Historic former horsehair factory in Market Drayton could become site of nine new homes

Plans have been submitted to transform the site of a former textiles factory, which was once the centre of Market Drayton's horsehair industry, into homes.

53 Shropshire Street, the site of Market Drayton's old horsehair factory is at the back of this property
53 Shropshire Street, the site of Market Drayton's old horsehair factory is at the back of this property

The land at the back of 53 Shropshire Street is the subject of the proposals by developer Damion Davies, who owns the neighbouring Kings Arms pub.

A total of nine houses have been proposed, which would see the conversion of the former textiles factory into two two-bedroom dwellings.

53 Shropshire Street, the site of Market Drayton's old horsehair factory is at the back of this property

The adjacent, decaying stable block would be demolished to make way for a detached building containing seven one-bedroom apartments.

Although the former factory now stands derelict and redundant, it was once a building of great significance in the town's heritage and history.

The U3A local history group, led by Kathleen Irving, has collated research on the site as well as the horsehair industry in the market town.

John Ray's horsehair factory as it looks now

Kathleen said she welcomed the plans for the factory's restoration and wanted to ensure that the building is given the recognition it deserves for its place in Market Drayton's history.

Horsehair weaving was once important to the economy in Market Drayton, as the town lay in an agricultural area which relied on horses for work on the farm.

With horsehair therefore in plentiful supply, it was common practice for horses' tails to be cropped, and like human hair, a horse's tail will regrow after cutting.

53 Shropshire Street, the site of Market Drayton's old horsehair factory is at the back of this property

Horsehair cloth was used for two main products; seating in railway carriages, as well as sieves for the pottery industry, brewing and dairy work.

As horsehair cannot be spun, each hair had to be set in place and beaten down by hand. It was a labour-intensive process involving a weave and a helper – usually a child.

Functioning from around 1790 to 1870, the factory behind 53 Shropshire Street was the first one to operate in the town and was owned by a Mr Jon Ray.

Born in 1753, Mr Ray owned a tan yard near to the river in Market Drayton and was also in the paper-making trade before he then went in to horsehair manufacturing.

At its height, almost 200 people were employed in the horsehair industry in the town during the mid-1880s. It was dominated by women but a significant number of children were employed in early years.

'Market Drayton, Shropshire Street, 1899.' Market Drayton street scene, general view. This is a Francis Frith picture. This is among old pictures and memorabilia in the possession of Mrs June Edwards, of Market Drayton

When the horsehair industry started to decline in 1870, the original factory was converted into a warehouse – its windows and doors were blocked up and small barred windows were inserted.

It is believed that the building became an ironmonger's warehouse and was most likely operated by the Rodenhurst brothers, who employed 45 men and six boys is 1871.

In more recent years the site has been know locally as 'The Tin Yard' and was possibly operated by William Talbot, the only tin worker in Market Drayton, who lived at 51 Shropshire Street.

Neighbouring horsehair factories in Market Drayton included the manufactory at Walk Mill, which was run by Hannah and William Sandbrook in 1850, as well as 72 Shropshire Street run by the Haslam family.

Victoria Mill near Walk Mill Bridge, the site of former horsehair factory in Market Drayton. Postcard provided by local historian Peter Brown

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