Not Just a Day Job

Leeds is – justly – famous for a great many things, not least its heritage of industry, manufacturing and trade: Benjamin Gott, John Marshall, Joshua Tetley and Michael Marks being just a handful of the major figures associated with the city and its commerce. But, alongside those names still recognisable today, were a mass of half-remembered, or largely-forgotten, companies and individuals that played a smaller, but just as significant, role in making Leeds the ‘industrial capital of the North’. Using the resources available in the Local and Family History library, we bring you a small part of the story of one such company: Job Day & Sons Ltd.

Job Day & Sons were a firm of engineers that began life in 1901 after its founder invented a machine to pack soap; other innovations included an Automatic Bacon Slicer and the intriguing “Day-Leeds Light Cars”, a unique development in Edwardian transport – a car fit for use in the busy streets of an emerging industrial powerhouse.

Day bacon slice machine advert

Another intriguing advancement made by the firm was in the area of bag-making, packing and labelling. Patented in 1908 by Job, Charles Herbert and Albert Day, this machine was described in 1924 as being “apparently complicated” but actually “simple and almost human” in the way it was able to create a finished product in around 90-minutes. Using the expertise of staff in our Business and Intellectual Property Centre we were able to identify the actual patent for this device, which can be seen here – and includes detailed drawings outlining exactly how the device worked. The success of this machine can be drawn from the knowledge that the firm were able to sell a similar device to a Japanese company in 1966.

Day packing machine advert

As can be seen in those adverts, the company was primarily based at Ellarby Lane, immediately east of the River Aire and just below Fearn’s Island. This was the area known to contemporaries as ‘The Bank’: a thriving and dense mass of industry, manufacturing and traditional back-to-back housing; a primordial soup for the kind of innovative small-companies that made Britain the “workshop of the world” – and the type of environment that simply does not exist any-more  at least not in the West. The Bank was notorious for its unsanitary conditions, but renowned – at least by the people who lived there – for the strong community spirit circulating in its narrow streets. The reproduction below from a 1909 Ordnance Survey map gives an idea of the area’s make-up at the time Job Day & Sons were operating.

1909 OS

And this photograph gives an idea of how Ellerby Lane and the surrounding area would have looked around the same time.

Ellerby Lane: Nos.46-48. 27th January 1928. On the left, shop business of Thomas Hazelgrave selling a variety of goods. Moving right number 50 has shuttered window. The Yew Tree Inn, numbers 46 to 48, licensee Mrs Mary Jane Stringer. There are road works outside the pub

Ellerby Lane: Nos.46-48. 27th January 1928. On the left, shop business of Thomas Hazelgrave selling a variety of goods. Moving right number 50 has shuttered window. The Yew Tree Inn, numbers 46 to 48, licensee Mrs Mary Jane Stringer. There are road works outside the pub

Not much else is known about the firm. It was purchased in 1961 by the Rose Brothers (Gainsborough) Ltd, who were in turn purchased by the Baker Perkins Group just a year later. In 1967 the company became one of three divisions within Rose Forgrove Ltd; and the names of Job Day and his sons became slowly-forgotten to all but the elder residents of East Leeds.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because stories like these – snapshots, really – of a city’s life remind us that, in the words of Walter Benjamin, “nothing which has ever happened is to be regarded as lost to history”; that is, ‘History’ is made by everyone, on any given day, in every action they take, whether big or small, grand or humble. The ‘story’ of a place, a locale, is only ever the sum of every thing that has ever occurred there. That is why local history, especially, matters: we see its affects all around us each and everyday, in the traces that History leaves: even, when physical or memorial evidence has been long-since lost, in the very character of the city.

Stories like that of Job Day matter, then, because everything matters; because everything that has happened is connected to everything that is happening and everything that will happen in the places that we live; and we cannot help but feel those connections and hear those stories each ‘today’ that we live in a place: “nothing is safe from the attentions of History as present merges into past.” (Professor M.W. Beresford). So, why not take a trip to our Local and Family History library and uncover some of those stories for yourself?

c1960s. Interior view of the fitting shop at Job Day & Sons Ltd., packing machinery engineers, of Beeston Royd works on Beeston Ring Road. It shows a tea packing machine being tested before delivery to customers. These machines were sold world wide. The fitting shop foreman, Jack Stobart, is in the foreground wearing a white coat. The suited man, opposite him, is the boss, Mr. Nailor. The two fitters in the background are, left, John Binks and right, Lorrie Mugg

c1960s. Interior view of the fitting shop at Job Day & Sons Ltd., packing machinery engineers, of Beeston Royd works on Beeston Ring Road. It shows a tea packing machine being tested before delivery to customers. These machines were sold world wide. The fitting shop foreman, Jack Stobart, is in the foreground wearing a white coat. The suited man, opposite him, is the boss, Mr. Nailor. The two fitters in the background are, left, John Binks and right, Lorrie Mugg

Relevant Resources

The Rugby-Playing War Poet

We’re currently in the process of putting together the upcoming Rugby Union exhibition at Leeds Central Library, which opens on 4 September, and it’s giving us a great opportunity to look through some related resources from our library collection.

Wilkinson

One of these is the Yorkshire Rugby Football Union Commemoration Book 1914-1919, which profiles dozens of County players who served—and died—in the First World War. The soldier pictured above, Captain Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson, can be found among its pages. While not born in Yorkshire—he was the son of Herbert and Mary Wilkinson of Weymouth, Dorset—he studied Engineering at the University of Leeds and was working as a schoolteacher at Ilkley Grammar School when he joined the Leeds Rifles as a lieutenant in 1915. Prior to that, he played for Ilkley RFC, but this wasn’t the only interest he turned into a success: his poems, frequently featured in the school magazine, won much local praise, eventually leading to the publishing of his own volume of poetry, Sunrise Dreams, in 1916. Tragically, he was killed in battle in October 1917 when, as a captain, he led his company in the attack on Passchendaele Ridge.

The following poem from Sunset Dreams takes on an even more melancholy air in light of its author’s death at the age of only 26.

TO A LARK AT DAWN BETWEEN THE TRENCHES

Thy song comes thrilling through the air
a glorious stream of melody—
A golden flood.
What precious chance has kept thee there.
Singing thy strains of faerie glee,
Where all is blood?
We cannot see thee, wondrous bird;
The dawn has scarce begun as yet;
The moon still high.
But friend and foe thy song have heard.
And none who hear it can forget
Nor check a sigh.
Because thy music, wildly sweet.
Seems still to call us from the ground
To soar and fly;
But we, alas, have leaden feet;
Unloveliness is all around.
Men fight and die.
’Tis no fit place for such high lore.
For we are bound, we cannot rise—
Till the blood mist clears.
But fly to him who launched the war.
Sing, sing to him and ope’ his eyes
To human tears.

Alas! poor sprite! thy fate with him
Were poor indeed. For one who wrongs
A world entire,
To glut ambition’s idle whim,
Will never hearken to thy songs
Of hallowed fire.
Then stay with us. The nightingale
Shall sing all night her sad, sweet dirge
For death and pain;
But Dawn thine own free voice shall hail.
And in the heart high Hope shall surge
And soar again.
And grim-faced men with weary eyes
Shall turn their thoughts from blood and strife.
Across the foam.
To where, beneath Old England’s skies.
Thy sisters sing of love and life
To those at home.

Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. A month after his death, some of his work was collected in the early and influential anthology of British war poetry, The Muse in Arms.

The Yorkshire Rugby Football Union Commemoration Book can be found in the Leeds Local and Family History Library (shelf mark: Y 796.333 YOR) and the image above is used with kind permission of the Yorkshire Rugby Football Union.

The Library is hosting many fascinating rugby-themed events during August, September and October. The aforementioned exhibition, opening on the 4th of September in the Central Library, will celebrate the World Cup coming to Leeds by exploring rugby’s history and culture through displays and memorabilia reflecting the game’s local, national and international heritage.

Also of interest is a talk between rugby historian Professor Tony Collins, photographer John Ashton and author Stuart Sheard. This event, again held at the Central Library – this time on the 22nd of September – will see Collins, Ashton and Sheard sharing their knowledge, insight and passion for the game. Places are limited, so please book your free ticket to ensure attendance.

Meet Alan Peters: Playwright and Novelist

The author's best-known work

The author’s best-known work

A recent enquiry brought the name ‘Alan Peters’ to our attention. While our customer knew that Peters was a pseudonym for a Leeds-based author of the 1930s and 40s, he was keen to know the writer’s real name. The only information he could provide was that the author was a doctor of some description – and this tantalising fragment sent us on a journey to find out more about this intriguing figure.

What we discovered was that Peters’ real name was almost certainly ‘Dr. Isaac Hipshon’ – and that he was, in his time, a prominent and very well-respected literary name in the Leeds Jewish community, though now largely forgotten. Using our collection of the nationally-circulated Jewish Chronicle newspaper, we found that Hipshon graduated from Leeds University with a medical degree in 1920, lived for many years on Harehills Lane and had a medical practice on York Road in the Burmantofts area of the city. Our digital collection of archived photographs shows an image, from 1938, of that practice.

York Road, 1938

York Road, 1938

By 1932 Hipshon’s burgeoning literary aspirations had found expression in a series of articles in the Yorkshire Evening Post. These articles, all broadly focused on medical subjects, were anonymously-published – causing much rumour among Leeds doctors as to who was really behind them. An example of one such article can be seen below.

One of Dr. Hipshon's many anonymously-published articles in the Yorkshire Evening Post during 1932

One of Dr. Hipshon’s many anonymously-published articles in the Yorkshire Evening Post during 1932

That same year Dr Hipshon published his first novel, The Secret Formula and followed that in 1933 with a thriller Who Killed the Doctors, which the Jewish Chronicle described – incredibly – as having been written in 24-hours. At this point Hipshon became drawn to the theatre and, as another time-bound experiment, wrote a three-act play in three days. After sending it off to a dramatic agent he was advised to continue writing for the stage. All these – and future – works were published under the name “Alan Peters”. Why this name was chosen is now, sadly, lost to history.

Hipshon was successful in his new guise as a pseudonymous playwright. In March 1936, two of his plays, “The Miracle of Lodz” and “Hatikvah” – performed by the Leeds Jewish Institute and the Bradford Jewish Dramatic Society respectively – finished first and second in the Manchester Jewish Drama Festival. An article in the Jewish Chronicle a month later found Dr Hipshon attending a celebration of this success, during which he urged members of the two societies to write plays on Jewish themes. That was only one of many times throughout the 1930s that Hipshon could be found attending performances of his plays, or giving speeches about drama to Jewish societies: later articles report him in Harrogate, Bradford, Sunderland and Birmingham.

The Doctor’s most famous work seems to be the one title now held at the Local and Family History library: By Their Deeds. A novel re-written from an original play and published in 1946, By Their Deeds was a searing examination of the ‘Nazi Revolution’ of 1933 and its impact upon an inter-related group of characters, including a middle-class German family and a Jewish scientist. Addressing the deep human cost of the many compromises necessary to maintain life – and a semblance of liberty – under such a regime, the play was sufficiently controversial that two Lord Chamberlains prevented it being staged in the mid-1930s. This seems to have been the play referred to in one Jewish Chronicle article as ‘Who Made the Iron Grow?’ – and then subsequently re-named ‘Whither Liberty?’ after Hipshon made modifications to escape censorship restrictions. Other plays written by the Doctor included ‘Tumbledown Dick’, ‘Poison Cup’, ‘Miriam’ and ‘The Exam’. Sadly, that is where the trail ends: no copies of those plays, or his earlier novels, can be found.

We would dearly like to find out more about Dr Isaac Hipshon – his life and, especially, his work. If any readers can provide us with any further information – or, better still, copies of his plays or novels – we would be delighted to hear from them!

The only image of Dr. Hipshon that could be found. Taken from an article in the Jewish Chronicle - April, 1936

The only image of Dr. Hipshon that could be found. Taken from an article in the Jewish Chronicle – April, 1936

Walking and Watercolours

“It is inconceivable that people in our big cities should prefer to stay grubbing in the hot and dusty streets instead of getting out into the green fields and the breezy country side, unless there were some real hindrances in the way of their doing so.”

Watercolour of Apperley Bridge by local artist Fred Swaine, showing the George and Dragon public house in view, left. The pub dates back to at least 1587 and was originally built by the Atkinson family of Apperley as a private house. It was first recorded as an inn in 1835 but was probably established as such in the late 18th century, c1780. The George and Dragon retains many of its original features and is also Grade II listed. © Fred Swaine.

Apperley Bridge in summertime (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

So opens Thirty-six Country Rambles Round Leeds by local journalist, John Hornby. This 1923 guidebook, a compilation of the author’s regular newspaper columns, has an unusual style that’s simultaneously terse and evocative. To say his writing ‘will take you to another place and time’ is almost something of an understatement: pick up his little tome and you really will walk the outskirts of the city with him, as seasons change and secret pathways unfurl at your feet. This week, we’re joining him on his suggested route 19, a pleasant hike eight miles to the west of Leeds… and 92 years into the past.

No. 19: Calverley, Rawdon, and Apperley

“Take train to Calverley or tram to Rodley. Emerging from station turn left and ascend hill. The river lies below. Beyond Calverley Woods are tinged with autumn and all about the valley is pleasantly wooded. After two hundred yards turn to lane on left, and in a while after passing mill to right four roads meet. Turn right. A pleasant murmur of the stream on the right mingles with the laboured rhythm of the mill.

mill

Dam at Clover Greaves Mill, Carr Road (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

“In a few yards turn left by little chapel, and then beyond the chapel cross the stream, and pass in front of Red Beck Cottages. Turn left up hill. A wooded and most charming dell to left. All sign of the work-a-day world is gone and the Red Beck ripples below you. There is iron in the land further up. Hence the tinge of the bed of the stream. In ten minutes reach tram route. Turn left, and in 200 yards turn down Knot-lane on the left. Neglect turning to right in 50 yards and continue descent into road marked “Private.” It is only closed one day in the year.

cottage

Old blacksmith’s shop in Calverley Wood (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

“Soon reach three roads. Turn right. Skirting lower side of Woodlands Convalescent Home – the comfortable-looking brick building in the gardens on the right. This is a delight in summer when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Our way lies pleasantly, among the greenery for a considerable distance, and emerging takes us straight on in a mile or so to Apperley Bridge Station. The return may be varied by ascending to right for over half-a-mile, then turning to right, reach tram-line, and so home.”

Reference copies of Thirty-six Country Rambles Round Leeds (shelf mark: L 914.2819 HOR) are available in the Local and Family History Library should you wish to sample any of John Hornby’s 35 other walks. (We particularly recommend his wanderings around Windyridge and Guiseley.)

The watercolour paintings featured in this post are the work of Calverley artist, Fred Swaine (1858-1942), who painted many scenes of the locality. Swaine had lived and worked in Calverley all his life. He began work as a weaver at the age of 12 and progressed to the occupation of loom tuner and, eventually, to that of a power loom overlooker. However, he is best known for his detailed work depicting 19th and early 20th Century life and landscapes of Calverley, offering a window onto a bygone time. You can view many more of these on the Leodis site itself.