Nick Pinkham and the story of Pinkham Gloves
For my research, I started with a number of boxes of 'Pinkham' papers, paraphernalia and gloves that my father had left when he died back in 1995 and which I had done nothing with other than over the years add anything I found in my travels which related to the company. Around 2014 I contacted the newspapers in the three main areas where we had produced gloves - Witham Essex, Dagenham East London and Stanley County Durham asking if people who had any connection with the company would like to share their stories, that's when the adventure really took off.
I had a great response and a history club in County Durham was tremendously helpful and I ended up spending a number of days in Essex visiting and talking to people who had a connection with the company and likewise in Stanley. Dagenham was and remains almost silent and I have a blind spot both with the papers that I have and “news on the ground”. I suspect it is down to the mobility of the population of East London compared with County Durham and Witham, the outcome from all of this is the many stories that are included on the website. It was also stimulated after the website went live as on each page, I ask that if anyone has any stories to get in touch with me. This continues to generate stories.
It was as a result of the website that The Worshipful Company of Glovers contacted me and I was admitted into the Livery in November 2018. It was a very proud and somewhat emotional day in that my father had been a Liveryman and my grandfather Leslie Pinkham was Master of the Company in 1950. I'm sure I had both of them touching my shoulder on that day.
The following outlines the history of Pinkham Gloves and is a potted history written by my late father John Pinkham.
- Nick Pinkham, pinkhamgloves.co.uk
A short history of W. Pinkham & Son Ltd.
The following ‘potted history’ of the company was written in the 1970s by John Pinkham, the grandson of William Pinkham.
In 1873 at the age of twelve, William Pinkham, the future founder of W. Pinkham & Son Ltd., became an apprentice in a chamois leather glove factory in Great Torrington, Devon. By the end of his apprenticeship, he had met his wife Rebecca Fowler who had started part-time work at the age of eight earning sixpence a week and who, at the age of twelve in 1876, became a full-time glove machinist.
In 1884 William and Rebecca were married, and a year later their daughter Lilian was born with their son Leslie following six years later. When Leslie was just eight years old, the couple started their own glove making business - William would cut the gloves by hand and Rebecca sewed them on a treadle machine. The profits they made were used to buy more leather and fabric to make up more gloves and this laid the foundation of the firm W. Pinkham & Son Ltd.
In 1901 the family moved to Witham where William was employed as a political agent for the Liberal Party. In his spare time, he and Rebecca continued to make gloves in their house 11, Albert Road Witham (opposite the railway station). In 1904 several girls were employed and two more houses (13 and 14 Albert Road) nearby were taken over to expand the business.
In 1912 the company built a factory just over the railway bridge at Witham and shortly after the factory was opened, the now adult Leslie Pinkham and his sweetheart Elsie Mansfield (who he was later to marry) planted three small oak trees in front of the factory. From that point onwards, the company was then known as The National Glove Company.
Due to subsidised continental competition, the business was sadly forced to close in 1927 for a brief spell. However, thanks to the determination of William Pinkham and his son Leslie, as well as several faithful members of their staff, the business built up to full capacity in the 1930s following the opening of a new factory in Dagenham in 1933.
During the Second World War, the majority of the firm’s production was turned over to supplying The Ministry of Supply making specially heated gloves for the British and American Air Forces. With the cessation of hostilities in 1945, expansion was once again possible and Leslie Pinkham’s three sons Richard, John and David returned from active service to join the company. In 1948 an additional factory was built at Witham and at the request of The Ministry of Development new factories were shortly added at South Moor and Stanley in County Durham.
By the early 1950s worldwide sales of Pinkham gloves had been established and the company employed some 300 indoor workers and a similar number of outworkers producing around 4,000 dozen pairs of gloves a week. In the early 1960s gloves began to be imported into England from countries in the Far East where labour costs were far below those paid in the UK. The gloves were made from fabric manufactured in English mills, and were sold at about half the price of the cost of gloves manufactured in this country. This new, cheaper production combined with a change in ladies’ fashion deeply impacted the company’s sales. In 1966, after nearly 80 years of trading, the company was forced to close.
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