How Glossop replaced the cotton industry.

I must acknowledge the help of Mike Brown for allowing me to use photos from his collection.

During the 19th century Glossop became one of the great seats of cotton manufacture in the country, with large vertical combines, some of them expanding to a size surpassed by few in the entire British cotton industry. Despite setbacks such as the cotton famine caused by the American Civil War, the town continued to prosper and by 1900, between 80 and 90 per cent of all Glossop workers were engaged in the cotton industry. The only other industry of any importance was that of paper-making at Turnlee.

At the end of the First World War, Glossop was all ready for a period of further expansion, but unfortunately that did not materialise. The specialisation of the companies in Glossop proved to be also their vulnerability as the cotton industry struggled more and more in the depressed economy of the time.

In 1931, unemployment in Glossop borough stood at 55 per cent. In Hadfield alone it was 67 per cent. The town’s leaders decided to form a development committee, consisting of councillors, industrialists and others to publicise information about available factory space, with a view to attracting new industries. Presented below are brief details of the firms which came to the area in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

1920 - Glossop Glove Company.

Glossop Glove Company actually started in Manchester, in 1916, but the owner, Mr Ernest Wood became dissatisfied with the quality of labour he was able to employ, there being too much slackness and absenteeism. He once told a story of how he met a girl employed by the firm, who was walking down the street with a pair of roller skates under her arm. On returning to the factory he asked where the girl was and was told that she was at the funeral of her grandmother.
Mr Wood heard that the quality of workmanship was very high at Glossop and decided to move to Glossop in order to benefit from that. He was not disappointed. In 1920 the firm, which made high quality gloves from leather and skins, no fabric, started in Glossop with about 20 workers in premises bought from Isaac Jackson and formerly used for engineering. The site had previously been that of Josiah Swain's iron foundry where the bollards for Norfolk Square were made.
Three years later the firm was able to take advantage of the demise of the gloving trade in Worcester to employ trained craftsmen. One of them, Ernest Farmer, went on to be Mayor of Glossop in 1962-3. In 1934 the premises were extended to double their size and immediately before the second world war employed about 140 workers, producing around 5,000 pairs of gloves per week.

Glove Works
The Glove Company factory during later life as a pub.
Glove company advert
Glossop Glove Company advertisement 1948

1923 – Wilman's Silk Noils.

E. Wilman & Sons purchased Station Mills, in Hadfield, from the Platt family in 1923 and converted it to silk noil spinning.
They were also makers of sponge cloths, scourers and dusters etc. The mill closed in 1989
Wilman's advert
Wilman's advertisement 1948

1931 - Vol-Crepe.

The company moved to Glossop from Northamptonshire, purchasing part of Wood’s Mill to manufacture footwear, and subsequently expanding to manufacture rubber soles and heels and foam rubber.
During the war years production changed to supply the nation’s needs. Among the chief products were inflation lifebelts for airborne troops, balers for air sea rescue dinghies, emergency drinking water containers for air crews in Burma, radio components, gas masks for horses and mules, and Home Guard haversacks.
After the war further premises were obtained at Albion Mills in Hollingworth and the new technique of stuck-on soling (no nails or stitches required) was developed.
The company acquired Easton House for new offices, a canteen, and improved welfare facilities for its employees and also used part of Wren Nest mill for some manufacturing.
The company became E&R Polymers when Volcrepe merged with The St Albans Rubber Company in 2001. Manufacturing ceased in Glossop in December 2004, as a result of lack of insurance cover following the floods of 2002

Vol-Crepe advert
Vol-Crepe advertisement 1948.
Vol-Crepe advert
Vol-Crepe advertisement 1957

1934 - Ferro-Alloys.

Ferro-Alloys & Metals Ltd was a new company, established in Glossop in 1934, by a metallurgist named Brierley. It manufactured specialist metal products such as ferro-tungsten, ferro-vanadium, ferro-molybdenum, pure chromium etc., something which few firms were doing at the time.
The company had a wide choice of places where it might locate but learned that the premises of the former Glossop Iron Works, in Surrey Street, were available and ideal for the business to use. In addition Glossop's location was advantageous, lying between Liverpool, where raw materials were imported, and Sheffield, where the users of the firm's products were located.
The company later set up a Recovery Works at Meadow Mills in conjunction with the London-Scandinavian Metallurgical Company, continuing to have Vanadium recovered from oil soot there even after selling out their interest.
The company's stay in Glossop, lasting about 70 years in total, was not without controversy, mostly in relation to the 300 feet high chimney erected in the late 1970s which discharged sulphur dioxide. The chimney was finally demolished in 2016, some years after the factory it served had gone.

Ferro-Alloys advert
Ferro-Alloys advertisement 1957.
Ferro-Alloys chimney
Ferro-Alloys chimney

1936 - Glossop Brickworks.

The brickworks was started as an adjunct to the quarry at Mouselow, which had worked on during the depression. The company was owned by John Greenwood, who had the quarries at Lees Hall and Shire Hill as well as Mouselow.

1937 - Lancashire Chemical Works Ltd.

The partners who set up the company, Dr. W. Hene and Dr. R. Hecksher, came to this country as refugees from Germany in 1936/7 with the intention of setting up a chemical works to manufacture their patented products.
The main production was of mineral tanning compounds by a patented process. Some chemicals were manufactured for the textile industry and some photographic materials for Kodak.
The company located in Glossop when the Ministry of Labour offered the choice of any site in the depressed areas. Glossop was centrally situated, between the various markets the company intended to supply and within easy reach of the ports of import of the raw materials, Liverpool and Hull and other sources of raw materials. The former tram sheds and offices of the Urban Electric Supply Company were available at a good price and suitable labour was available because of the unemployment in Glossop at the time.
The company, which is still in Glossop, remained in the ownership of the Hene family for 70 years before becoming part of the Plater Group.

Lancashire Chemicals
Lancashire Chemicals
Lancashire Chemicals
Views of Lancashire Chemical Works.

1939 - London-Scandinavian Metallurgical Company.

The company originally set up the Glossop Recovery Works at Meadow Mills, in partnership with Ferro-Alloys, at the outbreak of war. The aim was to recover scarce metals from high-speed steel scrap - grindings, turnings, scale etc. Formerly this material was lost as the scrap simply went for cast iron. However, with war conditions and the difficulty of obtaining minerals from abroad, it was decided that there was a need for conserving these materials and the firm was established with the blessing of the Ministry of Supply. The Managing Director was a German, since become a naturalised British subject, who came into conflict with the Nazis and came to England. He owned mines in Norway and Cyprus.
After the war the company undertook recovery of rarer elements from high-speed steel scrap and oil soot. Tungsten, molybdenum, cadmium etc. from high-speed scrap and vanadium from soot from oil-tankers burning Venezuelan oil.
Following various changes the company is now part of Firth Rixson.

1940 - Ferrostatics.

Ferrostatics, founded by brothers Victor and Stephen Markus, came to the area in 1940, starting out in Mersey Mills, Hollingworth. Initially the company made high precision machine tools for aircraft manufacture. At the end of the war that market shrank dramatically so the company switched to the manufacture of tools for the expanding plastic components market before starting to specialise in high precision engineering work for the chemical industry, being mainly concerned with very high pressure chemical processes, and the production of synthetic yarns. The biggest customer was I.C.I.
In 1948 the factory moved to Borough Works, High Street West, Glossop, the former premises of Borough Bakery.
In the 1950s Ferrostatics joined the Chloride Group, which required facilities for supplying the special machines and moulds required for the production of battery parts.
In 1962 completely new premises were built in Shaw Lane, Glossop, which were extended to double the size and capacity over the next two years.
By 1965 the company had grown from 4 employees to employing about 150 workers who were mostly highly-skilled top engineers trained in-house.
The company subsequently moved its production to Stalybridge and, at the time of writing, the site is home to Carpenters.
Ferrostatics advert
Ferrostatics advertisement 1966

1940 – Hadfield Worsted Mills.

The Hadfield Mill of Thomas Rhodes and Sons closed in 1932.
In 1940 it was reopened by Hadfield Worsted Mills Ltd for the manufacture of worsted cloth.
The company was voluntarily wound up in January 1966.
Hadfield Worsted Mills advert
Hadfield Worsted Mills advertisement 1948

1941 - Flexy Brushes.

Flexy Brushes Ltd. arrived in Glossop in 1941, setting up in Brook Mill.
The company pioneered rubber-backed brushes which, so the Glossop Official Handbook of 1948 tells us, which had been found very satisfactory as an alternative to the use of wood and plastic materials for backing, particularly in the case of process brushes in industry.
Another department produced all kinds of artists’ brushes, and a third section manufactured wooden-backed types such as scrubbing, nail and paint brushes.
By 1948 the “Flexy” Car Washer and Major Washer had a worldwide reputation and the company exported to all parts of the globe.
In 1971, the car washing side of Flexy Brushes was bought by Holts whilst a new company, High Peak Brushes, was formed to manufacture the artistic brushes. It later bacame part of Moorfield Industries.

Flexy Brushes advert
Flexy Brushes advertisement 1948.
Flexy Brushes advert
Flexy Brushes advertisement 1957

1941 - Joseph Hadfield Barratt & Co. Ltd.

Joseph Hadfield Barratt & Co. Ltd., was a Manchester firm, which took over a factory in Hadfield Street, Whitfield (where numbers 28 to 30a stand today), with the principal intention of protecting their cloth stocks from the air raids at Manchester.
As room was available, machines were set up and an experienced machinist introduced as manageress.
In 1948 the firm's main production was industrial overalls for the wholesale trade only.
Joseph Hadfield, Barratt  advert
Joseph Hadfield Barratt advertisement 1948

1941 - Maconochies Foods Ltd.

The firm was founded by two brothers, Archibald and James Maconochie, in Lowestoft in 1870. Originally concerned with selling tinned herrings, the firm expanded setting up additional factories at Fraserburgh and Stornaway.
In 1897 a site in Millwall was acquired and tinned spices and pickles added to the products. Soon the Millwall factory had increased to cover 14 acres and produced jams, jellies, marmalade, preserved meats and vegetables, candied peels, boiled sweets, pickles and sauces, spices, pepper and curries in addition to the original canned fish, kippers and fish pastes. They made their own cans, generated their own electricity and printed their own labels.
The move to Hadfield, where a new modern plant was built, came after the Millwall factory was largely destroyed in the 1940 blitz.
The company became Whitesides (Sun-Pat), Rowntree Mackintosh and Nestlé before closure in 2004.

Maconochies factory
Maconochies factory.
Maconochies advert
Maconochies advertisement 1948.
Maconochies advert
Maconochies advertisement 1957

1943 - Graded Factory Waste Company.

The company, owned by A. E. Hemsworth & Co., collected waste rubber from manufacturers, sorted it into 250 different grades and sold it back to manufacturers in this country or abroad. It also undertook some manufacturing of tyre patches, re-treading of tyres etc.
The firm was initially a flourishing concern operating in London, where it had two warehouses both of which were destroyed during the Blitz. The firm initially moved out to Kingston but the premises there were destroyed by a flying bomb.
When another site was sought, no alternative to Glossop was found so the firm came to Mersey Mills, Hollingworth, in 1943 and used the premises as a dump for waste rubber. Initially, most of the waste rubber was immediately bought by Government agencies and needed neither storing nor sorting, simply being transferred from one place to another. In 1946 work started at Mersey Mills with a staff of 10. About £100,000 was spent in the next three years on repairing the existing building and erecting the first of five planned new buildings.
The firm caused some controversy as a resulting of an unsightly dump of tyres at Woolley Bridge. The situation was sorted out by negotiation between the council and Mr Hemsworth.

1946 - Ritz Manufacturing Co. and Lux Lux Ltd.

The history of these companies in Glossop began in 1946, when the founder of the firms, Mr Eric Joseph Goeritz, a textile industrialist, obtained a lease of Commercial Mills, formerly home to Wood Brothers and used during the second world war as a radar and radio store, from which H.M. ships all over the world were serviced.
At first only the top few floors were leased, but later the whole building was purchased and became home to the twin firms of Ritz and Lux Lux.
About the end of 1946 the Admiralty handed over the premises, and the manufacture of clothing began in 1947, with six sewing machines. Growth in those early days was slow and laborious because of the difficulty in obtaining materials and workers. Clothing rationing was still in operation government policy was to encourage the spinning and weaving industries at the expense of other local industries. Despite those problems the companies prospered.
Ritz Manufacturing Company produced blouses, pyjamas, nightdresses and children's clothes whilst Lux Lux Limited made ladies' knitted underwear.
The company became part of Bentwood before closure in 2001.

Ritz advert
Ritz advertisement 1948.
Ritz & Lux Lux advert
Ritz & Lux Lux advertisement 1957

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Last updated: 9 November 2022