Trade and Industry

THE staple trades and industries of Mansfield are of a very permanent and steady character. Formerly many of the inhabitants were employed as frame-work knitters, there being, it is said, as many as seven hundred hand looms in the town as far back as 1800. But this mode of manufacture, being superseded by the power loom, is rapidly dying out, and better occupation is being furnished by the increasing number of iron foundries and lace, thread, or cotton doubling mills; there being now fifteen of the latter, and ten iron and brass foundries. Strangers to the town cannot fail to notice the large number of cottages with a long line of top-storey windows. These were put in to give light to the old stocking-makers. At that time this was the main industry; and when, through any depression in trade, hosiery was not wanted, the distress in the town was great. Things, however, have now greatly altered for the better. Several of the iron-founders do a large foreign trade in tobacco-cutting machines, sugar-crushing machinery, gas purifiers, and gas-scrubbing plant.

As a proof of the growth of trade in Mansfield, thirty years ago there were only three iron and brass foundries; there are now ten; while the cotton and hosiery factories have increased in a much greater proportion. Nine boot and brush factories have been established, and there is also a large mustard factory in the town. Other industries include a brick and tile yard, an extensive brewery, a bobbin and wood-turning establishment, several malt-houses, steam joinery works, starch works, several corn mills, and a thriving tannery. There are also a large tobacco factory, an extensive jam works, engineering, bicycle, and millwrights' establishments, steam chemical works, bleach and dye works, and basket works. In addition, the quarries find employment for a large number of men in getting white and red sandstone and freestone, as well as moulding sand, for which the town is so famous. Mansfield stone was largely used in the erection of the Houses of Parliament and St. Pancras Railway Station; and both stone and sand, besides being used in all parts of the United Kingdom, are sent in large quantities abroad. The wholesale grocery and printing trades have been remarkable for their success in recent years; and it is no exaggeration to say that, in respect of orders in the grocery trade within a radius of twenty miles, and the printing and paper bag trade within a much greater radius, more trade is done than in all other towns in the county when put together. At one time, Mansfield was a great centre for the malting trade; and Mansfield malt was as well known as its sand. It is also a fact, though there are no records to prove it, that Pleasley Forge, Mansfield, was as noted for its sword blades as Bolsover was for its buckles; the fact that a sword had been forged at Pleasley being regarded as a proof of its excellence. To this fact is probably due the name of Pleasley Forge. It is much to be regretted that nothing is in existence to show when, and how long, this manufacture was carried on.

Thoroton, in his History, says of the manufactures of Mansfield:—"There are several considerable manufactories in Mansfield. Messrs. George and Richard Burden have one in cotton and thread; Messrs. Stantons in cotton and thread; Messrs. Stanton and Burnside in cotton, and a foundry; Messrs. Bagshaw, Walker, and Simms, in woollen; Messrs. Smith and Siddons, weaving; Mr. Alton, one of chimney-pieces, a composition laid on stone and coloured, a good imitation of foreign marbles; stocking manufactories; a great trade in freestone, particularly with Nottingham; and the malt trade is still carried on with success." The number of old malt kilns to be seen about the town and district bear evidence to the trade in this commodity that used to be carried on.

In the future, there is every prospect that Mansfield will grow enormously. The coal measures beneath the town will sooner or later be reached; and when enterprising capitalists sink shafts here, and the coalfield to the east of the town is tapped, the place will grow by leaps and bounds. The trade of the town is generally good, and is seldom affected by fluctuations of trade in general. In conclusion, it is safe to assert that nearly every trade or source of industry is represented either in a large or small way; and to this may be attributed, in a great measure, the fact that the effects of bad trade, when prevalent in neighbouring towns, are so slightly felt in this.