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Edmund Ashworth and Sons

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of Egerton Mill, Bolton.

1854 Brothers Henry and Edmund Ashworth dissolved their partnership. The firm of Edmund Ashworth and Sons took on the concern at Egerton to carry out the business of cotton spinners and sewing cotton manufacturers.[1]

1878 'A Visit to a Cotton Mill.—Of all the pretty and interesting sights in connection with the cotton industry, that of a sewing cotton manufactory, or mill, as it is called, stands pre-eminent. I recently took the opportunity to inspect one of the largest and most famous of them, that owned by Messrs. Edmund Ashworth and Sons, whose sewing cottons have gained for them a world-wide fame. About four miles north of Bolton, stands the pretty village of Egerton, where the works of the eminent firm of Edmund Ashworth and Sons are situated. A peculiar interest attaches itself to this establishment. The visitor may here witness the bales of silky Sea Island cotton (which are imported by the firm direct from Savannah), unpacked, assorted, and thrown into the machine called the ' opener,' which is the first process of cotton spinning, and then follows, without interruption, every transformation of the delicate fibre, until at last converted into thread, bleached or dyed, it is laid down in the packing room, on the little reels of all shapes and sizes ; variously adorned with tickets, ready to be sent as ‘Sewing Cotton' to all the markets of the globe. The Ashworth family as cotton spinners and manufacturers date from the last century. In the year 1757 they resided at Birtenshaw in Lancashire, where they carried on the business, in which after long years of application and perseverance, they have to this generation maintained the first position. In those days the bales of cotton were brought by them from Liverpool in small quantities, the cotton was then distributed to the country people to be spun by hand in their cottages, and finally woven into pieces of cloth for the Manchester market. Later on Messrs. Ashworth erected a small mill on the river near to the Hall i'th Wood, a spot which has become of world-wide repute, as being the house where the celebrated Crompton invented the ' mule' or machine used at the present time for spinning cotton. The works were extended at Turton, and progressing with the times, the two brothers, Henry and Edmund Ashworth, in the year 1827, purchased from Messrs. Bodimer [ Bodmer ] and Novelli the very large mill and premises which they had erected on the site of the present establishment at Egerton. Shortly afterwards Messrs. Ashworth entered into partnership with the great engineering firm of Messrs. Fairbairn and Lillie, and turning their attention to utilising the large supply of water running through their works, they erected the largest water-wheel in the world, which has worked ever since in perfect condition. This water-wheel has been, and is still, the subject of great interest, as it may be observed from the visitors' book, where may be seen the names of many eminent personages and distinguished travellers of all nations, who have visited the place. This waterwheel is made of iron, it measures 180 feet in circumference, and 15 feet broad. It makes about one revolution per minute, and supplies 120 horse power, turning the spindles at speed of 6,000 revolutions per minute. The quantity of water required to turn the wheel is computed at about 4,320,000 gallons per day. In addition to the waterwheel, the mills are worked by four steam engines. In the year 1854, the brothers Henry and Edmund Ashworth dissolved partnership, the firm of Edmund Ashworth and Sons taking up the concern at Egerton to carry out the business of cotton spinners and sewing cotton manufacturers. The spinning mill is one of the largest in the country, being 8 stories high and 20 windows long, the rooms are lofty, remarkably clean, and supplied with all the most modern appliances. The business having continued to progress, a large new mill was erected for the further development of the trade and the increased demand for sewing cotton, in which branch the firm has attained the greatest perfection, and is noted making the best and strongest thread for machine sewing. Their specialities being, the XX 6 Cord Machine Cotton, and their Patent Glace Thread, both of which are made from the best long staple cotton, and are adapted for every make of sewing machine, whether lock or chain stitch. They are also makers of crotchet cottons, knitting and embroidering cottons and linen finish thread, suitable for strong leather work, &c. The room where the finishing process is carried on, by winding the cotton from the large spools on the small reels of all dimensions, such as they are to be retailed out to the customers, is a fine light, lofty place and fireproof. The visitor loses sight of the usual whirl of the driving power, as not a shaft or pulley can be seen in motion, the winding frames being turned by the shafts from the room below. The frames are arranged in rows the whole length of the room, each woman having a separate small machine by which are wound the small reels of thread. A little dial attached to the machine shows the quantity of thread wound, and thus insures the correct length offered for sale. Each woman can on this little frame wind upwards of 144,000 yards per day. Another remarkable feature in this room, is the extreme neatness and respectable appearance of the operatives at work, which form a visible contrast to the usual sight in cotton mills. We were told that these females were for the most part the wives or daughters of the men employed in other parts of the mills. Passing on we come to the room where the reels are wound by self-acting machines, and considered the most interesting occupation in the whole establishment; each machine winds the thread on 8 reels at one and the same time. The empty reels are put on the machine by the attendant, and then by a series of most delicate motions, the spool is put on the spindle, and the requisite number of yards wound on. As soon as the reel is sufficiently full, a knife makes the necessary incision in the edge of the spool, a hook seizes the thread off; another motion releases the spool, which falls into a recess, and is then ready for the market. One of these machines will wind about 300 reels per day, each with 200 yards of thread. The next process is the packing of the reels in parcels of one dozen each, and in larger quantities of half-a-gross each, or otherwise as required, which is very neat and interesting. The village of Egerton, belonging mostly to Messrs. Ashworth, they take great interest in the welfare of their workpeople, providing them with suitable dwellings, and in having good school accommodation for the children, as well as evening classes for the adults. There are also science and art classes held, all of which are under Government inspection. Messrs. Ashworth's career affords a striking instance of what natural talents, united with an intellectual and active life, can do; Whilst bestowing personal and unremitting attention to their own business, there is not an important commercial or social question, in the solution of which, the earnest endeavours of the two brothers were not foremost, and stamped with that original character which distinguishes men of a superior mental capacity. Messrs. Ashworth and Sons have gained their world-wide reputation chiefly from the famous 'XX' six cord already alluded to; but, of late, they have made special efforts to suit their cotton to the Straw Hat Trade, and we are glad to find that the improvements made are much appreciated in Luton and district. Messrs. Ashworth claim the credit being the first to introduce to the Luton public a ‘knotless' and a straw-coloured cotton. The latter much improves white work, and is a great acquisition the Luton trade.'[2]

  • 1891 Directory (Bolton): Listed as cotton spinners and manufacturers. More details

1897 Acquired by the English Sewing Cotton Co.[3]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Account of 1878 visit
  2. Luton Times and Advertiser - Friday 30 August 1878
  3. The Times, December 2, 1897