Looking back at the history of our former Morphy’s Mill

The Cutting Room decorated for Christmas. The bundles of cut cloth are ready to go upstairs to the stitchers. The ladies are, from left, Bessie Mount, Jean Relph, Mildred Smith, Jessie Holmes, supervisor Lydia Sturziker, designer Madge Mason, May Lord, Gwyneth Rees, Jean Foxcroft and Joan Cooke. The photo was taken in the 1950s.
The Cutting Room decorated for Christmas. The bundles of cut cloth are ready to go upstairs to the stitchers. The ladies are, from left, Bessie Mount, Jean Relph, Mildred Smith, Jessie Holmes, supervisor Lydia Sturziker, designer Madge Mason, May Lord, Gwyneth Rees, Jean Foxcroft and Joan Cooke. The photo was taken in the 1950s.

Guardian reader and Carnforth resident Sheila Jones has written a book about the former Carnforth clothing factory known as Morphy’s Mill.

Just over two years ago my interest in ‘Morphy’s Mill’, as D. Morphy’s Blouse and Dress Manufactory was known, arose because of the curiosity of there being a major employer of females in Carnforth where now there are so few jobs.

I became even more enthusiastic when ex-employees spoke so very fondly of the place, their colleagues, and of the Morphys, and I wanted to research it further.

This newspaper ran a short article with pictures, and I received many phone calls from ladies who had worked there.

I interviewed workers whose periods of employment gave a picture from the 1940s to the 1980s, and David Morphy, the last owner, who, sadly, has since passed away.

All these interviews left a very positive feeling and I wanted to dig just a little deeper.

While still keeping the ladies in centre focus, there was a need for the history of the business to be rounded out and verified.

Kendal Library was enormously helpful, showing me how to look up old census returns; and city directories were available there and in Lancaster library.

In this way I found the old David Morphy’s early career in Preston after he had immigrated from Ireland, and how he had probably bought over Ramsey’s entire clothing business in Carnforth and Kendal by 1914.

Old David’s granddaughter, whose father had been a second generation owner, also helped with her memories and gave me notes that her aunt had made.

All this history is very recent – the factory closed in 1985 – and yet it seems to talk of another period altogether.

The camaraderie in the workplace, the personal relationship between employer and worker, the entire lack of cynicism, add up to something not many have the good fortune to experience nowadays.

I was enchanted that they sang ‘sets’ of songs as they worked, that the employers would call at their homes to see if they were available for work or if they were better after an illness.

And so I did not want to just sit on my bit of research; I wanted the ladies to have it.

With my husband’s IT skills and with added help from a Carnforth printer, a very short book was made ready and to my great joy has been well received by the Morphy family and by the stitchers, the pressers, the cutters, and others who worked at the ‘mill’.

Thanks are due to this paper for getting the research going.

Copies of the book are available from Carnforth Book Shop or from me directly; my number is 01524 732305, and email sheilajones48@hotmail.com.

If you do phone and have a new anecdote, I would love to hear it because the story is certainly not over.