Category Archives: industry

175 Years of Colour Making

One of the casualties of the Covid crisis has been the grand exhibition that was planned to take place this month to mark exactly 175 years of colours making at Cresswell. The Colours Memories Group, which was organising the event, now say they’ll postpone until next year.
So, we thought we’d give you a little reminder of what’s happened on the Cresswell site over the past 175 years, using a timeline. Older folk will recognise some of the names and younger ones may get an idea of what a proud history it was.

Tub Thumping - FJ Forrester 1965

Some tub thumping!

Back through the years

Even before the most famous Blythe Colour Works was set up by the River Blithe in Cresswell (on the site of what is now the Blythe Business Park), there had been colours making going on here for over forty years. Colours for the pottery industry are made from various naturally-occurring rocks and minerals, and the making of colours from such materials was (and is) a specialist part of the pottery industry.

In the early days, the process of making such materials needed to be by a river which could then drive a waterwheel. In its turn, the power generated from the wheel could drive a grinding mill… in which the specially chosen mineral rocks could be ground down to a powder – ready for later use when added in pottery firings.

Cresswell was an ideal spot: being on the River Blithe; being 100 yards from Cresswell Railway Station (from where materials could travel on to the Potteries in Stoke); and on cheap land.

TIMELINE
1850s:  Cresswell Mill appears in the records, relating to a boring
for coal in 1856. Probably Cresswell Mill was both a flint and
bone mill as the scale of both operations and the processing would be similar.

1860s : Along Waterworks Lane (opposite the Izaak Walton), John Docksey (sometimes spelt Doxey) established a flint-grinding mill by 1861. He then went into colours-manufacturing too. You can still see the remains of some brickwork of an old mill on the spot (though that short length of the river has dried up now). John Docksey died in 1900 and he is buried alongside his wife if at St Mary’s Church in Cresswell.
For more about Cresswell’s mill-stream, click here.

1870 (September) : Historians’ date for the beginning of colour making at Cresswell
1880s : A partnership of two businessmen, Pigott and Scarratt, set up a ‘Blythe Colours’ works on the opposite side of the road from Docksey’s first mill. They named it after the river (which they spelt Blythe, not Blithe as it should be).

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1908 (possibly 1910) : Fred Wildblood buys the Piggott & Scarratt business – the Wildblood family would be the main owners of Blythe Colours for the next fifty and more years
1914  :  Within a few years of the Wildblood buy-out Blythe Colour Works was one of the most advanced and successful of its kind in Europe
1920 : Waterwheel abandoned as source of power – replaced by electricity
1926 : The company’s Sports Ground was opened. The land is still used for sport today, half by Blythe Cricket Club, half by Draycott Sports Centre
1936 : Blythe Colour Works Limited established as public company. All directors initially were Wildblood family members.
1936-37 : Local builder Harry Mountford (the father of the late Cresswell stalwart Neville Mountford) built a row of homes on the western side of Sandon Road, opposite the Colour Works (each home cost £325 in those days!). Blythe Colours bought the first four in the row: Arthur Bennett (works engineer) took the second house, and Oswald (Ozzie) Vavasour the third (Ozzie’s son Hugh became the sales director; Hugh and his wife Monique are buried at St Mary’s in Cresswell).
1938 : New office block built – which can still be seen on the business park today (at the side of the bowling green)
1943-44 : As part of the war effort, American military units specialising in chemical processing were permitted use of the company’s laboratories and laundry. The soldiers lived in huts on Camp Bolero (which is now Rookery Crescent).  Click here for more on that story.
1955 : Laboratory Block and Showroom opened.
1963 : Johnson Matthey bought Blythe Colours.
1979 : A new canteen was built (now the Quick Quick Slow Dance Studio)
1992 : The ‘Blythe Colours’ name was discontinued; new name was ‘Johnson Matthey Colour and Print Division’.
1994 : Formation of Cookson Matthey Ceramics, a 50:50 joint venture between Johnson Matthey plc and Cookson Group plc. Some manufacturing moved from Cresswell to Meir. However, the Fusible Colour (enamel) Department remained at Cresswell until near to the final closure of the works.
2014 : Closure of the Johnson Matthey business at Cresswell.
2016 : The Cheadle History Group and a few Cresswell residents join forces to persuade Johnson Matthey to donate the Colour Works archive (of more than 700 items) to the local community – and are successful. The archive is now housed in Blythe Bridge Library, where it is accessible to researchers, who should contact Cheadle Discovery Group for details about access at contact@discovercheadle.co.uk.  (See full story of the archive by clicking here.)

Well, we hope you enjoyed this potted history, but – can you add any information? (Corrections are also welcome!). Please email us if you have anything to add.

More info

For further information about the Blythe Colours Memories project, click to see hundreds of photographs from down the years, as well as a checklist of nearly everyone who worked here.
For further information about the Cheadle Discovery Group, a local history society which runs the Blythe Colours History project, please click here.
There is also a public Blythe Works Memories Facebook group for anyone interested in the old Colour Works.

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Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

Blythe Colour Works archive – saved!

When the ceramics & chemicals company Johnson Matthey decided to closed down its base in Cresswell last September, some of us wondered: what will happen to the historic archives?
And, now we know.

The Johnson Matthey business was better known to all of us as ‘Blythe Colours’, which created and maintained the factory that sat alongside the railway in Cresswell for over 100 years; and employed many thousands of local people during its lifespan.  It had been very much a ‘paternalist’ sort of family-firm up until the takeover by Johnson Matthey in 1963; and we owe the present-day cricket club, tennis club and bowls green to the support of the old Colour Works.

So, when it was decided that even the last few employees remaining on the Blythe Business Park site would leave there, it became a worry…
What would happen to all those precious memories, such as the archive of photos of works-outings, copies of staff magazines and even promotional material?
In its own way, all that material is unique as a record of the past.

Campaign

A couple of us on this website took it on ourselves to start a dialogue with the Human Resources Department of Johnson Matthey, and to plead that the archives be not only saved, but handed over (after suitable vetting of course…) to the people of Cresswell.
We are happy to say that Johnson Matthey were incredibly responsive to our pleas, and took them very seriously.

Blythe Colours works magazine

Blythe Colours produced its own works magazines going back to the 1930s – some of which can be found in the firm’s archives.  (To see this photo in large-size, double-click on it – but remember to use the back-button to return to this page)

The big questions from JM were:  what ‘responsible’ body would take legal possession of the material?; how would they ensure open and proper access to the material?; and where could it safely and permanently stored?
To be fair to JM, those are fair questions; and at one stage in the negotiations it did look like the only answer was that the archive might go to the Hanley Record Office.
But we wanted it to be closer to home…

Draycott Parish Council did not express interest, so things were looking a bit forlorn until… in stepped the Cheadle Historical Society – our saviours!
Mike Plant and Andrew Bull from the society had also spotted that the Colours archive must be full of material of great importance to local amateur historians, so they came up with the best solutions.  What they proposed was that the archive would be taken on by them as a legal body, and stored at the Cheadle History & Discovery Centre (in Lulworth House, in Cheadle High Street).

Johnson Matthey mulled over that proposal for a couple more months… then said yes!

Looking forward

Eventually, (after six months of negotiations now…), twenty large cardboard boxes – full of documents, old photos, promotional material and even some ceramics – arrived at Lulworth House.  When we unpacked it all, it was with a sense of relief that it had been saved – as this is the sort of stuff that often just goes into a skip…

Blythe Colours archive arrives in Cheadle

Alan Wigley, Mike Plant and Andrew Bull unpack the Blythe Colours archive as it arrives at the Cheadle Discovery Centre

So, what happens now?

Well, after the initial sorting, it’s hoped that a group of former Colours workers, many of whom still live in Cresswell, will be able to look through the material.  A lot of it is just stored loose and not labelled, so their memories will be massively important in helping to identify what is going on in the papers and photos. Cresswell resident Barry Phillips, who is an amateur historian himself, will lead that effort.

After six months, it’s hoped the archive will be in a well-ordered state… and then there will begin preparations for a public exhibition, in Cheadle, to take place sometime next year (hopefully).
At this stage, ‘serious’ historians, especially those interested in local industry, will also be able to apply to the Discovery Centre for access to the material for in-depth studies.

And then – wouldn’t this be great? – it’s hoped to take some of the most interesting items and put on an exhibition here in Draycott & Cresswell, especially for local people.

Thank you

So, a valuable piece of Cresswell’s past has been saved, and may give rise to even more memories and more facts about our community’s history as time goes by.

And there has to be a big thank you to Johnson Matthey.

Way back, in the Colours hey-day of the 1920s and 1930s, the firm prided itself on ‘looking after’ its workers, and made special efforts in that respect.
Well, the present-day heirs of the old firm can also congratulate themselves for their community spirit.  Many large firms would have just said no to our pleas, either because they couldn’t be bothered to vet the material, or because they didn’t consider the local community important enough.
JM did though -and we have to thank them for that…

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Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.            (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

NEWS: cricket funding / bird-watch / Old Lane traffic / more transparency

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in mid January 2015
News of…:  Blythe cricket new pavilion progress / more transparency demanded of local authorities / give one hour to bird-watching / Foxfield Railway success / traffic on Cresswell Old Lane …
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

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Cricketing in winter

No… the cricket season has not started early!  However, the folks at Blythe Cricket Club in Cresswell don’t relax during these months; as maintaining and caring for the club’s future is a year-round activity.

The good news is that the club has been able to announce that it has been successful in progressing to ‘Stage 3’ of their Lottery Grant Application for a new pavilion/community-centre.   In practical terms, this means the club is now entitled to some grant-aid to help it to progress in matters such as designs, project-management and business plans.  Up until now, it has had to rely on its own fund-raising (and some helpful donations) to try to pay for all the administration costs of the application.
Let’s hope that this is the start of something big – the existing dilapidated pavilion really cannot take too many more years.

Blythe CC presentation

Gavin McAllister of the Your Housing Group presents a cheque to Colin Dawson (in the cap) of Blythe Club for £300 … as every little helps!

Meanwhile, fund-raising goes on: the latest news is that the Your Housing Group has come up with a grant of £300 to help towards better facilities for young players.

Incidentally, the statisticians have been able to reveal that 2014 was Blythe’s best-ever season.  Some fine bowling, and an outstanding performance from batsman Alex Heslop (with over 600 runs), really did the trick.
Well done to Blythe!

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Bird-watching at home

The seriously good thing about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is that you don’t even have to leave your house to take part – yet you are making a serious contribution to the well-being of the wildlife of this country.  The RSPB use all the data you will collect to keep an eye on the ups and downs of the birdlife in our own areas.

And all you need to do is spend an hour (sometime over the weekend of 24-25 January) counting the birds in your garden. Easy!
The RSPB make it doubly simple by providing you on their website with a checklist of what to look out for.

There are a number of bird-enthusiasts in Draycott.

At Huntley Wood, Chris Jones & Arthur Trevor erected a bird feeding station during the summer, and they have been encouraging birds to feed there.  The idea is to get a perfect site for taking wildlife photographs, and they are also offering courses to anyone who wants to learn how to do so – see Arthur Jones Images .
The feeders make it possible to get remarkably close to the birds…

And remember the wildlife notice-board in Cresswell lay-by, which illustrates some of the less well-known birds that have been seen in this district. You may even see some of them on your garden-watch… with luck.

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Solar panels traffic

Thanks to John Holdcroft, who queried the yellow signs that recently appeared on the road from Draycott to Tean, directing traffic to ‘Solar Park Deliveries’.  (See John’s email)
These signs refer to the Novus solar-panels complex that is being built on land belonging to Lower Newton Farm, on Cresswell Old Lane. (See our coverage of the proposal).

Any traffic that goes along Cresswell Old Lane has to negotiate some very narrow stretches, but at least it’s a good thing that the complex’s managers are directing traffic away from the residential part of Cresswell Road.

How are householders in Cresswell Old Lane finding the traffic flow? Please let us know…  (see Comments)

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More ‘transparency’

The trend in government at the moment is for ‘transparency’.   The problem, it’s said, is that, in the past, councils and local authorities have tended to try to obscure what they do – because they dislike having to be accountable.

So, it’s interesting to see that Staffordshire’s Police Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, has decided to create what he calls a ‘Safer Neighbourhood Panel’ for our area of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The panel, made up of local people and magistrates, will scrutinise the work done by police in this area and give feedback to their communities.  It’s all part of his drive for ‘transparency’ and ‘open accountability’.  To find out more visit the Police Commissioner website.
People interested in joining a Safer Neighbourhood Panel in the Moorlands area should email junaid.gharda@staffordshire.pcc.pnn.gov.uk

We think it’s a good thing.   In a democratic society, surely voters should to be able to find out in a straightforward way what their representatives are up to; and be able to comment easily too on any activities.

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Steaming up

Finally, though the Foxfield Steam Railway is in the next district, at Blythe Bridge, it is near enough for us to congratulate it on its success in the 2014 Heritage Railway Association Awards.
It managed to pick up the award for Steam Railways – and the HRA praised the way that Foxfield has become a serious national visitor attraction.
We know that some people from Draycott volunteer at Foxfield, so congratulations to them too! It is indeed a fantastic achievement.

In case you are anxious to visit Foxfield, we should tell you that trains aren’t due to be running there again until April – but it may be worth sticking a note in your diary……

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

If you know of something that you’d like to us to mention, please email us.

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