Sunday, 1 April 2007

Historic connection

0 locks, and 5 miles now moored at Market Harborough.
Total of 185 locks and 177 1/2 miles and 3 Tunnels since 5th Nov 2006

On Friday 30th we finally got to visit the museum which is housed in an old factory building including the current council offices and library. The museum may be small by some standards but it certainly has a good coverage of the town’s history.
The factory was that of James Symington who with the help of his wife, Sarah who was a stay maker, developed corsetry and the Liberty Bodice (1908). The historic connection is that Symington’s set up factories in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. During the 1930’s the liberty bodice became so popular that they produced 3.5 million garments a year. Production of this garment continued until 1974.
Symington’s were also instrumental in mass production using the newly developed Singer sewing machine. By 1899 the factory employed 1600 people, mostly women and girls. The only men employed worked in the storeroom and the cutting room which was all heavy work. Working conditions were reported as being the very best at the time.
Market Harborough’s industrial heritage also owes its existence to William Symington, James’s older brother who arrived in Market Harborough in 1827 from Scotland.
He developed dried soup, pea flour and coffee roasting, the first two were used to feed the troops in the trenches during the Crimean war (1853-1856) and WW1. The business remained in the family for 100 years until taken over by J Lyons.

Captain Scott also took Symington’s Pea soup to the Antarctic on his expedition of 1912.
Other industries in the district was a tannery which ran from the early 1800’s until 1913 and a foundry making type for the printing industry (1898-1925) and when this work declined they changed over to producing
lead acid batteries until the factory closed in 2003. At its peak the factory employed 1500 people.

Another family business (Briggs) which started in 1849 making leather boots and shoes later in 1894 diversified into rubber production. Later, synthetic rubber was also produced due to the shortage of raw materials. This company still operates to this day.
Falkner’s was another family run boot and shoe maker in High St which ran from 1831 – 1986 and when the last family member retired the contents of the back room workshop was offered to the museum where it is faithfully reproduced as it was on the last day of production.

The museum also has a mini theatrette which was showing the history of pubs, inns and hotels of the district over 300 years and there have been no less than 80 recorded. Some have been demolished or are now used as private dwellings or commercial premises leaving only half a dozen still in existence.

A street organ was playing in Market Harborough town square

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