New pictures of Simpson’s Gold Thread Works revealed by Preston Historical Society

Posted on - 2nd March, 2015 - 11:26am | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, History, Nostalgia, Photos
Simpson's Gold Thread Works stands empty and abandoned in 1994

Simpson’s Gold Thread Works stands empty and abandoned in 1994

A recent acquisition of 112 photographs of the former Preston based Simpson Gold Thread Works on Avenham Road, Preston, shows the factory in operation just prior to it’s closing down in 1990. One of Preston’s local historians is Linda Barton who has made a great study of this firm over the years and has written many papers on the subject.

Gold Thread Works machinery in Avenham Road

Gold Thread Works machinery in Avenham Road

Linda Barton, a long standing member of the Preston Historical Society being at one time the secretary and archivist, began to research Simpson’s Gold Thread Works in 2005 after visiting a building which had been converted to city apartments on Avenham Road, Preston.
It was Stephen Simpson the 6th, and youngest son of Isaac Simpson, who began to develop the factory and machines for producing precious gold and silver threads. The factory operated from 1825 to 1991 and at its height employed over 230 people in the different departments.

Workers in one of the factory workshops in the firms final year of operation 1994

Workers in one of the factory workshops in the firms final year of operation 1994

In an article for¬†Preston Embroiderers’ Guild she wrote:

Linda Barton

Linda Barton

It was a unique factory and was the only one to produce the threads from the beginning to the end of the process. The first stage was to melt the silver and copper and pour the molten material into a mould. Then it was cooled and on the drawing bench a perfect surface was obtained before covering in gold leaf. The rod was then pulled through a series of die until the wire became thinner than a human hair. The wire would be flattened, spun, woven, corded and crimped to produce cords, sashes, ribbons and laces.

Linda said “We learnt about the employees who became long standing and loyal to the company- the first was a lady called Martha Riley who served for 44 years.¬†Thread were given different effects and known as purl purl, smooth purl and rough purl. Hand embroiderers both in the factory and as out workers produced beautiful badges and emblems for the military, royal outfits, the White Star Shipping Company and the masons to name but a few”.

PHSIMG000028 - Simpsons Gold Thread Works 1990

Approaching the last days of operation but the workers carry on the good work


The company began to close down (within one week) when the GPO moved from copper telephone flex to fibre optics and finally due to cutbacks in cost from gold threads to cheaper man made lurex.

You can view all 112 of the digital photograph images on the Preston Historical Society Flickr website on the slideshow below or go to this link here to view the album.

1990 spelled out the end of the road for the firm of Simpson’s Gold Thread Works and the loss of a factory that had become part of Preston’s great heritage. At least these wonderful pictures remain as a legacy to Simpson’s, and although they cannot replace what Preston lost, they can serve as a reminder of what we once had and an endearing reminder to those who are still with us who worked there.



DR. Keith Vernon

If you have an interest in Preston’s great history then why not visit the Preston Historical Society meetings at the Minster on Church Street, Preston. There is a meeting today Monday 2 March 2015. The subject of the talk is ‘Pathways to Preston’s Past. A.J. Berry, H.W. Clemesha and the History of Preston’ with speaker Dr Keith Vernon,¬†Divisional CO-Ordinator for History, Politics and Philosophy and Principal Lecturer in History.

Meetings start at 7.15pm and generally, the talks last about 60 to 90 minutes. light refreshments are served following the talk.

Anyone can attend the event as a visitor for an entry fee of £2.50 per person.

There is limited parking at the rear of the Minster, also local street parking (where permitted) and the Bus Station car park nearby.

Did you ever work at Simpson’s and have you any stories to tell of the works? ¬†Let us know in the comments below.¬†

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