Sunday, 16 October 2016


Well, over the years I've skim read a lot of local history material, some of which I later look at again in more detail, some things I do a bit more research on, and other things I forget. Or, at least, I think I've forgotten about things, but then something happens and all becomes clear to me!

Something like this happened to me earlier this week. I had spotted an advert for a talk happening in Heanor, being presented by the Heanor & District Local History Society. I don't know why, but I thought it might be interesting to pop along and listen to a talk about a hosiery factory in Heanor, so I might compare it with what I knew about hosiery factories in Loughborough. 

Hubby used to work throughout the whole of Derbyshire, and he had taken me to Heanor twice as there is a lovely antique shop there, but he was away this particular evening, so I filled the car with petrol (I have a phobia of running low on petrol, never mind running out!), braved the sudden cold spell, typed the postcode into the satnav and headed off up the M1. About 40 minutes later I arrived in Heanor, parked the car, and then promptly got lost, and had to go and ask for directions in the local corner shop!

Eventually I found the venue, arriving about 10 minutes later than planned, but approaching I thought, no, this can't be it! In front of the reception desk was a queue, a queue for a local history talk! Looking beyond the queue into the room, I could see it was full! It wasn't a small room, but it was crammed with people who had come to hear the talk. All in all I counted about 150 people! Heanor only has a population of just over 17,000, so this was a brilliant turnout the likes of which I've never seen at a Loughborough heritage talk: maybe I just don't go to the right places in Loughborough?!

Anyway, I eventually found a seat in the crowded room and prepared to listen to a knowledgeable lady talk about the firm of I & R Morley, hosiers. 
Awaiting the talk!
They had a big factory in Heanor, and it seemed that half the population of the town worked for them I think the figure of 1200 was suggested). We were told about the origins of the firm, the working conditions and the life and death of the owners of the firm. 

It was during the middle of the talk that it suddenly dawned on me that I knew Morley's! Now, I don't think Morley's have been in their factory on Nottingham Road since I've been living in Loughborough (since 1978) or at least, not since I've been more aware of buildings etc., so I think I only remember the building being Riker, but you know the one I mean, on the Nottingham Road canal bridge, the L-shaped building with the chimney that is now 3M.

Once I'd realised why I had been attracted to the talk in the first place, I really paid very close attention to the story of the Morley family. Apparently, as well as the Loughborough and the Heanor sites, they also had factories in Nottingham, Leicester (on Bonners Lane, which is very near where I work today!), London, Paris, Daybrook, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Grenoble.

The company was established in 1795 by John Morley and his brother Richard. So the company ought to have been J and R Morley, but actually was known as I and R Morley. This was because since Elizabethan times the letters I and J were interchangeable (apparently there were only 24 letters in the Elizabethan alphabet). 

Perhaps the most prominent member of the Morley family was Samuel, born 1809, died 1886. He was the one who built up the company, such that on his death, he left about the equivalent of £93m in today's money (I think that was the figure the speaker mentioned!). He was, apparently, a good employer, which was evidenced by the fact that he paid employees when they went to war, and in his will he left money to each worker, a sum dependant upon the number of years they had worked for the company.

In common with many men of the era, Samuel Morley was a philanthropist, an abolitionist, and a member of parliament. A further point of interest (for investigation at some later date!) was that he may have worked with someone by the name of Paget. There is a statue of Samuel Morley in Nottingham Arboretum: bizarrely, I visited this park for the first time ever at the beginning of September this year when we went on a guided D H Lawrence walk around Nottingham, and I stopped and looked at this statue, but at the time had no idea who the man was, nor what his significance was! Strangely, I didn't even take a photograph of him. 

When the speaker at the talk was introducing us to Samuel Morley, she spoke of things that were happening at the time he was born: so, in 1809 the first Indian restaurant opened in London, and 1886 was the first year that coca-cola became available.

Other little snippets I picked up were that a lady called Ann Birkin who worked for Morley's, had embroidered stockings for Queen Victoria (and I have a strange feeling that I saw these earlier this year when I paid a visit to Ruddington Framework Knitter's Museum), and that it was Morley's who made the stockings for Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her marriage. The talk was quite interactive, and imagine the surprise the speaker had when someone showed her the pair of Morley stockings, still in their box, with a price label of 2/6, that they had brought with them!

So, it was a very interesting evening, and I picked up a lot of information, both about Morley's and Heanor itself. 

Here's a link to some information about a project that's been going on to discover more about Samuel Morley and his factories

Much work has been going on at Morley's Nottingham factory, which is now, partly, a gallery space run by Backlit

There are a couple of videos on youtube - interviews with Heanor people who used to work at Morley's and a film about the inspiration behind the renovation of the Nottingham factory.

Apparently, like Loughborough, Heanor used to have a cinema called the Empire, although ours still exists as The Odeon, and the car park I used was opposite the King of Prussia pub (of which there is also one near Abergavenny in Wales, where I used to live)! The street signs in Heanor were also very, very interesting:
A Heanor street sign
Here's a link to a picture on the inloughborough website of the Morley factory from the canal towpath taken in 1968. And below are some pictures of the 3M Factory today:
Approaching from Leicester along the canal towpath

From the canal towpath

Bridge Number 38, 3M to the right

Looking up from the towpath

Looking along the building from the towpath

The frontage onto Nottingham Road

A view from the opposite side of the towpath

The chimney from the opposite side towpath

From the opposite side towpath
Anyway, that's enough from me for one day!!

See you next week!

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2016). Morley's. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2016]

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