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Lion Brand Donkey Stone

early 20th Century

This is a donkey stone. Made of limestone, cement and bleach, these small blocks were used for cleaning stonework such as flag stone floors, front door steps and window sills.

The manufacturer of this Lion Brand donkey stone was Eli Whalley and Co. which was founded in the 1890s in Ashton-under-Lyne, a few miles east of Manchester. Whalley chose a lion as his company trademark, gaining the inspiration from his many childhood visits to Belle Vue Zoo.

Donkey stones are part of Lancashire and Yorkshire’s rich industrial history.

They were originally used in textile mills to provide a non-slip surface on greasy stone staircases. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they were adopted by housewives as the ideal way to keep their front door steps looking like new.

“Doing the step” was an ideal occasion for gossip between neighbours, as well as a source of rivalry. It was a chore often bestowed to children at weekends.

Demand for donkey stones fell gradually after the 1930s. The decline of the cotton mills removed the main bulk buyer of the stones and changing social trends meant it was no longer seen as essential to have a donkey-stoned step. By the time of its closure in 1979, Eli Whalley was the world’s last manufacturer of donkey stones.