Friday, 30 August 2013
A Summery Of Redfern's Rubbers Works Beginnings By Thomas Middleton
I'm struggling with 'time and health' at the moment, I am on some new medication which is taking it's time to get used to. Posting will be done when and if I can, I would rather do one big posting with new pictures while I'm feeling like I do... Bare with me and hopefully normal service will be resumed. ;o)
Thomas Middleton History Of Hyde
At one time one of the largest manufacturing firms in Hyde.
The business of Redfern’s Rubber Works Ltd. Was commenced in March, 1900, by Mr Wilfred E. Redfern. His first warehouse was situated in Mount Street, Hyde, and consisted of a front room in a small building, other parts of which were occupied by a bakery and the Spiritualist church. Here Mr Redfern carried on Business in cycle tyres, pedal rubbers and other rubber sundries for the cycle trade. The business steadily progressed, and Mr Thomas C. Redfern was invited to join his brother to enable the new firm to cover a larger area, and increase its turnover. They then removed to a building in Raglan Street, and later to a warehouse in Clarendon Street.
By this time the firm had taken up the sale of rubber heels, which was at that time new in the boot trade, and it was not long before Mr Wilfred and Mr Thomas Redfern, by their enterprise and initiative, gained a foremost place in this new branch of the rubber industry. Foreseeing the tremendous possibilities of this new article of universal use, they patented several of their own inventions, and registered many special designs and trade names both at home and abroad. Up to 1905 their heels had been manufactured for them, but in 1906 they purchased Spring Bank Mill, Dawson Street Hyde with a view to manufacturing for themselves. The first Redfern’s ‘Navy’ pad was produced in Redfern’s own factory on New Year’s Eve 1907. The acquisition of this mill provided a great impetus to the activities of Messrs’ Redfern. They had ceased to be merchants, and had promoted themselves to the rank of manufacturers. Mr Thomas Redfern managed the financial and commercial side of the concern, and Mr T.C. Redfern took charge of the works, it machinery and productions. Miss Sophia Redfern was appointed to supervise the women and girls employed, and shortly afterwards Mr Arnold H. Redfern and Mr J. Arthur Redfern joined the firm.
In 1905, Redfern’s had been registered as ‘The Non-Slipping Silent Heel Co. Ltd., with a capital of £5,000, but in 1908 the nominal capital was increased to £80,000, and the name of the company changed to Redfern’s Rubber Works Ltd. As trade increased the plant and equipment of the works was steadily extended, the many innovations were introduced to increase production and reduce costs. By this time the Company had gained the reputation of being one of the most progressive rubber firms in the country. During 1910, Redfern’s embarked upon their first national advertising campaign in the newspapers and magazine with the object “ of making ‘Redfern’s’ a household word for rubber heels.” To develop the sales still further, Mr Arnold H. Redfern was appointed to London in 1911 to open the first branch depot and office at 10 Gresham St. London. Whilst the Home business was being consolidated, the Export trade was not neglected, and agents were appointed to represent the Company in many parts of the Empire and in foreign countries. International Exhibitions were utilised to introduce their goods to foreign customers; diplomas and medals being won at Liege (1905), London (1906) Milan (1906), and Turin (1911). In 1912 it was decided to manufacture cycle tyres and tubes and solid tyres for commercial vehicles. About this time the Heel department, searching for new lines, experimented with the production of waterproofed leather. This was not a success, but the experiments led to the discovery of the formula for ‘Economite’ a unique material for soleing and heeling boots and shoes which had many advantages to recommend it for general use, and which, on account of its durability and waterproof qualities, proved of immense value during the period of the war when satisfactory leather was unobtainable.
Although several additions had already been made to the original mill, the continued growth of the Rubber Heel business and the preparations necessary for the manufacture of ‘Economite’ and of tyres called for still more buildings and plant. After careful consideration, a new mill was was erected at the top of Dawson Street, between the original mill and the railway. This building was equipped with the most modern plant for the manufacture of solid and pneumatic tyres and tubes. The Company had now become to large for the Redfern family themselves to finance, and in March, 1913, it was converted into a Public Limited Company. In October, 1913, the capital of the Company was increased to £100, 000 to provide additional money required for the new buildings and plant and still further improvements. During this period an Engineers’ Shop was installed to enable the Company to do its own running repairs to plant and machinery, and to make the moulds required for the variety of articles now being produced.
Before Redfern’s could get their tyres on the market, the upheaval of trade caused by the Great War broke upon them, and for the moment it appeared as though all their labours would be in vain, and their hopes dashed to pieces. The new mill, now completed and equipped, was offered to the Government for the manufacture of solid tyres and car tubes for the army, and throughout the war the factory was working at full capacity producing these and other important articles under Government supervision. They made large quantities of mouth pieces for gas masks, respiratory tubes, ‘Ebonite’ rims, swimming collars, and soles and heels for trench boots, and knee and thigh strap for waders. The firm took a prominent part in the formation of the Hyde War Savings Association, and encouraged their work-people to buy the Certificates. The splendid total of £34,130 was invested in the Certificates through Redfern’s “Silver Bullet League,” and the town’s effort was stimulated and encouraged by the enthusiastic example set by Redfern’s League.
To assist in the distribution of their goods, and to build up a reputation for prompt service in anticipation of substantial developments on the termination of the war, the firm opened branches at Glasgow (1914), Bristol (1918), and Leeds (1919). At the conclusion of the war, Mr T. Harwood Redfern and George Lever joined the Company, and later were elected to the Board. The necessity for up-to-date laboratory attached to the works became imperative, and Mr George Lever was deputed to equip a research department for experimental work, so that the firm might take a leading part in the development of new processes in the industry. Further extensions had been made to the works during this period. Early in 1920 the capital of Company was further increased to £200, 000.
Then came the great trade slump of 1920-22, in which Redfern’s suffered in common with the whole of British commerce. Drastic economies were affected; unprofitable departments were shut down. Then followed the closing of the Glasgow and Bristol depots. The economic upheaval which compelled these curtailments also forced the Company to redouble its efforts at home and abroad. New advertising campaigns were embarked on and a House Magazine introduced to link customers more closely to the firm. A factory was purchased at Wincham near Northwich, and production of tennis shoes and felt slippers with rubber soles was commenced there. Experiments were made in the laboratory and in the works to find new lines for manufacture to take place of the lost trade, and to keep the factory busy. Emerging from this research work, departments were established for “Tufhide” soles and heels: “Ebonite” goods for the wireless and electrical trades; advertising mats, household rubbers, rubber flooring and interlocking tiles.
In 1924 Mr T. C. Redfern retired, and Mr J.Arthur Redfern was appointed Works Managing Director to fill the vacancy.
On October 22nd 1926, H.R.H. The Princess Helena Victoria, G.B.E. honoured the works with a visit, and graciously accepted a gift of rubber table mats as a souvenir of the occasion.
The enlargements of the Company’s activities and the Company’s activities and the constant search for new lines to make and sell as progressively broadened the base of its operations. From being solely manufacturers of rubber heels and soles, the firm is now established as General Rubber manufacturers. They employed hundreds of workers at their Hyde factory and at Wincham, in addition to a large number of salesmen and depot staff in other parts of the country.
Please feel free to comment with your memories of Redferns, and maybe fill in some of the history not covered.