The Leeds tailors who dressed the 1966 England football team

Football fever has once again taken over the country. Three of the home nations have been competing in Euro 2016 and next month we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in English football: winning the 1966 World Cup.

One of the key photo opportunities during any major football championship is the team photo with all the players in their team suits. For the 1966 tournament the team suit was made by the Leeds tailoring company Burtons, who promoted themselves as ‘the tailor of taste’.

1966 was an exciting year for Burtons, as not only were Burtons suits worn by sporting royalty but actual royalty came to Leeds! Princess Margaret received a tour of the Burtons Hudson Road factory.

Burtons brown piece dyed Glen check two piece suit, 1966
Burtons brown piece dyed Glen check two piece suit, 1966

Leeds has been known for its textile industry since before the Industrial Revolution and, although there was a gradual decrease in the second half of the last century, clothing manufactures still remain in the city today. Burtons began life in 1903 and was named after its founder Montague Burton. Although the company had offices in Sheffield, the main hub of the company was its Hudson Road factory in the Burmantofts area of Leeds.

Burton Hudson Road Factory, Burmantofts, Leeds.
Burton Hudson Road Factory, Burmantofts, Leeds. (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

Brian Rayner spent 52 years working in the clothing industry. He began his career at Burtons Montague in 1960 when he was 15 years old. In 2012 he gave an oral history interview to Leeds Museums & Galleries about his time in the textile industry. Brian’s history offers an amazing insight into clothing manufacturing and the changes in fashion, manufacturing techniques and the gradual move from bespoke tailoring to more ready to wear suits over the years.

The Cutting Room at Hudson Road - 1960s
The Cutting Room at Hudson Road – 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

What really struck me when I listened to Brian speak was the picture he painted of the social aspects of working for Burtons and the sheer size of the Hudson Road factory. There were 10,000 people working at the factory and the site included a canteen which could seat half the workforce in one sitting. 

Brian described how the tea ladies came round with tea and sandwiches at 10 o’clock in the morning and took your lunch order (for which there were 3 choices ranging from 11 pence to one shilling and 3 pence). When you took your meal ticket along at one o’clock your lunch would be waiting for you. 

Inside the huge canteen in a Burtons factory. Lots of people are sitting at tables.
Inside the huge canteen in a Burtons factory – 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

If you needed to burn off that lunch there were on site sporting facilities. Brian remembers two football pitches, a cricket pitch with athletics track round the outside, a rugby pitch, a bowling green, a putting green, tennis courts and snooker tables.

Burtons workers enjoying the sports facilities at Hudson Road.
Burtons workers enjoying the sports facilities at Hudson Road – 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

There were not only leisure and catering facilities on site but also free health care. As well as having a fully equipped nurses station, Burtons offered free dentistry, chiropody and free hairdressing for the ladies of the factory, of which there were many! Nearly all the sewing machinists were female compared to the predominantly male hand-tailoring and press room sections. Brian remembers the work force consisting of 1 man for every 10 women.

Burtons workers clocking out of work. - 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)
Burtons workers clocking out of work – 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

This was not the only gender imbalance at the factory, as there was also a disparity in the pay: although perhaps not what you might expect! Brian remembers being paid £3 and 15 shillings a week when he first started working as an apprentice. In comparison the women who were fully trained in the sewing room were being paid £8 per week. 

Nevertheless, Brian says, if you took a female colleague out to the pictures the man was expected to pay! Brian also had to hand his wages over to his mother. She would take out what she needed for board before giving the rest back to him. 

Burtons staff boarding a train to Morecambe.
Burtons staff outing to Morecambe – 1960s (Image: Yorkshire Post Newspaper Ltd.)

Walking into the huge Hudson Road factory with its 10,000 staff – 500 employed solely for cutting the fabric – 5000-seat canteen, social opportunities and sports facilities and not forgetting a 10:1 female to male ratio must have been an amazing sight for a 15-year-old boy starting his first job.

By Rebecca Fallas, Volunteer Blogger
If you’d like to learn more about the textile industry in Leeds, visit Leeds Industrial Museum.

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