Made in Lavenham

Made in Lavenham

Sunday, 30 March 2014


The job of the person on ‘boxes’ was to pick up the flat-packed empty boxes and take their chances with the stapler and then put inserts (if needed) into the empty boxes. The checker and packer at the end of the belt both needed a constant supply of boxes to fill, so this was a physically demanding task. Not only that, the girl also had to take away all of the filled/sealed boxes and stack them onto a wooden pallet, as well as rush around looking for a handyman to get the full pallets taken away and a new empty pallet brought to the end of the belt ready to use. Whenever the belt had to stop for any reason for longer than a minute or so, the checker usually encouraged the other girls on the line to help make up boxes until the belt could start up again.

Fillers would place the filled bottles onto the far end of the belt, cappers would loosely screw caps on and then they’d arrive at the cap-tightener machine.The cap-tightener machine could only work at a set pace; you’d pick up a bottle with your right hand, shove it into the tightener as the twisting device came down and you’d use your left hand to place the bottle (with the tightened cap) onto the belt the other side…while picking up another bottle with your right hand, and so on…

If the bottles were small, they’d be filled much quicker and so you’d end up with far more bottles coming down the belt towards the cap-tightener, and it’d be a struggle to keep up with the pace. One day, there were two girls filling tiny bottles and the cap tightener was already at maximum speed but there was a huge backlog building up on the belt. I had to stop the belt several times just so I could clear the backlog, and although I kept telling the checker it was physically impossible to keep up with the fillers she simply told me to work faster. After about an hour of this I stopped the belt and told the checker I had a splitting headache and couldn’t carry on, and I walked off the factory floor (presumaby to a sick room, although I don’t remember one). A little later on I went back to the belt and found that they’d taken off one of the fillers (clearly, whoever took over my job also couldn’t cope with the volume). Needless to say, the checker didn’t apologise to me for giving me a hard time and not believing me…

This is a great example of the type of work done at E. R. Holloway Limited. This Pathe Newsreel shows a cosmetics factory in Surrey in 1972..

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