Bulbourne Mantle Factory
In 1899 Messrs Hughes, Hawkins and Co opened a business in the town manufacturing ladies’ coats, costumes and cloaks (a mantle in this instance being a loose overcoat or cloak, rather than a gas mantle). The firm’s workshop was originally in premises on the High Street that had been occupied by coachbuilders, Pethybridge, and subsequently Pocock, on the site upon which Callard House now stands. The original workshop soon proved to be inadequate and in 1902 the business moved to a new factory on Lower Kings Road which James Honour & Son of Tring had been engaged to build. Although called the Bulbourne Factory, it was generally known as the mantle factory.
Large numbers of local women were employed at the factory making women’s and children’s clothing. The business grew rapidly. Loosley’s Directory for 1903 noted “It is capable of holding 300 hands, and about that number of people, chiefly girls, are now employed there.” The factory was sold in 1919 to Corby, Palmer and Stewart who further expanded the business and between the First and Second World wars between 750 and 800 people, mainly women, worked at the factory. Women who worked at the factory came not just from Berkhamsted, but from further afield including other local towns and villages. Numerous advertisements can be found in local newspapers of the time advertising vacancies at the factory.
Working conditions were good; this was no sweat shop. The Advertiser and Times reported in 1902 that “Mantle-making takes place in an enormous chamber, beautifully lighted and the busy hum of 180 girls reminds one of a huge swarm of bees.”
An advertisement of job vacancies at the factory published in the Bucks Herald in 1926 provides us with the following information:
“The workrooms are lofty, well ventilated, and well lighted, so that work is carried out under the best possible hygienic conditions. A large dining hall, canteen and rest rooms are provided, and dinners are obtainable at a cost of 6d per day.
The working week is one of 47 ½ hours, and the following attractive rates of pay are offered to beginners:- 14 years of age, 11s per week; 15 years 3 ¼ d per hour; 16 years 4d;17 years 4 ¾ d; 18 years 5 ¼d, with the opportunity for the last-mentioned of rising to 7d per hour. Bus tickets are issued by Messrs Corby Palmer and Stewart at the special price of 5s per week. A bus leaves Aylesbury for Berkhamsted at 6.30 a.m.
Immediate application should be made to the Bulborne Factory, Berkhamsted”.
Annual staff trips were provided. In 1905 “The employees at the Bulbourne Mantle Factory in Lower Kings-Road had a very enjoyable drive to Bricket Wood. The outing, being favoured by fine weather, was enjoyed by all who took part in it.” (Bucks Herald, August 1905.) Employees were also able to join a factory sports club. Land was rented at the Cow Roast which was purchased by the company in 1938 for the use of the 200 members of the sports club. (Bucks Examiner, May 1938.)
With so many young women working in the factory, it became difficult for those looking to employ domestic servants to find suitable candidates. The Advertiser & Times, reported as early as March 1902 that “The effect of such enterprises upon the labour supply of the district may be in the selection of domestic servants.”
Work continued at the factory until closure at Christmas 1969, following a takeover of the factory by Dennis Day Ltd. The factory was demolished and the site became a car park. Waitrose moved into its present premises in 1996 built on part of the car park, and recently a multi storey car park has been built on the remainder of the site.
Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to Bulbourne Mantle Factory
13 burials are found — click on a burial below to find out more: