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Unveiling of the Green Plaque in honour of William Cotton

Green Plaques are awarded to notable, historic Leicestershire people and places, after nominations from, and voting by, members of the local community and those closely associated with the county. Mr Dennis Powdrill, a long-serving employee of William Cotton’s, nominated William Cotton to Leicestershire County Council and his nomination was overwhelming accepted.

I was privileged, and somewhat surprised, to be asked to attend the unveiling of a Green Plaque in honour of William Cotton, inventor, designer and manufacturer of ‘Cotton’s Patent Knitting Machine’, on Thursday the 15th of February in Factory Street, Loughborough.

As for myself, I started working at William Cotton’s in 1960 (sometimes known as Bentley Cotton’s) and stayed there for 37 years until the demise of the company. Most of those years were spent travelling all over the world repairing Cotton’s machines, assisting at exhibitions and teaching customers’ staff. But all of that is another story.

We were asked to gather at The Peacock Inn, Factory Street, Loughborough, and welcomed by Louise Richardson, lead member of the Green Plaque team and representing the County Council. She was followed Mr Dennis Powdrill, who went over the history of William Cotton. We were then asked to assemble outside for the unveiling which was appropriately unveiled by Louise and Dennis.

There were a number of dignitaries present including the Mayor of Charnwood, Councillor Pauline Ranson, Janice Richards, Chairman of Leicestershire County Council, together with approximately 30 past employees from William Cotton’s and also BBC Midlands Today.

After the unveiling, we all gathered for the customary group photo and many more besides. Then refreshments were served back in the pub. Much remembering of people’s names took place with friends not seen for years. We enjoyed reminiscing about our time at Cotton’s. It was very nice seeing old friends again; after all there are not many of us left! The Green Plaque was unveiled at 27 Factory Street where William Cotton lived for most of his life.

J K Nurse

William Cotton was born in 1819 at Seagrave Lodge, Sileby, Leicestershire. He left the village at the age of 15 and came to Loughborough to live with his mother, brother and sisters. This was close to the house in Factory Street, where he lived most of his life.

There is a very good book, ‘Cotton’s of Loughborough; Looking Back In Time’, available in Loughborough Library.