Veteran Glass Workers -15 Kilners’ Men Share 800 Years’ Service – Industrial Pioneers.

July 1931

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 31July 1931    .

Veteran Glass Workers.

15 Kilners’ Men Share 800 Years’ Service.

Industrial Pioneers.

A record of over 800 years’ service is held by 15 employees of Messrs. Kilner Bros. Glass Works at Conisborough, all of whom have over 50 years’ service to their credit, and it would difficult to find 15 healthier or happier looking men than these veterans of the glass trade, many of whom are still efficiently performing the skilled work with which they have been for so many years conversant.

When a “Times” representative called at Kilner’s works to verify this exceptional aggregate of Iong service he was assured by Mr. George Kilner that the total number of years served by these men with the firm was definitely in excess of 800 years.

The men are Mr. C. Reasbeck (commercial representative). and Messrs. J. T. Hinchcliffe, M. Gringle, R. Purdy, T. Addy, G. Ackerill, T. Brook, S. Hinchcliffe, R. Smith, W. Ellis, A. Hulinlme, H. Wilson, T. Senior, A. Webdale and C. Otley.

Thomas Senior, now one of the gate keepers, who is 75 years of age, is the oldest and has the longest term of service with Kilner’s, though he has not always been at the Conisborough works. He started at the works at Thornhill Lees, near Dewsbury, since closed down, and has been working for the firm for 67 years. Mr. Senior, who is familiar with most of the processes connected with bottle making, told our representative that he had blown almost every kind of ordinary bottle there was, and imparted the rather surprising intelligence that it was possible for a man to blow up a bottle from one gallon to ten gallons without taking his mouth away from the blow-pipe.

” Is it very delicate work?” Mr. Senior was asked. “Well, do I look very delicate?” he replied, and certainly though of small stature he looked very hale and hearty in spite of his 75 years.

Another old workman, Charles Otley, the yard foreman, is only a month or two younger than Mr. Senior. However, he has not been with the firm so long, as he was in farm service up to the age of 19, and has only been with Kilner’s for a mere 56 ½  years. Mr. Otley’s upright carriage and brisk manlier prompted our representative to ask. “Do you feel like another fifty years?” but the reply was – I feel well satisfied for my age.

Some interesting reminiscences of the glass works and its surroundings fifty years ago were volunteered by William Ellis, who shares the position of gate keeper with Mr. Senior. Mr. Ellis, who is 69 years old, is a native of Mexborough though he went to live in Conisborough at the age of three years and has worked at the glass works for 56 ½  years. Soon after his twelfth birthday Mr. Ellis began work under a system which was known as “half-timing,” half his time being spent at work and the other half at school. His first school was a little building on Clifton Hill, which was under the supervision of a Mr. Harris, and subsequently he went to the Morley Place School, leaving in 1874. He recalled the fact that in those days the school children had to bring their “school money” when they came to school. “If we were in the first standard,” he said, we had to pay 2d. or 3d., and as we got higher up we had to pay more. If we came without our money we were sent home.”

There were very few houses in the vicinity of the glass works at that time, and the approach was down a lane and over the railway by a level crossing which was looked after by a man called Cocking, who lived at Cadeby. Mr. Ellis found the lane  very eerie and lonely place when going home of a winter evening, and there were fields where the colliery offices and council offices now stand, the first house in Conisborough being the stone cottage which still stands in the rear of the Station Hotel. Remarking on the growth of Conisborough, Mr. Ellis said “When I came to Conisborough first, as a lad. I used to know everybody in Conisborough and if anyone wanted to know where anyone else lived I could tell them.”

Mr. Ellis spoke very highly of his employer and said the greatest goodwill existed between men and management. Though himself one of the old hand-workers, he admitted that the introduction of machinery into the industry had greatly increased the speed at which bottles could be produced. Whereas 50 years ago It was necessary to leave the bottles in the kilns for three days it was now possible to begin making them one day and despatch them to their destination the next. Wages and conditions generally had all improved, and while in the past a boy would start at about 8s. 6d. per week it was possible for them to earn almost that in a shift nowadays.

Our representative was told by Mr. Kilner that the number of workmen originally employed at the works was about 300 and the present number would be in excess of 450. An interesting note which Mr. Kilner found among some old papers some time ago reads:

“Mr. John Kilner commenced to make bottles on the 10th day of December, 1844 at Thornhill Lees, with one hole. George Kilner, his second son, was the bottle maker. Then on the 12th of December he started the second hole and William Kilner was the bottle maker, the third son of John Kilner.”

Mr. John Kilner was the great-grandfather of Mr. George Kilner, the present head of the firm. The works at Conisborough were opened in 1864, though great strides hare I been made in the industry since then. Mr. Kilner showed our representative a machine which can turn out bottles at a rate of up to 36 per minute, where by the old hand method it might take almost five minutes to make one bottle.