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The Spring Factory, Kirkby in Ashfield

Spring factory at East Kirkby in the 1950’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

Stage 5

The Spring Factory

Next to the old railway station on Station Street was Factory Road, now called Portland Street. In the 1960’s the factory was known locally as ‘The Spring Factory’. The Kirkby Seating Company made springs and frames for car seats. Previously the site belonged to the Walkers Hosiery factory. Hosiery was the production of stockings, socks and woven underwear. Like coal mining and the railways, hosiery manufacture provided local work in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Spring Factory workers in the early 1960s

Spring Factory workers in the early 1960s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

In later years, the Spring factory belonged to the Lace Webb Seating Company and closed in the mid 1960’s, appearing on many photos of Kirkby from the period.

‘In 1948 I worked at the Kirkby Seating Company also known as the Spring Factory… I assembled the springs and framework in car seats with cars such as the Ford…and earned very little, 5d for each seat…The majority of people who worked there were women. Married men were usually involved in transport and carrying objects around the factory’

 

Source: Arthur Timms in Kirkby: A Peoples History, 2002

 

Station Street with the Spring Factory (formerly Walkers) dominating. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

Station Street with the Spring Factory (formerly Walkers) dominating. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

Spring Factory Workers 1960s

Spring factory employee’s in the 1960’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

Excerpts from local newspaper report about the demolition of the spring factory in 1966. 

Walkers factory… was built as a hosiery factory long before nylon stockings were thought of. When it closed it was taken over by Kirkby Seating Company who specialised in making car seats. For several years it had been empty, becoming derelict and an eyesore in Station Street, one of the main thoroughfares through the town. Last year it was purchased by Kirkby Council for £8000…

Although the exact date of the building is not known, it must have been built close on 100 years ago for the land was sold, presumably for the building of it in 1853. Then the factory and premises were conveyed from Mr William Walker, the first owner to William Walker and Sons. For years the name William Walker and Son, printed in massive letters on the Factory Road side of the building was painted over and over again by Mr. George Bowmar of Station Street.

The factory was not without its trials and in the early years there was a strike. During that time workers paraded through the town bearing an effigy reported to be that of the founder William Walker, and the story goes that they burned it near the Market Hall.

One of the leaders of the strike was the late Mr George Shacklock who never obtained his job back at the factory, but that must have been for his benefit for he eventually moved to the Kirkby Co-operative Society where he became secretary. The number of workers at the factory was reduced considerably when it was found the top floor was not able to support the heavy machinery safely.

Mr Walker lived at 1, Station Road, next door to the factory. He was a great friend of the late Mr. John Pickard, headmaster of Diamond Avenue School, and both were church wardens.