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'Monty' clothed the British man
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Making a suit in the cloth trade

Hudson Road, in Burmantofts, housed one of the biggest clothing factories in the world as part of Sir Montague Burton's menswear empire.

Around 10,000 people worked on the site, producing over 30,000 suits a week.

Burton was once the biggest employer in Leeds.

Burton chose Leeds because it was the centre of Britain's textile industry and so he had access to skilled tailors and machinists.

Burton's secret was to offer high-quality made-to-measure suits at low prices.

"A five guinea suit for 55 shillings", was Burton's promise. (A guinea was £1/1/0 or 21 shillings)

"A town in itself"

Working at Burton
The majority of the clothing workers were female

Men would often start work as young as 14 years of age as barrow boys, then be apprenticed as tailors or cutters.

However, men were outnumbered 10 to one by women workers. There were vast workrooms full of female machinists, with whole families working on the same production line.

The factory was described by former tailor, Sam Bernstein, as "a town in itself".

Burton made every effort to keep his staff happy - Hudson Road had the largest works canteen in the world, along with a pre-welfare state health and pension scheme.

Free dentists, chiropodists and even sun-ray treatment were provided for factory staff.

An empire

Montague Burton
Montague Burton built a vast clothing empire centred on Leeds

The factory founder Montague Burton was originally named Meshe Osinsky.

A Lithuanian Jewish refugee, Burton was only 15 when he opened his first business, a draper's shop in Chesterfield, in 1900. A decade later the business relocated to Leeds.

By the end of World War One in 1918 Burton employed around 230 people in the city. The huge Hudson Road factory started development in 1921.

Burton was knighted for his services to commerce and charity in 1931.

When Sir Montague Burton died in 1952, his empire covered 600 shops and 14 factories and was clothing one in four men in Britain.

Interestingly the Burton factory may have been responsible for introducing two pieces of slang into the English language. The phrases 'The full monty' and 'Going for a burton' may both have originated because of Burton's clothing empire.

After World War II, Burton was a major supplier of the de-mob suits that were supplied to the soldiers returning to civilian life. 'The full monty' may have originated as an expression first used to describe these suits.

As for the second phrase 'Gone for a burton', it was rumoured there was an RAF office over a Burton's shop, where men would go to sit exams. Anyone failing an exam was said to have 'Gone for a burton'.

Both of these explanations are still open to debate, along with many other alternative suggestions.

Your say

What are your memories of Burton and Hudson Road?





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