Clements Hall
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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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Clementhorpe Thread Mills

There were at least three businesses, the first run by Robert Henry Noddings & Co. for the manufacture of shoe threads. The second was run by John Scarr & Co. making shoe threads and spinning flax. Scarr later linked up with a man called Fletcher, and together they ran Clementhorpe Brewery and Thread Mill. Boots and shoes were often tied with waxed flax thread – possibly explaining why flax and shoe thread manufacture were carried out in the same area.

The flax spinning and thread making processes are closely linked. The flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, has a many-layered stem, and under the bark lie long fibres that can be spun into various products. In order to access the fibres, the woody bark and the inner pith have to be separated by soaking in water and rotting through a process known as ‘retting’. Once released, the fibres can be spun into linen thread, cordage and twine. Linen thread can then be used to make linen textiles.


Clementhorpe Iron Foundry

This was more correctly known as Calvert’s Iron Foundry. Messrs. George John Calvert & Co started up as ironmongers in 1854, initially from premises in Parliament Street. By 1858 they were in operation at Clementhorpe and Tanner’s Moat as iron founders and engineers.

The business seems to have had a run of bad luck, or poor management. The Yorkshire Gazette of 26 June 1858 described how: “On Monday last, about four o’clock, the premises of Messrs. Calvert and Son, ironfounders, situate at Clementhorpe, in this city were discovered to be on fire.” On 31 August 1861 the Yorkshire Gazette reported a severe accident at Calvert’s Iron Works. “James Tasker living in Navigation Road…He was assisting in lifting an iron girder weighing 7cwt upon a waggon when the girder slipped.”

In 1860 the company won a large contract to build an iron railway bridge, of above 700 feet span, over the Thames near Chelsea. The amount of the contract was £30,060. Further contracts included the West London Extension Railway, a railway station and iron saw mill in South America and a ‘Crystal Palace’ for Amsterdam.

But, the bad news continued. By 1862 they faced bankruptcy, with liabilities exceeding £100,000, and the works closed.

"Gentlemen - We are under the painful necessity of informing you that we are no longer able to meet our engagements. Acting under the advice of some of our principal creditors, we have placed our books in the hands Messrs. Cooper Brothers and Co., accountants, of London, who will forthwith prepare a statement of our affairs, to be submitted meeting of creditors, to be held at the Guildhall Coffee House, King Street, Cheapside, London, on Monday next, the 27th instant, at three o'clock precisely, at which request the favour of your attendance.

We are, gentlemen, your very obedient servants,

G.J. Calvert & Co."[1]

In 1865 there was a report that the vacant factory would be reopened for the manufacture of patent nails. However, the works lay in the path of the new Skeldergate Bridge, and was demolished.

Calvert & Locking were the ironwork suppliers for the first Lendal Bridge in 1861. Unfortunately, this collapsed and had to be replaced in 1863.

The 26 June 1858 edition of the York Herald described the foundry of Messrs. Calvert, ironfounders, as lying near to the River Ouse with a building some 200 feet long. The Leeds Intelligencer on the same day described how a fire had broken out in the centre storey of the three-floor building which was devoted to the modelling process.

The York Herald of 21 June 1862 announced the bankruptcy of Messrs. Calvert and Co. of York. ‘We [Calverts] occupied a foundry in Clementhorpe, which was at one time a brewery, where we laid out some £400 in furnaces, and making the place tenantable for foundry.”

In 1862, known as G. J. Calvert & Co., they went into receivership after a few years of trading. The immediate reason for ceasing trading was said to be the failure a large contract with a French railway company, for iron chairs. Debts exceeded the value of their assets, not helped by the collapse of the newly built Lendal Bridge. The company, at that time, employed 600 workers, but many of these were on contracts outside York. The directors stated that: “A portion of these, viz., those at York, of course will be thrown out of employment, though we hope only for a short time.”

On 26 June 1862 the assets were auctioned off at The Black Swan Hotel on Coney Street. The auction notice read:

“YORK. EXTENSIVE FREEHOLD FOUNDRY AND IRON WORKS, AND OTHER PROPERTY, TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, by MESSRS. HARDWICKS & BEST, (by order of the Assignees of Messrs. George John Calvert, Edward Calvert, George Henry Locking, and Francis Calvert, of the City of York, Iron founders, Bankrupts), on THURSDAY, the 26th day of June, 1862, the Black Swan Hotel, Coney Street, York, Two o'Clock in the Afternoon…”

The assets in Clementhorpe were described as : “Large Foundry, capacious Chair Foundry[2] (with iron roadways) and Smiths’ Shop in same building with Fires complete; Engine House, Boiler Machine Shops, Fitting Shop, Tinners’ Shop, Erecting Shop, Smiths’ Shop, Rivit House, Paint Shop, Joiners’ Shops and Offices, Stores therein; sets of Offices, consisting of Time Keeper’s Office, General Manager’s Office, Cashier’s Office, Private Office, and Clerks’ Office. Also a dwelling house, stabling, Loose Box, Shed and very spacious Yards.”

The sale included a large amount of machinery and equipment, including 80 yards of tramway steam engines and cranes. The premises were said to cover 11,800 square yards, with a frontage onto Clementhorpe and the River Ouse. Also of interest here is the fact that the sales notice drew attention to: “Extensive frontage to the River Ouse, and is within convenient distance of the Railway Station, and thus possesses the great advantage of both Land and Water carriage, and its extent and situation render exceedingly eligible for carrying on a large Business.”

The 30 August edition of the 1862 Yorkshire Gazette advertised the sale of “All that foundry, called The Chair or Lower Foundry…together with the Smith’s Shop in the same building.”

The Yorkshire Gazette of 13 September 1862 announced an auction of Clementhorpe Iron Works. This valuable chair foundry and related buildings would be sold by Messrs. Hardwicks. The same auction was announced in the York Herald of 21 June, “All those very extensive premises , situate in Clementhorpe, in the City of York, being the Foundries and Works late in the occupation of the said Bankrupts.”


Clementhorpe Nail Works

Nails were made in Clementhorpe at different times and locations. They were made as a side business by the pub landlords, but two more serious business concerns were reported in 1867 – the Patent Nail Company of Clementhorpe and the Birmingham and North of England Nail Co Ltd of Clementhorpe. On 2 March 1867 the Yorkshire Gazette reported that the old iron foundry in Clementhorpe was occupied by a limited liability company for manufacturing nails. The business was said to be “vigorously carried on.”

It is interesting to reflect on the importance of nails at this time. Nails were needed to construct wooden buildings, machinery and fencing, as well as to hold horseshoes in place.

The Yorkshire Gazette of 15 June 1867 records a coroner’s court at The Slip Inn. A 22-year old employee of the Clementhorpe Nail Company had met with a fatal accident. This was probably Henry Whitehead, a whitesmith, whose death on 10 June by drowning appears in the Cemetery records.

The York Herald of 24 February 1872 announced the sale of the Clementhorpe Nail Works “in the occupation of the Birmingham and North of England Patent Forged Nail Company.” On 9 March 1872 the Northwich Guardian reported the sale of “all those valuable and extensive premise situate Clementhorpe, the city of York, known as the Clementhorpe Nail Works, and in the occupation of the Birmingham and North England Patent Forged Nail and Rivet Company.” The York Herald of 27 June 1874 reports a further attempt to sell the Nail Works, and describes them as “fronting the River Ouse.”


Clementhorpe Glass Works

This is recorded in 1879 and 1881-2 as the St. Clement’s Glass Co. Ltd. of Clementhorpe. We know that George Boston was the works manager in 1879, but the company had ceased trading before 1907.

On 20 December 1884 the York Herald referred to a general improvement in the fortunes of the glass industry, specifically mentioning Clementhorpe Glass Works where “the whole of the hands were fully employed.”

However, the premises seem to have been poorly maintained. A serious accident was reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post of 2 July 1889. John Toft, a 23 year-old glass blower of Clementhorpe Glass Works was struck when part of the roof fell in.

The company specialised in the manufacture of medicine bottles. At this time almost all liquid medicines were supplied in individually shaped and coloured bottles. Pharmacists would often market their own potions in distinctive bottles, sometimes with their name embossed in the glass.

Terry’s, located on a nearby site, manufactured a range of ‘healthy’ potions, and it is just possible that the Glass Works was trying to meet these bottling requirements. 

Clementhorpe Dye Works

There is an early reference to ‘Mr Pulleyn’s Dye Works’ in the York Herald of 20 June 1846. A Mr Henry Pulleyn appears in the 1823 Baines Directory as a Billiard Table Manufacturer. Is it possible that he was dying felt for lining the tables? Or, perhaps, the business was linked to the nearby manufacture of linen threads. Dyeing is the process of adding colours to thread or fabrics. Up until 1856, when the first synthetic dye was manufactured, the process always used natural dyes such as madder. A location on the Ouse bank would have ensured a plentiful supply of water.

  • The Leeds Intelligencer of 20 June 1846 reported the death by drowning of Thomas Kilbride, a private in the Royal Sappers and Miners. He was bathing in the River Ouse close to “Mr Pulleyn’s Dye Works.”

  • In the York Herald of 12 July 1862 there is a reference to a Thomas Williamson, general dyer of Clementhorpe. Whether he had any connection to the Pulleyn’s Dye Works remains a mystery.

The Pulleyn family was clearly not a totally happy one. On 6 October 1849 the Yorkshire Gazette reported that Mr Pulleyn, dyer, had taken his son to court for getting drunk and breaking eleven panes of glass in his workshop window.


This photograph was taken from close to the location of the Dye Works, looking across the Ouse to the Blue Bridge. The Dye Works site is currently under construction as part of the Roomzzz apart-hotel development. (Photo by John Stevens, June 2018)

[1] Railway Foundry, York, Circular of January 20 1862.

[2] A chair foundry made the ‘chairs’ for the railway system. Chairs were the iron grips that held the rails to the sleepers.