26 Oct 2020

The Gileric Gowns of H.A. Howard & Sons, Ducie Street, Manchester

Gileric Gowns from the photograph by Stephen O’Loughlin

In presentations I have (mistakenly) cited the phrase ‘Gileric Gowns’ as an archaic term that has fallen out of favour, alongside others such as ‘Calicoes’ and ‘Flannelettes’. In fact ‘Gileric’ was a label, or brand, within the H.A. Howard & Sons stable of products. In comments under this blog post, a descendent of the Howard family states that the word was formed by the conjunction of Gil and Eric, two brothers that ran the business started by their father H.A. Howard. (Any association with Eric Gill is entirely coincidental!)

An additional comment remarks that the sign itself was uncovered in 1991, which would partially explain its good condition. However, it has almost certainly been repainted since then. The building, a former lead works known at Junction Works, was Grade II listed in 1994, and a photograph that accompanies this listing on HIstoric England shows very fresh paintwork in place.

The listing also states that there was a “conversion in progress at time of survey” and my hunch is that the developers took the decision to retouch the sign, which would fit with a 1991 (re)discovery as part of the same works. (It would appear that not all new residents were entirely happy with the new flats!)

The firm itself was incorporated in the late 1940s, although prior to this the premises were occupied by Howard Alex. and Co, blouse manufacturers, which seems likely to have been related, perhaps under a different ownership structure. They remained in business until the 1980s, although from 1970 renamed themselves as HA Howard and Sons (Gileric), emphasising what was clearly their flagship product.

***This article was made possible by Ghostsigns’ patrons on Patreon. I thank each and every one of you for your continued support. Thanks also to Chris Hyland at the Manchester City Archives for additional research into the firm.***

Painted sign on a wall advertising H.A. Howard & Sons Ltd, Gileric Gowns.
1990s, post-repainting by Steve Barlow of Steve Barlow Signs

Post Script [February 2021]

The posting of this article led Steve Barlow to contact me with the photo I have added above. He kindly added some notes about the work.The job was commissioned by a firm called Watkin Jones Homes and I painted it in the nineties. I went on a survey of the site which at the time was scaffolded out and sheeted up as the builders were ready to take the Gable. I took measurements and the best photos i could on different levels. The gable end was then taken down and the bricks stored under tarpaulins over the winter period, before the wall was rebuilt. I used a lime-based paint as would have been used originally, and took my photo from a multi-story car park after I finished the job.

H.A. Howard & Sons, Ducie Street, Manchester, photographed by Stephen O’Loughlin
Canals, Rochdale Canal, Manchester (1977) Copyright Manchester Archives, item m54782
Former Junction Works, Manchester, photographed by Peter McDermott
Gileric gown, manufactured by H.A. Howard & Sons
Gileric gown, manufactured by H.A. Howard & Sons