The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Sunday, January 15, 2012

John Dewhurst and Sons, Cotton Manufacturers

Happy New Year to all! :)

For a few years now I have been collecting Dewhurst Sylko reels, merchandise, boxes and associated paraphernalia. 

Sadly I have not been able to establish a direct link to my family with the Dewhursts of Dewhurst Sylko fame, although they are from locations near to each other.  The Dewhurst Cotton company started with Thomas Dewhurst, who in the latter part of 1789 acquired a corn mill at Elslack, near Skipton, which he converted into a mill for the spinning of cotton by water power.  The first cotton for use at the Elslack Mill was bought in November 1789, and in the beginning of 1790 the mill was in full working order, as from that time forward there are recorded large and regular sales of "twist", principally to Manchester and Blackburn.

In 1813 two mills were rented by Thomas at Millholme, near Skipton, for cotton spinning. In 1819 the brothers John and Isaac Dewhurst, sons of Thomas, bought the lease of Scalegill Mill, near Malham, and in 1822 bought that of the Old Soke Mill at Airton, which had for some time been worked as a cotton mill.  With the money they made from this they built the Belle Vue Mill.  They continued to run the Airton mill, which they acquired freehold in 1834, until just after 1900, trading as Airton Mill Company from 1889, and becoming part of the English Sewing Cotton Company in 1898.  Scalegill Mill was let to another firm for a short while, which went bankrupt, and Dewhurst's bough it back again from 1829, and let to other operators until 1904.

The original Belle Vue Mill at Skipton was built in 1828. This mill was run for the first time on February 17th, 1829, being then used for worsted spinning and weaving.  On Sunday, January 2nd, 1831, it was burnt to the ground. The mill was re-built with astonishing quickness, for before the end of the year it was working again, now as a cotton mill.
The Dewhurst mill at Skipton as it stands today, has been remodelled into apartments.
A plaque on the river walkway beside the mill.

In 1852 the mill was greatly extended, and a shed to hold 385 looms was added. A further enlargement took place in 1859 and 1860. In 1863-4 a warehouse was erected on the site of the Old Work-
house. During the years 1867 to 1870 the newest and largest mill, a noble building adjacent to Broughton-road, was erected. This mill was run for the first time on February 4th, 1870. The building is 225 feet in length, and 70 feet 8 inches in width. It is five stories high, and the rooms are lighted by twenty windows in each side, and six in each end.  The entire factory premises of Messrs. Dewhurst have a floor area of 20,000 square yards. More than 800 operatives are in continual employment.
John Bonny Dewhurst, grandson of Thomas

Belle Vue Mills were engaged in the spinning and weaving of cotton, and in the manufacture of sewing cotton, all the varied processes, including dyeing, being performed on the premises. The thread manufactured by Messrs. Dewhurst bears a very high reputation. Wherever exhibited it has received prize medals : at the Vienna Universal Exhibition of 1873, at the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876, and at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, medals were awarded to this firm. The firm now goes under the
style of Messrs. John Dewhurst and Sons. It consists of Mr. J. B. Dewhurst and Mr. T. H. Dewhurst, sons of the founder, and Mr. Algernon Dewhurst, son of Mr. J. B. Dewhurst.
Box showing medals from Amsterdam and Frankfurt Exhibitions
Closeup of box showing medals won at World Exhibitions
Drawing of the mill used on boxes of threads

Algernon Dewhurst was also a member of the board of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. In 1882 he was a guest at the opening of Singer's Kilbowie maunfacturing plant in Glasgow, Scotland. Dewhurst's produced a range of threads with 'Specially prepared for Singer' labels.
Reels of thread with Singer labels

The business was converted into a private limited liability company in 1888, the directors being the sons of John Dewhurst: Messers John Bonny Dewhurst, Thomas Henry Dewhurst, Algernon Dewhurst, Lionel Dewhurst, and Arthur Dewhurst. It is interesting to note that for upwards of a century the management of the firm has been in the hands of lineal descendants of the original founder Thomas Dewhurst.

In 1897 all the principal old-established and well-known English thread makers who were not included in the "Coats'" Combine (J & P Clark and J. Coats) consolidated to become a powerful and wealthy Corporation to be known as 'The English Sewing Cotton Co., Limited'.  From the Coats Company Chairman's address to shareholders he said "They decided to enter into closer connection with a view to secure unity of interest, large economies, and harmonious relationship and working between each other and the great Coats' Company".

The chairman of the directors of the new company was Mr Algernon Dewhurst (who held this position until 1902); while the trustees for the debenture holdings were Mr John Bonny Dewhurst, JP Chairman of the Craven Bank; Mr Frederick Charles Arkwright, JP, D.L.; and Mr G. Herbert Strutt, JP.