Richard Hemming & Son


Forge Mills, Redditch

No house occupies a higher position than the above Firm in the Needle-making and Fish-hook industry. Founded in 1780 by Richard Hemming, it has ever since, under the title of Richard Hemming & Son, continued to occupy a premier position in this trade and is known in every quarter of the globe for the uniformity and superiority of its products, their white packets with the green label having become household goods as well as household words, these packets being filled with needles of the highest temper and most skilful and exact finish. For herein lies the great and marked superiority of this old house, they use only the finest steel, which is procured in bars from Barnsley in Yorkshire and from the banks of the river Wicker and which is the very best material in the whole world for making needles and fish-hooks. Skilled hand-labour is employed in the various processes, as they make none of the common sorts produced by the aid of machinery; but every needle out of the many millions they make has an individuality of its own, which insures that unvarying uniformity for which they are so justly celebrated. As a matter of course they command the highest price in the market and as a sequence are often supplanted by inferior makes. Until the recent Trade Marks Act came into operation, no house has suffered more than they have from the most unblushing piracy and false imitations of their trade labels. These labels are most unique, interesting and quaint in device and go back to the early part of the present century, including the crown and laurel, the Queen's needles, genuine old patent, best countersunk, drilled eye'd (warranted not to cut in the eye) with the royal arms, the Prince of Wales's feathers, the genuine superfine crown-drilled eye and last, but not least, the very quaint old block with the two fish-hooks in a frame which is attached to every packet containing 1.000 of these hooks. The sample-cards, which they despatch to merchants all over the world, are to be found in all the towns and villages on the shores of the Mediterranean, at the great fairs of Leipsic in Germany and Nishni-Novgorod in Russia, in Finland, Sweden, Canada and as far as Iceland, for they produce hooks that will either capture a minnow or land a shark. Needle-making appears to have been introduced into England by a German during the reign of Elizabeth, who settled at Long Crendon and the industry gradually migrated to Feckenham, Alcester and Studley, finally taking up its important development at Redditch, which has increased very greatly in size and importance during the last few years, rising from a small manufacturing village to a thriving and busy town. The situation of the town itself is most picturesque and is surrounded by most beautiful woodland scenery, for which the county of Worcester is so well known. The process of manufacture commences with the cutting of the steel bars, which are cut into short pieces and then pointed; "eyeing or making”, which is a very important stage, as the needle is either made or marred at it; then follows "hardening", as the bars come in the soft state; "tempering", which requires the greatest judgment and technical knowledge, as well as long practice and the long but necessary process of "scouring", which is most primitive but effectual and which no mechanical process has yet been able to supersede and takes up a period of some two or three weeks, during which time they undergo a ceaseless rotary motion in a moist and temperate condition. Then follows the final finishing and the beautiful blue polishing for which the best-class needles are famous. Although the tendency of the last few years has been to concentrate labour in factories for the purpose of economising production, it has often been done at the sacrifice of individual skilled workmanship, but to the present time this Firm have employed, in several processes requiring individualism of workmanship, outside labour, insuring from these semi-masters a high standard of excellence. The Firm occupy the same premises in which Mr. Richard Hemming founded the business. He was succeeded by his son William, who greatly extended it and afterwards by his son Richard, the present head of it, who leaves the active conduct and management of it to those genial and courteous gentlemen, Mr. Alfred and Mr. Fred. A. Hill, who ably represent the traditions of this representative and time-honoured Firm.

1888 Wymans Commercial Encyclopædia