The Hongkong Cotton-Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing Company Ltd 1898 -1914
Hugh Farmer: This was the first major cotton spinning company in Hong Kong and was formed in 1898 by Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co Ltd. A Public Works Department’s Annual Report from that year states:”During the year the most notable buildings in course of erection from an industrial point of view were the Cotton Mills at Causeway Bay and…”
Considerable detail regarding the mill’s operations can be found in: Twentieth century impressions of Hong-Kong, Shanghai and other Treaty Ports, 1908:
Cotton-spinning in all its stages may be seen at the great factory at Causeway Bay, owned by the Hongkong Cotton-spinning, Weaving and Dyeing Company, Ltd., the general managers of which are Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co., Ltd. The buildings are nine in number and cover a very large area. The total space enclosed is 400,000 square feet, and the Company has sufficient ground to double the present plant should occasion arise. The size of the mills may be judged by the fact that there are over 55,500 spindles.
The raw cotton comes principally from India, while China is the chief market for the manufactured article. The bales of cotton are broken open and their contents fed into the bale-breakers which remove seed and other impurities from the cotton in readiness for the hopper feeding machines in which a straightening-out process takes place.
In the scutching department the cotton is freed from dirt, leaves and other impurities by means of powerful fans, and as it issues from the scotching machines it is wound into what is known as laps. Four of these laps are placed on a second machine and made into one with the object of ensuring uniformity of thickness.
On the carding engine the cotton is combed out by large cylinders, covered with slightly projecting wire, and working to the thousandth part of an inch, while in the drawing frames the carded cotton is drawn out and the fibres are placed in a perfect parallel order. In the slubbing, intermediate and roving frames the cotton is twisted, each process making the thread finer and at the same time stronger.
The spinning and reeling frames complete the process, and the yarn is then wound into hanks and then put into bundles, which are stamped with the firm’s chop – the dragon and flag labels being the best known – and baled ready for export.
There are 170 carding machines, 21 sets of drawing frames, 21 sets of slubbing frames, and 30 intermediate frames, to mention but some of the departments. The whole of the machinery is by Platts, of Oldham, and of the latest and most improved pattern known in the industries. It is perfect in its action, and adjusted with such nicety that even children may be entrusted with some of he operations.”
In 1914, the factory had to relocate to Shanghai because of a lack of skilled workers, shortage of electricity and “clear water”, and because of Hong Kong’s humid weather which caused problems with spinning yarn.
A notice on 20th May 1914 in the Government Gazette states that the company was entering liquidation.
As far as I can make out the cotton mills were located where the present day St Paul’s Convent School and St Paul’s Hospital are in Causeway Bay in an area bounded by Leighton Road, Caroline Hill Road, Eastern Hospital Road, and interestingly enough Cotton Path. The site was sold to the Sisters of St.Paul of Chartres, which founded the convent and school.
Thanks to IDJ for the information and images he provided.
For more information about the cotton spinning/textiles in Hong Kong see:
- Shanghai Spinners: Pioneers of Hong Kong’s industrialization, 1947-1955
- About Nanyang Cotton Mill Ltd.
- South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company Ltd
- Eastern Cotton Mills