James Williamson (left) was born on the 31st of December 1842. He was the third of four surviving children born to James (Snr.) and Eleanor Williamson, who had established a successful coated fabrics business in the town in the 1840’s
In the 1870’s, Williamson’s coated fabrics business expanded rapidly and James (Jnr.) is credited with masterminding this period of growth and success, which included the addition of the vast new Lune Mills Factory, on the site of a recently bankrupted shipyard, along the quay from St. George’s Works and the ventures into floorcloth, then blindcloth and finally, in 1887, cork linoleum.
Williamson bought further land from Lancaster Corporation in 1889 and the major development of the firm proceeded quickly. The works finally grew to cover twenty-one acres and included provision for embossing, rolling and measuring, block printing and drying, as well as warehousing, storage for all the supplies needed and his own power supply.
Lord Ashton died at Ryelands House, Lancaster, on the 27th of May, 1930, aged 88 years. His funeral was attended by over two thousand of his employees, who marched in a procession almost a mile long, past the priory, where the service had been held, to the cemetery where Lord Ashton was buried.
The company celebrated its centenary in 1944 but two world wars, severe economic depression and foreign competition had changed the nature of the business forever. Williamson’s continued to decline in the 1950’s and 60’s, with the remains of the once great company being run under the names or ownership of Nairn Williamson Ltd, then Nairn Coated Products Ltd, followed by Forbo Kingfisher Ltd and finally Forbo Lancaster Ltd.