The Jones Sewing Machine Company
A brief history of the beginning of the factory and William Jones
Around 1858 a
named William Jones became fascinated in the new sewing machines that
were coming across from America. At the time William and his brother
were already well established and ran a small engineering plant that
specialised in steam engines to power factory
equipment such as pumps, lathes, jigs and other machinery of the period.
William was a skilled engineer specialising in his small steam engines
that were powering machinery across the empire. William Jones had served his apprentice with the W.
Heap & Company in Ashton-Under-Lyne, a small suburb, a few miles from
the centre of Manchester.
William was a skilled engineer specialising in his small steam engines that were powering machinery across the empire. William Jones had served his apprentice with the W. Heap & Company in Ashton-Under-Lyne, a small suburb, a few miles from the centre of Manchester.
William Jones must have been a
little like me for he was spellbound with new fangled contraptions.
He took them apart, found their weaknesses, then rebuilt,
and often improved them. He knew
there was big money to be made in sewing machines and Britain was ready.
He also knew he could undercut the expensive imports of the time.
Remember William Jones was in the
centre of England, the heartland of the British industrial revolution.
New ideas and businesses were everywhere, springing up like mushrooms on
a warm August evening.
Chadwick & Jones
By 1859 William was well under way
with sewing machine manufacture. He needed some financial help and went
into partnership with Thomas Chadwick and started
to manufacture (under licence, the Howe and
Wheeler & Wilson)
sewing machines. This was not enough for our young lad,
he wanted, not only to make them, but also improve upon them. Oh! And to
make some serious money as well.
By 1863 William Jones was making his
Long Shuttle Lockstitch which actually was a
Howe machine built
under licence. William had big ideas and
it was not long before he was manufacturing his own models.
William Jones carried on expanding his own sewing machine business and
patenting his ideas.
William Jones carried on expanding his own sewing machine business and patenting his ideas.
For some reason, many of
the sewing machine patents that William Jones patented were in his brotherís name,
John Thomas Jones. Maybe John was instrumental in their invention?
Possibly it was to keep the patents quiet from his big American
counterparts and competitors.
Jones sewing machine fiddlebase sewing machine made to compete with the best selling machines of the 1870's, the Singer 12k. The name fiddlebase was due to the curving shape of the sewing machine bed.
You will have to take the time to
Bradbury sewing machines later, for they
were the main competition for Jones besides Singer. For now we are still hot on the heels of William
Elias Howe and Wheeler & Wilson the American sewing machine inventors and manufacturers had been looking for engineering firms on this side of the pond to handle their work. Unfortunately for them the first one they picked went on strike!
Thomas Chadwick had been one of the strikers at the Platt Brothers Engineering Works in Oldham. The strike was a turning point in British sewing machine history.
If the Platt strike had not happened at so crucial a moment, it is possible that Bradbury Sewing Machines, our oldest British sewing machine company would never have come to light.
Things could not have
gone too smoothly between Chadwick and Jones
for within three years the partnership was dissolved.
Chadwick, who already had the bitter taste from a former - failed
partnership, whipped off to
Bradbury Sewing Machines, Williamís
greatest rival. I bet that was a sore point in the
Chadwick had known
Bradbury from days of old. In fact they had both been locked out of
Platt Brothers together and had stood on the the picket line arm in arm,
stopping scabs from getting into the factory. Whilst the old
workmates had got back together, it left William free to operate without
restrictions from his former partner.
William and his brother were eager beavers and took Chadwickís departure as a real bonus, it smoothed the way for their expansion and the game was afoot.
By 1869, they had patented their own machines and
managed to get a large contract for Burtons the tailors to supply
heavy-duty industrial machines to some of their factories. The successes
of their domestic and industrial machines lead to their small business
growing beyond all imagination. Soon agents were
covering the land and shops added Jones machines to their stock.
Ironmongers were a favourite with sewing machine manufacturers like
Soon agents were covering the land and shops added Jones machines to their stock. Ironmongers were a favourite with sewing machine manufacturers like Jones.
In all my years in the sewing industry, I have only
come across one Victorian Jones industrial machine and that was
in a ship chandlers that had the machine from new, so they could be
quite rare! Please donít phone me if you have just found a dozen!
Elegant in design, superior in workmanship
Elegant in design, superior in workmanship
William and his brother went on to make some superb
sewing machines, many of which still survive to this day. They copied
popular machines of the day like
Singers New Family machine and the
German transverse shuttle machines and added their own unique models
like the Cat Back.
Jones Sewing Machine Company,
Jones Sewing Machine Company,
Tel: Ashton-Under-Lyne 2274
By 1869 a great factory
started to grow in Shepley Street,
Guide Bridge, near Audenshaw, on the outskirts of Manchester.
A three storey building stood on the site for a 100 years. At the
Stamford Works factory they
eventually employed thousands of workmen and the machines became a household name in
Britain, much like Hoover or Marmite! Don't tell me you've never heard
of Marmite! It's part of our British constitution.
In its heyday the Jones, Stamford Works, factory at Audenshaw employed thousands of skilled workmen.
The Jones saga was a true story of a small acorn becoming a giant
As the years rolled by William took a back seat and became the Chairman of the Board overseeing important matters and his brother John became Managing Director.
Along with the British arm of Singer & Bradbury, Jones sewing machines were the really successful British sewing machines of the Victorian era. There is hardly a British collection that does not contain a Jones machine, I have eight models myself.
The Jones Company went on to produce many different models for over 120 years. If you ordered more than 100 machines you could have your own name put on the machine. This is something that Singers never did. This is why so many Jones machines turn up in different dresses.
Eclipse sewing machine, sorry about the crooked picture, the paper I scanned was in bits.
The Eclipse sewing machine like the Rushby sewing machine below were both produced by Jones sewing machines and sold by the individual importers/agents and wholesales as their own machines
Queen Alexandra & the connection to Jones Sewing Machines
When The Princess of Wales used one of the Jones machines at one of her technical schools for a year. A testimonial to its reliability came from Marlborough House in London. the Jones Company was quick to act. They marked their machines with Princess Alexandra from then on.
On the 9th of
August 1902, with great pomp and circumstance, Prince Edward was crowned
King Edward VII of England. Princess Alexandra, King Edward's wife,
became Alexandra Queen consort. Jones machines were then markedó as supplied to
HRH Queen Alexandra.
A testimonial from Princess Alexandra was used to promote the Jones Serpentine machines and later put on the CS model though it was the Serpentine that she actually approved.
Princess Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia, Alex, was born at the Yellow Palace, an 18th-century town house next to the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the age of sixteen she was chosen as the future wife of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and heir to Queen Victoria. She won the hearts of the British people as the Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901, the longest anyone has ever held that title. Alexandra was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India from 1901 to 1910 as the consort of King Edward VII.
Testimonial March 5th 1890
To the Jones Sewing Machine Company, Sirs, both your treadle and hand sewing machines have been used in HRH, The Princess of Wales' technical schools, Sandringham, for more than a year. They have given every satisfaction both in dressmaking and sewing of undergarments. They are easy to work and in everyway superior to other makes I know.
The testimonial from Marlborough house came with consent from Princess Alexandra and with her approval. This was to be a huge boon to Jones for decades. All machines were marked with her Royal Approval and when she became Queen after Victoria's death they machines were marked with Royal Approval Queen Alexandra.
No other sewing machine in the world possesses our invaluable patented arrangement.
The machines that she actually
approved were the early Jones machines of the 1880's known as the
Serpentine model. Out of all the Jones models, probably
the one that is the most synonymous with Jones, is the family model
known as the Serpentine, due to the sweep of the neck matching a
bend in the famous London lake.
The beautiful and widely collected model had at least
three other names as well but they were all Jones's famous sweeping back
model of the late Victorian period.
The beautiful and widely collected model had at least three other names as well but they were all Jones's famous sweeping back model of the late Victorian period.
Having Royal Approval was a big money spinner as well as a pat on the back. Customers obviously thought if it was fit for the Queen it must be good.
The name Swan Neck was also
used for the Serpentine model but the name that stuck was Cat Back, as
it does have a familiar curve along the top arm to a catís back. Their
most popular model ran for 30 years from 1879 to 1909 .
When sewing well it is a superb machine and very underrated at the
moment with collectors. It will be a star of the future as it ticks all
the collectors boxes and is obtainable. There can be fewer more stunning
machines than this.
. When sewing well it is a superb machine and very underrated at the moment with collectors. It will be a star of the future as it ticks all the collectors boxes and is obtainable. There can be fewer more stunning machines than this.
The Jones Cat Back, Swan Neck or
Serpentine. One of the prettiest of all Victorian hand machines and
very collectable today. It also came after 1890 with
Approved by HRH Princess and later Queen Alexandra. You cannot get a
much higher recommendation than that!
During WWII the Jones factory carried
on producing sewing machines for the war effort but also produced
uniforms and parachutes.
This was unlike the great Singer factory in Scotland where production of sewing machines ceased for the duration. Bren guns were made and ammunition in massive quantities, some 20 million bullets per week rolled off the production lines.
The Jones sewing machine company was one of the oldest sewing machine companies in the world and by 1963 they were still updating and expanding their factory with a brand new purpose built administration block. But now cheap imports were hitting trade and hitting it hard.
The downturn in manufacturing in Britain was on a roll and many huge old companies were in decline. Jones, like so many greats including Singer had just a few years manufacturing left in Great Britain.
A takeover by Brother industries saw
the Jones name continue on imported models and although the
Jones name eventually disappeared from sewing machines in the late 1980ís,
the ghost of the great Jones
still survives as part of the Japanese - Brother industries.
A single story factory still stands
today opposite where the huge original 1880 factory once was.
Brother industries now own the Jones
name. Brother were originally famous
for their superb hand built pianos and now make a huge range of domestic and
industrial machinery, everything from computers to keyboards.
They used the Jones name to successfully launch their
own Brother machines into Europe before changing the name to
Jones-Brother and then to just Brother.
They used the Jones name to successfully launch their own Brother machines into Europe before changing the name to Jones-Brother and then to just Brother.
One final point worth repeating is
the Jones Sewing Machine Company would mark their machines with many
names such as 'The Lightning'
or 'The Favourite'. If a large haberdasheries or iron mongers
came to Jones with a order for over 100 machines they could have any
name they wished upon the machine like 'Victoria',
'Eclipse' or 'Harrods
Own'. It is one
reason we see so many Jones machines in different skirts - so to speak.
Here is an unusual badge on a Catback model of 1890 marked as the Jones "Favourite" sewing machine, Bridgnorth.
Dear Mr. Askaroff,