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     Alex I Askaroff

  Alex has spent a lifetime in the sewing industry and is considered one of the foremost experts of pioneering machines and their inventors. He has written extensively for trade magazines, radio, television, books and publications world wide. Over the last two decades Alex has been painstakingly building this website to encourage enthusiasts around around the Globe.


See Alex Askaroff on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-NVWFkm0sA&list=UL

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.



The Jones Sewing Machine Company

A brief history of the Jones factory and William Jones

By Alex Askaroff


Sewing Machine Fault Finder                                                  Sewing machine Tension Problems


The largest sewing machine factory in England at Guide Bridge, Manchester.


William Jones


Around 1858 a jobbing engineer named William Jones became fascinated in the new sewing machines that were coming across from America. At the time William and his brother were already well established and ran a small engineering plant that specialised in steam engines to power factory equipment such as pumps, lathes, jigs and other machinery of the period. William was a skilled engineer specialising in his small steam engines that were powering machinery across the empire. William Jones had served his apprentice with the W. Heap & Company in Ashton-Under-Lyne, a small suburb, a few miles from the centre of Manchester.

William Jones must have been a little like me for he was spellbound with new fangled contraptions. He took them apart, found their weaknesses, then rebuilt, and often improved them. He knew there was big money to be made in sewing machines and Britain was ready. He also knew he could undercut the expensive imports of the time.

The beautiful Jones was called, Cat Back, Serpentine or Swan Neck. It was all one and the same sewing machine circa 1880-1909. The Jones cat Back is the most sought after Jones machine made in the Victorian period and it ticks all the boxes for collectors, it was pretty, beautifully engineered, and made a great stitch. The earlier ones had a decal motif in the bed and the later the brass badge. The earlier models had metal gears and the later fibre ones.

Remember William Jones was in the centre of England, the heartland of the British industrial revolution. New ideas and businesses were everywhere, springing up like mushrooms on a warm August evening.

The Jones patent shuttle of 1880

Chadwick & Jones

By 1859 William was well under way with sewing machine manufacture. He needed some financial help and went into partnership with Thomas Chadwick and started to manufacture (under licence, the Howe and Wheeler & Wilson) sewing machines. This was not enough for our young lad, he wanted, not only to make them, but also improve upon them. Oh! And to make some serious money as well. Chadwick had actually contacted William Jones and between them they formed the Chadwick and Jones Company. They operated from a small factory at Ashton-Under-Lyne.   

William Jones. A very solemn looking man in later life.

Jones & Co Ltd

By 1863 William Jones was making his own Jones Long Shuttle Lockstitch which actually was a Howe machine built under licence. William had big ideas and it was not long before he was manufacturing his own models. William Jones carried on expanding his own sewing machine business and patenting his ideas.

The Jones Model A sewing machine was made under licence from Howe. This machine is currently in the Harry Berzack Collection.

For some reason, many of the sewing machine patents that William Jones patented were in his brotherís name, John Thomas Jones. Maybe John was instrumental in their invention? Possibly it was to keep the patents quiet from his big American counterparts and competitors.

The Jones Cat-Back sewing machine of 1880. Around London it was also fondly named after the shape of the Serpentine in London.


Jones sewing machine fiddlebase sewing machine made to compete with the best selling machines of the 1870's, the Singer 12k. The name fiddlebase was due to the curving shape of the sewing machine bed.

You will have to take the time to read about Bradbury sewing machines later, for they were the main competition for Jones besides Singer. For now we are still hot on the heels of William Jones.

Gold medals were hard to come by but in 1885 the Jones Sewing Machine Company won one!

Strike Strike!

Elias Howe and Wheeler & Wilson the American sewing machine inventors and manufacturers had been looking for engineering firms on this side of the pond to handle their work. Unfortunately for them the first one they picked went on strike!

Thomas Chadwick had been one of the strikers at the Platt Brothers Engineering Works in Oldham. The strike was a turning point in British sewing machine history.

If the Platt strike had not happened at so crucial a moment, it is possible that Bradbury Sewing Machines, our oldest British sewing machine company would never have come to light.

Things could not have gone too smoothly between Chadwick and Jones for within three years the partnership was dissolved. Chadwick, who already had the bitter taste from a former - failed partnership, whipped off to Bradbury Sewing Machines, Williamís greatest rival. I bet that was a sore point in the Jones household!

Chadwick had known Bradbury from days of old. In fact they had both been locked out of Platt Brothers together and had stood on the the picket line arm in arm, stopping scabs from getting into the factory. Whilst the old workmates had got back together, it left William free to operate without restrictions from his former partner.

William and his brother were eager beavers and took Chadwickís departure as a real bonus, it smoothed the way for their expansion and the game was afoot.

The Jones Trademark a phoenix rising from the furnaces clutching the arrows of industry.

By 1869, they had patented their own machines and managed to get a large contract for Burtons the tailors to supply heavy-duty industrial machines to some of their factories. The successes of their domestic and industrial machines lead to their small business growing beyond all imagination.Soon agents were covering the land and shops added Jones machines to their stock. Ironmongers were a favourite with sewing machine manufacturers like Jones.

This is the J Andrews Ironmongers in Tarrant Street Arundel, West Sussex, England, which sold Jones machines.

In all my years in the sewing industry, I have only come across one Victorian Jones industrial machine and that was in a ship chandlers that had the machine from new, so they could be quite rare! Please donít phone me if you have just found a dozen!  

One of the few Jones Industrial sewing machines that I have seen.

'Elegant in design, superior in workmanship
 The Jones Sewing Machines beats all'

William and his brother went on to make some superb sewing machines, many of which still survive to this day. They copied popular machines of the day like Singers New Family machine and the German transverse shuttle machines and added their own unique models like the Cat Back.  

Jones Sewing Machine Company,
Stamford Works, Shepley Street
Guide Bridge, Audenshaw,
 Nr Manchester.

Tel: Ashton-Under-Lyne 2274

By 1869 a great factory started to grow in Shepley Street, Guide Bridge, near Audenshaw, on the outskirts of Manchester. A three storey building stood on the site for a 100 years. At the Stamford Works factory they eventually employed thousands of workmen and the machines became a household name in Britain, much like Hoover or Marmite! Don't tell me you've never heard of Marmite! It's part of our British constitution.  


In its heyday the Jones, Stamford Works,  factory at Audenshaw employed thousands of skilled workmen.

The Jones saga was a true story of a small acorn becoming a giant oak.  

As the years rolled by William took a back seat and became the Chairman of the Board overseeing important matters and his brother John became Managing Director.

This is a unique picture I purchased some years ago. Why the sad looks? It is titled Adversity. Maybe the machine has broken and they are in despair?

Along with the British arm of Singer & Bradbury, Jones sewing machines were the really successful British sewing machines of the Victorian era. There is hardly a British collection that does not contain a Jones machine, I have eight models myself.

Thompson's Sewing Machines
Lowther Street

Now Jones were not fussy. Unlike Singer, who only sold under their own name. If you ordered enough sewing machines they would put any name you wanted on their sewing machines. Above you can see the badge for Thompson's sewing machines which were Jones machines sold under their own Thompson badge.

Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd
Sewing Machine Agents
White Hall Soap Works

The Jones Company went on to produce many different models for over 120 years. If you ordered more than 100 machines you could have your own name put on the machine. This is something that Singers never did. This is why so many Jones machines turn up in different dresses. 

Eclipse sewing machine, sorry about the crooked picture, the paper I scanned was in bits.

The Eclipse sewing machine like the Rushby sewing machine below were both produced by Jones sewing machines and sold by the individual importers/agents and wholesales as their own machines

This standard Jones sewing machine was sold by W. Rushby & Co, Louth, Lincolnshire, England. Any company ordering more than 100 machines could have their own name on the Jones machine.

Queen Alexandra & the connection to Jones Sewing Machines

When The Princess of Wales used one of the Jones machines at one of her technical schools for a year. A testimonial to its reliability came from Marlborough House in London. the Jones Company was quick to act. They marked their machines with Princess Alexandra from then on.

On the 9th of August 1902, with great pomp and circumstance, Prince Edward was crowned King Edward VII of England. Princess Alexandra, King Edward's wife, became Alexandra Queen consort. Jones machines were then  markedó as supplied to HRH Queen Alexandra.     


A testimonial from Princess Alexandra was used to promote the Jones Serpentine machines and later put on the CS model though it was the Serpentine that she actually approved.

Princess Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia, Alex, was born at the Yellow Palace, an 18th-century town house next to the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the age of sixteen she was chosen as the future wife of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and heir to Queen Victoria. She won the hearts of the British people as the Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901, the longest anyone has ever held that title. Alexandra was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India from 1901 to 1910 as the consort of King Edward VII.

1 December 1844 Ė 20 November 1925 Queen Alexandra

The Testimonial  March 5th 1890
Marlborough House,
Pall Mall,

To the Jones Sewing Machine Company, Sirs, both your treadle and hand sewing machines have been used in HRH, The Princess of Wales'  technical schools, Sandringham, for more than a year. They have given every satisfaction both in dressmaking and sewing of undergarments. They are easy to work and in everyway superior to other makes I know.

The testimonial from Marlborough house came with consent from Princess Alexandra and with her approval. This was to be a huge boon to Jones for decades. All machines were marked with her Royal Approval and when she became Queen after Victoria's death they machines were marked  with Royal Approval Queen Alexandra.

No other sewing machine in the world possesses our invaluable patented arrangement.

The patented winder unit on the Jones Cat-Back or Serpentine or Swan-Neck model

The machines that she actually approved were the early Jones machines of the 1880's known as the Serpentine model. Out of all the Jones models, probably the one that is the most synonymous with Jones, is the family model known as the Serpentine, due to the sweep of the neck matching a bend in the famous London lake. The beautiful and widely collected model had at least three other names as well but they were all Jones's famous sweeping back model of the late Victorian period. 

Royal Appointment was a big deal and lead to many orders from Jones Sewing Machines.
 I spotted this sign at Blist Hill in Ironbridge outside the seamstress' shop.

Having Royal Approval was a big money spinner as well as a pat on the back. Customers obviously thought if it was fit for the Queen it must be good.

Royal Approval meant more sales, as with this 1920 Jones Family Central Shuttle CS machine.

The name Swan Neck was also used for the Serpentine model but the name that stuck was Cat Back, as it does have a familiar curve along the top arm to a catís back. Their most popular model ran for 30 years from 1879 to 1909. When sewing well it is a superb machine and very underrated at the moment with collectors. It will be a star of the future as it ticks all the collectors boxes and is obtainable. There can be fewer more stunning machines than this.

The Jones Serpentine Sewing Machine
 advertised by Jones as the prettiest stitch of any sewing machine in existence.

     The Jones Cat Back, Swan Neck or Serpentine. One of the prettiest of all Victorian hand machines and very collectable today. It also came after 1890 with Approved by HRH Princess and later Queen Alexandra. You cannot get a much higher recommendation than that!
 Note: Some had fibre gears and are not as collectable as the steel geared machines. Check before you buy!

During WWII the Jones factory carried on producing sewing machines for the war effort but also produced uniforms and parachutes.

This was unlike the great Singer factory in Scotland where production of sewing machines ceased for the duration. Bren guns were made and ammunition in massive quantities, some 20 million bullets per week rolled off the production lines. 

Jones sewing machines were sold all over Europe. This is a Norwegian advert circa 1939

The Jones sewing machine company was one of the oldest sewing machine companies in the world and by 1963 they were still updating and expanding their factory with a brand new purpose built administration block. But now cheap imports were hitting trade and hitting it hard.

The downturn in manufacturing in Britain was on a roll and many huge old companies were in decline. Jones, like so many greats including Singer had just a few years manufacturing left in Great Britain.

Jas Steel
Agents for
Jones Sewing Machines
Cheltenham 1887

A takeover by Brother industries saw the Jones name continue on imported models and although the Jones name eventually disappeared from sewing machines in the late 1980ís, the ghost of the great Jones company still survives as part of the Japanese - Brother industries.

A single story factory still stands today opposite  where the huge original 1880 factory once was.

Brother industries now own the Jones name. Brother were originally famous for their superb hand built pianos and now make a huge range of domestic and industrial machinery, everything from computers to keyboards. They used the Jones name to successfully launch their own Brother machines into Europe before changing the name to Jones-Brother and then to just Brother.

One final point worth repeating is that the Jones Sewing Machine Company would mark their machines with many names such as 'The Lightning' or 'The Favourite'. If a large haberdasheries or iron mongers came to Jones with a order for over 100 machines they could have any name they wished upon the machine like 'Victoria', 'Eclipse' or 'Harrods Own'. It is one reason we see so many Jones machines in different skirts - so to speak.


Here is an unusual badge on a Catback model of 1890 marked as the Jones "Favourite" sewing machine, Bridgnorth.




  Well that's it for Jones sewing machines folks, most of what I know and have collected over these last few decades. I have spent a lifetime researching and writing these pages and I love to hear from people so drop me a line and let me know what you thought or if you would like to add anyting: alexsussex@aol.com

Most of us know the name Singer but few are aware of his amazing life story, his rags to riches journey from a little runaway to one of the richest men of his age. The story of Isaac Merritt Singer will blow your mind, his wives and lovers his castles and palaces all built on the back of one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century. For the first time the most complete story of a forgotten giant is brought to you by Alex Askaroff.

Blacklock's Sewing Machine depot, 252 Tottenham Court Road, London. Agents for Jones sewing machines.

Books by Alex Askaroff

A brilliant slice of 1940's life: Spies & Spitfires

News Flash! All Alex's books are now on a dedicated website: www.crowsbooks.com

Both Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
 are now available in America and instantly on Kindle and iPad.



Alex's stories are now available to keep. Click on the picture for more information.

On 1st. February 1974 I purchased by Jones sewing machine from Woolco, store in Castle Lane, Bournemouth,
I have made my children's clothes, my clothes, numerous curtains, chair covers etc.
I always maintained the machine my self and have just handed it on to My 21 year old grand-daughter, who has started to make her own clothes.
I was thrilled to find your history of Jones.
Julia Bradley

Hello Alex
I was fascinated to read your article on the history of the Jones sewing machine. I just love the beauty of those old machines and still use a hand-operated one myself.

Dear Alex,

I want to tell you that your SEWALOT website is absolutely
magnificent! Any time I want to learn about a particular antique
sewing machine, your site is the one I go to first. Thank you for all
you have put into it for the benefit of everyone.

C. Lockwood Jones sewing machine agent and sperm whale oil supplier.


Dear Alex.
What a fascinating web site, especially as I have family connections with Jones.
As I understand it, my Grandfather Percy Jefferson, was Chairman of Jones, I think just before and during the second world war. Two of his three sons also worked at Jones in managerial capacities (Uncle Fred, Stanley and Jefferson)
Kind regards
David Jefferson.

Hi Alex,
Just want to say that is a great summary of the Jones history you have done! I enjoyed reading it very much.
I have a Jones Family C.S sewing machine and your expertise is greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time.
Kind regards,

Your website has a fascinating history of the Jones Company. I could not resist writing to you before preparing our evening meal !
Best Wishes, 
Jennifer  H


Hi Alex

Your site is just the best ever.

SJ California


A brief history of the Jones Sewing Machine Company and William Jones,

By Alex Askaroff




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CONTACT: alexsussex@aol.com   

Skylark Country


Dear Mr. Askaroff,
Just wanted to thank you for your fascinating article on Jones sewing machines.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Amazing leaps in technology and industry that are still functional today!  Bet they wonít be able to say that about todayís latest gadgets in a hundred years.
Thank you!