Ballito Hosiery was amongst the leading names in the hosiery industry along with Kayser Bondor and Bear Brand.
Ballito opened in the early 1920s in Hatfield Road, Fleetville, on the site of the old Fleet Printing works and closed in 1967 following its takeover by Courtaulds Ltd.
The factory covered a large area bounded by the main Hatfield Road, Sutton Road,
the former St Albans to Hatfield railway line and W H Laver’s wood yard. Following
closure, part of the site was occupied by Marconi Instruments (a large 3 storey building)
whilst the rest of the factory premises was demolished and a Co-
The main entrance into Ballito faced Woodstock Road (right by the pedestrian crossing).
The original entrance was a large wooden structure with a small door on the right
hand side. On passing through the door you would step into a registration area where
you would be met by a smartly-
Up until the early 1950s the factory was single storey, spread over a large area.
All manufacturing of ‘full fashioned’ and ‘semi-
The office block was a single storey building which ran parallel with Hatfield Road, behind the warehouse. This could only be seen from the Sutton Road entrance. The offices looked out onto the yard where the garages were situated.
Ballito had a large canteen in which there was a stage and it was used for many social events. Saturday night dances were frequently held there. On at least two occasions, a programme called ‘Workers’ Playtime’ was broadcast live at midday from the canteen by the BBC.
There was a very strong Social Club. Among the activities were football, cricket and netball; teams all competing in local leagues. There was also a ‘small bore’ shooting section.
Ballito had a very fine sports ground at Smallford with a pavilion and good football
and cricket pitches. This was looked after by a full-
In addition to the head office and main manufacturing plant in St Albans, there was
also a small factory in Earl Shilton in Leicestershire. During the years 1950 to
1967, Ballito expanded and a new three storey building was erected at the rear of
the St Albans factory. This housed new of ‘full fashioned’ and ‘semi-
Ballito purchased Tor Hosiery Mills of Matlock and Hartwood Hosiery Mills of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, in addition to opening three new factories in Luton at Bute Street, Dallow Road and Midland Road, and employing a number of female outworkers who would do work in their own homes.
In the early 1960s Ballito expanded into manufacturing knitwear. It was in the middle 1960s when the UK hosiery industry started to meet strong competition from hosiery imported from Italy. This led to many UK hosiery companies being bought out by Courtaulds.
I joined the company on leaving school in April 1950 and went to work in the Cost and Bought Ledger office. The hours of work were 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, with a Saturday morning every other week. We had a quarter of an hour break morning and afternoon with a one hour dinner break. We had to fit our break times between the factory departments; otherwise we found ourselves at the back of a long queue!
Each month the workers were allowed to purchase one pair of stockings. There was
a very good friendly atmosphere in the offices. The management was firm but fair.
My first task was Post Boy. This was a good experience as I got to know my way
around the factory and what went on. As well as meeting the people, this held me
in good stead as I progressed through the years. All books and ledgers were hand
written; a good introduction to book-
During the Christmas rush, the office staff were given the chance to help in the warehouse, making up orders. That gave us the chance to work Sundays for a bit of extra money.
Working at Ballito was a great experience.