The Tasker family history in Accrington goes back many years and the name remains an institution in the town to this day.
Celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2016, Taskers has recently seen a major refurbishment of its landmark Accrington brick built former mill premises on Queens Road.
Offering perhaps the most exciting home furnishing shopping experience in the north west, the newly refurbished showroom includes themed displays and room sets showcasing lounge and dining furniture, an expanded bedroom furniture studio and brand new lighting and home accessories departments.
On all the company’s advertising material and website, the company proudly promotes its name and that of the town:
Says managing director Ivor Lefton, who became the first non-family company board member in 2001:
"To survive in retail as an independent family business for so long takes tremendous skill and forward planning and we continue to build on the pioneering entrepreneurship of past members of the Taskers family.
Taskers benefits from great customer loyalty but this is because of its traditional family values based on service, support and going that extra mile, and on our loyal and knowledgeable team of around 40 staff”.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of all invention and when it comes to keeping a family of 15 in clean clothes, you can understand why, in the days before automatic washing machines and tumble dryers, a mangle would be useful, but did you know that the mangle was invented in Accrington?
The creator and builder of the world’s first geared wooden roller wet clothes-wringing machine (the mangle) was master blacksmith Robert Tasker, around 1850. He had a smithy in Back Union Street, which became part of Accrington Broadway. Robert and his wife Betty, a weaver, produced ten daughters and three sons so presumably, had an almost daily stack of dirty laundry.
Robert, who made the gates to the cemetery in Burnley Road, Accrington, which are still in use today, refused to patent his invention, saying:
"God gives men brains to help his brother, not line his pockets”.
However, he and Betty did charge their neighbours one old penny a time to come to their house and use the machine! You can see Robert's original mangle at Towneley Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley.
The Taskers family name also made its mark in Accrington around this time as the building and carpentry side of the business laid out and built the town’s Tasker Street (off Abbey Street, in the town centre).
Together with his wife Agnes, in 1896 Robert’s son John William set up a hardware shop in Whalley Road, Accrington. He also travelled the streets selling his wares from a horse and cart, lamp oil being his biggest seller.
Expanded by their son Robert Tasker, it was this business that sowed the seeds of the present day company…
Robert was a natural salesman. Following service in the army in World War One, he re-joined the family business and built a large warehouse in Horne Street, Accrington, to cope with the increasing demands of the firm founded by his father. Not satisfied with solely retail trade, he travelled to nearby towns selling his wares to the shops.
By sheer hard graft and ingenuity, the business survived the 1930s slump and later that decade bigger premises in Burnley Road, Accrington were acquired from Whittaker Brothers Ltd, a company that had coincidentally built its success on selling mangles!
The son of Robert and Margaret Tasker, Robert Haworth came into the business as a teenager and, after serving in World War Two, he became head of the company, now well established in the furniture and carpet trade, when his father died in 1953.
It was Robert Haworth who took the bold initiative to move Taskers to Queen Mill in 1965.
Initially, Taskers was a tenant paying a rent of half a crown a square foot, which at the time was about the going rate. But by the 1970s, the increasing power of the supermarkets had already led to the demise of many smaller local retail outlets, which had made up Taskers' wholesale clients.
Wholesaling was therefore discontinued, but the freehold of the land and mill premises were bought and the mill's interior refurbished into a direct-to-the-public furniture and carpet showroom.
Robert Haworth retired in 1984 and the reins were handed over to his son Robert Philip, Taskers’ current chairman. He continued to invest and expand and under his direction the company became one of the most successful independent retailers of lounge, dining and bedroom furniture in the north west.
The factors contributing to this success have been a combination of systematic forward planning to cope with the ever changing pattern of retailing, together with continual refurbishment, ensuring that the Taskers shopping experience remains a pleasant one.
In 2001, Managing Director Ivor Lefton joined Taskers as the first non-family board member in the company’s history.
With the support of chairman Robert Tasker, he immediately implemented a fundamental redesign and enhancement of the 30,000 sq ft showroom to ensure that the business kept pace with future demands and competition.
That investment paid off as the company continued to expand, and, in its 120th anniversary year of 2016, Ivor has once again master-minded a further redevelopment, to provide an even better experience and enhanced product range in order to truly deliver:
The complete home furnishing experience”.