The market town of Loughborough had been expanding rapidly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as rural populations migrated to the town to work in its factories. Situated in the middle of England with a good road, rail and canal network, Loughborough was becoming an important industrial centre. Its situation made it suitable to trade with both the North and the South of England.
In 1859 a purpose-built bell foundry was established in Freehold Street where it remains to this day. The poignant story of the losses endured by the affluent Taylor family mirrors the suffering of countless others, men and women of all social classes during the period of the Great War.
Other industries followed Taylors, especially on the back of the hosiery industry – The Nottingham Manufacturing Company, needlemakers such as Grudgings, the Brush, the Empress Works of Herbert Morris, Coltmans the boiler makers and Messengers, makers of conservatories. Loughborough was famous for knitwear which employed many people. Cartwright and Warners (which became Towles), I and R Morley and Merino Spinning Mills on Nottingham Road, Charles Lowe in Clarence Street, Wright’s Mill in Mill Street (now Market Street), Cotton’s, G Braund in Woodgate and Handford and Millers were the chief employers. Clarkes Dyeworks in Devonshire Square, the Whitegate Dyeworks and Godkins in Meadow Lane employed dyers and finishers.
Apart from the larger industries there was an active commercial sector and smaller scale specialist ‘craft’ enterprises and family businesses. As the town grew some of these also extended out to some of the surrounding villages developing into larger scale industrial scale production units.
Life in the early part of the century was tough for many, there was widespread hardship and poverty: basic housing in the town centre consisting of ‘two up two downs’ with communal outside toilets that had been erected quickly to meet workers’ needs. Many were located in a series of ‘courts’ around the centre of the town giving quite a tight or cramped feel to the area. Other areas such as Storer Road, Park Road and the Frederick Street area had more substantial housing built for the rising population of more skilled industrial workers and clerical, administrative and service providers.
So this busy industrial, market town with an emerging interest in further education, religiously inclined, partially poverty ridden but improving, lively in its social offer, offering pretty much full employment was readily getting on with life when the call to arms came…