Working Life Memories

Orford Tannery and St Mary’s Fire Alarm

By Harold Lutener

This photo was taken at the far end of Fisher Avenue close to Long Lane and shows me on the child seat of my father’s bicycle in 1949 (I was 3 years old). Photo © H. Lutener.

Harold Lutener was born in 1946 and lived in Clough Avenue, Orford, before moving round the corner into Fisher Avenue in 1950. His father was based at the South Lancs Regiment in Warrington during his service in the Army. After being demobbed, his father worked at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in Risley until the family moved away in 1958.

This is my golden retriever dog at Fisher Avenue.

Most interesting historically is the background scene – Orford Tannery in 1954.

Harold has sent these memories and photos from his days in Warrington. All photos are his copyright, except for St Mary’s RC School, which belongs to J Gregory. The story and captions are Harold’s, with additional notes from me on Orford Tannery, which appear at the end of Harold’s memories.

This 1952 scene shows me at Orford Park in front of the bowling green. Photo © H. Lutener.

As a boy I played in the fields to the rear of our house in Fisher Avenue. I loved watching local rugby, football and cricket teams on the pitches close to the Orford Tannery site. We use to play on the pitches when they were empty, which started at the top of Fisher Avenue and Sandy Lane and finished near Long Lane.

Over the far side of the sports fields there was an area which looked like a dumping ground very close to the footpath which went from Long Lane to Sandy Lane. The path is still there and provides access to the housing estate.

The photo, left, was taken at Clough Avenue in 1949 and shows me playing with my wooden trains – if I still had them now they would be worth something! In the background you can see the houses of Northway.

Here is another view of Fisher Ave and Clough Ave, taken from the bedroom in 1951.

This scene from 1951 is viewed from the front bedroom of our house in Fisher Avenue looking out to the right and the access to Clough Avenue.

Warrington Market car park in 1987. The school disappeared in 1990 and priory Court now occupies the site. Photo © J Gregory, from the book Postwar Warrington, published in 1990.

A similar scene from 2018 during the construction of Cineworld at Time Square.

I went to St Mary’s RC School in Buttermarket Street. The photo brings back memories, although it looks different with the roads and car parks in the picture. I remember walking east along Buttermarket Street towards St Mary’s Church and turning right to walk up a slight incline to the main school building. I can remember the side of the school building with the windows. One of my classrooms was on the top floor on the right as we look at the photo. There was also a large playground.

The small annexe to the right of the main school building gave access to the classrooms with a cloakroom just through the door. Mounted on a shelf above the cloakroom door was an old fashioned fire alarm housed in a wooden box with a pipe on one side and a handle. If one turned this handle it would make a lot of noise. We had to stand on the heating water pipes to reach it and set it off before running away. We were chased many times by the teachers but we were often too fast for them, although I was caught once and swiftly escorted to the headmaster for the cane or slipper!

If one walked down pass the building to the far end of the school there was a stone wall with an opening giving access to the rest of the classrooms, which were separate from the main building.

The other buildings were single storey affairs made of pre-fabricated concrete with flat roofs. The school had another entrance at the far end of the playground but I cannot remember the name of the road [possibly Blackhurst Street].

I moved from St Mary’s RC to English Martyrs in Poplars Avenue, Orford for about a year. English Martyrs was replaced by a housing estate in 1994.

I remember the new houses being built in north Warrington at the same time as the school. I visited the Odeon cinema in Buttermarket Street. One film I saw was Reach for the Sky with Kenneth More playing RAF fighter pilot Douglas Bader. I went shopping with my mother in the town centre, especially to the old market and Woolworths on Sankey Street. I use to travel by bicycle through RAF Padgate to meet my father from work at Risley. I used to go train spotting at Bank Quay Station, Central Station, Winwick footbridge and Dallam sheds and remember the times when I was naughty enough to place pennies on the line near to Hallfields Road/Orford Park.

Other memories include fishing along the River Mersey at Latchford, the Manchester Ship Canal and Lymm Dam. I visited the area again back in 1999 when passing through and noticed that the old Orford Tannery and playing fields close to my old home had gone and had been redeveloped.

Here I am on my tricycle at the back of the house at Fisher Avenue in 1950.

Photos © H. Lutener.

This photo was taken in 1950 in the back garden of our house in Clough Avenue. before we moved to Fisher Avenue. Once again you can see the houses of Northway in the background.

This 1953 photo was taken in the front garden of my parent’s friend’s house in Latchford and shows, left  to right, my parent’s friend’s daughter, mother holding my golden retriever pup and myself.

Orford Tannery:
A Brief History

Tanning is the process of turning animal skin (often called “hide”) into leather. An acid called tannin is generally used. This prevents the leather from falling apart and often gives it a special colour.

The work undertaken in the tanneries was a very dirty job and the smell must have been awful for people both in the trade and living close to the factories. It was a very hazardous job and often the only protection from the chemicals was a leather apron, leggings tied with string and clogs.

New hides arriving at the factory had to be soaked in water to soften them. They were then put into lime pits so that the fat, hair and flesh could decay.

After further soaking in more lime and sodium sulphate they were ready to be stripped using curved blunt-bladed knives.

The hides were soaked again and then washed in water. Next the hides were soaked in tannin, which is a substance obtained from powdered tree barks.

After further treatment they were ready to be buffed and polished, dried and waxed and then cut and sewn. The process was mechanised in later years.

Orford Tannery was built in the early 1800s on land close to modern-day Fisher Avenue and Sandy Lane.

After a financial failure in the mid 1850s, James Reynolds bought the tannery and was later joined by William Mortimer. Mortimer ran the company until his death in 1900 at the age of 59.

On Tuesday, 11th October 1927 the following report was published in the London Gazette and held by The National Archive:

The Home Secretary gives notice that in pursuance of Section 2 (1) of the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1920, he has made an Order authorising the employment on two day-shifts, of women of 18 and young persons of 16 years of age and over in the Sole Leather Department (taking and receiving from machine, washing on flesh side, wiping and oiling the grain side; rehanging and carrying back) at the works of Messrs. William Mortimer and Company Limited, Orford Tannery, near Warrington, subject to the conditions that a worker shall not be employed in the afternoon shift in consecutive weeks and that suitable protective clothing, cloakroom and messroom accommodation, washing facilities and facilities for sitting shall be provided.

Whitehall, 10th October, 1927.

Information above from The National Archive licenced under Open Government Licence (OGL v3.0)

In the late 1929 the company was in financial trouble again and this report, also from the London Gazette and held by The National Archive, shows that the management decided to go into voluntary liquidation:


AT an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Members of the said Company, duly convened, and held at the registered Office, Orford Tannery, Warrington, on the nineteenth day of August, 1931, the following Special Resolution was duly passed: — ” That the ‘Company be wound up voluntarily in accordance with the provisions relating to a Members’ Voluntary Winding-up, under the Companies Act, 1929, and that Mr. Cyril Bradshaw, of 4, Egypt Street, Warrington, Chartered Accountant, be and he hereby is appointed Liquidator for the purpose of such winding-up.”

FRANK MORTIMER Chairman of Directors (028)

Information above from The National Archive licenced under Open Government Licence (OGL v3.0)

Image from ” What do you want to be? Pictures from the craftsman’s life. ” Berlin: Winckelmann [c. 1880]. [Translated from the German]

This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.

The company was restarted almost immediately as Orford Tanning Company Ltd.

In 1947 the company was listed as an exhibitor at the British Industries Fair, as this extract from Graces Guide shows:

Orford Tanning Co, of Orford Tannery, Warrington, Lancs (now Cheshire). Telephone: Warrington 751-1. Cables: “Orford Tannery, Warrington”.

1947 Listed Exhibitor – British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Bends, Shoulders and Bellies for Sole Leather, from English, Wet-salted, Dry, and Dry-salted hides. Ox and Bull Strap Butts from best English Hides, also Bull Necks for Polishing. (Earls Court, 1st Floor, Stand No. 408).

Sources of Information 1947 British Industries Fair p205. Copyright © 2007 Grace’s Guide and used with permission.

Link to this document at

By the early 1960s the workforce at Orford Tannery was reduced and in May 1966 the company was closed down. The site was later demolished for the housing estate that occupies the land today.

The town of Warrington was a major employer in the tanning business. Of the 300 or so tanning companies in the country it is estimated that Warrington accounted for 7% of them.

Other tanneries in the town included Waring’s Tannery between Dallam Lane and Winwick Street and Central Tanneries at Howley. In fact, the precision engineering company, Robert Irving Ltd, is shown as being based at Howley Tannery, Howley Lane, Warrington. Fleming’s Tannery was based in Fennel Street. The site is now occupied by Lidl supermarket. Two other tanneries in the town centre were operating from Mersey Street and Winwick Road.

On the outskirts of the town was Penketh Tannery. This started out as Penketh Brewery but was closed down by teetotaller Robert Garnett in 1880 and turned into the tannery. It specialised in sole leather for shoe manufacturers. A trade advert for the Penketh Leather Manufacturing Co. Ltd. described itself as THE cut sole specialists. The tannery closed in 1959 and is remembered in the village by Tannery Lane. See for more on the village history. There was also a tannery in Latchford and the company Eagle Ottawa on Thelwall Lane was the last to process animal hides until it shut down in 2008.  

Barry Evans adds this note about tanneries. Back in my student days, my old geography text book of the time commented on Warrington’s 34 tannery firms in the 1930’s which made it the largest tannery town in the world. Even though it was more than 60 years ago, I think it was 34.

For more on the tanning industry, see the website. mywarrington is not responsible for external websites.

Pearson & Knowles

By John Brunch Laine

My grandfather Charles Edward Bunch (CEB) was manager of the Pearson and Knowles Steel Corporation, and my father John Laine succeeded him in that position.

Dallam Forge Company was formed in the 1860s. It later joined with the Warrington Wire Iron Company and a Wigan colliery company to become Pearson & Knowles Coal and Iron Company.

Grandfather died in 1952, and my father in 1977. CEB and his family, including my parents John and Marjorie Laine, together with myself, lived in Grappenhall.

I was lucky enough to occasionally go down to the works and on one occasion father arranged for me to ‘drive’ one of the small tank engines used by the works.

I was probably about eleven or twelve at the time, and of course the war was on so the works were fully involved in making steel for the war effort. After my grandfather died my father bought a house named Patterdale, where we lived until I moved to Wales in the 1960s.

To read more about the company, see Grace’s Guide.
See also the Chase Water Stuff website.

mywarrington is not responsible for external websites.

Veronica’s Pramful of Coal

Veronica Harmes emigrated to South Australia in 1964. How many can identify with some of her memories? Try these…

I was reared on Algernon Street off Manchester Road near to Rylands wire factory on Dalton Bank during the war. There was a little, I mean little, grocery shop on the opposite side of our street towards the school. It was a house turned into a shop called GRANDMA CHAPMANS. I used to called in after school as she always saved me a short bread. Yummy! I remember having to go to the gas works at Winwick Road on a Saturday morning for bits of coke or coal – we had an old pram. All the kids used to do it. Those were the hard days during the war. Oh happy days even thou the war was on and many a time we would see an odd plane (German) going over. They used to follow the Mersey to get to Liverpool, etc. I will always remember the one that bombed Thames Board. There was a kids party there at the time and it wasn’t very pleasant but I did hear the plane was shot down and that the pilot was an 18 year old German. We would go to the Odeon on Saturdays to watch Flash Gordon.

Then my family moved to Bewsey Road where my parents bought an off licence on the corner of Hoyle Street – now long gone. My surname was Keeley. I got married at St Mark’s in Dallam in 1956 and we were the 9th couple to get wed there. We got a lovely black bible signed by the priest. I used to love going down to Burtonwood as my friend’s uncle was the game keeper there so we were allowed to cycle there. On the way we would call in and see the pigs at Browns Farm plus scrump a few apples. I hear the stinking brook is better now. It was yuk having to pass it.

Before moving to Australia I worked at MILLINGS in the town centre – oh the lovely smell of good bacon. Then I also worked at PUBLIC BENEFIT Shoe Shop. What I would like to know is what happened to all the dance halls? Bell Hall. The Co-op. St Mary’s. St Albans. The one over Burtons the tailors. And the one upstairs next to Woollies –  it was over a ladies dress shop.

Now how about this? In 2005 I was in my local newsagents when I heard a Pommie accent. I asked where he came from. Yes Warrington. He asked my name and he could not believe after 60 years he finally met up with me he said I had haunted him for 60 years as he could always see me sat on a wall outside my mothers shop with my neighbour Nora Poole. We were singing Dinah Shore’s song The Gypsy. He now lives in Adelaide here in South Australia. We keep in touch often now and he even sent me a DVD of the song.

But wait! That’s not the end. I’m on the Warrington forum and another school mate wrote to me. He lived next to my Grandma’s in Pierpoint Street. Well I told him about bumping into Jimmy and it turns out they are related by marriage for 30 years and didn’t know it! Now you see its a funny old world isn’t it?


By Peter Spilsbury

I never ventured further than Longford Street, where my grandparents lived except to visit Orford Park in my younger days.

My best memory of that street was of going home at dusk and watching the lamp-lighter lighting the lamps and using his ladder to do it. No doubt he cursed the kid following him. I remember them lighting the gas lamps in Liverpool Road between Thewlis Street and the Coach & Horses.

The men used a lorry and the lamp was lowered via an arm from a tall post, which I now know was a support for the tram wires.

Thanks Peter for your memory.

It reminds me of another important worker in the days before we had alarm clocks. This was the knocker-up. His job was to carry a pole along the street and to tap on the bedroom window to wake up the workers for the early shift. At school we had to write an essay called My Life as a Knocker-up. I wonder who got the knocker-up up?

Lamplighter in Wroclaw‘s Ostrów Tumski (“Cathedral Island”) district, Poland, November 2005. Photo by Julo (I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain.). Retrieve from Wikipedia.

The Smokey 70s

Knutsford Road and the River Mersey, looking towards the town centre, probably taken in either 1972 or 1973, because the rough ground at the bottom left hand corner is, I think, from demolition of terraced houses. It was about this time that Barry St was demolished.

Unless it’s a reflection the river seems to have a good old-fashioned ‘froth’ on, and there seems to have been a lot more ‘smoke factories’ back then.

Thanks, Terry, for the photo.

The Factory

By Kathy Barker

I wonder how many readers can remember before the College was built and the block of flats, what was on the land between the corner of Long Lane/Winwick Road (long before there was ever a roundabout there) and the other corner at Alder Lane/Winwick Road?

It was huge bales of raw cotton, presumably stacked and stored there for use by Armitage & Rigby, better known as ‘The Factory’. I’m going back many years, probably 50+ though I can clearly ‘see them’ even now.

Collegiate building from Northway in May 2003, a couple of years before redevelopment work began.

Golborne Street

In 1964 I was 17 and working in the Halifax building society located behind the White Hart in Golborne Street. Gazing out of the upper window one day I looked down at the car park on the opposite side of the road just as the wall collapsed and buried numerous cars, scooters, bikes parked there, including of course the ones owned by my colleagues. I will leave it to your imagination the panic that ensued. ANON.

Golborne Street on 12 August 2003

Gas Works off Mersey Street

I have just taken Tour 1 and Tour 2.  On Tour 1,  I found the location of the homes of some of my ancestors who lived in Gas Street and Lower Bank Street. My great-grandfather was a gas stoker, presumably at the gas works. The site was also the location of the Warrington Tram Shed between 1902 and 1935. ANON

Gandy’s Clogs and the Marquis of Granby

By Pamela Hughes

Regular readers of Tour 1 will remember me saying that I am related to the Gandy’s clog making family in Warrington.

In early 2013, Pamela Hughes got in touch with me to add this very interesting information to the story:

My great-great-grandfather Alderman Thomas (John) Porter, who lived from 1824-1879, was at one time the owner of the Marquis of Granby pub on Church Street.

I can remember a small boot and clog making shop named Gandy’s in Mersey Street and being told that the owner, Mr Gandy was my grandmother’s cousin (my grandmother being Jemima Sanders who was the granddaughter of Thomas Porter).

Also, now I think back my grandmother had another cousin named Florence Gandy who I vaguely remember.

So you, Gordon, must also be related to the owner to The Marquis of Granby.

How about that. I wonder if I have a long-lost title. Gordon of Granby sounds good!

Thanks Pamela for your memories.

The image shows the pub sign on the 17th century Marquis of Granby on Church Street.

The pub is close to the site where James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, held his headquarters during the Warrington Siege in 1642-3.

DJ Kenny’s Uncle

I have been sent this image of DJKenny’s uncle hard at work in the good old days at the roundabout near Wilderspool Causeway (just in front of the Cenotaph).

Flat caps are the order of the day. Things have changed a lot now, though.

Check out DJ Kenny’s website He has some photos of Warrington on there.

Listen to his shows on Radio Warrington. Tuesday and Saturday, 8-10pm

Grandad’s Pony and Cart

By Blanche Cochrane (nee Waterfield)

I was sent this wonderful photo by Blanche Cochrane (nee Waterfield) in 2014. It shows her grandad with his pony and cart. Blanche takes up the story.

He bought the cart and pony during the Second World War to help make a living, and to help others. He continued to trade until he sadly passed away around 1956. I have so many happy memories of sitting on the cart whilst he worked.

My Mother Ivy Waterfield nee Clare also worked with him till his death. The pony was stabled at Blackshaw’s Farm on Grange Ave. He also had a small storage shed at Manor Lock. So many happy memories of my childhood.