WHIP-MAKING IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
In the eighteenth century Daventry was the centre of the whip-making industry in Northamptonshire, which can be easily understood when we remember that the little town formed the junction of four important main roads over which was a constant flow of traffic, for it is stated that no less than eighty mail and stage coaches passed through Daventry daily. In 1809 there was still, according to the report furnished to the Board of Agriculture, a considerable whip manufactory at Daventry, "in which, I am informed, some good properties have been acquired. Two master-manufacturers each employ an outrider and a number of workmen." That its importance as a whip-making centre continued as far as the second decade of the nineteenth century seems to be shown by a curious action at law undertaken by the corporation of the town against one John Dickens. Dickens, not being a freeman of the borough of Daventry, commenced business in the town as a whip manufacturer. The corporation, relying on a charter, 1575, demanded that he should either relinquish his business or become a freeman of the borough. Dickens refused to do either, and the corporation proceeded against him, claiming £500 damages. The case was brought to trial in March, 1825, and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiffs, damages one farthing.
With the introduction of railways and the gradual removal of coaches from the road Daventry’s whip industry declined, boot manufacturing gradually taking its place. By the year 1847 there were only two whip-makers in the town.
In 1874, Messrs. H. Sharp & Sons were the sole representatives, and a few years later they removed their business to the village of Floore, where they still continue.
About 1840 Mr. Henry Major commenced business as a whip manufacturer in Northampton. He had been working for a few years for a Mr. Crawley of Wollaston, a whip-maker of then many years’ standing, whose business, continued by his son, was relinquished in 1856. Mr. Major had learnt his trade at Salisbury, and had a thoroughly practical knowledge of all its branches, as also has his son, Mr. George Major (born 1841), who still (I906) continues the business inherited from his father.
In the year 1861 Mr. Thomas Crawley started whip-making in Peterborough. He was the son of Mr. William Crawley, who was born at Bedford in 1836, who served his apprenticeship under a Mr. George Crawley in that town (to whom, though of the same name, he was not related).
He afterwards went as improver to Messrs. Dickens Bros. of Daventry, a very noted firm in those days. Returning to Bedford he commenced business on his own account, but shortly removed to Eaton Socon (Bedfordshire). In 1857 he purchased the business of Mr. W. Crawley of Wollaston, and combined the two businesses at Eaton.
In 1860, his son Thomas J. Crawley relinquishing the business of whip-making in favour of the saddlery trade, Mr. W. Crawley moved to Peterborough, and with his son Charles Edward founded the business of Crawley & Son.
Mr. W. Crawley died in 1869, leaving the business to his son Charles Edward, by whom it is still continued with the help of his sons John W. and Charles Edward, junior, under the title of Crawley & Sons.
Of late years the business has been considerably extended, whips being sent not only to all parts of the United Kingdom, but shipped in large quantities abroad. The name of Crawley appears in the whip trade from the year 1806.
Source: The Victoria History of the County of Northampton - Edited by the Rev. R.M. Serjeantson M.A. and Sir William Ryland Dent Adkins B.A., M.P. - 1906