Winterbottom's Wire Mill

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Historical Notes
Walk Mill in Oxspring had for many years been a Fulling Mill. The process of fulling, also known as tucking or walking, is described as a step in woollen cloth-making which involves the cleansing of cloth (particularly wool) to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. In Roman times, fulling was conducted by slaves working the cloth while ankle deep in tubs of human urine, perhaps in the fashion of crushing grapes for wine-making. This might explain the name of 'Walk Mill'.

Walk Mill was set low down in the valley by the River Don, quite close to the spring in the name of Oxspring and it used water (and later water power) from the River Don. In 1306 Robert de Oxspring had granted part of this mill to Henry de Rockley and further references appear in records from the sixteenth century onwards.

In 1849, Messrs Ingham and Bower conveyed stone from Walk Mill bank by a tramway on the side of the River Don, to build Penistone Viaduct. George Winterbottom took Walk Mill over and converted it into a wire mill in 1888. According to Grace's Guide (Butterworth's) a 30 HP horizontal steam engine was supplied by Butterworth's to Winterbottom's Oxspring Wire Mill, Thurgoland, South Yorkshire. Grace's Guide must be a decade out, as the note gives the date as the 1870s. George Watkins commented that 'The engine was the simplest possible, but the cylinder was a superb piece of foundry art'.

As a wiremill, it specialised in the production of wire for needles and fish hooks from the beginning. Most of the steel arrived by rail from Sheffield, to continue its journey from Penistone Railway Station to Oxspring by horse-drawn cart. George's two sons carried on the business until the late 1920s, after which it passed to the three grandsons, who continued until the 1950s. As the sons had no issue, control was extended to include nephews and in-laws.

The company was taken over by Eadie Brothers, an engineering company in Paisley, Scotland (Est. 1871, E Bros). After tense negotiations in 1970, the company was finally administered by the Scottish company but continued under the same management as before. The centenary of the Mill was celebrated while it was still busy in 1988.

In 2001 a management buy-out returned Winterbottom's Wire Mill to private ownership, trading as Wintwire. A range of mostly small businesses moved into units on the site, most notably John Donnachie Roofing & Building Contractors and Eskia Computers (which moved to Spring Vale).

Background to the Notes
The following historical notes come from a history of the wiremill which was drawn up by someone who was best placed to research the history of the company as a long-serving secretary of the mill and descendant of the Winterbottom family. This was to celebrate the centenary of the company from 1888 to 1988.

The author of the history is the late Mrs Margaret Marsh (nee Winterbottom), who was the great grand-daughter of the founder of Winterbottom wiredrawers - George Winterbottom. She passed away in July 2014. Margaret, had she been asked, would have gladly given people access to read her centenary book, a copy of which may be viewed on Market Days in the Penistone Archive at the Community Centre.

The Text in Full:


GEORGE WINTERBOTTOM the founder of the firm of Winterbottom (Wiredrawers) Ltd. was the son of Daniel Winterbottom, who was born in 1793 and died in 1848. George Winterbottom was one of six children, and was born in Barnsley in 1828.

He commenced his working life at the age of 12 years as an apprentice Wiredrawer for a firm named Horsfalls, who, at that time, had a Mill between Market Hill and Graham's Orchard in Barnsley. Before reaching the age of 20 years, Mr. Horsfall left him in charge of the mill, whilst he paid a visit to America, and, on his return, Mr. Horsfall gave him a letter commending him on looking after the Works; this letter is still in existence.

George Winterbottom was married at the age of 24 years, and about this time, left to work at a Wire mill on the other side of the town in the Dearne Valley, which was owned by a family called Cockers. Descendants of this firm are still in existence, running Works in Sheffield. His stay at Cockers must have been of short duration, due to the fact that his family of five children were all born at Ringinglow where he had become a Partner in a firm producing wire. Records show that he was in partnership with a Mr. Cook of Hathersage; this partnership was dissolved, and he took another partner by the name of Marsh. There are doubts as to how successful these associations were, as he finally left Ringinglow and came back to Barnsley to the previous firm of Horsfalls, where his sons WILLIAM JOLLEY and ARTHUR Winterbottom were also employed.

It was during this time that William Jolley married Martha Walmsley, who was living and working in a shop near to the Mill in Market Hill, Barnsley. They had five children, and these included all the recently retired Directors - George Arthur, Ernest William, Frank and Harry Austin Winterbottom.

Having had a friendly association with the founder of Samuel Fox & Co. of Stocksbridge over a number of years, and having discussed his problems with him, Mr. Fox offered to finance a new beginning, which was accepted, and a small Mill was taken at Dodworth. The only stipulations made were that all wire which was drawn would be bought from Samuel Fox & Co.

George Winterbottom finally left Dodworth, and came to Oxspring in 1888, bringing with him his family, including his sons and grandsons. The premises at Oxspring were taken on a lease, and were rented. From this time, they set about gathering established Wiredrawers, and looking for outlets for wire, particularly in the Kedditch area. It was in the year 1895 that C. F. Milward of Redditoh were looking for a supply of wire for Making into needle blanks, and in 1896 the association which continued until 1955 was confirmed, and the agreement signed. The value of the fittings at the time owned by George Winterbottom was assessed at £900, and to this Milwards added another £900, bringing the share capital between the two equal, the firm to continue trading in the name of G. Winterbottom & Co.

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The Mill was then quite small, and was driven entirely by water power. A strong-hand Steam Engine was purchased in 1896, and this was installed and worked successfully until 1954/5. George Winterbottom died in 1905, and the control of the Mill was passed to his sons William Jolley and Arthur Winterbottom. It would seem that the business thrived, since the outlet of wire, due to the association with Milwards was assured. The firm increased in size very little from this time, due to the policy laid down by the Milward section of the Company.

William Jolley died in 1926, and the control of the Company was mainly in the hands of his sons and brother Arthur. It was at this period that Charles Milward (the son of the first partner) stipulated that the property should, if possible, be bought. Negotiations were conducted by George Wilby, Auctioneer and Valuer, who persuaded the Executors of Thornley Taylor (the owner of the buildings and surrounding area) to sell the property. The outcome of this was that the Mill was purchased outright, and became the sole property of Messrs. G. Winterbottom & Co. Following this, the firm passed through a difficult period during the depression years, and it was not until 1936/7 that things began to improve; but from then until 1950, the factory was extremely busy.

Arthur Winterbottom died in the year 1947 when management affairs passed completely into the hands of George Arthur, Ernest Wm. and Frank Winterbottom. This period saw a marked change in the Redditch Needle trade in that Hilwards Fish Hooks had previously changed their name to The English Needle & Fishing Tackle Co. Ltd., and had begun to absorb still more needle manufacturers in Redditch. They changed their name yet again to Needle Industries Ltd., built a factory in Studley, and incorporated a new Wiredrawing Hill. This had a catastrophic effect on Winterbottom (Wiredrawers) Ltd. in that, on the occasion of the first recession after the war, there was insufficient work to keep both Wire Manufacturers busy. The outcome was that the Winterbottom section was left completely without work.

In the year 1953, the Partnership was completely dissolved, whereupon three new Directors were incorporated - Harry Austin Winterbottom, S. Hinchliffe and Harold Harsh who, in addition to the three remaining brothers, G.A., E.W. and F. Winterbottom, began trading on a far more universal basis. Alterations in the processes of wire manufacturing were made, which increased the output, and lowered the cost of production. The steam engine was dismantled; electric power was installed; electric annealing took the place of the old bee-hive coal-fired annealing furnaces, and much progress was made.

By the year 1963, prosperity had returned to the firm; outlets for material had increased one-hundredfold: and the Winterbottom reputation for good material was again established.

'1st March. 1971'

Sid Hinchliffe
This is a leaving do for Sidney Hinchcliffe's retirement from Winterbottoms.He is shown receiving his presentation from Dennis Eadie, who owned the parent company in Paisley, Scotland. Sidney ran the company with Harold Marsh for many years and Harold can also be seen in the picture.

Sydney's daughter, Joan Kastendick, sent a message that she was pleasantly surprised to find her dad's picture on this page. As regards the dog, Joan said: 'The dog in the Winterbottom's picture is Badger' which came from a farm behind Wortley, but I can’t remember the year.' Sidney bred dahlias on an island in the river Don by Winterbottom's and named one after his dog. There had also been two other gold and white dogs called 'Bitsa'.

Leaving doLeaving GatheringDog

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