The Silk Factory in the Globe Yard

Part 1

  The Bednall Archive 
Last updated 04/05/2004  


Prior to 1905 Leek’s drinkers could sample "King's Gold Medal Ales" at the Globe Inn, part of an old, two storey, stone house which once stood on the West side of St. Edward's Street just below the junction with the Sheep Market. The inn (number 24) was sited between a grocer's shop and what was, in 1892, the shop of Thomas Shallcross. Access to the yard behind the Globe was via the old carriage entrance a little further down St. Edward Street.[1]

 The Globe's life was relatively short as inns go for when it was demolished at the turn of this century it had been an inn for only about 75 years. Prior to that time, it had been the home a succession of Leek silkmen. At the rear of the inn stood a building, described in 1891 as a warehouse, which had been used as a shade or a silk mill for more than 100 years. In 1905/6, " the Globe Inn and Globe Yard were swept away to make room for High Street" [1] or so it was thought.

Figure 1 The Globe Inn, Leek about 1900

 Whilst researching the history of a Leek silk firm the author noticed similarities in the buildings shown on 19th century and modern maps of Leek in the area where the former Globe Inn is said to have stood. A visit to the area suggested that the site in question had not been completely cleared when High Street was created. Further research revealed that behind the mock Tudor and green tile facade of the travel agent's shop at number 7 High Street stand the remains of the building which once stood in the yard of the Globe Inn. This article outlines the history of this site and of the "shade in the Globe Yard".  

Shades and Silk Factories

 Although the building in the Globe Yard was sometimes called a shade it was also often described as a workshop or silk factory. It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish between these two types of premises before considering the history of the site. It should, however, be noted that this distinction is perhaps only applicable in the Leek-Macclesfield area since elsewhere the word shade is often synonymous with workshop, e.g. in cotton mills weaving was often carried out in single story "weaving sheds".

 In the context of this paper, the term silk factory is perhaps, better known and more easily defined than that of the shade. At its simplest the term describes a building or buildings where silk goods, cloth, shawls, handkerchiefs, narrow wares etc. are manufactured. The processes carried out would, generally, include weaving and/or braiding. Such factories might also include a shade in situations where a manufacturer was carrying out all the processes needed to produce finished goods from the raw materials on one site. Even in the 18th century, such factories would generally have been industrial establishments operated by partnerships as proper manufacturing companies in the modern sense of the word.

Shades (or sheds) were, generally, places where the specific preparatory operations of twisting and or throwing of silk and /or other fibres such as mohair, were carried out. These operations are the silk industry's equivalent of cotton spinning.  Twisting is used for threads which needed some but not high strength such as weaver's weft and involves the twisting of the thread (or two or three threads laid together, i.e. doubled) upon itself.  Throwing is the process used to make the stronger threads required for the weaver's warp which forms the length of a woven piece. Thrown silk consists of two or more threads that are first separately twisted in one direction and then twisted together in the opposite direction. The tightness of the twist and the number of threads twisted together depends on the purpose for which the thread is required [2]. Shades can thus be viewed as the silk industry equivalent of the cotton-spinning mill. In contrast to silk factories many of Leek’s early shades were small one man semi-domestic businesses carried on either in the homes of the individuals concerned or (later) in rented workrooms e.g. one or more floors of a multi-storey mill.

 Locating the Globe Inn Site

 As part of researches into the Badnall family of Leek, the author attempted to locate property that this family’s silk firm had once owned.  One such property was the silk factory in the Globe Inn yard. In a document drawn up when Messrs Badnall and Fynney dissolved their partnership in 1808, the workshop behind what was then Badnall’s house on Spout Street was described as "a new building where the barn used to be" but how new it then was is uncertain. The brick and tile building comprised three storeys above a ground floor, basement and "capacious cellaring". Strictly speaking, it was not, then, a "shade" but a "silk warehouse and factory"[3 ] [4].  

 As regards the interior, there was (in 1827) a "taking in room" on the ground floor where silk and other goods were weighed in and next to this  the counting house (or accounts office) containing a magnificent, 84 drawer, mahogany counter some 17 feet 6 inches long.  Part of the ground floor was used for manufacturing processes for it contained a silk room and a further room where the silk received its final gloss. The manager’s office and the warehouse, with its stock of coloured silks, galloons, Petersham, lace, sewing silk, ribbons, silk buttons and thread occupied the floor above. Weaving was carried out on the third floor for it was there that handkerchief looms and the ribbon or "Dutch" looms, on which Badnall, Spilsbury & Cruso’s "everlasting ribbons, galloons and ferretts" were woven, were installed.  The rooms on the top (attic) floor were described as "lumber rooms" [4].  The buildings, valued at £900 when assessed for fire insurance purposes in 1816, were much less valuable than the stock and machinery which were insured for £3000 in 1809 [5].

 When first built, access to the shade was either via  a carriage entrance from St. Edward Street or via a gate from the back yard into a lane running towards Field House and the Friends Meeting House on Overton Bank. The carriage entrance gave into a large paved yard within which were sited (in 1827)" a brewhouse, a poultry house, coach house with harness room over, coal pen, piggeries and a three stall stable with loft over". To the West and probably south west of the shade or silk factory there was a large walled garden "well stocked with fruit trees" which seems to have been converted into a bowling green by 1833 [6].

 The task of locating the site of the former Badnall property was relatively easy. The deed of conveyance drawn up between Robert, William Henry and Miss Mary Gaunt and Mr Richard Turnock of Leek, surgeon, in 1869 [7] describes the property conveyed as “ all that large building or silk factory lately used as a warehouse and workshop situate in a yard leading out


Figure 2 Badnall property sold in 1827 including the Spout Street silk factory

 of Spout Street called the Globe Yard .......which silk factory was formerly in the occupation of Messrs Badnall, Spilsbury and Cruso..” and thus clearly identifies it on the "Plan of Leek 1838" published in volume 2 of M.H.Miller's “Olde Leeke” in 1900.  Examination of the latter clearly shows a large building lying behind the Globe Inn with its main axis parallel to what was is now St. Edwards Street [8].  Further confirmation is provided by the plan attached to the sales catalogue issued when the Badnall property was sold in 1827 (see Figure 2).  This then was the building described as “the shade in the Globe Yard” in an indenture of 1828 [9] which was occupied by John Ball, silk twister, in 1871 [10]. 

 The outlines of the shade or silk factory are very clearly delineated on the second edition 25" Ordinance Survey map of 1889 or better still, on the 1:500 map of 1879 -see Figure 3. Comparison of these with the outlines of buildings shown at the intersection of High Street with the Sheep Market and St. Edwards Street on a modern map (Figure 5) suggested that Number 7 High Street stands where the shade in the Globe Yard stood.


Figure 3 View of the Globe Inn site in the Sheep Market, Leek (1870s)

 To confirm that a major portion of the silk factory had survived, the author visited Leek and examined the building for evidence as to its age and origins. No detailed measurements were made but the basement of the building was inspected. Figure 4 shows the existing building.

awbednall, macclesfield.1987

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