|Administrative / biographical background:
The firm of Lister Bros. and Co. began trading shortly before 1845 at Thwaite Mill, Hunslet, and leased its first permanent accomodation, Lowgate Mills in Low Road, Hunslet, from the Aire and Calder Navigation Co. in 1845. Another member of the family was also in business in Low Road: J.C. Lister, a woollen spinner, and considerable trading was done between the two firms.
Throughout its life, the main business of Lister Bros. and Co. was worsted spinning. Some weaving was carried on at Lowgate Mills, but this was found unprofitable as there was often no work of the right width for the looms, and it was discontinued in 1891. Other business interests of the Lister family in the 1860s and 1870s included mills at Horbury and Wakefield (both, rather confusingly, called Wakefield Mills) and a corn mill at Bingley.
In 1871 the premises known as Prospect Mills, in Upper Accomodation Road, York Road, Leeds were acquired and these were the mainstay of the fir until the 1930s. The chief trend to be seen was in the purchase of wool: more Colonial wool was bought and less English and the preference was for tops and matchings rather than for unsorted wool. Wool sorting was abandon completely in 1915 due to the wartime labour shortage and thereafter only tops were bought. Some of the slubbing produced at Prospect Mills was dyed and spun in colour, but this was given up in 1907.
Lowgate Mills were finally closed in 1891, and the early years of the 20th century saw annual production amounting to about 550,000 lbs. of yarn, of which 5% was single yarn on tubes for export, 10% single yarn on spools for home trade, and 25% double yarn, this being mostly for export. Much of the exported yarn went via Bradford merchants to Germany, Poland and Russia.
During the first World War, large quantities of "khaki" were produced for the War Dept., but this threw production out of balance by over-loading the twisting and winding processes while the spinning was slack. By about 1923, the single yarn trade was feeling the competition from artificial silk, but the demand for double yarn increased until new premises became necessary. Horsforth Mills, purchased in 1927 was a modern double yarn plant erected as one unit in 1903. Within a few months, however, prices began to fall and during the worst of the depression Horsforth Mills was on short time while the single yarn plant at Prospect Mills was entirely stopped.
The outbreak of war made it necessary to concentrate the reduced labour force on the most modern plant, and so production at Prospect Mills ceased in 1940. Even after the war difficulty in recruiting adequate labour persisted, there being a particular shortage of young girls. In 1962 the decision was taken to wind up the business, and production at Horsforth ceased in April of that year followed by a machinery sale in October; the mill engine and much of the machinery was scrapped. Early in 1963 the surviving records of the firm were offered to the Archives Dept., but it was found that many books had been damaged by a sudden flood and some were entirely destroyed. This incident explains some of the gaps in the various series of records.
The traditional methods of accounting were used throughout the firm's life, and as an economy measure some partly-filled volumes were re-used during the latter years of the business. Handling these bulky volumes was the least of the problems facing the young girls who formed the clerical staff in post-war years.