Prescot Museum’s Special Exhibition at The Watchfactory

Prescot Pals at Barracks (former Lancashire Watch Factory building)

This week we’re looking at a special exhibition Prescot Museum created to go inside The Watchfactory in Prescot – a housing scheme developed inside part of the original Lancashire Watch Company factory building on Albany Road/Oliver Lyme Road in Prescot. The building has a very interesting history, so we put together a special display for the residents, staff and visitors to enjoy, looking at the first three important phases in its story.

The factory building was erected to house the Lancashire Watch Company. The foundation stone was laid in 1889, but the factory opened officially in 1890.

The Lancashire Watch Company produced clocks, measuring instruments and pocket watches, and became one of the largest employers in Prescot. Hundreds of local men and women worked at the factory, but only unmarried women were allowed; female employees would have to leave their posts when they wed, presumably to concentrate on their new role as wife and mother!

l-r: watch assembly tray, LWCo movement tin, watch case opener, dome gauge, Douzieme caliper, watch dials

Here is some more information about the objects in this display…
Watch Assembly Tray
This Lancashire Watch Company pocket watch movement assembly tray contains ten unfinished ‘Sentinel’ 3/4 plate movements, still wrapped in tissue. They were from order 722; the serial numbers of the watches run from 722221 to 722230. The components for each watch would be placed in the tray and a worker would assemble them into a finished movement. This model, marketed as a “Sentinel” is a size 15 Stem Set Open Face watch. A Stem Set watch is set via the stem (the protruding part it hangs from) rather than using a key. Open Face means you can see the whole of the face of the watch and it hangs from the 12 o’clock position (a hunter is concealed by the case and is opened to check the time, a half hunter has a small central window in the cover so you can still tell the time without having to open it, and both hang from the 3 o’clock position).

Watch Movement Tin
This pressed brass tin would have been used to hold a Lancashire Watch Factory watch movement. Retailers and jewellers often bought their watches as “movement only” to be put in a case made by themselves or another company and sold on, allowing more choice and variation.

Watch Case Opener
Depending on the type of pocket watch, the owner would need to open the tightly-fitting case order to wind it or access the movement to clean it; the Lancashire Watch Company made promotional watch case openers to prise open the cases. On the back it is stamped “’Largest manufacturers in the world of English Lever Watches”.

Douzieme Caliper and Dome Gauge
The caliper was used to measure components and the thickness of the watch movements. The gauge was used for 14 size watches, to measure the depth of watch case and crystal domes.

The Lancashire Watch Company was sadly shortlived, but they made around a million watches in a little over twenty years; the company’s property including machinery and tools were auctioned off in 1911.

The building then entered the second phase in its history – during the First World War, it was used as the barracks for the 17th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, known as ‘the Pals’.
Before conscription was introduced in 1916, men were asked to enlist voluntarily, and they would be assigned to a battalion. It was thought that men would be more likely to sign up to fight alongside their friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues. Huge numbers of soldiers were needed, and so Lord Derby raise a battalion at Liverpool, saying “This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.” Within a week, enough local men had signed up to form four Pals battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.

l-r: Prescot Peace Celebrations ticket, Prescot Pals cap badge, “Princess Mary” tin, Walter Jaundrill’s portrait alongside the letter sent to his family and his medals.

Here is some more information about the objects in this part of the display:

Private Walter Jaundrill’s medals
Walter Jaundrill was a coalminer from Sewell Street, Prescot. He enlisted in 11th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on 24 August 1914, just over a month after the war broke out. In 1916, he was transferred to the 17th Battalion, and a week later he was on front line trench duty. He was listed in a Red Cross Supplementary List as “unofficially missing, 25 July 1916”. His wife and three children were notified by the letter on display, dated 20 October 1917, that as no news of any soldiers missing from his Battalion had been received that they were to be presumed dead. He was 35. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal shown here.

King’s (Liverpool) Regiment Pals cap badge
Other battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment have a horse atop a banner, but the cap badge for the Pals (17th-20th battalions) is the eagle and child, based on the crest of Lord Derby and given as a personal gift to those he recruited.

Princess Mary tin
Given to troops at Christmas 1914, this would have been filled with small amounts of chocolate, cigarettes, tobacco, a pencil and other essentials.

Prescot Peace Celebrations ticket
In 1919, Knowsley Hall hosted a huge gala for the town.

The images show the Prescot Pals at the barracks, in training and marching down Station Road, and a gathering at the War Memorial erected in 1916 to honour Prescot’s fallen, one of the first in the country. It was originally on Church Street, then later relocated behind Prescot Parish Church.

For the third phase in the former Lancashire Watch Company factory building, it was extended to become home to Tinling & Co, a printing company, from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Left to right: Copper printing blocks, ARP Instructions Book, Drama in Lancashire booklet

Here is some more information about this section of the display:

Tinling’s ARP Instructions Book
This book was printed in-house at Tinling’s with instructions and information for their staff in the event of an air raid at the factory; they were clearly well-organised as it was produced within a month of the war being declared in 1939.

Drama in Lancashire Booklet, 1961
This is just one example of the many different types of document printed by Tinling & Co. Other examples include illustrated children’s books, promotional cook books printed for Stoves, and even newspapers.

Copper Printing Blocks
These copper and wood halftone printing blocks show images of streets in Huyton.

After Tinling’s closed, the building complex became Prescot Trade Centre, split into separate units taken up by different businesses.

During the creation of Kirkby Gallery’s recent Made on Merseyside, we found that one of these businesses had a very exciting claim to fame – Rainhill Tape Specialists filled 6,000 square feet of Prescot Trade Centre following their success with recordings at Amazon Studios including many of Echo and the Bunnymen’s releases and reproducing demo tapes for lots of local bands and performers.

The building has now been redeveloped as extra care housing and is known as The Watchfactory, in recognition of its roots. As well as our public display in the foyer, there are images of the local area in all the building’s corridors and shared spaces to give residents and staff glimpses into the past. Design elements from Lancashire Watch Company watches have been brought into the graphics and signage throughout the building too.