Lowther Street - 'The Old Snuff Works'
The property at Lowther Street has been at the centre of snuff and tobacco manufacture in Kendal since the 1830's and since 1841 been a home and business premises to the Gawith family. It was the factory for Gawith Hoggarth since 1887 until 1994 when the company moved to the warehouses of the old creamery on the other side of Kendal. The property at Lowther Street lay empty for some 25 years before plans were drawn up to renovate the building.
Following the death of his father in law, Thomas Harrison jr, Samuel Gawith and his wife Jane moved into the property at 27 Lowther Street in 1841 and Samuel Gawith (I) began learning the trade of tobacco and snuff manufacturer. Samuel Gawith (II) along with John Edward and William Henry Gawith, were all born in Lowther Street over the next 14 years.
Through the death of Mr Brocklebank, one of the original founders of 'Harrison & Brocklebank tobacco manufacturers' and then a partner of 'Brocklebank and Gawith, tobacco and snuff manufacturers, Samuel Gawith (I) became the sole owner of the company. But in 1864 Samuel's wife, Jane died and just a year later, Samuel passed away also, leaving the 6 children living at Lowther Street. The older boys, Samuel (II) and John Edward took over the family business as 'Samuel and John Edward Gawith, Tobacco and Snuff manufacturers".
This set up continued until 1877 when the partnership faltered and the brothers had an Agreement of Separation drawn up. Under this agreement Samuel Gawith (II) left to set up his own snuff firm at the mill at Mealbank and John Edward took over the tobacco manufacture at Lowther Street, concentrating on Twist production.
A short while later, he decided to enter the snuff market and took over a mill in Kendal, but this expansion led to his bankruptcy and in around 1885, the goodwill in his business, along with trademarks and recipes was bought back by his brother, Samuel Gawith (II). John Edward remained living at the Lowther Street property along with his younger brother, William Henry. It's likely that Samuel Gawith rented and used some of the machinery at Lowther Street over the next year or so, but he did not own the property or plant at Lowther Street.
In 1886 Samuel Gawith (II) died a year later William Henry set up his own tobacco company with his childhood friend, Henry Hoggarth Jr. Originally they took over another tobacco firm in Kendal and used that premises, as well acquiring a mill to grind the snuff. In 1890, William married Henry Hoggarth's sister, Harriett, and they moved out of Lowther Street, leaving just John Edward living there, and some machinery no longer used.
But in 1892 John Edward died and thus the ownership of the old factory and family home passed to William Henry. Having outgrown the other premises they took over, the Gawith & Hoggarth partnership occupied the whole of 27 Lowther Street as factory and offices. Production of tobacco and snuff continued at Lowther street right up until 1994, the company passing down William Henry's son, Samuel Henry (IV) and two of Henry Hoggarth's sons, Frank and Charles.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co continue to own the property at Lowther Street but in 1994 moved the production and manufacture of snuff and tobacco to a new factory on the other side of Kendal. For a few years, a handful of staff were kept on at Lowther Street and twist production and the packaging of snuff continued here.
At its height the Lowther Street factory employed some 30 or more people and there were 4 spinning machines for Twist with the ladies working all day spinning tobacco leaves into twist and packing snuff. Tobacco leaf would arrive mostly at Liverpool Docks and come first by train to the bonded warehouse, shared by all 3 tobacco firms, and then by horse and cart and later lorry to Lowther Street, where it was unloaded and hoisted using pulley systems to the 2nd floor.
The ground floor housed mostly the packing and dispatch facilities, along with the small office and the tobacco cutter, cold press and snuff production areas, while upstairs held the leaf store, the steam room, twist and pigtail spinning rooms and more storage.
Eventually most of the machinery, including the Spinning machines were moved to the new factory and Lowther Street lay dormant. Over the years various plans were occasionally put forward as to what to do with the old factory, but nothing ever came to fruition.
In 2019 South Lakeland District Council approached the current company director and manager, Chris Gawith to ask that something be done with the old building as it was falling into disrepair and as it is a historical landmark in Kendal's history and a Grade II listed building. After discussions with local heritage groups and the council, plans were draw up to renovate and restore the property and turn it into a small shop and museum about the Kendal tobacco industry, to house some offices for the current company and make two apartments above as well as a Bistro in the old machinery shed. Some of the old machinery, cogs and pulleys are still in situ and will be incorporated into the design, traditional features will be kept.
Work has started with the roof being repaired and the building made structurally sound and soon further internal work will start on what will be a new chapter in the life of 'The Old Snuff Works' at Lowther Street.