different projection methods to be used in the attic area above the shroud
room. Using draped cloth to reference the shrouds originally manufactured in
the room below. Also considering the possibility of projecting directly onto
the ceiling of the attic making the limits of the film difficult to detect and
dropping the obvious reference to the shrouds. Final decision will have to be
made on site.
This artist creates vibrant projections that seem to echo memory of the building and lives passed.
Err, I’m Elizabeth Weaving. I
was born in Scotland. Err, to be more precise, err just outside Ballantrae in
Ayrshire, err and I was born in the, err bad winter of 1947. In February.
How did you come to
I, as I say, I worked for
another firm doing exactly the same thingand
in those days you just moved because you want more money. Erm, but at the time, err I thought there
wasn’t much scope for me, and, err, somebody told me there was a job going and,
as I say, err, the salary was more (laughs) and it was in, it was in the early ‘70s
when I think most people, if you got fed up of a place, err you could just walk
out, in the morning and by the err following morning you’d have a new job to go
So, how did you get
involved in this industry as a whole because it seems like an odd industry to
be involved in?
I left, when I left school, uh,
first of all, I went to work for the Co-op Laundry err, dry cleaning section,
err, I got fed up of that, and, err then I went and worked as a driver for S
U Carburettors, delivering. I got fed up of that (laughs) and then, err I,
I must admit that I did go to the err, employment exchange and s- and for err
because I couldn’t find, because usually jobs would get err the jobs I had had
previously, people had said, “ooh, they want such and such there” but no but
the, so I went to the employment exchange and they said, “well, what, what can
you do and what have you been doing and are you willing to work anywhere?” I
says, ‘Well, within reason’, and err, er, they offered me a book binding job. I
went. I didn’t like it. I didn’t think I’d like it and then they said,
“Well the next one we’ve got,” err “how are you with the dead?” (Laughs) that
was the exact question they said, “How are you with the dead?” I says, ‘in what
respect?’ and err, she says, er “are you bothered about death? Does it frighten
you?” I says ‘no’. I says ‘where I was
born and brought up err we were taught not to fear death.’ “Oh” she, I says, “Why?”
She says, “Well, we’ve got a job here for an undertakers.” And er, so I says, “Well,
yes, I’m ga- what’s the wages?” – which
I can’t remember – and I says “ooh, yes.” So I went along, and when I got there
– it wasn’t here – when I got there it was er, T Ellis jones, and err it wasn’t
far from where I lived, and it was in a little house. The whole factory was in
a house. And they were ever-so nice. It was a family run firm and err, this is
what it was to be (points to Newman factory surroundings) – sewing. That it was
not an undertaker’s as I’d been left to believe, but erm, this [Coffin Works
sewing room] and I stayed there for I think it was about 5 years, and err, as I
say it was a small family firm, and it, it was run by the owner, the
son-in-law, and his two daughters. And, erm, as I
say, I only left for the reason that, erm, I was err, in the throes of getting
married – or at least hoping to get married – so, of course, you wanted as much
money as you can get to save. So, that was the reason I left. And, err, we were
both sorry. I was sorry to leave, and they were sorry to lose me. And, then I
went to work, err, I can’t remember where I worked after that. It’s a blank. Nobody
else can remember it’s so long back though (laughs). And erm, then I, I heard that
there was a job here be- because I did find that erm, sewing generally – ooh!
It was Leroy’s. I’ve just remembered! I worked for Lee Rose er,
that was, err, ladies clothes.
So, when, when you,
when you got here, I mean, did, did, did you just, did they sort- did they do
any tests? How did they decide?
I came in. I came for
an interview. I came, I was brought up here [Newman Brother’s Sewing Room] and
erm, I was left with the forewoman. And of course, she asked me questions, and
the minute I said that, err “have you done this before”, and I says “yes, er,
four or five years with err, T Ellis Jones” “Oh! We know them.” I says “yes” I
says “and of course, I knew you through working with T Ellis Jones.” So of
course, erm, they said, err, “well if you’re willing to start, we’re willing to
have you” and “when can you start?” And I says, “tomorrow if you want me”
(laughs). So erm I came the next day and I was here for about three years
So what was this
place like, to work in?
The girls, the women,
we were all very friendly err were more like sisters – and aunts with the older
ones – err same with the men, err sometimes I would go down at lunchtime err,
it’s all been altered slightly. (Gestures around room to doors). That you used
to go downstairs and you could get out through the side to go to the toilet. And,
er, on the ground floor, they used to have the, err, breast plates, pack them
all up, and sometimes there would be, coffins and caskets that had been, err to
go on from wherever they’d been ordered from. And I used to go down there was a,
err I can’t remember his name, was a nice man. He was in his late 50s and, I
used to go down and sit and talk to him in my lunch break erm, because he had
been in the Great War, and I had a grandfather who had been in the Great War
and, of course, err, I used to go down there and sometimes as I say, erm my
seat down there was the err coffin or the casket (laughs). ‘Course he would cover
it with, err, so it couldn’t get scratched because err, I’d go down there say, “sit
down”, I say where and he’d “just a minute” and he’d put, and I’ve actually sat
on coffins (laughs) They’ve been empty of course! We were- I would never do
that if they were occupied.
What was, I mean,
tell, tell me more about- You’re actually sitting there. Paint a picture for us
about what else would be going on.
Well, you’d, you’d have the machinists here doing whatever they
were given because we didn’t all only do g- err we didn’t just do gowns, we did
other things. There’d be the Forewoman making up the orders. She and her
partner, they would be making up the err – ooh sorry – making up the erm gowns
and the orders.
Through there would,
there’d be the men doing the handles, breast plates, all the coffin furniture
then there’d be the men doing the handles, breastplates, all the coffin
furniture then there was the packers err, I mean we would, err these would be
packed up into boxes, err I think there were 12 to a box and, was it 24? They
were great big boxes. And then of course they would go downstairs err, to be,
err shipped off to wherever they were, whether they were for this country or
a-abroad because we literally sent them all over the world.
And err, of course there was the office, but
we never saw the office. Even at the interview I never saw the inside of the
office. Erm, it was very, well as you can see, Victorian. Very, even, even in
the ‘70s – err, late ‘60s, early ‘70s. It was very Victorian. I don’t want to
sound as if I’m putting the place down but it, the values were still erm, sort
of erm, ‘30s and ‘40s. That erm, so long as you got on with your work, you were
alright, but I mean Newman Brothers were, were not the only firm that were like
that. I have been in other firms whereas so long as you kept your nose clean,
you were fine and you got on well because of, of course, as I said before, it was in the days when it was easy to
get new staff, and for the staff themselves that if you didn’t like the job, you
just, say “I’m off, I’m leaving” (laughs) I know that must sound callous
Joyce Green Interview
Joyce Green Wide Part 1
Joyce Green: In my bag there’s a
bottle because I get, um, I’ve got a husky, husky voice. Can I put it down
Interviewer: Ok, just do your
best but let Miss Green Talk alright? Cumbersome process tele, isn’t it?
JG: I’ve warned you, you should
be making me look beautiful.
JG: What are you going to do to
make me look beautiful?
I: Don’t need to. You look
JG: Laughs Hold your chin
I: Ok? Alright lovely, just so
we’ve got this on the tape I want you to introduce yourself, um, and could you
tell me, ideally can you also tell me where you were born
And if you’re willing to, when
you were born
JG: Laughs Well my name is
Joyce Green. I was born in Birmingham. I’m seventy five years of age, born in
I: Brilliant. So how did you come
to work here?
JG: I came to work at Newman
Brothers because I worked across in Summer Row and the, my boss who, um was the
owner of that business made tubes for Newman Brothers, that’s part of the
casket work. Um he was really, um a dust extractor but he, this was a sideline
as well and of course over the period they came into our office and, um, got
chatting and then I was invited over to have tea with them in the afternoons.
Not every afternoon but here and there because I worked alone and, um, my boss
didn’t mind me coming out and of course he would say
“See if you can get us an order
we need, we could do with some more, an order for some more tubes.”
And I would sort of casually say
“Well you know we’re, Mr. Jones
is a little bit short of work. Could we put a further order in for you for when
You know. And so I had tea with them at 4
o’clock and that’s how I got to know them. And when they went, um, had um, an outing,
they did a works outing and so I was invited to come to the works outing which
I think the first one was Blackpool. And so we, you know, hired a coach and um,
we all go off to Blackpool for the day.
I: Not heard
JG: Oh yes, yes, all picked up at
Fleet Street and then off we go for the day. And of course it was the first
time I’d ever been to Blackpool so of course it was quite a, an eye opener
really all the, you know, all the rides and all the things you could do so of
course we had, I had quite a, I had a lovely day. And um, Mr. Horace came and
John Kellet and Charles Floyd and of course the rest of the, the factory.
I: So, I just, can you tell me a
bit more about your background? How old-
JG: I was eighteen when I came
I: And what, what is your family
background? You were born in Birmingham, what’s your family background?
JG: Well I was born in
Birmingham, um, and my parents were, were Birmingham bred and born and um, I, I
lived near, in the early years, I lived near um, Smallheath Park. Not far away
from there. And we were there until, a three storey house- you know a three
storey, um you know a house with two stories on top, big house, and… and then
of course came the war and, um, the bombing and of course we were very close really
there to the BSA. And so um, there were one or two horrific nights as a young
girl with my sister, and um, we were, we were housed in the cellar. But of
course when things got very bad neighbours had to come and join us in that
cellar and when, after that particular heavy raid, my father said
“Well, we’re going to move.”
And he did quite an unusual
thing, he moved out to Shirley. Um, people thought he was mad but he moved out
to Shirley and bought a house out in Shirley. And that’s where I grew up.
I: And what did your father do
for a living?
JG: Well my father was an office
worker for the um, Birmingham Corporation. He actually dealt with the um, the
transport side and the money side of a large um, Yard wood depot.
I: So. Tell me about your first-
you already knew the place and you already knew the people but the first time
you came to work here what were your first impressions of this building and
what happened here and the people here?
JG: Hmm, well it, it was just
natural to come really I suppose because I’d sort of been to tea and, and then,
um, I can’t think of the ladies name she, um Miss. Ree, Miss. Ray, Miss. Regan.
Miss Regan decided to leave and um, they said “Look” and my boss had had a
heart attack so it all fell in very well that I came to work for Newman
Brothers. When I did come I found out that everything, all invoices were
written by hand into a ledger, one of the large ledgers still left here, and
then were typed separately to the customer. Well, I soon altered those
arrangements because you would just be doing double work. So um, we started a
different system on the book keeping and it, um, had a different type of
invoice where you had three of four to view, which would mean when you typed
the top copy, then came the advice note, then the copy for the office and then
the travellers copy. So it was all done in one.
I: What was your, I suppose, I
admit, it’s interesting your impression of the whole place and the people
because you must have had, I think when people come round here they have quite
a strong first impression of the place. Are you-
JG: Well I just found it a, I
just found it quite a happy place. There were young people. I mean John Kellet
was young, he came after the war. Dai Davies, he was young, he came after the
war, um, Charles Floyd he came after the war, so it was a young nucleus of
people that I joined. And we grew up together in a way because they had lost a
lot of their growing up years abroad and um, in the air force, all three of them
had been in the air force. So really it was a sort of a starting off point
really although some of them had been here a year or so before I came. So it
was just natural that I came here.
00:00:20:00 MF: My name is Mark Finch. I was born 31st
of the 10th 1967.
And when did you first come here, and what impressions did you have of it?
First impression? It was like a time capsule. From the, at the time it was,
it’s gradually even over the short time that I was here, its sort of, how can I
say it, when I first, very first came here it didn’t seem as much, what’s the
00:01:00:00 word, it’s a bit surreal being part of the history of something.
When you feel so young if you like, but no I mean it may have been my age at
the time, I was only 17, 18 at the time, but it was just another workplace to
me at the time when I first came.
Was it your first experience of work? [Interruption-adjustment
tomicrophone] So you are saying
as a 17 year old you walked in here and it felt ancient to you.
Yeah, obviously even from the outside on the street it did, although it did
blend into the surroundings more at that time because obviously now it just
completely stands out as an unusual building like. At that time in this area it
didn’t really stand out that much. You could obviously see that it was an old
00:02:00:00 factory like but it didn’t have as much an impression as it would
now, even that short time ago.
So how did you get the job here?
If I remember it was a careers office. Think it was a careers office that I
just visited and they said it that there was a vacancy for I can’t remember
what the job title was at the time. Probably just Operative, Production
Operative at Newmans and at, I mean from me remembering now, when I was told it
was coffin furniture, it did appeal to me at the time because it sounded
unusual and I think that I may have been drawn at that time to come for the job
and then so the rest is history from there and I did actually take the job.
00:03:00:00 I: And what did you do? What was your job here?
When I first came here it was basically just little odd things here and there,
you know. I wasn’t really doing any work in the stamp shop. There was Norman
used to work in the stamp shop at that time. Probably for 4 or 5 years in the
time that I was here. And Gradually I
picked up bits off Norman in that time as well, but most of my work was just
doing bits of packing. There was a lot of deliveries and things at the time so
there was a lot of unloading of wagons and things. But it wasn’t, it changed
from when I first came here to when I left. My role had changed dramatically
So like I say when I first came here I was doing unloading wagons doing
00:04:00:00 bits and bobs and then I gradually moved in to the stamp shop and
gradually took over the all work that goes on in here.
Tell us about in here and tell us about what you would be doing in here.
All the name plates, the back plates for the handles, all the stamping, all the
plates that you can see around you in all the factory, most of the metal work
that was done in here was done by me
And I mean these drop stamps. What are they like to work?
Very hard work. There’s not much assistance in actually lifting the stamps and
dropping the stamps. I can’t imagine how they used to use the big one at the
end even with the drive, it wasn’t easy work at all.
00:05:00:00 I: So who taught you how to, because looking at this it looks
baffling and dangerous to me, who taught you how to use it?
Norman. Who as I’ve mentioned he worked in the shop and taught me how to use
What can you tell me about Norman?
He was a drop stamper by trade. I wouldn’t imagine that, I had never ever seen
a job at the time. It was obviously something that had been phased out years
before. There may have been bits and bobs in the Jewellery Quarter which I’d
seen like, but obviously at the time he was a drop stamper by trade.
was a nice old chap. Bit of a character. He’d always go off at dinnertime. He’d
have a two hour dinner. I can remember him going off down to The George and
he’d have a few. He’d always come back a bit worse for wear like
00:06:00:00 on the afternoon and he’d still be operating all this machinery and
the stamps so you can imagine, and he’d normally run out of money by Wednesday,
Thursday, if I remember and he was always trying to sub his wages to keep him
going for the next dinner.
was *** a nice man. And like I say he passed on the bits and bobs to me. And
then as he gradually got ill and he was doing shorter and shorter hours I think
that’s when he was passing a lot of the information on to me. To take over from
him when he went like.
And what was he like as a teacher, was he generous?
Yeah he was, like I say he was a nice character, I got on well with him. He was
nice, friendly, he wasn’t, again to me he seemed like thinking back on him now,
he was like a throwback, he just fitted into the environment. He was
00:07:00:00 a throwback to the days as well like, where, again I think
he was a bit like me at the time where he just sort of like as you see he just
sort of like more or less pleased himself what he did, to a point, you know
within reason. There was no strict times on anything really, not like today,
not like in other workplaces now where, I think that was the appeal to a lot of
the people that stayed here and I think that passed on,
It’s often been described as having a real family atmosphere, this company. Is
that how you experienced it?
Yeah definitely, like I say, it was a nice, relaxed, friendly, it was almost
not like a workplace at times, where you didn’t feel like, I mean me
personally, I mean it’s not like a workplace now where you clock into your
workplace at a
00:08:00:00 set amount of time, and you finish at a set amount of time
and your role is defined, exactly what you do and what you don’t do and all the
regulations, it just didn’t seem any of that from what I remember here, it
wasn’t, there was no real set rules on anything.
Can you remember and if so can you describe for me what it felt like the first
time you used one of those big stamps, because you must have been quite young
and it must have
I can’t actually remember the very first time that I used them, it’s that long
ago now, but I think it was quite daunting once you heard it all running, let
alone going down and doing any of the stamping like. I often, I mean
00:09:00:00 whether it was true or not, but Norman told me stories
about things that had happened to people in the past with stamps and again
whether there was any truth in it or not, whether it was just like, but yeah it
was quite, not frightening as such to me because it had an appeal to me but I
mean yeah I was a bit wary about it all, you know, whether it was actually a
Why did it have an appeal to you? What was the appeal?
It was just the history of it. To see things, to see something like this that
was still actually producing work and making money. I mean that appealed to me,
I mean the whole place had an appeal to me in that respect.
00:10:00:00 I: So Norman’s stories, these stories that may not , may or
may not be true. Which ones can you tell us?
He did tell me one about the big stamp, somebody getting their head stuck in
that at some point. When it was I don’t know it could have been a long time
ago, I don’t think it’s true. I don’t know, I probably believed him at the time
but yeah, one or two losing, I think he actually did lose, I think Norman had
lost a couple of fingers as well at some point. I can’t remember whether it was
on the stamps or not. But he did lose a couple of fingers somewhere along the
line. It may not have been here, he had worked in other places, like I say he
was a drop stamper by trade so there was a lot, in his younger days I suppose
there was a hell of a lot round the Jewellery Quarter. and what have you, a lot
of drop stamping going on.
Did you ever hurt yourself?
00:11:00:00 MF: Yeah, I just caught the tips of my fingers on the guillotine at
one time and had to go to the hospital I remember. Because there was no, I mean
there is a guard now, I think that was added later on. But no there was a lot
of, I can remember cutting strips of metal like that so your fingers were
within half an inch of the blades coming down. So not a very safe practice.
What about the women, because I get the impression from talking to people that
there were loads of women working here. Or you know a large portion of the
workforce were women. What memories have you got of them? What, how did they
Obviously like you say it was run by a woman, Joyce. Lily Wassall was the
00:12:00:00 foreperson, I suppose you could call her now. The only real
male influences that I had was Don, Peter up the stairs, Norman, who went. But
the majority of the place was run by women. I have quite good memories of them,
I mean we had our differences, me and Mrs Wassall, because she was obviously
quite elderly at the time when I first, even when I first came here. And as an
eighteen, nineteen year old, we did have some differences.
We’d have one or two arguments. I mean she probably did know better at the time
but of certain respects, but obviously as a seventeen, eighteen year old and
you know, I thought I know better on a lot of things. But yeah, it was
00:13:00:00 unusual for that age of a young man to be told what to do
by an older woman if you like.
Don, you mentioned Don. What can you tell me about Don?
MF: Don, I’ve got good memories of Don. I mean a lot
of what I do now is an influence on the way I look at working life and things.
I mean he’d work, he was here at seven in the morning, and he’ll stop till
seven, half-seven at night. Great stories about, it’s really funny thinking
back now where we used to have our break just above, and you’d have, I can’t
think many people can say that they’ve had their break with, be having their
breaks with somewhere who fought in World War 2 on the British side, and
somebody who fought during
00:14:00:00 World War 2 on the German side, you
know. It was very unusual. They both had different views on war. I mean it was
basically, that was his predominant conversation, Don, he’d always be telling
you stories about the war, and you know his time, his time during the war. I
mean Peter, obviously he didn’t say anything. He very rarely mentioned the war
at all. He often used to say to me that if you had seen what I seen during the
war you wouldn’t be looking back on it like you did you know. That was his
predominant conversation, was about the wars mainly.
I: And when you say that he’s helped shape who you
are now. What was it about him that you admired, what qualities did he have
that you appreciate?
It was just his work ethic. I mean he, he never took any time off. I can
00:15:00:00 never remember him having any time of at all to be honest
thinking about it in the time that I was here. And how hard he worked and I
don’t think he got a great reward for it, for what he did. I think that’s, it
makes you appreciate things a bit more where, you know, when you, when I moved
on in to my working life then, you know, I took bits and bobs off, it all has
an influence on how you feel later on in life you know.
How does it feel sitting here?
It’s a funny feeling. It just seems as though the last ten years haven’t
happened like you know. I mean it’s as if I can’t explain it, I mean like I say
it’s a bit surreal to be part of history when I don’t feel I’m, that old. But,
00:16:00:00 just seems exactly the same as it was the day I’d have
walked out of here. It’s fascinating
What was Miss Green like to work for?
She was, I don’t think I really, when I first joined the company, I don’t think
I had really that much to do with Miss Green at that time. It was a bit, well a
lot busier than it was before it shut, or the later years. It was gradually as
I moved on into the packing area where I used to do a lot of the packing and postal
work, that’s when I gradually got more to know Miss Green again. Again, she was
the same character as Don, I mean she’d spend, She’d
00:17:00:00 probably spend 24 hours a day here if she could at times.
It just amazes me, it just amazed me, you know, the work ethic in the people
where it was just totally their life you know.
And do you think that’s changed? Do you think we’ve lost that or do you think
that is just a bit bunkum and there’s plenty of it around?
I not seen it since, since I’ve worked here. I mean I can only speak from my
only working experience and I’ve not seen that work ethic elsewhere. I mean
probably I don’t go that far with it but it’s not a requirement in today’s
society I don’t think. I mean there may be other businesses that are run the
same way even now but, I think they’re few and far between.
So what does this place, if anything, what does this place mean to you?
00:18:00:00 MF: It’s a hell of a part of me life, like I say. It’s the, I mean
it’s the formative years of your working life so obviously you probably carry
more memories of this than I have done since. I don’t think I will, I think,
the way I have looked at, I mean work to me since I’ve left here has just been
a work place, a job. Somewhere to work. I do look back on this as a completely
different experience. I mean yeah it was work but, it was like a family.
Anything else you want to add, are there things that in your mind that you want
to tell us about, describe to us?
No, I say, it’s a bit of a strange experience being here.
Does it actually, I mean can you picture Norman here, sitting here?
00:19:00:00 MF: Yeah, I can picture all of this running
What are you seeing?
I just picture all this running. I could go back to the time, opening the door
there and Norman would be down there on the stamp, stamping away. I mean I can
still see me old cupboard, it’s probably still got my name on the
00:19:50:00 front of it. But really strange, a
very strange feeling.
This artist produced work based on the oral histories of the museum and the workers.
Below is some of the transcripts the artist has created their work from:
106 DR ALLEN WALKABOUT
00:00:20:00 JG: Oh dear, I’ve got a, I’ve just got a tickle from … make sure I’m
not. Do you want to come here? Can I just take my walking stick out of the way.
Otherwise it makes me. Here, is that ok?
Yeah, If you can try and ignore me if that’s all right.
Talking too much. Now Dr Allen, here’s your father.
00:01:00:00 AA: Now that’s interesting. What …
Well we would have bought some things from Ingles wouldn’t we?
I don’t know then. I thought in my father’s time it was one company.
It was Ingle-Parsons for a long time wasn’t it.
That’s it. Here’s your father.
Yes. Travelling expenses.
Here we are.
That’s for a week’s work. He did quite well didn’t he.
He got ten pounds sometimes. 1939.
Is there anything earlier than that?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been, this is just one of the ledgers
that we kept and there’s lots of other ledgers but I don’t think there’d be a
cash book. I mean this is pretty good 1939 is pretty wonderful I think to have
kept. We didn’t sling things out did we really. But there’s one where he’s
00:02:00:00 got £10 and then there’s the other side where Horace has
put that he’s had to return £2 70 because he obviously didn’t spend it all. I’m
looking for the £2 70 that he had to return.
There’s another one there. What’s that?
No that’s just. No that’s, oh yes 8 pound. But here, on this side, is where you
returned the money. That’s what you paid out. That’s what you put back into the
company. And your father had to pay £2 70 back. But I thought they must have
been very generous with him, because in those days £10 expenses would have been
a lot of money wouldn’t it, in 1939.
Well it was a bit.
Yes. He was running a car then too.
Yes, well, it doesn’t say what the expenses, I mean we don’t know what the
expenses were do we. And I mean did he stay away at night, did he travel far?
00:03:00:00 AA: Oh yes, he went at 7 o clock on a Monday morning and came back 6
o clock on a Friday evening.
Oh so he was away every week?
Every, and then one month in three, or at least every third month, he’d have a
month in Ireland.
Oh yes, because we did a terrific trade in Ireland. But George did some of the
travelling didn’t he in Scotland.
I think he did Scotland.
He did definitely.
I think George was a liability because he drank.
Well he couldn’t have been that much of a liability, because he, you know, he
ran, he was here running Newmans wasn’t he. Because Horace didn’t run Newman
We thought he did.
Mr Horace didn’t.
I thought he did.
He was very good on figures.
How far does this go on?
I don’t know. I never looked. 48.
00:04:00:00 JG: But you said, you were saying he was gone in when?
45. Well that was just a little while after George died. Here we are, 46. Excuse
This was Horace’s writing. Excuse me. 45, here we are. 45.
Did they produce resin handles here in the factory?
Plastic ones no. We haven’t got the room or the …
What went on at the back of the polishing shop. There was a lot of grinding
00:05:00:00 Dr Anthony Allen Walking
00:05:16:00 I2: Ok thank you very much. So this is the front door?
Yes, this hasn’t altered at all.
00:05:50:00 AA: This is all different.
So where is this?
It’s all completely different. It wasn’t like this. It’s this new building
that’s done it. The letters were written by hand, they were recorded in a great
big leather tome, which was opened, it had semi-absorbent paper. They gave it a
quick damp, put the letter in, closed the book and screwed a press down and
that gave a record of the letter. That’s how the filing system …
So what do you make of this room?
It wasn’t anything like this. This is all new. The office actually was here.
If you want to pause at all, can you just say so.
00:07:00:00 AA: And you see the storeroom was downstairs. This is much later.
It’s not brass.
It’s not brass.
No. And I don’t really recognise the designs. We’re talking about a
breastplate. That was a large piece of tooled steel which you probably took a
couple of months to sculpt and then it made a dye that would stamp out the
breastplate. But these are much more modern designs, they are different.
What kind of designs did your father deal with?
They weren’t quite so, that’s a bit more modern. They were a bit simpler.
00:07:55:00 I: Come through here because there’s quite a lot more stock through
Everything’s labelled isn’t it and boxed, like they said.
It must have gone on for some years after the war, really. That’s a brass
handle, you can see the difference.
Say that again.
That’s a brass handle you can see the difference, feel the weight. These are so
called ornaments. They are trumpery things, we had solid brass ones. They are
screwed on top of the coffin to decorate it and to hang wreaths on. I
00:09:00:00 never saw anything like that. That’s a proper ornament,
that’s a bit better. In the main they produced handles, brass plates and
ornaments. None of this fancy work. I don’t know where that came from; there
must have been something else here later.
So tell me what your dad actually did here? What did he do? Because he must
have dealt with selling these?
He sold them, but he also had quite a hand in running the business because
latterly they weren’t frightfully competent. That’s a brass handle, well it
looks as if it ought to be. That’s a much later design, I don’t remember
anything like that. That’s much more like it. The handles were cast in brass
and then for the middle trade they had iron handles that were plated to look
00:10:00:00 like brass, and for the lower end, particularly to be sold in
Ireland, they were iron handles that were japanned. At the back over there,
there was what was called the japan shed and they were hung on wires and went
in and they came out sort of semi-shiny black kind of enamel. Such was the
death rate in Ireland, that my father often sold, more than once, on one
journey, over a gross sets of children’s furniture which shows you what life
So when do you think you first came to this factory? How old were you?
I suppose I was six or seven when I first came. That would be about 1929/30
something like that.
And what were your first impressions?
00:11:00:00 AA: Well it was an exciting place, particularly the foundry. I mean
that was a fantastic firework factory. That’s a fairly typical one.
Yes, you described it to me on the phone as a firework factory. Lots of …
Hang on a second. The foundry was out there wasn’t it?
There, behind this new building.
If we go up to this window can you explain to me where the foundry was and what
it was like?
The plating shop was down there and presumable it’s still there. And behind
that was the foundry which wasn’t very big. There was a walkway, about that
wide. The patterns in wood were made, Old Mr Ray made them, in there. They were
put into what were called core boxes, that was a box about
00:12:00:00 that size, which opened. It had casting sand in it, all nicely
smooth. The wooden patterns were put in and then taken out. Well the box was
shut and then opened again so there was a replica in sand, perfect. Then they
ran, with a little stick or something, they ran little channels up to the
opening. The core boxes were closed, they were leaned against the walkway. And
there was a furnace going. As far as I recollect it had two, I can’t think of
the word now, two great pots about that diameter, about that high, full of
molten brass. And while it was molten it would be sparking and smoke going up.
Two chaps would come along, very tough guys, with leather aprons; I don’t think
they had a mask. They had a big pair of tongs, which they clamped the pot,
00:13:00:00 out, went onto the walkway and then tipped it into each
core box. And that was the exciting part because smoke and flame and sparks, it
was great fun when I was little. Then the boxes were allowed to cool and they
were broken open and all the rough castings taken out and taken down there to
the barrels where they were rattled and rattled and rattled all day, with water
running over them. And then they came upstairs here to the polishing shop where
there were about six rather buxom ladies, very wrapped up, all in linen. The
polishing wheels were about that sort of diameter of laminated linen and they’d
hold the piece here, and lean on the wheel and keep turning it and polishing it
and they’d get a good finish on it in the end.
You said you had a good relationship with some of the women in the
00:14:00:00 factory. It was mostly women here wasn’t it?
I don’t think I had a relationship with them. I was too young!
No I don’t mean that but I mean they obviously liked having a young boy …
They liked somebody going round I think, watching what they were doing. I had a
much better relationship with old Mr Ray because he fascinated me. He was
making the moulds, he was making this, sculpting steel really, tooled steel,
which is terribly hard. I liked him.
What did you make of the Newman brothers, themselves?
Well I said, with retrospect, one of them looked like Dr Crippin, he ran the
office. And George, I think was a drunk. Old man Newman had more or less
retired in the thirties. We had something to do with George’s daughter. I
remember being taken to the Cotswolds in her old motor car once but I haven’t
much recollection really.
00:15:00:00 I2: What did your father …
Sorry, that sort of stuff we’ll do in the interview, let’s try and get, if we
Where do we go now?
Well let’s, are you ok?
Yes I’m fine, no I’m all right.
If we walk through this way I’m just waiting to see if there’s anything you
There was nothing like this stock that I remember, not this much. I wonder if
some of this was made at Ingles. I rather think it might have been. I don’t
remember anything quite as ornate; that’s much more typical of the 1930s, yes.
These are the thin sheets of brass in the drop stamps. Yes that’s
00:16:00:00 much more like the sort of thing, but that’s
not brass. I don’t think this white metal existed then. I rather think this is
where Mr Ray used to work. I think so here.
Which is now the assembly room I think.
Well it’s the polishing shop.
Ah, well he worked here. It looks as if some other sort of, some other sort
00:17:00:00 of work went on here. The great big wheels have gone, they
were that wide. They went on there and they were about that size in diameter
and they were that wide and they were laminated linen and the girls used to
sort of lean on them. But obviously since my time there’s been a lot of
different use in the factory. Right.
Bear with me for one second. Sorry.
That’s the sort of thing, they were much bigger diameter than that. No, I
So what, tell us about, is this the room where that you knew …
00:18:00:00 AA: This is where the polishing went on, and those I presume are the
original, they’re the original, I thought there were more, yes, there’s four,
five, four of them, yes that’s about right. Yes I thought there were six but
there’s four. But there’s a wheel each side, so that could have been eight
And what were those women like?
They were completely enshrouded, they usually had rather large bosoms so they’d
got something to lean on the wheel. But
the place was nowhere near as dirty as this. It really wasn’t, it was quite, as
I recollect, it was much cleaner than this altogether, and none of this junk
lying around. A bit ashamed of it really.
Ok, I just need to …
00:19:00:00 AA: I can see that little old man sitting there. But it’s obvious
that there was some other use put, there was some other manufacturing going on
here. We never made crucifixes.
There’s a catalogue here. I don’t know how old it is. Your dad dealt with
catalogues, obviously with his selling didn’t he.
Yes, these are the things. Yes, I remember all these.
Shall we start at the beginning.
It was opened in 1882 and my father was here in about 1905 probably.
00:20:00:00 But this is the sort of thing, these were solid brass, as it says.
If they were die cast they were brought in I think.
And you said he was like a traveller so he travelled to the people he sold to.
Mostly to undertakers and often in the country builders did undertaking. He
called on a lot of builders. They made coffins and they did undertaking.
Sorry explain that to me again. What you just said please, explain it to me again.
That he travelled to sell the products to undertakers but also to quite a lot
of builders in the country. In smaller places a builder would often be the
00:21:00:00 undertaker. There’s still one in Stratford now.
So your father must have had a good reputation?
I think he probably did.
Very much a family business wasn’t it?
It was indeed. They didn’t, they did make crucifixes yes. Big ones. I think
they were bigger than that. They didn’t make coffins here at all. He had a
coffin factory at Evesham when he was with Ingle-Parsons. And shrouds weren’t
made here either. They were made by a family named Dewsbury. It was a lady who
had I think four or five daughters who used to make shrouds. Very beautiful. I
have a photograph of my cousin Myfanwy when she was about two and a half in a
very pretty dress that my aunt had made up from a silk shroud. We’ve got it
hanging up at home now.
00:21:55:00 …. the whole lot. But he came back, they kept his job for him. And
when he came back, he was in Ireland, all through the troubles, in 1921-22. On
one occasion he got arrested. He was in St Andrew’s Hotel in Dublin. And the
door opened very quietly and he woke up and he saw someone come round the door
with a candle and a revolver and they said “Get up! You’re a bloody English
spy.” They took him downstairs in the cellar and he said, “I’m not. I’m a
commercial traveller. I’ve got my samples here” And they said, “Come off it,
they’ve got ammunition in.” And they fetched in one of these cases and opened
it and there was a huge crucifix on the top. Of course they were all Catholics
so it made a difference. In the catalogue it mentions die cast, but I never
remember, they must have had them, but I never remember them. These are die cast
handles. Well …
00:23:00:00 I: So I mean just, how does it feel being back here?
Well it’s a bit disappointing really because it all looks so tatty. And you
know stuff thrown all over the place. It was never like this, it was really
quite tidy and clean, and it looked businesslike. This doesn’t.
And when was the last time you were here?
00:23:29:00 AA: Must have been 38, 37 or 38 I suppose. I was in the war from