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Recorded Memories

Lilian Coley Interview. September 2001.

Work and family in an industrial village 1917-1961:
‘I happened to get a bit quick…don’t you think that’s a lot of money for a girl your age…’

‘I wasn’t very happy, a big belt over me head and the floor was concrete and I always had cold feet’

Lilian left school at 13 and went to work at Norton & Bradbury. She was taught the S&G knitting machines by her cousin Dora. The machine knitted miner’s socks. The S&Gs were situated in a big room in the old part of the factory and it also contained XLs and winding machines. When she was 15 she worked on a different machine in a different part of the factory - knitting the tops of boys’ long socks. She was very quick at this job and earned £3.9s. 0d. and the bosses didn’t like it and she was called to the office and they agreed to pay her £2.15s.0d. After a while she was put back on the S&Gs, ‘I wasn’t very happy, a big belt over me head and the floor was concrete and I always had cold feet’. Lilian liked the girls she worked with, only girls and women worked the S&Gs - there were six of them, all good friends, ‘that’s where we used to sing’.

At 21 Lilian left Norton and Bradbury and went to work at A.G. Minard & Sons where she stayed until she was 47. The reason for leaving was a lack of work at the factory and a group of operatives were sent to work at Toon’s, and Lilian was put on the ‘stitching’ which she didn’t like. After four weeks she left for Nicholls and Wileman where she learnt the fully fashioned seaming and stayed for 10 years finishing her working life at Bird and Yeoman’s which became Pex (now demolished) doing the ‘boxing’. She enjoyed her last job and earned the most money. She left at 61 to help her sister look after their mother, who lived to be 98.

Lilian was brought up in the Baptist Church, there was no swearing and they ‘kept Sunday’. She worked in an alley with a woman who when her machine had a ‘smash-up’ would ‘stand and swear at it and I used to tell her she were a bad woman’. A man working on the XLs used to ‘put his hands on his hips and say all the bad words he could think of’. Lilian did get used to the language but never used it herself. She did worry about her work - bad yarn led to smash-ups.

Before starting school Lilian took breakfast down to her two sisters and brother who worked at Hurst Cotton (it was situated on Hurst Road, between Station Road and Equity Road East) She usually took a shortcut through the fields (all housing now) and on one occasion encountered a bull and had to walk the long way round on the road. She remembers Hilda Sturgess who used to go home for her breakfast - she had an extra long walk that particular day! Lilian’s brother was a clicker and her two sisters worked on machines. All the family worked in the B&S except Lilian, there was no work for her when she left school.

Lilian gives a good description of the S&G and how it was used and she operated three or four machines. She was also taught how to repair the belt, when it wore out and ‘putting the belt back on the machine could be a bit ‘hazardous’ because the wheel wasn’t stopped while the belt was being repaired. Operatives repaired their own machines when they had a ‘smash-up’, replacing any needles which were broken. It was also the operative’s job to thread the yarn. On the right of the machine splicing yarn was used to reinforce the heel. Stockings as they were knitted came down through a tunnel and after so many were knitted Lilian would cut off each stocking and tie into dozens.


Lilian's Interview No3.

Run time 29 minutes & 54 seconds.

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