• The buildings that house Makers Yard form the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in the East Midlands
  • It now houses a number of creative business units while retaining a lot of the original industrial features
  • The last firm to occupy the building, Charnwood Hosiery, made military socks for the Falklands War as well as sports socks

One of the earliest hosiery factories in Britain

The buildings at 82-86 Rutland Street, now Makers Yard, form the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in the East Midlands.  They were originally built in stages between 1854 and 1863 for J. Brown and Sons, a hosiery manufacturer specialising in gloves. In contrast to some of the magnificent neighbouring warehouse buildings, which were built later in Rutland Street, the buildings from 82 to 86 Rutland Street were not designed by architects. 

Home working to factory mass production

The buildings of Makers Yard show how the hosiery trade changed from a home-based to a factory-based industry. The door and two windows to the right of the building were part of the original warehouse built in the mid-1850s This was used for storage and distribution of items made by outworkers in their own homes. Knitters left their homes and came to work in the three storey factory building at the rear of the site once it was completed in 1860.  Although the factory was not powered, it was heated as each factory floor had a fireplace at the end and fire doors which prevented fire spreading to the warehouse.  The windows in the factory are larger than in the warehouse to maximise light for the knitters.  As the success of the building grew, a second warehouse, fronting onto Rutland Street and with carriage access to the left, was added in 1862-3. 

Inside rooms are light and spacious – perfect for working artists. Makers Yard

Later owners

By the 1890s J. Brown and Sons had left Rutland Street.  The building continued to be used by three smaller firms – Wilkinson Leather; Briggs and Sons, boot manufacturers, and Holland and Co., paper bag makers.  Shared usage of the building, mainly by small firms related to the leather industry, continued into the twentieth century.  In 1912, for example, it was occupied by a mix of small individual leather merchants, the Anglo-American Chemical Company and an engineer.  From the 1920s there was a little more stability in the tenancy with leather factors company Townsend, Hunt and Co. in occupation from 1925 until the firm was dissolved in 1970. From 1936 to the late 1950s they were joined by Pebody & Muston Ltd, leather factors, and from 1947 to the early 1960s there was also a small engraving business called A & G Edginton.

Makers Yard today

In the early 2000s Charnwood Hosiery ceased trading and the buildings were empty and at risk of demolition.  The historic significance of the buildings was recognised in 2006 when they were awarded Grade II listing status; however, they still remained in a vacant and dilapidated state.  In 2012 the City Council began to regenerate the site in partnership with the European Regional Development Fund. The buildings have been modernised and renamed Makers Yard.  Many of the original features of the site’s industrial heritage and have been maintained and it now houses 10 studios providing workspace for a range of creative entrepreneurs.

Full details of the creative businesses currently operating from Makers Yard and details of public events held in the building can be found on the Makers Yard website.

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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