BHO

Late Georgian and Victorian Chester 1762-1914: The economy, 1841-70, reorientation and boom

Pages 177-185

A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 1, the City of Chester: General History and Topography. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.

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THE ECONOMY, 1841-70: REORIENTATION AND BOOM

From 1841 Chester enjoyed thirty boom years. The main evidence is the extent of migration to the city, but prosperity was reflected also in a large rise in the number of businesses and in the amount of rebuilding in the city centre. The arrival of the railways reasserted Chester's importance for transport and consolidated its function as a service centre for the region. A limited growth in manufacturing further diversified the economy.

Chester and its Region

The railway age in Chester began in 1840 with the opening of lines to Birkenhead and Crewe. In the next thirty years others were opened which fed traffic from Shrewsbury, Bangor and Holyhead, Wrexham and Ruabon, Oswestry and Welshpool, Mold, Warrington, Rhyl and Denbigh, Llangollen and Corwen, and Wirral. (fn. 1) By 1870 the city was a focal point in the regional rail network. At first its connexions to north and central Wales and the Marches were better than those to the east. Although the lines to Crewe and Warrington were opened comparatively early, no others into south and central Cheshire appeared before 1870. The early rail network thus reinforced Chester's service function for Wales but possibly weakened it in relation to the parts of Cheshire for which there was better rail access to Manchester, Warrington, Crewe, the Potteries, or Shrewsbury.

Estimating the effect of the railways on Chester is not easy. The most obvious impact was as employers. There were 311 people, all men, working on the railways in Chester in 1851 and the number had risen to 499 by 1861, all but five of whom were men. (fn. 2) That represented at least 5.2 per cent of the male labour force, and it is likely that the census understated railway employment. (fn. 3) By 1861 the London and North Western and Great Western Railways were the two biggest employers in the city. About 100 porters were working at Chester General station, (fn. 4) and there were at least 76 railway labourers in the city. (fn. 5) The majority, both skilled and unskilled, had been born outside either Chester or Cheshire, and many railway workers seem initially to have come from an existing national pool of labour rather than being local men newly trained. (fn. 6) Such migrant workers added new spending power to the Chester economy even though many were unskilled and relatively poorly paid.

By improving Chester's links with its hinterland, the railways enhanced prospects for at least some retailers. Although surviving business records are biased towards middle- and upper-class account customers and probably tend to overstate the city's regional influence, they do provide some evidence of the distribution of Chester's trade. The evidence can be linked to trends in the wider region, and for that purpose the city's hinterland can be divided into four main zones: Wales, subdivided into industrial Flintshire, the Denbighshire coalfield, the north Wales coastal resorts, and the rest of north and mid Wales; Ellesmere Port and Wirral; the rest of Cheshire; and elsewhere in the British Isles (Tables 11-12).

The proportion of Chester's trade from north and mid Wales seems to have grown markedly with the opening of the railways to Shrewsbury and Holyhead, and its balance also shifted. Before the arrival of the railway, industrial Flintshire seems to have dominated the Welsh trade, and it continued to be the most important source, though its relative significance declined. Industry in the county was past its peak and the population of upland Flintshire fell during the 1840s and 1850s. Only the coastal lowland grew consistently, although Hawarden, Buckley, Hope, and Treuddyn revived somewhat in the 1850s and 1860s. (fn. 7) Trends overall in industrial Flintshire were thus not propitious for Chester.

TABLE 11: Source of account custom at Chester shops, 1844-1910
Year shop (No.) Chester and suburbs Probably Chester North and mid Wales Ellesmere Port and Wirral Elsewhere in Cheshire Elsewhere
1844 Butt & Co. (482) 46.5 29.7 10.8 0.2 12.2 0.6
1854 Butt & Co. (365) 44.7 15.3 21.6 3.6 14.3 0.6
1864 Butt & Co. (1,032) 51.6 5.9 17.9 2.0 21.5 1.0
1874 Butt & Co. (1,006) 63.7 4.0 8.6 5.1 15.5 3.2
1884 Butt & Co. (2,309) 60.7 2.3 16.9 5.6 12.2 2.4
1895 Hendersons (499) 66.1 - 10.2 3.4 15.0 5.2
1900 Butt & Co. (770) 48.2 - 17.1 4.9 22.6 7.1
1910 Thos. Welsby (362) 65.8 - 8.3 4.1 16.6 5.3

Notes: The total numbers for Butt & Co. (jewellers) are transactions, the figures for 1900 being for Jan.-Apr. only; the total numbers for Hendersons Ltd. (furnishers) and Thomas Welsby & Co. (wine merchants) are customers.

Sources: C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 92 (Butt & Co.); ZCR 95 (Thos. Welsby); ZCR 558 (Hendersons Ltd.).

TABLE 12: Source of Welsh account custom at Chester shops, 1844-1910
Year shop (No.) Industrial Flintshire Denbighshire coalfield North coast resorts Elsewhere
1844 Butt & Co. (52) 92.3 - - 7.7
1854 Butt & Co. (79) 62.0 8.9 1.3 27.9
1864 Butt & Co. (185) 50.3 21.6 2.2 26.0
1874 Butt & Co. (82) 45.1 35.4 3.7 15.9
1884 Butt & Co. (390) 42.9 26.4 16.0 14.7
1895 Hendersons (51) 37.5 22.9 6.3 33.3
1900 Butt & Co. (132) 48.5 12.1 11.4 28.0
1910 Thos. Welsby (30) 43.3 6.7 30.0 20.0

Notes: The total numbers for Butt & Co. (jewellers) are transactions, the figures for 1900 being for Jan.-Apr. only; the total numbers for Hendersons Ltd. (furnishers) and Thomas Welsby & Co. (wine merchants) are customers.

Sources: C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 92 (Butt & Co.); ZCR 95 (Thos. Welsby); ZCR 558 (Hendersons Ltd.).

The railway to Wrexham and Ruabon gave the Denbighshire coalfield a new lease of life, (fn. 8) and seems to have brought Chester an infusion of trade. By the 1870s the Denbighshire trade was beginning to rival that from Flintshire. There was much migration into the area, the population rising by 65 per cent between 1841 and 1871. The danger for Chester was that Wrexham was becoming a significant centre in its own right, (fn. 9) while the railways also enhanced the drawing power of Shrewsbury and even Oswestry.

Chester's trade from the resorts of the north Wales coast seems to have been small, though growing. Limited development of sea bathing at Prestatyn, Rhyl, Abergele, Colwyn Bay, and Llandudno predated the railway, but even after its opening such development was modest before 1871. (fn. 10) Rural north Wales enjoyed a period of considerable prosperity between 1850 and 1880, and the railways seem to have increased Chester's trade from that area. (fn. 11)

In rural Cheshire developments in agriculture evidently worked strongly in Chester's favour, and trade from there apparently grew in both absolute and relative terms. The county was surrounded by growing urban areas to the north, south-east, and west, and the agricultural economy during the 19th century became closely tied to supplying the demands of a vast urban market. (fn. 12) Changes in farming to accommodate those demands reached a crucial phase around mid century, the key being improved accessibility to markets brought about by the expanding rail network. Cheese became relatively less important but its sale price seems to have risen from the 1830s to a peak c. 1860. Liquid milk increasingly replaced cheese from the 1840s, and market garden produce was also more important in the Chester area, though some of the development predated the railway. Farm productivity improved, rents rose, and rent arrears fell. All the indicators suggest an increasingly prosperous rural economy.

Chester's position as the main regional centre in west Cheshire was strengthened by the closure of other local produce markets. Neston, Malpas, Over, and Frodsham disappeared between 1834 and 1860, though the failure of the last was attributed to Warrington rather than Chester. (fn. 13) Tarporley followed after 1860. The effect was to give Chester a wider monopoly, though the benefits were increasingly offset by the growth of farm-gate sales direct to middlemen. (fn. 14)

Although Chester's rural hinterland became generally more prosperous, wealth was not evenly distributed. Prospects for farm labourers probably worsened as farms became more capital-intensive and as liquid milk became more important at the expense of crops demanding more, if seasonal, labour. Farm labourers were forced off the land, and in Cheshire as a whole their number fell by 17.1 per cent between 1851 and 1871. Many people left the area east and south-east of Chester, where the population stagnated at c. 17,000. (fn. 15) The boom in Chester probably created some unskilled jobs for such rural migrants.

The railway into Wirral seems to have increased the peninsula's significance in Chester's trade. The city's influence, however, evidently reached no further than a line running from Parkgate to Eastham. Beyond that the pull of Liverpool and the growing commercial weight of Birkenhead were too strong. (fn. 16) The railways also brought more long-distance tourists and customers to Chester, but although the trade from outside the immediate hinterland grew, it remained a relatively small proportion of the total.

Retailing and Services

Chester's booming economy in the early railway age offered new opportunities to its shops and other services. Between 1840 and 1878 the number of businesses rose by 46 per cent (Table 13). There were also changes in the balance between sectors. Suppliers of the basic needs of food and clothing fell from 63 per cent of the total to 53 per cent, while those associated with the growth and broadening of consumer spending power increased in importance. The household goods trades, including consumer durables such as furniture, rose to 9 per cent of businesses, while the number of people offering financial, professional, and sales services nearly trebled. The last feature indicates how Chester's role as a service centre was being strengthened. The number of accountants, solicitors, auctioneers, and property agents increased markedly, and there was a dramatic rise in the number of insurance agents. Chester's role as a printing and publishing centre was enhanced and new trades emerged, including such specialists as seven photographers, a bird dealer, and art dealer, and a taxidermist.

TABLE 13: Chester businesses, 1840, 1878, and 1906
Business categories 1840 1878 1906
Food, Drink, and Tobacco 610 772 783
41% 36% 38%
Corn Millers, Maltsters, and Dealers 36 25 15
Shopkeepers, Provision Dealers, and Grocers 221 359 334
Butchers, Fishmongers, and Fried Fish Dealers 57 77 93
Wine and Spirit Dealers 30 19 15
Brewers 15 10 1
Inns, Beer Retailers, Hotels, and Eating Houses 230 237 224
Tobacco and Snuff Manufacturers - 7 5
Tobacconists and Newsagents 7 25 48
Miscellaneous 14 13 48
Textiles, Clothing, and Dress 331 370 320
22% 17% 16%
Mercers and Drapers 30 65 44
Clothes Dealers and Outfitters 9 11 24
Tailors, Dressmakers, and Milliners 108 148 95
Hatters and Hosiers 30 51 27
Boot and Shoe Makers, Shops, and Repairers 107 59 76
Hairdressers and Perfumers 25 17 41
Miscellaneous 22 19 13
Household Goods 100 191 176
7% 9% 9%
Glass, China, and Cutlery Dealers 11 18 15
Furniture Dealers 12 10 24
Hardware Dealers and Ironmongers 18 35 26
Tallow, Oil, Candle, and Soap Dealers 10 18 8
Coal Merchants 9 28 47
Druggists and Chemists 14 25 26
Miscellaneous Household Goods Retailers 4 5 6
Other Household Goods Manufacturers 22 52 24
Printing, Books, and Specialist Trades 81 134 142
6% 6% 7%
Bookbinders 11 8 7
Printers and Publishers 17 30 24
Booksellers and Stationers 18 35 31
Watchmakers, Jewellers, and Goldsmiths 17 16 20
Antique Furniture Dealers - - 4
Artists 5 6 6
Art Furnisher - - 1
Art Metal Workers - - 3
Bird Dealers - 1 3
Dealers in Works of Art - 1 3
Designer, Draughtsman, and Illuminator - 1 -
Fishing Tackle Dealers - 3 -
Gunmakers and Gunsmiths 3 - 2
Heraldic Stationer - - 1
Music and Musical Instrument Sellers 6 2 5
Organ Builders - 1 2
Photographers - 7 13
Pianoforte Makers and Tuners 3 5 7
Picture Cleaner and Restorer - - 1
Picture Frame Makers 1 7 7
Plaster Figure Maker - 1 -
Sculptors - 1 1
Taxidermists - 1 1
Toy Dealers - 8 -
Finance, Professional, Sales, and Service 114 338 320
8% 16% 16%
Banking Companies 4 6 12
Pawnbrokers 7 6 7
Accountants 5 19 24
Solicitors and Barristers 26 41 56
Stockbrokers - 2 3
Auctioneers 4 8 15
Insurance Agents and Companies 23 119 38
House and Estate Agents 4 42 18
Building Societies - - 4
Agents and Commercial Travellers 13 57 39
Company Head and Local Offices - - 18
Medical Professions 27 27 74
Servants' Registry Offices 1 7 10
Bill Posters - 4 2
Building and Construction 122 224 168
8% 10% 8%
Building Trades 102 154 134
Architects, Surveyors, and Civil Engineers 10 30 24
Builders' Merchants and Timber Merchants 10 40 10
Road and Water Transport 67 80 99
5% 4% 5%
Carters, Cab Owners, Coach Owners, and Stables 14 38 38
Horse Transport Construction and Repair 44 24 31
Cycle Dealers and Makers - - 14
Motor Vehicle Dealers, Makers, and Repairers - - 5
Water Transport Businesses 9 18 11
Miscellaneous Manufactures 61 54 28
4% 3% 1%
Boot Tree and Last Maker - 1 -
Brass Founders 2 6 2
Braziers and Tinplate Workers 12 14 6
Manufacturing Chemists 3 3 -
Coopers 7 3 1
Electrical Engineers - - 5
General, Mechanical, and Hydraulic Engineers - 8 7
Filter Manufacturer 1 - -
Ironfounders 4 6 1
Lead Manufacturer 1 1 1
Nail Makers 8 - -
Oil Sheet Maker - - 1
Roman Cement and Plaster of Paris Manufacturer 1 - -
Rope and Twine Manufacturers 7 2 1
Surgical Instrument Maker - 1 1
Tanners 7 2 -
Whitesmiths and Bellhangers 8 7 2
Total Businesses 1,479 2,163 2,036

Notes: Tobacco and snuff manufacturers not listed separately in 1840.

Sources: Parry's Dir. Chester (1840); Cassey's Dir. Chester (1878); Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1906).

There was also growth in the size and turnover of individual businesses. Browns was highly successful, buying further premises in 1856 and opening a new building in Eastgate Street in 1858. In the 1860s the firm diversified into furniture and furnishing fabrics, for which the premises were enlarged again in 1869 and a furniture factory was opened in Newgate Street. (fn. 17) The deposits of the Chester Savings Bank increased by 15 per cent between 1847 and 1867, and the bank's success was expressed in its new premises in Grosvenor Street, opened in 1853. (fn. 18) Chester's most luxurious hotel, the Grosvenor, was built on the site of the old Royal Hotel between 1863 and 1866. (fn. 19) The rebuilding of other city-centre premises also testified to the city's economic vitality. (fn. 20) Part of the boom in all those areas can be attributed to the tourists and other visitors whom the railways brought to the city in increasing numbers. (fn. 21)

Industry

Manufacturing and craft employment remained a very important element of Chester's economy in the mid 19th century (Tables 14-15). While service employment, especially domestic service, predominated for women, for men the largest sector was manufacturing and craft employment. Such jobs increased in importance during Chester's boom. Though the trend between 1841 and 1871 was rather uneven (due in part to the unreliability of the 1841 figures), between 1851 and 1861 the proportion of males employed in manufacturing and crafts rose from 28.5 per cent to 31.5 per cent and the actual numbers by a fifth from 2,490 to 2,991, covering all the main trades. Mid 19thcentury Chester thus provides clear evidence that the industrial revolution did not destroy local, small-scale craft and workshop production even in a region which was in the forefront of industrialization; for a time, indeed, it increased.

Some traditional handicraft activities grew during the mid 19th century, a reflection of the growing population and an increased demand which could not, as yet, be satisfied fully by factory products made in the industrial centres. The most important trades were tailoring and shoemaking. Both occupied a blurred area between retailing and manufacturing, since many tailors and shoemakers sold what they made directly to the public. Many, on the other hand, were probably outworkers working either for middlemen wholesalers or directly for retailers (Table 16). (fn. 22) For every one shoemaker and tailor in business on his own account, there were thus several others working as family members or outworkers.

Certain other trades in the traditional sector also showed a modest increase in employment from 1851 to 1871 but others declined, probably as victims of the increasing centralization and mechanization of production aided by the railways. Tanning, for example, retained barely a foothold, the number of tanneries dropping from seven to two. The closure of at least two was probably linked to their poor location behind the shops and businesses of Foregate Street and Brook Street. (fn. 23) Chester's breweries reached their peak and then began to decline. The brewery in Lower Bridge Street closed c. 1858, (fn. 24) and a fall in the number of public-house breweries was due probably to growing competition from the larger firms. The Eaton family sold the Northgate brewery in 1864 to a partnership which developed it into the city's predominant brewing concern. (fn. 25)

Steam milling along the canal side expanded, peaking in the late 19th century. Milton Street (Cestrian) Mill was erected in the 1850s, (fn. 26) and Albion Mill in Seller Street by John Wiseman in 1868-9. (fn. 27) The expansion reflected agricultural prosperity and the economies of scale in large steam-powered plants located alongside cheap water transport. (fn. 28) The Dee Mills were becoming outmoded by those developments, but were rebuilt after a fire in 1847. (fn. 29)

Modest growth in manufacturing related to road transport was offset by the end of shipbuilding in Chester. The Roodee (or River Dee) yard changed hands twice in the 1850s. The final occupier, Cox and Miller of Liverpool, provided a dramatic finale between 1857 and 1869 by launching a succession of large iron sailing ships from the yard. The slump of the late 1860s ended the shipbuilding boom, however, and in 1869 the yard was closed. The site was used for the new gasworks. (fn. 30)

The leadworks continued to grow and prosper. Additions were made to the white lead stacks between 1840 and 1871 which made it into a very large plant, and acetic acid production for the white lead process began in 1844. By 1870 there were eight retorts. The site was enlarged in 1854 to over 16 acres, and a sheet mill was transferred to Chester from Bagillt (Flints.) in 1855. (fn. 31)

Table 14: Employment structure, 1841-1911
A. MALES
Occupational class 1841
%
1851
%
1861
%
1871
%
1901
%
1911
%
Agriculture and Fishing 5.4 12.4 10.3 8.1 4.0 4.5
Mining and Quarrying 0.1 1.0 1.4 0.7 0.2 0.2
Building and Construction 9.6 11.0 11.8 14.4 13.1 10.7
Manufacturing and Crafts 31.9 28.5 31.5 30.4 26.5 26.1
Transport 4.0 9.3 10.0 8.9 16.8 16.6
Dealing and Shopkeeping 12.6 14.0 14.4 12.2 12.4 14.1
Finance and Insurance 2.3 1.1 1.4 2.9 6.1 6.2
Public Service and Professional 7.2 10.5 7.0 8.2 9.2 10.4
Domestic Service 4.3 2.5 2.5 2.7 2.3 3.3
Labourers (Unspecified) 14.7 7.0 8.1 9.3 6.2 4.4
Propertied and Independent 3.1 1.2 0.6 0.8 2.7 3.0
Indefinite 4.8 1.5 1.0 1.4 0.7 0.6
Total Employed 6,752 8,750 9,506 8,925 12,000 12,604
B. FEMALES
Occupational class 1841
%
1851
%
1861
%
1871
%
1901
%
1911
%
Agriculture and Fishing 0.2 0.5 1.3 1.5 0.6 0.5
Mining and Quarrying - - - - - -
Building and Construction - - - 0.1 0.1 0.1
Manufacturing and Crafts 14.2 21.1 23.1 21.8 21.8 17.5
Transport - 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.7 0.6
Dealing and Shopkeeping 6.6 10.4 9.4 15.4 12.5 19.3
Finance and Insurance - - - 0.1 1.0 2.1
Public Service and Professional 2.3 3.6 4.3 6.4 7.8 8.5
Domestic Service 49.0 52.2 50.7 44.9 44.6 42.3
Labourers (Unspecified) 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 -
Propertied and Independent 20.6 7.3 6.9 9.5 10.7 8.7
Indefinite 7.0 4.5 4.2 0.1 0.2 0.4
Total Employed 3,237 4,420 5,230 3,818 5,758 6,017
C. TOTAL WORKING POPULATION
Occupational class 1841
%
1851
%
1861
%
1871
%
1901
%
1911
%
Agriculture and Fishing 3.7 8.4 7.1 6.1 2.9 3.2
Mining and Quarrying 0.1 0.6 0.9 0.5 0.1 0.1
Building and Construction 6.5 7.3 7.6 10.1 8.9 7.2
Manufacturing and Crafts 26.1 26.0 28.5 27.8 25.0 23.3
Transport 2.7 6.3 6.5 6.3 11.6 11.5
Dealing and Shopkeeping 10.7 12.8 12.6 13.2 12.4 15.8
Finance and Insurance 1.6 0.7 0.9 2.0 4.4 4.9
Public Service and Professional 5.6 8.2 6.0 7.7 8.7 9.7
Domestic Service 18.8 19.2 19.6 15.4 16.0 15.9
Labourers (Unspecified) 10.1 4.7 5.3 6.6 4.2 3.0
Propertied and Independent 8.8 3.2 2.8 3.4 5.3 4.8
Indefinite 5.5 2.5 2.1 1.0 0.6 0.6
Total Employed 9,989 13,170 14,736 12,743 17,758 18,621

Note: 1841 includes all employed regardless of age, but there are flaws in the Census occupation data; 1851 and 1861 include all employed regardless of age; 1871 includes employed people aged 20 and over; 1901 and 1911 include employed people aged 10 and over.

Source: Census, 1841-71, 1901-11, Occupations, Chester.

TABLE 15: Adult manufacturing employment, 1851-1911,by 1911 Census classifications
Sector Males Females Total
1851 1871 1911 1851 1871 1911 1851 1871 1911
A. Traditional and Handicraft Sector
Precious Metals, Jewels, Watches, etc. 29 66 75 5 11 1 34 77 76
Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers 123 136 131 20 32 18 143 154 149
Other Furniture Workers 18 19 45 0 0 3 18 19 48
Wood and Bark 172 187 63 3 0 1 175 187 64
Skins and Leather 68 71 5 0 3 1 68 74 6
Hair and Feathers 22 11 23 0 1 1 22 12 24
Tailors, Milliners, and Dressmakers 229 252 250 498 528 530 727 780 780
Shirt Makers 0 0 1 63 100 21 63 100 22
Footwear 376 444 147 64 61 10 440 505 157
Other Dress 33 17 3 13 5 5 46 22 8
Bread etc. 118 162 110 17 6 4 135 168 114
Other Food and Drink 51 82 94 0 0 10 51 82 104
Tobacco Manufacturers (incl. Pipes) 19 47 68 3 13 83 22 60 151
Spirituous Drinks 75 63 20 0 3 0 75 66 20
Bookbinders and Paper 41 22 8 0 7 9 41 29 17
Printers and Lithographers 64 66 134 0 2 4 64 68 138
Total 1,438 1,645 1,177 686 772 701 2,124 2,434 1,878
68% 61% 43% 98% 93% 97% 75% 69% 54%
B. Transport-Related Crafts
Ships and Boats 44 69 94 0 0 0 44 69 94
Cycles and Motor Cars 0 0 49 0 0 1 0 0 50
Other Vehicle Workers 107 137 180 0 0 0 107 137 180
Blacksmiths and Strikers 105 133 115 1 0 0 106 133 115
Saddlery and Harness 31 29 33 2 1 1 33 30 34
Total 287 368 471 3 1 2 290 370 473
14% 14% 17% 0% 0% 9% 10% 10% 14%
C. Metals and Other Modern Manufactures
Iron, Steel, etc. 58 144 44 0 0 0 58 144 44
General Engineering and Machine Making 129 262 185 0 0 0 129 262 185
Tools, Dies, and Miscellaneous (incl. Leadworks) 130 204 567 6 38 5 136 242 572
Electrical Apparatus 0 0 139 0 0 0 0 0 139
Bricks, Cement, etc. 4 1 28 0 4 1 4 5 29
Oil, Grease, and Soap 28 28 81 0 2 0 28 30 81
Chemicals 17 16 40 0 1 5 17 17 45
Textiles 33 44 8 8 16 7 41 60 15
Total 399 699 1,092 14 61 18 417 735 1,110
19% 26% 40% 2% 7% 3% 15% 21% 32%
Total 2,124 2,712 2,740 703 834 721 2,831 3,546 3,461
D. Other General and Undefined Workers possibly in Manufacturing
General Labourers 541 830 507 7 4 0 548 834 507
Engine Drivers (not Transport) 0 2 68 0 0 0 0 2 68
Others 2 24 70 0 27 17 2 51 87
Total 543 905 645 7 31 17 550 936 662

Source: Census, 1851, 1871, 1911, Occupations, Chester.

TABLE 16: Self-employed and employees in shoemaking and tailoring, 1860-1
Employment type Shoemakers Tailors
Total 689 290
Self-employed and middlemen 91 59
Employees and outworkers 598 231
Employees per self-employed 6.6 3.9

Sources: Total: Census, 1861, Occupations, Chester; Selfemployed and middlemen: White's Dir. Ches. (1860); Employees and outworkers calculated by deducting self-employed and middlemen from total.

The railways could have helped the development of new industries in Chester by reducing the cost of raw materials and making access to markets cheaper or faster. Although there is some evidence for such railway-led industrialization, especially in the emergence of Saltney as an industrial suburb, the city's manufacturing base remained limited. The engineering sector grew most, and the numbers employed in metalworking increased greatly between 1851 and 1871, particularly in the more modern trades. Older metal trades, such as nailmaking and whitesmithing, declined, presumably due to competition from elsewhere, but engineers, machine makers, mechanics, and iron manufacturers leapt in numbers. In 1850 there were only three engineering enterprises. (fn. 32) One was Edward and Bryan Johnson, successors to Cole, Whittle & Co. at the Flookersbrook foundry. By the 1860s the firm had diversified into general engineering, machining, and boilermaking, and E. B. Ellington entered the partnership, bringing expertise in hydraulic engineering. (fn. 33)

The other two engineering firms operating in 1850 appear to have had contrasting fortunes. John Gray & Co., Roodee Iron Works, had disappeared by 1860, (fn. 34) but it is unclear whether it was swallowed up by the revived shipyard or was too poorly located to make efficient use of rail transport. The foundry in Crook Street had changed hands by 1860 but survived as a back-street enterprise beyond 1870. More significantly, by 1860 five new firms had emerged and by 1870 a further three, making eleven in all. (fn. 35) The new foundries and engineering firms were located in two main areas. The first lay between the canal and the railway around Brook Street, Egerton Street, and George Street, where the most important businesses were E. & B. Johnson, James Mowle, and James Rigg. None was actually on the canal side itself or had direct rail access, and most occupied restricted sites hemmed in by housing which limited their possibility for expansion. The two railway wagon repair shops in the same area were linked of necessity to the railway. The London and North Western Railway had a cramped works between Francis Street and City Road, to which rail access involved crossing the station approach road at street level. (fn. 36) The Birmingham Wagon Co.'s works occupied a better and more spacious site between Black Diamond Street and the Brook Street bridge. The company's main works was in Smethwick near Birmingham, and the branch in Chester maintained wagons leased to the railway companies and private operators. (fn. 37)

The new industrial zone at Saltney was related directly to the arrival of the railway. Though administratively it was only partly within Chester, geographically and economically Saltney was an extension of the city. It developed rapidly into the city's most vibrant industrial area in the mid 19th century and made a large contribution to diversifying Chester's economic base. The trigger for its growth was the opening by the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway in 1846 of a wharf on the Dee adjacent to the railway junction with the Chester and Holyhead line. (fn. 38) Industrial development began in 1847 with the establishment of Henry Wood & Co.'s anchor, chain, and general engineering works. The firm had been founded in Stourbridge (Worcs.) in 1786. The Saltney works, on Boundary Lane, had both a railway siding and access to Saltney wharf. A number of other firms followed Wood's to Saltney. Lloyd's Cambrian Chain and Anchor Testing Co., symbiotically related to Woods, was set up next door in 1866. (fn. 39) By 1870 three oil refineries were in operation, of which the largest was the Flintshire Oil & Cannel Co. at St. David's Oil Works. The others were E. S. Rogers & Co.'s British Oil Works and the Dee Mineral Oil Co., set up in 1869. They mostly processed crude oil produced from cannel coal in the Flintshire coalfield, and were part of an industry which boomed locally from 1858 to the 1880s. (fn. 40) The Sal Ammonionic works was operating in Saltney as early as 1843, and in 1856 Proctor and Ryland moved there from Birmingham and opened a bone manure works on the riverside. (fn. 41) The railway also brought industry to Saltney on its own account. The Shrewsbury and Chester Railway established its locomotive and carriage works there in 1847, and after the company was acquired by the Great Western in 1854, the latter moved its standard-gauge carriage and wagon works from Wolverhampton to Saltney. (fn. 42) The Victoria Waggon Co. was also operating at Saltney by 1860, though it had closed by 1870. Furthermore the goods yards at Mold Junction became the main concentration and distribution point for roofing slates from the north Wales quarries. (fn. 43) Saltney's population grew from 554 in 1841 to 1,901 in 1871 as a result of the area's industrial development. (fn. 44)

The mid 19th century was Chester's most successful period between 1762 and 1914. Much of the success can be attributed to the arrival of the railway, which created direct employment and strengthened links with the hinterland and beyond. The service economy prospered, and there was growth and diversification in manufacturing. By 1870 the city had managed to reorientate to a significant degree after the demise of many of its traditional functions in the eighty years before 1840. The limitations of the reorientation were, however, revealed after 1871.

Footnotes

  • 1. V.C.H. Ches. v (2), Railways.
  • 2. Census, 1861, Occupations, pp. 649, 651, 653.
  • 3. G. R. Hawke, Rlys. and Econ. Growth in Eng. and Wales, 1840-70, 262-3.
  • 4. Chester Chron. 10 Aug. 1861.
  • 5. Census, 1861, Occupations, p. 651.
  • 6. G. Davies, 'Impact of Rlys. on Chester, 1837-70' (Chester Coll. B.Ed. essay, 1981), 11-12.
  • 7. A. H. Dodd, Industrial Revolution in N. Wales (1971), esp. chapters 5-8; Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxv. 62-97; xxvi. 144-69.
  • 8. Dodd, Ind. Revolution in N. Wales, 151.
  • 9. W. T. R. Pryce, 'Social and Econ. Structure of NE. Wales, 1750-1890' (Lanchester Poly., Coventry, Ph.D. thesis, 1971), 115.
  • 10. D. A. Halsall, 'Chester and Holyhead Rly. and its Branches: Geographical Perspective' (Liverpool Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1976), 83.
  • 11. Trans. Denb. Hist. Soc. vi. 78.
  • 12. Rest of para. based on Porter, 'Agric. Change in Ches.' 18- 21, 27, 41-2, 135, 202-5, 207, 227, 258, 262, 314, fig. 14.
  • 13. Ibid. 13, 130, 303; White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 249.
  • 14. R. E. Porter, 'Marketing of Agric. Produce in Ches. during 19th Cent.' T.H.S.L.C. cxxvi. 149.
  • 15. Census, 1851-1911.
  • 16. White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 571.
  • 17. Browns and Chester, esp. 81-4.
  • 18. Chester T.S.B., 1817-1967.
  • 19. [Callister], Chester Grosvenor, 10.
  • 20. Below, Topography, 900-1914: Victorian and Edwardian (City Centre).
  • 21. e.g. R. M. Bevan, The Roodee: 450 Years of Racing in Chester, 30.
  • 22. Jnl. Staffs. Ind. Arch. Soc. x. 37; A. Fox, Hist. of Nat. Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, 1874-1957, 21-6; Northants. Past and Present, vi (3), 151-9.
  • 23. White's Dir. Ches. (1860); O.S. Map 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII.11 (1875 and later edns.).
  • 24. C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 56/1-2.
  • 25. C.H.H., Z 37: photocopy of Chester Northgate Brewery Co. min. bk. 1877-81; Archives and Records, ed. Kennett, 105.
  • 26. Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850); White's Dir. Ches. (1860).
  • 27. Fenwick, Hist. Chester, 478.
  • 28. Econ. H.R. 2nd ser. xliii. 420.
  • 29. 1 Sheaf, ii, p. 242.
  • 30. Chester and Dee, ed. Kennett, 15.
  • 31. Hoddinott, Leadworks, 1, 15, 37, 82.
  • 32. Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850).
  • 33. Bracegirdle, Engineering in Chester, 34-6 (dating Ellington's arrival 1869); Short Hist. Hydraulic Engineering Co. 1 (probably more reliable date of 1850s).
  • 34. White's Dir. Ches. (1860).
  • 35. Ibid.; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1870).
  • 36. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII.11 (1875 edn.).
  • 37. J. Simmons, Rly. in Town and Country, 1830-1914, 126; cf. V.C.H. Staffs. xvii. 112.
  • 38. Saltney and Saltney Ferry: Third Illustrated Hist. (1992), 12.
  • 39. Flints. R.O., NT/1(a); NT/903; Saltney and Saltney Ferry: Short Illustrated Hist. ed. B. D. Clark (1988); Saltney and Saltney Ferry: Second Illustrated Hist. ed. B. D. Clark (1989), 11; G.Lloyd, Notes on Henry Wood & Co. Ltd. (1964).
  • 40. Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxv. 166-9; xxvi. 151; Flints. R.O., NT/1(a); ibid. D/BC/3419; Dodd, Ind. Revolution in N. Wales.
  • 41. Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxvi. 148; Flints. R.O., NT/1(a).
  • 42. R. Christiansen, Regional Hist. of Rlys. of G.B., VII: W. Midlands, 98; C. H. Ellis, Brit. Rly. Hist. 1830-76, 198-207.
  • 43. Saltney: 2nd Illus. Hist. ed. Clark, 7.
  • 44. Census, 1851-71 (Saltney township).