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Allan Stuttard

Interviewed on 31.10.2006

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[TRACK 1]

The first things is – can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

Allan Stuttard, 15th of the ninth 1934, that’s when I were born.

Where?

Todmorden, Todmorden.

Whereabouts in Tod?

A street called Gledhill Street, number sixteen. No blue plaque on it you know, no blue plaque!

What was that house like?

It was a terraced house, a terraced house – a living room, a very small kitchen… how many bedrooms? We’d have, oh we had two bedrooms and an attic – no bathroom, an outside toilet.

The room that you were in, your bedroom – what was that like?

Very small and it faced out onto the next street, there was a gap and it wouldn’t be very big – you could talk out of t’windows across, very close together but there was an alley. In fact the house opposite, it had a lighting answer, it had a reflecting glass to get the light down and in so they could see better; they must have had more money than us, we didn’t have one of them, we didn’t have one of them! [laughing] But it was just an alley at the back and you had to use t’back door to come in. Flagged floor, it would have a small – the kitchen part would have a small coal fire and it had a mangle, me mother had a mangle and it converted into a table, we used to eat off that and there’d be me and me brother – I can’t remember much about that – we must have shared a bedroom for a while because my elder brother had the attic so me mum and dad had the front two, they had the front bedroom, me and me brother had the back bedroom and it wasn’t very big, and then me older brother had it but then when he went away, he were in the war, I think I got the attic bedroom and so… until me brother went in the navy, three of us in a two bedroomed house, well two bedrooms and an attic.
The front room had a old black…you know, a range where they cooked on for a long while and then they eventually chucked that out and put a tiled one in, I know we had to pay more rent then – I can only vaguely remember that, I know we had to pay rent. The rent man used to come out every Friday, we had a rent man. It was near a factory but I don’t think anybody worked in t’factory there – I mean the street had a…it had a corner shop and a chip shop. There was a policeman’s house at one end – we had a sergeant and the Labour Exchange was on the back of the street, and at the bottom there was a Weaver’s Institute, that were a place where they…like it said, Weaver’s Institute…’cos Todmorden were a cotton town and they had a dance hall, a snooker hall and their offices and one thing and another so it was quite a busy street, it was a good street to live on. You didn’t need to go anywhere; you could get everything you wanted. Oh there was a Co-op at ‘top end an’ all with a butcher’s and a proper store that sold everything, that were just right at the end. They were all very small houses but nearly everybody had kids.

Did you get on with your neighbours?

I can’t remember any fall-outs I must admit, no I don’t think we did. All t’kids played together and played on t’street really because there were no cars – there were no cars in them days. The only guy that had a car on our street as I remember – at t’top end it were a little bit better off, there were some bigger houses at t’end and I think I can remember a guy having a car because he used to take us to football but that were later on when I’d be a teenager, so that would be after t’war – 1940’s that, before cars started you know. I can remember them coming round – the fishmonger with his horse and cart, and milk were delivered to t’end of t‘street in a tap and you used to go out with a jug – hey I’m not so old as you think, you know – this is only when I were a kid!
I lived in there till I went in t’army; me mum and dad, I don’t know where they lived before – oh I do know, they lived somewhere else before but before both me and my brother were born on Gledhill Street, my older brother was born somewhere else but he was a lot older than me, my older brother was ten years older than me so I never really…how old would I be? I’d be ten, no only nine when he went in t’navy so then you see I weren’t brought up with my older brother, only my younger brother. We lead different lives but there were three of us – most people had two kids or three kids.

What did your parents do?

Well my mother only worked part-time when I knew her but originally she worked in a cotton factory weaving and as far as I can remember she used to..when we were little, her and me father’s sister shared looms in a factory. One of them would look after t’kids and th’other would go out to work two and a half days a week and then the other one would work, they’d have t’Lancashire loom maybe five or six, I don’t know – I never went in – I did go in, but they actually did what they call now work share, they actually did it and they worked, but they worked from early in a morning and then they’d share looking after t’kids till we went to school you see and then later on my mother, when t’cotton industry died out, she worked part-time in a shop when we were older but I never really remember her – she were always at home – I remember her always being there – she were always there to make ‘tea, so she really had to work as well.
My dad, he worked in a clothing factory, he were a warehouse man and he worked in Todmorden as well and he worked there all his life, fifty-odd years.

Which one did he work at?

He worked for Redman Brothers’ factory in Todmorden.

Which weaving shed was your Mum in?

I honestly can’t remember what it were called– I can remember going in the odd time, but I can’t remember…

Can you remember what it was like inside?

Oh bloody awful! It were noisy – I know what a weaving shed were like because I actually worked with a firm that had one, but I mean in those days it was horrendous – it was just noisy and I can remember it being full of dust in t’air and that, but we weren’t allowed to go in much, we weren’t allowed to go in, but I can remember t’odd times going in, maybe a couple of times I remember going in – I’d be very young. When I were old enough, when I was going to school at eleven or twelve my mother came out of it and worked in a shop so I really can’t remember much about it.
I can remember going to my dad’s factory because it were a bit different – he were a foreman or a manager and so you could go and see your dad then, and that was much more pleasant, well it wasn’t pleasant ‘cos it was a machine room where they made clothes but the warehouse part was fairly quiet and cleaner, if you can be clean in a factory [laughing].

Can you remember anything about your grandparents?

Not my father’s parents because they were both dead; I can’t remember…my grandparents on my mother’s side, they lived in Todmorden and I used to have to go every Saturday morning to see if they wanted any errands; I can remember that – I got sixpence. They lived there till me mother’s family…one of her sisters lived in Liverpool and the other lived in….they both went…two of her sisters went living in Blackpool, and eventually my grandparents moved there – my mother’s parents – and they both died in Blackpool but they lived to a ripe old age.
My maternal grandfather was one of the first people in Todmorden to have a van. He were a butcher and he’d a fair lot of money, and he had some queer idea that he were gonna to die young, so in those days…he retired at…I think he were sixty and he sold his shop, well he didn’t sell his shop, he gave it to his eldest son who was a bit of a scallywag I think, my mother said. With wine women and song he ran it down so from being a fairly – he’d be a fairly wealthy butcher with a van – I’ve got a picture of him with a van – the money had all gone; my grandfather as I say retired very early, I think sixty but it might have been a bit later, and he lived till he were eighty-odd, he lived to a ripe old age, I can’t just remember when but I remember going to see my grandmother in Blackpool when she were dieing and she lived to a ripe old age, I can’t remember which died first now but I can remember I were married so it must have been…I just can’t remember, but they both lived to a ripe old age but I think my grandfather dropped down dead in Blackpool so I never saw him, but it was customary then you went to see your grandmother on her death bed – I can remember going into t’bedroom and I think my wife were pregnant with my eldest child, so she did live a long while, both of them, but I can’t remember which died first.

When you were any age from five up to fifteen really, what kind of things did you play at, what games did you play, what toys did you have, that sort of thing?

From five…we didn’t have a right lot of toys, we were poor but honest, but happy, that’s what they say, poor but happy…I know we had a Hornby electric train, no a clockwork wind-up and we couldn’t have a lot of toys because there was nowhere to put ‘em. I were always interested in sport I can remember because my dad were very interested in cricket, that’s why I got involved in it later on, but we used to play out a lot, this would be during the war wouldn’t it? When t’war started, I would be only five or six wouldn’t I? And we used to go to school, come home, have us tea and play out because we were on double summer time, that’s why I think people used to say t’summers were long and good weather, it were light till ten o’clock at night, but you could play out. We used to play out – I had some roller skates, some with ball bearings, some without and I can remember having a bicycle. One of our favourite things..we used to get up to mischief one of the favourite games was on roller skates, skating down t’street because they all had a coal grate hadn’t they in front and it made a noise but you were away before…
I can remember I had a bike but I’d be twelve or thirteen before I got a bike, I mean my mother and father never had a lot of money but we were never…we always had holidays. I can’t remember much about ‘em but we used to go to Blackpool or Morecambe or occasionally Scarborough, but during the war we didn’t have many holidays, but day trips. They used to take their own food you know and t’landlady would cook it for them so we used to set off with…If you couldn’t afford a proper boarding house you know where the lady made your meals, you could go and take your food or buy it there and you’d take it back and she’d cook it for you you know which is a strange arrangement but I can’t remember much about that and I don’t think they did it often because we were fortunate that my mum’s sister lived in Blackpool and we used to go there for us holidays – they had a market garden and we used to go into Blackpool, and then also had some more relations who lived in Morecambe who had a boarding house and we used to go there at a special rate, so most of our holidays…we went to me aunty’s in Blackpool and they’d share t’cooking or we’d go to Morecambe to her cousin’s and there were two of them – one were up north at Morecambe and the other were at t’other end, and we’d alternate between them and we’d go on a coach to Blackpool, so basically our holidays we didn’t go in proper boarding houses but they were related so we got special rates! I think we once went to Scarborough – Scarborough were a big adventure then, but we didn’t have many holidays because during t’war you didn’t go on holiday you see as much did you – well you wouldn’t do would you?
I can’t remember much about t’war, I know it never seemed to bother me that me brother was at D-day and I can’t remember – you know it didn’t seem real to us kids, you know – whether us mother and father kept us away from it and that fact that I’d be…a ten years gap between me and me brother. I can’t ever remember thinking ‘oh me brother’s gone…he’ll be killed’ I never thought about that, but he went over on D-day and obviously my mother would be worried but I can’t ever remember her [incomp]. I’ll tell you what she did do, we used to go to t’pictures a lot ‘cos in Todmorden there were three cinemas you know– t’Hippodrome, t’Olympia and t’Gem but that were in Cornholme and they used to change…there were Monday Tuesday Wednesday, Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturdays and there were sort of like two films a week, so theoretically you could go to t’pictures every night and see a different film couldn’t you, but we used to go to t’pictures in winter the most and there used to be Saturday matinees and one thing – I forgot about this – we used to go round collecting waste paper and you took it to a certain place in Todmorden, and they’d give you – if you had enough they’d weigh it and they’d give you afree cinema ticket, I remember that. We used to collect jam jars ‘cos there were a ha’penny on them and take ‘em back, like recycling – we used to recycle you see, nothing’s new is it? I can remember another thing – it’s flooding back here – coal were at a premium and you could buy coke from the gasworks because they had their own gasworks in Todmorden and the coke were useless when they’d extracted whatever and we used to go down on a Saturday morning with a wheelbarrow and get a bag of coke and wheel it back home, and that would be a couple of miles – me dad I mean, not me – I’d be too young, but I can remember going with him and you could get…I forgot about that. What else did we do? We did some daft stuff.
Play on the park in the summer! You see nobody locked their doors or owt like that you know, there were no sort of – obviously there were crime but you didn’t know about it because you didn’t have televisions so you didn’t know what were going on.
I can remember t’evacuees coming and they knocking on t’doors ‘will you take any kids?’ and my mother saying ‘I’ve got two of my own.’ If you had two, you didn’t have to take one. I have a feeling that it was obligatory – I don’t think you could refuse but I don’t know.
I can remember…they had British restaurants an’ all – we used to go for a meal there once a week.
I went to school at five, I went to Roomfield School up to being…

Can you remember any of your teachers?

I remember getting caned once at Roomfield School but I can’t remember what I did. Yes I can remember – one of the teachers was a slight relation so I remember him and I came across him later on in life, he had a shop in Hebden Bridge when he retired. He was t’Headmaster at Roomfield School.
I started off at a school called t’National School which was a church school and for some reason, I can’t remember, I only went for one year and then I moved, and I think that’s ‘cos I didn’t like or something, I don’t think I were excluded – they didn’t do such things, but I don’t think I were naughty or owt like that but for some reason I moved to Roomfield and I stopped there until I was eleven, I took my Eleven Plus, then I went to Todmorden Grammar School – I passed my Eleven Plus, and that was my only achievement because in those days you either went there or you went to Roomfield School which then eventually became…it changed, that was a Secondary School and I think it would have been better if I went there because Grammar School was…if you were clever you did okay and if you weren’t you did tend to get…it were a good school but I’m a big believer now in comprehensive education. [laughing] A lot of it were my own fault – I were lazy, I wasn’t very good at school. I did okay at t’beginning then I got fed up so I left before I took any qualifications which was very rare in those days, but they didn’t want failures I think so when I were fifteen and I said I wanted to leave, my mum and dad….I talked them into it and I didn’t stop on so I left without any formal qualifications.

What did you do?

I went to work…I followed my dad and went to work in t’clothing industry, that’s when I went to Hebden Bridge when I were fifteen I started in 1950 I started in January, I must have started work straight after Christmas, 1950.

Which one did you work in?

I worked for Redman Brothers at Foster Mill, I worked there till it shut down.

What job did you have?

Well I started off…’cos I didn’t know what to do…basically, what you did, you followed your dad didn’t you, you did what your dad did and I honestly didn’t know what to do; I was more interested in playing cricket and I wanted to be a cricketer but that didn’t materialise but I suppose in desperation he must have said to t’bosses ‘can you find my lad a job?’ and at that time not many people…it was just right at the beginning – I don’t think they saw it then but this must have been the beginning of the end, that’s Winston Churchill isn’t it? But yes…I went in and there wasn’t such a thing as an apprentice – you weren’t an apprentice but you were training, there weren’t like at the end of it….but I had to go to night school and I went to night school in Hebden Bridge…you weren’t compelled to go but they’d like you to go and so I went to night school. I started off training as a cutter, and basically you were a mug – dinner boy, whatever, but when I came to Hebden Bridge, you can imagine Todmorden was a dieing cotton town but there were still lots of mills but a lot of people in Todmorden worked in Hebden Bridge; nobody had a car, everybody came on the bus and the buses were every ten minutes from Todmorden – workman’s specials – and you had a workman’s ticket, they were less money, I can’t remember what I were. I’ve got a ticket somewhere. It used to be amazing, I can remember everybody had…when you got on t’bus, everybody used to catch the same bus in a morning, like everybody on that bus unless they were late or they’d gone in early, like on a double decker bus, you’d know everybody on it and you had your own seat – you had your own seat and they’d all buy their paper and they’d all be reading t’paper, and woe betide if you interrupted ‘em, but I don’t think I’d never been to Hebden Bridge – I never had an interview, my dad got me a job and he said ‘you’ve to report’… I can never remember having an interview, I can just imagine him saying ‘I’ve worked here all me life – can you find my lad a job?’ It must have been like that because I never ever saw anybody to tell me what t’job were or anything; I’m gunna be a cutter because they must have had a cutting room at Todmorden at some stage, but…

What did a cutter do?

Well…a cutter…well, there were all kinds of jobs, I mean obviously it was what they would call then, it would be fairly…what did a cutter do? That’s a difficult question – they cut clothes out didn’t they, but they weren’t sort of cutting things out with scissors – there were special cutters but mainly it was all done by machinery. They had band saws – they had converted band saws and basically they’d all been made at Pickles’s at Mytholmroyd which made woodworking machinery, so they had these band saws which were just two big wheels with a strip of steel between ‘em, which were sharpened at one side, facing the cutter.
There’d be a guy…the cloth would come in big reels and they’d lay it up in layers till it was about…whatever thickness they thought they could cut depending on what – if it were duffle coat stuff they wouldn’t cut as many out would they because it would be difficult and it were thin stuff they’d cut more. The skilled man would lay the patterns out on the cloth and they’d draw round it, mark it all out, and then they’d cut round it with a – oh they’d cut it into sections with an electric hand knife, into sections; the skill was in putting the patterns out so they could use the least amount of cloth, well at Redman Brothers when I went there, they’d already started – one guy did that and they made a copy – he’d lay it out in a room on a piece of paper, full size, and he’d draw round it with a pencil, right? and so he’d have maybe about twenty garments – several garments maybe three or four yards long in them days, they went longer and longer as time went on, but maybe three or four yards long and it would have maybe four or five different sizes of trousers on it, all with the little bits and he’d draw it out on a piece of paper, full size, in pencil.
Then a girl had a machine with a blunt needle and then she’d machine all t’way round these lines with perforated holes in them, then they’d be roll it up into a ball and there would a thing that said five sizes twenty eights to thirty fours, this style and that, and then t’cutter would get it out of a rack – there were racks all over with these rolls in, then they’d roll it out after they’d pulled the cloth – it would say how long it were, they’d lay this cloth up till it were so long and then they had a…it were like a pad full of chalk – no Health and Safety – and they’d waft this chalk all over and then rub it on, then when they took it off t’perforations they could see it on t’cloth, then they’d mark in the important bits because it blew off so they’d mark in the important bits, then they’d chop it up into handy lumps and then they’d move that to this band knife and the cutter would then cut it – that was a skilled job and dangerous, fingers cut off and all sorts. Hebden Bridge were unique in the fact that all their blades faced the cutter; they had a guard on and the guard was supposed to come down to the level of the cloth but it was hard to see so they never used t’guard, so it were very dangerous.
Now in Leeds they used a similar machine, well some of them had three wheels, but their blade faced away from the knifeman because they said it were safer, but it wasn’t; there was a big argument because in Hebden Bridge and I think they were right, if you cut yourself – because they used to get their hands really good – if you cut yourself you pull away so you only lost a little finger, but in Leeds or away if you were pulling and you’d cut yourself [Allan demonstrated] even more – that were the theory behind it. When people used to come working in Hebden Bridge and they’d been trained in Leeds, they had to re-train. At a very early age – now this is where I realised I were cleverer than the grammar school thought – I realised that were too dangerous so when they were training me to cut I made sure I were a bad ‘un, so I were never ever a band knife cutter – you see, I learnt something!
Going back to coming on buses, the first morning I can remember it were bloody chucking it down, dark, and I walked on and to walk from t’bus – buses used to come in every ten minutes – ‘cos I didn’t know anybody then you see and there were nobody on t’bus I knew and so I had to walk – I’d never been to Foster Mill – I knew where it were vaguely, so I had to walk all t’way along, it would be past this mill, and I must have passed when I think about it, how many clothing factories – there were Astins, and this one were Hartleys, there were several around here, in fact there’s some houses down there converted out of Regent Works isn’t there; I worked there an’ all – and then there were three or four more factories and then of course on your right hand side walking along there was the famous Nutclough Mill, I walked past that – can you imagine, it was raining and I’m thinking ‘what have I let myself in for?’ you know I was frightened to death and I walked on, then I came to Ormerod Shapers which were a big un and then the first thing I saw was Foster Mill Chapel, Foster Lane Chapel which I found out later that all the girls used to have to go there years ago, they had to go…they got better jobs if they went to Foster Lane, obviously they built this from – I mean I scan remember one of the bosses who ran it and they all went to chapel and it’s long gone now, then I came across this factory which was two storey on one side, a gantry across the road and this big enormous mill with a single storey and then I think it were about six or seven storeys high and I had to go up this side road to report to….I had to ask where t’cutting room door was – no sort of ‘come later’ – I’d to be there…I think it was about seven o’clock or whatever – I think a civilised time like half past seven, I can’t remember what time we started, and I always remember they said I had to report to a Mr Greenwood, now that is bloody funny isn’t it? I didn’t know, because you see I had no idea that everybody in Hebden Bridge were called Greenwood or Sutcliffe, so you go in and say ‘where’s Mr Greenwood?’ you could see them rolling about and taking the mickey you know! I always remember they said ‘oh you’ve got to report to him – he’s working in t’cloisters’ you see, now I’m there, Mr Greenwood – everybody’s called Mr Greenwood.,..’I’m not the right Mr Greenwood’ and they all had by-names – I worked with people called Greenwood and never knew they were called Greenwood because of their by-names. Sam o’ Grange was Sam Greenwood from Grange Farm – Sam o’Grange – Dick Pitt was Dick Greenwood from Pitt Street, whatever you know.
So I finally found, after about an hour of wandering round this factory which was enormous, Mr Greenwood in the cloisters and it took me years to find out why they called it cloisters, because it were t’cloistered toilet, t’cloistered offices and cloistered everywhere else you know! And that were my…. And then I’d to report to t’boss and some of the jobs I had…you were just a mug…I used to do t’dinners, I used to sweep up and I could imagine that there’d be a special cutter and I thought ‘that must be the skilled…’ because he used to cut all the special measures out and they made a lot of stuff.
My first introduction, they learn you lay the cloth up you see, and you weren’t allowed to handle patterns ‘cos some cutters were able to lay their own patterns out; they got the most money you see, and then this guy who were drawing all the drawings out, he was called the laymaker, they called ‘em lays. Later on they used big photocopies and eventually that was my job, a very important job – cloth utilisation, saving the cloth. They used to…when you think about it, ‘cos cloth would be the most expensive part of the thing, cloth came in doubled – it used to come in, and it would be twenty seven to twenty eight inches wide, fifty six or whatever but it were doubled and it didn’t come in big rolls, they came in double rolls and they’d be cuttled up, they weren’t on rollers – we’re talking ancient here – but the skill was getting the most out. A guy – they’d make this marker twenty eight inches wide and the cloth, it would come in without a selvedge on so it might only be twenty seven and a half and this guy making the markers, he’d set off and he’d make a mark – they’d say ‘well we want a twenty eight to a thirty six in that style’ and he’d make a mark at twenty seven, twenty seven and a quarter, twenty seven and a half, twenty seven and three quarters, twenty eight, and twenty eight and a half in case it were bigger, and the cutter had to pick out – and woe betide him if somebody’s coming round and using a twenty seven inch lay on a twenty eight and a half inch cloth. At t’end, the skill was in laying it up so there was no waste at the end because if they double it, there’s always a bit of waste – sometimes they’d cut it off to make…there were all kinds of ways and they used to…in every style there would be hundreds of markers, everywhere you went – it must have been a very time-consuming business. You’d think… in a marker four yards long they might save half an inch but you see they would say that was a lot of cloth. Throughout my working life one of my jobs became cloth utilisation but it got more sophisticated; they found out it was more economical if they opened the cloth out and then they got like fifty four inches and they hadn’t got the double waste you see, so all cloth in later…and I’m talking ten years later, all cloth used to start coming in sixty inches wide or fifty four on rolls, easier to handle and it took less space up.
But the cutting room then was on… I can’t remember how many men they had, there would be about thirty cutters in Redman’s cutting room, one of t’biggest, it were on t’top floor; the cloth was on the floors above – they used to bring it in on a wagon, crane it up and then the cutter would work how much cloth he wanted and a piece wares man would fetch him six pieces down – they had a lift and everything you know to fetch it down, but as I say my first job I were t’muggin.
One thing that used to amuse me was, I never thought about it at t’time – they had a dam where they want to build those controversial houses now you know, and this dam it used to run out of water and it used to work th’engines, well about four o’clock when it ran out of water they had to switch from their own power – they had two engines, they’d be run off diesel I think – no, they had a diesel engine but they didn’t work it – it worked off hydro power you know, I can’t remember what they called it, but it went through a sluice gate and it worked a machine…it were called Ebenezer were one…and t’other were Richard, but it ran t’factory, but as t’water ran down, t’lights would go so they had a big switch on t’wall and they used to switch over on to t’national grid. So my job at about four o’clock would be to switch over and it were a skilled job that you see, you had to switch the direct current off and go on to alternating current and half of t’bulbs in t’factory used to blow so it was my job from four to five going putting all t’bulbs in but they didn’t stop – they’d be working and these bulbs would pop, and lots of times these knives which were dangerous in the first place, they used to sharpen them with a stone and the skill was knowing before it broke, and then when it broke they used to…they had a guard on but they used to shatter, and t’cutters would be going on and they just shrugged their shoulders and then changed it, but it was a horrendous noise because the guard that it were on, this big wheel thing, some of ‘em were tin – there were like glass panels so you could see ‘em but some of ‘em it would be a tin front and it rattled [incomp] and the electric knives, they’d never get away with them today, they were like a blade that went up and down like that so if you got your finger in them it mashed it…it were dangerous – and they had hand knives – knives about this long and they worked in teams – once they’d cut it out, I know we’re jumping a bit here, but when they’d cut the cloth into parts, somebody had to put them together again so there were a guy that laid it up, they worked in teams and he have about a penny an hour more because he used to organise the team, the band knife cutter, the more skilled, he might not just have as much money, then there was a guy who took all the bits and he’d put them all together then there’d be another guy, who if they were coats, he would line them because we used to make jackets – a lining cutter – and he’d have his markers, but he had to…because when they cut ‘em out, and this was another cost-saving exercise that probably cost them a fortune, was to take all the bits and put ‘em on and when the guy were making his marker, if he couldn’t just get it in, what did he do – well, he’d take a bit off t’jacket you see so he might take a quarter of an inch off…you know like you have a cloth facing in a coat, well that were a standard width but if t’cloth went narrow he’d take a bit off that so that would make t’lining bigger, so the guy doing the lining, he had to put the facing on to it, mark it and he’d actually to make the lining fit the coat that they’d saved money on ‘cos the lining would be cheap you see – cheaper,, so it didn’t matter if you used more lining, and they’d have a tolerance but sometimes it used to make me laugh because the guy that were making the marks, he might have taken half an inch off t’skirt of t’jacket, he might have taken half an inch off t’facing, then this guy would come along and he’d have to make his lining bigger and he’d think ‘buggar that’ and he’d cut a bit more off t’facing, so you’d finish up…it would be hilarious sometimes…and also, if they were making a thirty eight jacket they might just take half an inch off, well that’s an inch isn’t it really? But they made thousands of jackets.
Redmans made all sorts. They’d have one cutter, he’d just be designated – he’d be an overall cutter ‘cos if he weren’t just as good as t’other he’d cut all t’overalls out and then the best ones would cut the…we used to make suits for mail order firms and if they were checked they had to match, now one guy were matching checks – that were a very skilled job, I can remember doing that and training how to learn. It were very complicated really but they’d sort of got it down to sort of where they could mass produce it, but there were still a little bit of skill in it you know, but the skill gradually went out of it and there’d be one skilled cutter and it were all done by photocopying and marking like that. But up to going into t’army, I were just a dinner lad.
I used to make more money going out for t’dinners because round Foster Mill there was a chip shop, Suther’s shop and Stansfield’s shop – they were both general stores but they made dinners, pies. Stansfield’s only made them on a Friday and they only made pie & peas, but Suther’s made a range; he’d do steak pudding and peas and mashed potatoes, he’d do pie and peas, he didn’t do chips – the chip shops did chips, but on a Sunday he’d do a roast dinner and at Christmas he’d do a Christmas dinner. You can imagine these factories – he was making a lot of dinners for [incomp] and they used to give you commission for going to their shop you see, and t’fish shop used to give you…I can’t remember, I think it were so much in t’shilling or so much in t’pound and I could make more money because I were getting this on t’side for my pocket money, so I were all right. I used to be able to cheat a bit – if t’pies were fourpence ha’penny you could charge fivepence but unfortunately one week I got found out because I were off for a day when t’pies went up to fivepence from fourpence ha’penny and t’guy told ‘em, and they said ‘we’ve been paying fivepence for t’last six months’ so I were in trouble! But until…for a long while they didn’t have a canteen, but then eventually Redmans had a canteen, they got more and more modernised. I went in they were just starting to modernise.
I went in t’army when I were eighteen; you could defer if you were doing an apprenticeship but I was just a trainee and night school was a bit ad hoc, although I learnt to tailor, I learnt how to do hand button holes which is something which came in very handy to change light bulbs – I never ever did a hand button hole in my life. [laughing] Then I went in t’army you see for two years, fully intending never to come back. But the grass isn’t always greener is it, so I came back and then I realised, when I came out of the army, I realised I were going to have to do something. They’d got better organised and they wanted me to go to Leeds college and I went on a City and Guilds course there when I came out of t’army, well I were getting married an’ all so while I were engaged and all that I think I still went, yes right until after I was married I went to Leeds, I went on day release; I went through the day, but one of the conditions that they let me off for a day to go to college, I had to go two nights to Leeds and I did that even after I were married because I’d not really taken it seriously before I’d gone into t‘army it were harder – I went for four years, but I finished up, I got the City and Guilds in Tailoring, I got City and Guilds in Clothing Manufacture and then they brought out…they obviously wanted more management skills; they had a full Technological Certificate and I took that and I went right through, I think that took me about five years – I’ve still got them on my wall in t’attic. They don’t mean a right lot, but yes… I stayed in t’clothing industry all my life until sort of Redman Brothers expanded and I were a bit lucky because when I went in, there were nobody going into it – I had no rivals for promotion really, it were either me or anybody else, there weren’t many and so I did okay.
When I got trained I went round and I worked in…they moved me out of cutting, I went to train – in brackets – to be a manager, now I didn’t really want to be a manager but I were on this training course and I went working at Mytholmroyd, they had a manager there and they used to just manufacture so Redmans, they had the cutting room at Foster Mill where they manufactured all the coats, and then they had the Mytholmroyd that made all the trousers, they had a factory at Cragg Vale that made the industrial trousers and the Todmorden – they made trousers as well, then they had a factory in Sheffield that made duffle coats, donkey jackets, workwear and they did expand – they had another firm in Sheffield which ran as a separate thing and one in Scunthorpe so they got quite big, and one in Rotherham – this was over a period of twenty years.
I sort of did the management bit and I think they realised my heart weren’t in this, I were a bit too soft – it were alright working with t’girls and all that, but eventually when they modernised the Todmorden factory they all went into – there were no piece work when I started work, t’girls made through and gradually, ‘cos I didn’t deal with that side of it, although I had to know how they made stuff, gradually all the factories got into section work from making through and t’Todmorden factory were t’first that they modernised and they revolutionised cutting and all this, and they decided they were going to have one guy make the markers and…I’d shown a bit of a flair for pattern cutting and one thing and another, so after I’d done me training at Mytholmroyd they said would I like to go – the guy that did all this work, he were liked sixty odd and he couldn’t see this modern way of doing things, so they said would I…so I went and I were trained to make patterns which I could do – how to grade them into different sizes because this was what I’d trained for at Leeds college. I liked that, so they said would I like to be his assistant with a view to taking over which caused confusion because he already had an assistant but he were old you see, so there were a bit of resentment there – t’young lad coming in you know – young lad, I’d be about thirty at the time – but gradually when he retired I took over and it were modernised into…we tried all different kinds of ways – they came up with a terrific scheme where they were gonna to miniaturise all the patterns to scale and you’d make ‘em out and photograph ‘em and then they’d mark ‘em out and they had a big marker, but it failed and it cost ‘em a lot of money, it failed because there was different systems and they went for a system and it wasn’t very good, because you’d cut these miniature patterns out on a…Woolworths used to sell them for toys; you used to be able to draw round a drawing but it were in reverse and it drew it bigger somewhere else? Correct – well this one worked in reverse. Full size pattern, you drew round it and made it smaller, to scale, so the theory was that the bigger the marker the more saving there was because there was no folding and no ends were there you see, so that were the idea – ‘we’ll make markers ten yards long or five yards long, open ‘em out, save cloth and we’ll cut out maybe instead of cutting five sizes out at a time we’ll cut twenty sizes out at a time so thick –it’ll take half as long’ and the theory were great. So they started off…so we cut all these patterns off in miniature and luckily they tried it out before they bought the machine that did this. And plastic were quite expensive – what they didn’t realise was this thing that were cutting them out, as it went and lost its sharpness the scale was just slightly out, so that the miniature patterns it were slightly – so small you couldn’t see it but when they photographed it and you made it – they wouldn’t fit because they weren’t to scale. So we said ‘Well how do you know when t’needle’s gone, we’ve to change it?’…’well you’ve to change your needle before it does it’…’well how do you know?’…’when you find out you can’t make..’ [laughing] so that went for a burton and what they did was, they made these markers full size and we had a machine which photocopied, basically a bloody big photocopier, but it worked off ammonia – Health and Safety, it didn’t work! – the fumes were awful, we had to have extractors in, there were a level, but it were nothing like not like it would be today. It were a [incomp] machine, we bought it and this was we’re talking in the seventies and eighties. Eventually my sole purpose in life was to get as many pairs of trousers out of as little cloth, and to be honest I were good at it, I became very good at that because they used to come in and these firms would say ‘well if we do this we can save you…’ these people that were selling these miniature patterns at the time, I said ‘you can’t make them any better than we’re doing them’ because being a bit of a Luddite I’m thinking ‘I don’t like this method’ – I said ‘you’ll never better it…’ they used to say ‘we can save you some…’ and I’d say ‘you cannot save what we’re doing, I don’t believe it’ – we were still working on perforations then, but big perforations, before we went onto this photocopying; we’d realised we could make bigger lays, bigger markers, still perforating ‘em, oh it went on a long while with the powder and that, it went on a long long while – in fact I’ve given some of those to the Historical Society, I have some markers; I gave them all away with the photocopier to show the difference, and I’ve got photos of them as well if ever you need ‘em. I used to say this and these firms came in and they tried and they couldn’t save – they used to say they’d save you five per cent of cloth, well I used to say ‘that’s impossible’ and they never even saved one per cent, so they decided we’d go for this doing ‘em full size and photocopying ‘em to do away with the powder and it was more accurate.
Really, it’s hard to explain – as I say, you’d have to see ‘em, but I got quite good at that but then they decided…Redmans were expanding all the time and we were going into fashion wear like Beatle jackets, and they wanted to up-market so they decided to have a designer, so they fetched a designer in to work with me; he would design and I would make the patterns so my job became even more important really, because whereas I used to cut patterns out using the ones that they’d been using for hundreds of years and like if they wanted wider bottoms, I just made them wider and we were basically a pattern cutter and we used to alter patterns, and I would say that they had one basic pattern and they made everything of it. We made ‘em bigger, smaller, tighter – it didn’t matter but this guy came in and he were very good, he were very good but he were obviously more expensive. After a few years we got that we worked together very well; he taught me a lot of stuff. When he left they realised, or they thought I could do what he did and basically I wasn’t sure and I said ‘I’m not right keen on this’ you see, and being a local manufacturer – I think they’re all gone now so I can say this – I think they thought ‘well, Allan will do it as well and he’ll be a lot cheaper’, I’m convinced of that!
I once remember…oh I’ll tell you that later….but Richard Redman’s still alive; if he sees this he’ll kill me, but I think they thought ‘well if he does it and it works, we’ll give him more money but if it doesn’t work we won’t’ so I did this job, and I did it for quite some time and to be honest I were still doing the other job besides and it got on top of me, my wife will tell you; I used to go home and I couldn’t sleep – I used to go to football matches and I were still designing jackets, so it got…at finish up I threw t’bloody keys at ‘em, I said ‘I’m not doing this’ and I think they realised that I could do the job but by this time I’d thrown it in, so what happened was – there was another guy there who’d worked in Leeds a long while and to be honest I’d worked in trousers that long, I knew I were very good at trousers, I could do trousers no problem – but jackets – I always had this thought in my mind ‘I’ve specialised in trousers so long I can’t’…and although I could do it, I hadn’t the confidence which is a bit strange for me because I thought I would have been, and this guy had come from Leeds and he had come in to manage the cutting room and they got together and they said ‘look, if he does the jackets and you do the trousers you can share the job so we gave it a go and it worked for a long while.
It depends how long you want to go on…eventually they expanded and they expanded and the firm were contracting, they started bringing in things from abroad you know, and gradually as it got worn down I think they were starting losing money. Foster Mill shut down, they stopped making jackets, they concentrated on trousers and when Foster Mill shut I worked there for a long while after it closed down as a manufacturing unit, they kept the cutting room there. They shut the Tod factory down later and they gradually shut them down slowly but Scarbottom kept going for a long while and then Todmorden shut, and I can’t just remember the sequence, I’d have to look at my books for that. Eventually Foster Mill then completely shut so we moved into Sutcliffe Melbourne which was the parent company, that’s where the Co-op is now, and they set up a cutting system there and it worked for quite a while because that was a big warehouse – all the garments they made in English fustian manufacturer went into Melbourne and they used to sell to shops you see, and when shops started contracting, instead of buying…they used to buy three or four pair of trousers they wouldn’t buy any but they were still selling to multiples and things like that, but it contracted and we got down and people got made redundant, and because I sort of could still do the jackets and trousers they kept me on so I finished up being the only person that could do the trousers and the markers so gradually as they contracted, I still kept my job.
It all went pear-shaped and they shut down in…I can’t remember what year, it was 1985 they finally went into administration, there was one part which was very commercially profitable which was the part that made all the school trousers for British Home Stores which was at Regent Works which is down the road there, which is now houses. That cutting room was still open and they decided that that one would shut, and somebody bought that part of it and I was redundant you see, and they said ‘if you want we’ll take you on’ and they selected a few cutters and they took that section and worked out of Sutcliffe-Melbourne and Scarbottom for a while, then there was a big flood that cut Scarbottom off if you remember, so they were gonna move to a factory in Mytholmroyd but it precipitated because they were cutting in Hebden Bridge and making the trousers at Mytholmroyd because they’d must have shut…yes, they’d shut Regent Works and there was a big flood and it whipped the bridge out and they built a pontoon bridge across; they thought it would never go on – it’s a long story that, I shouldn’t really talk about that – but then we finished up at Mytholmroyd which were Thomas Sutcliffe’s and within a year or so they were making twenty to thirty garments a week, and that went on till that contracted, so I worked in the clothing industry actually forty-eight years, and I said I’d never do that. We jumped a bit there didn’t we? We shouldn’t have done that.

Just one question about Foster Mill then – it had these six storeys. What happened on each floor – was it like a whole process?

Yes, I can’t remember…there probably weren’t six floors. Foster Mill itself…Foster Lane went straight through and Foster Mill was on the right, then the chapel was on the left and the offices was a long building which went down to where the chimney-stack is now. Then on the other side of the road was a single-storey weaving shed, no it were a two-storey weaving shed…then there were this big mill which went up and when you went in, you went up Windsor Road and into that off Windsor View. The cutting room was on the first floor as you went in…yes, and underneath was the top floor of the weaving shed and the weaving shed was right at the bottom so that’s one two three isn’t it, then on the floor above the cutting room was a piece warehouse which eventually became another cutting room, and then the floor above that was the warehouse. I think that’s right – that’s six floors isn’t it?
They had a lift – all the cloth came in from Windsor View because it were built into t’hillside weren’t it, it was a top and bottom factory, then the mill was below Windsor View. So they had the weaving which was Moss Brothers weaving which was all part of the same combine, then there was their offices and the room where they made all the patterns and on that same floor they had a joiner’s shop, then they had the cutting room and storage above.
Across the road was a gantry to get the work to the machine room where the offices were and that was two stories, then the machine room was a single storey on the end of it; all the girls worked in there and they were like battery hens. It were still belt driven when I went there. That floor also had…at the end was all the pressing equipment and the warehouse where they actually took out the clothes they actually made there and they made British Railway uniforms there, that was a uniform warehouse, then they had a warehouse where they despatched all the other clothes from, and pressing. And they had – oh it was double storey was the machine room because above that they had what they called a nursery where they trained all the girls to machine, and it eventually became the canteen but they didn’t have a canteen originally. So that was that…I jumped a bit there. That was…long and involved was that.
As a lad, they used to transport the work from the cutting room to the machine room in a truck and this truck would be about…I’m talking with me hands here – it were fairly big, and they used to put the work in it, and it was on a pulley and it were supposed to have a loading…they always used to overload it. It would be fairly long, it would be – how long’s that? About four foot by about three or four and three or four foot deep? No pictures of this, and it used to go down…they built a tunnel for it and it used to go over this gantry and then it used to go down a steep thing and it finished up at t’bottom, so it went like that – now then you could ride down on it you see if you were a lad couldn’t you – we used to fill it up and then they used to set it off and it had two chucks, all it had holding it back were two chucks and then this pulley were fastened on and it were checked every now and then I think, but sometimes it didn’t set off straight away, you used to have to press a button here and push it but if you didn’t push it hard enough it didn’t go; it would start, the rope would start to go so you’d give it a quick shove and t’first like two foot it would go willie nillie wouldn’t it, well occasionally it used to break – the moorings came off it so you stood well back and then it would go off on its own and it’s done that lots of times, but when it got to this part where it went over t’gantry it had a steep dip, well if it weren’t on t’pulley, ‘cos t’pulley held it back, if t’pulley were missing it would hit the wall and then it would knock t’partition down into t’office, then sometimes it would go…we used to ride down in it but we weren’t supposed to do that. Half way down there were like a shelf where they could get in to maintain it you see, or if it stuck, ‘cos it only went down slowly; we used to be able to get in there and hide for t’day, there were books in there, and that’s where you hid….they used to disappear for days you know, some people! [laughing] – not true; if you’re watching this Richard, we never did! Oh I used to be able to dodge, in fact if t’foreman hadn’t a job for me and he sent me somewhere else it would be an hour before I got there, because you used to have to go helping in other parts of t’factory. Can you imagine being fifteen year old and all them women – it were bloody murder for me!
But it were a good place to work – they used to have works outings you know, where did they go? It were…I can’t remember..I think they used to go to Blackpool for t’day, because they had a contract with British Rail…well it would be LNER.

[END OF TRACK 1]

About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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