Glory days of the town’s textile mills
Dear Sir, — What a brilliant write up in the Chronicle about the textile mills in Congleton.
Practically the whole workforce of the town was employed in the local mills, making all kinds of garments that were sold all over the UK and overseas.
Seamstresses, overlockers and examiners were all busy to make the garments to the highest and best quality that was required before they left the factory.
The hum of the industrial Singer sewing machines was constant. The young girls would sit with one foot on the treadle while feeding the fine fabric through the foot and the smooth shiny plate to get an even stitch.
They never raised their heads above the top of the machine. There were all types and kinds of fashions that were made in the mills of Congleton: men’s and ladies’ Airtex underwear, lovely 100% cotton shirts and even the shirts for well-known football clubs.
Some mills in Congleton made ladies’ nylon stockings, or hosiery, as they were called at the time.
It required a very fine nylon that was made by a circular knitting machine, which had a million needles all jumping up and down at the precise moment to make the shape of the leg and heel.
Wow, were they ever in demand, all over the UK, and most of them were made in Congleton. (All men loved to see ladies in nylons, and still do). The mill was called Providence Mill. It was just before it was owned by Mr Halstead, located on Mill Street and Rope Walk.
Everybody who worked in a textile mill in Congleton knew that it was a secure job. You worked hard, it may have been a bit boring at times, but there was always the chance of a bit of romance as there were hundreds of pretty girls and also handsome young lads who worked there.
Many a courtship took place and couples are still in a very healthy relationship today with lots of grandchildren.
Dane Bridge Mill, at the end of Dane Street (over Clayton by-pass) is a treasure of the town of Congleton. It has a resemblance to Quarry Bank mill in Styal, which is a perfect example of how the textile mills were in Cheshire at that time. (I certainly recommend a visit).
Brown Street Mills, namely, Conlowe’s and Stott and Smith, were all wonderful places that employed lots of people. The canteen on the corner of Fox Street was a fabulous place and the ladies would pour you a cup of tea from a huge brown teapot full of proper tea.
Some of the young seamstresses would wander down to the park and have a sandwich or a bag of Smith’s crisps. You can imagine that there was always a following of young lads trying to catch a glimpse of an attractive smile.
Then it was back to the sound of the mill. Everyone worked as hard as they could to make ends meet for their wage at the end of the week. There is no doubt that everyone was doing well. The production at all the mills was up and all the manufactured products were very much in demand.
Everyone was being paid their full wages, the local shops in the town were all friendly and doing a good trade. The town of Congleton was thriving.
Pubs with darts teams, bowling greens and then service clubs began to get involved to develop ideas of how to raise money for the needy and local charities. There wasn’t a street in Congleton that didn’t have a textile connection.
Marks and Sparks clothing was made in Congleton and had to be at a very high standard. Marks wanted a very cheap price. It would also reject thousands of manufactured products on the basis that it was an eighth of a gnat’s privates’ too small from their standard of specs. Many small manufacturers ran away with the machines and the stock, but made sure that all the employees were paid.
The stock would be sold to market traders all over the country.
Workers were bussed in from all over to work in the mills. Congleton was a small city of workers producing goods that were sold all over the UK and also the rest of the world.
All young men and young girls loved the influx of new faces, which brought a wonderful sparkle of excitement. It certainly was commented on in the canteen over a cup of tea. Some girls’ sewing machines were constantly breaking down because the mechanic was a delight to the eye.
Congleton had everything: dye mill at Timbersbrook, spinning mill at Vale Mill, weaving mills all over the place and garment manufacturing mills.
In those days the town was smelling of wealth, everyone had a few shillings in their pocket, paid their bills and kept their house clean and safe.
Those mills made a lot of stocking-top romances that are still romantic today. — Yours faithfully,