Burnley Road




Map Ref. SD906263


Cornholme Bobbin Works about 1918



WILSON Laurence


WILSON Bros. Ltd.

WILSON Bros. Bobbin Co. Ltd.



Information partly researched, recorded and referenced by Mrs Sheila Wade Hebden Bridge WEA Local History Group


A Short History of Todmorden by Joshua Holden – 1912.

A small mill built on the hillside above Hole Bottom marked the beginning of a firm destined to rival that of Fielden Bros. in its importance. Lawrence Wilson began the manufacture of bobbins in a building, the ruins of which may still be seen at Houghstones. He had been a journeyman bobbin turner in Halifax. With his savings and a sum of £50 lent by John Fielden of Dawson Weir, he started business in 1823 on his own account. Two years later he removed to Pudsey, but as the water supply was insufficient in summer, he built a new mill in the bottom of the valley, giving it the name Cornholme. In this way, the present works of Wilsons Ltd. arose, although the greatest expansion did not take place until many years later.



One Hundred Years 1823-1923

Centenary booklet of Wilson Bros.

Lawrence Wilson lived in 1823 in a cottage at HOUGHSTONE or Ratcha. He acquired an adjoining cottage and commenced to make bobbins for textile purposes, obtaining power for the machinery from an adjoining brook through the agency of a water wheel.

In 1825 he took Pudsey Mill, 2.5 miles away, which had waterpower.

In 1830 he acquired a site near Pudsey Mill. “It consisted of a field or holme and adjoined a plantation known as Corn Banks. Here he erected a much larger mill with yards for storage of timber and a dwelling house for his own use. He took possession in 1831 and gave it the name of “Cornholme”, hence the name of the village that grew up alongside.

In 1835 there were further extensions including 3 cottages with a Methodist Meeting House above. Prior to this, the Methodists were in an attic of a dye works half a mile away. This continued as a place of worship for 20 years, and as a day and Sunday school until 1881. (MOUNT ZION METHODIST CHURCH CORNHOLME)


The bobbin works in 1835, with the house attached to the mill, and the 3 cottages with meeting house to the right. Image from A History of Todmorden, with thanks to Freda and Malcolm Heywood.

The firm became Lawrence Wilson & Sons before 1859 when the founder died. In 1874 it became Wilson Bros. when branches in Barnsley and Athlone separated from the parent company. In 1889 a Private Limited Company was formed with capital of £90,000. There was a reconstruction in 1897 when it became Wilson Bros. Bobbin Co. Ltd. with capital of £120,000.

In 1881 they patented an invention the end or each end of the tube on the bobbin by means of a ring made of tinplate, sheet brass, or other thin metal, which is stamped, pressed or spun into form. Patent number 1772.  They then granted licences to other makers of bobbins to manufacture them.

In 1888 Cornholme works were gutted by fire and rebuilt on larger, more ambitious plans. In 1893, works were established at Garston in Liverpool and Shannon Saw Mill in Athlone was relinquished. In 1902, Garston became the headquarters of the company and the name became Cornholme Works, Garston. The old works being Cornholme Mills, Todmorden.

The firm purchased a fleet of schooners for carrying wood from Ireland to Garston, which were subsequently replaced by steamers.

In 1892, the firm decided to commence the manufacture of shuttles and shuttle parts. A local manufacturer, James Earnshaw of Caldervale Shuttle Works, Cornholme, transferred his plant and goodwill to Messrs. Wilson and was made their departmental manager.


Pigot 1834

Lawrence Wilson, bobbin turners.


Mr. L. Wilson, Corn Holme Mill, in account book of Jeremiah Jackson.

1841 census

Lawrence Wilson, Cornholme, aged 43, bobbin maker

White 1842

Lawrence Wilson, bobbin turners etc.


The Preston Guardian Saturday August 23rd 1851

Fire at Cornholme Bobbin Manufactory

The quiet district of Cornholme near Todmorden was aroused on Thursday morning last by the alarm of fire at the above premises. Some time about 2 o’clock am it was first discovered, when messengers were immediately sent to Todmorden and Burnley for the engines, but before they arrived the flames had spread rapidly through the building; so much so that when Mr. Croft, with his fire brigade from Burnley, had got there, the premises were one blazing mass. The Norwich engine was soon brought to play on the furious element, as was also the Niagara, the engine of Messrs. Fielden of Todmorden. Mr. Lord Massey’s engine from Burnley arrived a short time before the fire was got under. The flames were completely subdued by 6 o’clock, though not till the building was entirely gutted. Fortunately, the dwelling house and some buildings connected with the factory were saved. How the fire originated we know not, but we may state this is the third time these premises have been burned. We understand that Mr. Lawrence Wilson, the proprietor, has them insured in the West of England and the Leeds & Yorkshire Insurance Companies.


1851 census

Lawrence Wilson, Cornholme, aged 52, bobbin maker

Joshua (son) aged 23, bobbin maker.



Lawrence Wilson died and is buried at Cornholme Mount Zion Methodist Church.


Halifax Guardian 26th November 1859

Fire at Lawrence Wilson & Sons, bobbin manufacturers, Cornholme. Front portion of premises 2 storeys, 40 yards long, burnt out. In 1841 and 1851 the premises burnt to the ground and several smaller fires also. Damage estimated at £1,800. Insured. 200 men out of work as a result.


The Leeds Mercury Saturday June 18th 1864

To Bobbin Manufacturers. Extensive and first class bobbin works, machinery and plant to be sold by private treaty. All these excellent bobbin works situate at Cornholme near Todmorden in the occupation of Messrs. Lawrence Wilson & Sons. The establishment is fitted up with every appliance of the most improved principles, well adapted for economical production, situate near to the railway stations at Todmorden and Portsmouth and upon an excellent turnpike road. The works include about 100 lathes with the necessary preparation all conveniently placed in one shed, adjoining which are the drying rooms, boiler and engine house, spacious yard, office and sheds; also a good dwelling house with gardens; also gas works supplying about 250 customers including mills, sheds, dwelling houses and shops. The goodwill of the premises is exceedingly valuable, arising from the business having been established upwards of 30 years, during which a most extensive trade has been conducted, and a first class character for good work established. The business is still being continued, the work people and connection kept together, so that there is open to any persons already in the same business, or willing to commence, a magnificent and rare opportunity. The business, if desired, is capable of rapid and large extension. For view of the premises, application may be made to Messrs. Wilson at Cornholme, and any offers to treat must be made within 14 days from the date hereof to Mr. John Collinge, Mr. Richard Read or Mr. Richard Law, all of Burnley, or to Mr. Eastwood, solicitor of Todmorden. Todmorden, 9th June 1864.

White 1866

Lawrence Wilson & Sons, Cornholme Mills, bobbin turners etc.


Halifax Guardian 6th July 1870

Flood damage at bobbin manufactory works of L. Wilson & Sons, Cornholme.


Halifax Guardian 23rd July 1870

Flood last week. Wilson’s bobbin works cleared and work resumed.


Halifax Guardian 1st February 1879

Bobbin turners strike at Helliwells and Wilsons; no nearer settlement.


Halifax Guardian 15th February 1879

Todmorden bobbin turners strike commenced 6 weeks ago and continues.


Halifax Guardian 1st March 1879

Bobbin turners’ strike practically over, reduction of 10% wages, work resumed.


Halifax Courier 10th September 1881

Wilson Bros; engine “ran away”; considerable damage.


Todmorden Rates Book 1881

Owned and occupied by L. Wilson & Sons; bobbin works; Cornholme; rateable value £42.15s.0d.


Halifax Courier 17th February 1883

Licence for steam whistle at Wilsons works, Cornholme.


Halifax Courier 15th December 1883

Wilson Bros. Cornholme; fall of a floor over the boiler house by which a boy named John Arthur Walker, aged 12 years, was killed.


Halifax Courier 15th August 1885

Wilson Bros. Todmorden awarded a silver medal at the Inventions Exhibition for wood bobbins, tubes, sprots etc.


Halifax Courier 24th October 1885

Treat for hands of Wilson Bros. Cornholme, on marriage of Mr. Herbert William, the only son of Joshua Henry Wilson, to Margaret Ann Hardman.


Yorkshire Times 9th Aug 1889

Cornholme Bobbin Works – These works that have been very successful under the management of Messrs. Wilson Bros. are about to be transferred to a limited liability concern, and new businesses are contemplated when the change takes effect.


Todmorden Rates Book 1890

Owned and occupied by Wilson Bros; bobbin works; Cornholme; rateable value £42.15s.0d.


Advert from 1891


Halifax Courier 14th February 1891

Strike at Wilson Bros. bobbin manufacturers, Cornholme, in the hoping department.


4th June 1891

Disastrous explosion and fire at Cornholme Bobbin Works, one man badly burnt and several injured. The worst case was Edward Outram of Millwood, Todmorden, who was immediately after the accident removed to the Victoria Hospital, Burnley, where he died at 2.30 the following morning.


Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Almanac 1892

Meeting to purchase gas for Wilson Bros. Ltd. £6,500.


Factory Act prosecutions 16th March 1893

Wilson Brothers Ltd. Bobbin makers, Cornholme

Case heard before J. A. Ingham and D. J. Crossley Esqrs Todmorden Town Hall

Employing four young persons after 6 p.m.

Penalty £2 and costs £1.16s.0d

Ten shillings and costs in each case.

"Penalty utterly inadequate. It was admitted that these young persons had been employed from 6am. to 7.45pm. I asked for a heavy penalty" (Inspector).


Kelly 1893-97

Wilson Bros. Ltd., Cornholme Mills, bobbin manufacturers and timber merchants.


Kelly 1895

Wilson Bros. Ltd. Cornholme Works, also 14 Market Street Manchester; branch works Garston near Liverpool. Saw Mill owners.


Cornholme Rates Book 1894-97

Owned and occupied by Wilson Bros. Ltd; bobbin works; Cornholme; rateable value £827.

1897 – rateable value £925.


Kelly 1908

Wilson Bros. Bobbin Co. Ltd., bobbin manufacturers and timber merchants.


Wilson Bros. Cornholme Mills, about 1908