Established in 1813 by Robert Tasker, Taskers of Andover Ltd. was an engineering firm based near Andover.

It became a leading manufacturer of a wide range of agricultural implements, steam and stationary engines and road vehicles. The firm was a major rival of the Basingstoke company, Wallis and Steevens.

In 1806, Robert Tasker left his home in Wiltshire to become a blacksmith’s assistant at a forge in Abbotts Ann, just outside Andover, owned by Thomas Maslen. Three years later, when Maslen retired, Robert took over the business.

Robert was an ambitious businessman: with the Industrial Revolution then nearing its height, he knew that an ordinary blacksmith’s shop could not offer the same level of product to customers as a major ironworks.

The forge was therefore expanded to become the Abbotts Ann Ironworks. However, the site was deemed too inaccessible and small, so Robert and his brother William moved to a new site in Clatford Marsh in the Anna Valley, later to become the Waterloo Ironworks. The foundry opened in 1813, making agricultural machinery and larger scale items such as bridges.

Whilst the company flourished during the Industrial Revolution, many of the machines Taskers was producing took the place of workers. This lead to a riot in 1830, when 300 men attacked the ironworks. Thirty were arrested and ten were sentenced to death.

In 1836, Robert retired and William took on a new business partner, George Fowle. William’s sons, Robert, William and Henry, then joined the firm and it became known as William Tasker and Sons.

The first steam engines made at the Waterloo Ironworks were three portable engines in 1865. None of the first few hundred engines were built to drawings: new plans were drawn up for each one and standard parts modified, with the result that every finished engine was unique.

In 1896, Henry Tasker handed over ownership of the firm to shareholders. William Tasker and Sons became Tasker & Sons Ltd. Henry was still a director of the company, but it was the end of an era for family ownership.

In 1902, Taskers began to produce a very successful line of engines called Little Giants. Over 300 of these were built but despite this, Henry Tasker faced financial ruin and in 1903, the company went into liquidation. The business was revived in 1907 and switched to munitions manufacturing during World War I. During World War II, the firm produced an enormous low-loading Queen Mary trailer, which could transport a complete fighter aircraft, invaluable for the country’s fight during the Battle of Britain.

The end of the war meant the company had to switch production lines back to agricultural machinery. In 1968, Craven Industries took over the works but in the mid-1980s they were closed and all the buildings demolished. After 170 years of operation, the manufacturing works quietly closed for the final time.

Many Taskers vehicles are on display at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, as part of the large engine collection cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust, which includes vehicles from other major local manufacturers, Thornycroft and Wallis and Steevens.