Made in Lavenham

Made in Lavenham

Sunday, 30 March 2014

TV Adverts...

This Austin Metro TV Advert was filmed in Lavenham in 1980 and caused much excitement amongst the factory workers at the time…

I found this TV Advert on Youtube…” E.R. Holloway launched a big campaign for Evette in 1963 with leaflets distributed in-store and through magazines and radio advertising on Radio Caroline in an attempt to outdo Miners which was the fastest growing brand of the era. “…

Nail Polish...

These tiny bottles came along really fast and it was a challenge to get the caps on. I only recall working in the nail polish room on one occasion.

The Mill...

I never worked in The Mill, however, the following information comes from someone who did work there from late summer, 1983.

“I became a mould injection machinist with ‘top rate’ bonus. We pressed all the different combs here, along with the ‘form-ins’ that the Riverside works used in the gift sets etc. These form-ins were made on the vac former machines at the annexe to the mill. These were HUGE and gave off a lot of heat – lovely in winter, unbearable in summer. I recall it was 94 F outside, but a thermometer showed it was 135 F near the vac formers! Part of our duty as a ‘ top rate’ machinist was to train new operators of said machines. The mould injectors were awesome in size, and very long. There were 13 machines in all – but they avoided using the number ‘13’ by having a 12 a next to machine 12 . Only two girls (me and another girl) could keep up with the (then) ultra fast machine 6 which was often used to press coat hangers for Woolworths.

Some of the smaller maroon coloured cases were also pressed there, along with the ‘dreaded’ single eye shadow singles bases. These were done on the slowest machines. We used to moan and groan when rostered onto these machines. The single bases, I say were dreaded, as these had to be counted as you dropped them into a clear huge plastic sack – there were literally thousands in one bag. One day, a bag of these were on a table ready to be sealed. I came along and tripped on something, grabbed the bag as I was going over in panic,then they hit the floor with a wave of massive noise with me falling on top of them lying flat on the floor. Well !! I have never laughed so much in all my life … The cases were gold blocked ,at the opposite end of the Mill, with the ‘Evette’ brand on the clear plastic lids. A lovely old lady, used to operate the machines for this task.

I loved my time at the Mill – and the people who worked there. The Mill was shut down in the mid 80’s and the girls were sent back to Riverside.

I do believe the Mill was haunted! In times of old, it was a wool mill with looms etc. There were actually evidence of Victorian graffiti in the main doorway – i.e. names, initials and dates – very fascinating. The aforementioned ghost was said to be of a man who had issues with the mill owner many years ago. He was said to have hung himself in the annexe where the vac formers were – actually the fitters tool room to be exact. The girls did, indeed, have strange experiences on machine 13 (12a). This was the machine nearest the annexe – normally, the feeling of someone standing behind you whilst you worked was commonly experienced. I do believe they had a name for the ghost (never seen), but I cannot recall it. The atmosphere was certainly different and subdued in that area as opposed to elsewhere … a riot of laughter normally”.

Many thanks indeed to the lady who sent me all of this information.

Checking out historical records, the building was never actually a woollen mill – it was built in 1865 (alongside the maltings) as a steam driven corn mill – eventually replacing the windmills on Windmill Hill (Bury Road), but this should not detract from the stories about the hauntings as it WAS a mill (albeit corn, not wool).


There was the big barn building, made of rusty corrugated sheet metal where bottles and cardboard were stored. It was situated just off the car park outside the factory, and lorry trailers were parked out the front.

There was also a place called ‘the old barn’ which was further up the street, which had a preservation order on it. It was a few hundred years old so had no electricity and no lights inside for fire safety reasons. It was accessed by a ladder to get up to it as it was built a few feet off floor level, and was a bit creepy. It was pitch black inside and very low headroom and full of big spiders! Workers (men) had to grope about peering into the dark using the little bit of daylight they had. More boxes of bottles and stuff were stored in there and it was a bit of a pain getting it back to the factory as it all had to be carried back on a pallet truck down the road. (Many thanks to Simon Fisher for this information).

I’m reliably informed that the ‘tin shed’ is now at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket.

Accounts Department...

From an ex-worker who was there approximately 1979: “I did a two week stint at Holloways. I was in the ‘accounts’ department but it was a series of rows of desks with adding machines on – we had to add down the production sheets and cross cast them. I managed two whole weeks but hated every minute – a buzzer went and we were allowed to go to the canteen but I rarely did.”

Planning Office...

Here is a description of what happened in the Planning Office, courtesy of an ex-worker: “Basically we would received the orders that the sales and marketing team would get in and we would turn it into reality. So if Marks and Spencer wanted 5,000 cosmetic boxes by July this year we would plan how long this would take as obviously we would have to think about the time it would take to get the products made but also the time it took (lead time) to get the boxes, or mascara wands etc in too. Some things came from China etc so longer lead times.

There was a system we used called an MRP system which I believe a lot of companies still use today. Think this stood for manufacture resource planning. So if we planned to make the box in June to deliver in July it would then work out when all the eyeshadows or lipsticks etc had to be made up to be in time to make box, we would then stick this on our planning board and track things on a daily basis, so for a nice simple product like an Evette Eyeshadow lets say colour Thistledown, I think the line number was EC223TD!! We would most probably have the lids and bases in stock most of the time so we would just need to ensure the labels were produced and the eyeshadow itself was made up and pressed into a “godet” ready to put into the base. We would also need to make sure the outer boxes were in stock together with the outer labels. We would quite often have some base line products already lined up for when a line went down and these eyeshadows were easy to make up and could be put in most parts of the factory.”

Personnel Department...

For those of us who experienced a few issues while working at the factory, there was a ‘Personnel Department’ where you could discuss your problems. I don’t remember this being much more than a woman in an office simply making notes without offering much in the way of practical advice, but maybe others found it more useful. When I really needed help one time, the lady who was the older of the two managers at Riverside Works (bubble bath and shampoo section) was far more understanding.

Health and Safety...

There didn’t appear to be too much awareness of health and safety on the factory floor, you simply generally did as you were told and did not ask questions. However, after one young girl managed to cut her foot open on broken glass while wearing summer sandals, we were all given leaflets from a sturdy shoe manufacturer and were encouraged to buy a pair. In reality, these shoes were far too expensive for most of the workers and we just didn’t bother.

At one point I believe that the firm were fined for polluting the river after shampoo pallets accidently fell into the water (I expect there’s some information in the local newspaper archives regarding the matter).


Wages were notoriously poor, possibly on the grounds that the company were paying for transport to and from the premises every day. Occasionally overtime on a Saturday was on offer but even with the extra hours I never managed to make as much as £40 in any one week.

I remember that there was a points system whereby if a particular belt were to hit its target, everyone on the belt would gain a point, which translated into a bonus at the end of the week. Targets were set almost impossibly high. In any case, points only amounted to a few pence extra in your pay packet.

Works Canteen...

You had to pay for any teas/coffees/snacks or dinners you wanted in the canteen. I rarely had a hot meal as it was cheaper to bring sandwiches from home, although I do remember that I enjoyed eating the goulash when it was on the menu!

I vaguely recall that tea break was done in shifts, and that you barely had time to queue for your tea, pay for it and sit down before teabreak was over.

At the back of the canteen was the shop where you could purchase rejects for a small sum; 1p for a nail polish for example.

The canteen manager was Connie Lister.

Peggy the tea-lady used to go around the offices with teas and coffees mid-morning and (possibly) mid-afternoon.

Quality Control...

A mature woman with curly hair used to take samples of everything and check the quality. She sat at a small desk at the end of the main hall where the cosmetics bubble bath belts were.

Often, the plastic bottles were stored outside in the rain and there’d be insects inside them. There was no time to clean them while you were trying to get them filled so they simply went out with ‘wildlife’ inside them.

If baby oil bottles were left out in the rain, any water in the filled bottles would make the oil go ‘off’. We used to test these bottles by turning them upside down. Any water in there would then sink to the bottom as small bubbles.

Myself and another girl were once asked to go through a huge box of cosmetics which had been sent back from overseas due to quality issues. This task took several weeks to complete. We found that most of the lip glosses had been packed before they’d set and over half the contents would have failed quality control. (This particular task was done in the warehouse next to the aerosol factory).

Work at the factory was very labour-intensive and I do remember having to put an awful lot of sticky labels onto things by hand. These, obviously, all had to be as straight as you could physically get them, which wasn’t always as easy as it sounds. Myself and another girl once had the unenviable task of hand labelling boxes and boxes of perfume bottles, which may well have lasted several weeks. (This was done during a quiet period in the aerosol factory when the belts weren’t in operation).

Other Machinery...

There were turntables with half a dozen pre-formed moulds where we placed plastic containers (‘formings’?) to seal the cosmetics. Up to four girls would sit around this turntable and add the contents, and remove the filled plastic package. These machines were possibly called ‘Bubblers’.

Industrial staplers for boxes were very dangerous things to use. You had to hold the empty box flaps closed while pressing your foot on a hydraulic pedal, which shot a staple into the bottom of each box. I managed to get a staple through my thumb one day and was simply given an aspirin and was told to carry on working!

The factory bottled up nail Polish Remover and Meths. I did not work on those lines but you couldn’t help but smell them!

The clocking on/off machine – This was situated in the entrance to the main factory, just past the cloakroom. We would try to get to the machine as fast as we physically could as the queue was long and the buses simply would not wait.

I remember regularly being sent to get sticky labels. There was a machine in a section adjacent to the factory floor at Riverside Works where there was a chap in a wheelchair called Robert who operated the machine and who would make sure you had the correct labels for each job. We’d have to fetch these printed reels of labels and then sit there laboriously sticking them onto endless little grey boxes, all by hand.

I recall we were only allowed to have the radio on (via a tannoy) from 10am until 2pm. Somebody said it was to do with licensing. I vaguely recall it was Radio One, and one of the songs which sticks in my mind is Up The Junction by Squeeze (it seemed to be played almost daily).


This was a health and safety nightmare. Opening the churns of superglue, the fumes could easily knock you off your feet. Eventually they made a rule stating that pregnant women did not have to work on superglue as there were concerns regarding the fumes and the unborn babies. To avoid getting your fingers stuck together you would spray silicone on your hands and then cover them in glue and let it dry. This formed bizarre glue gloves, so that if your fingers did stick together you wouldn’t pull your skin off trying to part them.


I remember spending a day (or possibly longer) sitting at a table putting caps with brushes fixed in them into the filled mascara tubes. We had a pile of grey, cardboard boxes which were just big enough for a single mascara. These were flat when they arrived and it was quite a fiddly job to manipulate them into box/tube shapes and then fold the little end flaps in without mangling them up or tearing them.

I’ve found a great photo of ladies filling mascara tubes here:

“Holloways of Lavenham Cosmetic Manufacture no high tech machinery here Eileen Pryke filling tubes of Evette Mascara destination Woolworth while her friend screws on the tops probably mid to late 80s copyright E Pryke”

Eye Shadow / Face Powder / Blusher…

Eye shadows would arrive in small but heavy boxes. The coloured powder had been pressed into tiny tins  (thank you to Andy Bowes for telling me that the small metal trays that the powder was pressed into were called “godets” -pronounced “go-days”), and there was tissue paper between each layer to protect the delicate pressed powder. We’d take a powder from the box and carefully insert it into a pre-formed plastic tray. I think we used a flat hand tool to push them in firmly without damaging them. These plastic trays would then be inserted into hard plastic cases. Sometimes, the eye shadows would go straight into the cases (if memory serves me right). There were individual eye shadows as well as sets with several shades in (I think there were larger sets which we put together before Christmas, I remember some with black outer cases which were quite big with several individual eye shadows in them). I assume some had applicators or brushes which we also put into the cases, but I don’t actually remember those. I’m assuming that the face powders and blushers were handled in the same way. You had to concentrate or you’d crack the powder or accidently stick your finger nail into it. The supervisor in the eyeshadow room was a lady called Shirley Lister.

As far as I’m aware, powder compacts were made in a similar way.

Two photos of powder refills (Sweetly Fair).

Here are 3 photos of a 1960s Evette Powder compact.

3 more photos of a powder compact (from ebay) - 1960s

Evette Vintage Powder Compact
found on Ebay (below)

EVETTE -Dream Touch Cream Powder -  Cameo Beige (From Ebay)

Found on Ebay

From Facebook: “For a few months in my teens, I used to work in the powder room where we actually pressed the loose powder into the tiny tins. It was a nightmare, went home brightly coloured every day on the Holloway’s bus!  If the powder we pressed was cracked or too hard it had to be thrown away. One of the perks was being able to buy really cheap make up from the factory shop.”

Poster for Evette Blushers at Woolworths.

Below are two Evette Powder Eye Shadows:  White Mist and Opal Fire.

Here’s another eyeshadow. Colour: slate.

This one is called Sapphire Mist.

Below is:

Evette Powder Shadows “Lucky Clovers”.  E371.

Below is Evette Powder Rouge: Pink Whisper: E224

The Medicentre...

The Medicentre was a new innovation adjacent to the cosmetics factory, and housed a range of approximately 30 herbal products such as ‘passiflora herbal tranquilisers’ and diahorrea tablets. As you went into the Medicentre from the main factory floor at Riverside works, to the left was a small office in which there were various testing machines for the tablets (the manager was a qualified chemist-type person). The small room adjacent to the office was the quarrantine area where the boxes of tablets were stored for 30 days (maybe longer) before they could be taken to the packing area.

In front of the office was a seperate room within the Medicentre which housed the machinery for filling the pots with the tablets. There was a stainless steel filling machine which measured out the correct number of tablets. A filler would hold a plastic pot underneath and the pot would be filled, then placed onto a very short conveyer belt to a cotton wool machine. A length of cotton wool would then be pushed into the top of the pot before someone else snapped on a lid. All the labels had to be put on by hand, which was far from easy.

A shrink wrap machine, which was situated near the entrance doors to the Medicentre, was used to make multi-packs and these would be boxed up and sent elsewhere as ‘orders’.

Only a few of us worked in there. I liked the fact I got to wear a white coat, despite not being a supervisor, which meant that nobody rushed you to finish your tea in the canteen. The filling machines had to cleaned down with surgical spirit after every use to avoid any cross-contamination. At the back of the Medicentre, behind the filling room, was the warehouse area where all of the orders were made up. There were tall racks of boxes all filled up with multi-packs of tablets in their plastic wrappers. I remember when I first worked in there, Christopher Holloway came down a few times to help me. When the packs of tablets had all been put into cardboard boxes, labelled and loaded onto pallets, the orders would be taken through the back doors. This was where fork lift trucks would move them around and presumably eventually load them into lorries.

I remember the manager was called Richard (he was in a band in his spare time!), and the supervisor’s name was Janet.

This video shows someone using a manual shrink wrap machine, similar to the one we used in the Medicentre (and in other places in the factory)…

Lip Gloss...

There were black, heated cauldrons over a short conveyor belt where lipsticks/glosses were poured into plastic moulds underneath by turning a tiny lever. You had to light a match under the spout to get the liquid flowing, which often resulted in burnt fingers. It was all too easy to pour too much into these moulds and make a mess (obviously, this was frowned upon).

One day, one of the older ladies threw what she thought was a spent match into a box behind her, only for it to burst into flames! (It was full of tissue paper).

The actual lip sticks were made elsewhere in the building and I did not get to work with those. An ex worker, who was there during the long, hot summer of 1976, told me “I worked in the lipstick room, which was a source of envy as only a few people worked in it and it was comparatively calm and cool. I remember my co-workers in there: Shirley and Beryl (sisters), I think Shirley was a supervisor, a woman called Winnie and a nice friendly girl called Lynn who was a few years older than me.” She also told me “Off the lipstick room was a mixing room containing vats of sludgy lipstick which a man called Gordon Hardy (who I think was in the Salvation Army, he was always singing hymns) would decant into buckets to be poured into our black pots (‘cauldrons’ you called them, an apt description) for us to heat to the required temp then pour the liquid into the moulds underneath – you had to get it to the exact temp and pour it at a steady speed to avoid it being full of air bubbles or other imperfections. Then they would set and after turning a handle at the side the mould would lift out with all the lipsticks in their cases. After being checked for imperfections of bubbles, irregular colour or cold marks they were sprayed with silicone and went off to be packed. I used to take samples to the lab for colour-checking; I quite enjoyed doing that and seeing glimpses of behind the scenes parts of the business. “

She had previously worked on the shampoo / bubble bath belts and commented:  ”I remember also a woman manager/supervisor in the main factory called Cynthia and a man called Alf, one of the few men there.”

She continued, “Because I had a few O levels there were attempts to move me into the admin side of things, which I resisted as I was quite happy making lipsticks…Seems barmy now”.


We were issued with face masks but were never told to wear them (it was a personal choice). The talc dust got everywhere and made you cough. If I remember rightly, the machines were particularly noisy. I think that many of the talc containers were tins rather than plastic.

This Evette 350 gram tin of
Baby Talc
was found on Ebay

Gift Sets...

In the run up to Christmas, all the belts were busy with gift sets. These would consist of various items, usually involving soap, a talc and a bubble bath or aftershave. I vaguely recall putting together sets of men’s soap and talc with the brand name “Sabre”.

Evette ENCHANTE Talc & Bath Cubes
Boxed Set of Evette Purfumed Talc 70grms
Evette 6 Bath Cubes Each 45g

And here's another
Enchante Gift Set found on Ebay

Evette No 22 perfume 25g,  Talc 70g, Soap 25/8 oz & 2 bath cubes 42g each.

Vintage Evette “Feeling Wild” bubble bath & bath cubes 1970s gift set.

Vintage Enchante Talc and Bath Cube Gift Set.


(Perfume, talc and bath soaps).

Vintage Evette Blue Blossom Talcum powder & 6 Bath Salts

Another gift set found on Ebay.

Another gift set found on Ebay.

Another gift set found on Ebay.