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Report - Lune Mills (James Williamson linoleum), Lancaster, April 2011

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by ZerO81, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. ZerO81

    ZerO81 Team Weasel
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    Lune Mills (James Williamson linoleum), Lancaster

    James Williamson was born on the 31st of December 1842. He was the third of four surviving children born to James (Snr.) and Eleanor Williamson, who had established a successful coated fabrics business in the town in the 1840's

    In the 1870's, Williamson's coated fabrics business expanded rapidly and James (Jnr.) is credited with masterminding this period of growth and success, which included the addition of the vast new Lune Mills Factory, on the site of a recently bankrupted shipyard.

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    Williamson bought further land from Lancaster Corporation in 1889 and the major development of the firm proceeded quickly. The works finally grew to cover twenty-one acres.

    He invested in modern machinery, supplied goods at the bottom end of the market, where no supplier been previously interested, had a virtual monopoly in Britain of the lowest quality linoleum, negotiated cut price rail charges by playing one rail company off against another, paid low wages, discouraged unionism amongst his employees for all but the skilled trades and kept a personal eye on the detailed operations of the whole works.

    James Williamson I, was apprenticed to a man called Richard Hutton, master painter and decorator of Lancaster and for a short while, William Storey was apprenticed to Hutton too. Storey worked for Williamson for a short time, before the two parted company, with William Storey moving to premises on St. George's Quay, to start his own company.

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    By 1894, Williamson's were employing 2,500 men and Storey's about 1,000 men and by 1911, the firm employed around 25% of Lancaster's working men and with the busy cotton mills in the town.

    Some assert that Williamson's business success was built on the exploitation of his workforce. Williamson however, claimed his skilled staff were paid Union rates, whilst his unskilled labourers received £1. 0. 3d (£1.01p) a week, with a bonus for good time-keeping.

    Lord Ashton was also known to keep employees on the payroll in periods when work was slack, he paid out sums to people who were to old to work, providing they were still able to reach his works and he carried out a number of private acts of kindness.

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    Lord Ashton died at Ryelands House, Lancaster, on the 27th of May, 1930, aged 88 years. His funeral was attended by over two thousand of his employees, who marched in a procession almost a mile long, past the priory, where the service had been held, to the cemetery where Lord Ashton was buried.

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    #1 ZerO81, Apr 28, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2011

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