Records show that the Earnshaw family has been connected with the timber trade since 1780.
The business, which was founded in 1860, carries the name of Job Earnshaw, who worked falls of timber in the local area near Wakefield. His brothers soon joined him in the venture, and a small sawmill was built on the Midgley site, producing parts for horse drawn carts, gates, fence posts, rails and various items used in agriculture. Initially all the sawing was done by hand, but this was soon brought to an end with the acquisition of a traction engine, which in turn was replaced with a steam engine in 1880. The sawmill became fully electrified in 1939.
By the end of the First World War the company had around 40 employees and supplied a wide range of timber, oak for railway wagons and fencing, ash for handles and cart shafts, elm for wheel hubs, ironwork in-house. Until the 1940s most haulage and extraction was done by horse – at one time the company owned 26 horses – 16 at Midgley and 10 at Wakefield.
The Evolution of Earnshaws
After the Second World War, the company started to evolve steadily. Premises in Wakefield were sold, a sawmill at Brigg in Lincolnshire was bought and large areas of woodland were acquired, which the company still works to this day. With the decline of the region’s traditional industries of steel, coal and textiles, the company moved towards agricultural products, with fencing and gates taking over much of the mill’s production. With the addition of a pressure treatment tank in the 1970s, much of the production shifted to softwood species. In the mid 1980s, the company launched its first ‘Fencing Centre’, a major initiative which took Earnshaws into retail operations for the first time.
An upsurge of interest
In many ways, the company was a pioneer offering fencing and landscaping products direct to the general public. Though initial demand was steady, word soon spread, and the company was ideally placed to cater for the upsurge of interest fuelled by the makeover programmes of the 1990s. In 1996, following the closure of the local coal mine, the company relocated its entire Midgley based operation to the newly vacated 13-acre site. The move allowed for the further modernisation of the sawmill operation, but in particular, enabled the further development of the retail and distribution enterprise.