William Dent Priestman founded his first engineering firm in Hull in 1870, but it was only when he was asked to build a ‘winch and grab’ in an attempt to locate lost gold in a Spanish harbour, that he hit upon the idea of manufacturing the grabs to dredge docks and rivers.
Used first at Hull docks, the Priestman grabs were soon in demand all over the world and the business expanded into producing dredgers, cranes and excavators.
The Priestman manufacturing plant moved to Marfleet, Hull in 1958 and in its heyday employed over 1,500 workers on that site. The business expanded rapidly becoming an household name. However, the firm became a victim of the recession in the 1980’s and the Hull factory closed in 1984.
Bill Bromwich, who worked at for the company for 30 years, eventually as its publicity manager, salvaged thousands of brochures, photographs and memorabilia when the Hull plant went under. He has organised an exhibition which opened at Hedon Museum yesterday and tells the story of Priestman – at Work, at Play.
Hedon Museum is open Saturday and Wednesday from 10am – 4pm and the current exhibition runs until Wednesday, 16th March 2011.
Also referring to Hedon Museum see: Appeal for FS Smith pictures of Holderness.