History of the necklace factory in Taunton

A Victorian LANDMARK building in Taunton will reopen in January 2022 as a ‘state of the art’ workspace.

The building itself is Grade 2 listed and the original windows have been retained, along with the floor boards. Nearly £2million has already been invested in the refurbishment.

The building, now called the Collar Factory, has a long history.

Henry Joseph Van Trump built the factory in Taunton in 1899 and two other sister factories in Bridgwater.

Factories could and did employ between 500 and 800 workers.

We spoke to Stephen Hottinger, husband of Nina Hottinger (née Van Trump), who has a passion for genealogy.

After studying his wife’s family tree, he realized that Henry Joseph Van Trump was a major contributor to Taunton’s development as a county town.

He has created a biography which proves that Henry, born in 1845, was a major ‘movement and agitator’ in Taunton.

“He became a councillor, alderman, was mayor four times, magistrate, churchwarden of St Mary’s for about 10 years and he ruled Taunton in the First World War,” Stephen said.

“Starting as a pawnbroker in the East Street premises opposite Primark and trading as KFC, he expanded to five pawnbrokers before joining forces with Samuel White and setting up the Somerset Manufacturing company at South Street.

“According to the Business Index for 1893, the South Street factory employed 500 to 600 workers.

“Henry was also Mayor of Taunton and during this time bought nine acres of land and paid for the creation and ‘development’ of a park in Taunton – what we know today as Vivary Park.

“As well as this, Henry belonged to many societies and associations and served as a Sergeant in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.

“Henry ended the amicable association in Somerset Manufacturing and struck out on his own. Shortly afterwards he approached Arthur Basil Cottam, an architect, and the factory (now known as necklace factory) was built with a ground floor, two working rooms and a machine room.

“Henry partnered with William Henry Masding who came with him from Somerset Manufacturing and later became Mayor of Bridgwater.

“Together William and Henry built a business called Tonevale Manufacturing employing over a thousand staff in the collar industry alone between Bridgwater and Taunton.

“Henry Joseph lost his eldest child to his son Harry Van Trump in 1916, but together with his wife Elizabeth they ruled Taunton with a difficult time as mayor and mayor.

“In 1919 he received a presentation box from a grateful Taunton Corporation and a roll of vellum and freedom from the borough.

Somerset County Gazette: HISTORY: Coffin handed over to Henry Joseph Van Trump as Mayor of Taunton

“Henry Joseph died in 1927 aged 80 and was buried in St Mary’s Church Cemetery on Wellington Road.

“He was also buried with I am we are his wife who died in 1922 and an infant son. But around 1980 they scrapped his headstones and others – removing all traces of him and his family .

“After the First World War Britain was in an economic mess and the next two decades were decades of poverty, hunger marches and depression.

“In 1929 America had its own stock market crash and in 1931 the Taunton factory in St Augustine Street was closed.

“William Masding moved production to Bridgwater and Bertie Van Trump, Henry’s second son, bought the factory in Taunton.

“Using a name registered by his father in 1900m, he called it Kollar Makers Limited. Working for Bertie was his own son, William Henry Van Trump (Harry).

“William is the father of Nina and Melanie Van Trump who visited the new necklace factory.

“And so three generations of Van Trumps operated the Taunton factory making collars, shirts and other garments from 1899 to 1964. The use of the factory between 1965 and 2002, when Barnicotts took over the premises , is not clear.

“Having done all this research, I just want people to recognize that Henry Joseph Van Trump was an important figure in the development of Taunton.”

Since his research, Stephen has also managed to collect items that once belonged to Henry, including the coffin given to him as Mayor of Taunton and First World War medals that belonged to Henry’s son, Harry Van Trump.

Somerset County Gazette: MEDALS: Harry Van Trump and his WWI medals

The building was purchased by Somerset County Cricket Club and then sold to the current owner, Forward Space. The Frome-based company is submitting a planning application to renovate the existing building in 2017.

They have now transformed the building into a new and improved necklace factory, with 24 studio spaces, coworking offices, workpods and event space.

Stephen and his family went to visit the newly refurbished necklace factory during the tours that took place earlier this month.

Melanie Baxter Smith’s (née Van Trump) sister-in-law Stephen said: ‘We had a very enjoyable tour of our Grandpas factory on Wednesday.

“The owner of the building showed us around and made us feel very welcome. They do an amazing job of keeping the character as it was. They exposed all the old bricks inside and it looks amazing.

Somerset County Gazette: DAY OUT: Melanie Baxter Smith (née Van Trump) at necklace factory renovation

Elizabeth J. Harless