Known To The Night

Barrie Barnes

Known To The Night

Reckitt's factory and the Great War 1914 - 1918


First edition in paperback - Sentinel Press 2002

Dedicated to the memory of my father William Leslie Barnes who served in the Scorpion Squadron, RAF: 1940 to 1945, and was mentioned in despatches in Burma. He died in Hull July 2001; deeply missed.

Foreword Gordon E Stephenson Archivist, Reckitt's Heritage


In 1914 the Reckitt's factory in Hull to which the author refers in this book is represented by manufacturing operations conducted upon three quite separate sites. It will be helpful therefore to remind the reader just what those various sites were abd where they are situated.


Firstly, Kingston Works is the name given to the buildings, including the General Office and Works, which grew up around the origial starch mill acquired by Isaac Reckitt in 1840 in the area now known as Dansom Lane South. This site remained the Head Office of the business until 1970 when the Head Office was transferred initially to Chiswick in West London and subsquently to Slough in Buckinghamshire. Kingston Works has undergone much alteration in recent times and is now the headquarters and manufacturing site of Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare.


The second Reckitt site to be established in Hull was in Morley Street where a factory was built in 1883 for the production of ultramarine, a major ingredient in laundry blue.. That factory became the the home of Reckitt's Colours Limited until that part of the business was sold to Holliday Pigments Limited in 1994.


The third site, known herein as Canister Works, but often referred to as Stoneferry Works, owed its origins to one John (Tinny) Wilson who established a factory in Stoneferry Road for the manufacture of tin boxes early in the 20th century. With the advent of Brasso in 1905 Reckitt's found itself in regular need of vast supplies of tins for packing this and other products and bought the factory for this purpose in 1907. Much later the factory was converted into a manufacturing site for Reckitt's household products and eventually, following a major reorganisation within the group, the site was closed down, the land sold and the building demolished.


With the "war to end wars" looming in the summer months of 1914, an outbreak of patriotoc fervour swept the nation and it was by no means uncommon for a large proportion of the workforce from establishments such as Reckitt's to answer the call to arms and hasten to serve their King and country. What is perhaps unusual is that, almost a century later, much of what became of so many of those gallant men and women can still be traced in a variety of sources which somehow managed to escape the ravages of another major conflict of the 1940's.


The author began his research for this book in the offices of the firm which employed the subjects of his study. Despite the blitz on the night of 18th July 1941 which knocked out large portions of Kingston Works most of the Company's historic archives survived. I had the pleasant task of making these available to Barrie and was greatly impressed by the enthusiasm with which he went about his task. It came as no surprise to me to learn that he decided to extend his search into other areas where he might track down the part played by each and everyone of Reckitt's particpants in the Great War. His inquiring mind led him to discover other major collections of war records and, to complete the picture, he set about tracing living descendents of those who took part.


The result of Barrie Barnes' attention to detail is that here we have in a single volume a lasting memorial to those many citizens of Hull who, employed by the city's largest industrial employer at the time, were called upon to face untold trubulations in a conflict the like of which had never been known before and who, in so many instances, paid the ultimate sacrifice. This work will serve posterity well in allowing generations as yet unborn to bear witness to the hardships and sacrifices undertaken on their nehalf by their very kith and kin.


This book is a dedicated and detailed piece of research based on those who worked at Reckitt's factory in Hull. Mr Barnes has been able to create a worthy memorial to that firm and to its employees who perished in the Great War. The substance of this excellent book outlines the war work at home and gives illustrated biographies of the two hundred Fallen with extracts from their letters home. There are details of all the private memorials erected inside and outside the factory, making this work one which is highly recommended as a worthy document to be placed amongst the long list of Great War memorial volumes.


'Stand To': the journal of the Western Front Association.



This is a model history of a local communities part in the Great War, in 1914 Reckitts' factory was Hull's largest employer and one of the biggest names in the starching and colouring industry. Hull historian Barrie Barnes here reconstucts the part played by Reckitts' work-force during the Great War, from the soldiers who volunteered to the Reckitts' women who set up a V A D hospital in Hull. In this monumental piece of research Barnes has researched the individual stories of soldiers and their families (with photographs), traced the living descendents' of those who took part and lists the battle honours and awards won. The Dansom Lane Street Shrine, displayed on the outer factory wall, is gone into in great detail. Highly recommended.

Naval and Military Press.



"I most heartily congratulate you on a fine and monumental piece of research that has resulted in the completion of this book. It will be treasured by future generations and all the families concerned".

Lt Colonel B N Reckitt. TD.


Nurse Dora McGavin

Author's notes


"In the late 80s when I was researching material for my first book I paid a visit to the library at Reckitt's Factory of Dansom Lane, Hull. I came across an in-house magazine called 'Ours', it was full of photographs and letters from the 1914/18 period and I planned to return to it when my work on This Righteous War was done and taken to publication. I was distracted by the interviews I had been making and began work on The Sign of the Doublt 'T' in 1991, this I finished and saw it also to publication in 1990. I then turned my attention to Reckitt's factory in Hull and visited its library on numerous occassions, the archivist, Gordon Stephenson, always made me welcome and helped me in any way he could. I advertised in and around Hull for people who had relatives that had worked there, word soon spread and I was contacted by families from far and wide. It took quite some time to copy photographs and documents and to interview family members. The final book was published as a limited edition in 2002, each copy being signed and numbered. These sold out many years ago."

© 2015 Barrie Barnes