D. MacLaren Ltd

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D.MACLAREN LTD (Mac Handbags)

The company founder

Douglas Colin MacLaren 1909-1995 the founder of the business was born in Attleborough Norfolk on 1 Jan 1909 to Colin R MacLaren and his wife Jemima. His father Colin was a tailor and outfitter with premises in Exchange Street Attleborough, he had in turn followed his father Duncan born in Scotland in the same line of business. Douglas attended the Norwich Grammar School after which in 1926 he joined his father`s business, this must have been a good education for him in the techniques of stitching and sewing machinery that he was able to put to good use when later starting up his own company. In 1940 Douglas enlisted in the Royal Navy where he served as a Lieutenant RNVR until 1946.

With his war service behind him Douglas decided to venture into the world of manufacturing by producing ladies handbags. Together with his associate John Pellegrini premises were obtained at the old shoe factory of F. Mann & Co at 399 Sprowston Road where the upper floor with an area of some 900sq.ft.was used to begin production of their goods.

Company moves to Mousehold Lane

By 1950 the business was to be found at 28 Mousehold Lane having taken over the former site of the builders Grange and Samuel. With the site improved and extended the company carried on for almost thirty years in the manufacture of handbags. During the 1950`s and 60`s the business was at its peak with over two hundred full time staff and many outworkers producing items from their own homes.

Footwear subsidiary

There was also a subsidiary of the company producing shoes under the brand name of Pell Footware Ltd. This was started up by John Pelegrini in 1965 at the same factory on Mousehold Lane, however they moved to a factory of their own on Mile Cross Lane in 1970 where they remained until its closure in 1975.

New owners and closure

In 1972 both of the companies MacLaren Ltd. and Pell Footware Ltd. were taken over by Steinburgh and Sons Ltd. It is not known what their business strategy was at the time but as already mentioned Pell Footware was closed down in 1975 followed by MacLarens in 1978 with all of the employees being made redundant. Douglas MacLaren`s last business venture appears to be Vogue Handbags Ltd. at 3 Castle Meadow in Norwich, a report in the London Gazette on 29 March 1984 stated that the company had gone into liquidation on 23 March of that year with their registered offices given as Dial House Thorpe End, this address being the long time residence of Douglas and his wife Elsie.

New use for premises – fire – demolition.

The factory at Mousehold Lane was taken over by Start Rite Shoes Ltd. to be used as a warehouse after MacLarens had vacated the premises. Start Rite ceased production of shoes at their Crome Road factory in 2003 and in the next year of 2004 they were also to leave the site on Mousehold Lane. They can now be found as a warehouse and distribution centre at Peachman Way on the Broadland Business Park. The factory on Mousehold Lane was the scene of a fire in 2005 which resulted in what was left of the building being unsafe and later demolished, the site in 2017 stands vacant awaiting development.