Crittall's metal window factories, F H Crittall, First World War, Jim White, managers, Overcrowding, Private service, sacking workers, school, Silver End, Terling camp, Trade Union, Witham History Group
Mr Jim White was born in 1915. He was interviewed on 8 February 1983 when he lived at 22 Cross Road, Witham.
For more information about him, see White, Jim, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: I haven’t done a book before. (Mr W: No, this the first time ?) I did a course at college, a history course up at college at Colchester. (Mr W: History ?) Yes.
Mr W: I thought you were interested in history. Well I was interested in history at school, very interested, (Q: yes ?) very interested in history at school.
Q: So I thought it would be nice, and I had to go round and see people for that, so I thought it would be nice to have something to show them what I’d done with it you see……….. Did you go to school in Witham I suppose then did you ?
Mr W: Yes, I went to yes the, is it Guithavon Street School ? (Q: Yes.) I started there. That’s where I started off, Guithavon Street and when I first went to school and anyhow eventually we moved to Braintree and I went to Manor Street School. (Q: Oh really ?) And then we came back. (Q: I see.) Came back when I was about fourteen, Yes I went to Manor Street, that’s where I sort of finished you know my school.
Q: I think my mother-in-law went to Manor Street. (Mr W: Did she ?) But she’s not alive now, but she would have been about 83 so I don’t know, how you shape up to that. (Mr W: what was her name ?) Roper, her brother as well was there I believe.
Mr W: Oh I can’t recall that name. They’d have been older than me wouldn’t they ?
Q: I don’t know how old you are. Is that a secret ?
Mr W: I’m 67.
Q: Yes, I think they’d probably have left Braintree then, probably, from what you say.
Mr W: Yes, I’m 67 but I always liked Witham, especially that area around where you can take them photos, its very nice you know. [Jubilee Oak, Guithavon Valley etc.] When I was talking about that American, (Q: Yes.) I said that lady came over last year, (Q: Yes.) and she wanted to find out where she was born. See the house where she was born. (Q: Yes.) I was talking about, her father was an American but I was talking about the previous war, the First War, (Q: Oh were you, yes.) you see. So when she came back I think she was a bit younger than me, maybe a year or two, but all the people, all the youngsters in those houses just down the bottom of the hill there, the valley there [Guithavon Valley], we always used to sort of play around together and I knew her name was Lynch. Her father was an American soldier in the First War and he sort of came to settle there, I suppose married an English girl and he settled there. After a few years they went to America. But directly she said I was born here down the Valley and the cottages were sort of gone, pulled down, I knew somehow that was her, or I thought it was her, I’m not certain. The name was Lynch and she came back to the Valley to see her old home but I take it that was her. I thought about writing to her because she left an address in the Braintree and Witham Times. It was here. [scrambling]
Q: How long ago ? How long have those houses been gone ? Or wouldn’t you know ? (Mr W: I can’t remember.) I expect you were away when they came down ? [i.e. in Guithavon Valley near where Armond Road is now]
Mr W: Now, let me see. I don’t know whether they came down during the War or before the War or during the War. I just can’t remember. No, I don’t know. I think they came down before the Second World War, you know and, of course, they were old cottages.
Q: What were they like? Did they have big rooms or …?
Mr W: There was one room in the front and one room at the back you know and one room upstairs. That’s all there was. They was quite small cottages you know because they were like for the poor people, you know and I mean we were all sort what you’d call workers you know, sort of and anyhow ?
Q: So what, you just had the one bedroom altogether upstairs or …?
Mr W: Yes, that’s right. Well there we did you know. We just had the one bedroom because that’s how we lived those days, you know.
Q: I wondered how you managed because there was quite a few of you weren’t there ?
Mr W: Yes, but this was only two, let me see, one, two three, I don’t know we all had one bed here and, my mother and father had the bed that side and there was three of us then I think. Anyhow that’s how we managed in those days. All of those houses were more or less the same along there.
Q: Were there very many houses there ?
Mr W: Well, I’ll give you a rough idea. I forget how far they went down. I could show you where the houses come down. First of all there was a sort of line of houses along to the river, from the river. This was the road and along to the river there was one, let me see, there was one house this side and further down there was a house down there. (Q: Yes.) Then that was sort of joined on to a house this side somehow. I can’t, that’s as near as I can remember.(Q: Mmm.) And there was a house this side there and perhaps there was, two, that was three, and perhaps another house there, another street, that would make about five. Oh, one round the corner where the American lived, that was six and then there was a cottage on its own over the next yard, in the same yard as me, that made seven. Then there was three houses together including mine, so that made ten and then there was two houses next door, or three, I forget now. I’d say roughly about fifteen. But eventually those two or three next to ours, coming up towards the hill there were made into a school, as I told you the other day, (Q: Oh yes.) they were made into a private school.
Q: That’s interesting. Well who looked after the school then ? Was that …?
Mr W: I don’t know the people I just er, you know, I just forget now.
Q: Did they have children from Witham there or from outside, I wonder ?
Mr W: Now, let me see. I believe they were private people’s school. Private people from the sort of, one of the children’s, starting off. They were sort of starting off with their education, you know. They were young, you know. Of course this is a long time ago now, and I sort of forget a bit. They started them off young, you know em. I don’t know whether they were six or seven years old or five, I forget, anyhow pretty young anyhow. But I don’t think they lived there. They were just educated there, you know.
[comment on cup to tea, not noted]
Q: So what did your father used to do ? Did he work in Witham or …?
Mr W: Oh well, yes, he worked in Witham. The first thing I remember about my father where he was working, I’m talking when I was five or six years old and I walked down the War Memorial, you know the War Memorial (Q: Yes.) and he was sort of, he’d got a piece of rope, piece of string, and he was marking that piece out in front of the Memorial. (Q: Oh.) He was sort of marking that out making, I don’t know what he was doing, something there. I think he was sort of getting ready for the grass to go down. He was marking it out, you know, because when he first come to Witham he had to take all sorts of jobs. Actually, my father was, he came to Witham from Harrods. He was in the catering service and Harrods took the catering over for the Army. They done a lot of catering for the Army. So they sent him down to Terling Camp, which was a big, they had a big camp there during the First World War (Q: Oh yes.) where they trained the soldiers and he was down there in the catering. He wasn’t fit enough for the Army. (Q: I see.) And that’s how he came down to Witham, you see. So he was helping with the catering in the Army.
Well, of course when the War was over he sort of got this cottage down there, down in the Valley and of course there wasn’t much work after the First World War and he done one or two odd jobs, I forget where actually he did work, but anyhow in about 1919 they started to build Crittall’s. (Q: Yes.) You know Crittall’s don’t you ? (Q: Yes.) And he was on the building there for a while and eventually, when they finished the building, they give him a job inside. (Q: Oh I see.) and I’m not quite certain but I think he was more or less in the canteen. He was running the canteen for a while, because he was in private service. He was brought up in private service. And he started there. And they put him in the canteen so he sort of made the tea and messed about there, all that sort of thing you know.
Q: So, before he’d been in the Army he’d been in service had he ? Before he’d been with Harrods ?
Mr W: Oh yes, he was always in private service. My father was born in Canterbury and when he left school he got a job at Augustine’s College (Q: Yes.) in Canterbury. Do you know it? Where they train the priests. (Q: I see.) and he used to clean the priests’ shoes and do the odd jobs you know and all that sort of thing and then, I don’t know where he progressed from there but anyhow as a young man he was, he was valet to General Sir Stuart Wortley. (Q: Oh.) He was a civilian but he used to get the General’s clothes ready you know. He used to do that and anyhow General Sir Stuart Wortley was a friend of the Kaiser’s, don’t know whether you knew that (Q: No.) He was a friend of the Kaiser’s. I’ve still got an envelope upstairs from the Kaiser to the General. I’ll show you it if I can find it.
[chat, not noted.]
Mr W: Where was I up to? General Sir Stuart Wortley (Q: That’s right.) So anyhow I forget what happened. Then of course my father told me these things. Is it interesting these things I’m telling you. It sort of all leads up to Witham.
Q: That’s right. It’s interesting knowing how people came to be here. They’ve been about a bit.
Mr W: And then, anyhow, he told me he got a job as a footman in Park Lane, with the Sassoons. (Q: I know.) He got a job with them as a footman. (Q: He did all right then didn’t he ?) And anyhow, he said the first time he went out with them they went to the theatre. You know it was all the theatre in those days, years ago. He went to the theatre and he was in charge of the, of course they went in their carriage and horses and they put them in somewhere, some road or somewhere I forget. Anyhow, you know he had to wait for the boss, when they went to dinner and went to the theatre and all that sort of thing. And he got a bit fed up and he went for a stroll. (Q: Yes.) You know he’d only just come to London and he forgot the horses and the carriage, forgot all about it. I don’t know, I forget what he said, anyhow he eventually found his way back or something like that and found where they were. But he said Sassoon, the old man, he said he’d go in a room and he’d get a pound note, and he’d throw the pound note on the floor then he’d hide behind the curtain in the room and watch to see who comes through and see if they picked that pound note up. That’s what he said, because the Sassoons they were really were, they’re still about aren’t they ? (Q: I think so, yes.) They were big millionaires. (Q: Goodness.)
Anyhow my father he talked about, I forget what other people he worked for. Anyhow he said he was a waiter as well, you know it was all in the private service. Anyhow he knew Prince Louis of Battenberg very well. That’s Mountbatten’s father wasn’t it ? Prince Louis of Battenberg. (Q: Mm.) He was Sea Lord in the First World War wasn’t he ? And he had to come out of it. They got him out of it because he was, originally he was a German wasn’t he ? (Q: Of course, yes.) Prince Louis of Battenberg. (Q: Yes.) And he knew him very well. He used to wait on him and he said he waited on the Princess Royal (Q: Mmm.) in that time.
Q: He had an interesting life then didn’t he ?
Mr W: Yes, and Prince Louis of Battenberg and I forget who else there was. But anyway eventually he finished up at Harrods in the catering and they sent him down here to Terling Camp. So that’s how he came to Witham. And my mother she was born in Dover Castle. (Q: Really ?) Her father was a soldier, sergeant major in the artillery and they got together in London I suppose somewhere. Because all my other relations are in London you know, most of them, round Rotherhithe and Bermondsey and some of them have moved down to Blackheath now, Blackheath, but I think our part of the family are the only ones what have moved down here and all the rest have stayed in London.
Q: When he was at Crittall’s did he stay in the catering part of it ? All the time?
Mr W: Yes. The old man, have you ever heard of F H Crittall ? He was the founder. (Q: I’m with you. Yes.) He started up in Braintree in Bank Street, F H Crittall, started the windows there. Of course he knew my old chap, my father I should say [laugh], my father, had been in private service and done this and that. And he used to get my father, when they had a special dinner, to cook, do the dinner, you know, used to, of course, when they cooked the fish, when they used to cook the fish, they’d get the fish and lay it on a dish like that with the head on don’t they. They used to, I don’t know about now. You know my father told me all about this. You know. He used to do all the cooking for them and all that. Anyhow eventually they give him a job inside in the factory. (Q: Uhuh.) You know that was machine operating and various jobs like that you know. He could have had a job running the club because he was good on the billiards because when he was in private service they used to say ‘James, (his name was James, same as mine) come and have a game of billiards’, or whatever, you know, and of course he was a very good billiard player and he used run, they used to give him a job when the other chap was sick, running the Social Club. But he wouldn’t have it the job itself. He was offered that job and he could mend, do the cloth, mend the cloth, the billiard cloth you know. Used to do it when they had, they used to have some tables down Mill Lane, is it Mill Lane, where Shelleys is. [Mill Lane, right hand side not far from Newland Street] (Q: Did they really ?) You know Shelleys ? (Q: Yes.) The Legion had a hut down there, didn’t they, (Q: Yes.) British Legion. I know he used to go down there if anything wanted doing in that line they used to call him (Q: I see.) and he used to repair the cloth. You know, stitch it all. I think he used to iron the cloth for the billiard tables. He knew all about those, all those sort of things you know.
Q: A handy sort of bloke then by the sound of it.
Mr W: When he was about, just before the War [Second], he had ill health, bad throat, and bad chest and he had to come out. The doctors told him to come out so he bought a small business over at Braintree. General Stores, down Panfield Lane (Q: Oh I see.) You know Social Security down there ? (Q: Yes.) Well that shop further down (Q: Oh I see.) Yes he had that shop so that’s what he had till he died in 1951. 1950, my mother died in 1960 something I think. Anyhow they’re both down there as I told you the other day in the churchyard.
Q: When he used to cook for Crittall’s where did Mr Crittall live ?
Mr W: Oh he lived at Silver End in what they call the Manors. (Q: Oh I know, yes.) Do you know his old house. (Q: Yes.) It’s a sort of museum now isn’t it ? (Q: I think some sort of.) Yes it’s a museum now I think.
Q: So he used to go up there and …?
Mr W: No, when they had a dinner down here, (Q: Oh I see.) when they had the dinners down here he used to cook the dinner and the old man used to say, of course they always used to call him the old man, old Crittall. He was the father of Lord Crittall, F H Crittall, You knew him didn’t you. (Q: I’ve heard a lot about him but …) Well he was MP for this division Lord Crittall. But he was the son of the chap I’m talking about, F H Crittall, Frederick Crittall I believe his name was. And he was a fierce old man you know. ‘Cos when I was fourteen, when I left school, I got a job, my father got me a job in Crittall’s and I went to Crittall’s at fourteen and I think about a year later I worked with another young chap, his name was Murphy, Spud Murphy we called him. His father had the paper shop on the corner of Mill Lane. It’s in High Street, or Newland Street and Mill Lane. On the corner there. The fish shop was next door, I forget whose got that shop now, but the shop’s still there. Anyhow the old man came upon this chap see him coming, this young fella’ he seen him coming and he laughed. He said ‘Here comes the old man’, he said ‘miserable old blighter’, or something like that and I laughed and the old man see us coming down and come down and he was always very fierce, like that you know, and he come down with his walking stick and he stood there looking at us and he never said nothing. He knew we’d said something you know and he stood there. If he had had his way he would have sacked us I reckon as he knew we’d said something you know. Anyhow he, I forget when he died or anything like that.
Q: Did you see much of him in the …?
Mr W: Sometimes, you know, sometimes. I forget now. But I remember this time, he was, when he came. Of course they had a Sergeant Haggar. Have you ever heard of Sergeant Hagger ? (Q: Don’t think so.) Anyhow he lived down that road. His son still lives in the flats down Guithavon Street there. His son was about eighty three or four and he was a boy in the battle of Jutland and he got blown up and his face was scarred and he was lucky to live you know. But anyhow old Sergeant Haggar they reckon, I mean, I am just saying this, they reckon that the old man was drunk one night and the old Sergeant instead of taking him to jug, to the police station, they reckon he got a taxi and took him home you see. So I suppose he’d got an eye on the future, looking after himself when he come out of the police force, you see. [Laugh] Anyhow when old Sergeant Hagger, he was the shortest policeman I ever knew. He was only about as tall as me, about five foot seven or five foot eight, barefeet I should say. He wasn’t any taller than me. Anyhow when he came out they give him a job as lodge keeper at Crittall’s. (Q: I see.) So he looked after hisself. And he was there for years, till he retired and his son worked in there too, the one I was talking about who was badly wounded in the battle of Jutland. He worked there for some time. Yes very interesting really isn’t it you know ?
Q: Who else did you have to keep an eye on you when you were a lad at Crittall’s ?
Mr W: Oh we had a foremen, oh yes we had a foreman, in charge of us. Chap named Harry, Horry Scott we called him. He was our foreman. In fact he was a chief inspector at Crittall’s at Witham afterwards. But he was a nice bloke, he was a nice chap, Horry. He was a religious chap. He wasn’t at first but eventually he sort of took the Bible up you know. (Q: Yes.) But in his younger days he was a good footballer and I believe he played for Suffolk County. (Q: Goodness.) Yes he was a good footballer. Of course Crittall’s was a big place and they had foremans all over the place. They had oh I don’t know how many foremans were there – maybe ten or twenty you know, foremans.
Q: And what did they have to do ? Did you see a lot of them or …?
Mr W: Well they done the, what shall I say, well say they wanted so many windows made. Say they wanted five hundred windows made. They used to make, the office made what they called papers out with the number of windows, well, let’s say, we want, say this was a Crittall window here you see [shows], we want five hundred of those. That’s what they call an inner, no an outer, no an inner, sorry. This one here where it goes into the …. Say we want five hundred inners, five hundred outers of those, and five hundred of these, five hundred of that, five hundred of that. Then they got to get, say we want well five hundred, double that, we want one thousand of those you see, and a thousand of these, write the tickets out and then they handed them to the chaps in the shop and one chap on the line, see all the machines were up there like that, and that chap would start cutting the bars off you see he would cut those bars off and cut these off, and then another chap would sort of trim the ends, (Q: Mmm.) then another chap would knock the slots out for this to go in there you see and all that sort of thing. They would sort of go through. You see say they wanted five hundred bars – a ticket would go on that and say five hundred bars to do that, and a ticket to do five hundred of those, a ticket to do five hundred of those and these all had to be made. These had to be stamped out you know. All that sort of thing. But I was on handles, putting handles, handles and stays on …
Q: So you’d do the handles all the time ? That was your job ?
Mr W: I did until I was about twenty-one. Handles and stays and all that sort of thing.
Q: Did you make as well as put them on or …?
Mr W: No, they made the handles at Silver End. I think. Made all the fittings, all the handles and stays and all that sort of thing was made at Silver End. (Q: I see.)
Q: And did you get paid by the week or by what you made or …?
Mr W: We got paid by the week. We were on what they call piece work, (Q: Mmm.) but how they worked it out I don’t know because everybody in the factory that was, those who made the windows were in what they call one big huge pool you see. (Q: Mmm.) There would probably be, what shall I say, three hundred of us in one pool. (Q: Oh I see.) So one week you’d earn three pounds and another week you’d earn three pounds one shilling in those days and perhaps go down to two pounds nineteen.
Q: So everybody would get that would they …?
Mr W: Yes, well they had the packing department. They had a pool of their own, what they called a pool of their own.
Q: So everybody in the pool would get the same wage ? (Mr W: Mmm.) I see. I often wondered how that worked. It wasn’t how much you yourself did ?
Mr W: Not in those days, but it is now. It is now. Whatever you, everybody’s on their own pool now. (Q: Oh really ?) Expect perhaps there might be an odd couple.
Q: When did that start, was that already started when you …?
Mr W: Oh that had been on, that sort of thing had started maybe twenty years before I left. Anyhow I’d done about thirty-four years at Crittall’s. (Q: Quite a time isn’t it ?) But of course when the War broke out we all got called up. (Q: Of course.) Most of the Crittall chaps, a lot of them didn’t go but …
Q: And that’s when you went overseas was it ?
Mr W: Yes, I went overseas then.
[chat not noted]
Q: So when you said Mr Crittall would have sacked you if he could have done, you know you said Mr F G Crittall come round and give you all a funny look, I mean did he sack people much or what happened if he thought you hadn’t done what you should ?
Mr W: Well, in those days it was really terrible but I don’t think he actually done the sacking. Because he brought all the Welsh people to Silver End. Of course you’ve heard all that before probably. (Q: Yes.) He was, I’m not certain, but I think he was listening to the, the Welsh choir came round this way, unemployed choir, came round this way, Braintree somewhere and he went or something anyhow it finished up that he gave a lot of them jobs.
Q: There was something about Silver End in the paper the other week wasn’t there ?
Mr W: Yes, there was, there was, last week.
Q: When you say it was really terrible, what was it terrible then, would you say?
Mr W: Well, in those days, when I was a boy, I remember distinctly that they’d come round, might be one week they’d come round and say, on the day, on the Friday, give them a notice to say that their services were no long required. (Q: Really ?) And they’d be, in the morning they’d have a job and at night-time they’d be finished. And the men, they used to really … They had a young boy in the office. He used to come round and the men used to really shake, they really used to shake, they were really frightened ‘cos there was no chance of getting another job in those days. I’m talking about when I left school, 1929, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. No chance of getting another job and anyhow we had a Union chap there. He was secretary of the Union. His name was Trett and he lived at Silver End, no he lived at Hatfield Peverel. And he was a good, really a good chap. And he was really a good chap, Union Secretary, running the Union and all that sort of thing and he was too good, too good for the Management you know what I mean. He was all for the men like. Anyhow, this particular Friday they came round and they sacked forty I think it was, just came round, you’re finished tonigh you know. Give them a notice to say that they were finished tonight and they were out of work. And included amongst them was poor old Trett the Secretary and anyhow he was out of work three or four months and then they said oh poor old Trett, he’s hanged hisself. He lived in them terraced houses just before you get to The Duke at Hatfield Peverel on the right-hand side. (Q: Oh dear.) And that’s how it was in those days.
Q: Was there nothing, what sort of things did the Union used to do, then ?
Mr W: Well the Unions couldn’t do much then, not a lot. They couldn’t do a lot in those days, but they, not really. The Unions in those days were sort of, they got what shall I say, a Secretary’s job with the Transport and General Workers’ Union and they sort of got well in with the management and if they got well in with the management they’d say oh well, we get on all right we’ll make you a foreman, which they did to one particular chap there, perhaps I’d better not name him because he’s a figure right in Witham now, and anyhow he was a foreman and then they made him a manager. And that’s how a lot of Trade Union chaps got started. They got well in with the management being a Trade Union Secretary or whatever and then they got made a foreman.
Q: But this chap Trett was he a foreman or anything like that ?
Mr W: No, he was only an ordinary workman. Trett he was, you know. Poor old boy. He was very good. But they used to sack you one week and perhaps send for you the next week. (Q: Oh I see.) Sometimes, not very often. I know one chap said to me, he said I had the sack four times. You know but I never got the sack, nor did my father, nor my other brother. He was there for a while, the one down Ipswich, down Felixstowe. But my young brother, he got the sack. He was a young blighter. You know, he was the youngest one. He lives down Blott Rise. He couldn’t get up in the morning and in those days at seven thirty, directly the, they used to have a hooter go there. Directly the hooter went old Hagger, the Sergeant I was telling you about, he used to, he was the only chap on the gates then, you know. He used to have to shut the gates [laugh]. Directly that hooter went. If you were a minute late you had to stop out there for five minutes and if you were five minutes late you lost a quarter of an hour’s pay. You see. Well my young brother, he was a young blighter and he used to come down and when old Haggar had nearly got the gates closed, he used to bang right through them and nearly knock old Haggar over you know [laugh]. Anyhow they got fed up with him being a bit late or whatever and he got the poke after about a year, got the sack. But he was a case he was.
Q: You were still living at the Valley then were you ?
Mr W: No, we were living up here then. We moved up here when I was eighteen. Got this house.
Q: So that was his job to … I shouldn’t think he was a very popular bloke then was he ?
Mr W: Who, Sergeant Hagger? (Q: Yes.) No, not really.
Q: Not very nice job to have to shut people out.
Mr W: No, no, of course, he was sort of Sergeant, you know, still a policeman, in those ways, you know.
Q: They had managers then as well presumably. Who were the managers, what did they do ?
Mr W: Well, when I was manager, I was one, when I was manager !. When I first went there the manager was a chap named Small. He was very unpopular. He only got the job because his brother was a director. (Q: I see.) He died last year. He lived down Collingwood Road, his brother. I think he was about ninety-odd. I forget his name but he only got the manager’s job Small, because through his brother like and he was a, everybody hated him. And years afterwards, after the War, I was there, years after, he came round, he was made manager in Scotland somewhere, something like that and he came down for a visit and he was coming round the works and when he come round, they went – booo, booo, booo. You know booed him they did. But I think he died in Scotland eventually.
Q: Why was he so unpopular ?
Mr W: Oh, he’d come along, come along and watch you, stand behind you, creep about and he’d sack a bloke for the least thing. You know, he’d sack a chap for the least thing.
Q: What sort of thing ?
Mr W: Well, perhaps I’m wrong in saying that, em, if you didn’t, he was a chap you mustn’t say nothing to. You couldn’t say ‘Well, that’s not right.’ or that shouldn’t be wrong. What he said was law. He was like a king. He was … Anyhow everybody was frightened of him. I suppose they were frightened of losing their jobs and that you know.
Q: Did he know much about the actual making of things do you think ?
Mr W: Well, I suppose he learned as he went along. I think he started there as a sort of carpenter. (Q: Really ?) In the first place, in what they called the old wood shop, the carpenters’ shop. I think he gradually learned it as he went along. I know one chap, he made one chap, Williams, a foreman you know. They had a bit of a row and old Williams said something to him like and old Small he sacked him right there and then. Right on the spot and out he went.
Q: So he could do that could he ? (Mr W: Yes.) So if something like that happened there was nothing that the Union could do ?
Mr W: No, not in those days. The Unions were sort of, they couldn’t do nothing, you know, not really.
Q: So what sort of things would they have rows about, do you think, the work do you think or …?
Mr W: Oh, the work. There was always trouble wasn’t there. There was always trouble in the work, yes.
Q: Was there ? In what way ?
Mr W: Well, perhaps he’d say to the foreman, ‘Oh that’s not, that job’s not being done right.’ (Q: Yes.) or ‘I want it done in a quicker way.’ or something like that because it had to be, everything had to be done quick in those days. (Q: I see.) Very very quick. You had to work very very hard. If you weren’t up to scratch, if you wasn’t up to what they wanted. If you didn’t put so much work out and they thought you didn’t work as hard as the next bloke to you or something like that, they’d pick you out when the time came for some to get dismissed, get the sack, they’d say well that chap’s not a very good worker, he’s not so quick as the others. They’d have you out. So you had to be really on top of your job. You had to go like that all the time. It was really very fast and really hard work in those days, very hard work.
Q: And was that down to the foreman ? Who kept check on what you’d done ?
Mr W: Well they, I mean the foreman had so many men, he knew what sort of work they put out. How they worked and all that. If you weren’t good enough, if you wasn’t fast enough you were out.
Q: So it was up to the foreman really to …? (Mr W: Yes, it was up to the foreman.) That would be difficult for them to keep popular, but you say you liked your foreman didn’t you ?
Mr W: Oh my chap was pretty good, yes. Of course we had two assistant managers, we had two assistant managers as well as the manager and then they had what they called a chief inspector. (Q: Uhuh.) He had to make certain all the windows were correct, near enough correct. He had to see everything was …
Q: When you say correct, you mean … make sure they were …?
Mr W: Make certain they’d close and shut. When the window’s shut it’s got to be tight down there and it’s got to be tight that side. (Q: Yes.) You see.
Q: That was the inspector’s job ?
Mr W: Well they had lots of inspectors. They had inspectors everywhere, but the chief inspector was in charge of them. You see, he was in charge of them. But they had inspectors all over every section.
Q: And that was different from the foreman was it ?
Mr W: Yes, the inspectors were run by the chief inspector. (Q: Uhuh. That was a separate lot from the foremen and the managers.) Eventually they made all the inspectors on the staff. What they called the staff. (Q: Yes.) You see that was run by the chief inspector.
Q: So who was the highest the foreman or the inspector then ?
Mr W: An ordinary inspector or a foreman? Well a foreman was higher than a ordinary inspector and the chief inspector would be more or less the same as a foreman. (Q: I see.) He’d be in charge of the inspectors and the foremen would be in charge of the men who made the windows you see.
Q: What, the inspectors were checking the finished work were they, to see it was OK ?
Mr W: Mostly they what they call on the final adjust. Well when the window’s finished, like that, the window is what you call finalled. It’s tapped straight with a hammer, you see, and it’s got to close right, the stays and the handles have got to work right you see and when that chap has done that job, put it all right, he gives it to the inspector and the inspector goes round and tries it and makes certain it’s correct to go on the building site, you see.
Q: And were they people who had been made up from the works ?
Mr W: Oh yes, you could put in for an inspector’s job if you wanted one you know.
Q: And were the foremen people who had been made up as well ?
Mr W: Yes, the foremans, in those days they used to make them up. They used to say do you want a foreman’s job or something like that. But eventually you could put in for a foreman’s job and they’d give you a test, educational test, you see.
Q: Oh I see. What sort of a test was that ?
Mr W: Well, I think it was more or less elementary maths, and one or two other things, English or something like that you know. I don’t think it was nothing …
Q: Interesting though. It’s quite complicated, all the different jobs. Did you ever put in for anything ?
Mr W: No, I never bothered, no I never bothered to put in for anything. I was quite happy. I was a machine operator, machine and press operator and I liked the job and I was quite happy and if you’d got a foreman’s job you’d got all the responsibility and the money was hardly any difference, no, hardly any difference. And they were worried, no end of them had, I mean things were so bad some of them had nervous, three or four of them had nervous breakdowns. I knew one manager, well he was that chap I was talking about, he had about four breakdowns. I knew another one, a manager, he had about two and another chap had one or two. It was a rotten job. It was a rotten job. They were bullied, you see they were bullied all the time.
Q: You mean the foremen or the managers ?
Mr W: The foremans, foremans and managers, mostly foremans. You know they were sort of bullied all the time, you know and that’s how it was.
Q: Who was bullying the managers then ? It was all passed down the line ?
Mr W: Well, Smally I think he was getting on to one or two. That was the manager I was telling you about and of course they used to make the foremans worry and when they worry they have breakdowns don’t they ?
Q: What sort of things? Just not getting enough done you mean ?
Mr W: Yes, it was output, output, output, get the work out, output.
Q: And that was all the time you were there or early days or more recent ?
Mr W: Well it happened before the War [Second] and after. Happened before the War and afterwards. (Q: Really, that’s interesting.) It was a sort of, I suppose, that’s, that’s you know, that’s the, in industry that’s how it is, it’s worrying, you’ve got somebody over the top and you’ve got the responsibility. You’ve got to get, the, the manager’s got to get the work out. He gets on to the chaps under him you know and yes, I knew some of them had three or four breakdowns.
Q: There was assistant managers as well as the …?
Mr W: Yes, two assistant managers. Then they used to have a manager, a manager on nights. They had a night shift as well. (Q: Of course yes.)
Q: Apart from Mr Small what sort of people ..? Were the managers and assistant managers local people or did they come in ?
Mr W: Well, in the early days, one was called Mr Andrews, he lived right outside the works and oh, Bobby Lane he was the son of a director you know and I mean in those days before the War you couldn’t say anything to them, like today if you think things are not right, if you think things are not right you can say so, but in those days it was like being in the army. (Q: Yes.) You had to get on with it. If you cribbed about it or said anything you were out. (Q: Oh I see.) That’s how it was in those days.
Q: So Mr Andrews was he local or …?
Mr W: I couldn’t say where he came from. I know he was, I think he was in the Army during War, the First War, he was a lieutenant. But he lived, you know the railway station don’t you? (Q: Uhuh.) You know you come straight down that road where the station is, down the bottom of the hill and there’s a house on the corner (Q: Yes.) where you turn into Crittall’s. Actually there’s the station, and you come straight down and right on the corner just before you turn round there’s a house there. He lived there. (Q: A big white house ?) Yes, he lived there. The other assistant manager I don’t know where he came from. But today the two assistant managers down there now at Crittall’s they came up through the factory. (Q: I see.) First of all they worked in the factory on the presses and the machines same as I did and then they made them foremen and then they put in for assistant managers’ job and got made assistant managers. It’s entirely different today. In the old days it used to be ‘Oh, here’s a director’s son, we’ll make him assistant manager’.
Q: And did they used to come round and watch what you were doing as well ?
Mr W: Oh yes, they had to run, say one assistant manager, he’d run one half of the works and the other assistant manager would run the other half of the works. And the manager was more or less, most of the time, stop in the office and they’d sort of go in and give their reports you know, how they were running the place, like they do now. That’s how they run it you know. Say that in one section they want another chap, they hadn’t got enough chaps to do the job, the assistant managers find another bloke from another section. You see they’d do all that sort of thing. If they want another five hundred windows next week, they have to organise it so that they get the stuff ready to put through the works to get those five hundred extra windows. They’d say ‘Oh get those through we’re put five hundred extra windows on next week’. So you’d get papers for the five hundred extra windows and they’d say we’ll want another chap to get them through, want them through by two weeks’ time, so they’d put another chap on so the work went through. Because you know all orders have to be out for a certain date. And if they’re not, orders are not out by a certain date, well, sometimes the builder would say well we don’t them now. They had got to be out by a certain date you know. That’s how it is.
Q: So there was an office there was well, was there ?
Mr W: Crittall’s, they’d got a big main office. Yes, what they call a big main office. I don’t know how many work there but they’ve got the manager, two assistant managers, though I think they’ve got an office between them and then they’ve got the, what the call the engineer, the chief engineer. He runs the maintenance. (Q: Mmm.) He runs what they call the maintenance for the maintenance do all the repairing to the machines. They’re what you call fitters and electricians, pipelayers, chaps who do the pipes and they repairs the machines and the presses and all that sort of thing.
Q: So, when you first started, did they have the office in the factory like ?
Mr W: Yes, still got the same office you know, of course there’s more there, and there’s one above. They’ve got the office and it’s a big block. They’ve got the pay office there on top. And what they call the drawing office, where they do, say you want a certain window, they have to make a plan of it you know, (Q: Yes.) all done in the drawing office.
Q: Like these windows here you were describing. Presumably before that got to you somebody would have worked out what to do ?
Mr W: Yes, they have to. Say they want a special window, special measurements or something like that. Well the chap in the drawing office would draw that. He’d put a plan of it. That’s looking down on the window that way, (Q: Mmm.) and he’d do a sort of elevation, the side, looking at it from the side. So it’s all down there in black and white, you know.
Q: Then who would he give the plan to, to decide how many bits they needed [???]?
Mr W: Well, they’d write the tickets out and say we want so many, all the measurements of the window, and they’d give it to the foreman of the shop. Then the foreman of the shop would give it to the chap who was going to make the window, (Q: Yes.) all the chaps who was going to make the window. So with the measurements all on paper and they’d also give the plan to see what they were doing. (Q: I see.) That would be only on special jobs but if that was what you call a standard job you wouldn’t want nothing for that but that would be on a special job only you see.
Q: So that would be a name for that sort of what that was and you would know ?
Mr W: You would know that yes, that one on top is what you call an E3. (Q: I see.) The one on the bottom is what you call an NC4. I‘ve never forgotten those. (really) The ‘N’ stands for no bars, (Q: I see yes.) but the one on the top has got bars, (Q: Yes) you see got those bars across.
Q: And the bars they’d come in one. The men who were making the bars ?
Mr W: They’d come from the steel, from Darlington the huge bars and then you’d have to cut them out, you’d have to cut them out on a press. It’s rather a job to tell you all about it. You’d have to really be there to see what’s going on.
Q: No-one ever described it to me before in any detail. It’s interesting.
Mr W: Are you interested in photography ? I see you were taking the pictures ?
Q: Well, I don’t take terribly good pictures and you said you’d got some did you ?
Mr W: Yes, I’ve got some to show you, would you’d like to see them ?
Q: Yes, I just take them to see what’s there. I’m not very good with the light or anything, I just hope for the best you know.
[to fetch photos]
Continued on tape 63