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George Cooke Armitage.

The firm of George Armitage and Sons was associated with Oulton and Woodlesford from the late 19th century when it bought an existing sandstone quarry and dug a marl quarry to feed a new brickworks which opened in 1907. Depending on who you ask the quarries and brickworks were in either Oulton or Woodlesford and perhaps the vagueness of location is because the boundary between the two villages ran across the quarry property.
 
The history of the company has been traced back to 1824 when stonemason John Armitage joined fellow masons to work a quarry at Robin Hood. In 1864 one of his sons established the firm of George Armitage and Sons, also at Robin Hood, and expanded into brick making by exploiting the blue shale or marl which was found along with the sandstone. Since then there has been a George in every generation of the family which can make it a confusing business to trace company history!
 
George Cooke Armitage was born in 1928 at Wakefield and after the Second World War joined his father Leonard to help run the Oulton and Woodlesford operation. By then the company had also expanded onto other sites at Lofthouse and at Howley Park in Morley.
 
After the clay at Woodlesford was exhausted another brickworks was opened at Swillington in 1952, and by 1974 when they celebrated their 150th anniversary Armitage's were producing 64 million bricks a year.
 
The chairman at that time was George Armitage who had retired from a distinguished career as a consultant surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary. He fought at both the Somme and Passchendaele in the First World War for which he was awarded the Military Cross and bar.
 
Eventually in 1988 the firm was sold to Marshalls of Halifax and later to Hanson, but even today the name of Armitage survives in the brick making business through John Armitage's descendant, David Armitage, who runs the York Handmade Brick Company.       

Click on the links below to hear George Cooke Armitage talk about the work at Woodlesford.

George Armitage - The stone quarry at Woodlesford.mp3
Making the bricks.mp3
Company characters.mp3
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An illustration from an Armitage company brochure showing large and small grindstones and the sawmill in the background.