HORN-COMB INDUSTRY OF KENILWORTH
1. The Industry in New Row (now 36 Castle Hill)
The Horn-comb Industry in Kenilworth in the 17th and 18th century was of a major importance to the Town. On studying the house deeds for High Street and New Row, one can see that the majority of the people were employed in the trade. Further to John H Drew's research into the subject much more has come to light.One of the largest comb factories and employers was John Gaunt Littleton and then later his son Joseph, who has been documented earlier. In the County Records Office there are many apprenticeship Indentures for comb-makers, many of them employed by Joseph Littleton but also others including Joseph Griffith and Daniel Cuttyfold all of Kenilworth. It can be seen from the census of 1841 that out of 22 houses in New Row on the north side, 15 of them had people employed in the industry. By 1861 the comb industry was coming to its end - only a few people were still carrying on. Some of the new facts about the industry that have been discovered come from certain houses in New Row. In 1970, number 20 was owned by antique dealer Patrick Morley. He informed me that in the early seventies he was standing at the rear of the building when he noticed a blocked up window on the first floor. He also noticed that there were marks on the external wall where a brick staircase had been removed; the exterior of the building was not the same shape as the interior. He removed the bricks from the first floor window to find an. eight foot square room inside. This room could not be accessed from the inside, the ceiling was held up by the two ends of a four poster bed. The room was just as it was when it was bricked up. Inside, a newspaper dated 1900 was found, and the workshop still remained with the tools of a comb and shoe maker.When Mr Morley spoke to the previous owner, Mrs Wallis who was 80 years of age and had lived there all her life, she had no knowledge of this room. Up the hill next door but one, is number 18 (now No 36 'Savoir Faire'). When these premises were renovated a few years ago, again, the remains of an old comb factory were found. This was on the first floor and over-looked New Row. When the floor boards were taken up, two tools and the remains of combs were found.In the north wall of the ground floor in the room first entered from New Row is a chute that leads down from the first floor. There are some questions about its use and it
requires more investigation.
Horn-combs found in a house in New Row
2. No 58 High Street A History of Littleton's Comb Factory
In the will of John Gaunt Littleton, dated 1826, we read my last will and Testament I give and devise all that messuage or tenement situate in Kenilworth aforesaid wherein I now dwell together with the comb makers shop behind [that is to say, behind the four properties under investigation] and adjoining the same with appurtenances belonging to my said two sons Joseph Littleton and George Littleton. I give all that Building used as a Horn Shop in Kenilworth aforesaid with appurtenances thereto belonging situate near Mr Butlers premises in Kenilworth.From this Will we now know that the Littleton comb factory was at the rear of the house that is today No 58 High Street.
3) Park View, Castle Road
The story starts with William turner born 1797 in Kenilworth to Robert and Elizabeth Turner. By 1841 William is married to Mary, and they have five children, William 19, Charles 17, Thomas 8, Ann 5 and Mary. At this time William is a comb manufacturer in Castle End and his two eldest sons are also in the industry.Mary, Williams's wife dies about 1850, and in the 1851 census William has his own firm and is employing men and women. His eldest son William has left the comb business to be a Clerk at a coal wharf in Kenilworth but Charles is still in the industry. From studying the census it looks like Williams business at this time is close to the tannery in Warwick Road. On the 1861 census William the elder has bought and built his house in Castle Gove. He has married again to Martha Betts on the20th March 1858 at Kenilworth aged 44. They still have one daughter at home Mary. The property known as Grove Cottage had two families living in it; the other family was James Freeman who was a gardener aged 33. James lived in the part of the house at the rear of property as can be seen in the photo; he lived there with his wife and three children. The owners who live at Grove Cottage today remove the staircase that led to the upstairs rooms; the rooms could not get access to the rest of the house. Today a new flight of stairs has been built and access to the rooms has been made. As can be seen from the photo the two old iron windows on the upper floor, this is where William moved his comb factory too. The environment that William his family and work force would have found a lot better as the smells from the tannery would have been awful.William dies in1880 and Martha and Mary her step daughter remain living in Grove Cottage. The 1881 census shows that both families are still living in Grove Cottage which at this time is the last property Castle Grove. By the 1891 census Park View is shown, and is lived in by Charles Walters and his family and James Freeman lives in Grove Cottage. Martha Turner was buried on the 17th March 1886. It looks like the Mander family who bought the property built the extension on the side of Grove Cottage and rented it. By 1901 the house that is today called Moat Cottage has been built and is lived in by Mrs Spencer a Widow, which is now the last property in Castle Grove. Park View, Grove Cottage is one house and from the 1900's was lived in by one family and later Park View was also used as a doctor's surgery.
The rear of Grove Cottage
Last Modified 13-12-2013