could take part in the Shadow Factory scheme. The Government was going to build a factory at Acocks Green in order to produce parts for Bristol Hercules radial engines. The site chosen was Westwood's market gardening business near the canal. By July 1937 the factory was operational. The house remained and was later used by the Co-op laundry across the way. Finally it came into the hands of Acocks Green Demolition.
King George VI visits Acocks Green, March 1938
Towards the end of the war, the Rover factory began to produce Meteor tank engines. These were a Rolls Royce design, and in turn Rover gave up its interest in developing Frank Whittle’s jet engine to them. The five paragraphs below are taken from part of a page on the jet engine by Kevin Phillips, which used to be at http://www.rover.org.nz/pages/histpic/hind6.htm :
This consisted of a much modified but un-supercharged version of the V-12 'Merlin' aircraft engine, and would be produced for the latest heavy allied tanks.
This engine became the most powerful piston engine with which Rover has ever been associated, and developed something like 700 bhp, all very necessary when the incredible weight of the tank is taken into account. This engine was further developed and in Mark IV version, sprang to prominence in the world famous 'Centurion' tank. Later fuel injected M120 versions powered the bigger and more impressive 'Conqueror' tanks.
Later a development from the 'Meteor' was the 'Meteorite' engine range, which was essentially two thirds of a 'Meteor', being a V-8 while the 'Meteor' was a V-12. Meteorites were developed during the late 1940's and were built in both petrol and diesel engine forms for vehicles, for marine use and for use as stationary power units. The mighty 'Antar' tank transporter, built by Thornycroft, was powered by a 'Meteorite', and was often seen dragging 'Meteor' engined tanks around the world.
From the end of hostilities Rover's Acocks Green factory had been designated as the home of 'Fighting Vehicle Engine Research', and this association with the defence ministries carried on for 21 continuous years into 1964, the work always being centred at Acocks Green.
Later the factory built a V8 3.5 litre engine under license from Buick, for the P5, a favourite of Mrs Thatcher and the Queen. It was also where Rover’s Technical Films section was based.
Another summary can be found by entering the search terms 'meteorite engine range mortimer' in a search engine.
The Co-op opened a laundry nearby in February 1939, and that was taken over by Rover to increase capacity. It soon lost part of its site to the war effort. In April 1942 the 250 remaining employees had to leave, as the Rover Aircraft Company needed the space. The laundry reopened in July 1946, and closed in February 1975. The camouflage paint remained until demolition.
The Co-op laundry with camouflage paint, taken after the War. The picture shows their new electric vehicles. Thanks to the Midlands Co-operative Society for the use of this picture, which remains in their copyright.