Newquay Knitting Factories

Madam Hawke

During the first half of the 20th century knitting was a major industry in Newquay. It was pioneered by one lady known by everyone as Madame Hawke.

In 1905 her tailor husband died and with six children to bring up, she started a clothes shop business to provide herself with an income. She made high quality garments on a hand knitting machine which proved to be very popular.

The London company of Debenhams was sent an example of her work and they were so impressed with what they saw that they took all she could produce. Business took off and there was a move to larger premises in the centre of town, formerly belonging to the Devon and Cornwall Bank


Madam Hawke's shop

Madam Hawke's shop

Debenhams sourced most of its knitware from Ireland but during the first World War made the decision to gain more control by developing the work started by Madame Hawke.

The business passed into the hands of the Drake family, on behalf of Messrs. Debenham, when Mr & Mrs Gordon Drake came to Newquay after the first world war. The Newquay Knitting Company was formed and a factory built on Crantock Street. Mrs Drake had officially joined the company in about 1930 as a fashion designer.

Messrs. Abbott and Scaddon, Ltd of Camberley took over the company in 1961


Staff and Employees of Newquay Knitting Ltd. 1923 Staff and Employees of Newquay Knitting Ltd. 1923

Machines

'Universal' hand operated knitting machine.

'Universal' hand operated knitting machine

The factory was originally equipped with hand operated knitting machines, one of which came to NOCS in 2006. The machines required a large work force, some 450 at its height, many of them were young girls. During the working week many stayed in a hostel, now the council offices at the bottom of Marcus Hill.


Over the years other factories were established, the main ones were

  • Newquay Knitting Company
  • Trinity Works
  • Hope Knitting Company
  • Blystra Knitting Company
  • The North Cornwall Knitting Company
  • Oakleigh Hosiery Company
  • West End Knitting Company

Boxes

In 1922 the Mogford Company built a factory in Springfield Road to make cardboard boxes which were used for packing finished garments. This was replaced by a larger factory built next to the Newquay Knitting Company in Crantock street.

There was a gradual decline in the industry in the period following the second World War; the last factories surviving until the late 1960s

The Newquay Knitting Factory building has now been converted into homes with the adjacent Mogford box factory site now retirement homes.