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Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd., 9 Whitehall Road


Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd., 9 Whitehall Road
Description:
Undated. Image thought to have been taken around the period of the First World War in front of the red brick factory building of Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd (Soapy Joe's) at number 9 Whitehall Road. It shows large numbers of factory girls, some standing on boxes for a better view. They are dressed in overalls and mob caps. On the other side of the street onlookers have gathered and several marshalls and a uniformed policeman are posted at intervals in front of the crowd. This could be a royal visit as a carpet has been laid at the entrance to the building. On the left-hand side a line of men wearing overcoats and cloth caps are seen as if waiting to be presented. Two of these men are on crutches. Two other men stand in the street facing them, one with a pair of walking sticks and the other wearing a top hat. On the right other smartly dressed men are visible. During the First World War as a result of 'the shell crisis' Joseph Watson aided the government in establishing national munitions factories, the first of these being Barnbow shell filling factory in Leeds. Joseph Watson became chairman of the 'Leeds Munitions Committee' in August 1915. The committee was made up of several other industrialists from the Leeds area. On 21st June 1916 Joseph Watson received a telegram from the then Minister of Munitions, David Lloyd George, congratulating 'the amatol factory operatives' on a 100% increase in shell-filling performance. 'Plenty of ammunition saves lives of our brave fellows at the front.' 'The Shell Magazine - an original souvenir by employees of the National Ordnance Factory at Newlay, No 1' mentions 'four splendid factories'. In 1917 Jas. B. McClean, from the Ministry of Munitions wrote "I am able to express, in your Souvenir Magazine, some measure of the keen appreciation of the Ministry of Munitions for the manner in which the Leeds Ordnance Factories have rallied to the Great Cause, towards the final accomplishment of which the whole forces of the Nation are gradually being brought to bear."

User Comments:

Name:
B Hallam

Comment:
The boxes used here to elevate some of the onlookers must also have been very substantial and could be amunition boxes. There are several photos of identically clothed women taken at the fatality-prone Barbow Munition Works at Manston. The distinct suggestion in this photo that it might have been a Royal visit, could well be connected to the Royal visit to Leeds of King George V and Queen Mary in March 1918.

Date:
19-Feb-2011

Email:
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Name:
Terry Smith

Comment:
I think it is possible that the people on crutches may well have been WW1 veterans from the factory who were to be presented to the visiting dignataries.

Date:
20-Feb-2011

Email:
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Name:
Terry Smith

Comment:
Joseph Watsons factories in Central Leeds were employed as munitions works during WW1 and in 1916 Alderman Joseph Watson was one of the moving forces behind the establishment of the Barnbow Munitions factory.

Date:
21-Feb-2011

Email:
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Name:
simon cundale

Comment:
My father leonard cundale worked here from 1937 untill 1981. joseph watson was elivateted to the peerage as baron manton in recognation for his work during ww1.

Date:
23-Feb-2011

Email:
simon.cundale@sky.com

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Name:
B Hallam

Comment:
Whether or not this particular factory was actually involved in the highly dangerous work of 'Shell filling', is debatable. But as a side-product of its function as a soap factory, it would certainly have been a major supplier of the glycerine used in the production of TNT. Anyone interested in this thread, should type 'Joseph Watson' into Wikipedia and be amazed. I am now reasoned to suspect that many of these women might well have been shipped-in from Barnbow. The long gone saying that 'Leeds leads', was never more appropriate than in WW1 munitions. Barnbow was the first and largest 'shell-filling' factory in the country. The site continued to perform its military ordnance role up until very recent times ... it is now used as storage for used cars. I somehow doubt that Soapy Joe Watson (Baron Manton), would have approved.

Date:
01-Mar-2011

Email:
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Name:
Kathy Dickinson nee Green

Comment:
My dad work opposite in the good yard during the war for LMS and my mother use to take me to the yard on a Friday if he was working a late shift for some money and I remember the building and my dad Herbert Green always called it by that name

Date:
02-Mar-2011

Email:
kathy.dickinson@ntlworld.com

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Name:
Terry Smith

Comment:
You seem to have left out the communication giving the name the name and location of the factory shown, Joseph Watsons - Whitehall Road

Date:
15-Mar-2011

Email:
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Name:
Ron Davies

Comment:
I have a book titled A Centuries Progress in Yorkshire published in 1893, and J Watson and Sons is described as follows; An immense industry is carried on here by the firm who exemplify,at their works in Whitehall Road, one of the many important channels in which the manufacturing energy and enterprise of modern Leeds finds scope and progress and expansion.Founded 30 years ago (1860's) by Messrs. Joseph Watson and Sons,the house under notice has now gained a position among the leaders of the soap trade, and its productions are in steady demand in all the principal markets. The business was started in Woodhouse Lane, but was removed about 20 years ago to the present Whitehall Works, which were specially erected by the firm to meet the exigencies of the growing trade.This establishment is one of the largest soap works in England,covering a total area of several acres: and the building extends from Whitehall Road back to the river Aire. In all parts the works are substantially built, spacious and organised upon thoroughly practical lines, and they contain a splendid plant of the best modern machinery and utensils, capable of turning out the vast quantity of 600 tons of soap per week. Upwards of 700 hands are employed in the works,and the commercial routine of the business calls for the services of between 40 and 50 clerks and managers.Perhaps the leading specialities of the business consist in "Watsons Matchless Cleanser", and Venus soap, special soaps which fully justify thier title,and which have an immense sale in all parts of the country.Not only are Messrs. Joseph Watson and Son's manufacturers of soaps on an enormous scale,but they are also large importers in all kinds of oil,resin,tallow,etc. For this latter they have 5 large storage depots in Leeds,containing stocks amounting to many thousands of tons of oil and tallow. Another important department is the distillation of glycerine,chiefly for dynamite manufacturing and exportation to foreign markets;and the firm rank among the prinipal dealers in hides and skins in this great centre of the northern leather trade.Messrs.Joseph Watson and Son's have branches in Snow Hill,London,E.C. and at 19 Howard St Glasgow; and they are represented by agents and travellers in all parts of the United Kingdom.Probably no English house operates more extensively in the same lines of trade,and certainly none is more widely known. The present principals are Messr.Charles and George Watson (sons of the late Mr Joseph Watson), both of whom take an active part in the management of the business, and display therein a degree of energy and practical ability which is productive of excellent results in the growth and progress of this thoroughly representative concern.

Date:
17-Mar-2011

Email:
rondavies66@gmail.com

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Name:
Betty Crew

Comment:
In the 1950's on a Thursday and Friday - there was always a really horrible smell around the Wortley/Holbeck area. Apparently it was due to the bone and fat boiling at Soapy Joe's. I went on those days to my gran's house off Domestic Street and the smell hit you as soon as you got off the no 29 bus.

Date:
21-Mar-2011

Email:
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Name:
C Lovedale

Comment:
"Watson's Matchless Cleanser" was advertised widely by dark blue enamel signs with white lettering. These signs were incorporated into the backs of upright chairs and found in many shops, gratefully used by customers with weary legs.

Date:
30-Mar-2011

Email:
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Name:
Raymond Jones.

Comment:
What I can say about Soapy Joes they had some realy good shop dances in the canteen in the early fifties. Raymond Jones

Date:
13-Apr-2011

Email:
raynmavis@btinternet.co.uk

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Name:
Ian Murray

Comment:
Was very interested to read the history of Joseph Watson as I have one of his chairs with the dark blue and white enamelled lettering and wondered where it had originated from. Haven't seen another one anywhere, are there many still around?

Date:
07-Jun-2011

Email:
Ianmurray308@btinternet.com

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Name:
Ray Thompson

Comment:
My father worked here for 40 years from 1943 – 1983. I can remember many Christmas Party’s and going to the Pantomime then back to Soapy Joe’s for the party itself. One year when I was very young I couldn’t go to the Pantomime So, I stayed in the factory and helped to set out the tables. The ladies made up a wage packet for me for 2.0d. I’m 48 now and still have the wage packet in my keepsakes.

Date:
07-Aug-2011

Email:
raylas@ntlworld.com

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Name:
P Maples

Comment:
I have a sewing machine which must have been given as a prize by Watsons to its customers.It is nicely decorated with a description of this event.

Date:
01-Dec-2011

Email:
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Name:
dennis duke

Comment:
my father walter duke wurked here for along time in the boiler house i use to take his sunday dinner down to him on my bike as fast as i could to keep it warm my sister valerie duke also worked here in the hr dept my grandad arthor dennison worked here in the glycerene dept i also went to the christmas partys the were magical at that age in those days, good memories

Date:
31-Mar-2014

Email:
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Name:
Debbie Rosen

Comment:
I worked at Elida Gibbs 1971-83 and remember Val Duke in personnel.anyone else from my time there?

Date:
20-Apr-2014

Email:
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Name:
anne oldham nee carroll

Comment:
worked here 1961 to 66 love to haer from anyone who worked in A mill

Date:
01-Oct-2014

Email:
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Name:
Dawn winter

Comment:
My dad worked here in the toothpaste department his name was Jim winter anyone remember him. I also worked there in the summer of 1981

Date:
11-Feb-2017

Email:
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Name:
Dawn winter

Comment:
Forgot to say my dad played for the company's football team and am wondering if anyone has any photos of the teams that played. I used to love watching them play on weekend and can still smell the germoline lol

Date:
11-Feb-2017

Email:
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Name:
leslie walker

Comment:
I am trying to locate a "james leslie willis" apparently he worked at soapy joes as a mechanic/fitter 1940/50s/60s if still alive he would be in his 90s. if any relations are still around leeds area please get in touch

Date:
21-Sep-2018

Email:
touchdown1@hotmail.com

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