Tag: Leeds

Immigrants Made Good – Sir Montague Maurice Burton

Sir Montague Maurice Burton was born on August 13th, 1885, in the tiny town of Kukel in Russian Lithuania. From his humble beginnings, he would go on to found the enormously successful Burton Company, responsible for outfitting so many British men throughout the 1900s.

English: Burton's menswear factory Leeds (now ...
English: Burton’s menswear factory Leeds (now owned by Arcadia) viewed from Brown Hill Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burton was notoriously cagey about his early life. We do know, however, that he was born Meshe David Osinsky to Hyman Jehuda and Rachel Elky Osinsky. His father was a bookseller; however, he passed away shortly after Meshe’s birth. Following his mother’s remarriage, Meshe was sent to live with his uncle, Soliman Osinsky.

Throughout his childhood, Meshe received a strong religious education and was well instructed in the Talmud. His uncle was a leader in the community and Meshe was well cared for; however, at 15, Meshe struck out on his own with the goal of starting a business in England.

He arrived in England in 1900 with little more than £100 in his pocket, but his keen business intellect more than made up for the money he lacked. He began his business career as a peddler selling accessories from door to door. After just a few years, however, he managed to set up as a general outfitter selling ready-made suits for the working man.

He purchased the ready-made suits from the Zimmerman Bros wholesale clothiers in Leeds and marked the price up by 30% in his retail business. By 1906, Burton was ready to expand, establishing a branch in Mansfield and then another in Sheffield. By this point, his stores offered both ready-made and bespoke (custom-tailored) suits.

In 1909, Burton met and married Sophie Marks. Shortly after his marriage, he changed the name of his stores from M. Burton to Burton & Burton. Children soon arrived in the Burton home. A girl was born in 1910, followed by a boy in 1914, followed by twin boys in 1917. It’s unclear when Burton began going by Montague Burton – and up until this point, he had not changed it legally; however, in the birth records of his twin boys he gave his name as Montague Maurice Burton.

By 1914, Burton had increased his number of stores to 14. The stores were scattered mainly throughout the industrial Midlands, and catered largely to the middle class. They offered a large variety of men’s wear, and soon grew to become the world’s largest wholesale made-to-measure tailoring service.

English: Shop Ventilator, High Street, Hunting...
Shop Ventilator, High Street, Huntingdon The script reads “Montague Burton The Tailor of Taste” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the First World War broke out, business boomed for Burton. He won a lucrative uniform contract, leading him to rapidly expand his workforce and the number of shops. Sales nearly tripled between 1915 and 1917.

Though he was a driven businessman, Burton was an outstanding employer for his time. He was committed to providing healthy working conditions for his employees, providing meals and low-cost dentistry. He even contracted the services of an eye specialist for his tailors, recognizing the strain caused by focused needle-work.

His efforts and business acumen were publicly recognized when, in 1931, he was knighted “for services to industrial relations.” He was a Justice of the Peace from 1930 onward, and was a prominent supporter of the League of Nations.

Burton passed away on September 21st, 1952, at a dinner party for his executives and managers at the Great Northern Hotel in Leeds. His funeral was held at the Chapeltown Synagogue.

Immigrants Made Good – Michael Marks

Michael Marks immigrated to England around 1882. He was a young Polish Jew with hardly a penny to his name. He arrived unable to speak the English language, and lacking any marketable trade experience. Within his lifetime, however, he would found one of the most widely known companies in the world: Marks & Spencer.

English: Dewhirst's Warehouse - Harper Street ...
Dewhirst’s Warehouse – Harper Street Here Michael Marks met Tom Spencer, Dewhirst’s cashier, and in 1894 they formed the partnership of Marks & Spencer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marks was born in 1859 to Jewish parents in Slonim, then a part of Russian Poland. In 1882, he sought to escape anti-Jewish repression and looked to England as a solution. He had heard of a company called Barran in Leeds that was known to employ Jewish refugees, so off to Leeds he went.

Despite his lack of trade skills, Marks had a shrewd business mind. He had a knack for understanding what customers wanted and how to provide those goods and services.

In 1884, Marks met a Leeds warehouse owner named Isaac Dewhurst. Marks arranged a deal in which he would purchase products from Dewhurst’s warehouse and then sell them in the villages around Leeds. He learned English fairly quickly as he travelled throughout the towns and villages of West Yorkshire, carrying his bag full of wares.

Using the proceeds from his travelling sales, he invested in a permanent market stall in Leeds’ open market which quickly grew into a bustling little business. The venture was so successful that he opened stalls at markets in Castleford and Wakefield as well. He set himself apart from others in the market by clearly displaying prices on each of his products – a practice that was unusual at the time, but one that his customers clearly appreciated.

Eventually, Marks began renting a space at the new covered market in Leeds, which allowed him to operate six days a week. He had a few stalls, but his most popular by far was his penny stall. Prominently displayed was the message “Don’t Ask the Price, It’s a Penny.” The next few years would see more of Marks’ penny stalls opened in market halls across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

In hopes of further expanding his business, Marks approached Dewhurst with the idea of a partnership. Dewhurst wasn’t interested, but he directed Marks to his cashier, Tom Spencer. Spencer had observed Marks’ steady rise and business acumen, and felt that the required £300 investment was a safe one.

The new partners divided the work according to their particular strengths. While Marks continued to run the market stalls, Spencer managed the office and supply lines, capitalizing on contacts he had made with manufacturers while working for Dewhurst. Marks and Spencer soon had stores running in Liverpool, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Bristol, Hull, Manchester, Sunderland, and Cardiff.

By 1897, Marks and Spencer were running a miniature empire of thirty six branches. They built new stores in Bradford, Northampton, Preston, Swansea, and Leicester, as well as several branches in London. They also constructed a new warehouse in Manchester, which became their home office.

Marks & Spencer became a limited company in 1903. While Spencer soon retired, Marks continued to grow the company until his death in December of 1907.

In addition to his status as a great businessman, Marks was also remembered as a great philanthropist. He was widely known and respected in the community, and his life, work and generosity were celebrated by the largest attendance ever seen by the Manchester Jewish Cemetery




Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.