"The Rival" and "Ariel".

In this article, dedicated long-time enthusiast Richard Stephenson delves into the history of two new prized acquisitions.

I left this year's AGM feeling really quite pleased, as I had found it a very homely and good natured affair, and I had acquired an interesting pair of machines. A pair of machines linked by literary allusion if nothing else, The Rival and The Ariel. The latter is made by Holme.

The Rival is clearly from the Birmingham stable but features the bizarre shaped sewing plate which can be seen in the photo. It is in good condition (7-8) and is a pretty machine, and has come from the illustrious Bernard Williams collection. At the moment Bernard believes it to be the only example known. If anyone knows differently please tell me!

The Rival
This unique example of "The Rival" was marketed in the 1870s by The Redditch Sewing Machine Company.
Unfortunately my researches on The Rival have yielded little about it so far. The only reference I had in my notes at home was to the illustration shown from the Sewing Machine Gazette of 1st November 1878. This seems to correspond more or less exactly to my machine apart from the weird shaped stitch plate. An extension of the stitch plate to the right seems like a good idea, presumably the odd design was purely an attempt to get a competitive edge. This may have been misguided, my wife pointed out that calling the machine The Rival is not such a good idea as it inevitably suggests that you've got strong competition.
The scarcity of what appears to be a perfectly competent machine suggests that the marketing didn't succeed!
The illustration tells us it was made by the Redditch Sewing Machine Company and GF tells me that an advert using the same illustration appeared about a year later in the Sewing Machine Gazette. Redditch Library have not found any trace in their trade directories so it could be that the company did not exist for very long, at least under that name.
needlebar plate
Close up view of the gilded brass
needlebar cover plate.
The Holme is apparently one of at least five, though mine is unfortunately only about condition 4. It has featured in ISMACS News before, being the mystery machine pictured from the Peter Black collection in the report of the Keighley regional meeting on p2 of the January '93 edition. I am told that it also appears in the book of the Mey collection. There are also at least two others in private collections in the UK. (Thanks to Clive Brasier for some of this info.)
It is mechanically interesting in that pretty well everything is done by cranks (there must be a joke in here somewhere!), and despite liberal oiling, makes a terrible noise! I was particularly drawn to it because being Manchester made it was local to me - it turns out that it was at one time made nobbut half a mile from my office!
Holme's Ariel
Holme's "Ariel" machines were sold in deluxe fitted boxes. The top has been removed here for clarity.
The machine in question is clearly, from the diagram in the patent abridgement, the subject of patent number 856 March 13th 1868 filed by E.K.Dutton, J. Holme and H. Holme (thanks to Martin Gregory for initially supplying this reference - belatedly I realised it was on the machine!). Neither Dutton nor Holme feature in any other sewing machine patents between 1855 and 1883. The 19th century abridgements give us their full names of Edward Kenworthy Dutton, John Holme and Henry Holme.
The patent covers the lock stitch machine in question with the strange feature that the frame carrying the needle bar can be swivelled when desired, so as to bring the needle forwards and upwards to allow easier threading. It also covers a chain stitch machine in which the looper is caused to move from side to side across the direction of the sewing, being driven by one end being located in an inclined groove which is moved backwards and forwards by an oscillating bottom shaft.

My machine doesn't have the swivelling needle bar feature and is built into a box. It proclaims its identity with a one inch diameter inset brass plaque in the bed which refers to the patent and carries the name J.Holme - no reference to Henry or to E.K.Dutton. Another interesting feature is the slim flywheel. The 'spokes' of the flywheel have been fashioned into letters so that it spells out what is presumably the machine's name "Ariel" (see photo). Ariel being described by Pope in 'The Rape of the Lock' as "a spirit of the air, chief of the sylphs". The reason for the name escapes me - perhaps it was to convince a prospective customer that the machine possessed a delicacy of motion that was not apparent on turning the handle!

The Holme flywheel, showing the name "Ariel".

Detail showing the upper rocker
shaft driving crank.
So who were Dutton and the Holmes?

Still curious about the origins of my new acquisition I decided to grit my teeth and trawl through the masses of dingy, fuzzy and scratched microfilm that comprises the Local History Library in Manchester.
There is a good set of directories, so I started there. I've tried to quote entries pretty much as they appear.

In the 1869 Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, almost contemporaneous with the patent, Dutton is listed as a "consulting engineer & patent agent" and is one of four people occupying premises at No.3 in the strangely named "Smith Door off Victoria Street" - the extension of Deansgate, of which, more anon - near the Cathedral and Victoria Station. At that time he was living in Sale, but has moved to Ashton-on-Mersey (west Sale) by the time of the 1876 directory in which he lists himself as "agent in the procuring of British and Foreign patents and the registration of designs and trademarks" and has moved offices to 3, Princess Street.
He turns up in the 1881 census living in Cheadle (about 6 miles south of the city centre). His occupation is now just given as "Patent Agent", he is 45, and apparently doing quite nicely with a wife, six daughters, a son, widowed sister-in-law, 23 year old housemaid and 23 year old cook all living with him. As his eldest daughters were 17 and 19, and unemployed to boot, it would appear that he wasn't short of female ministrations! At the time the patent was filed he would have been about 32.

What of John and Henry Holme? Well it seems that either there were quite a lot of them or they have multiple personalities. They appear to have been shoe and leather merchants of some standing. The definitive link is in the 1869 Slater's Directory of Manchester and Salford. This, in its alphabetic list of persons gives:
1869:- Holme, John & Henry, leather merchants, shoe mercers, and sewing machine manufacturers, 23 Deansgate, 4 Cotton court, Deansgate, & 13 St Mary's gate.
Cotton Court was not marked on the extremely large scale map of 1889 that I was able to consult, but from the street listing in the directory it appears to have been an alleyway directly to the side of 23 Deansgate. St. Mary's Gate is short, joins Deansgate at right angles at its end, and now houses the new Marks & Spencer, so these premises were at most within a couple of hundred yards of each other.

The Holme's entry in the Business Directory for the same year, 1869, quotes prices "from £3 15s to 5 guineas", but we must be careful in interpreting this as in Slater's 1865 directory, three years before the patent, we find:
1865:- Holme J. & H. agents for the Howe American, Westmoreland's patent double action and Newton Wilson & Co., 23 Deansgate.
Earlier still, in the 1860 directory, there is apparently no entry for John and Henry.

What about after 1869?
Well the 1871 entry is pretty much the same as 1869 except that we usefully get a home address for John Holme. But then:
1873:- Holme John, works, Longford buildings, Ormond street, Oxford street :show rooms 43 Oxford street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, & 19 Hanging ditch.
1874:- Oxford Sewing Machine Company, 4? Oxford st., works Lower Ormond st., C on M.
and then in the name index:
1876:- Holme John, leather merchant, shoe mercer, and boot upper manufacturer, 19 Hanging ditch; house 31 Withington road, Whalley range.
but under Sewing Machine Makers & Warehouses:
1876:- Oxford Sewing Machine Company, Longford Buildings 20 Oxford st, works Lower Ormond st, Chorlton on Medlock.
By 1881 there is no entry for the Oxford SM Co. and we just find:
1881:- Holme John, leather merchant, shoe mercer, and boot upper manufacturer, 19 Hanging ditch; house 4 Brighton Place, Old Trafford.

So it would appear that at some time after 1869 something has happened to Henry whilst John has moved from Deansgate south to Oxford Street (and thence Oxford Road and my office) and also west to Hanging Ditch which is near the cathedral. Although speculative, it rather looks as if the sewing machine business was split off and moved to the Oxford Street/Road area and renamed whilst the leather business continued elsewhere. It could be, of course, that the sewing machine business was actually sold off.
Another sheet of the 1889 survey shows 'Longford Works (underclothing)' having a 250 ft frontage on to Oxford Road opposite where the BBC now stands, with a timber yard and cotton mill and then Lower Ormond Street at the back. This suggests that the Oxford SM Company occupied a small part of this. This site is currently being redeveloped apart from the shop frontage and is a 30 feet deep hole!

The 1871 home address of John Holme of 28, Boston Street, Hulme, allowed me to find him in the 1871 census and then again at 4, Brighton Place, Chester Road, Stretford in 1881. His occupation is given as "leather merchant" and he was born in Manchester in about 1822 and so was 46 at the time of the patent. Even in 1871 he was clearly on his second wife, Mary Elizabeth, as she was just but 25 whilst his eldest daughter was 16. He had a total of another 5 daughters and a son by 1881 and a different sister in law and a different servant living with him! Interestingly the eldest daughter was born in Glasgow whilst all the other children were born in Manchester.

If all this sounds reasonably clear then I have done well, because what really muddies the water is that there was another John Holme and another Henry Holme both in business at the same time in nearly the same place!

This John Holme was a boot and shoe maker and had a shop at 47, Market Street (the continuation of St. Mary' Gate!) until at least 1881 (I haven't gone any further). An enlargement of the engraving on a receipt of 1855 is shown. The original is about 4 x 5 cm. You will notice that this shows DARBYSHIRE over the shop despite the fact that the 1881 census shows him to be born in Preston in about 1815.

1855 receipt showing John "Boot" Holme's premises.
The extra Henry Holme is shown in 1860 as:
1860:- Holme Henry, boot & shoe manufacturer, 67 & 69 Deansgate, & leather dealer & shoe mercer, 15 Back square, St. Anns; house 4 Monton terrace, Moss Side.
So he has Deansgate premises just over 20 doors down from our sewing machine men! Later we find:
1869:- Holme Henry, jun. boot & shoe manufacturer, 67 & 69 Deansgate; house 3 Albion place, Crescent, S.
1871:- Exactly as above except S is now expanded to Salford
1881:- Holme Henry & Nephew established 1819 boot and shoe makers, 13 Police st and 7 King st;
I strongly suspect, but have not yet proven, that this Henry Holme is one and the same as the one living at Broad St, Sale in the 1881 census, aged 56, who is a "Master Bootmaker Employing 12 Men & 4 Boys" and who shared his house with James H. Whitley, nephew, Master Bootmaker. There is also an implication from the above that in taking the business through over 50 years there was at one time two Henry Holmes, father and son.

If we wished to be led astray we might also consider John Holme, shoe manufacturer of Litherland (north Liverpool), Henry Holme, bootmaker, of Downholland (just inland from Formby a few miles north of Liverpool), and Henry W. Holme, shoe maker's clerk, of Salford. In fact even as late as the 1901 census, of the 34 John Holme's in the country over 45 years old, 3 of them are boot and shoe makers or repairers.

And that's not all, if we look in detail at entries for 1876 we find that whilst Henry "boot" Holme has moved out of 67 & 69 Deansgate, John "boot" Holme has moved in to number 65 next door. Furthermore, John "boot" Holme lived at least from 1860 to 1876 in Upper Camp Street, Lower Broughton whilst certainly in 1869 Henry "sewing machine" Holme lived a block away in Camp Street. I also noticed in passing, that John Holroyd, a Manchester sewing machine wholesaler, in 1876 lived at 54 Boston Street, not a million miles from the No.28 that we know John "sewing machine" Holme certainly occupied in 1871.

So was there a Manchester "thing" going on in this little backwater of sewing machine history? Or have I uncovered a series of strange coincidences and it is all, in fact, just a load of old cobblers?

Richard Stephenson
March 2004

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