Sunday, 15 February 2015

Grudgings the Needle-makers

The needle-makers of Loughborough

A couple of weeks ago you may remember I posted a couple of articles on needle-making and promised you a blog post on one specific Loughborough company of needle-makers, but before I introduce you to that family, here's a quick update on other needle-making firms that appeared in the 1872 Loughborough street directory:

  • Thomas Armstrong in Pinfold Gate and at 11 Leicester Road
  • J T & C Grudgings at 7 Woodgate and on Packe Horse Lane
  • W Hammond Bearded Needles & Sons, one factory on Havelock Street (factory demolished in the 1960s was on the site of the current Goods Yard Close) and another on Bridge Street, on the corner of Limehurst Avenue opposite the former Fire Station (now ATS Euromaster) and Bridge Street, probably demolished in the 1980s, though left derelict for sometime
  • William Hubbard in Union Street (now the tiniest little cul-de-sac off Ashby Road, opposite the Old English Gentleman pub)
  • There is also another potential needle-making factory, as yet unidentified (by me, at least) along the jetty leading from Duke Street to Meadow Lane, which in 1925 could be W & W Hubbard  
There are, of course, other trades related to the hosiery industry and needle-making but let's get back to the Grudgings!

The Grudgings family had at least three needle-making factories in Loughborough:
  • on Woodgate/Packe Horse Lane (opened in 1850-1 and certainly around in 1872) 
  • School Street (J T & C Grudgings - being Josiah, Thomas and Charles Cross) 
  • and Albert Street (Daniel & Bros.).

Grudgings, now GTG Engineering, Albert Street

If you've read my previous posts you'll know that the Albert Street factory is still standing and is used by GTG Engineering, a company which was established as long ago as 1959, and provides "precision engineering, mechanical testing and metallurgical specimens and equipment to the aerospace and allied industries."

Grudgings, now The Needleworks, on School Street
The other two factories have disappeared, one on Woodgate - with an entrance also on Packe Horse Lane - at number 7 Woodgate, next door to the Marquis Of Granby pub, which was on the opposite corner of Packe Horse Lane from the Old Packe Horse Inn (now the Organ Grinder) - and the other being partially demolished and re-built as flats (28 School Street).

The Grudgings family who owned and worked in needle-making factories in Loughborough originated from Ratby, where Daniel Grudgings (let's call him senior) was in the needle-making trade (as was his father, also Daniel). His son, also Daniel (let's call him junior), moved to Desford and took needle-making there, and some of his sons brought the work to Loughborough, and created the Grudgings needle-making factories mentioned above. Years later, one of Daniel junior's grandsons took needle-making to Kegworth.

Between 1871 and 1881, members of the Grudgings family, either needle-masters, or needle-makers, were living in various dwellings in Loughborough, including numbers 1 & 2 Albert Street, number 4 Albert Place, number 8 Bedford Street (which appears to be on the end of the terraced houses, exactly where Browns Lane now cuts through), 2 Southfield Road, and 58 Woodgate (approximately where the Print House is). In later years, members of the family can be found living on Paget Street, Herrick Road (numbers 116 & 118), Beacon Road (numbers 14 and 20), 40 Moor Lane, 32a Cobden Street, 2 Corporation Road (no longer standing), 234 Forest Road (no longer standing), and more recently Charnwood Road.

Charnwood Road
116 & 118 Herrick Road

These days we probably struggle to conceive of the number of needles that would actually need to be made in order to support the hosiery industry: Needle-making was a skill and in high demand, as Loughborough and the surrounding area were major areas of hosiery production. Now, I'm no expert on the hosiery industry of the past, so I'm not sure whether they would have been producing latch needles or bearded needles, although, given that another firm, Hammonds, were publicised as bearded needle-makers I'm erring on the side of the bearded variety.

I do have it on good authority that if you were an engineer maintaining one of these hosiery making machines, you would be sure to wear a suitable boiler suit as, clambering under the machines you would come out covered in needles! And, if you worked on the milling machine, you needed to be careful not to get the beards caught in your fingers: They hurt and were very hard to get out!

In later years, the Grudgings family branched out from needle-making, so in the late-nineteenth century, early-twentieth century, we find school teachers (one at Cobden Street), in 1901 a trainee teacher was boarding on Uppingham Road, Leicester, also shoemakers, iron workers and I'm sure many of us will remember Grudgings tobacconist and confectioners who last traded on Swan Street.

Regarding the fortunes that were made in the Grudgings' needle-making enterprises, Daniel senior died in 1870 leaving under £100. Daniel junior died in 1876 and left effects under £450. Charles Cross Grudgings who died in 1918 left £5658 5s. 6d..

In 1871 there seems to have been some kind of industrial dispute, which may or may not have included the Grudgings needle-makers. on Tuesday October 17th, 1871, the Birmingham Daily Post reported:

"Strikes in the hosiery trade. The strike amongst the hosiery needle-makers of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire still continues, with no prospect of a settlement at present. The master needle-makers will not acceded to the demands of the journeymen, which must cause great inconvenience to the hosiery manufacturers generally, if a speedy settlement does not take place. The men still remain firm in their demand, and it is stated do not intend to resume work until their demand is complied with."

I would like to end this post by mentioning that at least three members of the family were involved in WW1. Henry Archer Grudgings, son of Daniel (himself grandson of Daniel senior), born in 1892 died in battle on 13th May 1915, aged 23. William, also a great-grandson of Daniel senior, an elementary school teacher, joined the war in 1916, and survived. His story is currently being told on Twitter. Henry Ernest, also a great-grandson of Daniel senior via a different line, was a Gunner in the Royal Artillery and also survived the First World War.

I would like to thank a number of people for their help with my research including (but any factual inaccuracies, spelling and grammar mistakes are all down to me rushing as usual):

Stephen, Tony, Ray, Steve, Rob, Roy, Ernie, Margaret, Karen and the lovely folk at the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch.

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