I do not presume to know the details of the different stages in the making of margarine but would like to put on record some of the personnel who worked in the different departments. Mr. Birch, later Mr. C. Woodfield, Personnel Managers and their deputies on each shift, Mr. Aires, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Baldwin, were all respected for fairness to all.
One must have electricity and Mr. Leach, foreman electrician had, among others, Mr. Goodyer ( a good cricketer ) and made sure there was a plentiful supply. The Engine Hall, with its huge machinery capable of generating 2000 H.P. was kept beautifully clean by the efforts of, among others, Messrs. Collett, Findlater, Nash and Stanley Stirling. Mr. Collett and his two sons all took a great deal of interest in the works football teams. On to the Boiler House, where Harry Benson ( he was the football secretary ) and Mr. Connor, had control. These two were about the last to leave when the factory closed.
Towering up was the factory chimney – 181′ 6″ high, with an ornamental top. This has now been removed, reducing the hight by 12 feet. It was from the Boiler House that the “hooter” was activated that could be heard all over the town, giving the starting times.
With the use of so many wooden articles, a fairly large carpenters workshop was a necessity. This was Mr. Walter Watts’ department. With a great team of craftsmen which included Mr. Saubergue, Tingey, Ramplin Brothers, Rossitor, Rolls, Parslow, they were kept busy repairing the large wooden spades and trucks. Mr. Watts was also the person you went to for your name to go on the list for a truckload of broken boxwood, for which you paid sixpence, ( 2 ½p ) when your turn came. From 1909 the cooperage was gradually phased out. Instead of a muslin-lined 1cwt., 56lb. or 28lb. butter tub or barrel, a Boxshop came and, under Mr. Laursen, foreman, up-to-date nailing machines put together 28 lb. boxes. The components came in bundles already cut to size. It was to the Boxshop that most of the lads started with the firm. A minor branch here was the lid and stencilling shop. There was always a certain amount of horse-play amongst the lads and, of course, an initiation ritual for fresh starters, and I leave it to you to imagine what parts of the anatomy received the stencil brushes!
Sometimes someone got the sack, but the majority, on growing older, got transferred to other departments.
A very large special department was what was said to be the biggest and most well-equipped food factory laboratory in England. It had a staff of about 30 under the control of Mr. S.H. Blickfeldt, and it is undoubtedly due to the bacteriological investigations of the scientists working there that margarine has been brought to the perfection that it is today. Samples were collected, and all materials tested. In the factory itself was what was known as “The Test Box” – three men or women atached to the laboratory had the job of testing each batch of margarine for salt and water content. It was to this job that, when the factory started three shifts, six army bandsmen found employment, one of whom was Mr. A. Scoop, who eventually took over from Mr. S. J. Wheeler as bandmaster.
The foreman responsible for the upkeep of the equipment was Mr. J. Knight and the private Commissionaire attached was Mr. H. Smith, who was a retired Royal Marine, with the job of keeping the place clean. It was in this department that I started at the age of 14, working first under Mr. Knight and later, Mr. Smith. It was, indeed, a very good training, visiting all parts of the factory collecting samples, and learning the meaning of real cleanliness. A great advantage was that there was always a plentiful supply of milk to drink, left over from the samples.
The mention of milk samples brings us to the Dairy. Every day a milk train arrived around 11.30 a.m. and, after samples had been taken, it was pumped into tanks from which it eventually made its way into the margarine.
Some butter was made. This department was run by Danish specialists, Sorenson and Brask and, appropriately named Mr. Butterfield. A class mate of mine, Fred Hart, was dairy boy. More butter was wanted when a mixture of margarine and butter was put on the market, known as “Crelos”.
It would take too much space to mention all the other sections which contributed to the smooth running of the works, but the laundry under Mrs. Monson, had a busy job dealing with all the mens whites – only a very small amount was put out to contractors. Quite a number of women employed were wives of employees. One I will mention was a Mrs. Brant who gained a reputation as a fortune teller. Others in charge were Mr. Hobson, Fat Floor: Mr. Healy, Melting Floor: Mr. May, Mr. Denning, Blenders: the Juett brothers, Churning Stage: Mr. Jordon, Printing Works: Mr. Baker, Storekeeper: Mr. Stapleton, Lining Department: Mr. Lardener, the so-called Heavy Gang: Mr. H. Edwards, whose gang used to recover all waste fat: Mr. Wheeler, Time Keeper and Bandmaster: Mr. H. Webster, the Secretary of the Institute: Mr. Murray and Mr. Roberts, Groundsmen – both good cricketers.
I have already mentioned one or two women, but during the War 1914-18 a large number of women came and replaced men called to the forces. I can only record a few, but they all did a good job, for it was mostly very hard work. Miss Bradshaw ( Chemist ): Mrs. Baines, Miss Catherwood: two Mrs. Baileys helped out in the Laboratory. Miss Hayes, Miss George, Miss Thomas ( Mrs. Redding ), Mrs. Wolfries, all forewomen.
When the War ended, things began to get back to normal and several men who had been wounded ( some had lost a limb ) were found jobs. When in 1920 a three eight-hour shift system was started, the change-over took place without a hitch.
Before I finish with personnel, a little true tale:- When Mr. Joe Lardener retired, his gang made him a present of a very nice walking stick. He was very proud of it and, when describing it to a friend, he said it had a beautifully strong ferret at the end, and his intrails inscribed round a silver band. No education, but a good man.