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Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

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Industrialisation in Clementhorpe

This section provides a broad overview of the industrial development of Clementhorpe. A detailed description of the main industries follows.

Industrial Development in York

By the mid-nineteenth century York's industrial economy consisted mainly of railway engineering and servicing, flax-dressing and spinning, comb-making, leather-currying, bone-crushing, glass-making, glove and mustard-making. There was also some chemical manufacture and coffee-roasting[1].  Cheaper coal had not really encouraged the development of major manufacturing industries in the City, as might have been expected. Rather, the York economy was mainly geared to servicing the needs of its inhabitants and those of the surrounding area.

The Table below provides some information on York industries in 1841:


No. of Companies

Total Workforce

Glass manufacture



Flax and linen manufacture



Iron manufacture



Chemists and druggists



Comb manufacture




Not only were the employment totals small, but the average size of the companies was even less noteworthy. Coach makers averaged 18.5 workers; leather processors and manufacturers 4; engineering companies 11; printing 7; whitesmiths [metal products, often using tin] 3, cabinet makers and upholsterers 5. “Clearly, York had signally failed to attract modern, large-scale, progressive industry; in a word, the direct effects of the Industrial Revolution had passed it by.”[2] It would seem that York had no particular attraction for industry – it was not on a coalfield or the coast, nor did it have access to water power.

“In the years immediately before the first railway arrived the city’s condition had been stagnant, even declining. Thereafter, down to 1914, it slowly improved. The railways contributed to that change substantially. Their greatest service was to provide constant work, on an increasingly large scale.”[3]

The first railway arrived in York in 1839.

“Virtually from their inception the railways became York's biggest single employer, introducing into the city for the first time the conditions of large-scale factory working.”[4] The coming of the railways certainly gave York’s population a boost, albeit only really after 1851. In 1841 there were just 41 railway employees in the City, but by 1851 the figure had risen to 513, 76% of whom were immigrants, bringing in a large number of dependents. These workers included 'footplate' men, guards, labourers, porters, and station officials, together with those employed in administration and hotels. In addition, there were the employees of the railway works after its establishment in 1842 for the repair of engines. By 1855 1,200 men were employed in the station and the nearby railway works. The wagon works were extended in 1864, and again in 1875 to cover an area of almost 6.5 hectares. By the end of the nineteenth century the railways employed 5,500 workers in York, about half of whom were in the carriage works. Around a third of the workers were skilled craftsmen.

Follow these links

Early Nineteenth Century Industrial Development of Clementhorpe

Later Nineteenth Century Industrialisation of Clementhorpe

Twentieth Century Industrialisation of Clementhorpe

[1] Handbook of York, Royal Agricultural Society, 1848.

[2] Alan Armstrong, Stability and Change in an English Country Town, based on the 1841 Census.

[3] The Railway in Town and Country 1830-1914, Jack Simmons, July 1985.

[4] Victoria County History, British History Online, 1961.