Platt Brothers

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Platt Brothers & Co Ltd
Founded 1770
Defunct 1982
Headquarters Werneth, Oldham, England
Key people Henry Platt
Products Textile-processing machinery
Employees 15,000

Platt Brothers & Co Ltd, (also known as Platt Bros. of Oldham) was a British company based at Oldham, in North West England. They were textile machinery manufacturers, iron founders and colliery proprietors, and by the end of the 19th century, had become the largest textile machinery company in the world, employing over 12,000 workers.[1]

The companies[edit]

Booth House at Werneth, former headquarters of Platt Brothers
Hartford Works

Henry Platt was a blacksmith who in 1770 was manufacturing carding equipment, in Dobcross, Saddleworth, to the east of Oldham. His grandson, also called Henry founded a similar business in Uppermill. In 1820, Henry the Grandson moved to Huddersfield Road, Oldham and re-established his business there. He and Elijah Hibbert formed the partnership Hibbert and Platt. Henry's sons, Joseph and John joined the firm and it was renamed Hibbert Platt and Sons. Henry died in 1842 and Elijah in 1854.

All the shares went to the Platt family: the company became Platt Brothers & Company. In 1844 Platt Brothers & Company acquired the Hartford New Works, Werneth area of Oldham. In 1868, they moved their headquarters from the 'Old Works' to the 'New Works' and took on limited liability status. When John Platt died in 1872 the company employed 7,000 men and had established itself as the world's largest textile machinery manufacturer.[1][2] In the 1890s it was estimated it supported 42% of Oldham's population.[1]

During World War I it produced munitions, but reverted to textile machinery and continued to expand. 1922 was a year of record profits and they became a public limited company. In 1929 it employed 12000 people, and the New Works was 65 acres (260,000 m2) in area.[1]

In 1931, it took a controlling interest in Textile Machinery Makers Ltd, which had been formed from the other textile machine manufactures including Asa Lees & Co Ltd. The company name was changed to Platt Bros.(Holdings) Ltd. Platt Bros.(Sales) Ltd was spun off in 1946, when Sir Kenneth Preston joined the company from J.Stone Ltd.[1]

Platt International was formed in 1970 from the textile division of Stone Platt, and it acquired the Saco Lowell Corporation in 1973 and became Platt-Saco-Lowell in 1975. The Oldham premises were closed in the early 1980s. The Drawings and Rights to the Platt Ginning Machines are currently owned by HSL Engineering in Leeds West Yorkshire.[1]

The products[edit]

Textile manufacturing involves converting of three types of fibre into yarn, then fabric, then textiles. These are then fabricated into clothes or other artifacts. Cotton was the most important natural fibre, but there was a sizeable Worsted industry in neighbouring West Yorkshire. Cotton had to be harvested, ginned, transported in bales. The cotton had to be prepared,the bales were broken open, the fibres were willowed and scrutched before being carded. The carded fibres were combed, drawn, slubbed and roved- they were then ready to be spun. Spinning was done on a spinning mule and the fabric needed furth processes to create a usable textile Before mechanisation each of these separate processes were done by hand, but as nineteenth progressed there was a need for ever larger, faster and reliable machines. From 1857, Platts were suppling the complete range of spinning and weaving machinery; it had surpassed Dobson & Barlow of Bolton in size in 1854. Platts constructed looms for export from 1857. Platts introduced successive models of the carding machines, the roving frame and the self-acting mule in 1868, 1886 and 1900. It was the self-acting mule that was the basis of their success being faster, longer and more productive than their rivals. Workmen in Platts became shareholders in the new Oldham Limiteds mills on the late 1860s ensuring Platt machinery was purchased. [3]

After its record year in 1896, it began to feel increased competition from the new ring spinning frame, an alternative technology that was suited to coarse counts. The competitors were Howard & Bullough of Accrington and Tweedales & Smalley of Rochdale. Platts also supplied plans for mills and the fitters to install them.[3]

Jacquard Loom manufactured by Platt Brothers of Oldham. Loom is on display at Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, Harle Syke, Burnley.

Later history[edit]

While just before the First World War the company reached its peak, with the workforce numbering over 15,000 people, and the massive Hartford Works at Werneth covering over 85 acres (340,000 m2) of land and was the largest employer in Oldham and the largest maker of cotton-processing machinery in Lancashire and hence in the world.[1] As such they were visited by George V and Queen Mary on the first day of their 8 day 1913 Royal Tour of Lancashire on 7 July 1913 and given a tour of the Hartford Works. In later years its fortunes were to mirror those of the Lancashire cotton industry, and the company began a slow, steady decline. The company's home market gradually disappeared as large numbers of Lancashire cotton mills began to close, and in export markets the company faced tough competition from foreign textile machinery companies.

The end (at least for its Oldham operations) came in 1982 when the company closed its Oldham factory. Having been taken over in the 1960s the resultant Platt Saco Lowell had grave financial problems, and was put into Administration by its parent company, Hollingsworth.[4] The Platt name (and support for Platt products) continues.[5]

An interesting link exists between the history of Platt Brothers and that of the Toyota company of Japan. In 1929, Platt Brothers paid £100,000 for the patent rights for an innovative automatic weaving loom designed by Sakichi Toyoda himself. The Toyoda Model G loom featured mechanical sensors that automatically shut down the loom if a warp thread snapped. The thinking behind this feature was jidoka which translates as automation with a human touch. Thus workers were freed from being monitors of automatic looms and mill owners could achieve a dramatic increase in labour productivity with one worker able to operate up to 30 machines. Ironically it was the money from the sale of rights that was the start-up capital for the Toyota automobile endeavour. The name change was done for phonetic reasons so although Toyota is now best known as an automotive company, it actually began as Toyoda the textile machinery manufacturer.[6]

Politics[edit]

John Platt (1817 – 1872), was considered to be Oldham's leading Liberal. He successfully campaigned, in the 1840s, for a municipal charter for Oldham. He was a strong supporter of the Anti Corn Law League. His advocacy of free trade and his business knowledge led him to go to Paris with Richard Cobden to assist in the negotiations of the French Commercial Treaty.[7] He was elected the first Liberal Mayor of Oldham in 1854, an office he was to hold twice more in 1855-56, and 1861-62. John Platt also served as Member of Parliament for Oldham from 1865 until his death in 1872.[8]

John Platt's younger brother James Platt (1824–1857), helped build the firm and was active in promoting working-class adult education in Oldham, especially the Oldham Lyceum, he was elected MP for Oldham in 1857, but died the same year.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Platt Collection National Archives
  2. ^ URBED (April 2004). "Oldham Beyond; A Vision for the Borough of Oldham" (PDF). Oldham.gov.uk. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  3. ^ a b Gurr & Hunt 1996, p. 12
  4. ^ Hollingsworth unit put on block; Platt Saco Lowell has been operating in the red. (John D. Hollingsworth on Wheels)| Daily News Record
  5. ^ Platt company history
  6. ^ 1867 - 1929 | History - TOYOTA INDUSTRIES CORPORATION
  7. ^ Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project Statue Statue by Stevenson, David Watson 1878
  8. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Platt family by D.A. Farnie. 

Bibliography[edit]

Gurr & Hunt (1998). The Cotton Mills of Oldham. Oldham Education & Leisure. p. 12. ISBN 0-902809-46-6. 

  • Farnie, D. A., 'The Marketing Strategies of Platt Bros. and Co. Ltd of Oldham, 1906, 1940', Textile History, 24 (2), 1993.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°32′20″N 2°07′48″W / 53.5388°N 2.1299°W / 53.5388; -2.1299