S. Schwabe & Co. was a calico printing company established by Salis Schwabe in the village of Rhodes near Middleton, Lancashire in 1832.
Salis Schwabe emigrated to the UK from Germany as a 17 year old in 1817. He first settled in Glasgow and became a cotton merchant. Schwabe moved to Lancashire in 1832 and took over an old mill in Rhodes and set up the Schwabe Calico Printing Works.
Rhodes was little more than tranquil countryside at this time and Schwabe lived close to the works in a large manor called Rhodes House. The factory buildings eventually covered 8.5 acres with 14 surrounding reservoirs taking the total acreage of the site up to over 30. There were around 750 employees and 21 printing machines. The printing works had the capacity to print 600 pieces of 28 yards each every year.
The Schwabe Calico Printing Works became famous for its chimney which dominated the Middleton skyline. For a time it held the record for being the tallest chimney in Europe. It was built in 1846 at a cost of £5,000 and took 8 months to build. It contained over 1.5 million bricks and was 358 feet high. The chimney had iron neck moulds and a cap weighing 11 tons. It was said that this cap was wide enough to ride a horse and cart around it.
Salis Schwabe died in 1853 and Schwabe & Co. passed into the control of Adolf Schwabe and a Manchester cotton merchant called James Reiss. The company was eventually taken over by Tootals & Brunnschweiller who moved the business to Manchester.
The famous Schwabe chimney was demolished in 1982. Today, modern factories, industrial estates and housing occupy the original site.