Happy memories of friends made in the Mansfield workplaces

Metal Box employees enjoying their Christmas party.
Metal Box employees enjoying their Christmas party.

Whilst planning the industrial gallery at Mansfield Museum, we talked to many ex-workers from the town’s factories on ‘memory days’, writes Liz Weston, museum curator.

The thread running through these conversations was how highly these old employees thought of those firms.

This is not entirely surprising.

The employers could be benevolent and forward-looking in their attitudes to staff.

Metal Box’s precursor was owned by a Quaker family, the Barringers.

The Barringers wished to treat their workers well, offering them opportunities to take part in social and sporting activities.

Metal Box built on this legacy.

They inaugurated an annual football trophy competed for between engineers and their apprentices and the sailing club was founded at King’s Mill Reservoir.

The firm also took an interest in the workforce’s general well-being.

Holiday homes were available for pleasure or convalescence.

Flu jabs were provided, as was cancer screening.

Pensioners received a Christmas box.

It was a similar story at other Mansfield firms.

Shoe Co. saw regular sporting fixtures between its different departments.

At Christmas there were parties for staff, children and pensioners.

Company founders the Royce brothers prided themselves on knowing every worker personally.

When the firm’s expansion made this impracticable, the role of personnel officer was taken on by their sister, Evelyn.

Some benefits of employment were quirkier, like the daily beer allowance at Mansfield Brewery, for example.

This continued long after the heavy labouring which had warranted it had disappeared.

Strangest of all, perhaps, was the whippets and ferrets club, which saw brewery employees dressed in cloth caps and waistcoats touring local pubs with a glove-puppet canine and assorted stuffed ferrets.

The one thing that shone through above all, however, was the simplest – the camaraderie of the people who shared the daily labour.

Time and again, our interviewees spoke of their happy memories of days spent with friends made in their work-place.

The museum is now working with Nottingham Trent University on a project called Textile Tales and is looking to recruit some volunteers to help with the work.

These volunteers will be trained to carry out oral recording work – capturing the memories of those who worked in the textile industry.

The training will take place at the university and then the volunteers will be asked to work at a number of roadshows taking place at some of the partner museums across the region.

If you are interested in finding out more please contact Liz Weston at the museum on 01623 463088 or email lweston@mansfield.gov.uk.