This article was published by the Dewsbury Reporter in their Men of Science supplement.
There were many large factories in Dewsbury which contributed industrially and commercially to the prosperity of the town but none more than the extensive works of Messrs Kilner Brothers, glass bottle manufacturers, of Thornhill Lees, who employed more than 600 people.
The firm was internationally renowned and won major awards and prizes in competitions. It also gave its name to the famous Kilner jar, which is still used in kitchens throughout the world for preservation and storing of fruit and vegetables. In 1862, at the great International Exhibition in London, the firm obtained the only prize medal awarded to British glass bottle-makers.
The company was founded by John Kilner in 1848 on the site of an old bottle works in Thornhill Lees. With the help of his four sons, George, Caleb, John and Tom, who had grown up in the bottle-making trade, the business was soon flourishing and became one of the busiest and most prosperous glass-bottle making businesses in the country.
John Kilner had only been at Thornhill Lees a year when a second furnace had to be built to cope with the growing number of orders, and two years later, a third was added. As business grew further still, more furnaces were added.
The extensive works, situated off Lees Hall Road, covered seven acres and included five large smelting furnaces. As well as glass bottle-making departments, the works also contained large warehouses and workshops for the manufacture of van boxes and cases for mineral water and beer bottles, packing rooms, also a spacious suite of well -appointed offices and counting-houses.
Some idea of the magnitude of the operations carried out can be gathered from the fact that the firm employed seven commercial travelers and 600 workers. By this time the Kilners had also opened another extensive works in Conisborough which employed a further 500 workers.
Mr. John Kilner died in 1857, leaving the business to his four sons. In 1865 the eldest, Caleb, retired, followed soon after by his brother John, which left George and William Kilner as sole proprietors. In 1874, they took two sons each into the firm, Caleb, Tom, George, William and John Caleb, all practical men, who helped run the business.
For many years Kilners held a leading position in the trade, and were patentees of a system for making the rims of bottles and jars one uniform size so they could be fitted with tin caps.
Their London warehouse was at the Great Northern Goods Station where they held an immense stock. Sadly, with mechanization and more modern methods of producing jars and bottles, the Kilner business declined, and in 1922, the factory was closed down, leaving many local people unemployed, but there are still Kilners living in the area, even though they may not bear the name Kilner. George Kilnerís great-grand-daughter Margaret Morris, a retired Dewsbury schoolteacher, still lives in the town, and has many fascinating stories to tell about her locally famous ancestors.
There are still some people living in Dewsbury who remember the Kilner Bottle Works. Those old employees claim that the temperature in the village has never been the same since the works closed down. They say that Thornhill Lees was always a few degrees warmer because of the heat from the Kilner furnaces.