A visit by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to John Shannon & Son Limited in 1897

This establishment was founded by the father of the present managing director in the early part of the century as a drapery business, and was removed to the present site in George Street in 1845. In 1875 the drapery business was given up, and the manufacture of clothing exclusively undertaken. Owing to the great increase in the business, the original factory was demolished in 1894, and the present extensive buildings were erected in its place. Apparatus for making gas on the Dowson plan, and the necessary boilers, engines, electric-lighting machinery, and motors for driving sewing-machines, were designed by Messrs. Lea and Thornbery, of Birmingham.

The warehouse consists of two large blocks, covering half of one side of George Street. Every class of goods required in the manufacture of clothing is received in the basement, which extends the whole length of the building, about 250 feet. There are two woollen departments, one devoted to the ready-made woollen goods, and the other to clothing made to special measure. The second floor is set apart for woollens and trimmings; and for offices, where all the cost pricing is worked out, and the clerical business is transacted. The trimming department comprises linings, braids, buttons, cottons, silks, and twists, etc. From the special measure despatch room about 4,000 garments are sent out per week, each of which has to be cut according to measures taken. The ready made stockroom of the men's department contains a large assortment of garments, including worsteds, serges, and fancy suits. The despatching room is 180 feet long by 40 feet wide, and is fitted with tiers of shelves reaching to the ceiling. The matching room receives the garments from the finishing department, to be matched and made up into suits prior to their removal to the various stock-rooms. In the cutting room, where about 120 men are engaged cutting out, fitting, and trimming, are several machines with endless band-knives, any one of which is capable of cutting out from fifty to a hundred thicknesses of cloth at once, the top surface only having the pattern chalked upon it. The knives are driven by an electric motor, and the machines are supplied by Messrs. Beecroft and Co., Leeds. In the centre of the room is an office, in which all the patterns for special measures and stock are cut and stored, to the number of no less than 300 sets; and duplicates are deposited in the strong room in case of fire.

The new factory is a building of five storeys and basement, 150 feet long and 54 feet wide, and containing 50,000 square feet of floor area. The juvenile machine-room has accommodation for 400 work people, and is capable of turning out 10,000 garments per week. It is fitted with Singer's sectional benches driven by electric motors, and contains a number of Barran pressing machines heated by Dowson gas, and worked by girls; also machines for sewing on buttons, each capable of attaching 10,000 buttons per week. In the department for making up men's clothing are Singer over seaming machines for binding garments. The finishing room in the bottom storey is lighted by 20 arc lamps, and can accommodate 500 girls. Before the erection of the new factory, the finishing work was done by outside labour. A large number of Reece buttonhole machines are here employed, in which an indicator registers the number of stitches made; each machine can make 300 dozen button holes a day. whereas a good day's hand labour would not produce more than ten dozen button holes. In the serving room on Saturdays the bulk of the trimmings required for the following week are distributed. The pressing department, with accommodation for sixty men, is specially constructed on the shed principle, with a glass and tile roof supported by columns and girders; the heating stoves are separated from the rest of the room by a brick partition, and all fumes are carried off by two Blackman air propellers, driven by electric motors. A large messroom in the basement contains heating apparatus, in which food can be warmed.

The warming and ventilation of the building on the plenum plan has been carried out by Mr. W. Key, of Glasgow. The external air is drawn through a series of moistened screens, by which it is filtered. It then passes, when warmth is required, through a series of pipes filled with exhaust steam; and is forced through the building by a fan 10 feet diameter, driven by one of Messrs. G. E. Belliss and Co.'s compound inverted engines of 12 horse-power. The air in the building is changed seven times every hour in winter, and ten times in summer, the volume dealt with in summer being 41 million cubic feet per hour. Ample precautions have been taken against fire by the provision of 657 Grinnell sprinklers, arranged by Messrs. Dowson, Taylor, and Co. The sprinkler itself is simply a small valve securely closed by a fusible solder joint, which melts at a temperature of 155° Fahrenheit. They are distributed at equal distances in every room, and fixed close to the ceiling, as that in case of fire at any spot the water conveyed to each sprinkler by a pipe is automatically liberated, and discharged upon the fire exactly at the place where it has originated. Water can be obtained from either the town service main or a reserve tank of 6,000 gallons capacity placed on an elevated tower. For the lighting, warming, ventilation, and transmission of motive power, two steel Lancashire boilers, each 26 feet by 71 feet, by Messrs. Edwin Banks and Co., of Oldbury, are fixed in a capacious boiler-house. The exposed portions of the boilers and pipes are covered with a non conducting composition. Steam from the boilers is led by underground pipes to two turbine generators, made by Messrs. C. A. Parsons and Co., of Newcastle-on-Tyne, each large enough to drive 2,000 incandescent lamps of 16 candle-power. The electric motors were made by Messrs. Crompton and Co.; each drives two tables of sewing-machines. There are twenty-five motors for driving the sewing-machines, besides some larger for the cutting knives, etc.

The engine house contains a set of horizontal steam-pumps, made by Messrs. Tannett, Walker and Co., of Leeds, for pumping into an accumulator for working the three hydraulic lifts by Messrs. Waygood and Co. For heating the pressing-irons about 54,000 cubic feet of Dowson gas are used per day. Town gas is used for a 12 horse-power Crossley gas-engine, which drives a dynamo for supplying a small number of electric lights occasionally used.

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