As we are about to move our office, the home of Liveconfigurator™, into an old, converted warehouse by the side of the 127 mile long Leeds – Liverpool canal, I reflected on change.
We are changing from a modern, purpose built suite of offices into an old, historical, listed building, which will be a big change for us all. At the same time, we are launching a brand new site for Liveconfigurator™ with many new features to add to our popular Balustrades. There will be ground-breaking new configurators for Stairways, Bespoke Glass Panels, and a new calculator for Decking. This will change how our customers work, saving them time.
It struck me that our old warehouse was also once at the forefront of technology. The challenge of planning and building the canal with many bridges and locks would have been awe-inspiring at the time. Canal boats would be full of goods travelling to and from Liverpool. The warehouse would be in constant flux with goods being unloaded from the canal boats and taken by horse and cart to the many mills in the surrounding area. Raw materials were continuously arriving, and finished products were then taken to Liverpool for shipment around the world. It would be hard, physical work, with hustle and bustle everywhere, but the canal coming was a huge change for the local population. It changed the way people and businesses would work for long into the future.
When I was a boy many moons ago, my mother and my grandparents worked in the mills like thousands of other families in Lancashire. They didn’t enjoy their jobs and worked long hours simply to survive, so as I sit in this historical warehouse, I remember them and want to make life easier for the people who need to work today. I hope our brilliant team can help to do this with innovation. We may not use the physical labour of bygone times, but instead we use our minds to find ways of making life easier for our customers. We want to save precious time and provide a superior service for people.
A few hundred yards from our new office is the longest canal embankment in Britain, known as the Straight Mile, it crosses two rivers and is still a wonder of Britain’s canal system. The embankment was an amazing feat of engineering and changed the face of Burnley, helping Lancashire to lead the world in the production of cotton goods.
Although cotton, and wool from Leeds, were very important for the canal, there was also a great deal of lime produced in the area with lime kilns still visible in some areas. There was a passenger service to other towns, which also delivered packages. Then there was ‘…a notorious gang of thieves from the neighbourhood of Todmorden…’ who stole a quantity of leather and other goods from the warehouse. These criminals were quickly caught and sentenced to be deported for 14 years!
In the second half of the 19th century Burnley developed into the most important cotton weaving town in the world. However, people could work 90 hours a week in the mills and young children were often employed in dangerous jobs for a few pence. Change was required and in 1832 an Act of Parliament restricted children from 9 to 13 years of age to working only 8 hours per day!
Our office was built in 1841 as a four-storey stone-built warehouse, which is parallel to the canal. The floors and the queen post truss roof are supported by cast-iron columns. A little further along the canal a ramp was built to allow any hoses who happened to fall into the canal an easy way of escape!
Since the canal’s heyday, it has changed again. Gone are so many of the mill chimneys that dominated the Burnley skyline and the working canal boats have been replaced by pleasure craft with engines instead of being towed by horses. People walk or cycle on the tow paths and the air is fresh and clean.
Now fully modernised, but without losing any of the character and original features, our office will be the new home for our talented creative team for years to come. Our aim is to automate the design process as far as possible. We embrace change and yet we have that link to those who have gone before us in more difficult days. We move on and we change, but we should never forget those whose footprints we tread in.