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Reminiscences

THE ENGLISH FUSTIAN MANUFACTURING CO.LTD by George Greenwood, 1969

REGISTERED 13th FEBRUARY 1901

At the Annual General Meeting of The Company on the 25th November 1968, I along with Mr.G.R.Snowden retired from the Board after serving as Director since 1931.

In commemoration of our retirement and services to the Company, the Directors invited us to a dinner at Kershaw House, Luddendenfoot, the same evening; this was arranged by our Company Secretary Mr.Norman Smith, when we had a splendid dinner and spent a most enjoyable evening together.

I have spent all my working life with the Company, starting as office boy - TEMPORARY, in September 1908, which was before any of the present Directors were born, therefore I have had 60 years continuous service (except for 2½ years spent in the Forces during the 1914/1918 war.)

This is a record, as the Company was formed in 1901 and no past Director has had this length of service with the Company, and it is unlikely that this will ever be exceeded in the future.

During the evening I spoke of some of my experiences and changes I had seen in the trade during my lifetime, and afterwards our Chairman, Mr.Richard Redman, asked me to write a short history and my experiences of the Company as no written records had been kept. This he thought would be of interest to the present Directors and future generations.

The following are brief recollections as I remember them.

For many years prior to the formation of the Company the clothing trade of Hebden Bridge was established and known throughout the country for the manufacture of Cord and Mole clothing.

At the same time locally there were several firms of cotton dyers whose sole business was the dyeing of Cords, Moles and Bedfords. The district was particularly suited to the dyeing trade with its plentiful supply of water.

About the turn of the century Lancashire dyers, The English Velvet Cord Dyeing Company came into the district and took over some local dyeing firms; these I remember as:

Stubbing Holme Dyeing Co. - known locally as "Top o’th Holme"

Greenwood Head & Co., Waterside Dyeworks at rear of the present

Waterside Clothing Co.

Crimsworth Dyeing Co. Midgehole.

Hoo Hole Dyeworks. Mytholmroyd.

Fearing the prospect of a monopoly in the dyeing trade, which could be to their disadvantage, several clothing firms got together along with the largest dyeing firm in the district

Moss Bros. Ltd., with their extensive dye works at Bridgeroyd also a branch at Lee Mill, and formed The English Fustian Manufacturing Co. Ltd., on February 13th 1901.

The new Company consisted of:

Moss Bros. Ltd., Dyers and Manufacturers,

Jonathan Stansfield Ltd., Fustian Manufacturers and Merchants also T. Greenwood & Co. Ltd., Fustian Manufacturers

(this was my Father) These two firms were eventually absorbed by Moss Bros., about 1930.

The clothing firms were:

Redman Bros., works at Salem Mill, Scarbottom, Mytholmroyd,

Vale Mills, Todmorden.

T.Sutcliffe & Son., Regent Works, Hebden Bridge.

R.Sutcliffe & Co. Melbourne Works, Melbourne St., Hebden Bridge.

Wm.Crossley Ltd., a small firm on the canal bank, transferred to R.Sutcliffe & Co.

John Horsfall. Todmordcn. Transferred to R.Sutcliffe & Co.,

John Crowthers. Hangingroyd, Hebden Bridge. Transferred to R.Sutcliffe & Co., in the 1930's.

Bairstow & Fielding, Halifax. A small firm transferred to John Crowthers.

T.Shaw & Co., Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge. Transferred to R.Sutcliffe & Co., in the 1930's.

John Hiltons. Salem Mill. Transferred to R.Sutcliffe & Co., in 1930’s

Wm.Barkers Clothing Co. “ “

Greenwood & Fielding Salem Mill “ “

Lord & Jackson. Croft Yard. Transferred to Greenwood & Fielding in early days.

Dickinson Bros. Todmorden with branch factory at Luddenden, This business was closed in the 1950's.

These then all became branches or the parent Company - The English Fustian Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Of the above we now have - Moss Bros. Dyers and Merchants and three clothing firms - Redman Bros. T.Sutcliffe & Son., Sutcliffe Melbourne (name recently changed from R.Sutcliffe (Melbourne)Ltd.)

In the 1900's clothing was the major trade and largest employer of labour in the district, as in addition to our Company there were several other clothing firms.

I do not know of course the number of machinists employed by our Company in 1901, but as a rough guess I should estimate between 1100/1200 and in addition 250/300 hand sewers, or "finishers" as they were called.

In those days there were no fancy machines as we know today, therefore a lot of work was done by finishers such as hand felled tops of trousers, unlined trousers all hand felled bottoms except the cheapest line which was machined through, a lot of hand buttoning for better qualities in trousers, knee breeches, jackets and vests etc.

With improved methods and up to date machines, hand work has been eliminated and today "Finishers" are almost unknown in our local trade.

Here I think the firm of Wm.Barker Clothing Co., deserve a special mention. I understand that this firm was established about 1840 and I have recently been fortunate in procuring a clothing price list issued by them (the only one in existence I believe) there is no date on the price list, but I imagine the date to be about 1890, as on the price list it states:­

"William Barker - Established half a century, Fustian Manufacturers, Bleacher, Dyer and Finisher, and Wholesale Clothier, Wood Top, Mayroyd and Hudson Hills, Hebden Bridge. Yorks. The OLDEST established wholesale Clothing Firm in Hebden Bridge. Postal address - Hebden Bridge via Manchester, ALSO 44, Royal Avenue, Belfast. Telephone No.1205."

The telephone must have been almost unique as few local firms could boast of being "on the 'phone" in those early days.

In this price list are drawings and photographs of the mills and factories also work rooms at Mayroyd. This factory at Mayroyd must have been about the first in the district to be lit by electricity - this is clearly shown in the photographs. They generated their own electricity from a water wheel the Water being drawn from the Calder.

Barkers first clothing factory was at Wood Top in 1840, this was before sewing machines were installed, all garments being sewn by hand. (As a matter of interest our local Dr. Barker is a descendant of the original Barker family.)

Singer's put a reliable sewing machine on the market in 1851 and from then onwards wholesale clothing might be said to have begun.

Originally local clothing was almost wholly Cords and Moles; cord pieces were then all cut by hand. As a boy I often watched my father doing this work. Each dyeworks employed quite a number of "cutters", mostly men but a few women also did this work. Cutting machinery was introduced in the early 1900's, first there was the Netherwood 4 knife machine, then later the circular machine as used today which cuts every "race" in the piece at the same time.

Now I think special mention should be made to another clothing firm, namely Redman Bros. which has not only been such a special influence in our company, but also in the local clothing trade generally. Redman Bros. was formed by three brothers, John, Jonathon and Richard.

In his early days Richard Redman was first employed in the clothing trade by John Crowther's and after gaining experience the brothers started on their own - the first works being a small building in St.George's Square, Hebden Bridge - long demolished.

The firm quickly grew, their headquarters being at Salem, the building now occupied by Dewhirst & Co., they had another branch at Scarbottom which was later enlarged to its present size and another branch at Vale Mills, Todmorden. Before the 1914/1918 war the Salem works was closed and transferred to the present headquarters at Foster Mill.

Richard Redman was a very practical man and proved very ingenious in developing the making of clothing generally and was ably assisted by his wife who in her younger days was an experienced machinist - a happy and useful combination.

In those days there was a lot of heavy industrial activity, such as London tubes and underground being built and extended, docks and shipping developed, new mines being opened and pits sunk. This kind of work was helpful and particularly suited to our local trade which was purely working artisan clothing.

Mr. Richard did a lot of travelling and the selling of their productions. He often told me of how on his journeys he would note the type of clothes men were wearing for work. He would make notes and being a practical man would come home and make a similar garment - and of course try and improve on it and the odds were he would beat competition.

Yes, a very practical and ingenious man, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

It gives me great pleasure to record that his grandson who bears his name is Chairman of our Company and joint Managing Director of this branch with Mr.Peter Moss.

I commenced working for the Company as office boy at John Hiltons in September 1908, and although I was told the job was only temporary it lasted 60 years, until my recent retirement as a Director.

In 1908 the home trade was practically all Cords and Moles,

just a few cheap cloth trousers - these were hand pressed by a very heavy "goose" iron heated by gas; a damp rag was used in the pressing, there were no Hoffmans in those days, they followed a few years later.

Quite an assortment of garments were made - there was no section work, all being "made through."

Trousers in the main were fly fronts, but quite a number were Whole Falls, some with fast bearers others loose bearers and still others Split Falls. It is doubtful if a machinist today could make these. Some trousers lined, others unlined according to districts.

Some trousers were made with bell bottoms - 2" wider at the bottoms, another style was “Ikey” bottoms, slightly bell with a 2" vent at the bottom of the side seams, mainly worn by navvies.

A large trade in cord and mole vests, some with twill backs, others with mole, some with flaps on pockets others plain, buttons were plain or fancy horse shoe style. Then there were sleeved vests in cord and mole, plain or with flaps.

Boys Cord knickers and jackets, also mens cord jackets, mens breeches and leggings in cord and bedford cord.

Heavy white kersey jackets were made for pit sinkers, these were cut almost like morning coats with half sleeves and half double backs of kersey. Other white long kersey coats were similar to todays Duffel coats.

Yes, in those days a machinist was a very experienced operative, as all garments were “made through”.

Firms depended on orders received from travellers and post day by day, it was unusual to carry heavy stocks of ready made garments - this took a lot of capital.

In the slack period from after Easter towards August, firms would make up stocks of cord knickers to keep machines running and be ready for the school trade after the August school holidays.

There was also a fairly large clothing trade locally with South Africa, largely in trousers made from Khaki and Sateen Drills, Cantoons etc. etc. but after the 1914/1918 war this trade soon disappeared entirely, the country having developed its own clothing trade.

Compared with today, machinery was very crude; there was the ordinary Singer Sewing machine, a button hole machine; - the cutter or chopper for the hole being pulled down by hand, and a zig-zag buttoning machine.

Referring to Cords and Moles, what counted in those days was WEIGHT, they must feel and handle weighty. This is where the dyer came in; to get weight the dyer used filling – as much as 30.lbs to 40.lbs was put into a grey piece. In cheaper qualities a grey piece of say 30 – 35.lbs may be brought up to 60-65.lbs when dyed and finished. Stiffening was used in dyeing to bind the filling; this gave off a most unpleasant aroma in fact it was a “stink” and particularly so when garments got wet.

These were almost identical with those quoted in Wm.Barker’s Price List which I have mentioned earlier. Here are a few examples which I well remember:­

Mens Cord & Mole Unlined Trousers from 2/6d per pair 2/9d lined.

Boys Cord Knickers sizes 0 - 4 from 1/2d per pair or with no fly l/-d per pair.

Boys Cord 2 garment suits sizes 0 to 4 from 3/6d.

In those days, knickers came well below the knee and were known as “Long shorts", for instance the inside leg for size 4 was 12" whereas today a size 4 is 4½”.

Mens S.B. Vests from 2/3d. D.S. Vests 3/-d.

Mens S.B. Sleeved Vests from 3/9d.

Mens Cord Jackets from 6/-d.

WORKING CONDITIONS What a change now from 60 years ago.

Then the factory hours were 6.0. a.m. to 6.0. p.m. – 6.0. a.m. to 12.0. noon on Saturday. This totaled a 58 hour week after allowing half an hour break for breakfast and one hour for dinner.

MENS WAGES. There was no Trade Board rate of wages and all men were paid on time rates.

A Stock Cutter and knife man was paid 23/-d to 24/-d per week, and a lining cutter 21/-d to 22/-d.

GIRL MACHINISTS. In those days there seemed to be no shortage of learners. A girl wishing to be a machinist would approach an adult machinist to teach her. She would work one month for nothing then would be paid 5/-d per week by her tutor from 3 to 6 months - perhaps a 1ittle more later, then after 12 months she would be "on for herself" for what she could earn. All machinists were then, as now, paid on piece rates. After 12 months she would still have to learn how to make jackets and breeches, and to tackle "specials."

What a difference nowadays. Today we have special tutors and learners (machinists) are paid £7. per week - straight from school.

HOLIDAYS. These were usually two days at Christmas, 2 days at Easter and Whitsuntide. For the annual holiday we closed the Friday before August Bank Holiday and re-started work the following Wednesday for "Specials" and there was No Missing.

No holiday pay in those days and no health or unemployment pay.

In 1912 Health and unemployment insurance was brought in by the Lloyd George government. For a man the employer paid 5d per week and the employee 4d - It was called the "9d for 4d". The payment for women was 1d less 4d and 3d respectively. Today in comparison for a man the total cost is approximately £3. 15. O. per week.

About this time the Board of Trade introduced minimum rates of wages for the Clothing Trade. The rate for a stock cutter or knife man was 6d per hour and 5½d for a lining cutter. Based on the hours then worked, 58 hours per week, this would have meant 29/-d per week, but immediately the working hours were reduced to 52 per week, giving a cutter 26/-d per week.

Then came the 1914/1918 War when all clothing firms took part on government work; most were engaged in making Khaki Serge service trousers and breeches. In the case of Redman Bros., Foster Mill, practically the whole factory was engaged in making heavy Duffel Coats for the navy, this type of garment was also largely supplied by them in the 1939 war.

The war took its heavy toll of our male employees, many never returning as throughout the war casualties were extremely heavy, hitting some families very badly. For instance of the three sons of Mr.Richard Redman, Claude and James, both married, lost their lives, only Frank returning.

Speaking personally, I was the last of three brothers to join the forces being reserved until 1916, but fortunately we all returned.

Demobilised in February 1919 I joined R.Sutcliffe & Co., and commenced travelling the following month.

Travelling in 1919 was by train, and trams in towns, buses were in their infancy arid practically non existant particular in country districts. This meant a lot of foot slogging, carrying a big heavy bag of patterns and samples weighing about 24.lbs. I know, I often weighed mine.

However, in 1926/7 I commenced travelling by car - I was the first in the Company; this was a big improvement where a full range of samples could be carried. Traffic in those days cannot be compared with today - motoring was more of a pleasure and you could park your car outside a customers shop without restriction - not so today.

In 1919 as a result of the war, stocks in shops were very low, consequently there was a good demand and no difficulty in selling what one had to offer.

Prices had advanced steeply; cheapest Mole trousers in 1914 at 2/6d were now 8/6d, and a pre-war cord trouser at 5/11d now cost £1. Trade was booming but it didn’t last long, then in the early 1920’s came the aftermath – the SLUMP!!

All trades were hit and particular1y the heavy industries - ­coal mining, engineering, shipbuilding, also woollen and cotton trades, the latter in which export trade had figured so largely was almost non existant.

Unemployment figures reached 4 to 5,000,000 and men were totally unemployed for years, they lived, or should I say existed on the dole.

As a consequence we of course were affected; there was unemployment and a lot of short time worked locally ending in long queues at the labour exchange.

In 1930 the branches of T.Shaw & Co., and John Crowthers were transferred to R.Sutclif£e & Co., Melbourne Works - then I finished travelling and took over as Sales Manager - later being appointed joint Managing Director of this branch along with Mr.G.R.Snowden.

As a result of the slump and the consequent poverty, competition was keen and the demand was for the cheapest garments which could be produced.

Eventually the tide turned slowly and trade gradually increased around 1930 and to take the place of the diminished demand for Cords and Moles, which had lost favour, other lines were introduced such as - Derby Tweeds, Union Flannels and a large range of Tweed and Cotton Tweed trousers.

Union Flannel trousers became very popular then followed the introduction of the lighter Worsted type Flannel trousers bringing increased trade.

Then in 1939 we were again at war, and all firms were engaged on government work.

The conclusion of the war saw the introduction of man made fibres, first Rayons for trouserings, here we were in the forefront of making this type of trousers. From Rayons developed other artificial fibres of which the most popular with us is Terylene where we have enjoyed such large sales in trousers.

You are all familiar with the trade from this point forward so any further remarks by me would be superfluous.

Looking back over my sixty happy years in the trade and with the Company I have seen many changes. From the heavy artisan type of clothing of the 1900's we have progressed to the present standard of high grade clothing and the Company can boast as Leaders of Fashion in the clothing trade, and are well known throughout the country.

I have seen hours of labour gradually reduced from 58, 52, 48, 44, 42 down to the present 40 hours per week and my prediction is that eventually a working week will be reduced to one of approximately 35 hours - this will take time.

Since 1945 we have acquired other businesses namely:­ Long Bros. and Booth & Fielding, both of Sheffield, Moor End Mills, Mixenden and Hebden Bridge Estate Co.Ltd.,

Referring to "MELBOURNE" - in 1919 there were two travellers, myself and the late Mr.T.F.Eastwood; now there are sixteen.

In 1924/25 the turnover at MELBOURNE would be approximately £22,000/£24,000. In 1938 - £78,000 and in 1968 - £1,385,000.

Rising prices of course account for some of this, but still, year by year, the figures are on the up and up.

What of the future? I won’t predict, time alone will tell.

I hope my narration will be of interest to you and the future generations.

My Best Wishes to the Directors and all connected with the Company.

George Hall Greenwood 13/1/69