Richard Vernon of Stone

Former Vernon factory

This factory complex on Mill Street, Stone (photographed in 1989) began life as a shoe factory, initially Richard Vernon's and later Lewis and Adie's. Most of the buildings in this view were built by Quickfit and Quartz. The site is now (in 2011) occupied by Morrison's supermarket. (Mr H.D. Piggott)

Former Vernon factory site

The former site of Richard Vernon's shoe factory on Mill Street, Stone in 1989. Price and Stubb's funeral directors buildings are in the foreground and, although altered, are still standing in 2011. (Mr H.D. Piggott)

In Stone, Richard Vernon was second only to the Bostocks in the boot and shoemaking trade. He was born in 1812, the son of George Vernon, cordwainer of Church Street, Stone. The 1841 census shows he was working as a shoemaker, and living on Oulton Road with his his wife Margaret and three children. By 1851 he had started his own business on Oulton Road, and is described as ‘shoe manufacturer’ in the census return.

Richard Vernon’s business grew rapidly, and around 1863 he built a large factory on Mill Street. The factory employed over 500 people at its height and included store rooms for materials and finished goods, and a huge clicking room. Other sections included a machine room, sewing room, making and finishing room, drying room, packing room, waxing room, pressing room, riveters’ shop, carpenters’ shop and an engineers’ shop.

From the 1850s, Richard Vernon invested his profits in building property in the town, including a new home for his family; Holly House on Newcastle Road. In 1888, his second wife, Harriet (whom he had married in 1869) died, and at the age of 76 he married for a third time, this time to a much younger woman, Anne Yates. The couple lived in a new house built for Richard Vernon; Melbourne House. This house still stands (in 2011), at the south east corner of the Common Plot off Meaford Road, and is a private nursery. It was named after the desitination of much of Richard Vernon’s export trade: Melbourne, Australia. He died a few years later, in December 1891, and his tomb stands in Christ Church graveyard.

Vernon’s business appears to have been sold shortly after his death, and was taken over by boot and shoe manufacturers Lewis and Adie. Later, the site was occupied by scientific glass manufacturers Quickfit and Quartz (1946-1963). It was then occupied by a number of companies, the chief one of which was Broadcrown Ltd. The site was cleared in the late 1990s to make way for the new Safeway supermarket, which later became Morrisons.

Source: Helen Holmes, ‘Richard Vernon: Shoe Manufacturer in Stone’, Stone Historical & Civic Society Yearbook, 2009-10.

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