John Horrocks was educated at Leigh grammar school up to the age of 16 and was then at Rossall School. At 18 he started work in Mather Lane Mill where his father was a director. He started in the mechanic’s shop under the engineer Richard Marsh. It was a long day starting at 6 a.m and finishing at 5-30 pm. In the evenings, he went to technical college to study cotton spinning machinery under a Mr John Stott.
In 1908 John Horrocks met his bride to be Agnes Wilson. Agnes was the daughter of a local GP called David Wilson who was a personal friend of John Edward Crowther a wealthy local mill owner with a number of wool mills in the area who was to play a crucial part in establishing Leigh Spinners.
John Crowther suggested that he set up on his own and promised to help him. They looked around but the only mill for sale was in a poor state. John Crowther then suggested that he build a new mill and he would go 50/50 with him. John Horrocks knew he would lose his £400 per annum salary at Mather Lane and he only had £200 in the bank. The cost of building new was estimated at £180,000, so it was a huge decision.
To help finance the business the Directors set up a shop at 57, Chapel Street where members of the public would call in and lend money to the new venture. This was all going on while the mill was being built and work started in 1913. It was a project which his father did not either support or approve of.
The building had reached roof level in the North East corner when in August 1914 war broke out. They had £30,000 that the bank was advancing, but should not have been used without permission of bank. John Horrocks received a telegram from the builder enquiring whether or not he should continue with the project, because of the financial crisis caused by the war. He then made the biggest decision of his life when he telegrammed the builder telling him to continue with the work. He made this decision without consulting his fellow Directors and without the permission of the bank.
By 1915 the mill was running. They got workers from Jones Mills of Bedford square which was closing.
By 1919 the business was making a profit. In 1923 the foundation stone for the second mill was laid and it was completed in 1925. The prosperous times continued until the financial crash of 1929. 1930 onwards signalled a very difficult time in the company’s history when it was not possible to pay any dividends and people wanted their money back. All loans were repaid when possible. Leigh Spinners survived because of the loyalty of the workforce and the support of the Crowther family. No interest was paid on family loans until all other commitments had been settled.