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Overview

Since its initial conversion to offices Joseph's Well has provided accommodation to a diverse range of occupiers from international firms of Solicitors to Capital Radio from the NHS to charities and various firms of professionals and consultants.

A little bit of our heritage

Joseph's Well has a rich heritage, see some extracts from our old press cuttings below.

The Barran spirit living on!

Joseph's Well, or John Barran's clothing factory on Hanover Lane, as it was prior to becoming the modern business complex we know today, has a long and successful history of far-sighted entrepreneurism, invention and enlightenment.

The original founder, John Barran himself, was a rags-to-riches story. The son of a London gun-smith, he came to Leeds in 1841 at the tender age of twenty-one, armed with little more than a reasonable education and some good ideas. but within a year he was operating a small tailoring business from premises on Briggate.

The clothing industry, at this time, did not exist in any recognised form. It was, to all intents and purposes, a cottage industry. A series of miserable sweat-shops catering for the swarms of industrial immigrants under cheap, unhealthy and often downright dangerous conditions.

John Barran was to change all this. In 1851 the sewing machine arrived in Britain from America. John Barran immediately adopted it and opened his first real factory at No 1Boar Lane thus creating a new industry and putting Leeds firmly on the map.

Exact measurement

From here it becomes an ever increasing success story. As his machines and operators became more efficient, the problem of supplying them with work arose. Cloth was still cut by hand, one garment at a time. This could not keep up with the rate at which the operators turned it into garments.

So John Barran invented a machine that could cut many layers of cloth to an exact measurement in one go and the first ever cloth-cutting band knife went into operation.

By 1867 ready-made stock alone was valued at £10,000 and by 1869 had risen to £15,000. Now joined by his son, more inventions followed which were immediately adopted by the growing trade. Two of these, a counter-weighted iron and a foot control for power machines are still used by trade today.

Factory's new lease of life

As the factory outgrew its premises, a new factory was designed and built, of a 'Moorish' nature in Park Square. The building, which still stands today, is an incredible piece of architecture which then, as it still does, attracted a great deal of interest.

But within ten years even this was outgrown and the factory of a less impressive design was built at Hanover Lane (now Joseph's Well). What this building lost in artistry it gained in sheer size. At its working peak this was the largest clothing factory in the world employing some 3,000 people.

Working conditions were no less impressive. There was regular employment with decent hours instead of the 17-hour day seasonal offering in most places. These were premises designed for spacious, comfortable manufacturing with sanitation, lighting and dining room amenities unheard of elsewhere. Wages were fair and concern for employees foremost.

Amongst the 3,000 employees at Hanover Lane were a large proportion of Jewish immigrants from central Europe who made the journey just to work at the internationally famous John Barran's and who were to form the now established Jewish community in Leeds.

The story goes that amongst the Jewish immigrants was a Mr Marks who finding himself lost, stopped a Mr Dewhurst on the Headrow and asked the way to John Barran's. They remained firm friends and when Mr Marks became half of Marks and Spencers Mr Dewhurst started supplying the firm with clothes for retail.