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Post by Stanley » 08 Jun 2018, 06:36


Mention cooperative round here and everyone's mind homes in on the retail movement that gave every town a 'Co-op' and in Barlick the modern Pioneer Store. What is less well remembered is that cooperation was a movement that extended far beyond retailing groceries, there are other examples under our noses and one of them is Sough Bridge Mill. Coincidentally this reminds me of a man I have always considered to be a forgotten hero.....
I have to say right away that I don’t know exactly when Sough mill was built. It isn’t on the 1853 OS map and all I have are two entries in Barrett’s Directories for 1887 and 1896 noting that Nathan Smallpage and Son were cotton manufacturers there. Bracewell Hartley and Company are cited as being at Sough in the 1902 Barrett. Fred Inman told me that up to 1930 Joe Foulds had looms in Sough and Nutter Brothers had most of the shed. In 1932 the Nutter Brothers interests collapsed and over 4,000 looms stopped in Earby. This was a disaster for the town but ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’.
Nutter Brothers had the whole of Grove Shed in Earby up to the liquidation and the manager and Manchester Man was called Wilkinson. He had an assistant called Percy Lowe and in 1979 Horace Thornton told me that he was a good man and trained an even better one in Percy. When Nutter Brothers went under, Percy Lowe inaugurated a scheme whereby weavers could buy their looms for £2 each and start up as cooperative enterprises. One started in Victoria Mill and another one at Sough where the weavers traded from June 1932 as Nutters (Kelbrook) Ltd. It looks as though either Nutter Brothers rescued something from the crash or their name was taken by a cooperative because the 1938 directory records Nutter Brothers as having 1,152 looms in Grove Shed.
Because they were a self-help shed, the Sough firm carried on trading through the 1932 strikes over wage reductions of 10%. 7,000 workers were out in Barlick, Earby and Skipton and 80% of the mills between Skipton and Preston were stopped. These were hard times in the cotton industry and the first permanent closures started, the biggest being at Bankfield Shed in Barlick which never wove again. The self-help firm in Sough Mill survived until at least 1938, Worrall’s directory records them as having 520 looms and H Lord was secretary. The cooperative venture in Victoria mill had a different fate. By 1938 their 870 looms had been bought out by what was then called Johnsons Fabrics Ltd and the manager, secretary and salesman was Percy Lowe. They wove on until 2000.
What strikes me about all this is that Percy is directly responsible for large scale weaving surviving in Earby long after the rest of the industry had sunk without trace and it all started with cooperation. In 1932 he saw a way forward when everyone else was panicking. Truly the right man at the right time and we should not forget him.


Sough Bridge Mill in modern times.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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