Turners’ Great War efforts!

Turner and Wainwrights packing department 1906
Turner and Wainwrights packing department 1906

Next year is the centenary of the First World War and I will be writing a series of stories about Brighouse during that period along with local people’s individual stories. These will be stories of the individuals who took part in the war and the families back at home. 
 I will be combing through my own archives for all the stories I can find but I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has a story to tell about their family during that very difficult time.

One particular family in Brighouse made a significant contribution to the war effort - but very few of the thousands of soldiers who benefitted from what they were sent knew who they were.

The family name of Turner conjures up all kinds of memories, not just for the people of Brighouse, but for those soldiers who received wartime comfort parcels.

Mary Ann Stone, the wife of John Henry Turner, started making toffee during the late 1880s in the couple’s home. Mary was making what was to become a real delicacy which she shared with her friends and neighbours.

This toffee proved to be so popular that they decided to start a small business venture with this home-made delicacy.

So successful was their home-made toffee that it brought in enough extra money to make John Henry think seriously about leaving his job at the Halifax Co-op and go into it full-time.

In 1896 he met George Wainwright, another employee of the Co-op, and together they decided to leave the job security of the Co-op and take up toffee making on a full-time basis.

From what was a very small operation to begin with the business grew very rapidly, so much so that almost straight away they had to buy larger premises in River Street, Birds Royd.

But the business was growing and expanding at an almost unstoppable rate so much so that it was not long after they had to consider moving again to even bigger premises.

In 1908 they moved from River Street into the empty five storey Camm’s cotton mill at Brookfoot.

They were embarking on an expansion programme which was literally a do or die situation. We are talking, of course, about the company which became the household name of “Turnwright’s”, the Turner and Wainwright Toffee Company, a brand name synonymous with quality.

Throughout the First World War every ‘comfort parcel’ that was sent from Brighouse to France contained a slab of ‘Turnwrights’ toffee, a welcome gift and a luxury to the lads at the front.

Slabs of toffee were made at the Brookfoot factory in the thousands. Other than the Brighouse soldiers, most people buying the confectionery would have never heard of the company which made it.

But once they had tasted their first delicious piece of toffee, they would soon remember the name of the company which made it.

John Henry Turner’s son, Second Lieutenant George Turner of the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War, was awarded the Military Cross but his story is for another time.

The featured photograph shows the packing department at Turner and Wainwright’s Brookfoot factory where the slab toffee would have been packed and sent on its journey to where the comfort parcels were prepared before being sent to France.