Business History

Back in the scrapyard at Greenhead, redundant machinery from the textile industry was being processed into high quality feedstock for local foundries and Sheffields steelworks. Even further afield, Skinningroves famous steelworks in the northeast was a regular destination by both day and night for Schofields larger vehicles, a 216 mile round trip, the journey was a full days (long days) work for stalwart driver Harold Brown, a character and long time employee who was familiar with most of the pub landlords en route from Greenhead to Skinningrove! Another regular customer was the Dick Lane foundry of English electric in Bradford, Carl struck up a friendship with Harry Wilkinson, the purchasing manager. English electric was to become the bedrock of Schofields ferrous scrap metal business during the 70’s and 80’s. The cupolas at Dick Lane foundry need up to 800 tonnes a month of low phosphorous cast iron broken no larger than 18′ plus sheared short steel, this low phos or grade 17 cast iron was to be Schofields speciality. Material was both delivered and collected by Schofields from merchants all over the UK, at the same time Carl was persuading Harry to accept grade 17 cast iron skull broken small and blended with the other broken castings, brake drums and engines, skull could be bought cheaper therefore raising the margin on the whole load. On top of this the breaking process was refined, a purpose made breaking pit with 12′ thick steel plates on top of each other bedded in upto 3′ of tarmac, with drainage meant that even in the depths of winter Schofields cast iron was clean. Most other merchants were breaking in filthy conditions, a larger 1.25 tonne steel breaking ball, a crane with a 40ft jib instead of 30′ meant that cast upto 12′ thick could be broken, this in turn meant that they could break material the others wouldn’t or couldn’t touch, all incoming materials were analysed, checking for correct carbon, silicon and phos levels in fact up to 16trace elements were checked this extra information meant that Schofields could more accurately blend the cast iron mix. As well as being sole suppliers by now there were separating and screening plants, fed by Schofields dragline and loading shovels separating the metals runnings from the black foundry sand, a waste skip service taking waste to nearby landfill sites. Sadly all this was to end, with the sudden closure, for environmental reasons, of the foundry in 1990.

The next generation of Schofields had started their working lives in the business during the ’70s the first being Carls eldest son Mark, brother Georges sons Andrew, Richard and Michael all following later. This generation was having a very varied working life, from swinging the hammer breaking textile machinery in the mills and processing scrap in the yard, there now came local authority work. Carl had had a chance meeting with the area engineer for the newly formed West Yorkshire Metropolitan Council, one Keith Dwyer, another of lifes great characters, Carl was invited to tender for hire work including winter road maintenance, gritting in other words, or better still snow ploughing, playing in the snow in large wagons and paid for the pleasure! What could be better? It became Carls passion, a sort of paid hobby, a change from breaking cast iron.

By 1980 almost every piece of equipment they owned that could be adapted to move snow had been, 16 bulk gritters, tippers with ploughs, crawler shovels, jcbs, everything and everybody was utilised in the big snows of the time, working 4.30am until midnight and even all night to keep the trans Pennine passes open. A lot of the gritters that Schofields used were unique, built and modified in their own workshops, sandblasted and sprayed by Mark with the most effective rust preventative paint that money could buy, the vehicles were never less than smart even though far from new, new vehicles couldn’t be justified on council rates of pay, most of the time it made a profit and most of the time, most of the workforce enjoyed doing it. There were occasions however when with his diesel frozen and waxed, salt frozen solid (yes it does freeze) hands and feet colder still, a driver might long to be home in his nice warm bed. For Carl one of the problems with gritting was that his precious stock piles of cast iron prebroken ready for delivery should unforeseen circumstances prevent him breaking, would dwindle whilst he was out in his snowplough playing in the snow. To counter this as soon as the weather permitted he would break with a vengeance , so year on year the piles grew bigger and the roadways around the site narrower, by the time Dick lane foundry closed there was enough stock for around two years melting left.

Schofields remote rural hill top location means that scrap has to be sourced from far and wide therefore modern reliable transport has to be the order of the day. Schofields smartly kept highly specced Fodens have been a familiar sight on the northern roads for over 40 years, these vehicles along with the gritters have been featured in several Heritage Commercial magazine articles with words and photographs supplied by keen amateur photographer Marks archive of over 60,000 photographs.

The Greenhead site has seen much modernisation over the years, a non ferrous sorting shop, 4 bay vehicle workshop, tarmac roadways (since the early 70s), new weighbridge, site concrete, drainage, the introduction of strict health and safety rules and environmental legislation, I.T. systems, each in its turn affecting the working lives of the Schofield family, which by now sees Marks two sons, another Carl and John (J.B.) establishing their selves in the business, three generations all working together recycling, as they have for the last 130 years at Greenhead.

To the outsider looking in Schofields legendary mountains of scrap seem never to change, in reality though much of the incoming material is processed and loaded for export the same day, only the higher grade foundry material being stock piled until orders are received. The markets for recycled scrap metal have changed dramatically during the last 10 years, traditionally their scrap sales would be split 80-90% home consumption with the rest going to export, now the opposite is true. Schofields do however still supply most of the areas foundries, the large stocks ensuring that material is available no matter how large the order.

As for the future, probably more of the same, changes in legislation are challenges that have to be met, the lofty rural location, a pleasant place to work in summer, a challenging environment in winter, rain, winds and snow. The rain usually being horizontal and travelling at 60mph. Challenging or not Greenhead has been home as well as work to six generations of the Schofield family, any plans to expand into nearby towns scuppered because none of them want to work anywhere else but Greenhead.

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