This company began life as the Northern Agricultural Implement Foundry in 1872. It grew with the arrival of the railway and later diversified into marine engineering.
By the time of the Great War it was known as the Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Co. It prospered during World War One making boom defences for the Royal Navy.
The period of World War Two also saw an upturn in orders, and worldwide fame was achieved through work on PLUTO – Pipeline Under The Ocean – the delivery system for petrol and diesel for the Allied invasion of Normandy.
The company name was changed to Resistance Welders Ltd. in 1945 and the post-war era was one of sustained development and sales of welding machines to all parts of the globe. The company name changed again in 1962 to A.I. Welders Ltd. and in 1985 Verson took over A.I. The Rose Street site was closed in 1988 with operations moving to the Longman Industrial Estate.
A.I. Welders: Photo: Highland Archive Service, GB232/D1/19/1
The development of specialist machinery such as rail welders, wheel rim welders for the automotive industry and ring welders for gas turbine and jet engines saw the Company prosper and in 1965 the name A. I. Welders Ltd was adopted. The recession of the early 1980s again saw tough trading condition and AI Welders was acquired by American based Verson in 1985. Relocating to a new site on the Longman Industrial Estate did little to improve prospects. Verson A. I. ceased trading in 1991 and following a management buyout A. I. Welders was re-established a few months later but on a much-reduced scale. The Company finally ceased trading in early 2014 after almost 142 years in business.
By the 1890s the foundry had taken over a lot of Rose Street and needed a new building. A Ross designed it; he wanted to make a statement that they were a successful company and wanted the name plastered along the front of the building like the Glasgow companies.
When the new building was built in 1893-5, the company changed its name. Sketches were sent to Craven and Dunnill who made the mosaics and came to Inverness to install them in 1896. The panels were designed to show the work of the company.
The Rose Street Foundry building is linked to the East Church further along Academy Street in that there is tile mosaic work in the front entrance that was installed by Craven and Dunnill as part of the 1898 large addition to the church.
It is also thought that when the entrance to the Station Hotel was moved in 1898 that the floor tiles were possibly laid by Craven and Dunnill too.
Originally made by Craven Dunnill Jackfield, the lettering and panel mosaics were installed in 1896, shortly after the building was built. Over the years, the mosaics deteriorated and one panel had been removed, sometime during the 1950s. As part of the full restoration of the building, the panel mosaics were restored by the Mosaic Restoration Company and reinstalled in March 2019. During the latter stages of the building’s restoration, the original fascia lettered mosaics were discovered beneath layers of paint and have also been restored. Both sets of mosaics are considered an important element of both Inverness’ and Scotland’s industrial heritage.