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Recorded Memories

Charles Davenport Interview. March 2001.


‘All liberals…Hinckley Co-op and chapel minded…all hardworking…looked after their fellow men’

‘Your wife’s your partner…my grandma was a very astute, for those days, business woman’

‘Your wife’s your partner…my grandma was a very astute, for those days, business woman. We begin recording by looking at a photograph dated about 1910 of the family business – Mr Davenport’s uncle Frank is on the photo (off centre at back) he was named after Gladstone – Frank Ewart Davenport – they were mainly liberals in the town at this time. Mr Davenport’s father is missing from the photo because he was in charge of the countermen and menders and he thought they were a ‘cut’ above the trimmers and refused to have their photos taken with the trimmers and other members of the workforce. In the hierarchy of the factory the countermen and menders were the tops – the bottom were the trimmers who put the stockings onto leg-shaped boards (shown on photo), If you were a mender or counterman at Atkins – ‘you were the tops’ – countermen were the ‘kingpins’. Both menders and countermen did apprenticeships. Mr Davenport’s grandfather, Arthur founded the original company in partnership with someone called Ginns, they were both Unitarians. Eventually this partnership was dissolved and Arthur set up in business with his sons and the business became known as A Davenport & Sons. Mr Davenport’s grandmother was a mender and his grandfather was a counterman and he worked for a company called Billington’s. There were a number of people who set up their own factories at this time including Jimmy (Jammy) Pratt. Arthur Davenport was born in the late 1850s and along with his family and other inhabitants of the local area would have experienced much hardship during the early 1860s because of the American Civil War which resulted in the demise of cotton production – America cotton supplied the British textile market. Charles Davenport’s great grandfather was James Davenport and he became manager of the Hinckley Co-operative Society in the early 1860s. At this time the churches and chapels were the main focus in life. His grandparents lived on The Lawns, where his uncle was born, they then moved to Davenport Terrace and then to Hill Street. Mr Davenport’s parents married in 1921 and also moved into a house on Hill Street – all the family lived in walking distance of the factory. At time of interview part of factory still survived on Wood Street, it had been built by Jephcote’s in early 1900s. The business had originally operated from ‘small sheds’. Charles remarked that many men who did set up on their own were countermen and perhaps had more ‘get-up-and-go’ – ‘if you wanted to get on, you had to start on your own – [for example] one a counterman, the other mechanic and work all hours’ and thinks possibly they would be countering in the morning and evening and out selling the stockings in the afternoon. When Charles’s grandfather set up in business he was told that his wife was his partner – ‘grandma, for her day, a very astute business woman’. She did the books until her death in 1942.

Charles Davenport Interview No1.
Run time 15 minute & 43 seconds.

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