Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection



By the late 1930s, around sixty mills had closed in Burnley and up to ten thousand workers in weaving and other 'traditional' industries were facing unemployment. In such dire circumstances, three leading figures in the Borough, Councillor George Parkinson, Alderman Richard Bradley and Alderman John Lynch were highly influential in preparing the ground for urgent industrial diversification and regeneration through attracting overseas investment. The three councillors, two of whom had served as Mayor, drew up a two-fold plan designed to shift the town's industrial profile from textile production to light engineering. Firstly, old buildings were to be acquired and refurbished to entice new firms with highly favourable rents being offered as an incentive. Secondly, a new factory was to be built with the intention of attracting a large firm into Burnley (1). The plan represented a considerable gamble for the council members, who risked losing public funds without government permission, and who would be personally liable for failure.

The development was situated on land owned by the council known as Cronkshaw Meadow, donated by Sir John O.S. Thursby in 1906, which occupied a promising strategic position for new enterprise, being adjacent to the major thoroughfare of Colne Road and close to the central railway station for transportation of finished goods and raw materials.

An aerial view of the Prestige building showing its relationship to Colne Road and the railway. The 1961 multi-storey block can be seen to the left of the original 1937 building.


In 1937, the gamble of the three councillors paid off when the American owned hardware manufacturer 'Plater and Stampers' took the bait and moved into the impressive red brick factory creating several hundred vital jobs, The parent company, Ekco Products, based in Chicago, U.S.A., had decided to produce goods in Britain which had previously been shipped, and, following an analysis of potential competitive advantages including locality, costs and indigenous skill base, selected Burnley for its investment. The decision was celebrated at the local Rotary Club where it was hoped that Burnley might become known as the 'Little Sheffield' (2) and it was envisaged that up to two thousand jobs could be created. The significance of the new establishment was marked by a visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1938.


The Second World War inevitably placed a brake on expansion, as from 1939 to 1945, Plater and Stampers concentrated on producing munitions and the enterprise continued to service the defence industry until 1953(3). From 1956, the company resumed production of household items for civilian use, including mini- mops, pots and pans, bread and waste bins (3). Additional factories were acquired in Derby and Blackburn and the corporate brand was changed to 'Prestige' to reflect the prestigious nature of its products.

Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Prestige went from strength to strength and played a prominent role in the corporate life of the town, fostering a family atmosphere in its ranks with a supportive personnel and training department (4)

Burnley's First New Industry

Click on this picture (and the following four) to see more.


Examples of social activities offered by the company in the 1960s include:
(left) a funded Christmas visit for sons and daughters of employees to Belle Vue Circus in Manchester (5);
(centre) a trip for children to see the pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' featuring Mike and Bernie Winters and to go backstage at the Manchester Palace Theatre (6);
(right) an annual 'Miss Prestige' competition (7).

Prestige Trip for 300
Babes in the Wood Panto
Miss Prestige 1966

In 1968 the Mayor and Mayoress of Burnley toured the Burnley factory, witnessing its high technology assembly lines and observing the manufacture of cutlery, kitchen and garden tools (8).

Mayor's Visit 1968

By 1976, the company's turnover had increased from 650,000GBP in 1946 to 42mGBP, and total corporate employment had soared to 4000 personnel (9). The Prestige group premises in Burnley had become headquarters of a worldwide concern, with factories, warehouses and sales offices in other parts of Britain, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, Belgium and Germany. Overseas markets had grown for the company's extensive product range including stick and non-stick cookware, bakeware, kitchen knives, tools and gadgets for food preparation and the famous Prestige pressure cooker under the Skyline and Overex brands. The company had played its part in the rapid modernisation of domestic interiors through its provision of superior cutlery and kitchen wares.

By the end of the 1990s, however, shifts in global product markets and the internationalisation of production involving lower cost regions had left the Burnley factory in a vulnerable position. Prestige was taken over by the Hong Kong based Meyer group which announced that it was to close the Burnley site on 4th July 1997 (10). Prestige and Skyline brands, goodwill, customer information and trade records were purchased for a reputed 6mGBP. Meyer operated alternative production facilities in China, Thailand and Italy and announced its decision thenceforth to carry out all manufacturing outside the UK (11).

It was of little consolation to redundant workers that Meyer agreed to retain fifteen former staff at a small factory in Burnley to produce spare parts for pressure cookers following closure of the major site and a management buyout of the Ewbank carpet division salvaged twelve jobs. The GMU trade union sought to enhance the redundancy terms of workers, and Burnley council in conjunction with other agencies offered practical and moral assistance to 330 former Prestige workers.

Following a final drink with receiver Sue Watson, along with seventy co-workers facing redundancy, stores computer worker, Steve Ellis, who had been with the company for ten years stated "We could see last year that things could not go on as they were, yet no-one was doing anything about it. While we were working seven days a week, twelve hours a day, we feel that top management was letting us down" (12).

The closure of Prestige sixty years after its establishment, which had been predicated on the idealism and courage of the three councillors, could be regarded as a devastating blow to the economic fortunes of the town. It also had a detrimental effect on social cohesion as White and Asian communities who had worked together for many years were now forfeiting the collaborative bonds nurtured at the workplace.

The name of Prestige in Burnley lives on, commemorated by the retention of part of the original 1937 building when the site was redeveloped after its closure. The building was a protected 'Listed Building' because of its 1930's Art Deco architectural style. It was designed and built by Wallis Gilbert and Partners, notable national architects of the period. The building's entrance facade, central foyer and doglegged staircase, which had the most architectural merit, were retained and incorporated into the redevelopment (13). In addition a separate public art work, set into the pavement fronting the building, illustrates some of the products manufactured by Prestige.


The building facade as it is today showing the Prestige Park name, and below some of the artwork set into the pavement.


(1) Roger Frost, How Prestige came to have a factory in Burnley, Burnley Express, 6th February 2014.
(2) Op. Cit. Roger Frost, 2014.
(3) Gill Johnson, Nostalgia: A Prestige new industry for Burnley in 1937. Lancashire Telegraph, 10th April, 2018.
(4) Burnley's First New Industry, Burnley Express, 14th April 1971.
(5) It was a dream come true for 300, Burnley Express, 30th December 1966.
(6) Prestige Children Day Out, Burnley Express, 7th January, 1967.
(7) Carole Triumphs - Miss Prestige for a second year, Burnley Express, 9th December, 1966.
(8) Mayor and Mayoress Tour Factory, Burnley Express, 21st March, 1968.
(9) Prestige Medical, part of the Tuttnauer Group Our History
(10) Closure date set for Prestige, Lancashire Telegraph, 13th March, 1997.
(11) Prestige: some jobs are saved, Lancashire Telegraph, 5th July, 1997.
(12) Op. Cit, Lancashire Telegraph, 5th July, 1997.
(13) Prestige Building (1937 Range), Colne Road, Burnley. Listed Building Impact Assessment. Sam. Taylor, Son and Platt, Manchester Road, Burnley. March 1998. Available at Burnley Central Library Ref:D/74/SAM