The Factory

William Walker Hosiery Factory

For many years, a large factory stood on the corner of Station Street and what was then Factory Road but is now a continuation of Portland Street. At the time of the Second World War, this was a hosiery factory, William Walker and Sons. Walkers were listed as hosiery manufacturers in the list of shops in Station Street that I have from 1942. They were also listed in the 1928 and 1941 Kelly’s Directories trading as “Reklaw”. The factory is listed as Walkers Factory Stockings on Jacques’ List of Station Street retailers circa 1920-1940.

Entry for William Walker and Sons in 1941 Kelly’s Directory

Spring Factory

It was later taken over by Kirkby Seating Company who specialised in making sprung upholstered car seats and this explains why locally it was known as the “Spring Factory“.

Advert for the Kirkby Seating Company from Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group.

Opening of the Spring Factory

I am not entirely sure when the Spring Factory opened at this location.

In a discussion on the Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, Joan Ware noted that her sister had been told that the “Walkers Spring Factory” made seats for aeroplanes during the Second World War. However, I wonder if it was still Walker’s at this point? Joan also noted that her sister recalled that the factory was used, in the 1950s, to store fruit and vegetables imported from the Commonwealth. Apparently, Joan’s sister saw her first banana here. Apparently, “going over the Pond Hole past Walkers building the doors were open“. She could not recall how long it was a warehouse.

Arthur Timms, in the book “Kirkby: A People’s History” by Kirkby Volunteer Centre (p55) notes that he was working at the Spring Factory in 1948. The My Trail website notes that this factory operated into the 1960s. The website notes that, in later years. the factory belonged to the Lace Webb Seating Company.

The Spring Factory Closed at This Location

I am also not entirely sure when the Spring Factory closed at this location. According to the My Trail website, this was in the mid-sixties. When it did, the business re-located to a factory on Queen’s Street off Lindley’s Lane. It appears to have closed there in 1967.

I am not sure which factory closure this is referring to but Michael Richardson noted that “when the Spring factory closed, a mass of springs were dumped into a sand quarry that was between the Tesco on Low Moor road and the existing football ground at the rear of Marlborough Rd. The quarry was subsequently filled in and is now a small industrial site. It was a lovely sand quarry, with a pond at the bottom and I can remember Sand Martins nesting in the quarry.

Managing and Working for the Spring Factory

In a comment on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, Carol Harrison noted that her father, Eric Harrison, had been manager of the spring factory for several years including in 1961. She did not recall which of the two factory locations he managed.

Arthur Timms recalled his experiences of working at the Spring Factory in the book “Kirkby: A People’s History” by Kirkby Volunteer Centre (p55). He notes that this was in 1948. He was employed assembling the springs and framework in car seats. For this work, he was paid per seat, 5d for a front seat and 9d for a back seat. He noted that, as a young lad, he did not take work that seriously so only made about 24 seats per day. However, he recalled a married man, with a family to support, completing about 40 seats per day. He also noted that most of the employees were women.

Built in the 1860s?

Based on an article at the time of its demolition, the date the factory was built was not known but it was thought to be the 1860s as the land for it had been purchased in 1853.

Article from the Notts Free Press in February 1966 – Image Source: Kirkby Living Memory. The article documents the demolition of the Walkers’ hosiery factory which is pictured. The same picture features on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group with a second photo (below) featuring a later stage of the demolition.

Other Photographs

The photograph above appears in the book “Kirkby & District from Old Photographs” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee (p104). There is another in their other book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection” (p97). The photograph above also appears, with a description of working there, in the Kirkby Volunteer Centre book “Kirkby A People’s History“ (p55). The factory is also described by Mark Ashfield in “Christmas Pigs and a Summer Donkey” (p23).

This photograph, from the fifties, is looking towards Walker’s factory with the Festival Hall to the left. The photo is from the My Trail website and is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre. It also appears on the Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group.
This appears to be the original image used in the newspaper article. It is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre and obtained from the My Trail website
Spring Factory Workers in the 1960s. It is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre and obtained from the My Trail website
Spring Factory Workers in the 1960s. It is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre and obtained from the My Trail website

Recollecting William Walker and His Factory

Edith Searson, in her book(let) “I Also Remember” recalled both the factory and the owner. Of the factory, she said “it was a dark red-brick building and looked somewhat awesome; it had a large chimney, and on the building the words ‘William Walker and Sons Ltd., Hosiers‘ were painted. She recalled that William Walker lived in Nottingham and he came each day by train arriving at 9.05am. However, the article above notes that, at some point, William Walker lived next-door to the factory at 1 Station Street.

William Walker

I have found it more difficult than I expected to find biographical details of William Walker. This is partly because the name is common and because he may have moved around a bit, e.g. between Kirkby and Nottingham. Based on the 1891 census, his parents were Sam and Amelia Walker. His father was also a hosiery manufacturer. During World War 1, William Walker received an exemption from military service from Kirkby Tribunal.

Kirkby Motor Services

Now, this is where Kirkby Motor Services offers MOTs, services, tyres and repairs. It has been there since at least 2008.

Kirkby Motor Services in August 2023. Swit Swoo boutique is also visible

A Car Park?

There may have been a period, perhaps in the 1970s, after the factory was demolished, when the area was used as a car park.

This news cutting appears on the Annesley OC Heritage Extra Facebook page. I am not entirely sure of the date of the photo or the cutting, but it is suggested that the photo might be from the 1970s. I am grateful to Sue Hardy for permission to include this photograph. The “car park” at the site of the factory is highlighted.

Kirkby Car Sales

I am not exactly sure if this refers to the same place but, in the 1969 directory, there was an advert for Kirkby Car Sales on Station Street.

Advert for Kirkby Car Sales in 1969 Kirkby Directory
Advert for Kirkby Car Sales from Free Press in 1971. This was posted by Alwyn Bowskill on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group

Car Park

If Kirkby Car Sales was here, does that mean that any use of the site as a car park was before 1969? Or, could it mean that what appears to be a car park on the aerial photo was actually a site for car sales?

Started Across the Road

According to Frank Towns, KMS was previously known as Alan Holmes and this business “started over the road in the old railway crossing house“. I looked into this a little and found an extensive article on this in the Recorder Free Press in September 1987. This identified Alan Holmes and Douglas Dugdale as the owners of Kirkby Motor Sales. It noted that they had been selling secondhand cars in the town for 18 years, that is from 1968. The main point of this article was that they were now selling new FSO cars. In March 1993, the Weekly Post & Free Press Recorder noted that Kirkby-in-Ashfield Motor Sales was taking on a new Lada dealership. The article quoted Alan Holmes and noted that his daughter Julie was now working with him.

I also found an earlier article in the Mansfield and Sutton Recorder in October 1982, This was focused on the planned demolition of the station. Alan Holmes was interviewed for the article and it noted that with his partner, Douglas Dugdale, Kirkby Car Sales had been based there for a time from 1973.

This photo thought to be from the seventies shows a Motor Discount Shop and Accessories Centre attached to the former Kirkby East Station. The photo appears on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, is credited there to Fred Maltby Photographs Facebook page.

A Car Sales Business

Perhaps this was the car sales business described by Edith Searson in her book(let) “I Also Remember” which was written in the 1980s. She noted, “the factory was demolished a number of years ago, and at the present time there is a car sales business with a good sized car park“.

Chris Spencer

I had wondered if she had been referring to Chris Spencer’s Station Garage as I came across an advert for this business as one of the shops listed in a window spotting competition,

This advert was one of the shops participating in the window spotting competition in the 1980s. Image from Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group

But according to contributors to a discussion on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook page, including Sharon Griffiths and Roberta Knight, this business was on the other side of the road where B&M car park is currently. Roberta Knight recalled buying a Ford Escort from him in the late 1980s. I found an advert for Chris Spencer’s Station Garage in the Mansfield and Sutton Recorder for October 1987 which gave his address as Urban Road.

I am grateful to Alwyn Bowskill for sharing this image of Chris Spencer’s garage with me

Apparently, before the business was run by Chris Spencer, it was run by Rob Bannister and before him by Mr Page. Frank Towns recalled that Rob Bannister was a good rally driver and “raced some serious classic cars“. According to Jean Bradley, Mr Page “lived down the Quarries where the kennels is now, Was the most beautiful place with tennis court at the back“.

Photo and advert for E. S. Banister, Station Garage which appeared in Notts Free Press on 19 March 1976. It features on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group and is used with permission. I don’t know how E. S. Banister relates to Rob Bannister identified above.

Fire at Station Garage

I came across an article in the Nottingham Gazette on Monday 20 February 1950. This noted that there had been a fire at Station Garage in the early hours of Sunday morning. Eight cars had been severely damaged. These included an Austin 24 belonging to the owner, Frederick Page. This car was completely destroyed. Another car that was practically destroyed was a Standard 10 belonging to the cricketer Joe Hardstaff. This car was jacked up and in store while he was away.

Swit Swoo

After the garage, there is a shop, Swit Swoo fashion boutique. This appears to be in a fairly modern building, perhaps confirmed by this being numbered as 1B Station Street. It opened in 2019.

Photo taken at the time that Swit Swoo opened in 2019. It features on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group and is used with permission

Soon after it opened, Helen Marriott commented on the Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group that she had called in. She reported that, “the customer service was excellent and really great clothes, at a good price“. Christina Rowe posted on Annesley OC Heritage Extra Facebook page. She said that Swit Swoo was a lovely ladies’ shop with clothes, shoes, handbags etc. at very reasonable prices.

Photo of Swit Swoo boutique in August 2023

Kirkby Car Spares and Accessories

Prior to the opening of Swit Swoo, Kirkby Car Spares and Accessories were based here. According to Frank Towns, this was run by “a guy called Mick” for many years.

Photo and advert for Kirkby Car Sales Accessories Centre which appeared in Notts Free Press on 19 March 1976. It features on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group and is used with permission

One response to “The Factory”

  1. Banisters garage on the other side of Station St. was Chris Spencer’s garage.
    I’ve got a photo with it on somewhere! I ll post it if I can find it.

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