Atkins Brothers Hosiery Factory

The Atkins Brothers Hosiery Factory in Hinckley was the oldest surviving independent framework knitting firm in the world

The Atkins building in Lower Bond Street after the addition of a top floor c.1940s
The Atkins building in Lower Bond Street after the addition of a top floor c.1940s

The origins of the Atkins Brothers firm can be traced back to 1722, when Robert Atkins (1702-1768), the son of a yeoman farmer from Newbold-on-Avon in Warwickshire, returned to Bond Street in Hinckley to make stockings, having served his apprenticeship in London. At this time knitting was a cottage industry with supplies of wool readily available in the locality.

The family home was originally located on the site, close to the Great Meeting chapel (Unitarian Chapel) that was built in 1722. The family were closely linked with the chapel, which was their place of worship, the original Goddard building was designed with an arched entry which gives access to the chapel via Baines Lane.

3rd August 1875 The plans for the Atkins Brothers new factory in Lower Bond Street was approved by the Hinckley Urban District Council.

1877 The original L-shaped block was built adjacent to the Atkins family home along Lower Bond Street with orange brick with ashlar dressings along with a Welsh slate roof. The architects were Goddard and Paget of Leicester and the contractors for the work was John and William Harrold of Hinckley, the final cost came to £4,837.

The Street front of the four storeys (including basement) and twenty-two bays, chamfered plinth above basement. The upper floors have chamfered set-backs between floor levels and pilasters between bays.

The basement has segmental-headed openings, the first and second floors have round-arched windows with roll-moulded surrounds which are mostly with plate-glass sashes.

On the left the 1970s factory extension is visible. This has since been demolished and is now the site of North Warwickshire and Hinckley College.
On the left the 1970s factory extension is visible. This has since been demolished and is now the site of North Warwickshire and Hinckley College.

The third floor has six-pane casements under square head with block corbels and small central pilasters below their sills. The end bays have large round-arched arches that face Baines Lane. Bay twelve has a round-arched entry, bay fourteen a square-headed entry which, like the bay twenty-two arch, has a frieze of terra cotta foliate panels above and cornice.

The building comprises bays fourteen to twenty-two, up to the top of the second floor, and a rather plainer range running east from its south end, along Baines Lane. Roof hipped at right end. The factory ranges have wooden floors and cross beams with tie rods, carried on cast iron columns.

1891 Elizabeth Atkins (mother of John, Thomas, George, Hugh, Arthur) died, she was the last member of the Atkins family to be buried in the family tomb in the grounds of the Great Meeting chapel (Unitarian Chapel).

16th May 1888 The Free Library was presented to the town by the Atkins family in memory of Arthur Atkins (1840-1882).

8th November 1899 John Atkins (1829-1908), Thomas Atkins (1832-1911) and Hugh Atkins (1838-1911) were founder-members of the Cottage Hospital which was opened by Mrs Alldridge of Sketchley.

1910 A fourth storey was added to the main block, and the whole building was extended, which included the purchase of an orchard from the Unitarians to provide further land. The top floor of the main block has internal brick pilasters, a roof with collars and raking struts to the principals.

The ground-floor of the factory incorporates a boiler room with segmental arched heads and brickwork contemporary with the extension of the factory. There is a courtyard between the extended L-shaped Goddard building and the concrete framed building to the rear.

1929 Atkins was converted to a private limited company.

1950 Atkins became a public company.

The Atkins Building c.2013
The Atkins Building c.2013

1960s An important fashion change took place within the trade with the almost total elimination of fully-fashioned stockings which caused redundancies, but the firm prospered again with the introduction of tights.

23rd May 1972 HRH Princess Margaret opened a new addition to the Atkins Bros factory which was a warehouse and office extension.

1990 Atkins was still engaged in essentially the same business and was reputedly the oldest surviving independent knitting firm in the world, a significant feature of the firm was the continuity of the family management.

1994 Tom Atkins who was the final member of the Atkins family in the firm retired.

14th September 1995 In the company's 273rd year, the Atkins board of directors accepted a takeover by Coats Viyella PLC.

2002 The company ceased manufacturing.

August 2003 The building was sold and was to be converted for use as apartments and small commercial units.

2008 Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council purchased the Atkins building as part of the preservation of the Druid Quarter, a northwards expansion of the town devoted to hosiery manufacture in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

28th September 2010 The Atkins building opened by Councillor Stuart Bray (Leader of the Council) after having a £5m renovation and conversion to create a business centre.

Atkins Brothers Videos

Three short videos that are filmed around the Atkins hosiery's, dyehouse, lesuirewear and underwear departments.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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