Cotton Court was originally built in 1851 as a spinning mill for Thomas Ainsworth & Sons, one of Preston’s largest spinning firms, and was known as Church Street Mill. In 1875 it was taken over by James Starkie & Sons, Iron & Wire Workers.
Prior to this, James Starkie & Sons were based at 94 Church Street for several years; a need for larger premises saw them move to Church Street Mills where he carried on his business of iron, wire working and weaving.
In the first department of the works he manufactured wire netting for poultry and game fencing. The firm was able to turn out about 30,000 yards of wire netting a week when all of the machines were in operation. The main speciality of Starkie & Sons was wire weaving. Any class of wire required was supplied and woven to the pattern in either iron, steel, copper, brass or plated wire
The general wire works rooms where devoted to making decorative and ornamental wire works, such as flower stands, garden arches, trellis work and window guards. Another important section of the business was the manufacture of window blinds. Starkie & Sons used to make Venetian blinds using the best yellow pine for the laths, which were both paned and painted by machine.
The last department manufactured wrought iron fencing, hurdles, gates, railings of all shapes and sizes that were often installed by his employees. Mr Starkie had to expand the premises to meet demand both in the UK and his thriving export trade.
The image here shows James Starkie & Son’s Wire floats on London Road during the 1902 Preston Guild. The float closest to the camera displays a selection of the company’s blinds. The next displays the ornate wire pagoda. For the next 100 years was always known as “The Wireworks”.
Today it is home to a whole host of businesses after being transformed into Cotton Court Business Centre, retaining many of the original features.
A huge thank you to Peter G Wilkinson (Preston Historical Society) for all his hard work.