History

 

huts showroom

From 1947

Right Price (UK) Limited have been trading since 1987, formerly M & M Carpenters Ltd.

Since 1987 there have been many changes in the company. M & M Carpenters was formed in 1987 to sub-contract to Westbury Homes Ltd plc, which led to work with other nationals to the point where they employed forty men and turned over 1 million plus. During the height of M & M, they noticed a gap in the market for a store to cater for the local population's D.I.Y needs, thus RIGHT PRICE DIY was born in 1994 at premises on Fosse Lane, Shepton Mallet.  Since the move to Downside, Shepton Mallet, in October 1996, D.I.Y and building material sales have steadily increased, despite the emergence of large builders merchants around the local area.

They purchased a second site in 1998, of an ex-filling station which gave them 5,000 sq ft, which initially they turned into a Joinery workshop, then improved the site to incorporate a leisure showroom. In February 2004, the site was sold and is now a fish and chip shop, while our main showroom at Downside goes from strength to strength.

Distant shot of site

bookThe following extract, an early history of rope making on the site, gives some interesting insights. It comes, with grateful permission, from the book by Leonard Ware, 'Industrious Shepton' in which much fuller details of the history can be found.
Industrious Shepton

Hobbs brothers, started in Downside, Shepton Mallet, in 1808. The founder is believed to have been, Harry Hobbs. The business operated from a group of cottages, some outbuildings and around three acres of land. Pigot's directory of 1842 lists Thomas Hobbs, rope and twine manufacturer.

Kelly's Post Office directory of 1861 lists Thomas Hobbs senior as a farmer and Thomas Hobbs junior as a manufacturer of rope, lines, twine, sacks, sacking and winnowing sheets.

Another Thomas Hobbs, who was a miller from Shaftsbury, Dorset, joined the company in 1928. His brother William was at this time the managing director. Another brother, Edward, owned a grocery business on the corner of Commercial road and the High Street, Shepton Mallet, but is not known if he had any connections with the business.

When my father, Arthur Ware, left school in 1930 he went to work for Hobbs. He said that the cottages at that time consisted of a shop with a tent loft above, a room where chairs were stored and a building for the marquee poles. The manufacture and erection of marquees was an important part of the company's business.

Other buildings consisted of stables where the company horse was kept, the hair house where horsehair wOriginal Cottagesas removed from the skin, and the tar house where the hair was dipped in tar prior to being made into rope. There were also an 80-yard long ropewalk and a 100-yard long ropewalk. Immediately behind the shop Mr. Hobbs had a green house where he grew chrysanthemums. He also kept bantams.

Dad would often talk of the days of William Hobbs and the harsh conditions he and many others had to endure. He also mentioned the practical joke played on him during his first day.

In the building known as the tar house stood a large wooden barrel full of "coppers", a black powder used in waterproofing the rope. Dad said that he was told to fetch some of this. When he looked inside the barrel, he assumed it was empty, so he plunged his arm in to reach any left at the bottom and discovered that he had just ruined his white shirt as the barrel was full!

He also mentioned that he only had one day as a holiday each year; that was Christmas Day, and, even then, he was stopped two shillings and sixpence pay if it fell on a weekday!

Even zero tolerance was exercised in Mr Hobbs days. Dad was helping to unload a lorry-load of canvas when he remarked that what he was handling was. 'bloody rubbish'. Upon hearing this, Mr Hobbs sacked him immediately. Whether the quality of the canvas was in question or not Dad did not say, but he had to go there and then.

Dad now found himself on the dole, signing on every day and being given tasks to do like cutting the grass at the side of the roads. This was all done under the watchful eye of a council worker who signed his piece of paper that allowed the dole to be paid. Dad met Mr Hobbs standing by the gate to the works one morning. Mr. Hobbs said that tents had to be put up and did he want his job back. So Dad was reinstated.

Although it is nor recorded, Dad told me a story that John (Jack) Henry Haskins and his father were employed for half a day at Hobbs. It is alleged that Mr William Hobbs caught them taking eggs from his bantams and dismissed them. In later years, John Henry Haskins had a galvanized shed on the grounds just under the viaduct at Waterloo Road. From here he used to take the upholstery off secondhand settees and chairs. After washing the material, he took it to Hobbs and Dad stitched it back together so that it could be re-nailed onto the frames and sold.

With tenting being seasonal work, during the winter months maintenance was carried out: repairs to the tents; painting the poles; waterproofing the canvas by painting on mesowax, and repairing any broken chairs and tables. Also, men were detailed to repairing and rebuilding the perimeter wall and cutting the grass.

A variety of ropes, from halters, serving cords, bullhead ropes, cow spans, plough ropes and bell ropes were an made in the ropewalks. A cow span was 36 inches long and cost tenpence. These were used to stop the heifers kicking over the milk pan at the time of milking.

Bell ropes were made from white Italian hemp. Plough ropes used with the horse-drawn ploughs were 100 yards long and, if the 100 yard ropewalk was in use, the 80 yard ropewalk was extended. A railway sleeper was placed vertically outside adjacent to a horse chestnut tree to mark the 100 yard length.

Horsehair was supplied at ten shillings a sack by The local slaughterhouse and Alec Oram, a Farmer from Stoke St. Michael. The hair was plucked from the skin in the Hair house. (On a cold day, Dad would sit next to the fire for boiling the tar; his fingers would be covered in scurf.) The hair was then flayed on hackles", 50 or more 6 inch spikes on a piece of wood. Dad often hit his fingers on the spikes and the open wound would fester with the scurf getting in to it.

ropewalkFred Grist would feed the combed bar from a folded apron that he wore to be spun with binder twine and dipped into "coppers" to make it black. The coppers consisted of two pounds of logwood, wooden chippings that produced a blue dye, and 2 pounds of green soda to harden the dye. This was boiled together and allowed to cool overnight for use the next day.

The hair was then warped out in the ropewalk, from the "jacks" or "gears" at the western end of the 80 yard ropewalk to a "frying pan" at the eastern end. The frying pan had stones placed in it to determine how hard the rope was laid; the spinner prevented the rope from knotting, and a wooden stop determined how hard the back twist was in the finished product. The back twist stopped the rope unraveling. The jacks were permanently fixed so, if a longer rope was needed, a portable set of jacks were placed on the horse outside.

The 100 yard, uncovered ropewalk had a wheelhouse situated at both ends replacing the jacks and spinner.

The rope was made from three warped lengths of hair and twine mixture with an anticlockwise twist warped together with a clockwise back twist. The twisting was done with the jacks, which were three metal hooks that were turned by hand before an electric motor was installed. The hand operated jacks were turned with a single handle and the three hooks joined together with cogs. Before this, the hooks were separate and turned with a piece of wood that had three holes drilled through in a triangular arrangement; this was known as the "paddle".

The finished rope was dipped in size and dried on "rakes", which were hooks on the wall of the ropewalk. When dry, the rope was "snugged" with a piece of cord to make it shine, then finally coiled on the rand reel.

Men had different rates of pay according to the type of job they did, but even was altered to reflect whether they worked indoors or outside. They were given more for being outside, but again with conditions. If you were making rope in the 80 yard ropewalk, although you were outside, you had a roof over your head and it was classed as inside! If making rope in the open ropewalk, you were outside but doing the same job.


 
 
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