While the plates for most of milestones erected for the West Riding County Council in the 1890s were cast at Brayshaw & Booth’s foundry in Liversedge, a small number were made at William Towler’s Globe Foundry in Leeds. We have no evidence regarding why he was involved, but possibly he was brought in later in the project to ensure it was completed in time.
Towler’s plates can be found on at least four roads in the north of the county: the A629/A65 Keighley to Kendal Road (at Farnhill, south of Skipton, Long Preston and Thornton-in-Lonsdale); the B6255 Lancaster to Richmond Road (on the section in Ingleton as far as the old county boundary); the A683 Sedbergh to Kirkby Stephen Road, at Cautley (illustrated); and the A684 Sedbergh to Hawes road. From the style it is probable that the other stones on these roads were also Towler’s: the name is not always discernable, but they are slightly different from the Brayshaw & Booths.
The original foundry was in existence in the early 19th century. The 1847 OS map shows a foundry off Water Lane on Globe Road in Holbeck, and Towler is first mentioned in Kelly’s West Riding Directory of 1881, where Dyson & Towler are listed as ironfounders on Globe Road. The firm also had a warehouse or showroom on Assembly St in the centre of Leeds. This building was originally the east side of the White Cloth Hall, opened in 1777, with assembly rooms on the top floor for the well-to-do in Georgian Leeds. It has been much altered and the other three sides demolished since, but it survives, is now listed, and is called Waterloo House.
The warehouse advertised chimney pieces, tiles, ovens, ranges, set-pots, mangers, stoves and all kinds of fire-places according to a photograph of around 1900-1910. [A set-pot is a stone boiler or ‘copper’, with a fire-grate under, for the purpose of boiling and ‘stewing’ dirty linen, according to Robinson’s Dialect of Leeds and neighbourhood]. They also produced coal-chute covers and grates for drains, which can still be found in the district. And, of course, milestones.
The company flourished for another half-century, but finally closed down in 1959.
Sources: various items turned up by search engines under ‘towler globe foundry leeds’; the photograph at the top, from the four miles to Sedbergh stone at Garsdale on the A684, is taken from a Milestone Society journal; illustration and listed building detail of Towler’s warehouse at http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=2003103_38804263&DISPLAY=FULL and https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1375290
RWH / rev Jan 2022