Good times and bad times with the Bleachers’ Association

Bleachers' Association Logo

The Bealey's were members of the Bleachers' Association and through their documents we can trace the good and the bad times for the company.

As with many heavy industries in the nineteenth century, the influential and wealthy owners of many large bleaching companies in the North West of England got together and formed an association to protect their interests and profits.

The Bealey collection holds a copy of the Bleachers’ Association minute book for the years 1837-1848. Here we have details of the  day-to-day business matters that they dealt with, resolutions, orders, memorandums and the rules of the association.

It all seems very serious and businesslike but mixed in among the pricing and regulations there are occasional glimpses of a lighter side of the Association.

Bleachers Association Minute Book

The lighter side of the Association can be glimpsed from entries in the minute book such as this one for the 3 May 1842 recording Mr Bridson's fine.

 I can’t help but wonder what Mr Bridson had done to be fined two bottles of Champaign. Did he pay up and who got to drink it? We will never know but I suspect that the members’ liked to have fun.

Bleachers Association hotel receipts

With that amount of alcohol being consumed at the monthly meetings, it looks as though the Association members knew how to enjoy themselves.

My suspicions were confirmed when I found the receipts of the Association’s monthly meetings. Click on the image above to enlarge it and see what they managed to consume, most of it is alcohol!

There was also a more practical side to the Association though. Important business decisions were made at the monthly meetings with members voting on proposals and responding to government legislation.

Bleachers Association Meeting

Important business decisions were made at the Associations' meetings which could affect the profitability and demand of their goods.

The Bealey’s were also members of the Shirting Starchers’ Association who fixed prices for the trade and monitored the progress of their decisions.

Shirting Starchers' Association
At this meeting of the Shirting Starchers’ Association, it was decided to reduce the cost of light shirting and that a meeting should be held every Friday at Glaister’s office to report where the reduction had been made.

Despite the efforts of the Association, there was an increasing threat to business from abroad where investment had resulted in new developments and techniques which had been stunted in the British trade due to internal competition.

In June 1900, the Bleachers’ Association became a business in its own right amalgamating around 60 businesses in bleaching and finishing of cotton goods. Between 1901 and 1910 nine works were purchased and a further 21 works were purchased after World War I.

At some time not long after this, Bealey’s became part of the newly formed Association and the good times that they had enjoyed came to an end.

The company was no longer a family business with Herbert Bealey as the Works Manager rather than the owner. The business became a “branch” of the association and was run by Managing Directors who were focussed on group profit rather than the individual companies that they amalgamated.

Bleachers' Association Annual Report

The Managing Directors are concerned about the costs of Bealey's "branch" of the Association.

 By the 1930’s the company was accountable to the Association and had to produce an annual report on the state of the business.

However the success of the Bleacher’s Association, in maintaining high profits on a declining volume of trade, could not last. Prices were reduced in 1928 and from then on trade was severely restricted by the long-term decline in export of British textiles.

Bleachers' Association Annual Report

Bealey's costs seem to be higher than other branches in the Association who were mercerising with an old-fashioned technique and so Mr Thwaites is asked to explain why. It later transpires that many of the branches using this technique were later closed by the Association.

Rising costs of production and the threat from cheaper imported goods (see the blog about International Trade) also took their toll on Bealey’s bleachworks and the profit per ton of cloth bleached started to fall.

Falling profits

The falling profits of Bealey's led to a loss per ton of cloth bleached in 1934 and 1935.

The lavish Association dinners and Champaign enjoyed by Adam Crompton Bealey were a far cry from the hard treatment his son Herbert had to endure as a branch manager of the association – the good times were well and truly gone!

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