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Gossards Leighton Buzzard

A Gossard advertisement from 1965 trying to attract workers
A Gossard advertisement from 1965 trying to attract workers

The firm of Gossards long supported employment in Leighton Buzzard. All About Leighton Buzzard and Linslade ("This is the Official Guide") of 1965 [UDLL/Pub1/3] includes the following about Gossards: "In 1921 a company was set up in England which was a subsidiary of H. W. Gossard Co of Chicago. In 1926 the factory in Leighton was opened for the manufacture of foundation garments and in 1935 Gossard Limited became a public company and was no longer a subsidiary of the American company. During the following years the firm expanded its interests by the acquisition of laundries, children's wear and dress businesses and a knittingmachine company. In 1948 production began in South Africa and in 1953 in Germany of Gossard products. 200 people are employed at Gossard's Grovebury Road factory. The wheel turned full circle. Gossards was taken over by Courtaulds, itself taken over by an American company, PPG Industries, in 2000.

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. The valuer visiting the Gossards factory [DV1/R80/65-75] noted that British W. H. Gossard Company Limited, ladies' underwear manufacturers and Bullivant and Company, corset manufacturers both owned and occupied the site which comprised "mainly brick and slate buildings very strongly constructed with cement floated floor. Main building has two span with stanchions supporting same - steel trusses 12½ feet centres". The offices measured 31 feet by 17 feet by 12 feet, the cloakrooms 31 feet by 14½ feet by 12 feet. The loading shed measured 19½  feet by 32 feet by 19 feet, a dining room, with corridors etc., measured 32 feet by 32 feet by 10½ feet and lavatories 9 feet by 32 feet by 12 feet.

The main building ("factory accommodation one storey corset making) measured 83 feet by 125 feet by 25 feet with a store measuring 85 feet by 60 feet by 24 feet plus another area measuring 28½ feet by 4 feet by 22 feet. Another store ("mainly wooden and corrugated iron") measured 55 feet by 28½ feet by 13½ feet ("larger than requirements"). A carpenter's shop, built of wood and slate measured 55 feet by 24 feet by 12 feet and a brick and Ruberoid boiler house 13 feet by 13½ feet by 9½ feet. Wooden cycle sheds measured 58 feet by 12 feet plus 45 feet by 12 feet.

Gossards in 1927
Gossards in 1927 [R80/65]

There were 66 yards, approximately, of railway lines, forming a siding to London Midland & Scottish Railway, Dunstable branch ("this is hardly necessary for this trade, but used about once a week"). Machinery at the works included sixteen 2 horsepower motors used or driving sewing machines, a switch board with power from main to drive motors ("small"), a small Norris & Duttons boiler for heating and a 1¾ horsepower motor used for driving a circulating pump. There was also a 2 horsepower motor for cutting.

The site was "0.5 acres built on, 1.660 not". The valuer noted: "construction of buildings far stronger than necessary for this business" and "trade slack, now brisk". Alternating slackness and firmness were, no doubt, common in the trade. At the time of writing [2009] a storage shed occupies the site.

Site of former the Gossard factory June 2008
Site of the former Gossard factory June 2008