Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,152 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Horrockses, Miller and Co

From Graces Guide

1791 John Horrocks went to Preston and opened his first factory in Turks Head Yard, off Church Street. Through a succession of shrewd business dealings and a remarkable entrepreneurial flair he rose rapidly to become the most important and richest manufacturer in the town. Later in 1791 he opened the 'Yellow Factory' - apparently so called because of its yellowish lime washed exterior - in Dale Street at the east end of Church Street. It was alternatively known as the 'Yard Works', a name which was eventually applied collectively to all four great factories on the site. Horrocks encouraged the building of workers' housing around the factory, and it was this which led to the development of the first suburb to the east of the old town, the district known as New Preston.

Following the birth of his first son at Edgworth, John Horrocks returned to Preston to oversee the completion of his first factory in Dale Street, now fitted out and ready to start production. It was an enormous building for those days, five storeys high and seven windows in length, and so well built that it would be in constant use for the next hundred and fifty years, the nucleus of Horrockses' 'Yard Works'. At some stage the exterior brickwork was colour-washed and from then it acquired its name 'The Yellow Factory'. There were no suitable fast-running streams to provide power, as in Edgworth, so the driving shaft for the spinning machinery was worked by a horse in the cellar below. This would be John's only ever one-horse-power factory.

1793 'The Yard Factory' was opened, the second and bigger one to be built in Dale Street

1794 A year later Horrocks bought some land adjoining Magdalen Lane, round the end of Friargate. These were narrow plots in an ancient part of the town known as Magdalen (Maudland) Fields, and also included the Corporation's old Pinfold at the edge of Spittal Moss. On this site in 1794 was erected 'Spittal Moss Factory'.

1794 John's brother Samuel came into the firm, rising to the post of manager of the Preston operation, and freeing the founder to concentrate on the London office and its mercantile connections.

1795 Due to ever increasing demand for cotton, Frenchwood Factory was built on land off Swillbrook Lane called ' Gate Meadows' and 'The Bottoms' (now Arno Street and Tiber Street, off Manchester Road.

All four of these mills were brick-built with wooden fittings, and were insured for £16,350. Soon, however, claims would have to be made for the rebuilding of 'Yard' and 'Frenchwood' when both accidentally burned down shortly after erection.

After the disastrous fire, the spinning mill at Frenchwood was rebuilt, bigger than the original and with a cupola and weather-vane on the roof. Its large steam engine of eighteen horse-power was housed in its own engine block, and water was provided in a huge reservoir built below the steep drop of land behind Dickson Street. To reduce the problem of fire hazards, all new mills were brick built on iron frames with the use of wood reduced to a minimum. Horrockses then introduced the first public fire-engine to the town. Although intended to protect their own factories the machine was used to put out fires all over Preston.

As the huge number of workers employed to operate John Horrocks' mills needed homes, he built rows of terraced houses, small and for cheap rent, next to each mill. Many were three-storeyed with a cellar workshop to house a hand-loom for home-weaving.

At the edge of the town in a narrow field along New Hall Lane he erected a number of large sheds for handloom weaving, with a few short streets of cottages nearby. This district known as New Preston later became densely populated by mill workers.

The first Spittals Moss Factory opened. Spindle & fly frames came into use in this town, they began at Horrockses, & factories increased fast

1796 the last of this group was 'Canal Mill', six storeys high and sixteen windows long, built on the site of Joseph Bray's house and garden on Spittal Moss. This was the first of Horrockses' mills to be powered by steam.

1797 Frenchwood Factory opened, just south of Dale Street and the earlier 'Yellow Factory'

1798 Successive Horrockses' employees were encouraged to go out and set up their own businesses. Notable among them were Richard Riley and John Paley who had been foreman mechanic and joiner at Yard Works. In 1798 John Horrocks took another 'adventure in commerce' by allowing them to open a machine shop at Spittal Moss Factory and a second one at Canal Mill. Soon they were making all his machinery and set up a foundry and mill in Heatley Street. Horrocks' money enabled them to join William Leighton in a successful cotton-manufactory at Bank Top Mill, Salmon Street, and later a second one in Queen Street. Horrockses remained partners in this company until 1815.

1799 Canal Factory opened. Tulket, describing John Horrocks' Canal Street Mill, which was sixteen windows long and stood six storeys high, stated: 'Adjoining this extensive factory on the site next to the canal, a fine steam engine house presents itself, built of free stone, with a towering brick chimney'. Company turnover of £105,000 produced profits of £55,000, representing perhaps somewhere in the region of £15 million today.

1801 Dale Street Factory opened. In July, Mr John Whitehead and Mr Thomas Miller, sen., were admitted into the partnership, and the firm became known as Horrockses, Miller and Co. The management of Horrocks & Co. had, since its formation, been undertaken by the two brothers, John and Samuel, alone. As a much stronger team was now needed to share the workload, in 1801 John began to look for new partners. An obvious candidate was his brother-in-law John Whitehead, husband of Mary Horrocks. He was brought over from Edgworth to manage the two mills at Spittal Moss, and a house was built there for him and his family. He would be given one-twentieth share of the profits.

A warehouseman at Yard Works named Thomas Miller had impressed John Horrocks since their first chance meeting many years earlier. He was, however, a poor man and lacked the capital to buy into the company. Nevertheless John followed his instinct about the man's ability and invited him to join the Board. He would also take one-twentieth share of the profits and was appointed Manager as an incentive to continue the firm's profitable position. The two new partners entered Horrocks & Co. at a time when profits were fluctuating.

1801 they amounted to £20,769; in 1802, £45,109; and in 1803, £13,291; of which John Horrocks took six tenths and Samuel three. Miller and Whitehead would share the remaining tenth but were not expected to carry any losses which might occur in future years. Each was provided with a home and the prospect of a good income for life. Thomas Miller proved to be a loyal and competent partner, and a true friend to both Horrocks brothers throughout his life.

1802 Thomas Miller was appointed manager of the company and given a twentieth share. Whilst it is not certain if Thomas Miller did actually invest money in the enterprise, it would seem unlikely, for when a loss was declared in later years Miller did not bear any part of it. It is therefore suggested that a share in the profits was introduced by the Horrockses as an incentive, in the hope that Miller would do all in his power to keep the company in a profitable position.

1804 Death of John Horrocks. Succeeded as chief partner by his brother Samuel. John left his share in the concern to his trustees - Samuel Horrocks, Richard Ainsworth, and Nicholas Grimshaw, in trust for his son John, to carry on the business until the latter attained his majority in 1815.

1805 Before Samuel lay the daunting task of managing the ten mills and numerous warehouses, weaving sheds and depots scattered throughout Lancashire, where 3,000 'hands' earned their livelihood. Within weeks the surprising invitation was extended to him by Preston Corporation that he should replace his brother in Parliament. There was no hesitation in his response, and leaving his wife and children behind, off he went to London, as John had done so optimistically only two years earlier. He would open a new head office there, leaving John Whitehead and Thomas Miller in charge in the North. The arrangement proved successful. With Samuel away in London, establishing the new head office at 9 Bread Street Cheapside (with living quarters above) the two men became very competent managers. In the years until Whitehead's death in 1810 they produced an average 6 per cent return on capital. Profits were divided 9/20th each to Samuel and his young nephew John Horrocks Junior, and 2/20th between Whitehead and Miller.

1810 Death of Mr J. Whitehead

1810 John Bairstow, one of John Horrocks's first apprentices, was brought from the Bolton warehouse to replace Whitehead in the partnership. He became active and prominent in the company, and in the town of Preston

1811 On 1st July, when a fresh deed of partnership was signed, the members of the firm consisted of John Horrocks's trustees, Samuel Horrocks the elder, Thomas Miller, Samuel Horrocks, and John Bairstow

1815 When John Horrocks the younger came of age, he sold his share in the business to his uncle, Samuel Horrocks, Thomas Miller, and Samuel Horrocks, and on the following day, the 17th of February a new partnership was constituted, consisting of the following members: Samuel Horrocks, sen., Thomas Miller, sen., Samuel Horrocks, John Bairstow, and Peter Horrocks, under the style of John Horrocks & Co. in London, and Horrockses, Miller and Co in Preston

The existing partnership between Samuel Horrocks of Preston, Thomas Miller, John Bairstow, Samuel Horrocks of Bread St London (and Sidcup in Kent), the executors of John Horrocks deceased (i.e. Richard Ainsworth and Nicholas Grimshaw) and his residuary legatee John Horrocks, Junior, was dissolved from the last day of 1814. On 11 February 1815 a public notice issued by the Company announced that the business would in future be carried on by Samuel Horrocks of Preston, Peter Horrocks, Samuel Horrocks of London, Thomas Miller and John Bairstow as sole partners. As residuary legatee of his father John Horrocks Junior would be paid £100,000 for his share in Horrocks & Co and would leave the Company. Articles of Agreement recorded that this amount would be paid over in yearly instalments with 5 per cent interest per annum. Commencing 1 January 1816 payments would be made on the 13th day of each month. The following valuation was made by Mr Hurrill for Messrs. Hughes and Robbins, Solicitors, of London, and the transactions were to be handled by the Solicitors 'Grimshaw, Palmer and Grimshaw' of Preston.

1816 Horrockses, Miller and Co, who ran four mills in Preston, employed ten times more [handloom] weavers, 7,000 in all, than factory workers, of whom 73 per cent were under the age of eighteen. Some of the male handloom weavers in the New Town area were described as 'an exceedingly rough lot … they would swagger about in top boots, and often extract what, to their minds, was enjoyment from badger-baiting, dog-worrying, cock-fighting, poaching and drinking'.

1821 Writing in his History of Preston, Marmaduke Tulket would mention the sixteen Preston factories then in full employment, and list the power ratings of their engines

1823 The two decades between 1810 and 1830 saw a vital period of expansion by Horrockses, when foundations were laid for the vast overseas trade which would make theirs the greatest name in cotton in the world. The first foreign agency was opened in Portugal in 1823, followed by India in 1830, and by the end of their first century of trading Horrockses products would be exported to every country worldwide.

Horrocks & Co. paid for a school to be built at New Preston for 200 children and gave cottages for St Peter's and St Paul's parishes to use as Sunday schools. They also subscribed to the cost of three other schools, the National in Avenham Lane, St Wilfrid's (R.C.) and St Thomas's (C of E). In later years Horrocks & Co. gave land next to their mills for the site of St Saviour's parish school, off Queen Street. Many of the children in these schools would be his 'half-timers', who attended classes for half the day and worked in the factories for the remaining hours.

1824 Horrockses, Miller & Co were subscribers to St Thomas's School

1825 St Peter's Sunday School commenced in two cottages and a cellar rent free from Horrockses, Miller & Co

1828 Thomas Miller became the largest single shareholder, but from 1833 until his death in 1846 Samuel Horrocks junior was head of the company.

When Samuel Horrocks (Junior) on his marriage joined the board, he took a half share of his father's profits. From that year, significantly, Thomas Miller with 6/20ths share became the major shareholder.

c.1830 Horrockses, Miller & Co provided three cottages in John Street rent free for a Sunday School for St Paul's Church.

1832 Moss Shed, alongside which ran Kirkham Street West, was on the old Moss Factory site which had been established by John Horrocks in 1797. Two spinning blocks stood on the site in 1832 for Horrockses, Miller & Co.; one was a new structure housing 10,946 spindles, whilst the older building accommodated 5,576 spindles. The factory was under the same ownership in 1874, but in 1880, William Smith & Co. were manufacturing at the Moss Factory.

Frenchwood Mill, sited alongside what would be James Street, off London Road, had been built for John Horrocks in the 1790s, and in 1832 it was the factory for Horrockses, Miller & Co. who employed twelve spinners on hand mules. It was still operating under the same company in 1874 but thereafter the title, Frenchwood Mill, is not mentioned in trade directory listing until 1892 when it is the manufactory for Seymour Redmayne.

1833 The firm had nine mills employing thirteen hundred spinners and four hundred weavers, in addition to an unknown (but very large) number of indirectly employed domestic handloom weavers. When he was sixty-seven years old in 1833 Samuel decided that the time had come for him to retire from active business and install his son his successor as proprietor of Horrockses. At the time of the handover, their factories had over 1,700 employees: spinning operatives 1300, weaving 400, dressing 22. These figures do not appear to include labourers, warehousemen, office staff and so on. There were then only 30 firms in Lancashire employing over 500. Records of the company show that they were exporting textiles to Canton, Bombay, Calcutta, Ceylon, Manila, Mauritius, Singapore, Bolivia, Lima, Valparaiso, Havana and Lisbon. Capital was valued at £482,788.

1836 There was certainly bad feeling against Peter [Horrocks] and his family in the boardroom at Horrocks & Co. at this time, and decisions were being made which would have far-reaching and shocking consequences. Uncle Sam and Thomas Miller (Senior) had watched him and his brother John spend their adult lives in self-indulgence and high-living. It is not surprising that accounts of the older nephew's years at the Imperial Court of Vienna and his rise in society provoked resentment in the older men. They had spent the last decade working hands-on in the counting house and running Horrockses' factories, with little time for such leisure and pleasure-seeeking. Their disapproval of Peter increased when he applied to withdraw £2,000 from his investment in their company. He was paid the cash, plus a further £300.

In June 1836 a letter arrived for Peter at Cheltenham like a bolt from the blue. It was from the Horrocks & Co. partnership notifying him that he was to be dismissed as partner. On a certain date the whole of his capital investment would be paid out to him. His connection with his late father's business was to be severed. He was instructed to attend at the head-office of the company in Bread Street, London to sign the necessary legal documents.

1836 On the same site [Yard Works] an engine house had been erected for the new Field Mill.

1838 The founder's son, Peter Horrocks, was forced to withdraw from the partnership and paid out on his shares

1840 Thomas Miller was succeeded after his death by his son, the second Thomas Miller.[48]

1842 There had been a serious depression in the cotton industry for the past five years which had badly hit the Preston mills, including Horrockses. Wages were cut, causing resentment among cotton workers across the whole of Lancashire. In August the threat of further wage cuts brought the Manchester workers out on strike. Within a week the strike spread to all the north-west mill towns. In Preston there was already widespread discontentment. Handloom weavers' wages had been cut by 25 per cent and spinners by 10 per cent.

c.1844 Edward Hermon entered the London branch, firstly as a salesman and later as principal clerk. Outstanding business prescience and capacity demonstrated in the London office marked Hermon for promotion.

1845 The London agent William Bowman who developed the Far East trade was rewarded for his phenomenal success by a partnership.

1845 Another engine house was erected at Yard Works. This was a time when steam power was being looked upon by many factory owners as a means of reducing working hours whilst at the same time maintaining profit margins.

1846 After the decease of Samuel Horrocks the younger, Mr Thomas Miller, jun., became the principal partner, the shares of Samuel Horrocks "surviving" to Mr Thomas Miller, jun., and his brother, Mr Henry Miller.

Sam Horrocks's death in 1846 brought to an end the connection of the males of their family in the business which his Uncle John founded in 1791 and named Horrocks and Co. Their involvement had lasted the short duration of 55 years. For another 150 years the Company would trade world-wide under the name 'Horrockses', and dominate the town of Preston.

1851 Horrockses, Miller and Co won medal at the Great Exhibition.

1856 The huge cotton empire of Horrockses, Miller & Company had ten mills driven by twelve engines, operating 154,334 spindles and 2,775 looms. Over 3,000 hands were in its employment with about 95,000 lbs weight of yarn and 400,000 yards of cloth being produced weekly. [57]

1856 On Saturday, the hands employed by Messrs Horrockses, Miller & Co to the number of 2,600, were conveyed by cheap trains to Southport

1856 Obituary of Mr William Elsworth C.E. (Civil engineer). Born 30 November 1777, he joined Horrockses, Miller & co in 1812, and became superintending engineer of their extensive works. In this capacity he remained for 36 years. In 1848 he was obliged to resign his situation through failing health. The firm gave him an inscribed silver salver. In 1852, he prepared plans for their New Preston Works, which were erected under his superintendence. He died at Lytham 30 October 1856, aged 79. Thomas Miller attended the funeral

1857 Messrs Horrockses, Miller & Co - annual excursion. The yearly trip of the workpeople employed by this firm will take place on Saturday next, the 22nd inst. The principal portion of the hands - about 2,000 - will go to the Exhibition, Manchester, and the remainder to Blackpool. Mr Miller defrays part of the cost of the excursion to both places. On Saturday last, the annual excursions of the workpeople employed in these mills took place ‑ 2,427 visited the Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester, and 732 went to Blackpool. About half past six a.m., the procession left the Yard Works, with numerous banners flying, and accompanied by Greenhalgh's band and the band of the 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia, in uniform. The procession then passed through the town, halting before Mr Alderman Miller's new mansion; and the appearance of that gentleman and his family elicited a hearty round of cheers from the assembled multitude. Two balloons were sent up from the square. The party to Manchester filled two large trains, and the accommodation of so many persons - a matter of no small difficulty - was accomplished without confusion. The arrival of the train at the Exhibition platform caused some little surprise, but the people filed off through the narrow entrances, and were soon scattered over the palace. Arrangements had been made with Mr Donald, the purveyor to the exhibition, to provide a good substantial dinner of beef, plum pudding, and other accompaniments, at Mr Miller's expense, and which Mr Donald provided. The arrangements for dining this large party were admirable. Upwards of one thousand were comfortably seated at one time. The whole of the affair passed off very satisfactorily. The officers and committee of the exhibition speak in the highest terms of the conduct of the excursionists, the latter reciprocate this good will, and have tendered their thanks to Mr Deane and the railway authorities for their kind attention. The party at Blackpool also spent the day very happily. If there be one thing more than another which has a tendency to promote a good feeling between the employer and employed, it is the generous example which Mr Miller manifested upon this occasion. He also defrayed the whole of the incidental expenses for both trips, and paid one-half of the railway fare of a considerable number of his hands to Blackpool.

1861 Edward Hermon became a partner when Thomas Miller sought a successor, as his sons were uninterested in the business

Adding to this final batch of square chimneys was the giant with 18' 6" base sides built for the New Preston Mill for Horrockses, Miller & Company, at the town end of New Hall Lane. Recorded in the 1890s as a 63-yarder, it still survives today minus about twenty feet, removed in 1978. Today, the passerby might be forgiven for assuming that it had been erected for Centenary Mill which stands alongside it, but Centenary once had its own impressive chimney, a circular one at the entrance to the mill yard

1862 The large 'fireproof' spinning block of New Preston Mill was set well back from New Hall Lane, at the bottom of Bread Street. Behind, backing onto Campbell Street, was its weaving shed, and in March 1862 the mill list in the Preston Chronicle discloses that Horrockses, Miller & company had a ' New Mill' with 1,000 looms, which would be the new Preston factory. At one time the mill had a gas holder with a capacity of 36,000 cubic feet, and a boiler house said to have had seven boilers, steam engine plant of some proportion, which was supported by a large area of condenser pens

It was usual for a mill to have at least two reservoirs: a hot lodge where the condensate was first circulated, and a cold lodge where final circulation took place and from which condenser feed was drawn. Large reservoirs such as those at Yard Works and New Preston Mills were divided into pens to assist circulation

[Horrockses, Miller and Co during the Lancashire cotton famine]. Horrockses, Miller and Co had a great reputation among the work people. Even during the long years of the Cotton Famine 182-65, when most other cotton workers of the town were virtually destitute, "Mr Miller kept his mills working more or less through the whole of the time…"

1863 December: working 2-3 days.[72]

1864 March: 117 mules; Yard 1600 looms; New place 1000 looms; working 3 days;

1865 When Mr Thomas Miller died, Mr Hermon became the sole proprietor of the undertaking

1870 St Augustine's school log book recorded the entry of '70 new children, short-timers from Horrockses & Miller's factories and the following day more factory children came who had heard that they were [now] allowed to go to their own schools'

1873 Mr Hermon's nephews - Mr S.O.Hermon and Mr S.A.Hermon - joined the firm

1875 Under Hermon's direction, machinery was to some extent modernised and a new spinning shed was opened

1880 The emphasis was on the physical concentration of the factories, with the closure of the Ribbleton works. The capital value of the firm between 1865 and 1880 was more or less stationary in real terms, although in favourable trading conditions, profits were ample, particularly for Hermon himself

Among cotton palaces much the most amazing was G. Somers Clarke's Wyfold Court, near Henley, Oxfordshire, for Edward Hermon, M.P. for Preston, one of the richest of the cottontots, with its frenetically tangled French Gothic skyline and picture gallery crammed with the works of the brassier Victorian painters

1883 By 1883 the drift of spinning to the south of Lancashire and a growing predominance of weaving in the north had become evident, yet Preston continued to enjoy to some extent the position it had earned as an important centre for both spinning and weaving, the Preston District accounting for 2,191,552 spindles and 48,243 looms in 1882-83. The three largest firms were Horrockses, Miller & Co. employing 3,000 hands; William Calvert & Sons with 2,218; and John Hawkins & Sons who had a workforce of 1,581. [80]

1882 A list of master cotton spinners and manufacturers in Preston and district, 1882-83: Horrockses, Miller, and Co., Stanley-street (Yard Works) and New Hall-lane: 150,000 spindles, 3,100 looms, 3,000 hands.

1885 In a reverse takeover, Frank Hollins amalgamated his relatively small firm Hollins Brothers (c. 650 looms, 350 operatives) with its Preston neighbour, the ailing giant Horrockses, Miller and Co, a firm which twenty years earlier under Edward Hermon had led the industry. This was a vital lifeline for Horrockses: as Sidney Hermon urged, 'the old traditions of the concern must be put to one side. It would be suicidal for us to let … this amalgamation fall through'. Equally emphatically, Hermon wrote to his brother Samuel, 'Whatever you do do not let these negotiations fall thro - you have no idea the weak state we are in in Preston and how we are eaten up with high-salaried nonentities'. … Hollins Brothers was able to offer modern weaving machinery (Horrockses were 'out and out behind the times'), technical expertise and entrepreneurial vigour; Horrockses possessed reputation, an established market position at home and abroad, and a large capital base. Horrockses' assets were threatened by managerial incompetence but the new company, with a joint capital of £750,000, provided the opportunity to marry size with talent.

1887 Further amalgamation with Crewdson, Cross and Co, name changed to Horrockses, Crewdson and Co. Some brightness amidst the doom and gloom of the 1880s had appeared in 1887 when Horrocks, Miller & Co. Ltd amalgamated with Crewdson, Crosses and Co of Bolton and Manchester, the name of the Preston firm becoming Horrockses, Crewdson and Co. The combined companies employed 5,300 persons, had 7,000 looms, 250,000 spindles and manufactured in Preston and Bolton. Much expansion and modernisation had taken place at the firm's Yard Works over the years, one 1880s introduction being a weaving shed for 1,000 looms in Guild Year, 1882.

It would be in the building of Centenary Mill in the opening years of the next decade that the new company would arrange for one of the most impressive engine installations in Preston.

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