When the Mission Hall and raincoat factory were demolished in 1968, the even side of the street went through much change: maisonettes were built and then a warehouse and community centre. But in 1976, a Londoner called Mike Baldwin came up North and established his own denim factory in the empty warehouse and brought stability to that side of the street, to the residents and to the viewers.
Baldwin’s Casuals epitomised the economic tribulations of the 1970s and 1980s with strikes and walk-outs over pay. Mike faced many tribulations, fighting against his staff and rival companies. In 1988, he switched to producing curtains and renamed the factory ‘Baldwin’s Curtains’. The following year he sold the factory to property developer Maurice Jones who demolished it and the community centre next door to build new houses and shop units. It was indeed an end of an era when the demolition ball knocked the factory down.
But of course, the factory is remembered for its members of staff. Many clocked in over the years. Loudmouth Vera Duckworth and battleaxe Ivy Tilsley were employed at the factory throughout its 13 year tenure as machinists. They had previously worked at the warehouse during the early 1970s.
Mike employed pious Ernest Bishop as a wages clerk but lost his loyal right-hand man in 1978 when he was shot dead in a wages snatch. Four years later, Mike employed Ernest’s widow Emily to the job and she held it until the factory closed in 1989 and fought for the machinists’ redundancy pay by doing a sit-in protest on the building site.
Elsie Tanner held the post of supervisor between 1976 and 1980 and often clashed with machinists Vera, Ivy and Ida Clough as she told them to ‘chop-chop’. She left her post in 1980 but returned in 1982 as a lowly machinist. Elsie and Mike often argued about how to run the factory but remained good friends and Mike was very fond of Mrs Tanner.
And then there was Hilda Ogden who was the factory cleaner and was once sacked by Baldwin for asking for a new broom. The machinists walked out in protest until Hilda was reinstated and got a new broom.
Others were employed over the years including Steve Fisher (stand-in manager), Shirley Armitage (machinist), Muriel Clough (machinist) and George Wardle (van driver). In the early years Mike employed young girls Suzie Birchall and Gail Potter to manage his outlet ‘The Western Front’ on Victoria Street. Suzie briefly worked as a machinist in 1979.
Do you have fond memories of Baldwin’s Casuals? Was it better than Underworld? Do you have any favourite member of staff?
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