Future loomed bright for mill

At the beginning of the last century employees at Cooke's mill were handed a commemorative booklet to mark over 100 years of carpet production at the company.

It is not known how many of these booklets were produced, or whether every worker received one, but it is safe to say that there will be very few which survived the next 100 years.

However one which did, has been loaned to the Guardian and Herald by Kathleen Crawshaw of Hartshead, whose late husband's great-grandfather William Jowett was a manager there.

William's sons, Edward and William (junior) followed him into the business, and although Kathleen's husband Harry did not follow suit, their daughter Gillian did, working in the laboratory until it closed down.

At the time the book was written, the company had already been in existence for 113 years, having been founded in 1795 by Kidderminster-born William Peabody Cooke, and the company stayed in the hands of the Cooke family until 1926 when it was bought by BMK Carpets of Kilmarnock.

One hundred years ago there was no more thriving industrial district than the Spen Valley - and the largest of the valley's three townships was Liversedge, in which Cooke's was ideally located.

The original mill - shown in the print with Spen Beck babbling by - was eventually replaced by the larger mill complex, most of which survives today.

The spinning mills section (also pictured) which stood art the corner of Frost Hill and Huddersfield Road was demolished at the end of last year.

Cooke's original workers were hand-loom weavers, with the last of them pensioned off in 1906 having served for over 50 years.

But the firm's success lay largely in its ability to combine the experience of its loyal workforce with embracing change and staying at the cutting edge of new technology.

"It suffices to say that the firm of Cooke, Sons and Co Ltd, during the long period of its existence, has always kept pace with every improvement in every class of machinery they use," says the booklet's author.

The reader is taken through a written and pictorial tour of the works, from the design stage, through to the raw wool stock room containing the best quality wool from all four corners of the world.

The booklet then passes through the woollen yarn scribbling and carding departments, worsted carding, worsted spinning, the dyehouse, the looms and finally the "passing" room where every inch of carpet was inspected by experienced hands to ensure there were no faults in the finished article.

Such was the quality of the carpets produced by Cooke's that a large mat, made for the Vienna Exhibition, was considered by the British Commissioner to be such a magnificent representation of the Royal Arms that he ordered it to be hung on the walls, so that no-one could walk on the Lion and the Unicorn.

While the company's main works was in Millbridge, there were additional premises in Hadleigh, Suffolk (which was a cocoa mat and matting factory) and in London (the main distribution centre)."

* Next week. More pictures and memories from people who worked at Cooke’s from the war years until 1980 .