Close to the centre of Preston is Simpson’s Gold Thread Works on Avenham Road (just off Cross Street). This factory has a long history from its beginnings in 1825, only finally closing in 1991. They specialised in making gold, silver and copper wire threads that were fine enough to be used in clothes making. They had particular expertise in the production of badges for civic and military use.
Of particular interest to us is the fact that during the Second World War, they ran a secret department. It’s job was to produce forged German swastika badges from aluminum thread stolen by the Dutch resistance. These were used on replica German uniforms, worn by British spies! Production of the badges was increased just prior to the Normandy landings, presumably as espionage was also part of the invasion plan to penetrate Nazi run Europe.
You can see the outside of the factory today on Avenham Road, complete with its Blue Plaque commemorating Isaac and Stephen Simpson. To see the kind of machinery they would have been using, have a look at the pictures on Preston Historical Societies flickr website here https://www.flickr.com/photos/preston_historical_society/sets/72157650722304666/
To see some of the actual badges, just take the five minutes walk up to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, and in the Discover Preston exhibition you can see the incredibly detailed work for yourself.
Harris Museum and Art Gallery on site interpretation.
See their website here http://www.harrismuseum.org.uk/
Preston Historical Societies photos on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/preston_historical_society/sets/72157650722304666/
ABOVE: Simpson's Gold Thread Works today
BELOW: Example badges in the Harris Museum
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