Tape 127. Fred Cook, sides 7 and 8

Tape 127

Mr Fred Cook was born c 1908. He was interviewed on 26 February 1989, when he lived at Floreat, Chalks Road. His wife Mrs Florence Cook also present some of the time.

They also appear on tapes 70, 71 and 87.

For more information about them, see Cook, Fred, 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 ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk 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.]

The interview is mostly about the workings of Crittall’s metal window factory, where Mr Cook worked. We were looking at a copy of an air photo of the factory, JG’s photo M1042, dated 1924-1930. It was marked up in red by Mr Cook.

At the beginning, I have included this photo, in four parts, marked up with Mr Cook’s comments. Titles are at the bottom of each part.


Fred Cook's Crittall's, picture 1, part 1

Fred Cook’s Crittall’s, picture 1, part 1

Fred Cook's Crittall's, picture 1, part 2
Fred Cook’s Crittall’s, picture 1, part 2

Fred Cook's Crittall's, picture 2, part 1
Fred Cook’s Crittall’s, picture 2, part 1

Fred Cook's Crittall's, picture 2, part 2
Fred Cook’s Crittall’s, picture 2, part 2

Side 7

Q:    What actually happened in the wood shop?

Mr C:    When they done away with it, that went to Ruislip, but it went under different people. And then eventually we packed up with them and we started having our wood from John Carr., [???] Where did he have his place, up north somewhere. Then he had this place built at Silver End. And he used to do our wood surrounds for our windows. (Q: So they were all ready made sort of thing?) Well it was only the surround, and we put our steel windows in. Oh by the way, I might say this at the time, that when this was first opened, all they made was steel furniture and storage bins, but they were just, when I went there [c 1922] they were just packing them up and starting on steel windows. (Q: So they didn’t do windows at first, then?) No, no, they started, but I remember, well I don’t remember making the steel furniture but they had all these storage bins in stock, and they dispatched them while I was there.

Q:    So when was it, you must have told me before when you started, I’ve probably got a note of that, when was it you began work there?

Mr C:    When I started, 1908, fourteen, it was 1922.

Q:    So it was pretty early then, wasn’t it.
[Discussion of date of photo, not noted, he says perhaps about 1937, though actually must have been earlier because new loading bay social club and canteen etc on Braintree Road not there on photo and that built 1937]

Mr C:    The Yanks used that [the Social Club] a lot during the War, for dances and one thing and another. (Q: And that was new then?)
[discussion of location of photo M72 of staff, outside old power house.. Cooks’ pencil has Charles E Poulter, boot repair specialist, on it. Part that became the galvanising later was earlier called ‘Olympia’ and they kept ‘curios’ there, things that weren’t made any more etc. More discussion about photo. Not noted]

Mr C:    And that was the old club [marked on photo as canteen]. That was an old army hut. And before this other canteen was built, there used to be …that’s old Cole[?]’s crane. (Q: What was that?) That’s the only thing we had for pushing trucks about with and loading stuff. That was steam, driven by steam. And here, that became the surgery, that use to be making acetylene gas for the acetylene welders [marked on photo as gas plant]. Because we never had electric welding, not when I first went there, that was all changed. Used to make it with that, what we called carbon gas, that we used fill the old bike lights with. We used to pinch that.

Q:    How did they make that then.

Mr C:    Oh they were put in containers, and poured water on it or something like that. That was one of the places I didn’t have access to, but the other places, I had the run of the lot.

Q:    You probably saw more of it than most people then?

Mr C:    Yes, well you see, the job I was on, I was on time study, well that let me more or less roam about.

[Discussion of name Panshaven, he knew north end of Albert Road as Panshaven Road., JG had heard of whole of Crittall’s field having that name]]

Mr C:    This part [the first part] was built, I reckon about two years before I went there. So you can put that back to 1920. And I always remember there was a big gravel pit here somewhere, and then the majority, up this end, were allotments. [i.e. on Crittall’s site]
[more discussion of photo, especially where various houses were, not noted]

Mr C:    But on the top floor they brought the lead glazing girls from round … (Q: Maltings Lane). That’s right, going towards Hatfield, and they used to make lead glazing lights on that top floor. Then, they keep altering things and make different things, same as the first floor there they did start making aluminium windows which were transferred then to Crittall Road. We used to call them Winter sash but today they call it double glazing. Things used to change so much there. We used to make different lines of different windows. Used to be the reversibles, the doors, HCH[?], [???] and they all had different lines up the shop. We didn’t just make ordinary windows like these, we’d make various sorts. What I was going to say was, whey I first went there I don’t think they turned out 200 windows a week. But at the peak, when that was that size, they were making 80 tons of windows a day, and 80 windows a ton. That’s 6,400 a day. Five days a week. And now, what’s happening now, out of business ain’t they. Well there are all these other firms.

Q:    This double glazing, the Winter sash, did other people do that then?

Mr C:    No, we were the first ones started that, and we called it Winter sash.

Q:    But it was the same thing?

Mr C:    Oh yes, we got it in here. Well we should have shouldn’t we.

Q:    Is it the same though?

Mr C:    Exactly the same as what we started on, they are. But now today they’ve got sliding ones, you know, advanced isn’t it now. (Q: So what do those do, they open ordinarily do they?) No they’re clipped.

[discussion of taking them out in summer etc., not noted]

Q:    Can you remember roughly when they started doing those?

Mr C:    When they first …? (Q: These winter things, I mean was it since the War? Doesn’t really matter) I can’t remember now, I remember I had to go to Braintree, and there was four of us at the table, there was an engineer, and a salesman I think there was, myself I was on work study, to give them a value of what I thought they’d cost to make, you see. And that would be the cost office as well. And I reckon that was before the War. I don’t know, I ain’t quite so certain about that.
[discussion of not knowing when, not noted.]

Mr C:    I know the lead glazing went out when the War started, we never made any more after that. I don’t think anybody makes them, not today, not the way we made them. All they do is stick a bit of stuff on them, don’t they. (Q: I suppose so, but yours were proper ones were they?) That’s right. We [???] cames[?] and put the cames[?] round the glass, you either had diamonds or squares. I’ve got some of them about somewhere, a couple. (Q: You’ll have to show me some time. Do you do a sort of check work, do you put the glass in after?) No you used to, they’d have one girl cut off the glass to a size. They were all standard sized you see. So all you had to was put them in a [???} and run your cutter down and break it like that. And then you’d have another one cutting off the cames[?] you done that on a press. And they’d have, we’ll say that’s that size, you’d have stiffeners at one end down one like that, and another one like that, and another one like that (Q: Diagonal) Then you’d have short ones, then the others were short pieces that fitted round the glass where the stiffeners were. That was easy to make, easy after you’ve seen it done once. Nothing in it.

[Discussion of making them. Built up from small pieces of glass with lead at same time, then another added etc. not noted]

And all where the joints were, you had an electric soldering iron, and you only went, just touching it like that, and weld them all together.

Q:    And that was all women doing that, was it?

Mr C:    Yes.

Q:    They did the soldering as well.

Mr C:    Oh yes, they done the lot.

Q:    I wonder why that was, cos they didn’t have any women in the rest of the factory., did they.

Mr C:    Oh yes, the War started that.

Q:    But not before that.

Mr C:    And then when the War finished they carried on using them. (Q: Did they?) Yes well when the War started they had them making windows in there, on the machines. Then they had them on making these aluminium sliders[?], how some of the girls stuck it I don’t know, not lifting them about. Cos the glass is heavy you know, in them.

Q:    Aluminium sliders, you mean the …

Mr C:    Either double hung sash or sliding slash. But these people ain’t in it now [???] taken over from then. That’s what I don’t understand now this bloke who’s a director or managing director, he’s going to have this new factory built, ain’t he? (Q: Braintree, yes.) Cost [???] million. He’s lost his trade, mate, the horse has bolted. No, he’s another one like Slater I suppose, going to break the firm. (Q: Yes.) Cos he’s the bloke who done that. (Q: Really?) Via John Crittall, he let him, he didn’t stick his neck out enough. (Q: You think they ran it down on purpose sort of thing? You think Slaters ran it down on purpose?) No, no, no, he’s, he’d buy something at a certain price and he’d sell it at a profit. He didn’t car who had it. Same as he bought Silver End, didn’t he? (Q: That’s right, the village, yes, yes.) Sold all the houses.

Q:    So is that when the trade started to go, is that when the trade went?

Mr C:    No, the trade started going before then. When, well that started going when we coupled up with Hopes. Hopes weren’t doing a lot of good, and they closed that factory down, or the one at, they had two factories up Birmingham. They closed one down and sent all the stock windows into Witham. And they put them in that field out there, where they … And that’s what’s wrong with that thing again up there, he’s talking about, he said we coupled up with Hopes in 1974, well that’s fourteen years ago, isn’t it. Well, I’ve been left sixteen years, and that happened ten years before I left, so what else is wrong on that thing I don’t know.

[Discussion of possible use of Witham site of Crittall’s, not noted]

Q:    What did they, in the War, when, you say it was different in the wartime, did they still make some windows there then?

Mr Cook, Crittall's, thinks made there during the Second World War
Mr Cook, Crittall’s, things made there during the Second World War

Mr C:    They made a few for army huts, not a lot, they were special sizes. No, we made shells, different containers, [???] wiring to drop from aeroplanes, so the propellers get tangled up. (Q: Really, I see.) Part of the Bailey bridge, they’re still kicking about aren’t they, in places. Other small bridges as well, oh I don’t know. We made scores of things during the War. Special [???] known as V12 or V20, something like that. And there’s a lot of hard working attached to that. They had girls on all that. [see list on file of oral history biography and pictures, supplied by Mr Cook later]

Q:    It must have been hard work like you say. And the windows, you say they were heavy because they had the glass in. Did you always have the, you didn’t actually send the window frames, did they always have the glass in when you …

Mr C:    The steel windows? No, [???] separate, we only made the steel frames, that’s all we made.

Q:    You say they were heavy with the glass in, did anything have the glass it, only the lead things?

Mr C:    Only the lead. Then when we started making the aluminium ones, we put glass in that.
Q    Because that was a new thing, wasn’t it, the aluminium. Were Crittall’s one of the first that used aluminium. When you started off, they wouldn’t be using aluminium, in 1922.

Mr C:    No, that was after the War. The same as that Winter sash. (Q: Is that made of aluminium as well?) No, that’s plastic. There’s nothing in them, I don’t know why they charge all that money for them. That’s just a bit of glass, and you cut four bars off, and clip the corners together, it’s simple.
[No-one in Witham with the experience to cut the glass. Making steel doors. Present cost of double glazing etc. Different types of windows. Not noted.]

Mr C:    I’ll tell you what that is now [on photo], (Q: That one at the end?) That was the paint dip. Before we started galvanising. We had two lines run up there, that was heated ovens up that end, from about there I reckon. (Q: That was for drying it was it, for drying the paint?) Yes, they’d dip them in that portion on a hoist, and then they stand so long to drain, and then it runs back again, and they used to be in this oven, getting drier, and they used to gradually go round while they were drying and then when they come out they were dry. And they were capable of doing eighty dips an hour, so with two dips you’re getting 160 dips an hour, and you had at least four windows on a dip, well you’ve got to, with 6,400 windows a day, haven’t you?

Q:    What sort of paint, that was a sort of undercoat was it, primer?

Mr C:    Well, that was more or less, and we had one firm come in, name of Nobel’s[?] and they put a different sort of paint in but that didn’t work, we went back to Dockus[?]. (Q: What did you call it?) Dockus[?] paints, ain’t you heard of Dockus[?] paints? (Q: That’s what you used all the time. Was that that red stuff, was it?) No, we were on grey when we started. No. The first lot was green, but that wasn’t done that way, I think that was done by just one dip, put in, pulled up with a rope, and then put in a great big oven, till they done away with that, and then they, they didn’t have an automatic dip then, when they were on grey, no on green that was the first …

Side 8

Q:    But these were still just sort of primers were they? They were just to stop it rusting sort of thing were they?

Mr C:    Yes. Oh there was no galvanising, not then. That come later. We started on that just before the War. Galvanising.

Q:    So it was painted for quite a long time then, wasn’t it.

Mr C:    Yes. Oh there’s another thing we used to make, sashes, sashes what they used for factories. windows for factories.

Q:    What’s the difference between them and …

Mr C:    They were made with heavier stuff, that’s about all. But they were HCH[?] type, just a great big fixed light with a vent in the middle. Or one at the top and one at the bottom. On these, hung on these cups.

Q:    So it’s cups instead of hinges? One each side?

Mr C:    Yes.

Q:    If the steel came to there, how did you get it to the different places that wanted it?

Mr C:    That’d come in there, if that come by rail, which most of it did, that’d be unloaded with an overhead crane in there, and that crane would run into another set of joists. So it then had to travel up, up and down the line, inside. And they had storage racks just inside the whatsername, well they had some in there as well. But that crane could feed all the way along here from inside. But that wasn’t just the crane moved, that was the whole joist that ran right along the roof.

Q:    So if you were making something up there, if you were up here and you wanted, needed something, how would you get it?

Mr C:    What, from the long bars. No, you start off with cutting off presses along there, cutting off various stuff for various jobs.

Q:    And that was all at this end near the loading bay.

Mr C:    Yes that’s right they run up to there and they had a overhead crane in there as well. Same type as that, that was for loading trucks. I remember at the time, when we were busy, they had over a hundred men packing. Well I reckon that there was eight hundred people there then.

Q:    Really? The packing was all done in this bit where the railway came in?

Mr C:    Yes in that bay. Oh they used to load lorries at nights anywhere. They used to load one there and several up there, all the depots. At that time we were feeding four or five depots then, Sidcup, Doncaster, Bristol, I can’t think of any more.

Q:    They were all Crittall’s own depots were they?

Mr C:    Yes. All closed down.

Q:    Would that all be stuff that was ordered?

Mr C:    No. Some were ordered, what they asked for, but they used to keep a stock as well. Oh yes, there used to be stock racks all the way up there as well, and they used to put the handles and stays on underneath the stock racks. Cos the windows used to get up into these racks, then they come out of the dip, they used to be fairly high, there used to be a gap for them right beside the racks, and there used to be brakes{?] on that to take them off the hooks and put them in the stock racks.

Q:    That’s all coming along here between the railway bit and the factory. It’s hard to imagine eight hundred people in there, it must have been crowded.

Mr C:    It was. Well that’s why they had to extend like that you see. As they started like that, only that bit there, and I can remember all the other being built.

Q:    As you say they cut off the bars up this end, and then what would happen to them then.

Mr C:    Then the next row of machines, there’d be all machines along there doing cutting up, the next row that runs that way would do like putting the slots in, holes in, the pegs on, the handle brackets and things like that. And then as I say when it was like that they had acetylene welders up there, I forget, they had about a hundred of them at that time, acetylene welders. Well they couldn’t work no more than about eight frames a day [but see below]. Then they got on the electric welding, they were doing six hundred, one man.

Q:    What’s so different about it then?

Mr C:    Well, acetylene welding, you have a bit of wire and you got acetylene lamp, and you’ve got to make that wire out the [???] heat that up, and then run a bit of this wire there. I think they used to about twelve an hour, they used to get one and a penny a dozen. [laughs]
Mrs C:    Why don’t you lend Mrs Gyford that centenary book to read. (Q: You’ve got a book have you? I didn’t know there was one, that’s interesting.) It’s not detailed like that you know what I mean.
[Discussion about location of JG’s photo M72, near old power house, not noted]

Q:    So the power house was to make electricity presumably, the power house was for making electricity, was it. Did they make their own electricity?

Mr C:    Yes, we run it on DC then, Direct Current, that was our own. I think they were made by steam ships engines I think. It was an old seaman who used to run it. Name of Rushen.

Q:    Cos it must have needed a lot of electricity for the whole place. Before you did electric welding, did they have electric for the lighting or anything?

Mr C:    No, that wasn’t put on till, I don’t know. It was a long time before we got on the town electricity I know that. I think when we had all these flash welders, when we turned from acetylene welders to flash welders, that’s when we changed to the town.

Q:    So before you did that, what would the electricity be used for?

Mr C:    Driving all the machines. (Q: You’d need a lot of power then wouldn’t you.) Yes.
Generally for lighting and driving motors because practically all the machines that time of the day used to be belt driven, that’s old fashioned. But now they generally have the motor in the machine now, or on the machine.

Q:    So when it was belt driven they just had motors, you’d have the machine connected to a separate motor?

Mr C:    This motor[?] used to be in the roof, and that drove the belt to a main shaft with a lot of wheels on, and one of them wheels would come down to each [???] and drive the wheel on there. As I say that’s very old fashioned.

Q:    Which way did the shafts, would there be several of these motors?

Mr C:    Oh, they’d be all over the factory. Yes, at one time of the day practically all the fittings and that were put on in bar form. But eventually we got so they were put on after the frame was made, the frame, not the whole window, just the frame. So therefore you’d make the frame when it’s welded up, and then you can make it into practically anything of the same size. So you can make it into a D1 or a D4[?] you don’t know what I’m talking about. [laugh]

Q:    I’ve heard somebody talking about them but I still don’t remember which is which. According to which fittings you put on it you mean?

Mr C:    That’s right, and where you put the bars in. You can put different bars in as long as you [???} position. Well that was all later, after the flash welding started.

Q:    To start with each one would be made different from the start would it?

Mr C:    Yes. Oh when you flash weld them up, you could make say one window the same size, three foot three and a quarter, four foot high, you could make that into about twenty different types of window, by putting different fittings on and putting the bars in a different position, or omitting bars, so instead of putting four in you only put three in, things like that.

Q:    So that would be different, you’d only be making one sort of window instead of lots of different ones at the beginning then.

Mr C:    Then we used to make complicated ones, circular ones, bulls eyes, which were fixed, or you would have them on HCH[?] or you have circle [???] they’re our like windows at the corner. They don’t make them now. [curved panes]
[Discussion about curved panes nowadays etc, in Chalks Road houses etc. with wooden windows, not noted]

Q:    Cos the metal windows, Crittall’s windows, you would still need the same amount of painting [as wooden ones] but they wouldn’t rot would they, so you’d be better off. If you had a Crittall’s window instead, they would keep better, wouldn’t they?

Mr C:    Well, they needn’t want painting. But we always used to etch them after galvanising so they could be painted. But you can’t paint them if they haven’t been etched.

Q:    Really? When they’re galvanised you mean? What’s etching then?

Mr C:    Well that does something to the metal, takes something out of it I suppose.

Q:    What do you actually do to them?

Mr C:    You only dip them in like an acid bath, that’s all. That was, well that was automatically done, because that first, after they were hung up, they were put in the acid tanks, and [???] where they were in the acid, then they’d automatically come up and go in the next, and that’d be a hot wash, water, then they’d come up and down again in the cold wash, and up again, and they’d be in another one which was etched, that was another sort of acid sort of stuff what done it.

Q:    And that would all be done up here in what became the galvanising at the top.

Mr C:    No wait a minute I’ve gone wrong. That was a flux. Before that went to the galvanise. Then they came out of the galvanise they went round then into the etching tanks.

Q:    So what you were describing to me before was the galvanising.

Mr C:    Before it went to the galvanising. (Q: Before it went to the galvanising it had to have all those things, did it?) Yes.

Mr C:    Yes there was acid, hot water, cold water, flux, then galvanise, then etch.

Q:    Was that all done in the same place in the galvanising plant, sort of thing.

Mr C:    Well that was split into like rooms. See, the acid and water and flux were in one place, then that went through into an oven to more or less heat the frames up to what Centigrade these galvanise [???] are, before they went to the galvanising in another compartment.

Q:    And galvanising, that’s a liquid they put them in?

Mr C:    Yes. Spelter. It’s like running lead or silver. I forget what Centigrade they were there to melt it down.

Q:    This stuff that they did the galvanising in, did it come as a liquid?

Mr C:    Yes, that comes in blocks, like about ten pound each, and they put them in these great big pots, iron pots, with gas fires underneath to heat it up, that takes about three or four days to heat up, to get them melted.

Q:    That was running all the time was it, when it was busy.

Mr C:    Oh yes, you can’t let it go out. That, once a year, that’s when they clean the fireplaces out, but they have to empty all the spelter out to do it. They take it out in great big spoons and make blocks of it, so then they put it back again.

Q:    But otherwise you would just keep putting more blocks in as it got used up would you?

Mr C:    Oh yes, as they get used up, well there’s so many a day got to go in. [???] how many you’d used for doing so many tons a day.

Q:    It can’t have been much of a job doing that then if it was that hot.

Mr C:    I’ve spent some hours up there watching.

Q:    Did the same people always do galvanising? Was that a job that somebody did always, or did you take turns at doing that?

Mr C:    Oh no, they used to have so many blokes on, they’d keep the regular gangs on.

Q:    And that went on all night as well did it?

Mr C:    Day and night, yes. Sometimes they’d run three shifts to keep it on all the time. Another two shifts. That’d be stationary but you’d still got to have your fires on.

Q:    Even if you’re not using it?

Mr C:    Yes. And weekends.

Q:    The gas came off the town supply, did it?

Mr C:    Oh yes, we were on the… Oh yes they done away with that. They had to go out when we went on flash welding, electric welding.

Q:    You said the galvanising was on these gas …

Mr C:     Yes, gas flames, yes.
[Chat about invitation to annual presentation, for retired employees, for billiards etc., he doesn’t go, not noted. Also book? with pictures of Crittalls]

Mr C:    That’s Dan Crittall, that is, he’s the black sheep of the family. (Q: Why was that? What did he do?) Not much. He used to have, when he was with us at Witham, he used to have an old Harley Davidson motorbike, he tried to get me on the back of that scores of times.

Q:    He did have a job then, in the firm?

Mr C:    They had him like on the maintenance but … No, he liked engineering, he’d go down somewhere on steam trains somewhere every weekend. I know the name well. No I can’t think of the name now.

Q:    He was at Witham was he, he was at the Witham factory most of the time was he?

Mr C:    Yes.

Q:    Did he stay there all the time?

Mr C:    I don’t know what happened to him in the finish. There were several others, John’s boy, I knew him. I met him up the club one night, he said he’s going to have[?] his father’s job he said. Oh, they relied too much on their parents. Jane Crittall, I knew her. She worked in the factory during the War. Yes, she worked on the machines for a time and then they made her forewoman. It was only right they should I think, you know.

Q:    But you stayed on the time job all the time when you were there did you?

Mr C:    Yes. Well (Q: I suppose you got so good at it, you had to.) As I say when I went there when this got the sack, they put me in the dispatch office, because I was the only boy there. And eventually they transferred me to the foremen’s office, and then I got on the slack side and I had to go in the shop. I went to the shop twice I think for three days, not for long, then I come back and they put me on the wood shop as stock keeper, up on the top floor. And from there they drew me back and I started on work study, they didn’t call it that, they used to call it timing, then we got several people come in, proper[?] engineers, and eventually we finished up work study engineers.[laughs]. That’s just a name, that’s all.

Q:    So really as you say, were you given set things, who told you what you were going to do each day? You may have told me this once. When you’d go in in the morning, did somebody tell you what they wanted you to do that day, or was that up to you?

Mr C:    No, I was boss. Yes, I was at Witham. I had one same as at Braintree but I never used to see him. But what was done at Witham concerned me. For the simple reason that when they were at Braintree they didn’t know nothing about Witham.

Q:    So when you’d checked something, had you got somebody you had to report back to? Or it was up to you to tell folks?

Mr C:    No, I used to see the shop steward and say look, right, I’m offering this rate to you, and get him to sign it.

Q:    It was just your responsibility was it, yes.

Mr C:    But when I come off the job and they had some outside people in and they made a mess up of that I think. I never said nothing. I let them get on with it. Well, they were people who didn’t know nothing.

Q:    So if the shop steward wasn’t happy with what you said, what would happen then?

Mr C:    Get him to come and stand with me and watch the bloke for a little while.

Q:    So what you were trying to work out was just a sort of fair time for the job.

Mr C:    Yes. And most of them thought it was, and I’d just get away with it.

Q:    So you didn’t really have any great arguments then?

Mr C:    I can only remember really one strike up there. That was when I was more or less first went on, and I was with old Jack Simpson, and we put these rates in, new rates for the whole factory, and I don’t think they couldn’t earn three pound a week a lot[?] of them. So they come out on strike. And they had to get old Crittall down from London to talk to the blokes. He had them all out in the yard there and he said he’d give them seven and a half per cent for a fortnight on them, the next fortnight he give them five per cent, the next fortnight he give them two and a half per cent, and the next, after then they were on their own, they weren’t going to get no more. What I’m saying is he don’t give this two and half and five on top of the seven and a half, he just drops it to five.

Q:    Really? Over and above what the rates were that were suggested. I see.

Mr C:    They done that for six weeks I reckon, and then they were on their own, and the rates were all right then. They knew they’d got to work to earn three pounds, that’s all they used to get.

Q:    And that was because you’d suggested the times yourself then, and that was because you and this other bloke had suggested the times, that was why they …

Mr C:    No no, I done the timing. And he only put it down on paper. That was more or less when, he was my boss then. Cos he was a proper engineer and a draughtsman, and I learnt a lot off that bloke.

Q:    So before you started did they have somebody else doing the timing, or was that a new thing?

Mr C:    Oh, when I left there, when I went to Assistant Manager, there was one two three, four, seven or eight of them. But they were doing rate fixing as well. Cos they all come under me when the new systems went in. They had, what the hell do they call it now, some new system. I had to make big sheets out, twice as big as this table, for not each type of window, a window, fully glazed, H type or [???] type. I had to do all that and then that was taken down the machine room, they put through on the tin plates or lead plates, and then when they wanted a type, oh that was to cover say about a dozen or so operations, a lead plate for each one. So each one in the shop got a ticket for his job. Adrema[?] Have you heard of Adrema machines. I had to do all that as I say, that when these new people come in they tried to do away with that but I don’t think they did.

Q:    And you did that for a long time, that was since the war was it that Adrema machine?

Mr C:    That was after the War. Yes, cos they used to write the tickets out on an old bit of scrap paper to start with.

Q:    Before they used it?

Mr C:    Yes.

Q:    But once you’d learnt the job off this Jack Simpson you were on your own then really, were you.

Mr C:    Yes but he didn’t have nothing to do with Adrema. Actually there’s nothing to do, you’ve only got to use your head that’s all.

Q:    It sounds complicated to me [laugh]. So really it was mainly if there was something new coming up was it, that you had to work out what the rates were going to be.

Mr C:    That’s right, if there was anything new, new product starts, I’d got to be there. So therefore that’s what I say, I had more or less the run of the factory.

Q:    Was there any time when, what happened if there wasn’t anything new coming up, what did you do?

Mr C:    Keep out of the way [laugh]. It hardly happened.

Q:    Really?

Mr C:    No, cos when one manager was there, old Smally, I don’t suppose you ever heard of him, did you? (Q: Yes.) I was at his beck and call all day long. (Q: Really?) Yes. (Q: What to do?) Well ask me questions, he didn’t know nothing. (Q: What sort of things did he want to know?) [???] (Q: All about what everybody was doing and that, was it?) No, he might say we were going to reduce, making so many [???], only making so many a day, how many people do I want, and I used to tell him that. Well you would get that by the prices you put out to these people, you see, it’s only a matter of, if fifty come to say two hundred pounds, three pound a week, you divide that by three, but he wanted to know in which sections you’d want them, not overall. But that’s only one item, that is.

Q:    Like you say, you must have known about all the different sections, more than anybody else did I suppose.

Mr C:    Yes, well they were always altering them, you see, you might, on doors, you might be on say a hundred a day, they wanted to reduce it to ninety a day, windows, your making eighty tons a day, they want to reduce it to fifty tons a day, well you’ve got to tell them how many people you want in each section, to make them.

Q:    If you then decided you didn’t want so many people, what would happen to the people?

Mr C:    Well that used to be, the latter part, they’d find them another job, but I remember when the Smalls come to Crittall’s, that was when the firm nearly went bust, they’d sack twenty tonight, and set on about twenty different ones tomorrow morning, that’s how that was up there, made them scared out of their lives.

Q:    And that was because they were changing what they were doing, was it, or because they weren’t working fast enough?

Mr C:    No.

Q: Why did they, did they sack them because those particular people weren’t working hard enough.

Mr C:    No, he’d say they weren’t. Yes. It was just to scare the others. That’s what made that speed up this job so fast, if you went in Braintree or Silver End, the speed was nothing like it was up here. (Q: Really? So it was different for each place was it, just because he wanted to keep …?) Yes, well, they were after making these eighty tons a day, that’s what they were doing, with as few machines as possible. And the space.

Q:    So did he sometimes come to you and say couldn’t you do it in less time? Did he want to do anything like that?

Mr C:    No. That was separate was it. No, he’d never ask you that. What I’m telling you, the rates were on the tight side, and he see that they kept to them rates, if not, out.

Q:    Cos before he came, what happened if you weren’t keeping up?

Mr C:    Well I don’t remember any sackings, not before.

Q:    Cos presumably people did work at different speeds?

Mr C:    Yes. But that got, at the latter part, when I was on it, they’d practically got individual piece work, so you only got what you earned. But that was mass production at one time, all got the same rate of pay, but they were all on piece work just the same, so one bloke would get on to another one if he wasn’t pulling his weight.

Q:    So it was based on the total production sort of thing, Yes, I see. Did that go on for a long time.

Mr C:    I can’t remember when Small come there. Pretty early on.

Q:    Did he put them on individual piece work?

Mr C:    No they were gradually coming so as I was going round, I done it. See I put separate rates out.

Q:    That was his idea, was it, or was that later that they did that.

Mr C:    No, the people in the shop more or less claimed for it. They didn’t like people at the side of them doing less and getting the same as them. No they more or less asked for it.

Q:    So when would that be, roughly, was that quite recent you mean, or …

Mr C:    No, that got down from mass production to little gangs, work in gangs, and then that wasn’t satisfied, they all wanted to go on their own.

Q:    Was that before the War.

Mr C:    Oh yes, a long time before the War.

Q:    So when Small came, which were they doing then?

Mr C:    It was one big pool.

Q:    That was when it was one big pool.

Mr C:    When he first come.

Q:    Cos he was quite early was he?

Mr C:    I reckon that was about the time when VG was made MP [1926].

Q:    You remember that happening, do you, when he got elected?

Mr C:    Yes, that was at Maldon when they declared the poll. Everybody stopped work and went out to meet him, down Maldon, bar two people, and they stopped, and they were both on acetylene welding, because they were Tories. (Q: Just two.) But they went after them and got them out [laugh]. (Q: Really?) That was the time he got in by forty-nine.

Q:    So they were pleased then. How did they hear about it then? They heard about it as soon as he was elected did they?

Mr C:    Yes, I forget who he put up against now.

Q:    Still some of the office people and that would be Tories, wouldn’t they?

Mr C:    I don’t know, they all come out. Just cos that was him I suppose.

Q:    What sort of chap was he?

Mr C:    V.G. I never had a lot to do with, I spoke to him, but never not to get into really conversation with him.

Q:    Was he at Witham much.

Mr C:    No he didn’t come to Witham a lot. I know when I was a boy when the old man come round once. He come round all bent with a stick. He come up to me, I was just coming out of the dispatch office. ‘Boy’, he said, ‘what’s that bloke doing over there? [???] supposed to do the painting’. For me. He’s touching up where the paint dipper you know had missed some. He got onto the manager over it. (Q: Why, because he wasn’t supposed to be …?) No I remember him, he used to walk about. He’d only come over from Braintree now and again but he’d walk right round the factory with his old back up, and stick.

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