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1850 -1900
Diversity of Industry
During this period the textile industry began to decline, and the depression of 1870-1890 caused many textile firms including Gott's to close down. The flax industry in Leeds collapsed due to competition from Belfast and abroad. Marshall's took their business to America, and by 1876 Temple Mills had become a clothing factory. The engineering, chemical and leather industries all expanded, and three new industries, clothing manufacture, footwear manufacture and printing grew in importance. This resulted in a diverse economy, with many industries being interdependent for example the woollen industry relied on the engineering industry for machinery, and on the chemical industry for dyes. Likewise the footwear manufacturers and the leather industry were mutually dependent.

Engineering
By the end of the nineteenth century the engineering industry was the town's largest employer, producing goods of all kinds from locomotives to pins.  Fowler's Steam Plough Works made traction engines and road rolling engines, electric light engines, colliery engines, and in 1888, as a new venture, they began to make lead-covered electric cables for underground and submarine telegraphs, telephones and electric light. McLarens Midland Engine Works made traction engines and steam ploughs, and other agricultural machinery.

The Hunslet Engine Company, founded in 1864, made locomotive engines which were sent all over the world. It was started by John Towlerton Leather, a Beeston-born man who had already made his name as a civil engineer and contractor.  

The works were situated in Jack Lane, and in 1903 employed around 400 men for the manufacture of locomotive tank engines. Their products were well-known both at home and abroad. Many examples of their early locomotives can be seen today, for instance the Blanche locomotive on the Ffestiniog Railway, and of course at the Middleton Railway in Leeds.

The first engine to be built here was in 1865, the ‘Linden’, a standard gauge 0-6-0 saddle tank, for Brassey and Ballard, railway civil engineering contractors.

The Jack Lane works closed in 1995, although the Hunslet Engine co. still exists today, as part of the LH group of companies, trading from Lowfield Road, Leeds 12.

Messrs. Thomas Green and Son made among other things, lawnmowers, sausage machines, radiators, traction engines, tram engines, and folding steps. Greenwood and Batley made engineers tools and machinery, and machinery for making bullets and shells, as well as Whitehead torpedoes which they tested at their factory in Otley. They also made the band knife machinery used in John Barrans clothing factory. Hydraulic machinery was made at Kirkstall Forge as early as 1863. Tannett Walker & Co. made hydraulic industrial machinery for home market and for export.

Textiles
As the old firms closed down so new ones set up in business, with improved machinery, making new types of cloth to meet the demands of the clothing trade. Hargrave and Nussey at Farnley Low Mills made worsted and woollen cloth. The picture shows workers at Glovers Wortley mill in 1897.

Clothiers
The clothing industry, had begun to grow in Leeds in the 1850's in response to the need for uniforms for the Crimean War. In 1856 John Barran started out as a tailor, making made-to-measure clothes. He then began making ready-made clothes which he sold in his own shop, and also supplied to other clothes dealers. In 1856 he moved to a factory in Alfred Street installed Singer sewing machines, and a band knife, made by Greenwood and Batley, which enabled many layers of cloth to be cut at once.  At first he made boys' clothing, but later suits, uniforms and coats. In 1876 Barran moved to a new factory in Park Square. It was designed by Thomas Ambler, designed in the Moorish style.

Many of the workers in the clothing factories were women and girls who had previously worked in the flax industry. Also, after 1881, skilled labour was provided by Jewish immigrants. Two other well-known names in the clothing trade were Joseph Hepworth, who began as a tailor in Wortley in 1868, and Montague Burton, who moved to Leeds from Sheffield in 1906.

Leather
As the population of the town grew, so did the demand for meat, and this meant a local supply of hides and skins for the leather industry. Other raw materials like oak bark for tannin were available locally, or were easily imported via the Aire and Calder Navigation, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. In 1827 a leather fair was started at the south market. Leather works were built at Buslingthorpe, Meanwood and Kirkstall near to plentiful supplies of water, another essential commodity in leather manufacture. The Meanwood Tannery (S&W Smith) had 300 pits which could hold 70,000 hides.

Footwear
The leather industry provided material for the footwear industry, which became an important trade in Leeds in the 1830s onwards, mostly making boots . A major footwear producer in Leeds was Stead and Simpson who started out as curriers and leather factors in 1834. In the 1840's they began to make ready-made boots, and shoes. Many footwear manufacturers remained as small firms, but some like John Halliday outgrew his workshop in Harrison's Yard, Bramley, and built a large factory employing 450 people making strong boots for the home and export market. Another large manufacturer was F & W Jackson.

Chemicals
Most of the chemical companies in Leeds developed as a result of the demands of local industries. They made dyestuffs for the woollen and leather manufactures, oils and lubricants for the engineering industries, vitriol (sulphuric acid) and other acids, and pharmaceuticals. Most of these products were for the local market. Many firms like Smith Dixon & Lodge, at Harper Street Chemical Works made a variety of goods. They produced among other things, blackcurrant and glycerine cough Balsam, soap, metal and furniture polish, baking powder, and childrens teething and cooling powders. They also made various kinds of engine oil, and lubricating oils. Joseph Watson and Sons became famous for their soap, and made products for the national and international market.

Printing
Leeds became an important centre for the printing industry, particularly for specialised colour printing. One of the largest firms was run by Alf Cooke, who built his Crown Point works in 1872. Chorley and Pickersgill, and Charles Lightowler were employees of Cooke's who set up in business for themselves. Waddington's specialised in printing programmes and posters for the theatre, and later produced playing cards and games of all kinds. E J Arnold printed books for schools, and railway timetables. The growth of the printing industry attracted other industries to Leeds, like Taylor and Watkinson, printers' lead casters.




Click images to enlarge
Fowler's Double - Engine of steam cultivation
Fowler's Double - Engine of steam cultivation
Greenwood and Batley
Greenwood and Batley
Inside Kirkstall Forge
Inside Kirkstall Forge
Hargrave and Nussey
Hargrave and Nussey
Glovers, 1897
Glovers, 1897
Barran's factory
Barran's factory
Advertisement for Barran's
Advertisement for Barran's
Halliday's Factory at Bramley
Halliday's Factory at Bramley
Meanwood Tannery
Meanwood Tannery
Smith, Dixon and Lodge
Smith, Dixon and Lodge
Crown Point Printing Works, 1892
Crown Point Printing Works, 1892
Crown Point Printing Works, interior, c.1890
Crown Point Printing Works, interior, c.1890




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003