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Recorded Memories

Flo Clarke Interview. August 2000.

Work, Family and Friendship: ‘Here have my nail file, it’s got my name on’.

‘As soon as the ‘hooter blowed, you’d fly down’ to the factory’


We begin interview by looking at various documents and photos – a price list, a Sketchley booklet.
Flo remembers as a youngster riding on the back of the skips, just like the ones in the photo. Her mother, who was originally from Nuneaton, started her working life at Sketchley Dye Works at the age of 13.

 Flo goes on to talk about all the changes which have taken place in Hinckley over the years and feels that the town has been spoilt with the demolition of a lot of the old buildings. As a young girl she lived on Bond Street and remembers the big houses with beautiful gardens belonging to the manufactures – the Bott’s lived on Middlefield Lane, Mr and Mrs Samuel Davis lived in the big house at the top of Ashby Road, commenting that Mrs Davis was a ‘lovely little woman’. The Davis family also had a big house on the site of The Limes. She comments on Margery Payne’s big house and the fact that she bequeathed Argents Mead to the people of Hinckley. Walking along New Buildings she is reminded of The Palladium and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel – all gone and in their place ‘monstrosities’ – the magistrates court on Bond Street where Timothy Jennings factory once stood, Simpkin, Son and Emery where she worked from the age of 14 in 1928 was demolished to make way for flats. She also commented on the little Quaker Church where she went to girl guides, with its cemetery and the Quaker House at its side which is now a car park.
Her granddad, Sam Bailey, who had been the landlord of the Jolly Bacchus also told her lots of stories about the town - he was a real character.

Flo saw a lot of changes in her working life. She worked as a run-about, for two years earning 9s 2d after paying her insurance. Her wage was handed over to her mother who gave her back 6d. Hinckley was full of little hosiery factories with men buying a few machines and setting up in business – ‘Old Harry (Harry Flude) started like that in Lilley’s Yard’ (Stockwell Head). He had worked at Simpkins – ‘a lot of them made it, a lot of them didn’t’.

As soon as the ‘hooter blowed, you’d fly down’ to the factory. At two-three minutes passed eight the factory door was locked. If she was late her foremisses would let her in on the Factory Road entrance to the factory. Her father, Sid, worked as a carpenter and was often called out to the various factories and it was through him chatting with the foremisses that she got her job at the factory. On first going into Simkin’s she was amazed and ‘frightened to death’ of the great big wheels and belts going all over the ceiling. After two years as a run-about she was able to learn the job of a mender, being taught by an older girl and in turn she would be given the responsibility of teaching a younger girl. She preferred the quiet of the mending room – no machinery.

During the war she worked at Turner and Grewcocks, putting heels on men’s army boots. By this time she had a young son but had no choice but to continue working but was able to cope with the help of her mother who lived nearby. She did take some time off, however, when her second son was born but then carried on working and eventually retired at the age of 61. She and her friend, Dorothy, finished work together, having been good friends for many years. Dorothy presented Flo with her nail file, a token of their friendship – something to remember her by. The files were used to keep their nails soft, these were used along with cream – they daren’t pull a thread in the stockings they were mending.

Flo commented that she didn’t like to see any of her old workmates die, ‘a lot of people don’t live as old as me – 86’. As a young child she went to the Trinity Lane school and from there to Holliers Walk. She remembers that at the back of Trinity Lane school, was the fairground where every Monday there was a cattle market where they sold sheep, cows, pigs and ducks. She loved going up there with her dad at dinner time. Next to this she remembers the ‘horseshoe men’ (blacksmiths) and Mr Colver calling them in to have a warm. Flo also talked about Horse Fair Day held on the 26 August every year.

Flo's Interview No1.
Run time 30 minutes & 8 seconds.

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