Metal Box factory history goes on show at Mansfield Musuem

Mansfield Museum Metal Box tins
Mansfield Museum Metal Box tins

THE colourful factory life of one of Mansfield’s biggest-ever employers will be chronicled in a groundbreaking museum exhibition.

History and memories of Metal Box, including rare collectible examples of its famous tins, will appear in the display at Mansfield Museum.

Launching on 1st October, it will be the first exhibition to highlight the cultural and social significance of the firm and its former Rock Valley factory.

Highlights will include a display of more than 1,400 examples of the iconic tin boxes which made it famous.

Staff at Mansfield Museum are in the final stages of preparing it after a year of collecting artefacts and conducting research.

“Metal Box and its memories really have captured the imaginations of a lot of people,” said museum development officer, Jodie Henshaw.

“People love the social aspect of its history and the decorativeness that went into the tins themselves.

“We are hoping people will come from all over the country to see it.”

Metal Box, now based at Forest Town’s Crown Farm Industrial Estate, has been producing tins for more than 150 years and at one stage employed over 1,000 people.

Crown Speciality Packaging now owns the company.

Some of its carefully designed tins are collectors’ items which fetch thousands of pounds at auctions.

Its former Rock Valley factory is in the final stages of demolition to make way for a residential project, although its iconic clock tower is being retained.

Former employee Alan Atkins, author of two local history books covering Metal Box, is among those looking forward to the exhibition.

“It’ll be a unique opportunity for people who worked there and their families,” he said.

“It was basically a happy family there and the firm was very welfare-minded.”

Alan started working at Metal Box as an apprentice in 1950 and retired as a supervisor in charge of project design in 1984.

Now aged 84 and still living in Mansfield, he says the contribution the Rock Valley factory made to the local economy and history should be preserved.

“I don’t think there’s a family tree in the district which doesn’t include someone who worked there at one time or another, that’s why this exhibition is so important,” he added.

Museum experts attended an auction at Bamfords in Derby last year and bought 60 boxes of tins, which will be on display alongside photos, original artwork and other artefacts.

Some tins at the sale attracted international collectors, leading staff to expect high interest in the exhibition.

Some date from 1910 to 1920, with the oldest a hexagonal Victorian mustard tin.

Audio recordings of workers’ memories will also be played alongside a slideshow.

Added Jodie: “It will appeal to current and former workers and some who just want to see the fascinating tins.”

The free exhibition opens at the Leeming Street museum on 1st October and will run until 7th January.