The Dukinfield company William Kenyon's is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
William Kenyon's was born in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The conflict caused huge disruption to the cotton imports from the southern states upon which the Tameside area was dependent. Mills closed for lack of raw materials and thousands were left out of work and dependent on charity. William Kenyon, who worked as a relieving officer in Stockport, saw the misery at first-hand and resolved to start a business that was not at the mercy of cotton.
William knew the heavy phase of the Industrial Revolution, with its reliance on coal, iron and railways, was coming to an end. With an eye on the future, he started up as a rope-maker so that he could supply both the established and developing industries.
The Kenyons’ first ropeworks was on King Street, opposite what is now Dukinfield Town Hall. In 1872 William bought the house and land at 40 Church Street, and three years later the land between Railway Street and Palmer Street. This became the Chapel Field works where Kenyons’ head office remains.
In 1917 the company bought the Reliance Rope Works on Railway Street from Alderman John Stafford. When it was built, in 1903, it was reputed to be the longest rope walk in England.
The company enjoyed its most famous moment in 1953 when it supplied the ropes used by Colonel John Hunt’s expedition to climb Everest. Sir Edmund Hillary later visited Dukinfield.
Kenyon’s has hosted two royal visits: the Duke of Edinburgh in 1964 and the Queen in 1968.
The Kenyon family also has a fine record of public service. Edwin Kenyon was a member of the first Dukinfield Council in 1899, and George Henry Kenyon served as mayor throughout the First World War until his death in 1917. His widow, Elizabeth Hannah, completed his term and in 1919 was one of the first three people to receive the freedom of the borough.
Arnold Kenyon, who was company chairman from 1917 to 1916, was mayor of Dukinfield in 1935 and oversaw the construction of the Jubilee Hall.
He was succeeded by Sir George Kenyon. Alongside his many industry and education posts, Sir George was deputy lieutenant of Chester and Greater Manchester, and high sheriff of Cheshire. He died in 2008.
It says much that William Kenyon and Sons has been able to continually adapt and so survive and prosper for 150 years. It has carried Dukinfield’s name throughout the world.