A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Bacon and associated products
Wiltshire's reputation as a producer of good bacon was of long-standing as early as the 18th century, when pigs were normally cured on the farms. (fn. 1) By the 19th century 'Wiltshire bacon' had come to mean bacon cut and cured by a particular method: the pig's carcass was singed after slaughter, the hair, feet, head, offal, intestines, tail, and backbone were removed, the two sides were separated and then cured whole. The name of the county used in this way was regarded as a guarantee of high quality, and there were complaints that unscrupulous retailers used the term 'Wiltshire bacon' to advertise bacon produced neither in the county nor by this method. (fn. 2) The history of how Wiltshire, despite the change to factory production, maintained its reputation for good bacon, and also gave its name to a special type of cure, is almost entirely the history of one firm, C. & T. Harris (Calne) Ltd. (fn. 3)
This firm grew out of two small retail shops at Calne, one a pork butcher's shop and the other a grocery shop and bakery. The butcher's shop was opened in the late 18th century by a certain John Harris, when he first came to Calne. When he died in 1791 the business was carried on by his widow but on a very small scale: she 'thought it a good week if she had killed five or six pigs and sold clear out on a Saturday night'. (fn. 4) It was her sons, John and Henry, who built up the business. John opened a shop of his own at the corner of the High Street in 1805–6. Henry helped his mother until her death in 1809; three years later he took over the grocery business and bakery in Butcher's Row (later Church Street), previously belonging to his father-in-law, Joseph Perkins. (fn. 5) Each brother made a small quantity of bacon at the back of the shop, and this part of their trade became increasingly important. Before the construction of the Great Western Railway, (fn. 6) large droves of Irish pigs travelled from Bristol to London by road. One of the regular resting-places was near Calne, and these herds became the Harris brothers' chief source of supply. Both businesses expanded until brought to a standstill in 1847 by the shortage of Irish pigs following the failure of the potato crop in the previous year. In order to overcome this crisis George Harris, the youngest son of the second John Harris, went to America to explore the possibility of killing and curing pigs there and sending them home to be sold. For a year he travelled about America visiting many bacon-curers, and sending home bacon, lard, cheese, and other provisions. After a brief visit home in the summer of 1848, he again returned to America and opened a baconcuring establishment in Schenectady (New York State). The venture was not successful, however, and the American branch was closed. (fn. 7)
Despite its apparent failure, George Harris's trip to America was the most important turning-point in the whole history of the firm, because while he was there he observed the extensive use of ice for cooling purposes. Attempts had been made at Calne to find a way of curing bacon in hot weather instead of curing it in the winter and keeping it hard salted for summer use. These, however, had met with no success until George Harris suggested that they should follow the American method of cooling. The first ice-house was constructed at the High Street factory in 1856; the ice was stored on iron floors in huge chambers above the curing-rooms. After a great deal of experiment, it was found that charcoal was the best insulating material for use in the walls round the ice-chamber. The ice was collected locally in hard winters, and imported from Norway if not available in England. The construction of this type of ice-house gave the Harris family a lead over all other English bacon curers not only in curing throughout the year but also in developing a milder cure, which eventually almost completely replaced the old hard-salted cure. The volume of trade became so great that in 1863 the Harris family joined with other local interests to finance a branch railway line between Calne and Chippenham. (fn. 8) The ice-house was patented by Thomas Harris in 1864; most of the important bacon-curers throughout the country took advantage of the chance to improve their output by constructing such ice-houses under licence. (fn. 9) The income from the patent together with their own expansion enabled the two Calne businesses to increase their rate of mechanization: at the High Street premises a new ice-house, furnace, and pigsties were built in 1869; (fn. 10) and ten years later it was said that at the Church Street factory the pigs were moved almost entirely by machinery after they had been killed. (fn. 11)
There were two parallel businesses throughout most of the 19th century. When John Harris died in 1837, the High Street factory passed to his son, Thomas, (fn. 12) who made his three eldest sons partners in 1885, when the business became known as Thomas Harris & Sons. Henry Harris died in 1861 and his nephew George took over the Church Street business. John Harris's fifth son, Charles, joined his brother George in 1863 and after George's death this business became known as Charles Harris & Co. (fn. 13) The two businesses developed along similar lines and were roughly the same size: in 1879 Charles Harris & Co. employed between 60 and 70 men and sometimes handled over 1,000 pigs a week; (fn. 14) this was approximately the same number as Thomas Harris & Sons could handle. (fn. 15) There was always close co-operation between the two firms and in July 1888 they were amalgamated as Charles & Thomas Harris & Co. Ltd.
The period shortly before and after this amalgamation was marked by further mechanization, (fn. 16) by the use of brine refrigeration in place of the ice-house method, and by a planned campaign to persuade farmers to breed the type of lean pig best suited to bacon. (fn. 17) In 1887 pigs were received from 25 counties in England and Wales, of which Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, and Devon were the most important, and a large number of pigs were still received from Ireland. (fn. 18) By this time bacon was exported to many parts of the world including most European countries, America, Australia, India, China, the Cape of Good Hope, and New Zealand. Some bacon was extra-cured and smoked for sending to hot climates. (fn. 19) By the end of the century the Calne factories also supplied the principal Transatlantic, Pacific, and Far Eastern steamship lines. (fn. 20) There was considerable competition by cheaper meat from America and the colonies, but by concentration on high-quality products the Harris Company survived this. It was said in The British Journal of Commerce that in January 1889 Calne was 'the chief seat of the bacon-curing industry of England'. At the end of the century it was claimed, possibly with some exaggeration, that Harris's produced more bacon than any other four or five curers in England together. Between 2,000 and 3,000 pigs were slaughtered each week and over 200 workmen and 30 clerks were employed. (fn. 21)
Bacon was by far the most important product of the firm throughout the 19th century but even before the amalgamation sausages and lard were also made on a large scale. It was said that on a single day just before Christmas in 1878, 'Messrs. Harris made a mile and a half in length of sausages'. (fn. 22) It seems probable that pork pies were always made by Henry Harris and by Joseph Perkins before him: in the middle of the 19th century Henry Harris was still described as a 'baker and bacon factor'. (fn. 23) The outstanding feature of the 20th-century history of the Harris business has been the expansion of these subsidiary products or small goods, both in quantity and in the number of varieties. Before the First World War the main varieties were pork sausages and sausage meat, pork-tomato sausages, pork pies, veal and ham pies, veal, ham and egg pies, cooked luncheon sausage, Bath chaps, polonies, saveloys, and galantine of ham and tongue in glasses. After the war many more varieties of cooked sausages, pies, cooked meats, meat and fish pastes, and specialities in glasses and tins were developed.
Many extensions to the factory have been necessary to deal with the expanding trade in the period since 1917 when Sir John Bodinnar became managing director. New sausage and small-goods factories were built in 1919–21 and again in 1931 on the south side of Church Street. The manufacture of bacon remained on the north side of Church Street and in 1933–4 extensive alterations were made there: new dry-cure and tank-cure cellars were installed, additional chillrooms and a hanging room were built and new bacon-smoking stores were added. Most of this work was undertaken during slump conditions, but it had been justified before the outbreak of the Second World War, and enabled the firm to supply the armed forces with large quantities of tinned and fresh food throughout the war. After the war yet further extensions and mechanization were carried out in the bacon factory; the result was that between 1930 and 1956 the bacon-curing capacity was trebled. Tankcuring began in 1932 and by 1957 most of the bacon was tank-cured; some of the original high-quality dry-cure bacon, however, was still produced every week. The growth of the sausages, small-goods, and canning department was even greater, and the capacity of the factories was increased at least tenfold between the beginning of the 20th century and 1956. A by-products factory was built near the station in 1930, so that in addition to food the firm makes fertilizers, feeding-stuffs, and soap stock, and provides materials for medicinal products, curled hair for upholstery, and bristles for brushes. (fn. 24)
The company acquired several factories outside Wiltshire between 1901 and 1930: factories at Redruth (Cornw.), Totnes and Tiverton (Devon), and Kidlington (Oxon.) were taken under direct control; factories at Chippenham (see below, the Wiltshire Bacon Co.), Ipswich, Needham Market (Suff.), Highbridge (Som.), Dunmow (Essex), and Eastleigh (Hants) were operated by subsidiary companies. The acquisition of these businesses greatly increased the amount of office work done at Calne. Warehouses were also acquired in a number of important towns. Since its earliest days the company has distributed most of its own products direct to retailers; (fn. 25) a large selling organization was developed and by 1939 most of the selling was being done by full-time employees. The growth since 1917 of the central office staff and distributing organization for the whole group of factories and warehouses, as well as the growth of the factory, is illustrated in Table 1.
The Harris family ceased to control the firm which bears their name in 1920, and in 1922 some of the shares were acquired by the Marsh family, the Midland bacon-curers. The Harris family's connexion with the Wiltshire bacon industry, however, was not broken for long, because in 1924 J. M. Harris and his son, R. J. Harris (son and grandson of Thomas Harris), acquired the control of Bowyer, Philpott & Payne Ltd. at Trowbridge, and changed the name of the company to Bowyers (Wiltshire Bacon) Ltd. This firm, capable of curing 1,000 pigs a week in 1957, also grew out of a small retail shop.
Growth in Personnel at Calne, 1917–57 (fn. 26)
Abraham Bowyer opened a grocery shop in Fore Street, Trowbridge, in the early 19th century. (fn. 27) It is said that he began curing bacon almost immediately and that he was also a miller. (fn. 28) By 1880 the business, then run by Abraham's son, Elijah, occupied the mill at Innox as well as the Fore Street premises: the firm were described as wholesale bacon-curers, cheese factors, millers, and grocers. (fn. 29) A public company was formed in 1891 under the name Bowyer, Philpott & Co. Ltd. In 1898 the company became Bowyer, Philpott & Payne Ltd. with the acquisition of the business of John Payne, another small Fore Street bacon-curer and sausage-maker. (fn. 30) The making of sausages was an important activity of the original company at this date. (fn. 31) By the beginning of the First World War the company were probably curing about 400 pigs a week, but just before 1924 the number had dropped to 60 or 80 pigs a week. (fn. 32)
When the firm changed hands in 1924 considerable reorganization took place: the old mill was reconstructed and new factory buildings were erected. The manufacture of feeding-stuffs, which had been carried out in the mill, was abandoned, and all effort concentrated on the manufacture of bacon, lard, sausages, pies, cooked meat, and tinned meats. The retail shop in Fore Street once belonging to John Payne was, however, maintained. Since 1924 the business has expanded more or less continuously, especially since the legislation of 1931–3 aimed at stabilizing agricultural marketing. During the Second World War meat and sausages were tinned for the War Office. Throughout its history the firm has produced high-quality dry-cured 'Wiltshire bacon', but tank-cured bacon was also made by 1956. The pigs have mainly come from Wiltshire and the adjoining counties, and the products have been sold in London, and throughout southern England, Wales, and the Midlands. In 1953 the company purchased a large block of four-storey buildings, which they converted for office purposes. In 1954 the whole of the site was purchased, together with large buildings previously used by Kemp & Hewitt, woollen manufacturers. (fn. 33) This site adjoins the main factory of the company, and is being remodelled for the special requirements of Bowyer's industry. This development was not complete by 1956 but even so over 400 workpeople were employed by the company.
Most of the other bacon-curing firms working in Wiltshire in 1956, together with many other firms not surviving until that date, (fn. 34) were founded between 1877 and 1900. The majority were apparently small family businesses, often combining baconcuring with a retail butcher's or grocer's shop. J. H. Case Ltd. of Trowbridge still retained this character in 1956, although it then controlled a small chain of retail shops. The first shop was opened in Mortimer Street in 1878; the bacon-curing has always been done at the back of this shop, and distributed by wholesalers in Westbury, Bristol, and South Wales. The worst crisis experienced by the firm was at the height of the South Wales slump from 1929 to 1932. Before the Second World War a large mail-order trade was done with north Scotland, the Western Isles, and the Shetland Isles. Sausages and other 'small goods' have also been produced throughout the firm's history but only for local distribution. The business was not turned into a company until 1938, and the maximum number of pigs ever cured in a week was about 400; the usual capacity in 1956 was 300 pigs a week, and eleven men were employed on the bacon-curing side of the business. (fn. 35) Two firms founded a year earlier, Adye & Hinwood Ltd. of Malmesbury, and Frank Moody Ltd. of Warminster, still occupied their original site in 1956, when the firms had a capacity of 200 and 250 pigs a week respectively. (fn. 36)
The three firms surviving from the 1890's differ from those founded earlier because they were all established as limited companies. The avowed aim of the Wiltshire Bacon Curing Co. Ltd., incorporated in 1890, was to provide the Wiltshire farmers with an alternative market for their pigs—'the Wiltshire bacon trade being practically a monopoly'. (fn. 37) The first chairman and managing director was Henry Herbert Smith, the agent for the Marquess of Lansdowne, the Earl of Crewe, Lord Methuen, and other local landowners. (fn. 38) A foundry and engineering works in Foundry Lane was bought; it was adapted for curing and in 1891 the manufacture of 'Royal Wilts.' bacon began. Hams, lard, sausages, black puddings, polonies, brawn, and cooked Bath chaps were also made. In 1895 the company acquired the shares of the Chippenham Cheese Factory Ltd. and this business was carried on alongside the manufacture of bacon until 1919; this was a further development of the practice, frequent in the late 19th century, for the same man to be both a bacon factor and a cheese factor. (fn. 39) In 1897 the company took over the Bradenham Ham Co. and since it was wound up in 1921 'Bradenham' hams, cured by a secret recipe, have been manufactured by the Wiltshire Bacon Co.
In 1920 the shares of the Wiltshire Bacon Curing Co. were acquired by the Harris business and since 1922 the company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of C. & T. Harris (Calne) Ltd., the firm whose position they had set out to challenge. The bacon producing capacity remained fairly constant at Chippenham from 1891 to 1934, when a tank-cure cellar was constructed, thereby increasing capacity by 50 per cent. During the Second World War the factory was closed for bacon-curing under the Bacon-Curing Concentration Scheme. When curing was resumed in 1949 further extensions doubled the 1938 baconcuring capacity, and additional lines of 'small goods' were introduced—meat pies and pasties, roast legs of pork, savoury ducks, and pork-meat loaf. The number of employees was 43 in 1914, 102 in 1939, 137 in 1950, and 290 in 1957. Throughout its history the company has distributed its products in England, Scotland, and Wales. At first the pigs were drawn from farms within a 50-mile radius of Chippenham, but this was gradually extended.
St. Margaret's Wiltshire Bacon Co. Ltd. began production in 1895 at The Green, Stratton St. Margaret (now Oxford Road, Swindon). A substantial proportion of its output was sold locally. In 1947 it was acquired by Brown & Knight Ltd. of Lambeth, London, bacon-curers and food-distributors. In 1956 about 50 people were employed in the factory. (fn. 40)
The Central Wiltshire Bacon Co. Ltd. at Bath Row, Devizes, has retained its independence; it was formed in 1899 and the only major crisis was during the Second World War, when it was closed. The period since it reopened in 1950 has been its most successful; in 1956 the capacity was about 350 pigs a week and there were 30 employees. (fn. 41)
Almost all bacon-curing factories produce also lard, sausages, and other associated products. The only factory in Wiltshire devoted wholly to baconcuring is the branch factory at Chippenham of the Bristol firm of Spear Bros. & Clark Ltd. This factory was built by the Wiltshire Farmers' Co-operative Association but had been closed for some years when the factory was bought by Spear Bros. & Clark in 1916. In 1956 the number of pigs cured in the factory varied from 100 to 300 a week. (fn. 42)
The west and north-west of the county around Chippenham has always had the greatest concentration of bacon-curing establishments. The only factory of any size in the south of the county was established at Downton in 1929 in the building which was originally the workhouse and prison; it was incorporated as the South Wilts. Bacon Curing Co. Ltd. The directors of this company were local meat traders or connected with local farming, and the main object was to provide the retailers with pork and bacon. It would have been impossible to choose a worse time for entering the bacon industry and by 1934 the factory was scarcely functioning and most of the capital had been lost. The directors wished to participate in the Ministry of Agriculture BaconDevelopment Scheme. In order, therefore, to raise more capital they approached I. Beer & Sons Ltd. of London, a large wholesale company concerned primarily with the distribution of bacon, and this company took over the South Wilts. Bacon Curing Co. The reformed company enlarged and modernized the premises: the interior of the old building was completely rebuilt, and new buildings, added at the rear between 1934 and 1939 and from 1948 to 1954, have dwarfed the original one. By 1935 the factory had a capacity of 500 pigs a week. A small cannery was established in 1938 for tinning gammons. During the Second World War the factory made sausages and small goods as well as tinned bacon for the armed forces. The extensions after the war increased the capacity to 1,600 pigs a week and by 1956 there were about 100 employees. Fertilizer, bone meal, and glue are produced as by-products at the factory. (fn. 43)
The success of the South Wilts. Bacon Curing Co. at Downton illustrates the greater stability in the industry as a whole since the legislation of 1933. (fn. 44) The pig cycle was almost certainly the cause of the failure of many firms begun in the late 19th and early 20th century. Companies as well as family businesses appear in the directories and then disappear again after a few years: for example, out of the 20 baconcurers listed in a 1907 directory, three companies— the Avon-Vale Bacon Co. at Chippenham, the North Wilts. Bacon Co. at Swindon, and John Walter & Co. at Sedgehill, Maiden Bradley, Zeals, and Bourton—had disappeared by 1923. (fn. 45) By 1931 the number of curers was reduced to 12, but 10 of these were still at work in 1956. All the smaller firms stopped curing during the Second World War, but they were allocated bacon for their customers, so that in 1949– 50 they were able to resume production. Despite the efforts of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation pigs have often been scarce since 1950, and in 1956 nearly all the firms, large and small, were working far below full capacity.
The rate of expansion of the large firms since 1934 has been much greater than that of the smaller firms, and Harris's has remained by far the largest manufacturer of both bacon and its associated products. The concentration of bacon-curing in the west of the county was encouraged during the 18th and 19th centuries because it was the main cheese-making area, and, therefore, the farmers kept pigs to use up the whey. It has been shown, however, that Harris's first expansion was dependent not on local pigs but on Irish pigs. The success of Harris's was itself a potent influence in encouraging other firms, wishing either to emulate or rival the older firm, to set up their businesses in the west of the county. All the curers at work in both 1935 and 1956 obtained their pigs from a much wider area than the county; thus, the role of Wiltshire farming in the growth of the modern bacon-curing industry in Wiltshire must not be exaggerated.
Dairy-farming has long been practised in Wiltshire. (fn. 46) Not only was butter produced on the scale normal in a predominantly agricultural county, but cheese was made in large quantities in the northwest. By the 19th century Wiltshire cheese had attained some renown. (fn. 47) Dairy farming has remained a vital part of Wiltshire agriculture. (fn. 48) The use of the milk produced, however, has changed radically since the last quarter of the 19th century.
London's demand for liquid milk began to increase rapidly after the cattle plague of 1868, and as the capital was easily accessible by both road and rail from Wiltshire, the county became an important source of supply. The earliest wholesale depot created primarily for the London market was opened at Semley in 1871 (see below). Since the beginning of the 20th century most of the liquid milk sent to London from Wiltshire has been handled by Wilts. United Dairies Ltd., who were one of the four largest wholesaling companies in London by the outbreak of the First World War (see below). In 1938–9, 51.5 per cent. of the milk from Wiltshire farms was sold as liquid milk, most of it in London. By 1955–6 liquid milk formed 62.9 per cent., despite an increase in total production for the year from 57,933 in 1938–9 to 69,101 thousand gallons. (fn. 49)
The second great change is that condensed milk has replaced cheese as the main milk product. As shown in Table 1, this replacement is now complete.
Table 1 (fn. 50)
Proportion of Milk Manufactured into Different Milk Products (fn. 51)
|Cream (fresh and sterilized)||25%||30%|
|Condensed milk and chocolate crumb||67%||67%|
The processed cheese made since 1925 at Aplin & Barrett's Westbury factory is not taken into account in Table 1, because it is made from Cheddar cheese and not fresh milk (see below).
The change of product has been accompanied by an equally far-reaching change in organization, for Wiltshire participated at an early date in the movement which transferred the manufacture of milk products from the farm-house to the factory. There have been two distinctive ways by which milk factories have been established in Wiltshire: through foreign initiative with the help of foreign capital, and by the growth of small local concerns. The former way was responsible for the establishment of the first largescale milk factory in Wiltshire, that of the AngloSwiss Condensed Milk Co. (now the Nestlé Co. Ltd.) opened at Chippenham in 1873, but the second way has the longer history.
In the towns dairymen and cheesefactors, who were not themselves farmers, may have been making butter and cheese as early as the end of the 18th century, (fn. 52) although normally the cheesefactors and cheesemongers were solely wholesale dealers or agents for buyers unless they were also farmers. (fn. 53) In 1830 there were six cheesefactors at Marlborough alone, (fn. 54) and in 1859 there were twenty cheesefactors and five cheesemongers in the county. (fn. 55) After this date the number of cheesefactors given in the directories declines, but that of tradesmen described as 'dairymen' increases, until in 1911 there were over 150 dairymen. (fn. 56) Many of them were also farmers and it is not clear to what extent the others made their own cheese or butter, and to what extent they merely retailed milk and farm-made produce: the cheese 'factories' said to have been 'recently' established in Wiltshire in 1868 may have been connected with one or more of them, but no other details are available. (fn. 57) Farm-made cheese certainly persisted on a large scale throughout the 19th century: cheese markets were held monthly at Chippenham, Devizes, and Salisbury, and weekly at Marlborough, as late as 1903; and shortly before that date Joseph Neeld of Grittleton paid £5,000 to enlarge the cheese market at Chippenham. (fn. 58) Many of the dairymen must have operated on a very small scale, and the important development was the rise from out of their ranks of businesses which were converted into limited companies. Eleven dairy companies made their appearance between c. 1880 and 1911; but by the later date three of the earlier companies had ceased to operate, and three of those surviving in 1911 have since vanished. (fn. 59) There may have been other attempts to establish companies which failed too quickly to find a place in the directories. (fn. 60) The most successful of all these ventures was Wilts. United Dairies Ltd. formed in 1896–7. (fn. 61) Thus, the firm which has most radically affected the organization of wholesale milk distribution and, to a lesser extent, of the manufacture of dairy products, not only in Wiltshire but also throughout south-west England, was of purely Wiltshire origin. Its history reflects the interaction of the development of the London milk trade with the growth of factories in Wiltshire, and repays a detailed study.
As the name suggests it was an amalgamation, and the history of its founders goes back another ten years. In 1886 or 1887 the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. at Chippenham decided not to renew the contracts of a number of farmers in Melksham. This alarmed the farmers, who were afraid of losing the market for their milk. They prevailed, therefore, upon Charles Maggs of Melksham (fn. 62) to buy a separator and establish a collecting depot and butter factory in a farm dairy in Semington Road, Melksham. The only condition which Charles Maggs imposed on the farmers was that they should buy back 75 per cent. of the separated milk at 1d. a gallon. The arrangement worked so well that the business outgrew the farm dairy, and was moved to an old dyeworks in New Broughton Road about 1888. By the next year the plant consisted of one Danish and two Alfa-Laval separators, two Hathaway butter churns, a steam-engine, and a boiler. The chief markets were Gloucestershire, South Wales, and Cambridge, where there was an arrangement to supply butter to the colleges through Messrs. Arnold of Cambridge. Liquid milk for London was already proving a profitable sideline. (fn. 63)
One of the few other companies which attained any size was the North Wilts. Dairy Co. Ltd. This company was formed in 1889 by Reginald Butler (later Sir Reginald) with an authorized capital of £10,000. New premises were built in Pans Lane, Devizes. Butter was the main product, but in December 1896 an agreement was made with a Frenchman, F. O. Blanchot, whereby he was to come to Devizes to initiate and supervise the manufacture of Bondon and soft-curd cheese. (fn. 64) Some indication of the success of this firm is given by the fact that when it was dissolved seven years later the shareholders received the full value of their holding with a bonus of £1 on each share. (fn. 65)
The amalgamation of the Melksham company and the North Wilts. Dairy Co. as Wilts. United Dairies Ltd. inaugurated the large-scale organization of liquid milk and milk products in Wiltshire. (fn. 66) The two main founder companies were joined by the Frome Dairy Co., of which Charles Maggs was also head, Joshua Hampton's Dairy at Devizes, (fn. 67) the Little Cheverell Dairy Co., the Dauntsey Dairy Co., and the Cirencester Dairy Co. (fn. 68) Nothing is known of the previous history of these smaller firms, but the prime movers of the amalgamation were certainly Charles Maggs and Reginald Butler. They became joint managing directors and Charles Maggs was also chairman of the board of directors. The extent of his interest in the company was very great for by December 1897 he had been allotted as vendors' shares over a third of both the preference and the ordinary shares issued by that date. (fn. 69) When he died in 1898 the family connexion with the company was maintained by his sons, C. W. and J. H. Maggs, both directors from the beginning.
All the establishments of the founder companies were maintained with the exception of the Little Cheverell Dairy, where butter had been made, (fn. 70) but probably on too small a scale to be worth continuing. The head office was at the Pans Lane premises, where butter and soft cheeses were made; there were also factories or depots at Melksham, Calne, Trowbridge, Dauntsey, Frome (Som.), and Cirencester (Glos.). (fn. 71) The Melksham butter factory was the largest: in 1899 it handled approximately 2,000 galls. of milk a day in winter and 5,000 galls. in summer. In 1902 or 1903 butter-making was concentrated at Devizes, and the Melksham factory turned to the production of sweetened condensed milk. At first one small Sulzer pan, capable of making 336 galls. of condensed milk in 3 hours, was installed. In the summer processing started at 7 a.m. and continued until the early hours of the next morning. Twenty employees, four times the number needed for making butter in 1899, worked alternate days. Capacity was doubled in 1906 by the addition of another condensing pan, and in 1910 the first filling machine was installed. Melksham also took over the manufacture of cream when the Calne creamery was closed in 1903. Finally, roller driers were installed in 1910 for making baby milk powder, and the production of a small quantity of tinned blancmange began in the same year. (fn. 72)
One of the most important steps in the company's history was the purchase of a wholesale milk business at Paddington in 1901. Thereafter, the supply of liquid milk to London formed an increasingly large proportion of Wilts. United Dairies' trade. Much of the milk came from Wiltshire farms but the collection area also covered parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire, supplying the depots at Frome and Cirencester respectively. Mr. J. H. Maggs moved to London as managing director of the London business, and by the end of the decade Wilts. United Dairies was one of the four big wholesale firms controlling the supply of milk to the capital. (fn. 73)
The articles of association had allowed great freedom for expansion if the company throve, and during its first fifteen years many more firms were taken over. By August 1912 Wilts. United Dairies ran several wholesale depots in London for liquid milk and one for 'fancy provisions'. Condensed milk was made at Melksham and Bason Bridge (Som.); butter and fancy cheeses were made at Devizes and Wells (Som.). There were creameries or depots at Calne, Trowbridge, Tisbury, Tidworth (serving the military garrison), Frome (Som.), Bridgwater (Som.), Gillingham (Dors.), and Chef du Pont, near Cherbourg. (fn. 74) Thus, the activities of the firm had already ranged far outside Wiltshire. The head office and management, however, remained within the county, being transferred from Devizes to Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, in 1913. At the same time, a butter factory was built nearby to take over the business of the Bridgwater Creameries. (fn. 75) From this time buttermaking virtually ceased at Devizes, which concentrated on the manufacture of Bondon, 'Little Wilts.' (soft-curd cheese), and miniature Cheddar cheeses.
There was an element of risk in the extension of the liquid-milk trade because the demand in London was fickle. (fn. 76) Moreover, the low prices for butter at the beginning of the 20th century, due to cheap imported butter from New Zealand and Australia, forced the company to change over to blending and distributing butter, and curtailed their own butter production. (fn. 77) Even when all surplus liquid milk could be turned into butter or cheese, it was always difficult to dispose of the skimmed milk or whey profitably. (fn. 78) Thus, the manufacture of condensed, and later dried, milk helped to stabilize Wilts. United Dairies' trade, and enabled the company to expand its turnover steadily as well as rapidly. Turnover rose in value from less than £80,000 in 1897 to £500,000 in 1908–9, and well over £1,100,000 in 1914–15. (fn. 79) The rise in profits did not keep pace with the increase in turnover, but gross profits rose from £18,968 in 1897 to £88,688 in 1909–10, and £146,293 in 1913– 14. (fn. 80) This progress was not made without some friction with the farmers. In 1913 R. Butler, managing director of Wilts. United Dairies, felt it necessary to deny publicly that the company's balance sheet was an example of how badly the English farmer was treated by the middleman. He claimed that the farmers' associations were responsible for low milk prices through overloading the market. (fn. 81)
The First World War forced the dairy companies to co-operate in order to release both horses and men. Despite the anxiety of some of the farmers, (fn. 82) this soon led to further amalgamations, and in 1915 Wilts. United Dairies became one of the founder companies of United Dairies Ltd. (fn. 83) The directors of Wilts. United Dairies arranged that this should benefit not only their shareholders (fn. 84) but also some of the staff. It was done by distributing a small number of unallocated shares among the staff so that they obtained new United Dairies' shares free. (fn. 85) In using this form of benevolence, if only on a small scale, the directors were among the forerunners of experiments in 'co-partnership'. (fn. 86)
United Dairies was first organized as a wholesale business only. Although a large number of London retailers were admitted to the company in 1917, in Wiltshire the retail adjuncts to Wilts. United Dairies were sold. In 1920, with the acquisition of the Salisbury, Semley, and Gillingham Dairies Co. Ltd. (see below), United Dairies (Wholesale) Ltd. was created to take over wholesale milk depots and cheese factories. Wilts. United Dairies continued as a company dealing with other milk products. The management of both these companies remained at Trowbridge, but as the management of the other wholesale milk and milk products firms in the new amalgamation had been transferred to Trowbridge in 1915, the work was organized on a national, rather than a local, basis. By 1956 59 creameries and depots in England, Wales, and Scotland were managed from Trowbridge; the office staff was 326 compared to 28 in 1913. The directors of Wilts. United Dairies also became the leaders of United Dairies Ltd. Both Sir Reginald Butler and then Mr. J. H. Maggs held the post of chairman for a long period, and it is now (1957) held by Mr. Leonard Maggs, the youngest son of Charles Maggs.
While the history of United Dairies Ltd. and its subsidiaries lies outside the field of county history, the expansion of their individual factories in Wiltshire has local significance. Melksham is still the most important. Speed and capacity have been increased by the acquisition of new machinery—in 1923 electrical generating plant, in 1930 a Llewellyn & James filling-machine dealing with 120 tins a minute, in 1931–2 new Scott pans each making 1,000 galls. of condensed milk an hour, and can-making plant making 300 tins a minute. The buildings have been enlarged and the present main factory was erected in 1930–3. A river wall, which prevented flooding not only in the factory but also very largely in Melksham itself, was built in 1930. By 1935 total capacity was 51,000 galls. of liquid milk a day. The chief proprietary brand made was 'Diploma' condensed milk. The export trade began in 1920 and by 1939, 320,000 cases a year were sent to all parts of the world, a considerable proportion of them to Malaya. Large amounts of cream were also made before the Second World War, and in 1938 Melksham won a cup and a medal for cream at the Dairy Show. Since the rationalization of milk collection in 1940, most of the Melksham supplies have been collected in the vale of Pewsey. The scheme gives priority to the demand for liquid milk; this has handicapped the manufacture of milk products so that the 1939 level of production of both condensed milk and cream has not been completely regained at Melksham. The milk intake there in 1956 was approximately 40,000 galls. a day in summer and 30,000 galls. a day in winter, which is well below the total capacity. Exports also lag behind the pre-war figure: in 1955 220,000 cases of condensed milk were exported. The staff in 1956 averaged 230. (fn. 87)
Butter-making was continued at Trowbridge until 1939, when the business was transferred to Chard Junction (Som.). The production of cheeses, particularly soft-curd cheeses, at Devizes continued with little change from before the First World War to 1941, when the factory was closed. (fn. 88)
In 1920 the Salisbury, Semley, and Gillingham Dairies Co. Ltd. was brought into the amalgamation under the control of United Dairies (Wholesale) Ltd. This firm was first established at Semley in about 1871; it is, therefore, the oldest milk firm in Wiltshire of which records survive. Unlike Wilts. United Dairies and its founder companies, it was formed with direct reference to the London market. Thomas Kirby, the founder, was previously a London milk vendor. He wanted to prevent the waste of surplus milk in summer by manufacturing it into butter and cheese. The business grew gradually, and a second depot was opened at Gillingham (Dors.). In 1880 about 1,500 galls. of milk were sold daily in addition to the sale of butter and cheese. After this progress was much more rapid and new depots were opened at Salisbury, Tisbury, Temple Combe (Som.), and Wincanton (Som.). Two London businesses were also acquired. (fn. 89) In 1890 it was formed into a limited company, whose chief shareholder was W. H. Gramshaw, a London stock-jobber. (fn. 90) The company prospered at first but between 1896 and 1909 (when the surviving records end) they did little more than maintain their position. By far the greatest volume of the trade was in liquid milk; cheese was the most important product, while butter formed a very small proportion of the total trade. Pigs were kept to use up the whey: the receipts for 1908 included £1,572 for the sale of pigs. (fn. 91) In 1920 the head office was at Salisbury, and there were also depots in Wiltshire at Semley and Tisbury. By that date its activities were mainly confined to liquidmilk distribution. The Tisbury depot has since been closed, but Semley and Salisbury are still used.
One of the depots taken over at the time of the amalgamation in 1915 was that of the Dairy Supply Co. at Wootton Bassett. This was opened about 1908 as a branch of the London firm. Its purpose was the same as that of the Semley dairy established 40 years earlier, to balance the milk supplies to London by making surplus milk into cheese. It was a much larger factory and was equipped to make 10,000 galls. daily into cheese. As many as 450 pigs were kept on the whey. In 1917 rollers for making dried milk were added. This has since become the sole activity of the factory, and with the increasing demand for dried milk the factory has grown rapidly. It is also one of the most important depots for dispatching milk to London. In 1927 the first milk rail-tank to run in this country left Wootton Bassett for London. Road tankers are also used, and in 1956 four tankers holding 3,000 galls. of milk each were sent to London daily. The staff had grown by then from about 20 to 140 in winter and 160 in summer; and the creamery was capable of handling 40,000 to 50,000 galls. of milk a day. (fn. 92)
While Wilts. United Dairies Ltd. was experimenting with the manufacture of different milk products, and developing its wholesale milk trade with London, the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co.'s factory at Chippenham continued without deviation the production of sweetened condensed milk. From the beginning this factory was organized on a fairly large scale: the average number of employees in the first complete year of its existence was 53 men and 12 women. (fn. 93) Two years later the numbers were 67 men and 27 women; they continued to rise until 1906, after which there are no surviving records until 1937. Table 2 shows this increase together with the maximum daily rates of pay. As a strike in January 1913, originally for the right to organize a branch of the Workers' Union, secured a minimum of £1 a week for men and 12s. for women, many of the men must have been earning much less than the 1906 maximum rate. (fn. 94) A weekly wage of 12s. for women was good by the standards of the time. A leader of the strike was Florence Hancock, later Dame Florence, National Woman Officer of the Transport and General Workers' Union. Continual technical improvements during this period led to a greater rate of expansion of production than that indicated by the rise in the number of employees alone.
Table 2 (fn. 95)
Numbers of Employees at Chippenham Milk Factory, 1874–1906
The success of the Chippenham factory probably encouraged the company to find another Wiltshire site when they wished to open a fourth English factory in 1897. (fn. 96) Staverton was chosen because it possessed exactly the same advantages as Chippenham: it was in the centre of the dairy-farming district, there was a good river to provide the water essential to a milk factory, and there was a suitable building for sale. At both Chippenham and Staverton the building taken over was originally a cloth-mill (fn. 97) — such mills have often helped to attract modern industries into Wiltshire. (fn. 98) The history of the Staverton factory is very similar to that of the Chippenham factory, except that it was larger, and that unsweetened or evaporated 'Ideal' milk has always been made there as well as sweetened condensed milk.
The third of the present Nestlé factories in Wiltshire, that at Russell Road, Fisherton Anger, Salisbury, has a different origin and history since it was already a milk factory when it was acquired by the Nestlé and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. in 1914. It was founded in 1908 by the Hygienic Dairy Society Ltd. At first it was probably typical of the companies arising at this period: milk was received from ten farmers and by the end of 1909 the daily intake was about 1,000 gallons. Sterilized milk in bottles was made for ships' stores, particularly for the Union Castle Co.; some butter and cheese were also produced. The staff rose from 15 men and 4 women in 1910 to 23 men and 20 women in 1912, when the factory passed into the hands of Fussell & Co. Ltd. This company added the manufacture of condensed milk to that of butter and cheese, while maintaining the bottling of sterilized milk. This policy was continued by the Nestlé and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. after 1914, although Fussell & Co. headings were used until 1927. (fn. 99)
Demand for tinned milk was high during the First World War from both the services and civilians, but in the early 1920's the international Nestlé organization as a whole experienced its only serious recession. This was combated by improved organization both of sales and within each factory. (fn. 100) By 1926 the company had completely recovered its position and was again expanding. The impetus, however, for reformed organization within the old established factories continued for several more years. In Wiltshire, the reorganization involved a complete change of policy, for the company began to send supplies to the London wholesale milk market. In September 1926 manufacture at Salisbury ceased, and the factory was turned into a distribution centre for liquid milk. This greatly reduced the numbers of employees, from 156 in August 1926 to 30 in December of the same year, although the amount of milk handled was only slightly less. In 1930 the total staff was still only 35, although the quantity of milk handled had risen to half as much again. (fn. 101) In 1934 manufacturing was recommenced with the production of sweetened condensed milk, butter, and tinned sterilized cream, although about half the milk intake was still dispatched to London.
Very small amounts of liquid milk were also dispatched from Chippenham and Staverton after 1926, but the production of condensed milk for both the home market and export remained the main activity (see Table 3). At both factories programmes of reorganization and development were carried out in 1934–5. That at Staverton was the most sweeping as the two top stories of the old mill were removed, and the whole building was converted into offices, a canteen, and stores. A new processing block was built and provided with modern stainless-steel vacuum pans, automatic-filling and packing machines, and tin-making equipment. At Chippenham the internal structure of the building was modified, and both the condensing plant and tin-making equipment were modernized. A steam-engine, however, first mentioned as part of the fittings of the mill in 1830, (fn. 102) continued in use until 1945.
Table 3 (fn. 103)
Quantities of Milk (fn. 104) Handled by the Nestlé Factories, and Numbers of Employees
The result of these improvements was the higher production shown for 1937 in Table 3. (fn. 105) The higher number of employees required at Staverton to handle slightly less milk than at Chippenham may be explained by the diversity of products at Staverton: unsweetened as well as sweetened condensed milk was made, and from the early 1930's tinned sterilized cream formed a third product. At Salisbury the manufacture of homogenized baby foods was initiated in 1938, and continued until the end of 1956, when it was abandoned.
During the Second World War tinned milk was again produced for both the services and civilians, and all three Nestlé establishments in Wiltshire assisted in the dispatch of liquid milk to London. In addition, at Chippenham and Staverton the packing of 'iron rations' was undertaken on a large scale. At Salisbury homogenized baby foods and a small quantity of butter were made. The factory was also engaged on the manufacture of dehydrated soups, ordered by the Ministry of Food for use by the fighting services in the Mediterranean. Two years after the war ended over 50 per cent. of the milk handled by the three factories was dispatched as liquid milk, but by 1956 the proportion of milk used for manufacturing was nearer the pre-war level, and at Staverton more milk was manufactured than ever before (see Table 3). The Royal Navy has remained one of the principal customers for the 'Ideal' milk made at Staverton. (fn. 106) The manufacture of butter at Salisbury was abandoned when imports from abroad became more plentiful, but the production of sterilized tinned cream and sweetened skimmed condensed milk continued.
Thus, although the Nestlé Company has experimented with other products, it has found conditions in Wiltshire most suitable for the production of tinned condensed milk.
Two other firms are engaged in the manufacture of dairy products in Wiltshire, the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd. and Aplin & Barrett Ltd. In each case the headquarters of the firm are outside the county, and the Wiltshire branch was not established until the middle 1920's. The C.W.S. creamery at Cricklade was established in 1927 with the aim of balancing liquid-milk supplies by manufacturing tinned evaporated milk. An old farm dairy was adapted for this purpose, and in 1935–6 a new building was erected nearby. (fn. 107) Since the rationalization of milk collection in 1940 the milk has been collected from the C.W.S. farm (fn. 108) and the surrounding district, but before then it was collected from many parts of Wiltshire and Somerset. Liquid milk is dispatched to London and elsewhere, and evaporated milk from the creamery is sold by Co-operative retail shops throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. In 1956 about half the milk handled was dispatched as liquid milk and half was manufactured into evaporated milk, although there were the normal seasonal variations. The employees in 1956 numbered about 139, but the number was slightly greater during parts of the Second World War, when the creamery was working to full capacity. The Society also runs a small depot at Melksham but no products are made there; a certain amount of milk is pasteurized or heat treated for distribution in local towns.
Aplin & Barrett's factory at Westbury differs substantially from all the other Wiltshire factories making milk products because liquid milk has been neither dispatched nor used there. Even during the short time when ice cream was manufactured, the basic product was made at Frome and transported to Westbury. The factory was established in 1925 because the company wished to expand their production of processed cheese. A site at The Ham, Westbury, the nucleus of which was a group of buildings erected by the Air Ministry during the First World War, was taken over. Many improvements and additions have been made but the original buildings were still used in 1956. (fn. 109) At first the factory operated on a small scale with 42 employees, but by 1939 155 employees, most of them women, were employed. (fn. 110)
The main product before the Second World War, and the one for which Westbury has become well known, was 'Chedlet' cheeses. This cheese is made from processed Cheddar cheese. Before the war large amounts of cheese for this purpose were imported from Canada, although the greater part of the cheese used came from the Aplin & Barrett factories at Frome, Yeovil, and elsewhere. Since the war nearly all of the cheese used has been made in England: in 1956 90 per cent. came from the other Aplin & Barrett factories. Many technical advances in the manufacture of processed cheese have been made at Westbury; the most important of these was the evolution of 'Nisaplin', a product which destroys gas-forming bacteria in processed cheese. During the war manufacture was suspended, although from 1942 or 1943 blocks of cheese for the ration were packed in the factory. Aplin & Barrett Ltd. distribute their own products, and during the war a vehicle body-building and van service department was opened in the precincts of the Westbury factory. Production has gradually recovered since the end of the war. 'Chedlets' have never been the sole product and in 1956 'St. Ivel Favorites', 'Golden Meadow Cheese Spread', 'St. Ivel Gorgonzola', various cheese spreads with tomato, celery, and ham added, and 'Cheddies', pieces of Cheddar cheese packed in polythene bags, were also made. From 1948 to 1954 ice cream was made, but in 1954 the ice-cream premises were let to Meddocream Ltd., a Birmingham firm.
The activities at Westbury of the Yeovil firm of Aplin & Barrett serve to illustrate the fact that northwest Wiltshire is not a self-contained dairy-manufacturing area, but part of a wider area including also large parts of Somerset. It has been shown that within this wider area Wiltshire is characterized by concentration on the supply of milk for London, and the manufacture of tinned milk.
The history of the Wiltshire India-rubber industry is in the main the story of the rise and development of two firms—George Spencer, Moulton & Co. of Bradford-on-Avon and the Avon India Rubber Co. of Melksham. (fn. 111) In January 1956 the Avon Co. bought out the Spencer Moulton Co., but the latter retained its separate identity (see below). The Bradford firm dates back to 1848 when the Englishman Stephen Moulton, (fn. 112) at that time an associate of a small group of American rubber pioneers, returned to his homeland and converted the Kingston woollen mill, which had been abandoned since 1842, to rubber manufacture. (fn. 113) The origins of the Melksham firm can be traced to the derelict mill at Limpley Stoke where rubber-working was begun in 1875. Other attempts to introduce rubber manufacture in the disused woollen mills of Wiltshire, such as the company formed by Albert Wallington and William George Weston at the Limpley Stoke Mill in 1896 (which moved to Frome, Som., in 1902), the Sirdar Rubber Co. at Greenland Mill, Bradford-on-Avon, between 1898 and 1915, and the Box Rubber Mills Co. operating at Box in recent years, have not been of any great economic weight or historical importance.
It is a matter of some conjecture why Stephen Moulton decided to locate the industry in Wiltshire. Whether his meeting with Captain Septimus Palairet was the occasion of his taking over Kingston mill, or whether he had already been attracted to Bradford before he met and secured the aid of this local benefactor is uncertain. (fn. 114) But apart from Palairet there are other circumstances that might help to explain Moulton's decision. His experience in the United States, as well as what he had seen of the rubber industry in Manchester, had convinced him that there were no serious drawbacks in converting a textile mill to rubber manufacture. Kingston mill dated from 1811; it was five stories high and solidly built of West Country stone. It is still (1957) the core of the Moulton factory. Moulton not only got the mill at a favourable price (fn. 115) but included in the sale were a smaller mill, a dyehouse, a counting house, 4 cottages, 8 acres of land, and Kingston House—'the best built house for the quality of a gentleman in Wiltshire' (fn. 116) —and a suitable abode for his family. Moreover, the River Avon provided a source of cheap power and an abundance of water for washing and processing the rubber—vital factors in this industry; and the Somerset coalfields were but a few miles away. As for communications, Bradford lay close to the Bath road and the other roads linking the West Country with London; and—at the outset— as producers of consumer goods, it was to the metropolitan market that both Moulton and his American partners looked for their future customers. (fn. 117) Through Trowbridge (two miles distant), Bath, and Bristol (all important marketing outlets of the west of England cloth trade) Moulton could reach London, the Midlands, and the north by rail, and the construction of a railway line to Bradford was already projected. (fn. 118) Good roads and growing rail facilities were in Bradford's favour as the seat of a new industry, and a matter of yards from Kingston mill itself was the wharf of the Kennet & Avon Canal giving access to Bristol and the River Severn. Of greater significance to Bradford was the fact that the Kennet & Avon Canal was the highway along which passed the produce of the Somerset coalfields. (fn. 119)
From the aspect of labour supply the situation in Bradford was also favourable. Displaced woollen workers were immediately available, (fn. 120) and the further decay of the staple woollen trade there provided a reservoir of labour for future needs. In this respect, making allowance for Moulton's intention to recruit key workers from America, (fn. 121) and that outside the pioneering rubber manufactories of London and Manchester there were few experienced rubberworkers anyway, the Englishman's choice of location in the West Country was sound; better than it might appear at first sight when it is remembered that the factory system was already established in Bradford. (fn. 122) Finally, the town offered elbow room for a young industry—a prerequisite stressed by his American friends: there was not only room for expansion but other empty woollen mills in the vicinity to facilitate it. Moulton obtained possession of the adjacent 'Middle Mill' in Bradford in 1855 and the neighbouring Staverton woollen mill between 1851 and 1860. (fn. 123)
It would not detract from the drive and good management shown by Stephen Moulton in founding the Wiltshire rubber industry to say that his task of converting and equipping the Kingston mill was made easier by the assistance he received from his American colleagues. The first agreement of copartnership with the Americans was entered into in 1847 with William, Emory, and John Rider, rubbermanufacturers of New York, and James Thomas, a chemist of the same city, to pursue and share the results of certain investigations. This was followed in May 1850 by a new agreement between Moulton and the Rider brothers whereby for the next four years they became partners and joint traders in the manufacture of india-rubber goods. (fn. 124) In fact the establishment of the Bradford manufactory casts an interesting light on what is perhaps a neglected aspect of 19th-century history: Europe's indebtedness to America as a source of industrial ideas and technique. (fn. 125)
Moulton's own patent of 1847 (which was to provide an alternative to the Goodyear and Hancock processes of vulcanization) (fn. 126) originated in the United States. (fn. 127) To assist him in his negotiations in England one of his American associates, William Rider, had drawn up an 'Estimate of Cost of a Rubber Factory'. (fn. 128) This document, sent by one of his partners in September 1847, lists the generally accepted plant and fixtures of the earliest rubber manufactory of a century ago—indeed in basic principles of operation what many rubber plants have remained until the present day. The manner in which the Englishman adhered to it in equipping the Kingston mill sug gests that there could not have been any great divergence in the rubber-manufacturing processes of the two nations. In addition, in the spring of 1848, his American friends sent over a complete set of drawings for this machinery with an experienced engineer, a Mr. Frost, to superintend its purchase and erection; (fn. 129) and later there followed an American foreman, S. P. Abbot, and forewoman, Amelia Fisher, to supervise its use. (fn. 130) The first orders for equipment went out as soon as Moulton had permission to use the mill. Heavy calender machinery, some of which was the first of its kind in this country, was obtained from Bilston (Staffs.).
The difficulty which Moulton experienced in obtaining some of this equipment throws light on the early problems of the rubber machinists. With the grained rolls the foundrymen were tolerably successful, but the grinding of chilled cast hollow rolls for the calender proved an 'expensive experience' and 'a very serious loss' to Thomas Perry of the Bilston Foundry. (fn. 131) Other iron rolls, the cutting machine, steam piping, gears, shafting, pulleys, frames, and fixtures were bought from a Bristol firm of engineers. (fn. 132) The assembling of the equipment was done in the factory, and Moulton must have had some extremely able millwrights to help him as there was no undue delay in building the machinery once the parts had been brought together in Bradford. (fn. 133)
When the rubber industry came to the West Country in 1848 the basic problems of manufacture in Britain had been surmounted by Hancock and the other pioneers; suitable machinery had been devised, and the momentous discovery of vulcanization had been made by the American, Charles Goodyear, in 1839. It is to this discovery, accompanied as it was by the spread of industrialization and the extension of the European railway network in the second half of the 19th century, that the great increase in the use of rubber mechanical devices (fn. 134) must be attributed. In contrast to the garment and footwear trade—the original seeds of the industry in the West Country— rubber mechanicals soon represented the bulk of the output at Bradford and at a later date at Melksham (see Table 1).
Of the many mechanical devices manufactured at the Kingston mill (and subsequently by the Avon Co. at Melksham) the most noticeable items were railway bearings, buffer and draw-bar springs. The earliest of these took the form of a number of simple rubber disks separated by metal plates. From these beginnings followed an almost continuous development— largely as a result of the efforts of George Spencer & Co. of London who, since 1853, had devoted themselves to this specialized branch of the rubber industry—until at the end of the century Wiltshire railway springs were employed not only in Great Britain but also in many other parts of the world. Resilient and durable, cheaper and lighter than steel, yet able to withstand heavy pressure, they played an important part in the extension of modern transportation.
Whilst the railways were the largest customers for rubber mechanicals, the growing demands of general engineering are reflected in the other mechanical devices produced at the Kingston and Avon mills. Power and conveyor belting, hose, and tubing, soon found a wide market, and rubber devices whose value it is hardly possible to overrate were valves, washers, and packing for steam-engines.
Analysis of Output of the Bradford Company, 1857–90 (fn. 135)
For almost a hundred years now these items have been the chief staple of the Bradford mills; and when the Moultons were joined in 1891 by George Spencer & Co., upon whom the responsibility for direction now devolved, this continuity of policy was assured. The motor-car, aeroplane, and electrical industries have made new demands upon the Bradford company, but essentially it has adhered to its traditional role: the specialist in rubber mechanicals. Excursions have been made into solid and pneumatictire production (whose demands account for the enormous increase in world consumption of raw rubber in the 20th century), especially during the First World War, but in the history of this firm they were excursions and nothing more. In sticking to its last the company has not only been assured of steady progress and expansion—as witness its purchase in 1926 of the Church Street and Abbey mills, and the recent erection of the Lamb factory and the fine new Paddock factory for the production of small articles —but it has also avoided major redeployment and the ill fortune that befell others. (fn. 136) Conversely, and the growth of the Avon Co. at Melksham in recent decades best illustrates this point, it has been denied the remarkable expansion of the tire manufacturers (see Table 2).
The history of the Avon Co. of Melksham exemplifies the extraordinary growth of the India-rubber industry in the present century. It began in 1875 when Giles and 'Willie' Holbrow, encouraged by the prosperity of the Bradford company, converted the disused cloth mill at Limpley Stoke from flour to rubber-working. The Holbrows probably got the mill cheaply, and standing on the banks of the River Avon with the railway station of Limpley Stoke at its door it had much to commend it. (fn. 137) No difficulty was experienced in recruiting the original six or seven rubber-workers from the vicinity of the mill, and the one or two experienced men required were brought in from outside; not from the nearby Kingston mill at Bradford, but from the other two centres of the industry in England at London and Manchester. (fn. 138) Indeed, whatever influence Moulton's good fortune had in encouraging the Holbrows to enter the trade, they did so independently of the skill and experience acquired in the neighbouring rubber manufactory; and it says a lot for the loyalty of the Bradford rubber-worker that this was so. (fn. 139)
Expansion of Wilts. Rubber Companies (fn. 140)
|George Spencer, Moulton & Co.||1850||78|
|Avon India Rubber Co.||1889||20||1890||£15,000 (fn. 141)|
|1919||1,300||1917||£50,000 increased to £275,000|
|1953||3,500 (fn. 142)||1933–53||£600,000 (fn. 141)|
In 1886 Giles Holbrow retired and the mill and plant were let to Messrs. Browne & Margetson. Browne, a retired colonist, supplied the capital for the venture; Margetson, who was well aware of the growing use of rubber mechanicals on the railways having been connected with the Bristol Wagon Co., was responsible for general business direction; and 'Willie' Holbrow, who remained with the new firm as manager, provided the technical skill.
The first three years of this combination proved highly successful. (fn. 143) Like the Holbrows before them, Browne and Margetson concentrated their efforts on the production of railway springs: the railway and wagon companies took the bulk of their output. So rapidly was this market expanding, as the sales of the Bradford company bear out, that by 1889 the Limpley Stoke mill was no longer large enough to handle the growing volume of business, and the company moved up the river to a disused woollen mill at Melksham five miles away. (fn. 144) By the end of the year (1889), in an attempt to introduce more capital into the business, the partnership was converted into a public company, The Avon India Rubber Co. Ltd., with a nominal capital of £50,000. (fn. 145) A prospectus of the company dated December 1890 described the property as consisting of 'two large mills, having a superficial floor area of over 36,000 ft. with engine house and boilers fitted'. (fn. 146) The principal items of manufacture under the public company remained what they had been since the seventies: the production of mechanical rubbers. The increase in cycling in the eighties was reflected in the growing number of solid tires produced. (fn. 147) With Dunlop's rediscovery of the pneumatic tire in 1888, (fn. 148) however, as with Goodyear's discovery of vulcanization in 1839, the india-rubber industry entered a new phase, and the focal point of the Avon Co.'s activities began to change from mechanicals to tire manufacture. It is this fact which helps to explain its spectacular growth in the 20th century.
There is ample evidence in the company's minute books of their determination to claim a share of the new market. Yet only gradually was the shift made from mechanical rubbers for the railways to road transportation. In the nineties the tire trade was almost exclusively for bicycle tires, and even with the coming of motor-car tires in the early years of the 20th century the main business was still in rubber mechanicals. In 1901, however, a new pneumatic tire shop was erected, and in 1903 29 beaded edge motor-tire moulds were installed in the mill. (fn. 149) In 1906 the first advertisement for Avon motor tires appeared in the Autocar. Three years later the number of motor tires manufactured at Melksham exceeded those made under other firms' trade names. Whilst mechanicals of all kinds remained one of the principal manufactures, the Avon Co. had established itself as a leading British tire manufacturer, and the greater part of its plant was devoted to this task.
The problems besetting the Melksham company in its first efforts to establish a reputation in the tire world—as with Stephen Moulton and rubber mechanicals in the fifties—were manifold. The basic problems of rubber manufacture at least had been surmounted by the nineties. The special problems of tire manufacture were dealt with on the basis of empiricism rather than laboratory control at this date; and the answer to some of the problems could not always be found within the confines of the United Kingdom. (fn. 150) The greatest problem facing the company in its early days was not so much technical as financial. Costly experiments in tire development, an eagerness to install new plant and equipment, and the ability of the Bradford company and others to offer keen competition in rubber mechanicals—all these factors combined to place the Avon Co. in an extremely precarious position. By 1895 the mill was not paying its way, and the situation was deteriorating. (fn. 151) It was rescued from this predicament by the financial support and business foresight—which was extended to other industries besides rubber—of G. P. Fuller, M.P., who became a director in 1895 and chairman of the board in 1898–a position he held until his death in 1927. He was succeeded by his son, Major R. F. Fuller, who was chairman until 1955, when he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Mr. C. M. Floyd. (fn. 152)
The 20th-century story of the Avon Co. has been one of almost continuous development and expansion, as the growing numbers of workers and the increase in the capital employed shows (see Table 2). From the confines of the old woollen mill, first home of the Avon Co. at Melksham in 1889, extensive factories and workshops have been built over a considerable area. (fn. 153) As at Bradford, the emphasis in the 20th century has been on research and laboratory control, which has meant considerable advances in the life and performance of the goods produced. New skill and new ideas have been brought to Melksham from other centres of the industry, and new products (such as sports goods) brought within the scope of manufacture. And the changes have not only applied to products and processes but to management as well. (fn. 154)
The status of the business has changed more than once from private to public ownership. In 1889, as mentioned above, the Browne & Margetson partnership was converted into a public company. In 1908, taking advantage of the Companies Act of that year, it became a private limited company, which brought its control more closely into the hands of those who were providing not only the bulk of the capital but also the business direction, and checked the demands of some outside shareholders for a larger share of the profits in dividends, and a request that the reserve funds should be capitalized. (fn. 155) Yet in 1933, when the capital needs of the business had outstripped its private resources, the status of the company became public once more; this time with a nominal capital of £375,000.
The company maintained production during both world wars. In the First World War it was controlled by the Ministry of Munitions, and made the latest types of tires for military vehicles, aeroplanes, field kitchens, and ambulances. Fuse-cap protectors, suction hoses, and paravane diaphragms were also made. During the Second World War thousands of pneumatic tires and solid tank tires were supplied to the land forces, and millions of parts were made for the Admiralty and Royal Air Force. In addition, over 20 million gas-masks were made for civilian and forces use.
At an early point in the history of the Wiltshire rubber industry the Americans had assisted in establishing the manufactory at Bradford-on-Avon. In 1930 American influence can be discerned again. It came at a critical time in the life of the Avon Co. for the greatest need at this stage of its career was to remain abreast of the extremely complicated changes affecting pneumatic-tire manufacture. (fn. 156) A liaison with American rubber manufacturers was first sought in 1928 in anticipation of the arrival in England, between 1930 and 1932, of the major tiremakers of the world, which included American interests. An agreement was reached in 1930 with the Seiberling Co. of America for the sharing of technical data, which remained in force in 1957.
The company's export trade began in 1923 and from the end of the Second World War until 1956 sales had an unbroken rise. In 1955 a branch was opened in Nairobi, Kenya, and associated organizations were opened in Sweden, Australia, and Ceylon. A remoulding factory and a cycle-tire factory were also set up in Kenya. (fn. 157) At home the capacity of the company was expanded by the purchase of Melksham mill in 1954. By far the most important development, however, was the acquisition in 1956, by outright purchase, of the George Spencer, Moulton & Co. Ltd. Neither the name nor the tradition of the latter company was altered; and a plan was made to transfer the Avon Co.'s manufacture of general rubber goods to Bradford, and to concentrate upon tires at Melksham. Total employees, including overseas branches, were over 5,000 after the amalgamation, and the nominal issued capital was £1,300,000.
The production of leather and the manufacture of leather goods were doubtless carried on in Wiltshire, as throughout the rest of the country, from very early times. (fn. 158) Tanner was, and still is, an especially common surname in Wiltshire, (fn. 159) which may suggest that tanning was particularly common there in the early Middle Ages. By the 14th century there was some specialization beyond the usual division, enforced by statute in 1390, (fn. 160) between tanners and shoemakers. The offenders against the Statute of Labourers in 1349 included a tanner, a 'skynnere', a 'whyttawyere', pelterers, a shoemaker, and cobblers. (fn. 161) Gloving also existed as a separate specialized craft (see below, p. 236).
Most towns and some villages had at least one tanner or skinner (i.e. a craftsman dealing with hides or skins retaining their hair or fur), but it is not easy to assess from the available evidence whether the leather crafts were pursued with equal vigour throughout the county or whether they were more concentrated in particular districts. There was a tannery at Malmesbury in the early 13th century. (fn. 162) At Chippenham a Richard le Tanner witnessed a charter in 1326. (fn. 163) There are also references to tanners working at Devizes in 1371, (fn. 164) and at Wilton in 1383. (fn. 165) A skinner named John Oryot lived at Swindon in 1354, (fn. 166) and there is good evidence for a tanning industry at Trowbridge in the 14th century. (fn. 167) At Tisbury and Heytesbury one tanner and one skinner were at work in 1379. (fn. 168) At the same date two tanners were living at Wylye. (fn. 169) The list of offenders against the Statute of Labourers has a restricted use from this point of view because it is given by hundreds; it does, however, increase the number of places at which tanners are known to have worked because it mentions a tanner in Highworth and Cricklade hundred. (fn. 170) A skinner, sufficiently prosperous to have a servant, lived somewhere in Downton hundred in 1355. (fn. 171)
For Marlborough and Bradford the list of poll-tax payers for 1379 provides more detailed evidence. (fn. 172) The proportion of the taxed population who were tanners was roughly equal in the two towns, but the tanners at Marlborough were more prosperous. Indeed, John Johnson, the Mayor of Marlborough, was a tanner; he was assessed at 6s. 8d. There were six other tanners assessed at 1s., and only three at 6d., the lowest rate for a craftsman. (fn. 173) At Bradford only one tanner paid 1s., three paid 6d., and one paid 4d., the usual rate for a labourer or tiller of the soil. In addition, there was a skinner assessed at 6d. (fn. 174) It is, perhaps, significant that the better-known Wiltshire families named Tanner all came from the Marlborough-Great Bedwyn district: they emerged in the 16th century but at that time there is no record that any of them were connected with the leather industry. (fn. 175)
The poll-tax returns of 1379 for Salisbury do not give trades, (fn. 176) but the rapid expansion of the town in the 14th century certainly included a growth of the leather crafts, for by the early 15th century they were sufficiently organized to be divided into different guilds. In 1440 the tanners and skinners each had a separate guild, while the curriers were joined in a guild with the shoemakers. (fn. 177) Saddlers were joined with cutlers and pewterers; and the Dubbers Guild included bookbinders, parchment-makers, and glovers. (fn. 178) The position of the leather trades can be gauged by the fact that when Edward IV's demand for troops was met by the guilds in 1474–5, the tanners, shoemakers, and sadlers guilds were each responsible for providing one man. Some guilds could not send even one man, and the only guilds to send more than one man were the mercers, brewers, tailors, and carpenters, who sent respectively 9, 4, 3, and 2 men. (fn. 179) By the early 17th century the tanners were individually the wealthiest of the leather craftsmen: they gave from £2 to 10s. each towards the cost of Salisbury's charter of incorporation in 1612, while the shoemakers, curriers, and cobblers gave from £1 to 5s. each. (fn. 180)
There are indications that tanners were prosperous in other towns; for example, a tanner was one of the burgesses at Calne in 1683. (fn. 181) At Devizes, the leather sellers were one of the three craft guilds existing in 1565, and reorganized in 1614. (fn. 182) Records survive of the work of leather searchers or sealers at Chippenham, (fn. 183) Marlborough, (fn. 184) Lacock, (fn. 185) Calne, (fn. 186) and Bradford, (fn. 187) as well as at Salisbury. The most interesting of these shows that in 1515 a tanner was indicted at Marlborough for tanning 100 sheepskins 'against the form of divers statutes'. (fn. 188) Such a large number of skins suggests that in the early 16th century, as in the late 14th century, tanning was a prosperous craft at Marlborough. As sheepskins are specifically mentioned in this indictment, this prosperity may have been a by-product of the development of woollen manufacture, and the breeding of sheep on the Marlborough downs. (fn. 189) In two cases leather dressing and fellmongering were carried out by the same man in Marlborough at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 190) The connexion between the woollen trade and the development of tanning may have been equally close in other towns. The oldest established tanning firm still working in Wiltshire, J. & T. Beavan Ltd. of Holt, combined tanning with fellmongering and woolstapling throughout the 19th century and until 1937. (fn. 191)
There is no evidence of any great change in the amount of tanning carried out in Wiltshire from the 15th to the late-18th century, although there was probably a gradual decline as leather was slowly replaced by other materials. In addition to the places already mentioned tanners are known to have been working at Amesbury in 1426, (fn. 192) and at Westbury, Westbury Leigh, Mere, Trowbridge, Ashton Keynes, and Longbridge Deverill in the second half of the 16th century. (fn. 193) In 1715 a leather cutter lived in Sutton Mandeville, suggesting that tanning may have been carried out in the neighbourhood. (fn. 194) There was a tanner working at Downton in 1736, (fn. 195) and in the 18th century there were two tan-yards at Cricklade, one on either side of the river. (fn. 196) The number of tanners and curriers given in the early directories is small but the compilers probably confined themselves to the larger businesses in the more important towns. (fn. 197) There is no need to doubt, however, the directories' evidence that Salisbury was the most important centre for tanning at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 198) Later, in 1841, Salisbury had 20 tanners and curriers out of a total for the county of 158. (fn. 199)
In the 19th century there was certainly a great decline in the number of independent craftsmen who were tanners or curriers but, as shown in Table 1, the number of men employed in tanning and currying more than doubled between 1841 and 1911. Even allowing for the inaccuracies of the early Census Reports, this increase is a large one. There may have been a large decline in the number of craftsmen before 1841, but in the absence of records it is impossible to determine this.
Table 1 (fn. 200)
Number of People Employed in Tanning and Currying, 1841–1951
|Tanners||72||82||100 (fn. 201)||69||106||30 (fn. 202)|
|Total||158||178 (fn. 203)||224||301 (fn. 204)||368||147||341 (fn. 205)|
A great change took place in the organization of tanning during the second half of the 19th century: the number of workshops declined but the surviving ones became small factories, which usually combined tanning and currying. Twelve tanners and 33 curriers in Wiltshire were listed in a directory of 1855, but in 1895 seven tanners only are mentioned. (fn. 206) The reliability of the latter figure is strengthened by the factory inspectors' returns of the same date, which show that Wiltshire had seven tanneries employing 263 workpeople. (fn. 207) The greatest number of workpeople employed in tanning in Wiltshire was recorded in 1911, but the number was not many less in 1951 (see Table 1). In 1931, however, Wiltshire shared in the national slump in leather production.
The fact that the production of leather was not only maintained but increased in Wiltshire between 1841 and the First World War, at a time when tanning was becoming increasingly confined to particular centres such as Northampton, is not easily explained. The four most important firms existing in 1951 were making completely different types of leather: J. & T. Beavan at Holt were making crust basils, crust-oil leather, doeskins, chamois leather, clothing leather, and gloving leathers; Case & Sons Ltd. at Westbury Leigh were making glazed and suede kid and full chrome white buckskin; the Downton Tanning Co. Ltd. were making sole leather from ox hides; and Colonia (Sarum) Ltd. were tanning reptile skins and dressing sheepskins for shoes. Most of the raw material used by all these firms was imported, so Wiltshire's ease of communications has been an advantage to these firms. Since the introduction of crust-oil and chrome tanning, the availability of oak bark has lost all importance. The firm of J. & T. A. Smith at Lacock and Chippenham continued to specialize in high quality oak-tanned leather after the invention of the new processes, but it was closed in 1928. (fn. 208) Apart from a good supply of running water and a body of skilled craftsmen, Wiltshire has no other particular advantages for tanning. Thus, the persistence of the industry in Wiltshire is partly due to the success and initiative of individual firms, most of which are family businesses.
The firm of J. & T. Beavan at Holt was controlled by the fifth generation of the family in 1956. Claims have been made that the origin of this firm goes back to the 17th century, (fn. 209) but, although there are earlier records of the family, the first record of the business is an account book beginning in 1783. (fn. 210) Moreover, it is said, that the firm was founded by Thomas Beavan, father of the James and Thomas Beavan who gave their name to it, and James Beavan was working during the first 30 or 40 years of the 19th century. He was described as a 'fellmonger', (fn. 211) but some tanning and manufacture of finished articles were probably carried out from the beginning: the sale of doeskin breeches was recorded in 1783. (fn. 212) In the last quarter of the 19th century tanning and the manufacture of leather leggings and gloves became the most important part of the business. (fn. 213) During this period, also, the main building fronting on the road was erected. Crust-oil tanning was introduced early in the second half of the century, but a large amount of oak-bark tanning was still carried out in 1896. (fn. 214) By 1920, however, oak-bark tanning had been completely superseded. The firm became a limited company in 1919. It expanded after both World Wars, and the use of imported pelts, mainly from New Zealand, began between the wars. There have been many crises, but they have been due to the fluctuations of world markets, rather than to local conditions. After the Second World War the company began to build up an export trade in tanned leather as well as in gloves; and in 1956, despite the closing down of the glove department, 135 workpeople were employed.
Case & Sons began work at Boyers mills, Westbury Leigh, in 1900. (fn. 215) The business was started by Charles Case some years earlier at Frome (Som.). At first heavy leather and calf uppers were made, but continental competition was too strong in this type of leather. The firm, therefore, became one of the pioneers in England of chrome tanning kid leather. This specialized type of leather for shoe uppers has been the main product of the firm during the whole of its history in Wiltshire. The raw goatskins were imported from India, Pakistan, East Africa, and West Africa. Production increased steadily before the First World War and extensions to the factory were carried out in 1912. In the slump after the war, however, the factory was closed for several months. It was started again in 1922, when the firm became a limited company with an authorized capital of £100,000. (fn. 216) Walter Case, the son of Charles Case, had died in 1917. As his brother George had never been active in the firm, the manager, William Bailey, became a working partner, and in 1922 he became managing director. A firm of Leicester shoe manufacturers, Leavesley & North Ltd. (now in the Freeman, Hardy & Willis group), joined the board with approximately a third interest. Leicester and Northampton have always been the main markets for the tanned leather, although exports to the United States and Canada have been an important part of the firm's trade since the Ottawa Agreement. A smaller proportion of the leather has been marketed in South Africa, New Zealand, and many European countries. The highest production was reached in 1936, when an average of 3,000 dozen goatskins were tanned each week and there were 200 employees. During the Second World War the number of staff was reduced but, except for one month in 1940, the factory remained at work. After 1945 great improvements were made in the technique of finishing kid leather and production increased until 1951, when the slump caused by the Korean War (fn. 217) affected the firm. High prices for Indian raw goatskins, caused by Russia's entering the market, also curtailed production in 1955–6, when an average of 1,000 dozen skins were tanned each week, and 110 people were employed. Full chrome white buckskin and a small amount of light calf leathers were introduced in 1945, but kid has remained the main product. The firm, therefore, is very sensitive to fluctuations in world prices and demand.
The predecessor of Colonia (Sarum) Ltd. was also a long established family business, Ware Bros. Ltd. Its first factory was the Invicta Leather Works in Endless Street, Salisbury. The frontage of this building is still (1957) standing and bears an inscription that the factory was established in 1824. It is said to have been founded by a Mr. Woodlands and taken over by Edward Ware about 1862. (fn. 218) Only three or four men worked there at that date, but by the end of the century over a hundred workpeople were employed. It became a company in 1893. In 1897 the factory made 'all classes of English and foreign tanned leather', leather for the boot and shoe trade and for the use of saddlers, leather leggings, and machine bands. Grindery and mercery were an important part of the business. The factory in Endless Street was burnt down in 1901, and a new factory at Paynes Hill was opened the next year. When Mr. H. G. Ware, son of Edward Ware, wished to retire in 1935–6, the company was taken over by a group of Germans, who specialized in tanning reptile skins. It changed hands again in 1939, but reptile skins remained the main part of the business. The factory was closed during the Second World War, but production started again soon after it ended. In 1956 raw reptile skins were imported from regions on the equator, and goat and sheepskins were imported already tanned from India. The reptile skins were tanned for the shoe and 'fancy trade'; about 80 workers were employed (fn. 219) and most of the business was for export.
The company at Downton has a very short history and differs from the other companies because it has not grown out of a family business. In 1919–20 a company known as the Southern Tanning Co. Ltd. was formed and the main part of the factory at Downton was built. This company failed in the 1930 slump and was taken over by the Downton Tanning Co. Ltd. Sole leather for British shoe manufacturers and repairers has always been the main product. In 1956 it was made from ox-hides bought mainly at hide auctions in England, although some were imported from South America. (fn. 220) The firm has, therefore, fewer international connexions than the older tanning firms in Wiltshire.
Tanning and leather dressing was also carried out in 1956 at Marlborough by Windrove & Edge Ltd., who dealt mainly in sheepskins. Two firms whose chief activity became gloving, Chas. Ockwell & Co. Ltd. at Cricklade, and A. L. Jefferies at Hawkeridge, Westbury, also did some tanning in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but their history belongs below in the history of gloving. The connexion between tanning and gloving was very close in the 19th century, as in the case of J. & T. Beavan, but gloving in Wiltshire is something more than a branch of the tanning and leather-dressing industry, and is best considered separately.
Gloving developed early in Wiltshire, perhaps because the parallel growth of the woollen industry and tanning made available a good supply of leather. (fn. 221) Sheepskin was the principal leather used, although kid, deerskin, (fn. 222) and horseskin gloves were also made. Gloving was essentially a domestic craft, employing mainly women; unlike weaving or spinning, it is still based upon the outworker system. One reason why gloving has continued to flourish in Wiltshire is that full- or part-time female workers, used to working in their homes, have been obtainable in quite large numbers since the decline of the cloth trade, (fn. 223) both in the Wiltshire cloth towns and villages and over the county boundary in Somerset. The decline of farmmade cheese in the late 19th century (fn. 224) also reduced the amount of work available to women in west Wiltshire, and created, therefore, another source of outworkers for the gloving industry.
The historical development of gloving is difficult to trace; the known references suggest that it was fairly widely distributed throughout the county, and there were probably glovers in all the main towns. The earliest reference found occurs in the 13th century, when the burgesses of Malmesbury forbade non-resident makers of horseskin gloves to sell their wares within the town. (fn. 225) The same source mentions also an 'Alice le Glovaire' and an 'Agnes la Glovaire', names which probably indicate occupations. (fn. 226) Glovers were sufficiently numerous at Wilton in the 13th century for a street to be called 'Glovers Street', but the name disappeared during the following century. At Devizes, Thomas Skynner was described as a glover when he was indicted for an offence committed in 1425. (fn. 227) Gloving was established at Salisbury at a fairly early date, because there had been time for glovers to become organized into a guild by 1440, the date of the earliest surviving list of guilds; the glovers were then members of the Dubbers (bookbinders) Guild, which also included parchment-makers. (fn. 228) In the reign of Elizabeth I, the glovers separated from the bookbinders to form a separate guild; the parchment-makers accompanied them, and they were joined by the collar-makers. These three crafts were still associated in 1613, when the Glovers' Company was incorporated, and in 1675, when fresh orders were granted to the company.
For the 16th and 17th centuries the number of references increases and make more evident how widespread gloving became, although no evidence has been found to indicate that in medieval times, or until very modern times, gloves have been made for other than a fairly local market. John Tovye of Mere, glover, was a contributor to the subsidy of 1576. (fn. 229) Between 1580 and 1590 the names of glovers from Chippenham, Little Somerford, Pewsey, and Cricklade appear in the minutes of the Quarter Sessions. (fn. 230) There are references to glovers and dressers of glove leather at Castle Combe in 1590 and 1635. (fn. 231) At Marlborough a selection of apprenticeship indentures dating from 1662 to 1694 shows that glovers were then working in the town. (fn. 232) There were glovers at Warminster in Aubrey's time and gloving continued there in the 18th century. (fn. 233) Aubrey also implied that Tisbury was a town where glovers worked. (fn. 234) A directory of 1791 mentioned glovers at Cricklade, Chippenham, Devizes, and Downton. (fn. 235) Swindon also was a gloving centre at this date. (fn. 236)
The first occupation returns, those for 1841, showed 33 men and 27 women glovers in Wiltshire. (fn. 237) The number of women is certainly far too small; it is probable that many women who sewed gloves in their homes were not entered as glovers. The men were probably all cutters, who could each supply work for several women. In 1861, 24 men and 252 women glovers were returned; (fn. 238) at this date Cricklade and the surrounding district appears to have been the main centre (see Table 1).
Gloving Centres, 1861
|Registration district||No. of men||No. of women (fn. 239)||Total|
The number of glovers had dropped to 15 men and 180 women by 1881, (fn. 240) but by the end of the century there had been a considerable increase. A still greater increase took place before the First World War (see Table 2).
Number of Glovers in Wiltshire in the 20th Century (fn. 241)
Gloving has continued to expand in the 20th century: this has arisen both from the development of firms established in the 19th century or earlier and from the setting up of new firms. As with tanning, the oldest firm with surviving records is J. & T. Beavan Ltd. at Holt. (fn. 242) In 1868 (fn. 243) the firm bought the Great House, formerly the Spa Hotel, (fn. 244) and established a glove department there. The cutters worked in the Great House but a lot of the sewing was done by outworkers living in Holt, Atworth, Melksham, Somerset, and as far afield as the Cotswold region. (fn. 245) A price list of 1887–8 advertised leather gloves of all kinds: several types of harvest gloves, lined gloves, driving gloves, and housemaids' gloves are listed as well as leather leggings and white aprons. (fn. 246) In the years before the First World War the manufacture of 'dress' gloves was developed. (fn. 247) After a break during the war, gloving was restarted in 1919, and a large export trade was developed. In the Second World War, Beavan's produced the glove chosen by the Air Ministry as the standard for all aircrews; the production of this glove and similar types occupied the firm throughout the war. In 1951, however, it was decided to cease the production of gloves and concentrate on leather. Just before the department was closed it was making 300 dozen pairs of gloves a week.
The invention of the 'Boulton Cut Thumb' by William Boulton towards the end of the 19th century was never patented, but it has made the name of Boulton Bros. Ltd. of Westbury Leigh well known to glove manufacturers all over the world. The firm was founded before 1871 by William Boulton, who was described as a 'master glover' at that date. (fn. 248) His sons were trading as Boulton Bros. in 1889. (fn. 249) The firm was incorporated in 1901 with an authorized capital of £15,000; (fn. 250) at this date the factory was at the west end of Westbury Leigh next to Dilton Marsh, and there was a department for athletic goods in Marestow Street. In 1901 a grist mill at the Westbury end of Westbury Leigh was bought and a new factory was built beside it. W. H. and R. E. Boulton became joint managing directors, continuing actively in the business for many years. The firm has always specialized in high quality gloves, and between 1901 and 1918 as many as 75– 80 per cent. of the gloves were exported, mainly to America. The First World War, followed by the tariff on imported gloves imposed by America in 1918, ended this trade and gave rise to the most serious crisis the firm has known. A further blow was the deterioration of the value of stock caused by the slump in wool prices in 1921. These difficulties affected other firms as well as Boulton Bros. and explain the drop in the number of people employed as glovers in 1921 (see Table 2).
Between the wars Boulton Bros. concentrated on supplying the home market, and exported only 5–10 per cent. of their output. Progress was good and in 1935 a new building was erected to house the sales department. Shortly before this, in 1932, a new company was begun in Westbury by Mr. V. C. Boulton, son of R. E. Boulton. In 1956 there were four subsidiary companies—Boulton Bros. (Glovers) Ltd., Boulton Bros. (Leighbridge) Ltd., V. C. Boulton Ltd. and John H. Walter Ltd. (in Somerset). In addition to the main factories there was a small workshop at Devizes for sewing. Most of the leather was dressed and finished at Westbury Leigh. Vivian C. Boulton was managing director of the group in 1956. Some of the leather used by Boulton Bros. was always bought in England, often from J. & T. Beavan, but most of it has been imported from South Africa ('Cape' sheepskins), Abyssinia, India, South America (hogskin), Arabia (fine suedes), and New Zealand ('doeskin' from lambs). (fn. 251) In 1956 200 different types of glove were made, including many varieties of men's and women's 'dress' gloves, gloves for riding, shooting, golf, &c., and a few fabric gloves. After the end of the Second World War an attempt was made to develop a larger export trade, and by 1956 between 25 and 30 per cent. of the gloves were exported, the largest market being Canada. (fn. 252) The number of employees has always tended to vary with the seasons, but in 1952 an average of 120 men and women were employed in the factory, and there were about 300 women outworkers. Originally the outworkers did hand-sewing, but by 1956 only 15– 20 per cent. of the gloves were hand-sewn and many of the outworkers did machine-sewing. Outwork for the glove factories was never well paid: in 1909 it was impossible for a woman to support herself by this means alone. (fn. 253) There has been no shortage, however, of women willing to do this work: in 1956 Boulton Bros. were employing more outworkers than ever before. (fn. 254) There were 213 outworkers sewing gloves (fn. 255) and probably nearly 100 making knitted gloves. (fn. 256) Westbury and Dilton Marsh supplied respectively 33 and 34 of the 213 women who sewed gloves, but nearly half of the total came from outside the county (see Table 3).
Boulton Bros. Distribution of Outworkers, 1956
Most of the outworkers in the glove trade are women. From 1928 onwards, however, outwork cutting became established to a limited extent. In Westbury there were several units operating in premises temporarily equipped as glove-cutting shops. These were branches of factories at Oxford, Worcester, Yeovil, and Corsham. In general these branches did not survive the fluctuations which took place in the industry. (fn. 257)
Fine-quality gloves were also the speciality of A. L. Jefferies and his brother W. L. Jefferies when they set up business together in 1883 in Fore Street, Westbury. (fn. 258) Both brothers were apprenticed to the cloth trade and began making gloves as a hobby; the change to full-time production was immediately successful. In 1889 tanning and leather dressing were added, and in 1908 a disused water-mill at Hawkeridge, Westbury, was taken over for this side of the business. In the glove department a large export trade was developed and, like Boulton Bros., the firm was able to export about 75 per cent. of their gloves just before the First World War. During the war trench mittens were made on a large scale, but after it ended, ordinary gloves again became the main product. In 1920 the firm became a limited company with A. L. Jefferies as the first chairman and managing director followed, after his death a year later, by W. L. Jefferies.
Despite the difficulties of the period, the business expanded rapidly during the early 1920's. In 1923 a small workshop was opened in Warminster, and a year later a factory was erected there in Station Road. By 1929 the firm was employing all the available workers, including outworkers, in Warminster, so branches were opened at Frome, and slightly later, at Midsomer Norton, and Radstock—all in Somerset—and at Southampton. When demand was high, production reached about 2,000 dozen gloves a week and over 1,000 people were employed in 1933; but these figures include the Somerset and Southampton factories as well as the Wiltshire ones. A substantial proportion of the gloves made at this date were purchased by the Worcester and London firm of Dent, Allcroft & Co. Ltd., and in 1936 they took over the company. (fn. 259) Mr. A. G. Jefferies, son of W. L. Jefferies remained with the new company, but his younger brother, Mr. M. G. Jefferies, formed a new company, George Jefferies Ltd., and opened a factory at Gillingham (Dors.). Later branches were opened at Warminster and Westbury. Dent, Allcroft & Co. concentrated on high quality gloves in the Wiltshire factories they acquired, and this policy was also found effective by George Jefferies Ltd. A special golf glove was designed in 1951 and an export trade in this line quickly grew, although the 'dress' gloves were mainly sold in Great Britain. About half the gloves were sewn, mainly by machine, by outworkers.
The last of the old gloving firms in Wiltshire, Chas. Ockwell & Co. Ltd., produced different types of gloves: in the 19th century harvest gloves were made on a large scale and in the 20th century heavy industrial gloves and some cotton gloves have been made; and, throughout the firm's history, fleecelined gloves, dressed originally with salt and alum, have been made. It is said that in the middle of the 19th century Richard Ockwell acquired the business of his uncle, J. Maslin, who worked at Ramsbury. Ockwell may have moved to Cricklade immediately. He was certainly working in Cricklade by 1867, when an early ledger book shows that gloves, gaiters, and leggings were made in addition to the main business of tanning. (fn. 260) In 1870 the firm took over the old Wesleyan Chapel; there were several other moves, mainly along the High Street, in the 19th century, and in 1933 the firm again moved into a public building, the old town hall. After Charles Ockwell, son of Richard Ockwell, died in 1912, the business slowly declined despite the increased demand during the First World War for industrial gloves and heavy gloves for the armed forces: 25 per cent. of the firm's output has been sold to the Admiralty ever since this period. The firm was revived after the war by the son-in-law of Charles Ockwell, W. J. Little, and his son, Mr. M. J. Little. Great difficulties were experienced in the late 1920's: large quantities of surplus army stores were dumped in Great Britain by the United States, and in the early 1950's competition from Hong Kong restricted the sale of cotton gloves. The demand for industrial gloves, however, steadily increased. Unlike Boulton Bros. the number of outworkers at Cricklade has declined since the end of the Second World War, and the radius from which they were drawn was always much smaller: most of them came from Cricklade and Ashton Keynes and neary all the rest were drawn from within five or six miles of Cricklade. In 1956 there were 60 people working in the factory and only 25 outworkers. (fn. 261)
Another firm of similar type was founded during the First World War by A. A. Ockwell, grandson of Charles Ockwell, but in 1951 it was moved from Cricklade to Bournemouth. The other three firms not founded until the 20th century all make men's and women's 'dress' gloves. The Neston Glove Co. Ltd. started work in 1906, and 50 years later was employing about 60 people at the factory and 60 outworkers. (fn. 262) In 1923 Holman, Byfield & Co. Ltd. began work at Warminster. (fn. 263) In 1931 it was one of the few firms in the country which made its own glove knives, and there were about 200 employees. (fn. 264) In 1956, however, only 20 factory workers and 45 outworkers were employed. The most recent firm of all is the Westbury Glove Co. Ltd. founded in 1927, and employing about 130 workers in 1956. (fn. 265) The chairman of the company is Mr. Herbert Alley; at the age of 85 he is still (1957) actively engaged in the industry into which he entered 68 years previously.
It is significant that the most recent firm was begun in Westbury, because this town had become by then the leading centre for gloving in Wiltshire. Apart from Chas. Ockwell & Co. and A. A. Ockwell at Cricklade, who made different types of gloves, all the gloving firms working in the 20th century were in the extreme west of the county, next to the Somerset boundary. Yeovil and Bath were accounted the principal seats of the gloving industry in the west of England as early as 1883, (fn. 266) and this was still thought to be true in 1931. (fn. 267) None of the Wiltshire firms, some of which have remained family businesses, was established by Somerset men or firms, but the conditions which prevailed in Somerset, which was both an old stronghold of the cloth trade and a dairy-farming area, also influenced the modern growth of gloving in Wiltshire.
Tobacco and clay pipes
There is a tradition that Sir Walter Raleigh first lit his pipe at South Wraxall Manor House in Wiltshire, the home of the Long family. (fn. 268) Aubrey, who himself always took a pipe of tobacco after dinner 'as a digestive', wrote that in his part of north Wiltshire Sir Walter Long was responsible for introducing the fashion of smoking. (fn. 269) Raleigh frequently visited Wraxall Manor—where a room is still referred to as the 'Raleigh Room'—and the story may not be entirely without foundation.
Smoking certainly reached Bristol about 1593, that is, within eight years of its introduction into England, (fn. 270) and almost immediately spread to the neighbouring counties. A number of clay pipes of the very earliest type have been unearthed in Wiltshire. (fn. 271)
The swift development of the smoking habit in spite of restrictions, and the high duty imposed upon tobacco, led to systematic smuggling, and the planting of tobacco in England. Indeed, having discovered that the plant could be grown in the southern counties, some English farmers found tobacco a more profitable crop than corn, but its cultivation was prohibited by Acts of 1660, 1663, and 1671. (fn. 272) In March 1675/6 the Earl of Danby directed an inquiry into tobacco growing in Wiltshire and ordered the enforcement of these Acts. (fn. 273) This was effectively done and at the July Quarter Sessions at Warminster the Grand Jury found 'that there is no tobacco now planted or growing within the county'. (fn. 274)
Tobacco planting may have been stamped out but the tobacco trade increased. It would be impossible to estimate the number of individuals associated with the industry in its early stages—even legitimately—as the sale of tobacco and snuff was not confined to the tobacconist alone. Many trade tokens bore designs incorporating tobacco pipes, and Boyne (fn. 275) mentions John Fry (an innkeeper apparently) at Devizes (1664), Jacob Selbee at Bradford (1665), John Foreman at Calne (not dated), John Smith at Marlborough (1665), Henry Restall (1656 and 1664) and William Webb (1669) at Swindon, and William Smith at Trowbridge (not dated). John Farmer of Purton (1668) chose to show instead a pictured roll of tobacco on his tokens.
A number of writers have mentioned a tobacco factory said to have been at Amesbury and reputed the largest in the country, but there is no evidence to suggest that tobacco was ever produced there. The fame of Amesbury rested not on the manufacture of tobacco, but of clay tobacco pipes (see below). One of the oldest established snuff factories in the country, however, was the business of E. & W. Anstie, Ltd. of Devizes. (fn. 276) The founder, Richard Anstie, who was a Devizes townsman in 1696, (fn. 277) leased a shop in 1698 at the corner of New Street on the site of the present (1956) offices in the Market Place, where he traded as a grocer. It is possible that an earlier member of the family had traded in snuff in or near Bromham. (fn. 278)
Although no trustworthy date can be assigned to the actual production of snuff at Devizes, it is known that a windmill, supplemented by a donkey, provided the necessary power for grinding in the early days. With the expansion of trade, other mills were either acquired or leased for snuff-grinding at Poulshot, Calstone (Calne), and Whistley (Potterne). A pair of French stones was transferred from Whistley to the present factory some 180 years ago, and are still (1956) in use there. Whistley mill itself is shown on a snuff label issued by, and bearing the name of, B. W. Anstie (d. 1824). (fn. 279) Before demolition in 1956 Whistley mill was somewhat larger than it appears in the illustration, an extension having been made at some time to enclose the water-wheel. Snuff was transferred from these subsidiary mills to Devizes by pack mule, the final product being distributed to traders in sheeps' and calves' bladders. Some indication of the quantities of snuff produced at these mills is given in Table 1.
Both Calstone and Poulshot were grist mills using orthodox milling plant; but the machinery at Whistley was of the edge-stone type, i.e. the rollers were set vertically. Mullers were massive wooden bowls cut from the solid, around the inside of which a heavy steel pestle was made to roll; this method produced a much smoother texture to the snuff after the coarse preliminary grinding.
John Anstie, who succeeded his father, was for some time in partnership with William Leach, another Devizes snuff-maker, and use was made of the windmills set up on the ruins of the castle. The mills were described by John Strachey in about 1720 as a 'late project for grinding rape', (fn. 280) but the exact date of their erection is unknown, (fn. 281) and they were probably never used for that purpose. They were seen by Stukeley in 1723, (fn. 282) and included by Edward Dore on his map of Devizes in 1759. There is on this map a marginal comment, 'the tobacco trade has grown of late'. The mills later passed into the possession of William Ludlow, who also used them for snuff-grinding in c. 1782. Ludlow later moved to Bristol where he continued as a tobacconist and snuff-maker at Redcliffe Street.
Leach's partnership with John Anstie was subsequently dissolved, but in 1740 an agreement was made whereby John Anstie was to supply Leach with 1 ton of snuff yearly, if required. The snuff was to be of the same quality as made for his own general use.
Perhaps the most momentous years in the history of the Anstie business were the 1830's. The changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution made the brothers Paul and Benjamin Anstie realize it was useless spending further money on the renovation of water-mills, which were rapidly becoming obsolete. A 10 h.p. Boulton & Watt steam-engine was purchased for £700 and installed by Hadens' of Trowbridge. (fn. 283) The premises were enlarged and equipped with new plant, much of it designed by Paul Anstie, who is said to have devised the first successful tobacco-cutting machine.
The tobacco industry throughout the country, however, was experiencing great difficulties owing to persistent smuggling and adulterations, and the Treasury had frequently been petitioned to reduce the duty with a view to rendering the activities of smugglers unprofitable. With the help of T. H. S. Estcourt, the local Member of Parliament, such a petition was laid before the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1837 by the tobacco and snuff manufacturers of Devizes, headed by Benjamin Anstie, then mayor of the town.
One of the earliest tobaccos coming as a branded article from the Anstie Co. was a fine shag bearing the head of a black boy, by which it was, and still is, popularly known. It retailed at 3½d. an ounce in 1870. Although fine-cut shag tobaccos have always formed a major part of the firm's output, large quantities of roll and twist were spun at one time. 'Rose Bud' hand-made cigarettes were produced soon after the Crimean War when returning soldiers brought home with them a new method of smoking. Machinemade cigarettes eventually followed, the earliest brand being marketed in 1907 under the name 'On Furlough'. They were succeeded by 'Day Dreams', the forerunner of the present 'Anstie's Gold Flake'.
A novelty in the form of a leaf-covered cigarette incorporating the qualities of both cigar and cigarette was also introduced. This type of cigarette originated in Switzerland and a number of experts from Eggimann Hediger et Fils, of Biel, were brought over from that country to teach the necessary technique for such a delicate manufacturing operation.
In 1925 the snuff and tobacco manufacturing business, established since 1788, of I. Rutter & Co. of Mitcham (Surr.) was acquired, and the 'Mitcham' brands began to be produced at Devizes. In 1944 Mr. Louis Anstie and George Edmond Anstie wished to retire, and having no successor to carry on the business they approached the Imperial Tobacco Co., who agreed to purchase the business and by whom it is now run. Thus ended the family's control, which had lasted for six generations (see Table 2).
Pounds of Snuff Produced, 1797–1808 (fn. 284)
Turning to other parts of the county, there are indications that with the decline of the cloth trade, a small mill at Bradford-on-Avon was used for the production of snuff. Indeed, the town is often alluded to by Wiltshiremen as 'Snuffy Bradford', a nickname said to date back to a mishap with a barrel of snuff towards the end of the 18th century. (fn. 285)
The Six Generations of the Anstie Family in the Snuff and Tobacco Business
When tobacco growing was again permitted in England in 1910, (fn. 286) Mr. G. J. Brandon of Church Crookham (Hants) began its cultivation. He was joined by Mr. F. Snook, proprietor of H. Stevens & Co. of Salisbury (see below), who took practically the whole of his output. (fn. 287) Very satisfactory crops were later produced around Whaddon (Alderbury), the Teffonts, and Dinton. In 1923 a deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer was organized, led by Mr. Brandon and Mr. Snook, to ask for encouragement in the form of lower duty. (fn. 288) A committee of inquiry, however, considered competing overseas products would always have the advantage of more suitable climates and cheaper labour, and it was felt there were other forms of agriculture to which help could more profitably be given. (fn. 289) Nevertheless, home-grown tobacco continued to be produced, and sales rose slowly but steadily. When, in 1946, Mr. Snook sold the business of H. Stevens & Co. to a private limited company (see below), the new company installed up-to-date curing barns and machinery. During the years of food shortage after the Second World War, however, restricted planting only was carried on.
The early history and growth of the business which became H. Stevens & Co. is obscure, but available evidence points to 1780 as the date of its establishment. A Mr. Raikes, a Quaker, removed his business from the Canal to a shop in Silver Street, the present (1956) retail premises of the company. How long he had been previously associated with the tobacco trade is not known, but the Silver Street business was conducted in his name until 1826 when it was taken over by John Stratton. During his 23 years' proprietorship Stratton seems to have made considerable improvements, and to have widened the market for his products. He, in turn, sold the business in 1849 to James Brown, popularly known as 'Baccy Brown'. Stratton appears later to have had a similar business in Exeter Street, Salisbury.
Although tobacco leaf was always stored at Silver Street, the actual cutting of tobacco and grinding of snuff did not begin there until 1865, all operations under the previous owners having been carried out at the Old Town mill situated on a cutting from the River Avon, near St. Thomas's Church. The building was originally a grist mill powered by an undershot water-wheel. Tobacco manufacture was confined to the upper portion of the premises, whilst flour continued to be ground at floor-level as in the past. An examination of accounts in the company's possession shows that shag and Birdseye tobaccos, roll and Bogie, plain and scented Scotch snuffs, were all produced during Brown's time. In a letter to his clients dated November 1850 he justified an increase of 2d. a pound on the manufactured article because of a continued increase in the price of leaf tobacco. Some orders still extant called for snuff in 1 cwt. casks, large quantities by today's standards. (fn. 290)
In 1865 Brown sold the business to Henry Stevens, who erected machinery and plant at the Silver Street shop and dispensed with the factory at the mill. He was succeeded by his son, who further improved manufacturing methods, and installed an electriclighting plant in the new factory. In 1899 the business was taken over by Messrs F. J. & E. E. Snook, who decided to carry on under the name H. Stevens & Co. In 1946 the business was sold to a private company and became known as H. Stevens & Co. (Tobaccos) Ltd. Since the Second World War extensive improvements have been made and a new modern factory erected at High Post, Great Durnford, on the Salisbury—Amesbury road, where large quantities of cigarettes are produced for both home and overseas markets. Among the many brands of tobaccos and cigarettes marketed in 1956 were 'Sarum' Virginia (on the packet of which there is a view of Salisbury Cathedral), 'New Forest', 'Blue Boy', 'Golden Shag', and 'White Label'.
In the early days of the Second World War, International Tobacco (Overseas) Ltd., which had its factory in Shoreditch, London, decided for security reasons to move part of their manufacturing plant to Westbury. Production started at Westbury in October 1940; but as the premises were found inadequate to cope with the increasing volume of trade, plans were made for a permanent factory to be erected in that town. It was completed in 1946 and several additions have since been made to the original building. In 1956 about 200 workpeople were employed.
By far the largest tobacco factory in the county in 1956 was the Colbourne Street, Swindon, branch of W. D. & H. O. Wills, Ltd., employing some 700 workers. The Swindon branch was completed in 1915; but as the War Office temporarily took over the premises two years later, normal activities were not resumed until April 1919. This branch has specialized in the production of the Wills' brands of cigarettes.
The activities of H.M. Customs and Excise are connected with the industry. There were no bonded warehouses for tobacco in the county in 1956. During the Second World War, however, when enormous quantities of leaf were destroyed by enemy action in the docks of London, Bristol, and Liverpool, a bonded warehouse was opened in Devizes. Long Stores—a large building forming part of the premises of E. & W. Anstie, Ltd.—was used for this purpose. Since the end of the war supplies of leaf have generally been drawn by the manufacturers direct from the bonded warehouses at Bristol and London, or through a clearing agent. In 1956 customs officers were stationed at Devizes, Salisbury, Trowbridge, and Swindon; and there were nearly 3,000 licensed tobacco dealers in the county as well as six manufacturers.
Before the rise of the tobacco and snuff industry in Wiltshire, the county was renowned for the manufacture of clay pipes. In 1662 Fuller wrote: 'The best for shape and colour . . . are made at Amesbury in this county. They may be called chimneys portable in pockets, the one end being the hearth and the other the tunnel thereof . . . . These clay pipes are burnt in a furnace for some fifteen hours—before that time they are found little altered from the condition wherein they were first put in. It seems all that time the fire is working itself to a height and doth its work very soon when obtained to perfection.' (fn. 291)
It is not known when clay pipes were first made at Amesbury; both Fuller and Aubrey (fn. 292) thought that the first tobacco pipes were made of silver, but this has been questioned. (fn. 293) Aubrey also said that the common people made use of 'a walnut shell and a straw'. While these types of pipe may have been used, the discovery of many early clay pipes in Wiltshire proves that clay pipes were also used from an early date.
In the 17th century writers seem to have agreed that pipes made by the Gauntlet family were the best of all. These pipes bore a mark on the heel consisting of a right hand, or gauntlet, a mark derived from the makers' name. They were made at Amesbury, but according to Aubrey the clay was brought from Chitterne, ten miles to the west. Gauntlet pipes seem to have retained their supremacy from the time when Ben Jonson praised them (fn. 294) to at least the end of the 17th century. Further evidence of the esteem in which Gauntlet pipes were held comes from Fuller's description of a pipe-maker sued for pirating the mark. (fn. 295) The defendant escaped because he had shown a left-hand gauntlet, which he maintained would constitute a difference in heraldry. The mark was adopted also by a Broseley (Salop.) pipe-maker, probably Samuel Decon, who used it with his own initials. (fn. 296)
By the end of the 17th century, if not before, the Gauntlets were not the only pipe-makers in Amesbury. Pipes, all of orthodox pattern, have been found from the workshop there of a Gabriel Bailey. It is even possible that the Gauntlets sold their business to him, because a fairly large pipe in Salisbury Museum has a circular heel mark bearing the words 'Amesbury Pipes' surrounding a right hand gauntlet between the initials G.B. with the date 1698 underneath. Even if 'G.B.' was Gabriel Bailey, however, he may have been a competitor of the Gauntlets, not their successor. Very little is known about the Gauntlet family, but it seems that many of them lived at Netherhampton: there are monuments in Netherhampton church dating from 1672 until 1713 bearing the name Gauntlet. A John Gauntlet, gentleman, held the tithe barn of Netherhampton in 1631. (fn. 297) A member of the family may have built Netherhampton House later in the century: the design on the wrought iron gates is said to be a lump of pipe-clay on an iron spike and, as such, the Gauntlet crest. (fn. 298) A William Gauntlet of Netherhampton held from the Earl of Hertford in 1675 a messuage, tenement, and the Swan Inn in Amesbury, together with the bailiwick of all the markets and fairs in Amesbury, including St. John's fair. (fn. 299) This well may have been the William Gauntlet of Netherhampton who Aubrey says was born at Amesbury. (fn. 300) His strong connexions with Amesbury make it most likely that he was one of the Gauntlets making clay pipes.
Of the large number of clay pipes found in the county from time to time, most can by their shape and form—even if a distinguishing mark is absent— be assigned to the 17th century. Apart from those bearing the Gauntlet sign, there are many pipes made by Bristol manufacturers. Undoubtedly many of the unmarked clays were actually produced in the county; but it is impossible to assign to them a maker's name.
Pipes bearing the name of Edward Higgens have come to light and this name appears on a Salisbury marriage licence of 1698. (fn. 301) A pipe marked 'W. Higgen, Sarum', is also known and this maker may have been connected with the same family. Pipes with the name Richard Greenland on the flattened spur are not uncommon, and a pipe-maker of this name was a member of the Devizes Merchants' Guild in 1688. (fn. 302) A number of other early Wiltshire pipe-makers are known (see Table 3). (fn. 303)
In 1923 several hundred early 17th-century tobacco pipes were unearthed in the Market Place, Warminster. They may represent a trader's dead stock as the legislation of 1643 and the Civil War (fn. 304) probably caused a glut. Some of these pipes bore the Gauntlet trade mark. (fn. 305)
A collection was made in 1937 of bowls and stems of clay pipes found in Marlborough; (fn. 306) most of them came from gardens on the north-west side of Back Lane, and garden ground on the north-east side of Cold Harbour Lane, similar pipes being found at both places. Many were unmarked but undoubtedly of early date, and it is possible that they were of local origin.
Amesbury clay was still used about 1840, but whether it was used for pipes is not known. (fn. 307) Ten years later two tobacco-pipe-makers, William John Morgan and James Skeines, both of Salt Lane, Salisbury, appear in a directory. (fn. 308) They were still listed in 1855, but in 1859 the name Mrs. Morgan had taken the place of William John. (fn. 309) Little is known of them and none of the pipes in the collection at the Salisbury, South Wilts., and Blackmore Museum in 1956 can be definitely attributed to them. (fn. 310)
Wiltshire Pipe-makers other than the Gauntlet Family
|Name||Probale place of manufacture (fn. 311)||Date|
|Gabriel Bailey||c. 1698|
|John Buckland||Marlborough or Devizes|
|John Clifford or Cleford||Marlborough|
|William Fery||Marlborough||c. 1700|
|John Greenland||Marlborough||c. 1700|
|Richard Greenland||Marlborough||c. 1650|
|William Harden||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|John Harris (fn. 312)||Trowbridge||c. 1757|
|William Higgins||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|Thomas Mason||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|John Merrifield||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|Mrs. Mills, widow||Marlborough|
|William Mitchell (fn. 313)||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|William Pearce||c. 1700|
|John Sayer||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|John Smith||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|Thomas Smith||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|Thomas Smithfield||Salisbury||c. 1700|
|Thomas Widdows (fn. 312)||Salisbury||c. 1718|
The comparatively rapid increase in the number of paper-mills at work in Wiltshire in the 18th and early 19th centuries paralleled similar developments in many parts of England. (fn. 314) Most of the Wiltshire mills, which were quite small, closed down in the 19th century, probably owing to the operation of factors such as the competition of better-placed or better-equipped mills and changes in the nature and sources of raw materials. The number of people employed in the manufacture of paper in Wiltshire was never large, the highest figures recorded in the Census; Occupation Tables being those for 1901, when there were 45 men and 34 women in the industry.
The Wiltshire paper-mills were mostly in the north-west of the county, especially along the By Brook, and the south-east, within ten miles of Salisbury. A primary requirement of paper-makers —a good supply of water powerful enough to drive the mill and clear enough to be used in the papermaking process—was satisfied here, but the industry was probably also attracted to these areas by the proximity of Bristol and Bath, and Salisbury respectively, both as sources of raw materials and as markets. In some cases, paper-makers seem to have taken over mills formerly used by cloth-makers or corn-millers. For example, the 'Veverne' mill owned by a clothier in the 16th century (fn. 315) was probably on or near the site of the corn-mill which became the Weavern paper-mill (see below, p. 246). In 1744 (fn. 316) a clothier is recorded at Widdenham mill in Colerne which was probably on the site of the later papermill.
There is little concentrated information about the paper-making industry in England up to the 19th century, but between 1816 and 1852 the Commissioners of Customs and Excise issued lists of paper-mills in the form of General Letters and Orders. (fn. 317) These usually recorded the Excise Numbers allotted to the paper-mills, the names of the paper-makers and mills, and the Collection of Excise in which the mills were situated. The paper-mills which worked in north-west Wiltshire during this period were in the Bath Collection of Excise; that at Calstone was in the Marlborough, and the Bulford, Bemerton, and Downton mills were in the Salisbury Collection.
Probably the first paper-mill to be established in Wiltshire was at Bemerton (actually the mill is in the parish of West Harnham) and there are several early references to it; (fn. 318) it was working from either 1554 or 1569 until well into the 19th century. In 1726 George Thompson, paper-maker, took out a fire insurance policy (fn. 319) in respect of his household goods and stock in his dwelling house and paper-mills all under one roof in West Harnham. Later, the following were apprenticed (fn. 320) to paper-makers at West Harnham: James Thorn (1751) to George Thompson; and John Tull (1761), James Randall (1765), John Strugnal (1770), William Thompson (1773), and John Loader (1777) to James Wilkinson. A tablet in Bemerton church commemorates a child James Wilkinson at the paper-mill in 1779, and the name of James Wilkinson, of Bemerton paper-mills, appears in a notice in 1793. (fn. 321) The names of five paper-makers —Thomas Ketchen, Robert Wells, William Collens, James Randel, John Tull—are recorded in the Bemerton Registers of Marriages and Banns between 1763 and 1777. Excise Letters of 8 October 1816, (fn. 322) and 28 November 1832, (fn. 323) list Mill No. 344 at Bemerton. The name of the paper-maker concerned, James Forward, appears in the Wiltshire Poll Book in 1819, and in the Bemerton Rate Book up to 1845. The last known reference to this paper-mill is in a directory of 1860, (fn. 324) under the name of J. W. Towards (probably a mis-spelling of Forward), but as it is not mentioned in a list of paper-mills in 1851 (fn. 325) it had probably ceased work before then.
There is a tradition that there was a paper-mill in St. Ann's Street, Salisbury. This was possibly the mill at which Ambrose Curtis, of Salisbury, papermaker, worked about 1686. (fn. 326) A paper-mill east of the cathedral is shown on an 18th-century plan of Salisbury. (fn. 327)
The possibility that a paper-mill existed at or near Nunton is suggested by the recorded marriage of Henry Bacon of Nunton, paper-maker, in 1666. (fn. 328)
The earliest reference to the paper industry at Downton is the marriage of William Snelgar, of Downton, paper-maker, in 1740. (fn. 329) Samuel Snelgar of Downton, paper-maker, took apprentices named John Berryman (in 1755), (fn. 330) Joseph Snelgar and John Davis (in 1766), and John Snelgar (in 1768). (fn. 331) He insured the paper-mill in 1756. (fn. 332) It seems likely that at least one paper-mill in Dorset was started by paper-makers from Downton, as by the 1750's Samuel Snelgar and Anthony Berryman, papermakers of Downton, had leased Carey paper-mill near Wareham. (fn. 333) About 1791 (fn. 334) Downton had 'a good paper-mill' where Joseph Jellyman was the papermaker. He had insured the mill in 1781. (fn. 335) The mill building still stands in the centre of the town. The manufacture apparently ceased for a time in the 1840's (fn. 336) and 1850's, (fn. 337) but in 1855 (fn. 338) the name of W. Stradling, paper-manufacturer at Downton, is recorded, suggesting that the mill was not long out of action. For many years up to the closure after the First World War, this mill was equipped with two vats, producing hand-made writing and account-book papers. In 1885 and 1890 (fn. 339) it was operated by Messrs. Wiggins, Teape, Carter, & Barlow, who were followed by Mark Palmer & Son, the last paper-makers to work it. Another mill at Downton, probably an adjacent building but a separate mill, was apparently used by the Jellyman family from about 1830 to 1860 for the manufacture of paste-board.
The paper-mill at Bulford was insured by Wingfield Hillman and Thomas Noyce, papermakers, in 1765. (fn. 340) In 1784 Mary Mould, papermaker, insured her goods, utensils, and stock. (fn. 341) The mill worked for nearly a century from 1786, (fn. 342) when the paper-maker was Thomas Mould. Members of this family seem to have migrated to Dorset, (fn. 343) where Carey mill was let to Joseph Mould, paper-maker of Bulford, in 1810, and Wimborne paper-mill was also worked by him in 1816. From 1786 to 1790 Isaac Brodribb was the master paper-maker at Bulford. In 1786 he insured his utensils and the stock in his paper-mill. (fn. 344) In 1790, when he was bankrupt, he was described as a paper-maker, late of Durrington. (fn. 345)
In 1791 Lawrence Greatrake, paper-maker, insured the utensils and stock in the paper-mill and in a warehouse at Andover (Hants). (fn. 346) In 1793 he was described as a paper-maker of Bulford. (fn. 347) Excise Letters show that Bulford mill (No. 345) passed through many hands in the 19th century. In 1866 (fn. 348) A. Southby was recorded as the paper-maker, producing blottings, filterings, and small hands. The mill was dismantled about 1880. (fn. 349)
The paper-mill at Calstone was probably that advertised in 1791 (fn. 350) as a valuable new overshot paper-mill near Calne. It was said to be esteemed for workmanship and strength, and one of the most complete in the kingdom. Among its advantages were that it was on a constant and one of the best streams of water for writing paper in England, that rags were collected in large quantities nearby, and that it was the first mill on the stream. The Excise Letter of 1816 records it as Mill No. 230, worked by John Huband. The last known reference to it is in 1876 (fn. 351) when it was owned by William John Dowding & Sons, and was equipped with one machine 48 inches wide, making small hands and caps. A Directory of 1860 (fn. 352) lists Daniel Huband at Mill No. 200 at Calne, but no other reference to this mill has been found.
Most of the other Wiltshire paper-mills were placed on or near the By Brook, west of Chippenham. Aubrey (fn. 353) states that in 1635 a paper-mill was built at Long Dean (Yatton Keynell) by a Mr. Wyld, to supply Bristol with brown paper. In 1746 (fn. 354) this 'well accustomed' paper-mill, then occupied by Roger Lewis, was advertised to be let or sold. It was insured in 1753 and 1763 (fn. 355) by John Lewis, described in the first policy as a paper-maker of Long Dean and in the second as a victualler of Wootton Bassett. In 1808 (fn. 356) the partnership of Richard and Charles Barrow, paper-makers of Long Dean, was dissolved, and in 1809 (fn. 357) Richard Barrow was declared a bankrupt, a fate which also befell his successor, D. Husband, in 1814. (fn. 358) Excise Letters of 1816–47 refer to this mill as No. 16. The products during this period were paper, pasteboard, and millboard. The last known reference to a paper-maker here is in 1860, (fn. 359) when John Sellick was stated to be manufacturing browns, royal hands, and cartridges.
The dissolution of the partnership of Sarah and William Hill, paper-manufacturers of Widdenham mill in Colerne, is recorded in 1813. (fn. 360) William Hill was declared a bankrupt in 1814. (fn. 361) This mill was much lower down the valley. It bore the Excise Number 19 and was apparently in operation until 1866 (fn. 362) when it was worked by W. Perrin, making brown, blue, and sugar papers.
Charles Ward of Doncombe is named in a list of paper-makers compiled about 1793 (fn. 363) and in the Wiltshire Poll Book, 1819. He was probably at Doncombe mill in Colerne, which is listed in the Excise Letter of 1816 as No. 17, occupied by Messrs. Cottle & Ward. The first of these partners was presumably the J. Cottell, paper-maker of North Wraxall, whose bankruptcy is recorded in 1817, (fn. 364) and the second Charles Ward of Doncombe papermills, who died in 1825. (fn. 365) It passed through the hands of at least four other paper-makers, producing variously paper, pasteboard, and millboard before it fell silent about 1847.
Weavern mill, which seems to have lain north of Widdenham mill on the Colerne and Biddestone parish boundary, was advertised for sale in 1793, when it was described as an excellent two-vat paper-mill, occupied by John Butler. (fn. 366) In 1794 this paper-mill was equipped with two engines. (fn. 367) It appears in the first Excise Letter in 1816 as No. 13, occupied by Henry Garner, who about that time also had an interest in Widdenham mill. The Excise Records show that Weavern mill had ceased work by 1834.
In the Excise Letter of 1816, Chaps mill, in Slaughterford, is listed as No. 14, occupied by Henry Garner the younger. It is the only paper-mill now (1956) working in Wiltshire and it still bears this number. A Directory of 1859 (fn. 368) lists J. W. Dowding, paper-manufacturer at Slaughterford; this family still owns the mill. In 1860 (fn. 369) it was producing blue and white royal hands. For many years it has been equipped with one machine (now 70 in. in width) making grocery papers, royal hands, bag papers, square-bottom, rose and satchel sugar bags, imitation Kraft bags, mill wrappers, fruit papers, jacquards, middles, pastel and cover papers, backing papers, browns, and straw paper. (fn. 370)
At least one other paper-mill worked at Slaughterford. William Duckett paper-maker of the parish of Slaughterford was bankrupt in 1792. (fn. 371) He appears to have been followed by James Bryant, to whom George Emery and Charles Curtis were apprenticed in 1802 and 1803 respectively. (fn. 372) According to the Excise Letter of 1816, Mill No. 15 there was occupied by Thomas Bevan, but the mill bearing this number had ceased work by the 1830's. Mill No. 631, Slaughterford, is recorded in an Excise Letter of 1827, (fn. 373) and was occupied by four different papermakers in turn up to 1849. The industry at Slaughterford seems to have experienced a check in the 1840's, as both Chaps mill and Mill No. 631 are recorded in Excise Letters as 'left off'. The 1851 Census Report noted that the cessation of work at two paper-mills had caused a decrease of population at Slaughterford.
Other mills in this area were advertised as being attractive to paper-makers during the period of the geographical expansion of the industry. In 1784 (fn. 374) Ford grist mills, in the parish of North Wraxall, were said to be calculated for adding a paper- or fullingmill under the same roof, having been built for that purpose. There were fine crystal springs of water rising nearby, fit for making the finest white paper.
A reference has been found to supplies of cartridge paper from Trowbridge to the parliamentary garrison at Chalfield in 1645, (fn. 375) but no evidence of a paper-mill there has been discovered.
A notice in 1738 (fn. 376) states that William Coles, paper-maker, kept a warehouse in Devizes where any person could be served with 'all sorts of paper, coarse or fine, as cheap and as good, as by any maker whatsoever'. The location of William Coles's mill is not known, but paper-makers named Coles were at Wookey Hole in Somerset for many years; the earliest relevant reference is to James Coles, papermaker there, who insured his paper-mill in 1758. (fn. 377)
Many of the beds of oolitic limestone which yield Bath Stone lie in north-west Wiltshire. (fn. 378) Box Hill is the centre of the quarrying area and provides the best stone. Portland beds occur in the western end of the Vale of Pewsey, on Swindon Hill, and in the Vale of Wardour, where they have chiefly been quarried at Chilmark and Teffont Evias. They are there associated with Purbeck beds, which are also found on Swindon Hill. (fn. 379)
The surviving remains of buildings and querns show that the Romans made use of all these stones. As they worked the outcrops of the beds it is impossible to locate their quarries with certainty, but it is probable that much of the stone used at Wanborough (Durocornovium) was taken from Old Swindon Hill, where coins and other finds have been discovered close to the modern Okus quarries. (fn. 380) Roman interments, coins, and potsherds have been found at Teffont Evias quarry, (fn. 381) which suggests that it may also have been open in Roman times. The villa at Box was almost certainly built of stone from Box Hill, but it is not possible to tell whether stone from this hill was used in any of the surviving Roman buildings in Bath: it seems probable, but exact geological comparison cannot be carried out as the beds have long been exhausted, and it is impossible otherwise to distinguish between the stone from Coombe Down, just over the border into Somerset, and that from Box. (fn. 382)
It was Box Hill Stone (technically known as Box Ground Stone) which was obtained at Hazelbury quarry, described by Aubrey as 'the most eminent for freestone in the western parts before the discovery of the Portland quarry, which was but about anno 1600'. (fn. 383) An old tradition attributes the founding of this quarry to St. Aldhelm: it is said that St. Aldhelm was riding over the ground at Hazelbury when he threw down his glove and ordered his companions to dig where it fell, saying that they would find great treasure there. (fn. 384) St. Aldhelm may indeed have been associated with the quarry as the one surviving building for which he is said to have been responsible, (fn. 385) the small church of St. Laurence at Bradford-on-Avon, is built of Box Ground Stone, probably from Hazelbury. (fn. 386) Although the arcaded ornament and present window structure of this church are stylistically later than St. Aldhelm's time, it has been shown that below the string course the original late-7th-century church probably remains substantially intact. (fn. 387)
Hazelbury quarry was chiefly important in the Middle Ages as a source of material for monastic buildings, including Stanley Abbey, Bradenstoke Priory, Lacock Abbey, and Monkton Farleigh Priory. (fn. 388) By the middle of the 12th century Hazelbury manor was held by the Croke family, but grants show that the quarry area was divided up between this family and the neighbouring lords of Box, Rudloe, Shockerwick, 'Fogham', and Henley. Four generations at least of the Croke family made grants of quarries to the religious houses between c. 1189 and 1306. (fn. 389) The Bigot family of Box granted land with quarries to Bradenstoke Priory and Stanley Abbey in the middle of the 13th century, (fn. 390) a time when the quarries seem to have been extended. A record is also preserved of an exchange of quarries between Stanley Abbey and Lacock Abbey in 1241. (fn. 391) Both Bradenstoke Priory and Lacock Abbey retained at least some of their holdings in the quarries until the Dissolution. (fn. 392)
Stone from the Hazelbury quarries was also used for secular purposes: in 1254 the Sheriff of Wiltshire was ordered to carry six cartloads of Hazelbury stone to Freemantle (Hants) to finish the king's works there. (fn. 393) In the 15th and 16th centuries the quarry furnished stone for two of the great houses built then: Great Chalfield Manor House and Longleat House. Thomas Tropenell of Great Chalfield acquired property in the quarry in 1465, (fn. 394) and Sir John Thynne of Longleat did so in 1573. (fn. 395) The Thynne family still held their quarry plot in the reign of Charles I, (fn. 396) and, indeed, until it was sold to Job Pictor in 1868 (see below).
By far the most important medieval quarry in the south of the county was the one at Chilmark, which furnished stone for many of the Norman churches both in south Wiltshire and north Dorset—for example, the churches of Stapleford and Coombe Bissett. (fn. 397) The Normans also used this stone in the cathedral at Old Salisbury. (fn. 398) New Salisbury Cathedral, on which building began in 1220 and continued for nearly a century, (fn. 399) is the most notable example of the later use of the stone. Wilton Abbey may have been built of it, for the abbey held the manor of Chilmark. (fn. 400) Together with many of the other possessions of the abbey, the manor passed into the hands of the Pembroke family. At the time of the 1562 survey, quarry rights were reserved from the lease of the demesne farm. (fn. 401) There is no mention of a lease of the quarries in this survey, but in 1613 all the quarries were leased to a certain Thomas Sweet and his sons at a rent of 9s. a year or three reasonable cart-loads of good, quarry-stapled stone. (fn. 402) This seems a very low rent, but in the middle of the 17th century, when a large quantity of stone was needed for the rebuilding of Wilton House as designed by Inigo Jones, Bath Stone was used. Nevertheless, Aubrey refers to 'a very great quarry' at Chilmark. (fn. 403)
A quarry of freestone in the neighbouring parish of Teffont Evias is described by Aubrey as 'not long since discovered'. (fn. 404) Early-15th-century account rolls, however, mention four or five quarries there, one of which was leased at a rent of 26s. 8d., and another at 10s. (fn. 405) The quarries at Teffont Evias and Chilmark were very near each other: the quarries marked as Chilmark quarry and Teffont quarry respectively on Andrews and Dury's map of 1773 are on opposite sides of the same ridge. It seems probable that some of the 'Chilmark stone' used in the Middle Ages came in fact from Teffont Evias.
Many lesser quarries were worked throughout the Middle Ages and into the 17th century: Leland mentioned a quarry near Bradford-on-Avon, (fn. 406) the clerk of works to Sir John Thynne talked about quarries at Shalbourne and Easton, (fn. 407) and Aubrey mentioned quarries at Compton Bassett, Yatton Keynell, Alderton, Bower Chalke, and Swindon. (fn. 408) At Swindon it was apparently the Purbeck beds which were quarried, and the stone was taken to London for use as hall and stair-paving slabs at Montagu House and Berkeley House. This is the only record of Wiltshire stone travelling so far at this date: a great difficulty was the high cost of transporting stone, so that for less important buildings local stone was used even if it was of inferior quality. There are many outcrops of stone in Wiltshire, and most of them have probably been used at some time.
Changes in the means of transport in the late 18th and 19th centuries helped to enlarge the market for Wiltshire stone. The building of the Wilts. & Berks. Canal gave a great impetus to quarrying at Swindon, (fn. 409) and the Kennet & Avon Canal enabled the stone from Box Hill to compete for the first time with that from Portland. The Chilmark, Teffont, and Tisbury quarries, however, were not benefited by these canals and an expensive over-land journey was still necessary before this stone could be transported by water. The difference which this made to the price of the stone in London was brought out by an inquiry into building stone in 1839, before the stone for the new Palace of Westminster was chosen: stone from Baynton Quarry in Box, which was sent by canal from Lacock, fetched 1s. 11d. per cubic foot in London, but that from George Lane's quarry in Chilmark fetched 5s. 3d., and that from James Brevis's quarry at East Tisbury fetched from 4s. to 4s. 3d. a cubic foot. (fn. 410) The greater ease of working Bath Stone may have accounted for a small proportion of the difference, (fn. 411) but transport costs were the main cause. Bath Stone from Box was not chosen for the Palace of Westminster, but it was used by Benjamin Wyatt in York House in 1825, and to reface Apsley House in 1828. (fn. 412)
The opening of the Great Western Railway made the transport of stone from Bradford, Box Hill, and Swindon even easier. The census of 1841 revealed 105 labourers working in the stone quarries at Winsley in Bradford, and 60 at Box. The construction of the Box tunnel (fn. 413) also revealed the extent of the stone beds, and led to a great expansion of quarrying, or rather mining. The change from open quarrying as at Hazelbury to the method of tunnelling into the side of the hill probably began long before this. At first the adits may not have run very far, but by 1770 there is mention of 'mines and quarries' at Corsham, (fn. 414) which suggests that the system was well advanced by then. It was extended after the building of the railway tunnel: the beds were approached both from another tunnel entering the hill near the railway tunnel at the Corsham end, and from the surface by deep inclined shafts. By 1862 there were five miles of tunnels with tramways for hauling the stone; these were partly worked by the use of gravity, but horses were also used. (fn. 415) Below the Upper Ragstone a hard rock called the 'capping bed' formed a natural roof over the building stone, so that it was possible to have a working face from 18 to 30 feet wide without danger of falls. Larch props were sometimes used, but the roof was mainly supported by large pillars of natural stone which were left uncut. The good building stone varied in depth from 20 to 30 feet. It was worked from above: first nine or ten inches were cleared below the 'ceiling' with adze-shaped picks, then the stone was sawn into blocks down to the natural divisions or partings, and, finally, the blocks were levered off from the parent rock at the back. (fn. 416) Hand cranes fastened to the roof were used to load the stone (see pl. facing p. 230).
The growth of the industry was very rapid and Bath Stone was sent by rail all over the country: a surviving price list of 1860 gives delivery quotations for towns and villages in nearly all the counties of England from Cornwall to Yorkshire, and in Wales. (fn. 417) The firm issuing the list was Randell & Saunders, who owned quarries in Corsham Down, Box Hill, Farley Down (Monkton Farleigh), Murhill Down (Bradford-on-Avon), and Coombe Down (Som.). This firm was not one of the oldest ones working at that time for it was only founded in 1845, (fn. 418) while some of the other firms had a much longer history, in particular the firm then owned by Job Pictor of Box, and that of the Sumsion family of Bath, who quarried at Coombe Down and Monks Park (Corsham). The second half of the 19th century saw a great multiplication of firms in the Wiltshire Bath-Stone district from Corsham and Box to Bradford-on-Avon. By 1885 there were twelve quarry owners listed in Kelly's Directory, and four more had appeared by 1895. The most significant movement at this time was the amalgamation of several of these firms as the Bath Stone Firms Ltd. in 1887. Robert Pictor and his younger brothers, Cornelius and William, seem to have prompted this amalgamation, and on the sudden death of Robert, Cornelius Pictor became the first chairman and managing director of the company. The other firms who joined were Randell & Saunders, and those of Samuel R. Noble of Box, Isaac Sumsion of Bath, John T. F. Turner of Bath, George Hancock of Corsham, and Robert E. Giles of Bath. (fn. 419)
In the first year of its existence the Bath Stone Firms Ltd. quarried 1½ million cubic feet of stone. (fn. 420) It is not possible to know how many men were employed because the work was carried out by subcontractors or 'gangers', who each usually employed from seven to twelve men. This system was maintained until about 1940 when it was exchanged for the Portland system of 'companies'. The sub-contractor or foreman is eliminated in the latter system, but each team or company of five to seven men, with apprentices, is still paid on their results over and above a minimum wage, and not on the number of men employed. The Census Report for 1841 gives 110 men as stone quarriers and another 1,320 as masons or stone cutters. By 1861 the number of quarriers had risen to 373, of whom 211 lived in the Chippenham Registration District and another 44 in that of Bradford-on-Avon: this means that about two-thirds of all the quarriers in the county worked in the Bath Stone area. The later Census Reports link together quarriers, dressers, and cutters, so they do not provide comparable figures. In 1901 there were 1,199 quarriers, dressers, or cutters, 16 other workers in quarry products, and 45 stone dealers.
Traditionally miners are Nonconformist and this seems to have been true of the Bath-Stone workers. In the mid-19th century the miners appear to have supported a Primitive Methodist or some more extreme Methodist preacher. It is said that this preacher was arrested at the instigation of the then Vicar of Box, so Robert Pictor permitted one of the galleries in Spring Quarry to be used for the miners' meetings. This gallery is still called 'Chapel Ground'. (fn. 421)
Although Bath Stone was quarried on a far larger scale in the 19th century than any of the other Wiltshire stones, quarries at Chilmark and Swindon were used throughout the 19th century and into the twentieth. The firm of Levi Bowles was established at Chilmark some time before 1885, and was still operating in 1920. (fn. 422) Gething & Co. started work in Chilmark early in the 20th century, and were still quarrying there and at Teffont Evias in 1931. The Chilmark quarries were closed, however, later in the 1930's, and the galleries were taken over by the Air Ministry for storage purposes before the Second World War. (fn. 423) The Swindon quarries declined rapidly in importance in the 20th century because they were almost exhausted.
The 20th-century history of the Bath Stone industry is also one of declining production, although considerable quantities of stone are still (1958) quarried at Box and Corsham, and, indeed, all Bath Stone now produced comes from Wiltshire. At the beginning of the century 3 million cubic feet of stone a year were quarried, and there was a considerable export trade with Canada and South Africa. (fn. 424) It was claimed that the Wiltshire stone mines were the largest in the world. (fn. 425) There were then 60 miles of tunnels. Work continued throughout the First World War and large stocks of stone were built up. Much of this stone was exported to America. This export trade was developed until it was killed by the tariff barriers which the Americans erected in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Mechanization in the Box and Corsham quarries was slow at first because it was more profitable to invest all the capital available in the Portland Stone quarries; there was also difficulty in obtaining electric power underground at Corsham. In 1936, however, the War Department took over Tunnel Quarry and Hudwell Quarry at Corsham, and one of the Monkton Farleigh quarries, for ammunition storage. The transformation of these quarries was undertaken jointly by the War Department and the Bath and Portland Stone Firms Ltd. Electricity was introduced, and later this was carried into the other quarries where stone was still worked. Before the Second World War, mechanical cutters and electric cranes were in use. Otherwise, the method of obtaining the stone was exactly the same as in 1862.
The disused galleries made such an excellent storage area that many more quarries were requisitioned after the outbreak of the Second World War; they were used by both the Air Ministry and the Admiralty. In 1942 a large aircraft factory was built underground, while married quarters and six hostels for 1,000 persons each were built nearby. (fn. 426) Quarrying is still (1958) greatly restricted by the Air Ministry's control of many quarries, and only about 160 to 170 men are now employed in Wiltshire by the Bath and Portland Stone Firms Ltd., the only firm still working.
Another use which has been made of the disused stone quarries is the establishment of a mushroom farm at one of the quarries previously worked by the Yockney and Hartham Park Stone Company, and subsequently called Pockeridge Quarry. A firm called Agaric Ltd. was formed in 1914: by 1923 13 acres underground were in cultivation and were producing from 250,000 lb. to 300,000 lb. of mushrooms a year. (fn. 427) The even temperature and good ventilation of the quarries provide perfect conditions for mushroom farming throughout the year.
Other modern developments in the use of the quarries have been carried out by the quarrying firms themselves. It is probable that stone carving was always carried out near the quarries, but the scale on which it was done was expanded at the same time as the quarries themselves were expanded after the building of the Box tunnel. It is said that I. K. Brunel and Job Pictor collaborated in this development. At all events, stone dressing, cutting, and carving have been important side-lines of Pictors, and of the Bath and Portland Stone Firms Ltd., since the mid-19th century. The connexion of the Pictor family with the company was broken for a time early in the 20th century, but the present chairman and managing director is Mr. A. N. Pictor, grandson of Robert Pictor.
Stone carving and ornamental work has been undertaken also by many smaller firms and individual craftsmen, such as Mr. M. V. Sheppard of Box, who in 1953 was still carrying on the business started by his family many years earlier. Work for churches, inscriptions, and garden ornaments were then some of the main activities of this small firm. (fn. 428)
Originally, the small stones and dust produced in the quarrying were waste, but it was discovered at the end of the Second World War that they could be ground very fine and used as agricultural lime. The Bath and Portland Stone Firms Ltd. is now one of the leading suppliers of this product in the southwest, trading under the titles of Western Farm Supplies Ltd. and Wessex Spreaders Ltd. The dust and waste stone is also made by the firm into Bath Stone concrete-faced blocks for use in house building. Thus, although quarried on a smaller scale than in the 19th century, Wiltshire Bath Stone has wider uses.
There are two districts in Wiltshire where iron ore has been quarried and smelted. (fn. 429) One is situated on the lower greensand area, which stretches westwards from the foot of the escarpment of the chalk downs running in a northerly direction from Devizes. This area extends in a westerly direction to Seend, and north-westerly to Bromham; both these villages are about four miles distant from the town. The other mining area is also in the western part of the county, but farther south, and is within about a mile of Westbury.
At what period these areas were first worked is uncertain. Quantities of ashes and slag, clearly the remains of smelting, have been ploughed up from time to time at various places in the former of the two districts mentioned, (fn. 430) and as these finds were in all cases associated with definite signs of Roman or Romano-British occupation, it seems reasonable to suppose that the industry existed at least from that period. The fact that slag and haematite were found at the Iron Age A village at All Cannings Cross, (fn. 431) and slag in the ditches of the somewhat later camps of Lidbury and Casterley, (fn. 432) all of which are of preRoman date, may perhaps be evidence of an earlier origin of the industry.
The first documentary mention of iron-working is found in Domesday, where Fifield Bavant is stated to have an iron-work or forge (ferraria) yielding 12d. a year. (fn. 433) The next reference found is about two centuries later, when Edward I in 1294 granted to the abbot and monks of Stanley Abbey (near Calne) a licence to dig iron-ore on their demesne lands within the king's forest of Chippenham, to smelt it and carry it away. (fn. 434) No other references have been found until the 17th century, when John Aubrey, speaking of the village of Seend, wrote:
This village is on a red sand hill, from which it has its name. . . . In this hill underneath the sand is iron ore and the richest that I have seen, for the smith can make the ore which he takes up from the street melt in his forge, which the ore in the Forest of Dean will not do. . . . Melksham Forest reached to the foot of the hill. It was full of good oaks which were cut down about 1634. . . . Now there are very few oaks left in the parish or thereabout and so this rich mine cannot be smelted. (fn. 435)
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that attempts to work the ore both at Seend and Westbury on any extensive scale were made. In 1857 a company called the Great Western Iron Ore Smelting Co. acquired 15 acres of land at Seend, situated about ¼ mile west of the village, on a hill-side sloping northwards towards the Kennett & Avon Canal and the railway. On this site they began operations at a point about a mile south of the railway station. A prospectus was issued describing in glowing terms the quality of the ore, which various analyses stated to contain from 33 to 40 per cent. of metal. The capital required was fixed at £50,000, and profits of anything up to 50 per cent. were confidently expected. (fn. 436) Contracts were made with a London firm, Messrs. Sarll, to supply from 400 to 1,200 tons of ore a week. (fn. 437) Some of the coke required for the smelting furnaces was brought from a coal mine at Vobster, near Frome (Som.), (fn. 438) but the company also acquired a property at Ruabon in North Wales to supplement this supply and to provide the lime required in the smelting process. (fn. 439) Two blast furnaces were erected, and a railway line was constructed from the works to the Kennet & Avon Canal and later to Seend railway station. (fn. 440) The ore being on the surface, no tunnelling was necessary.
The optimistic expectations of the promoters were never fulfilled, and in the short space of two years— in 1859—the company was bankrupt, the excess of its liabilities over its assets amounting to £28,629. (fn. 441) Several reasons seem to have contributed to this rapid failure. The cost of transporting fuel to the furnaces and of sending the iron to its markets absorbed too much of the profits; and that the management was bad and reckless is shown by the fact that the Ruabon property, bought for £10,000, was described in the bankruptcy proceedings as being 'almost valueless' for the purposes for which it had been bought and was sold for £600. (fn. 442) The whole property was taken over by Messrs. Sarll, who in 1861 formed another company with the title of the Wiltshire Iron Co. A third furnace was erected, and work began again. (fn. 443) An article in the Mining Journal in May 1861, which must surely have been inspired by the promoters, describes this new enterprise in some detail and prophesies success for the venture. It states that 250 tons of ore were being produced a week, and gives the area of the ironbearing land as 150 acres, containing an estimated total of 25 million tons of ore. (fn. 444)
For a few years the new venture was able to claim a measure of success, and a letter from H. Penruddock, a resident of Seend, states that in the year 1865 40,000 tons of ore were raised. (fn. 445) But this prosperity was brief, for in the next year a local newspaper printed the following statement: 'The Seend Iron Works has again come to grief, this time under the name of the Wiltshire Iron Company, and a windingup order has been made in the Court of Chancery.' (fn. 446) What happened then is not quite clear, but some work still went on, for a letter written in 1869 by William Cunnington, a Devizes resident who took much interest in the work, estimates that about 60 men were still employed there. (fn. 447) In 1870 the industry was taken over by a firm named Malcolm, (fn. 448) who lasted until 1873, when they suspended payment. From that time the works remained derelict for about fifteen years; and in 1889 the plant and machinery were sold, and the furnaces demolished. (fn. 449) The quarrying of ore, however, was resumed later and in 1905 the property was acquired by the Westbury and Seend Ore & Oxide Co., whose head office is at Midsomer Norton (Som.). (fn. 450) The ore produced found a market in South Wales. The demand for steel during the First World War resulted in a great increase in production, and in order to maintain the supply on a scale in accordance with the demand, an overhead cable was constructed which conveyed the ore in large steel buckets to the railway station at Seend. (fn. 451) After the war production fell considerably, and this cable has now been dismantled. Quarrying has almost ceased, though a small amount of ore is still dug from time to time, and is sent to Cardiff, where it is ground to a fine powder and used in a process connected with the manufacture of coal-gas. (fn. 452)
The other rich deposit of ore in the county, near Westbury, was first noticed in 1841, when a cutting for the railway line was being made, but no attempt to work it was undertaken until 1857, the same year in which the Seend quarries were opened. In that year steps were taken to form the Westbury Iron Co., the directors being chiefly business men who had interests in the collieries at Radstock (Som.), and in 1858 work was begun on the site. (fn. 453) The bed of ore here is a narrow belt extending along the line of the railway on both sides of the station for a considerable distance; the workings of the deposit finally extended for about a mile. The ore being very near the surface—in some parts only 5 or 6 ft. below the top soil—it was possible to work it by 'open-cast' methods. The presence of water in the cuttings was a difficulty which necessitated continual pumping, and of course increased the costs of production considerably. (fn. 454)
Furnaces were erected on the northern side of the railway about 100 yds. from the track, and for some years the enterprise flourished, producing at first about 250 tons of iron a week. (fn. 455) In 1866 it was described as 'a brisk little iron work, with a pair of blast furnaces'; (fn. 456) by 1869 the pair had increased to four, of which three were in operation. (fn. 457) A local newspaper cutting of 1872 or 1873 (fn. 458) states that the weekly production was about 400 tons, and the number of men employed about two hundred. The principal markets for the output were Staffordshire, Bristol, and South Wales. That the company was at that time considered financially sound is shown by the fact that in 1872 some blocks of shares in £500 lots were sold for £600 each. (fn. 459)
The works did not escape, however, the industrial depression which affected the whole country a few years later. In March 1877 it was reported that in consequence of the slackness of trade the company had deemed it advisable to reduce the wages of the workmen, (fn. 460) and in August of the same year it was stated that only two of the four furnaces were in action. (fn. 461) A revival took place, however, in 1880, when all the furnaces were again at work, and about 50 additional men were employed. (fn. 462) This increased prosperity continued for some years, and in 1896 77,400 tons of ore were raised. (fn. 463) But subsequently production gradually declined until the end of the century, and in 1901 the pressure of foreign competition and the rise in costs of materials and wages led to the closure of the works. (fn. 464) The local gentry who were able to do so thereupon decided to try to make a fresh start. They purchased the property for £9,500, and appealed for an additional £10,000 as working capital. (fn. 465) This appeal hung fire for a time, but in the autumn of 1903 the industry was again set going. (fn. 466) It struggled on until the outbreak of war in 1914, when production rose considerably, and in 1917 reached a total of 24,470 tons. (fn. 467)
After the war, financial difficulties again became serious. The costs of transporting fuel to the site and of sending the pig-iron to its markets had greatly increased; employees' wages rose steeply, and it was no longer possible to sell the iron at remunerative prices. The furnaces were closed down and all smelting ceased. A few men were retained to quarry the ore which was sold to other smelting works, or to gas-works. (fn. 468) But the struggle was hopeless, and the final blow fell in 1921, when a strike of the workmen compelled the company to close the works. By 1925 all production had ceased. The works were dismantled, and nothing now remains except the water-filled mine-holes as a reminder of a small, but once flourishing industry. (fn. 469)
The founding of church bells was carried on in Wiltshire from about 1380, and probably earlier, until 1826, though a few bells have been made since then. The chief centre of the industry was Salisbury, but a foundry flourished for over a century at Aldbourne, and individual founders worked at Devizes and Warminster. (fn. 470)
Until about 1700, Salisbury founders supplied the majority of the bells in the southern half of Wiltshire, and in the adjacent parts of Dorset and Hampshire. Little can be said about the work of pre-Reformation founders there, as only one of them has left his name on a bell. He was John Barber who inscribed 'John Barbour made mee' on a bell at Chitterne St. Mary, now in the present church at Chitterne. (fn. 471) According to his will, dated 1404, he lived in Winchester Street in St. Edmund's parish, Salisbury, and called himself a brasier. Six other bells, possibly ten, (fn. 472) can be ascribed to him. Three other pre-Reformation founders from Salisbury are known from documentary evidence; they are Henry Pinker, who was working in 1495, Thomas Skelton in 1512, and Roger Ellis in 1530–6. (fn. 473) No bells can be ascribed to them, and there must have been several other founders, as the evidence of types shows that founding went on all through the 15th century. One hundred and twelve bells of similar styles are known, which were probably made here. From about 1380 to about 1450, they are generally inscribed in gothic capitals with simple phrases such as Ave Maria or Ave Gracia. After about 1450, longer inscriptions in the same vein were common, and black-letter smalls came into fashion. The distribution of these bells points to Salisbury as the place of manufacture, though a few may have been made in Hampshire. In addition, there are about 35 uninscribed or otherwise unclassifiable bells of medieval type in Wiltshire, and no doubt many of them came from Salisbury.
After the Reformation, the historian's task is much simplified, as almost every bell bears a date and the name, initials, or trade mark of its maker. The first result of the Reformation was, however, to bring the industry to a standstill, and for many years secondhand monastic bells supplied all needs. The first known founder to restart work at Salisbury was Thomas Warre (d. 1578), who cast a bell for Winchester College in 1565, and possibly one other. Nothing else is known of him, but his successor, John Wallis, was responsible for 263 bells cast between 1581 and 1624. He lived in St. Martin's parish, probably in Culver Street, which was referred to as the bell-founders' street in a deed of 1624. (fn. 474) Although most of his bells are found in the area round Salisbury, there are a few as far away as Sussex and Berkshire. His work is good and plain, with inscriptions containing simple exhortations to piety. His most notable work is the oldest ring of eight in an English parish church, that at Bishop's Cannings. It was during his period of activity, in 1613, that the bell-founders became sufficiently organized to be included in the Company of Smiths. (fn. 475) Wallis was followed by John Danton, who made 47 bells between 1624 and 1640. Nothing is known of his life, but his bells are similar to those of Wallis.
Civil war stopped the Wiltshire bell industry, but it was revived under the Commonwealth by William Purdue, who was previously established at Bristol, and whose bells are of excellent quality. Six bells in the Marlborough district, dated 1652–3, by William and his brother Thomas of Closworth (Som.) were probably made locally. Then William produced 62 bells at Salisbury between 1656 and 1664, with occasional assistance from Nathaniel Boulter, a wandering founder from Buckinghamshire. After Purdue, little more than one bell per annum was produced at Salisbury. They were made by various founders the most important of whom was Clement Tosier, who worked from 1679 to 1717, but he was a poor craftsman. After 1730 bell-founding ceased at Salisbury until the late 19th century, when a few bells were made by T. Blackbourn at the Friary Works.
The brothers William and Robert Cor worked a foundry at the Court House, Aldbourne, (fn. 476) from 1694 to 1724, producing 88 bells. Their inscriptions usually record only churchwardens and donors, but they introduced the unusual custom, followed by all Aldbourne founders, of putting the lettering on the rim instead of the shoulder. After 1724 the business was continued on a smaller scale until 1741 by other members of the family, and then until 1757 by John Stares and Edward Read. In 1760 Robert Wells started a new foundry at Bell Court, Aldbourne. Eighty-six of his bells are known. After his death in 1781 his sons, Robert (until 1799) and James (from 1792 to 1826), carried on, and between them have left over 200 bells. Trade declined after 1812, and in 1826 James Wells went bankrupt, the business being bought by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel. While most of the bells made by the Wells family are found, like those of the Cors, within 30 miles of Aldbourne, and few towers in north Wiltshire are without a Wells bell, about 50 of their bells are farther afield.
Three other founders deserve brief mention. James Burrough of Devizes, of whom nothing is known, made 25 bells between 1738 and 1755. Two founders named John Lott produced 69 bells at a foundry in Common Close, Warminster, between 1624 and 1691.
Most of the earlier founders must have been humble artisans. This can be inferred from the lack of information about their lives, and from the frequent illiteracy of their inscriptions. John Wallis, who made more bells than any other Wiltshire founder, left only £100 at his death in 1627. (fn. 477) The Aldbourne founders, however, were more like capitalists. The Cors could afford a private Act of Parliament (fn. 478) to disentangle their inheritance, while James Wells could mortgage his property for £5,000 in 1810. This change in the character of industrialists is typical of the 18th century, but it may be partly explained by the increased specialization of bellfounding, due to the introduction of change ringing, which required tuned rings of six or eight bells, instead of single bells.
Even when allowance is made for bells which have not survived, and for other work in belfries, it is clear that church bells could not have occupied all the time of these founders. Nor does their known output of bells account for the wealth of the Cor and Wells families. It appears that the Cors were woodenbutton makers; (fn. 479) Robert Wells was a fustian manufacturer as well as a bell-founder; (fn. 480) and, in connexion with his bankruptcy, James Wells is referred to as a corn dealer. (fn. 481) But the most obvious extra occupation for a bell-founder is the making of small bells and other brassware. In an advertisement in 1772, (fn. 482) Robert Wells stated that he made church bells, handbells, horse bells, clock and room bells, and mill brasses. Sheep bells and handbells with his initials are common in the district. (fn. 483) No information about the other occupations of other founders has been traced.
The making of small bells was not, however, the preserve of the specialists in church bells. In medieval times even church bells were made by tinkers, and small bells of all kinds must have been turned out by itinerant craftsmen. In one district at least it became a settled trade: at Market Lavington generations of craftsmen known as 'potters' manufactured sheep bells. (fn. 484) In neighbouring Great Cheverell a James Potter was described as a farmer and bellmaker in the third quarter of the 19th century. (fn. 485) As no church bells are known by him, he almost certainly made sheep, cattle, and other small bells. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century William Lancaster of Great Cheverell made sheep and cattle bells on quite an extensive scale, for he sold them wholesale at home, in the colonies, and to foreign countries. (fn. 486)