Sarah Hartwell, 2015

Baldwin And Walker Ltd manufactured knitting wools at West Croft Mills, Walker Street, King Cross, Halifax. The company was established in 1836 and were especially well known for their “Ladyship Wools” brand, but almost all of their wools were spun for knitting and crochet. Apart from my rug wool gauge, I haven’t found anything about production of rug wool, so perhaps this was for local, rather than national, sale.

Numerous spinning and textile mills were established in Calderdale in the West Riding of Yorkshire. As well as local wool, they brought in finer wools from other regions to make a variety of textiles. In 1836, prosperous merchant William Baldwin provided his son-in-law, Henry Walker , with the capital to set up in the thriving knitting yarn trade. In due course, Henry’s prospering business was gifted to his sons, Baldwin and Christopher in 1870. Baldwin Walker left to pursue other interests and his brother, Christopher, though enthusiastic, suffered from poor health so he engaged a relative by marriage, Samuel Osborn, to take control of the business.

How did Samuel become part of the family? George Osborn was a sheep farmer in Buckinghamshire, a county with strong trade links to the West Riding wool merchants. He had the foresight to set up a trading house in Bradford, run by his second son, George Jnr, in order to sell Buckinghamshire wool directly to West Riding spinners. In 1836, George Jnr is recorded as selling wool to Baldwin and Walker. The families established personal links when the George Jnr’s eldest son, also called George, married the only daughter of Henry Walker. George Jnr’s younger son, Samuel, very ably took over the management of Baldwin & Walker in 1876. In 1893, the company had a trading house at London House, 96, Newgate-street, London and their knitting wools were stocked in fancy stores in London (Westminster Budget, November 1893).

In 1899, Baldwin & Walker became a Private Limited Company, with Samuel Osborn and his eldest son, Ernest B Osborn as Managing Directors. Samuel , became Company Chairman, and relinquished this post in 1913. He was succeeded as Chairman by his son Ernest . Samuel’s second son, Bernard, was also a director. In 1916, Robert B Charnock, a loyal employee of 40 years and a travelling representative, also joined the Board. In 1925, Baldwin & Walker became a Public Limited Company for family reasons, but Shares were not available to the general public. In 1928, Robert B Charnock died and his son Louis J Charnock took his father’s place on the Board. Bernard Osborn became Company Chairman in 1941 and was succeeded by his nephew, Dennis O Osborn (Ernest’s son).

Godfrey Bottomley, grandson of Samuel Osborn, later became Company Secretary. Despite the different surnames, this kept Baldwin & Walker as a family-owned company. Dennis O Osborn retired in 1954 (he claimed his retirement set a new precedent because previous Chairmen had either become ill or had died!) and Mr H Hollinrake became chairman the Hollinrake family had a long association with Baldwin & Walker). At that time the other directors were Mr K R Evans and Mr J Haynes.

One branch of the Hollinrake family were worsted and cotton spinners. An Ethel Hollinrake 1892-1969 lived on Walker Street, King Cross in 1901 and 1911 (census dates), and worked most of her life at the Baldwin & Walker wool mill on Walker Street. I assume that the homes on Walker Street were for mill-workers . She moved away in the mid 1960s, prior to the houses in Walker Street being demolished. Baldwin & Walker ceased production in 1974 when the premises were purchased by Halifax Corporation to build a dual carriageway. Aachen Way, a dual carriageway, now runs over the site and the rest has been redeveloped as housing and retail parks.


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