A brief history of Earnshaws’
A great tradition in fencing
The Earnshaw family has been connected with the timber trade since 1780. The business, founded in 1860 carries the name of Job Earnshaw, who worked falls of timber in the local area. Soon his brothers joined him in the venture, and a small sawmill was built on the Midgley site, producing parts for horse drawn carts, gates, fence posts, rails and various items used in agriculture.
Initially all the sawing was done by hand, until the acquisition of a traction engine, which in turn was replaced with a steam engine in 1880. The sawmill became fully electrified in 1939.
By the end of the First World War the company had around 40 employees and supplied a wide range of timber; oak for railway wagons and fencing; ash for handles and cart shafts; elm for wheel hubs; beech for textile rollers. The joiners produced gates and feeders while an on-site blacksmith made all the ironwork in-house. Until the 1940s most haulage and extraction was done by horse; at one time the company owned 26 horses – 16 at Midgley and 10 at Wakefield.
From Second World War the company evolved steadily. Premises in Wakefield were sold, a sawmill at Brigg in Lincolnshire was bought. Large areas of woodland were acquired which are worked to this day. With the decline of the region’s traditional industries of steel, coal and textiles, the company moved towards agricultural products. Addition of a pressure treatment tank in the 1970s shifted much of the production to softwood species.
In the mid-1980s, the pioneering company launched its first ‘Fencing Centre’, retailing direct to the public. It was ideally placed to cater for the upsurge of interest in home and garden fuelled by 1990s makeover programmes. In 1996, following closure of the local coal mine, the entire Midgley operation relocated to the vacated 13 acre site, allowing further modernisation plus development of the retail and distribution enterprise. Now, 150 years on, the company is still owned and managed by descendants of the founders and still maintains the same service tradition that was so important in the 1860s.
Earnshaws’ Fencing Centres, Stocksmoor Road, Midgley, WF4 4JG
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