Stansfield Grange, Triangle

The hostel years 1920s to 1970s

For fifty years (1920s to the 1970s) Stansfield Grange was a hostel for women mill workers. Information about these years has been gathered from interviews with former residents. Quotations in italics are from hostel women who lived at The Grange.

This period was a uniquely interesting time at Stansfield Grange. For the previous three hundred years mill workers at Triangle enjoyed the advantages of working in a rural setting: conditions were better than in many mills in the towns and cities. However, this posed a problem for the mill managers as there was a limited local population from which to recruit the workforce. So, when Illingworth Morris took over from the Morris family in 1920, The Grange was converted into a hostel for up to one hundred young women mill workers.

'Many were the tales told after lights out. She [Miss Margison] used to sneak through the halls listening at bedroom doors.'

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Recruitment

'Most of us [women mill workers] came from the north east [of England].'  (1940s)

The mill managers began to recruit from the north east of England and the hostel benefited both workers and mill managers. In the 1920s, mining and engineering in the north east were in recession and work for men was hard to find: work opportunities for women were even more scarce. There are accounts from the1940s of insufficient clothing and food in homes without gas, electricity or running water. It suited the young women and their families that they could be financially independent, safe and well cared for away from home, living in relative luxury even if work in the mills was hard. The hostel women provided managers with a stable low-wage work force. They were generous to the hostel women and the women were delighted.

Recruitment was a constant issue as many women stayed in the hostel a few years and then left to get married. In the 1960s, some women returned to work in the same mill part time after having a family.

Not all the women came from the North East. Some girls came from children's homes and some from as far away as Scotland and Ireland. After the war the hostel accommodated displaced Polish women who lived in the Dean Cottage annexe with some of the older women who 'looked out for them.'

Hostel staff

The hostel was run by a matron with an increasing number of staff as numbers rose to over one hundred in the 1950s. Two of the early matrons were Miss Margison and Mrs Brown. Miss Margison (1920s) had a reputation for being 'a stickler for rules and handing out punishments'. At this time four to ten young women would be sharing a bedroom.

The third matron was Miss Wilkinson (affectionately known as Wilkie): 'Wilkie was from Sunderland and was well known in the north east.'

'She was strict but fair'. 'She was a lovely person.' 'She looked after us like a mother.'

Much of the recruitment was by word of mouth and Wilkie would travel in her little car, sometimes with a chauffeur, to recruit and give reassurance to families. She devoted forty years of her working life to the hostel and was greatly respected.

 

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Wilkie talking to Mrs Hall at the piano. Mrs Hall was the wife of Aubrey Hall (Managing Director of the William Morris company). In front is Mrs Hall's son, Robert.

By the late 1940s, Wilkie had an assistant matron, Miss Hughes, and twenty full and part-time staff including a chef, kitchen hands, cleaners, a gardener and a door keeper (a night porter). Many of the staff lived in other mill-owned buildings. When numbers rose to over one hundred some of the older 'less flighty' young women were also accommodated in annexes at Dean Cottage, where Miss Hughes lived, and in cottages on Oak Hill.

In the 1950s, as production reached its maximum, a recruitment brochure, 'Home from Home' was published and it was Wilkie who made the hostel a warm welcoming home for the young women. She made decisions on hostel policy, gave the girls guidance and offered support when problems arose.

The Hostel was a happy place most of the time, alive with music, song and above all dance. The girls were passionate about dancing and would teach each other to dance in the dining room after their evening meal. In the winter months Illingworth Morris arranged for the hostel to have its own dance band on Friday nights and the women would go dancing in Sowerby Bridge at the weekends.

The Company also paid for eighteenth and twenty-first birthday parties and wedding receptions. One of the managing directors would stand in for the bride's father if he was not available to 'give her away'.

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Aubrey Hall (Managing Director) and Gordon Hill (Company Director) in the garden with some of the women,1960s

'Mr Hall would often play the piano and organise a sing-song.'

Managers were very good to the women and were proud of 'their girls'. There was a 'family' culture in the firm, and genuine care and concern shown for the women's well-being. Aubrey Hall and Gordon Hill were frequent visitors at the hostel.          

Managers would provide transport to take the young women home if they became ill or if there was an emergency at home. For example travel was arranged for anybody who had a relation affected by a pit fall, such as the Easington mining disaster in 1951. Parents were also offered accommodation when they visited their daughters.

Between the 1930s and the 1950s summer 'days out' were arranged for the women to Blackpool and a train chartered from Sowerby Bridge station.