Made in North Lincs

Eveline van Breemen, Collections Assistant Social History

This exhibition was on display at North Lincolnshire Museum in 2017.

North Lincolnshire is famous for its iron and steel industry. This has had a massive impact on the area throughout its existence. But besides steel, what else is Made in North Lincolnshire?

This online exhibition looks at a wide variety of industries. Some of these were, and some still are active in the North Lincolnshire area. But this is only a small selection of all the products that are Made in North Lincolnshire!

Rural Industries

Many villages used to have their own blacksmiths, wheelwrights or undertaker. There were tile and brick makers along the riverbanks. Find out more about rural industries by visiting the Rural Life Museum at Normanby Hall Country Park.

The Saddler display at Normanby Hall Country Park’s Rural Life Museum.
Elswick Hopper advertisement, 1910s.
An 1892 advertisement for John Allen's of Brigg.
Labels for preserves made by Spring and Co. in Brigg.

Cotto Products

Cotto Products was a manufacturer of white goods, such as washing machines and dryers. It was founded in the early 1920s by Rufus Frank Cottingham (c1899 – 1971), who used a war gratuity of £20 to do so.

Cottingham started off mending tins and pans in a shed. In 1922 R. F. Cottingham & Co was listed in the directory as sheet metal workers on 12 Market Hill in Scunthorpe. In 1926 Cottingham also owned an ironmonger on Frodingham Road. 

The Cotto factory was set up at Digby Street, Scunthorpe. The company’s motto was “Cotto’s Does The Nation’s Washing”. By 1936 Cotto Products was the largest sheet metal works in the county, employing nearly 300 people.  The factory specialised in Cotto Washers and could produce five machines a day.

Cotto also made ice cream containers, toffee cutters and wrapping machines. During the Second World War the company made a device that allowed house holders to remove bombs. Its name was the Bomb Gobbler. In 1946, Cottingham patented an invention for a golf practicing and teaching apparatus.

The company stopped producing goods in 1986.

Rufus Frank Cottingham, founder of Cotto Products, 1930s.
Cotto trade stand displaying some of their products.
Employees making technical drawings of Cotto products.
Inside the Cotto factory.
An early Cotto Products advertisement, 1936.

Creative Arts

Not industrial but still an industry, the creative arts. North Lincolnshire’s artists have produced novels, poetry, and art for centuries. The creative arts extend out of the county, across the country and even further afield. ​

One of the oldest successful artists from our area is William Fowler. Next to his career as an architect he sold his prints throughout the country. He was often commissioned to do work for wealthy art enthusiasts.

There are many artists residing in North Lincolnshire today. A great example of an artist who has made a living out of her art is Hannah Wrendale. Hannah started Wrendale Designs from her kitchen table in Melton Ross. Inspired by the Lincolnshire countryside, Hannah started painting hares. Soon she branched out to other animals, like foxes, pheasants, geese, dogs and hens. Hannah’s beautiful designs are used on mugs, pillows, stationery, and many other items.

The written word is also well represented in North Lincolnshire. Examples of authors and poets from past and present are:

  • James Hornsby “the Crosby Poet”, 1833 – 1915, local issues.
  • Edith Spilman Dudley, 1885 – 1969, Lincolnshire poetry and folklore.
  • Ted Lewis, 1940 – 1982, crime fiction.
  • Margaret Bailey, current, fantasy and non-fiction Lynda Page, current, fiction.
Scunthorpe Operatic Society publicity photograph of the poet Edith Spilman Dudley.
Many artists create and display their work at the Ropewalk in Barton on Humber.
'A Group of Warriors' by William Fowler, 1804. This print was published in 1888, in the antiquities book 'Northumbria'.
A Wrendale Designs greeting card.

Decades of Cycling

One of North Lincolnshire’s best known manufacturing companies was Elswick-Hopper Cycle and Motor Company Limited of Barton upon Humber. The company began in 1880, when Fred Hopper started a whitesmith’s business on Brigg Road. In 1890, after the invention of the safety bicycle, Hopper decided to start making his own design of this new form of transport. The success of his models enabled him to expand his business. In 1910 Hopper’s acquired the bankrupt Elswick Cycle Company of Newcastle. By 1912 the company employed around 800 workers.

Elswick-Hopper took over Falcon Cycles in 1977 and in 1984 the company relocated to Brigg. In 1991 the Casket Group took over the company. The 111-year Els.wick-Hopper connection with the bicycle industry came to an end.

Today, we find a few bicycle manufacturers in North Lincolnshire. One of these is Paragon Cycles, begun by Dave Heath-Drury in 2015. In their Scunthorpe-based factory, customers can have bicycles custom-made from frame to paintwork.

Fred Hopper, 1859-1925.
One of the first advertisements, from the North Lindsey Star of 1 February 1890.
St Mary's Works from the air, 1936.
The Elswick cycle car, first manufactured in 1912.
The workshop from where Hopper ran his whitesmith business and where he started up his bicycle empire, early 1890s.

Food and Drink

A large food manufacturer was Riley’s Crisps. The Riley brothers started their crisp empire whilst working at Scunthorpe’s steelworks. In 1947 they set up in a warehouse on Allanby Street and committed to making crisps full time. In the late 1950s, when they couldn’t expand any further, the factory moved to Colin Road. Later a new warehouse opened on Northampton Road. At one point the company was the fifth largest crisp manufacturer in the country.

There are a few modern day breweries in North Lincolnshire. One of these is the Axholme Brewing Company, set up in 2012. The Crowle-based brewery produces three core range brews. They also make several guest ales and seasonal beers throughout the year. Their speciality is beers made with foraged local ingredients. Axholme Brewing Co brews about 1200 litres of beer per week.

Examples of other food and drink manufacturers in the past and present are:

  • Springs of Brigg (curds and preserves, c1880 – 1980).
  • W.T. Brumpton, Scunthorpe (drinks, c1912 – 1977).
  • Radiance Confectionary Works, Scunthorpe ( -1923).
  • British Sugar, Brigg (1928 – 1991).
  • Tom Woods Brewery, Barnetby (1995 – present).
  • Pipers Crisps, Brigg (2004 – present).
Mike Richards, brewer and director at the Axholme Brewing Company, adding hops to the tank.
Spring's jam factory, Brigg, viewed across the Old River Ancholme before demolition in 1980.
The interior of the Axholme Brewing Company, situated at the side of Clearwater Lake in Crowle.
Biff Riley loading tins of Riley Potato Crisps into vans outside the factory in Allanby Street, Scunthorpe, late 1950s.
Freshly cooked crisps coming out of the cooker, Riley's Potato Crisps, late 1970s.


Though made of a fragile material, photographs are products that are kept and cherished. As they show our family, our friends, our home or our workplace we want to keep them for the next generation.

North Lincolnshire Museums has an extensive photograph archive. Many images in this collection were taken by our own home-grown photographers.

North Lincolnshire was home to several fantastic photographers. One of the earliest professional photographers was James Walsham Hall, from Winterton. Walsham Hall was active between about 1856 and 1896. The museum houses a large collection of Walsham Hall’s negatives. 

A generation later was Arthur Henry Singleton (1879-1927). Singleton was active as a photographer between c1900 and 1927. He often took photographs for the Hull Daily Mail. Another professional photographer during that period was Joseph Spavin. Both photographers worked from Scunthorpe.

Other local professional photographers:

  • Grayson Clarke, Brigg (active c1913 – c1933).
  • Charles Canty, Barton upon Humber (active c1882 – c1896).
  • Thomas Smith, Brigg (active c1870s – 1890s).
  • Frank G. Ashton, Brigg (active c1900s – 1910s).
  • Francis E. Bowen, Scunthorpe (active from c. 1930).
An advertisement for photographer Joseph Spavin, 1900.
Self-portrait of Scunthorpe photographer Arthur Henry Singleton at the age of 26, 23 December 1905.
Photograph of children in costume, taken by Francis E. Bowen in the 1930s.
Professional photographer Arthur Henry Singleton riding a Scunthorpe-made Johnson's motorcycle, c.1903.
Self-portrait of James Walsham Hall, 1819-1903. He worked semi-professionally from 2 North Street, Winterton, between c.1856 and c.1896.

Ship Building

For centuries, large ships, sloops and boats were built along the Humber and Trent banks. Some of the larger ship building yards were at Burton Stather, Barton upon Humber and New Holland.

The Spider T Humber Super Sloop was built in 1926 by Warrens Shipyard in New Holland. The sloop was seafaring and built to carry bricks. The Spider T fell out of use in the 1970s. Restoration work started in 2004 at the sloop’s home of Keadby Lock. The Spider T is now proudly sailing the Humber once again.

The Cook family founded the Burton Stather shipyard in 1788. Later on, the Wray family launched 341 ships here between 1816 and 1892. The last known surviving ship built at Burton Stather’s Wray & Son shipyard is the Sigurfari, originally named Bacchante. This ship was built in 1885 and is now on display in the Arkranes Museum Centre in Iceland.

Barton upon Humber has been home to many ship builders. Some examples are Clapson & Son, Mr George Hill and Mr Thomas Waddingham. Smaller shipyards were at Brigg, Keadby and Winteringham.

Today the North Killingholme based company of Humber Work Boats still constructs small ships.

The Humber Sloop 'Spider T' moored at Keadby.
Boatyard at Burton Stather, founded in 1788 by the Cook family. It closed in 1892.
Painting by C. Richardson of the second vessel called 'Burton Stather' launched at Wray & Son's boatyard in Burton Stather, 1866.
Routh and Waddingham's shipyard, Winteringham Haven, with a wooden sloop under construction, about 1910.

Tailors, Milliners and Cobblers

In the directory of 1855, Scawby surprisingly was home to two tailors and no less than three shoemakers. This is impressive for a parish of 1600 people (1851 census). Most people had no means of transport other than walking and so they would go to the closest place for their needs. This explains how three shoemakers could survive in a small village. In the directory, six people in the parish are listed as gentry. Of course, these wealthy people could have helped with the tradespeople’s business.

In the mid 20th century a large hosiery and textiles manufacturer in the area was Corah. The Leicester based company had two factories here, one in Scunthorpe and one in Brigg. The Brigg site opened in 1946 and closed in 1975/76 and the Scunthorpe site opened in 1955 and closed c 1996. In 1965 about 6.5 million items of men’s underwear were made at these factories.

In the past, the felt-making process involved toxic mercury nitrate. The toxin could drive hat-makers into madness, the origin of the phrase 'mad as a hatter'.
Advertisement for Varlow's of Brigg, from a 1908 almanac. Varlow's closed in 2000.
Routh and Waddingham's shipyard, Winteringham Haven, with a wooden sloop under construction, about 1910.
Bee's tailors was located on the corner of Cole Street and the High Street in Scunthorpe, around 1908. They made Normanby Hall's servant's livery.
Encore News, Corah's employee magazine, 1960s.
William Oldridge, cobbler, in his workshop at 67-71 High Street, Barton on Humber.

The Decline in Rural Trades

The number of crafts and tradespeople in the area fell drastically in the 20th century. In the mid-1800s there were many carpenters, tailors, tile makers and brewers in the area. By the early 20th century there were just a few left scattered over the North Lincolnshire area.

One of the reasons for this decline was the industrial revolution (c1780 – c1840). Machines were taking over the workforce but also took away the small business’ trade. A shoemaker could not compete with the machine-made products from the cities. A potter could not keep up with the large-scale production of factories.

Many people moved away from the countryside, towards the towns and cities where the work was. This also affected the rural industries. A decline in population meant there were less people to sell to. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights and saddlers kept trading well for a bit longer. Though this changed when motorised vehicles became more popular and slowly took over.

Other culprits to the decline of rural trades started in the mid 20th century. Large chain stores replaced local trades and shops, as they could not compete with the prices and stock.

Drawings of a Watts steam engine. Watt and others significantly improved the efficiency of the steam engine.
Steam trains made it possible to transport goods around the country at great speed. This is a replica of Trevithick's 'Puffing Devil', built in 1802.

Lost Trades

A selection of curious or long-gone trades from Lincolnshire Directories of 1872, 1905 and 1930:


  • Currier: dresses and colours leather after it is tanned.
  • Draper: deals in fabrics and sewing needs. 
  • Maltster: prepares the malt from grain, for the brewer.
  • Tanner: prepares and converts raw animal hides into leather.
  • Tinner and brazier: works with tin / brass.
  • Town crier: makes public announcements in the streets. 


  • Accoucheuse: a midwife.
  • Bone setter: a ‘surgeon’, non-qualified practitioner who sets fractured and dislocated bones. 
  • Cow keeper: keeps one or more cows, providing milk which was sold at the front door or window.
  • Grain painter: paints grain on wood to make it look more expensive.
  • Higgler and huckster: (travelling) sales person selling small goods.
  • Hosier: sells stockings, socks, gloves, nightcaps. 
  • Sheep dipper: responsible for the dipping of sheep in a trough of insecticide.


  • Baby linen washer: a specialist to wash baby’s nappies.
  • Cooper: makes barrels.
  • Fellmonger: deals in hides or skins, particularly sheepskins.
  • Tallow chandler: makes or sells candles. 
  • Stay maker: makes corsets.
  • Tripe dresser: prepares tripe, the lining of the stomach of an animal, for food. 
William Oldridge, cobbler, in his workshop at 67-71 High Street, Barton on Humber.
An 1885 advertisement for a servant's registry office in Winterton.
An 1885 advertisement for carrier services.
An 1885 advertisement for Glycerine Dip, used by sheep dippers.
Recreated cooper's workshop in an open-air museum in Germany.
Tanning, c.1880.
A town crier.
This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more