George Pettit

George Pettit & Son Ltd

The firm of George Pettit was founded in Lutterworth in 1861 and built substantial premises on New Street, a representation of which appears in the centre of their letterheading in the style of the day.

Apart from a small amount of personal memories this information is based on records in Leicestershire County Archives

The firm remained in the family and in 1946 the shareholders were George R Pettit and John Hallam Pettit who each held 2231 Ordinary Shares and 2000 Preference Shares and Kathleen Muriel Pettit and Norman Frederick Pettit who each held 100 shares. The telephone number was Lutterworth 24.

Their letterheading describes them as makers of narrow fabrics in the fields of haberdashery, underwear, outerwear, and boot and corsetry. This put them in direct competition with Tubbs, Lewis.

By 1946 George Pettit was ill and Norman Frederick, of the next generation, was still serving in the forces in the Far East. The family had applied for his early release, without success. During the war Pettits had failed to gain nucleus status, which would have allowed them to deal directly with the Narrow Fabrics Directorate of the Ministry of Supply based at 28 Quay Street, Manchester. Instead they had to sub-contract quota from Ripley Lace as did Hills of Lutterworth and Lye and Sons Ltd.

The family had interests in property including land at Primethorpe and Peatling Parva. The archive at Leicester Records office (DE3799) which is the source of all of this information has a section on property at Broughton Astley, which I have not investigated. There was also a cinema, The Roxy Cinema Ltd (Nottingham), which by 1946 was losing money, as much as £40 in a week. The family speculated that the reason for this is that their manager was not picking the best films, with the unspoken assumption that they had not picked the best manager, despite having to pay him £2 per week, which by then was not a large wage. Unfortunately I did not identify the location of the Roxy but I presume it was in Nottingham. There was a Roxy in Nottingham on Ribblesdale Road, which is at the junction of Thackeray’s Lane and Mansfield Road in Sherwood. Somebody must have researched the decline in cinema going. Television would not have been a factor as early as 1946, but I recall reading that there were over 70 cinemas in Nottingham, yet by the mid 1960s it must have been down to about fifteen. The Savoy on Derby Road must be the only one left working as a cinema. I worked briefly in one of them, the Wilton, which by late 1960s was a storehouse for John Player including gifts to be acquired in exchange for tokens. Another indicator of problems is that John Davies acquired the Rank Organisation cheaply and that included the cinemas.

Another firm in which they were involved was Carrington Pictures Ltd.

The business must have been offered for sale informally and they received an approach from Tubbs Lewis. The offer is in an undated copy of a personal letter to Jack (John H) Pettit from Leonard Tubbs of Leonard Tubbs & Co who by the merest coincidence was also chairman of Tubbs Lewis. The offer consisted of £10,000 for the premises, £22,000 for the plant, machinery and vehicles (excluding Jack’s car), £5,000 for goodwill and trade marks plus stock at valuation. The deal was conditional on TL taking over all existing contracts and subject to obtaining the necessary licences from the Ministry. Jack was to be retained as a consultant on £500 p.a.

There is evidence of one trademark “CLIVE – knicker elastic, washing and boiling, always reliable, finest art silk and rubber “. It makes IKEA look uninventive!

There is a schedule of a stock take on 23 November 1946 where the total value was £2831.9.6.

The process was carefully orchestrated. The existing firm was to go into voluntary liquidation. This appears to have been necessary to avoid transferring tax liabilities to TL. There were formal meetings held on 28 th October 1946. The firm agreed to sell its assets to TL and then voted to go into voluntary liquidation. One Francis William Doleman of Leicester was appointed liquidator. A new company with the same name was formed and which was wholly owned by TL. The directors of the new company were unsurprisingly Leonard Tubbs, and ACC Willway plus RE Yeabsley CBE about whom I know nothing, CB Tubbs MC and TB (Tom) Wallace MBE. The new letterheading was exactly the same as the old except for the change of Directors’ names and a mention of Jack as consultant.

Although the official grounds for the need to sell the business were the illness of George and the unavailability of Norman there is one rather alarming letter of 8 th February 1946 in the archive from Ripley Lace to Pettit’s asking for settlement of an “enormous” overdue account of £1957.19.3, so perhaps post war trading conditions were not helping. There are ledgers in the archive and detailed research could be done. There is a P&L account for 18 weeks to July 20 th 1946 which may be for the whole of Pettit’s. It shows a Gross Profit of £157 on sales of £1471 of which £340 was consumed by Purchase Tax and a mere £90 by wages, and then there was discount and expenses to be dedcucted from the GP. Not much left.

There are copies of pro forma documents signed by Tom Wallace which would have been sent out to customers, assuring them that JH Pettit would continue to be associated with the company; there is some more interesting personal correspondence resulting from Jack’s personal contact with them.

The firm of Lion and Mosely were customers in Sydney, Australia but had a London office run by Charles Cahan. He wrote to Jack on 4 th December 1946 saying that Tubbs, Lewis appear to us to be nice folk, which I take to mean that Cahan had been talking to CBT. In an earlier letter (11 November) Cahan reminisces that by coincidence RS Moseley had taken a lease from Tubbs & Lewis on 22 March 1890 (by which date Lewis was dead) – I speculate that could be on premises at Charterhouse Buildings which was intended to be small warehouses.

Another well-wisher was J Whiteside of George Wigley, Warser Gate, Nottingham who were also suppliers of cotton to Nottingham Braid, though by my time there the face was of Mr (Bill?) Howard.

AS this archive is Pettits rather than TL it is not really clear who was running Pettits after the takeover. There is correspondence signed by E Stevenson who appears to have an administrative role. Obviously Tom Wallace was master-minding everything and did the stock-take but he had overall responsibility for the whole of TL as its works manager. There is a sarcastic comment from Jack that Tom Wallace was off to Coventry to see a braiding machine that was 5 times as quick as theirs. I would speculate that this would be the Wardwellian type of braider where the packages run on the outside of the track and the cam mechanism is much shorter than on a maypole type braider. This has the potential to run very quickly but MCT never had any success with the second-hand one bought from Great Grimsby Coal Salt and Tanning Co (Cosalt) in 1965. The Wardwell company of Rhode Island still exists and makes braiders both of the rapid and maypole type. Unfortunately in their illustration the rapid mechanism is entirely hidden behind the guards. H&S to the rescue!.

There is evidence that the firm was trying to keep up with technology and certainly bought some new equipment. There is an invoice from Crowthers in 1930 for five 24B (Saurer?) elastic looms with fittings and there are documents which I have not examined yet with information about Holborn (?) braiders

MCT went to Pettits from Wotton in 1954 and was there until resigning in 1956, so this little bit of history impacts directly on the family which moved to Ullesthorpe in 1954 and Swinford in (I think) 1955. CBT also retired in 1956, around the time of his 60 th birthday. I understand that they rowed about this and other matters, particularly the City Sites Devlopment Company, but know nothing of the details. I was taken into Pettits a couple of times by my father, but only on Saturday mornings as I recall, so I do not remember any activity but lots of samples and pins. MCT always carried pins in the seam of his jacket lapel ready to whisk out to pin a sample to a piece of card. It must have been very trying for his tailor, but would not have given Sherlock Holmes much to think about. I guess he also carried scissors, but I doubt if he carried cards in his pockets.