Warrington Industries – Textiles, Files and Glass – and Parr’s Bank
Around Cockhedge Lane, behind the buildings on the lower end of Buttermarket Street, is Warrington’s main industrial area on what looks like a green field site. Even in 1825 Warrington was already considered ‘one of the earliest manufacturing towns in Lancashire’ and, the Town Plan depicts its first ‘industrial estate’, today completely covered by the Cockhedge Shopping Centre and New Town House.
On the corner of Scotland Road, behind the Britannia Inn, the Scotland Road Foundry, surrounded by workers’ housing, fills all the space between Cockhedge Lane and Orford Street, now completely taken up by the grey concrete mass of New Town House.
North of Cockhedge Lane, a file manufactory and vast glass works are joined by the Cockhedge Cotton Factory to the north-east, which is surrounded by purpose-built houses for the ‘hands’, and has a reservoir shown close by to the north. An infirmary, north of the reservoir on the east corner of Crown Street and Orford Street, suggests a previously isolated spot for infectious diseases, or an early example of employee welfare. Or possibly extremely detrimental working conditions for the ‘hands’.
Cotton was the latest of a long line of textiles, the primary industry in Warrington for centuries. Coarse linens and checks were replaced by the table-linen known as ‘huckaback’ mentioned by Defoe in 1730. By 1769, sailcloth and sacking were ‘the chief industries’ and in 1807 huckabacks and coarse cloths, canvas, and fustian, as well as sailcloth were all mentioned. This ‘strong sailcloth called poldavy’ apparently supplied half the British Navy at one point – a 1784 directory lists 13 sailcloth manufacturers in Warrington – until the end of the Napoleonic Wars considerably reduced demand. By 1825 cotton yarn, velveteens, calicoes and muslins were the main textile products: of the 17 steam engines operating in the town, six were used for spinning cotton and two for weaving by power; the others were three in glass works; one used for wire drawing; one in a tannery and four for grinding corn.
The file manufactory north of the Scotland Road Foundry, on the other side of Cockhedge Lane, is on the site of the modern-day strangely-shaped TK Maxx building and is the premises of Peter Stubs. This internationally famous firm of tool-makers started out from the White Bear Inn on Bridge Street, in the late eighteenth century, and rapidly acquired a reputation for excellence that its products still hold today. By 1802 it had moved to the purpose-built manufactory on Scotland Road and in 1825, a county directory noted that in Warrington ‘”lancashire files” and other artisan tools are made in large numbers’. Within a few more years it was exporting to America – a fascinating museum in Maine, New England, holds some of Stubs’ tools in its collections.
North of the File Manufactory are two immense glassworks: the very large Crown Glassworks, (the entrance to the complex is the modern-day entrance to the Cockhedge Centre car park) and the slightly smaller Cockhedge Glassworks, both marked on the Town Plan with large round circles: two of differing sizes for the Crown Glassworks and one very large circle next to the Cockhedge Glassworks, presumably indicating some sort of chimney for the furnaces.
The manufacture of flint and glass bottles was one of Warrington’s earliest industries: glass works at Bank Quay are shown on a map of 1772, in 1807 glass was listed as one of the town’s products and in 1825 an observer noted ‘glass manufacture continues to flourish’ and that a crown glass works had been ‘recently added’. An extremely knowledgable enthusiast holds examples of Warrington glass, as part of the collection of his private museum in Ireland and makes some interesting points on the importance of Stubs to the Warrington glass industry.
Just after the north corner of Scotland Road, Horsemarket Street becomes Winwick Street, and along the short run up to Crown Street, much larger shapes on the map denote eighteenth and early nineteenth-century buildings. The Maskey and Co Coach Works sits in a yard behind the Warrington Bank, forerunner of today’s NatWest Bank. Founded in 1788 as Parr’s Bank, by the time of the Town Plan in 1851 the brewing family of Greenall, who had taken over the distillery on Bridge Street, had their finger in the pie and the bank was known as Parr, Lyon & Greenall. The premises they later built in 1877 to house their expanded business are still there today and now Grade II listed.
At the bottom of Winwick Street, seemingly in the middle of the road, a weighing machine is marked. These are shown as scattered all around the town on the Town Plan – I have yet to work out at what stage in the manufacturing process they were used.