The following description is taken from George Measom's The official illustrated guide to the London and South-Western Railway, , pages 410-12.
J H Knight and Son, Brush and Basket Manufacturers, and Wood Turners, High Street, Southampton
The business was established and a few hands employed so long since as 1800; it now employs fifty workpeople, besides steam-power – the majority of the latter entirely for the brush-making …. In England the osier or willow is used [for basket-making], and the twigs are twisted in various ways according to the cost of the basket to be produced. The osiers used by the Messrs Knight are chiefly procured from the neighbourhood of Ringwood (which is flat and well watered), and are remarkable for their excellence. On a recent occasion we were permitted to go through this manufactory …. Passing through the well-stocked retail shop, crowded with “in” and “out-door” sports and games of every kind, churns, bread-making machines, carved wooden bread, butter and cheese plates; all sorts of plain and carved ivory work, Tunbridge ware, mats, matting, twine, plate, powders, polishes, chamois leathers, canes, patent brush heads for chimney sweeps, fishing baskets, bee hives, perfumery and fancy soaps, and of course all kinds of brushes and baskets and other articles, far too numerous for us to mention.
We, leaving the counting-house on our right, entered the receiving yard, crowded with goods of various kinds. Passing through this, we reached the packing-room, and next to it the foreman’s shop, filled with Russian bristles and the various fibres used in the manufacture of the different kinds of brushes, besides brushes in their several stages as brought in from the boring, drawing, finishing, or polishing, as the case may be. Leaving this interesting department, over which are the large stores used for manufactured articles, we entered another partly covered yard, over which is the women’s drawing shop. We were pleased to notice this, and to learn on inquiry, that they can earn from 9s to 16s a week. We next reached the block occupied by the hair sorters, pan and finishing shops, and board and stock rooms; and beyond this are the osier pits for soaking the willows previous to their being worked. Proceeding and turning to the left, we entered one of the large sawing shops, the circular saws being moved by steam-power: to the right is the shop occupied by the boring and turning lathes; beyond these a second saw and the engine and boiler house, over which are the basket makers’ shops, and beyond again the timber yards and stables.
The chief materials employed in brush-making are of course bristles, forwarded from the various parts of Russia, Siberia, and Poland; but of late years, owing to the increasing demand and competition, various other materials, such as cocoa fibre, a kind of grass from Mexico, a dark sea-weed from South America, known as bass, &c, have been introduced for the cheaper articles. The woods mainly used are beech, sycamore, alder, horse-chestnut, and birch.
The firm … not only manufactures many kinds of baskets, but have always in stock large quantities of French, German, and Berlin baskets. Messrs Knight and Son supply the brushes and baskets used at the Palace at Osborne, and by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Packet and Dock [sic], and other companies; in fact, the firm is one of the highest standing and respectability. Mr Knight, sen., was for some years a member of the Town Council.
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