Ultramarine Supply Chain

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The Backbarrow Supply Chain

By Ronald Mein

Photo of the Old Blue Mills with Barker's Woodyard in the backgroundOver the years Backbarrow blue mill had its ups and downs but it generally ran trouble free. The river Leven provided the motive power for the drive shafts, and water power also provided a 110 volt electricity supply that lit the works. The river also provided millions of gallons of water per year which was required for the processing of the powder.
Barrels were made locally by coopers working in building near to the mill some 300 yards east from the mill offices on Kendal road. The coopering business was owned by Curwen's who also made huge wooden vats some ten feet in diameter as well as settling tanks which were 14 ft x 7 ft x 4 ft deep.
Wooden boxes which would be filled with small cartons for export were made by George Barker and Sons who had premises up Finsthwaite Lane. (Today the site is occupied by a time share holiday village) When the boxes from Barker's were filled with the cartons of ultramarine they were taken to Haverthwaite station by the Mills contract carter a Mr Joseph Robinson, known as Jossie, (this gentleman being the grandfather of the author) to be dispatched to all parts of the world.
In 1928 the Lancashire Ultramarine Company was taken over by James Reckitt and Sons and the firm was renamed Rawlins and Sons for a short time. During world war two the factory at Hull was bombed and they lost their packing department where women were employed to fill and wrap small cartons with ultramarine powder for export the laundry trade. The manager of the Backbarrow works convinced the parent company in Hull that the gap could be filled quite adequately at Backbarrow and so it was. The carton department was established in 1941 and continued until 1982 packing small cartons for export each of 1 ounce, 1 1/8th ounces and 30 grams. The carton department became a very important part of the Backbarrow works and employed around 45 women with a male support team of fitters and a dispatch team of three men as well as a lad cleaning machines and filling hoppers.


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