Survey report of turnstile building at the former British Timken site in Duston


NIAG was contacted by Jenny Ballinger, Conservation Officer with Northampton Borough Council, who had in turn been approached by the developers of the former British Timken site at Duston. They had 'found' the former turnstile building for the Timken athletics track along the south-western boundary of the site, complete with turnstile. It was in a poor state of repair and due for demolition unless anyone was willing to take responsibility for it. It was understood that no one had come forward and thus NIAG agreed to record the building prior to demolition. The survey was undertaken on 30th October 2009 by Peter Perkins, Geoffrey Starmer, Jane & Terry Waterfield.

The British Timken Works was built to produce roller bearings on a green-field site immediately to the north of Duston village commencing in 1941. At its peak over 4,000 people were employed in the factory. Production ceased in 2002 and the works were demolished over the next 4 years. A survey of the works was undertaken prior to demolition but it appears that the turnstile building was excluded. It is not known precisely when the turnstile building was constructed but it is thought likely to date from the 1950s.

the turnstile building
The turnstile building.

The turnstile building was located alongside what is assumed to have been the former entrance to the Timken sports ground, accessed from a lane leading off Main Road, Duston at grid reference: SP 723611. The building sat adjacent to the boundary of the former Timken site. Butted against the south west wall was a stone built pillar that was once part of a double gateway, the metal track and accessories associated with the gates remaining in the concrete road surface. At the time of the survey, apart from the Timken gates on Main Road in Duston, the turnstile building and gate pillar were the only remaining structures relating to British Timken on the site.

Access to the south-west and south-east external walls (including the gate pillar) was severely restricted due to the combination of a steel fence along the boundary coupled with extensive growth of ivy on these façades. Likewise there was a large growth of ivy on part of the north-east wall and much of the roof. All of this inhibited recording some aspects of the building.

Description of turnstile building

The building was rectangular measuring approximately 2.8 x 2.5 metres and the outer walls were constructed of coursed stonework, a mixture of ironstone and limestone (both occurred naturally in the Duston area). There was an internal skin of brick and the structure was surmounted by a pre-cast concrete roof. The edge of the roof carried a parapet surmounted by concrete coping slabs. In some places these coping slabs were missing and some were hidden under the ivy. The northern half of the north-east wall had deteriorated, with extensive loss of the exterior stonework, revealing in some places the brick liner and what appeared to be an infill of cement mortar, brick and stone waste.

plan of turnstile building
Plan of turnstile building.

Doorways in the north-west and south-east walls were positioned to allow people to pass through the turnstile in roughly a straight line. The door in the south-east wall was still present but had been permanently closed for some time. It was hinged at its eastern edge and had originally opened inwards. There was a single window opening in the centre of the south-west wall but this had been blocked up at some time using breeze blocks.

The walls of the building were overall 0.35 to 0.38m thick and constructed with coursed stone exterior approximately 0.13m thick and a brick interior 0.11m thick. The bricks appeared to be 'commons' measuring 214 x 110 x 73mm, typical of those used in the mid 20th century. At the door and window openings, brick returns were used to provide a smooth transition between stone exterior and brick interior. However, judging from the damaged north-east wall, the gap between outer stone and inner brick faces in other parts of the structure was filled with cement-based rubble which included pieces of brick.

The roof appeared to be a pre-cast concrete slab measuring approximately 2.5 x 2.25 metres and 0.14 metres thick. It was clearly not cast in situ as there were mortar joints visible above the top course of bricks. Within the roof slab were a number of square holes visible from beneath at regular intervals, some of these holes contained wooden blocks. It is suggested that all originally contained wooden blocks and that these were inserted prior to casting, perhaps to act as a thickness guide or to help position the steel reinforcing bars which the slab undoubtedly contained. The roof slab appeared to be in good condition. It was not possible to ascertain what type of covering had been used on the flat roof or indeed if it had a gradient to facilitate drainage.

the turnstile
The turnstile.


The building contained a half-height turnstile of tubular steel construction. The four curved tubular steel baffles were mounted within a semi-circular frame and rotated around a perpendicular axis. Rotation of the baffles one quarter of a turn would have permitted one person to proceed though the turnstile, with rotation being controlled by a foot-operated lever which engaged with the base of the rotating baffles. The cast iron foot treadle itself was circular and contained the name 'Sir WH Bailey & Co Ltd Patricroft' cast into its upper surface.

Due to the amount of detritus on the concrete floor of the building, it was not possible to ascertain how the turnstile had been fixed to the floor, but it was clearly not in its normal operational position. It is thought likely that the turnstile frame itself rotated about a fixed point near to one corner to facilitate people exiting the sports ground. It appeared to have been left in this ‘open’ position.

Adjacent gateway

As noted earlier, the turnstile building stood adjacent to the remains of a gateway. The north-east pillar remained abutting the turnstile building but there was no sign of the south-west pillar. However, the metal strips on which the gates rolled open remained in the surface of the concrete, as did both pivot cups for the gate hinges and the centre latch stud. Thus the width of the gate opening could be ascertained (approximately 3.75 metres between gateposts).

The stone used to construct the gate pillar appeared to be ironstone but different in colour to that used for the turnstile building. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the stonework of the pillar was bonded into the turnstile building or vice versa. This suggests that they were constructed at different times. Neither the gates nor the turnstile building appear on the 25 inch OS map of Duston published in 1937 and it is likely that both were built after construction of the works, most probably in the 1950s.


Thanks are due to Jenny Ballinger, Northampton Borough Council; Alvin Brown, David Wilson Homes.

A more comprehensive version of this report is available from the Secretary.

Peter Perkins

All photographs ©Peter Perkins

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