Kilnhurst Industry and Commerce

Baker Bessemar Ltd

The site was used for industry from early times.  The earliest definite record traceable about the site  is that in 1828 the site known as the Greta Longbank or Hare Stock was sold by William Darwin of Stubbin, Ironmaster to Richard Hutton Slagg of Birdwell Flats, Steel Refiner.  It was stated to have been previously in the occupation of Joseph Wood.  A mortgage dated 1829 covered the land and several csast steel and other furnaces.  This venture did not prove successful and in 1836, it was sold to Thomas Smith under bankruptcy proceedings.  It changed hands several time in the next few years and in 1846, it came into the hands of the Nisterdale Iron Company.  By this time, it was known as the Swinton Iron Works and there was a wharf on the canal.

In 1863, it was purchased by John Brown & Co of Sheffield and they erected on it a very substantial plant for the puddling of iron and for rolling it into plates.  It is presumed that the manufacture of these plates was a preliminary process in the manufacture of iron armour plate, the final processes being carried out in Sheffield.  As late as 1879, iron armour plate was rolled in Sheffield by John Brown & Co but owing to the development of the process invented by Sir henry Bessemer, iron was being superseded by steel and as steel armour came into use, the Kilnhurst Works ceased operations.  The machinery was stripped out and the buildings were allowed to decay and the whole place became derelict.

John Baker was born in Nottingham in 1843.  He started life as an apprentice Loco Builder.  He moved to Rotherham taking up a plant managers job at a small wheel and axle manufacturer.  In 1874 he went into partnership opening up a works in Conisborough.  He then returned to Rotherham where he built up a plant making wheels etc.  He bought lots of metal components from suppliers.  He then had the brainwave of opening his own iron and steel plant, Lateral Expansion.  In 1903 he aquired the vacant site alongside the South Yorkshire Navigation canal.  He worked on the site.  An operating steel works complete with a forging press and disc wheel mill were installed.  Sadly in 1904 John Baker died whilst clearing the site.  The firm was however put into good hands in that it was taken over by his son.  During the First World War the production of the company was turned over to munitions and the company produced over 6 million shells.  Women were recruited to work and there was a professional shift where people like teachers did a shift a week assisting with shell.  A picture was comissioned of the workers on the shop floor by Mr Baker.


John Baker


In 1920 the company wanted to expand and needed more capital.  It floated on the Stock Exchange and became a public limited company . In 1927 in an expansion drive the company took over Harrison and Camm Ltd.  The attraction was its 4,000 ton wheel press.  Expansion of the baker group continued when in the 1932 the company took over Henry Bessemer Limited and became Baker and Bessemer Limited.

During the Second World War the demand for arms once again flourished and again became a munitions factory producing shells, aircraft catapult pulleys, armour-piercing nose caps, anti aircraft rocket bodies and bogie wheels for the Churchill tank.  Replicating the first world war a further painting was comissioned to be painted of action on the shop floor.










A view of the works.


Industry press release 2nd January 1931

Baker & Bessemer Ltd, Kilnhurst Steelworks

“We cannot say at the moment that prospects are bright; indeed, just now things are at their blackest.  There are no substantial orders in sight and we have no real reason to expect them.  Still, the year which has just ended did not open promisingly and yet on the whole, it was not a bad year.  Indeed, by comparison with some of the people in our own trade, we did quite well.  Our tyre mills were working full time all through the year though other departments were slack.  We certainly hope that conditions will permit our doing much better in 1931.”


Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times 3/4/1931

Mr. George Baker, O.B.E. of Greno House, Swinton, managing director of Baker and Bessemer Ltd., iron and steel manufacturers, Kilnhurst and Rotherham, has accepted an invitation to become president of the Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, and will be installed on April 10th.

Mr. Baker has for many years been prominent in the industrial life of this district.  He is the third son of the founder of the firm of which he is now head (Mr. John Baker), and was born at Conisbrough, educated at Rotherham Grammar School, and (in engineering and metallurgy) at Sheffield University.  He succeeded to the control of the Rotherham and Kilnhurst undertakings on the death of his father, and has conducted them with great enterprise and ability over a long period, introducing many improvements of method and bringing the plant and premises completely up to date.  Thanks in large part to his initiative and enterprise the scope and business of the firm have been greatly developed and extended.  In 1927 he carried out the purchase of the waggon works of Harrison and Camm, Rotherham, and two years later carried through negotiations for the absorption of the premises, plant, and business of one of the oldest and most famous firms of Sheffield steel manufacturers, Thomas Bessemer Ltd., owners of the original Bessemer patent for steel smelting.  John Baker and Company acquired a controlling interest in this firm, closed the Sheffield works, and removed the business to Kilnhurst.

Industrial problems have absorbed the greater part of Mr. Baker’s interest and attention, but he has found time to take a genial interest in the social life around him, particularly at Swinton.  He is a generous supporter of the Wesleyan Church at Swinton, and of all Wesleyan activity throughout the circuit of Wath-on-Dearne, in which for a number of years he held the office of senior steward.  He was also the chairman of the Swinton War Memorial Committee. He is a member of the Iron and Steel Institute, under whose auspice he recently visited Czechoslovakia to inspect and compare industrial conditions there, and he has given useful service as a member of the Mexborough and District Employment Committee.

In 1963 the company changed from corporate predator to becoming a target itself.  It was taken over by United Steel Companies Limited and English Steel Corporation and following review the Kilnhurst plant was closed down.  A thousand workers were made redundant.  Questions were asked and issues raised about this in the Houses of Parliament but the closure and redundancies still went ahead.

If you want to see a piece of history referring to the foundry you can see a drop hammer from the Kilnhurst site at Beamish Industrial Museum in the North East.


Extract from South Yorkshire Times issue 1/7/1932



A patent safe-loading indicator for use on jib cranes has been granted to Mr. George Baker, O.B.E., head of the Kilnhurst steel firm of Baker and Bessemer, Ltd.

A common cause of accidents with cranes is the lifting of weights above the capacity of the machine.  To guard against this, the Home Office require all jib cranes engaged in building operations to be fitted with a device to automatically indicate when the load being moved approaches the safe working load of the crane and to give audible warning when that safe load is exceeded.  The invention of Mr. Baker is one of a series with this object and is particularly adaptable to steam cranes of the locomotive type.  Other patents have been applied for by Mr.Baker to meet the conditions on different types of cranes.

The load which a jib crane will carry safely without danger of overturning varies with the radius throughout which the safe load must not exceed a certain maximum because the ropes and the hoisting gear are designed for that maximum load; for example, the safe load for a five-ton crane may be five tons at any radius up to 16 feet; two and a quarter tons at 27 feet radius, with corresponding intermediate weights. The problem is not a simple weighing device with means for varying its constant according to the radius of the load.

Mr. Baker’s invention works on the principle of weighing the pull on the derrick rope.  The tail end of this is anchored to a cam pivoted on the structure of the crane and the rope wraps on and off the cam as the inclination of the jib is varied.  The cam is of a special shape, so that the effective leverage of the rope about the pivot of the cam varies with the inclination of the rope, and so that the torque about the cam pivot when the crane is under the safe load is constant for all positions of the jib.

The torque on the cam is measured by a spring in compression and there is a suitable finger working against a dial to indicate when the safe load is being approached and also a connection which causes a whistle to blow when the safe load is exceeded.  The measurement of the load by means of the derrick rope automatically takes into account the weight of the jib, any uneven track or swinging load, and is independent of the number of falls used on the hoisting rope.  In this respect the device is superior to any weighing device which acts on the hoisting rope.

After exhaustive tests, the device has been approved by the Home Office for use under the building regulations, and is being manufactured by Joseph Booth and Bros. Ltd., at Rodley, Leeds.


Yorkshire Tar Distillers Ltd, Don Chemical Works, Kilnhurst/Croda

The fonder, the late Mr. Henry Ellison of Cleckheaton, purchased approximately four acres of land from Charles Cooke, Richard Heber Wrightson and Frank Ramsden, Edmund Beckett and Earl Fitzwilliam in the year 1886 on which to commence business as a Tar Distiller in partnership with the late Mr. Mitchell.


The first Still of Ellison & Mitchell

The firm of Ellison & Mitchell Ltd continued until 1927.  In that year, the important tar distillers in Yorkshire amalgamated to form the present company, the Yorkshire Tar Distillers Ltd, with branches at Cleckheaton, Kilnhurst, Knottingly, Stourton, Stairfoot and Killamarsh, the Chairman and Joint Managing director, Mr. H. E. Sugden, being the grandson of the original found, the vice-Chairman and Joint Managing Director being Mr. J. B. Vickers who joined the laboratory staff at Kilnhurst Works on leaving school and who resided in Swinton up to 1939 at which time he was a councillor of the Urban District of Swinton.


There was a fire at the Ellison & Mitchell Chemical Works, later becoming Yorkshire Tar Distillers, at Kilnhurst in January 1918, in which both William Gomersill and Edward Bond were awarded the O.B.E for their heroism. The awards ceremony took place April 1918.

Empire Medals for Chemical Workers

Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times January 26th 1918

The King has been pleased to grant medals of the Order of the British Empire to two employees engaged at the chemical works of Ellison and Mitchell Ltd, at Kilnhurst. The first recipient is Edward Bond, foreman, who at great personal risk of scalding and suffocation, owing to burst safety valve, closed the main valve on steam boiler, thus preventing serious mishap to the battery, and enabled the works to carry on.

In order to accomplish this, Bond had to find his way in the darkness, and amid large jets of steam above the boilers, knowing the peril he was encountering. His award also includes recognition of his courage and example during air raids, and also the fact that he has rescued two men from the canal near the works on dark and foggy nights.

The second winner of the award is William Gomersall, the head fitter at the works, who lives in Carlisle Street, Kilnhurst. It is for courage and devotion in aiding his foreman to close the main valve on the steam boiler. At great personal risk he went on the top of the battery of steam boilers to search for his foreman, whom he believed to have been suffocated, but who, fortunately, had been able to reach the ground in another direction.

On another occasion an empty steel drum which Gomersall was repairing exploded, owing to having previously contained an inflammable liquid. Although he was badly burnt about the face, and blown some distance away by the force of the explosion, he was more concerned about the plight of his assistant, who was really less badly hurt, and by his cheerful bearing he did much to help his companion in distress.

Moreover, Gomersall had, during his employment, shown perseverance, skill and resourcefulness which had thus materially helped the firm to maintain the output in connection with the war under the difficult conditions.

The medals will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant at an early date.


Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times April 27th 1918

British Empire Awards The Earl of Harewood, Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding, on Wednesday, presented medals of the Order of the British Empire to 27 recipients from the West Riding, to whom they had been awarded for bravery displayed chiefly in connection with explosions in munition works.

The presentations were made on the steps of the Leeds Town Hall, where the company included the Countess of Harewood, the Lord Mayor of Leeds and Lady Mayoress (Mr. and Mrs. F.Gott), Major-General Bewick-Copley and a number of American Army doctors.

Among the recipients of medals were Edward Frederick Hall, 158, Southview Road, Sharrow, Sheffield; William Gomersall, Carlisle Street, Kilnhurst; Edward Bond, Don House, Kilnhurst; Samuel Hall Bennett, of Westholme, Montenoy Road, Moorgate, Rotherham.




croda fire

Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times, Friday April 3rd 1936

Superintendent T. Breaks, of the Sheffield Fire Brigade, clinging precariously to the side of a blazing benzole refinery, some forty feet above the ground, directed firemen, using “foam” extinguishers to such effect that a fire, which at one time threatened a considerable portion of Kilnhurst was extinguished within a comparatively short time.

The fire, which occurred at the Kilnhurst works of the Yorkshire Tar Distillers, Ltd., was of the utmost gravity, for while it was raging there was, every moment, the possibility that an explosion might occur of a magnitude sufficient to endanger the whole of the surrounding district.


The outbreak, it is thought, could be traced to an electric motor housed near the end of an acid washery situated centrally in the works. This was about eight o’clock in the morning. The alarm was given but before it was possible to do anything to control the first outbreak, the flames spread with terrifying rapidity to the acid washery.

From there they leaped across connecting pipelines to the benzole house, containing three stills, each filled with 4,000 gallons of benzole and within a few moments of the fire reaching the building the whole was a blazing inferno. Huge clouds of black smoke from the blazing oil poured out over the valley and flames leaped a hundred feet into the air.

The spectacle from the road near the Meadow View estate was awe-inspiring. It seemed that at any moment the whole of the works, which could be seen dimly through the smoke cloud, might become a sheet of flame. People stood in hundreds watching the blaze from this vantage point. Even at this distance, fully half a mile from the works, many of the spectators did not feel safe in the open and retreated into the comparative safety of their houses.

Householders in the Green Lane area, fearing the consequences of an explosion, evacuated their homes until it was certain that danger had passed. On approaching the works an hour after the outbreak the benzole refinery could be seen in the centre of the extensive plant burning like a huge torch. There was a dull roar from the flames as from a gigantic gas jet.

The men of the works, under the direction of Mr. J. B. Vickers, were doing all within their power but their efforts seemed quite inadequate to cope with the violence of the flames. Men from the neighbouring works of Baker and Bessemer had gone to their assistance soon after the outbreak but owing to the danger had been ordered back.


The offices of the works were deserted except for two male clerks, the girls employed having been turned back when they arrived. The wind was blowing in the direction of the offices which stand on the edge of the canal. Looking out of the back windows flames could be seen almost overhead while round about surged the smoke in great black eddies.

At this time the Rotherham, Wath and Wombwell brigades had arrived. The engines were pumping water from the canal alongside which they were lined up. Hoses ran to the vicinity of the benzole house some fifty yards away. The firemen appeared to be doing little to check the flames with hundreds of gallons of water.

Within a few yards of the blazing “house” were huge containers containing tar, amounting to thousands of tons, creosote, naphthalene and acid. Had the flames broken from the limits of the benzole house and ignited these, in a few moments the whole of the works would have been involved in a fire which would have been beyond the control of any brigade.


The Mexborough Fire Brigade were the first to set out to the scene of the fire but the engine crashed through a wall at the corner of Green Lane about a quarter of a mile from the blaze. The members of the brigade however, carrying apparatus on their backs, set out to walk over the fields, and rendered under Captain Heeson, valuable assistance to the other brigades. A lorry belonging to the Swinton Council carried more of the Mexborough apparatus to the fire soon after.

When the Sheffield Brigade arrived on the scene the fire was at its height. It was thought that at any moment an explosion might take place and those in the vicinity had the feeling that they were standing on the time-fuse of a bomb. People in the Meadow View area state that just before nine o’clock two minor explosions took place.

With the arrival of the Sheffield Brigade, under Superintendent Breaks, the “foam” apparatus, which is used to fight chemical fires of this description, was brought into intensive use. The Rotherham Brigade had used “foam” previously but their supply was insufficient. More was brought from Sheffield in reply to their S.O.S. Members of the Rotherham and Sheffield Brigades donned asbestos suits and strapped the containers on their backs.

In order to get into close contact with the flames the doors of the benzole house had to be opened, and for a time the fury of the flames was redoubled. The flames were now, however, confined to the North-West corner of the building. This meant that the tanks of light oil which lay alongside the Western side of the building were comparatively safe.


The foam was first sprayed into the interior of the building by the firemen standing in the open door, but this was inadequate. In order to find the actual root of the fire in the benzole house, Superintendent Breaks climbed by means of a ladder to a vantage point overlooking the interior. In this position he was within a few feet of the blazing interior which he could see through one of the warped and gaping metal window frames.

He was standing on pipes which shortly before had been almost red hot. On his left was the burnt-out acid washery, while nearer still was a still blazing benzole container. He was some forty feet above the ground level. As he was directing the “foam” operations from this position an explosion in the benzole container sent a sheet of flame twenty or thirty feet into the air. Spectators ran for safety while Superintendent Breaks and the two or three men with him were exposed to the flame.

Fortunately they were uninjured to the relief of those who watched with apprehension. The skilful directing of the foam extinguishers had the fire rapidly in hand, and within half an hour of the final explosion, no flame was to be seen. The fierceness of the fire could be seen by the manner in which the metal roof of the benzole house had been twisted and distorted. Half of it had fallen down but the remainder was curled into fantastic shapes.

The interior of the “house” was like a bath being filled to a depth of several feet with water. Over the scorched interior were plastered expanses of the white foam from the extinguishers. Foot thick girders supporting the container of the acid washery had been distorted by the intensity of the heat.

Water through the hoses from the canal was being used after the fire to cool down the heated benzole and acid containers, and firemen who had used the “foam” apparatus had the hoses directed upon them to remove foam which covered them from head to foot. There was still some danger to those who were carrying out the final operations as streams and pools of concentrated acid were everywhere. Channels were dug to divert the flames.


The Rotherham Brigade, which was under the direction of Superintendent F. Briddon, was to have been inspected at 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning at Rotherham by Colonel Brook, H.M. Inspector of Constabulary. It was thought at one time that two of the members of the Rotherham brigade had been overcome by the fumes, which were throughout the fire almost overpowering.

When one of the firemen in question was approached after the fire, he said that they had not been overcome, and the fumes had only made them “cough a bit.” The disabled Mexborough engine was dragged from its position half way through the wall at the end of Green Lane by the Rotherham engine later in the day, no one was injured in the crash. The damage caused by the fire was apparently very extensive, but the management declined to issue an official statement.


A graphic story of the apprehension which was raised in the minds of the people living on the Meadow View estate was given to a “Times” representative by Mrs. Whaley, of Meadow View. She was just preparing for wash day when the news that the chemical works were on fire was heard. Immediately all the family rushed out into the neighbouring fields feeling that in the event of an explosion they would be safer in the open.

People were coming into the fields from Green Lane. Children who had been dragged from bed, were being carried in blankets, and many had a few household belongings in parcels. Mrs Whaley said that they were about to go back into the house to complete their breakfasts when the benzole container exploded and sent flames yards into the air.

They did not return finally into the houses until after eleven o’clock when it appeared that danger was past. Some of the children were sent to Piccadilly out of danger. At the time of a former fire at the works during the war, many people went as far as New Stubbin Colliery and Hooton Roberts.


The Kilnhurst works has expanded considerably during its lifetime, the area increased from four to thirty acres, the tar distilled increased making production of tar the largest in the U.K at the time.  New distillation plant was installed and the steam boiler plant was replaced by automatic stoking equipment for the prevention of atmospheric pollution with smoke.  The employees numbered 190 in the 1950’s.


Over the years there were health issues raised as some workers developed tar warts.

Further modernisation programmes were engaged in over the years following a takeover by Croda Hydracarbons, right into the 1980’s. The closusure announcement in 1997 was a shock to the community.  By the end of 1998 no trace remained of the former works.  Construction is now underway to recycle the land into new housing.


Kilnhurst Long Service awards


The company lorry fleet was a common sight on the streets of Kilnhurst and Swinton



Croda Loco

The products the company made at the works were used in numerous industries, a few of which are as follows:-

Road Making                                    Explosives

Liquid and Solid Fuels                      Paints

Timber Preservation                        Synthetic Resins

Motor Fuel                                        Drugs

Disinfectants                                    Electrodes

Dyestuffs                                         Rubber




An accident on site during the development into housing



Kilnhurst/Twigg Pottery

Pottery making in South Yorkshire was one of the area’s oldest established industries.  The raw materials for pot making could all be sourced locally; rich clay could be collected, there was easy access to coal and good reliable water supplies.

The early potteries produced items for domestic use.  In the early Middle Ages small cottage potteries flourished in the Rawmarsh area.  In September 1970 during structural alterations to a cottage at Warren Vale two pottery kilns were discovered with an almost complete black – glazed bottle waster and sherds of cream ware and silver resist.  This demonstrates sophistication of process in the craft existing locally at quite an early date.  An enclosure map of 1781 shows the existence of the Warren Vale cottages yet makes no reference to the pottery.  Had the potter died and his craft with him or had he moved on to work elsewhere?

By the 19th century in the Rotherham district there were at least twelve potteries producing a wide range of wares.  Very few survived in to the 20th century; Kilnhurst was one of the last finally closing its doors in August 1929.

Kilnhurst Pottery had been operated from 1746 until final closure.  For most of that time it made general household items of transfer printed earthenware and cream ware.  The pottery’s most remarkable industrial achievement was in the production of what were called ‘Bristol Ware’.

The person credited with introducing this process to the Kilnhurst works was a Mr Bowman Heald in 1884.  The products were various sizes of jugs and tankards which were moulded in very low relief primarily for the thriving pub trade.  The pots were called Bristol Ware simply because they were made at one of the Bristol potteries; once that works was discontinued Kilnhurst secured almost the whole trade in the line.  Production was very high and many examples of the range are available to the collector of today in a range of sizes.  From 1884 to 1907 incredibly over one million Bristol jugs and mugs were sold with a very strong sales base in London, the South of England and East Anglia.  Only a fairly small percentage of the mugs and jugs were officially marked by local standards officers with the uniform verification mark – a point collectors may wish to note.

The twenty-three boom time at the pottery eventually came to an end.  The introduction of handled glass tankards made the earthenware pots uneconomical along with requirements of standard measures for the sale of alcoholic beverages.


Earlier Owners

Numerous South Yorkshire family names are associated with one or more potteries.  In any history of the trade locally names such as the Hallams, the Wainwrights, Malpass, Twigg, the Bramelds and the Hawleys.  Let us explore the contribution made by these people to the economy of the local area.

The Hawley family settled in Rawmarsh towards the end of the 18th century.  During one period the Hawley’s were the owners of four potteries Rawmarsh Top, Kilnhurst, Rotherham Northfield and Rawmarsh Low; for well over a century they controlled much of the pottery manufacture in the district.

Thomas Hawley was working the Kilnhurst Old Pottery in 1783.  Rotherham Museum has a bust of John Wesley made around this time which is impressed ‘Thom. Hawley’ Around 1795 William Hawley bought the pottery from his brother.

Kilnhurst Old Pottery was situated on the western side of the canal; the colliery bath building was erected on the site in later years. The site was ideal for loading barges to take away the finished products; canal transport was ideal for moving fragile pottery over long distances.  A single track railway from the Warren Vale Colliery provided the pottery with a constant supply of coal.

William Malpass is credited with establishing the pottery in 1746.  During his time the works produced common place manufactured goods in cream ware and pearl ware such as pots, mugs, cups, basins etc.  The sale of these items would have been to the surrounding communities.  Malpass had very wide business interests in the area including a tile yard in Swinton.  In 1765 he purchased the Swinton Pottery (later the Rockingham Works) from Edward Butler.  He had a lime kiln on Kilnhurst Wharfe and owned several pieces of land in the district.  He relinquished his interest in the Kilnhurst Pottery in 1783 when, as has been said, Thomas Hawley took control.

After deaths in the Hawley family the works passed to George Green who was a member of the famous Leeds based Green family of pottery entrepreneurs.  In 1832 Messrs Brameld of Swinton came on the scene however their involvement at Kilnhurst Pottery was only short lived as in 1839 the works passed into the hands of the Twigg brothers.  A whole new era was about to begin taking the wears produce at Kilnhurst way up the scale.


July 1913



Beer mugs and Jug

Joseph Twigg had started his working life at the great Rockingham Works in Swinton learning skills and appreciating the artistic side of the ceramics trade.  Industrious Joseph struck out on his own account and started the Newhill Pottery at Wath in 1822.  He had three sons Joseph, John and Benjamin; it was these three which constituted the ‘Twigg Brothers’.  Joseph Junior and John also benefited from training at the hands of the master potters at Swinton.

Following from Rockingham experience and training specialist female staff were employed as ‘transferers’.  They would carefully apply pre-prepared transfers to finished pots.  In the antiques world examples of the fine Twigg decorated ceramics are highly sought after today.

The firm of Twigg Brothers ceased in 1852 when Benjamin Twigg died; Joseph had passed away earlier.  John Twigg was left as sole proprietor and he continued to oversee the works until his death in 1877 aged 76 years.  He was well known as a verbose and temperamental employer who issued summonses against his own employees when they demanded an extra halfpenny on their wages.  When the issue went to court he amused onlookers with his constant interruptions and verbal abuse of the defence counsel.  He was a strict teetotaller but was quite happy to make money out of the demon drink as owner of the Nags Head pub on Glasshouse Lane!

John had five sons but only the youngest, Daniel, outlived him.  Daniel continued the family tradition until March 1884 when the pottery was purchased by William Simpson Hepworth; it was the end of the Twigg period.


Twigg Pottery hand painted Examples


Twigg Pottery hand painted Examples



Willow Pattern Meat Dish. Note the straight lines of the right and left plate inner sides. This distinguished them from others that were slightly curved



Part of a jug and bowl set called ‘the Apple Gatherers’



Kilnhurst Coop


The co-op was founded in 1861 after a discussion in George Clarke’s joiners shop.  The first officers were Hugh Coulter (President), James Smith (Vice President), James Smith (Vice President), Samuel Padgett (Treasurer), George Clarke (General Manager) with John Wild as Secretary.

They commenced the business of buying goods in the wholesale market and distributing them at cost price.  This was first done from George Clarke’s house on the Wharfe.  Within months, the society flourished and Mr Clarke’s house couldn’t cope.  A new policy was set to increase the price for members marginally as a profit contribution was needed to pay officers, etc, to keep on the expansion.  It was decided to pay Mr Clarke £2 17s 6d for running the shop.  A rota was drawn up as this duty was done in turn.

Premises were acquired in Victoria Street and by March of 1862, membership was 82 persons with capital of £224.  A dividend of 1s 8d in the pound was paid.  New premises were acquired in 1866 and John Carr was appointed as full time Manager.  The premises now housed a grocery, a butchers, a drapers, a furniture shop, a shoe shop, a chemist and a lending library.  A savings bank was also introduced in 1881 where the membership had increased to 729.

The Co-op flourished through the years and became a regular calling point for the shoppers in the area.  By 1953, the membership had risen to 4,150.

Like many small co-operatives however, the changes in the business world of the 1960’s meant that the development of supermarkets threatened their very existence.

Unfortunately, the Co-op closed in 1969.



Meadow View Branch


Victoria Glass Works

The Victoria Glassworks was opened up in Kilnhurst in 1855.  The Blunn family were already operating a successful glass blowing factory in Catcliffe near Rotherham.  Samuel and Thomas Blunn (brothers) instigated the expansion into Kilnhurst.  The works was situation on the newly named “Glasshouse Lane” near the pottery.  Thomas’s sons, Walter and William, moved to Kilnhurst in 1862 to manage the family business.