Patons and Baldwins Ltd

Patons and Baldwins Ltd, Launceston (later Coats Patons Ltd) was the first overseas manufacturing venture for British textile company, Patons & Baldwins Ltd. Inexpensive hydro-power and water influenced the selection of Glen Dhu, Launceston as the site for the new mill in 1922. The availability of a labour force free from industrial unrest was another, unstated, consideration. The mill would subsequently use one-sixth of the Council's power block from the state hydro-electric scheme and constitute Launceston's biggest water consumer. A paternalistic management approach would also ensure many years of continued freedom from industrial unrest and encourage long-term and multi-generation employment. The spinning mill commenced production in August 1923, with a nucleus of 5060 skilled British workers. The start of production coincided with the end of the post-war textile boom, but increased tariff protection aided steady and continuous growth.

By 1966 Patons and Baldwins had trebled in size, was the largest mill of its type in the southern hemisphere, and the state's biggest employer of women. Employment peaked at over 2100 before the decade's end. Ongoing structural changes saw it renamed Coats Patons Ltd in 1969. The reduction of tariff protection in the early 1970s marked a turning-point for the company. Between 1972 and 1982, employment fell from 1520 to 585. Conditions again took a downturn in the late 1980s, affected by inexpensive synthetic imports and the declining popularity of hand-knitting. By 1997, the parent company decided to move its Launceston operations to New Zealand. The mill closed on 31 July 1997.

Further reading: L Williams, 'A sheep-run or a nation?', MA thesis, UT, 1998.

Laura Williams