The Morlands business started in Highbridge, at 15, Market Street in 1946; fourteen women were employed to make pram canopies from parachute silk, pram rugs were also made. Demand for their products grew so in 1948 they moved to a purpose built factory off the Burnham Road. The Morlands Housing Estate soon followed.
On May 4th 1951 Googie Withers a well-known film star at that time, visited the Morland factories at Glastonbury and Highbridge. She was entertained to lunch and afterwards was given a tour of the factory at Glastonbury, she then moved on to Highbridge to be shown through the various departments. The youngest employee at Highbridge, Margaret Smith presented a bouquet to her.
It was also in 1951 that a National magazine asked the Morland Company to relate the story of one of their girls during a typical working day in the factory. Joan Peddy a seventeen-year-old machine operator in the canopy stitching section was selected, and an article was based on her typical day.
“Once upon a time, an English country girl had the choice of either drifting to an industrial town and thereby losing the bloom of youth by working in a factory; or, alternatively she could remain where she was, isolated and alone, unable to make a living for herself, as did her city sister.
Today, however, Joan Peddy and hundreds like her, are now able to live at home in the country and by taking a short cycle ride to work and can earn about £5 or £6 a week by the time they are eighteen. Joan, who left school at fifteen, has worked at the Morlands factory in Highbridge, Somerset, where they make fringed canopies for baby’s prams. She was trained from the very beginning to work a sewing machine, she now operates a taping machine and coming up to eighteen, is now one of the factory’s best canopy machinists.
Her life at work is easy; it provides her with companionship, a good living wage and the happy conditions of a modern factory. Her benefits include, a first rate canteen, pleasant working conditions and sports (she is a member of the hockey team). Her employers also provide entertainment, dances and lectures, etc. At the same time, she is still able to live with her parents in the Somerset village of Huntspill, where she also enjoys work in the community doing her nursing duties with the St. John Ambulance Brigade
(This article appears with the kind permission of Joan Peddy(Mrs Joan Rowden))
With their product range growing to include footwear, an extension to the factory was built, into which they moved in 1956. In the 1960’s sheepskin rugs were added to their production line and later in the 1960’s sheepskin coats appeared. It was inevitable that foreign manufacturers would attempt to do better than the U.K. and eventually this hit production at Morlands.
Regrettably the factory closed in 1981. At the time of the closure the Manager was Herbie Edgar, (past Managers included Mr.Williams, Pip Lockyer and Danny Weeks). The original fourteen “girls” who worked under forewoman Doris Leek and Manager Mr. Smurdon (affectionately known as “Dad”) included: -Chris Stanbury, Kath Coles, June Cook, Norah Coombes, Phyllis Tippetts, Dorothy Dean, Edwina Clare, Violet Kidner, Rose Pepperall, Phyllis Wells, Joyce Wells, Gwen? and Joan? Other employees at later dates were: – Dennis Coles, John & Betty McCleary, Joe & Gladys French, Mark Browning, Joyce Parsons, Jean Sandiford (Packing Coat, Inspector).
Update from Morland Sheepskin Company:
“The origin of Morlands can be traced back to 1825 when James Clark produced the first sheepskin slippers in Somerset. 100 years later, Morlands’s sheepskin slippers had become their flagship product. Today, Morlands is a renowned manufacturer of a wide range of sheepskin products and caters customers all over the world. For more information on the company, visit their website.”