Hepburn Gale and Ross

The ‘Balata Belting Factory’, was both side of Church Road north of Lewis Road.

Balata is a latex used as an alternative to rubber.

Listed in the 1963 List of Factories as Barrow, Hepburn and Gale.
Borough of Mitcham List of Factories,
Town Clerk’s Department,
July 1963.
Available at Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.
Reference L2 (670) MIT

Clip from Merton Memories photo 49435, taken on 10th February 1954, copyright London Borough of Merton. Hawthorne Avenue is on the left, Church Road at the bottom and part of Lewis Road can be seen on the right.

1952 OS map

From 2012 planning application in Southwark, the Heritage Statement described this company’s origins:

The Ross part of the company Hepburn, Gale and Ross, had originally been A. Ross and Co, this was the company started in 1829 by Alexander Ross, as a leather works in Grange Road. In 1865 he was joined by Mr Tomlin, a former apprentice from the Wellingborough boot trade, who would later become proprietor of the firm. Tomlin was soon joined by another apprentice from Wellingborough Mr Blott, and under the leadership of all three the company when it was taken over in 1895 had become the largest supplier of leather goods to the British Army. The business was purchased by Mr Posnett, who had two other firms, Hepburn and Gale, and in 1903 all three were amalgamated under the name Hepburn, Gale and Ross, Ltd.

From the minutes of the
Croydon Rural District Council
Roads and Buildings Committee
Volume VIII 1902 – 1903
15th May 1902
page 111

2. Deposited Plans. – The Buildings Sub-Committee reported that they had carefully examined al the plans of new streets and buildings deposited since the last meeting, and on their recommendation, it was Resolved:-
(a) That the undermentioned be approved:

No. 2115, Hepburn & Gale, Factory, Church Road, Mitcham

News Articles

Mitcham News & Mercury, 254th February 1961

THE conveyor belting and hydraulic department of Barrow Hepburn and Gale Ltd., Mitcham, has gone through a difficult time, says the annual statement of the chairman. Mr. George W. Odey.

The competition in conveyor and transmission belting reduced prices to unremunerative levels, he said.

“There has, however, been an improvement in this respect. We have been successful in substantially increasing our export sales and we look for a continued improvement in the coming year.”

Mitcham News & Mercury, 25th February 1966 page 1.

Factory to close in April

Council buy half site for £140,000

Production at the Mitcham factory of Barrow Hepburn and Gale should have ceased by April. Half the factory has already been sold to Merton Council for £140,000 and the other half is up for sale.

Mr George Odey, chairman of Barrow Hepburn and Gale, which is the largest company in the leather trade, tells shareholders this week that one of the great disadvantages of the Mitcham factory is that it was divided by a main street, writes John Heffernan, our City Editor.

He says that for some time past, the local authority has been anxious to acquire the factory on one side of the road.

This part is now been sold, subject to final approval by the council. The other portion of the factory has been placed on offer.

Being transferred

Production is being transferred elsewhere and all employees are being offered the opportunity of transferring.

The factory made conveyor belting under the trademarks of Mitcham, Python, Bulldog, Plyastic and Mitchamatic, and this, together with other productions in 1965, represented an export turnover of £500,000.

Mr E Moore, of the Amalgamated Society of Leather Workers, said he believed two unions were involved, his and the Transport and General Workers Union.

He added: “I have 36 members, all concerned with leather work at the factory. They have all been asked to go to the Bermondsey factory, so theoretically they are not becoming redundant.”

He added : “But there may be some hardship cases that we’ll have to take up and get redundancy payment for. One of our members is 70 years old, unfortunately being over 65 he is not covered by the redundancy scheme. But if he is prepared to travel he’s got a job.”

Mr C H Barlow, General Workers District Official of the Transport and General Workers Union, said his union had 60 members from the factory.

He said: “At the most six of them will go to Bermondsey. For the rest it will be redundancy.”

Mitcham News & Mercury, 4th March 1966 page 1.

Eighty-six employees redundant

Eighty-six employees of the Mitcham factory which is to close in April are being made redundant.

This was the latest news after Barrow Hepburn and Gale announced last week that there would be opportunities for transferring all employees.

Mr C H Barlow, General Workers District Official of the Transport and General Workers Union, said:

“Eighty-six men who make rubber conveyor belting are being made redundant. The question of transferring to Bermondsey applies only to about 36 men on the leather side.”

Barrow, Hepburn and Gale is the largest company in the leather trade and their head office is in Bermondsey.

Mr Barlow recently went to Bermondsey and returned to the Mitcham factory to tell men about the redundancy.

He said : “I have written to the management asking for a meeting to discuss the terms of redundancy payment.”

22nd July 1966 Mitcham News & Mercury page 1

Council buy land

Land belong to Barrow, Hepburn and Gale Limited, at Church Road Mitcham, is being bought by Merton council as a cost of £248,300.

The company, the largest in the leather trade, closed their Mitcham premises in April.

Minutes of meetings held by the Croydon Rural District Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

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