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Matlock: Crowder Johnson's Handmade Hosiery Works
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Crowder Johnson's business card
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This business card advertised the family hosiery concern owned by Thomas Crowder Johnson at the end of the nineteenth century and for several decades of the twentieth. Crowder Johnson's card shows, interestingly, that the company had a national, not a local, telephone number[1].

Thomas spent his teenage years with his uncle, William Crowder, a hosier of Matlock Bank[2]. Crowder's Hosiery Works was on Wellington Street[3] and it was here that Thomas learned the trade. William Crowder and his wife Eliza had no children. In 1894 William Crowder announced that he was giving up the hosiery side of his business. This was to be carried on by his nephew, who by that time had been in the business for nearly twenty years so has a thorough knowledge of how it worked. William did not retire completely as he continued his work as an agent for three insurance companies[4]. William passed away in 1900.

Thomas married Mary Cottrill at All Saints' in 1890 and the couple had three children[5]. In 1911 he described himself as a Maker of Hand Made Hosiery Merinos Wool Silk Wool Silks And C[6], which is almost the same as is says on his business card. By 1916 there was an additional department that was making blouses and was based in Smedley's Buildings on Smedley Street[1]. In 1923 the Smedley Street shop was transferred to his wife, Mary, and became a ladies' outfitting establishment[7]. One of his employees was Emmanuel Wigley of Bonsall[8]. Another was William Wilson of The Archway, Crich who died in 1918[9]. Other names are not known.

Crowder Johnson's workshop This second card shows more of the work's interior and four of the staff.
It is interesting that they were prepared to show visitors around the works;
they must have believed it would increase their business.

In 1932 Crowder Johnson made a life member of the Conservative Club, having completed 51 years of membership. This was too mark both the time he had been a member and "the enormous amount of time, money and work so ungrudgingly given to both the club and party". He was to recall that when the Club had moved to premises over Hartley's shop in Crown Square in 1882 he had carried their first billiards table up the stairs in sections[10].

One of his daughters was almost mistaken for Amy Johnson. When his younger daughter Nora, the wife of Basil O Jones, went to join her husband at Skopje in Yugoslavia in 1930 the aeroplane she was travelling on was mistaken for that of Amy Johnson, who was due to land there at a similar time. Mrs. Jones was said to have been astonished when people surrounded her plane. Amy Johnson arrived a little later and the two women even stayed at the same hotel[11].

1949 Obituary
Death of Mr. T. Crowder Johnson[12]

MR. TOM CROWDER JOHNSON (83), of Wellington House, Wellington-street, Matlock, died yesterday [4 July] after a long illness. Mr. Johnson was the last of the old master hand-frame knitters - once a flourishing industry in the Matlock district - and he carried on at his Wellington-street works until after the last war.

He was one of the founders of Matlock Conservative Club. He founded the West Derbyshire Union League in 1907, and was the first secretary of the Matlock Branch.

Mr. Johnson also founded the company which built the Victoria Hall (now Derwent Mills) and for many years it was the only place of entertainment in the town.

More than half-a-century ago he played for Matlock Town Football Club in its Midland League days, when teams like Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Everton and Blackburn Rovers were all on the fixture list.

A funeral service will be held at All Saints' Church, Matlock on Thursday morning [7 July].

Also see Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (1). The one for Crowder Johnson lists all the items the firm made in 1903.

Both cards in the collection of and provided by and © Ken Smith.
Images scanned for this website and information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] References for Tom Crowder Johnson include Kelly's Directory 1895 | Kelly's Directory 1899 | Kelly's Directory 1908 | Kelly's Directory 1912 | Kelly's Directory 1916 (gives national phone number) | Kelly's Directory,1925 | Kelly's Directory,1932.

[2] Thomas was a teenager in the 1881 census.

[3] William Crowder had became a newsagent, having first been a framework knitter. See the 1861 census | the 1871 census | his advert in Croston's Guide | Kelly's 1891 Directory

[4] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 21 April 1894. Notice. William Crowder, hand-made hosiery manufacturer of Wellington House, Matlock Bank, thanked numerous friends for the kind support they have given him and announced his nephew would run the business from 1st May 1894 onwards.

[5] He was still with his uncle after he married - see the 1891 census. Ten years later, in the 1901 census, all his children had been born and Eliza Crowder was then living a couple of houses below the Johnson family.

[6] The 1911 census is available on Find My Past.

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 September 1925.

[8] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 17 January 1903.

[9] Derbyshire Courier 19 October 1918. Death of William Wilson, aged 76. He had been employed at Smedley's at Lea before working for Crowder Johnson.

[10] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 10 December 1932. Letter written by the secretary, Mr. J. B. Richards, on behalf of the committee.

[11] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 10 December 1932. The newspaper reported that Mrs. Jones was joining her husband in Cairo , but that the event described had occurred "some time ago". It is most likely to have been in 1930 when the same paper reported that Nora Jones had flown to Skopje.

[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Tuesday 5 July 1949. Obituary for Tom Crowder Johnson.