Thursday, March 27, 2008

End of an Era

The news that the Ericsson presence in Beeston will come to an end later this year is sad indeed. The origins of the factory in Beeston Rylands were built in 1901 by the National Telephone Company Ltd but were soon - in 1903 - taken over by British L M Ericsson Manufacturing Co Ltd. At the time this was a very significant development in the town, bringing the manufacture of a new technology of the age to replace the traditional textile industries - particularly lace and silk - which, even then, were past their peak.

And what a contribution to local prosperity - and the development of local skills - it made. Always a major employer, at its height in the years after the 2nd World War over 5000 were employed there. Anyone who lived in Beeston will remember the stream of bicycles and buses which passed through Beeston at the end of the working day - and at at mid-day when, as was then the custom, many of the workers went home for a midday meal. Nothing (except the railway crossing gates, before the road bridge was built) stopped them as they passed through the town.

For many too, it was the employer of choice when leaving school - in an era when engineering apprenticeships were sought after, forming a first-rate basis for a career. I well remember that, in the 1950s when I was leaving school, many considered a place in the Ericsson Drawing Office the perfect job. Now of course, the traditional draughtsman is no more. The old skills, prized by generations of local people and respected by their peers, are no longer learned.

These valuable skills were not just a basis for a job, they also often formed the basis of a hobby - many a model steam engine or radio set was constructed in a Beeston garden shed ! One group we heard of even got together and constructed the first television receiver in Beeston.

We hear that the workforce is down to about 300 - whatever the number, the loss of the jobs is particularly tragic for those involved as well as the town - and that perhaps half of these will be offered jobs in Coventry. Here, history is repeating itself when we recall that, in 1907, Beeston's economy was hit severely by the consolidation of Humber car manufacture to Coventry. Then, 3000 workers followed the jobs leaving empty properties and depressed conditions throughout Beeston. How much worse would it have been if Ericssons had not arrived and developed to help fill the gap. Lets hope that other opportunities arise now to use and develop local skills.


Unknown said...

Thanks for your post David. I'm one of the 300 or so Engineers affected by this closure and it's certainly interesting to read some of the history behind the site.

Most of our workforce live outside Beeston these days but I'm one of those that do. I can currently walk to work and I'm not looking forward to having to commute to Ansty if I'm lucky enough to get one of the new posts.

However, both my girlfriend and I love living in Beeston and I hope to be able to stay here. There's a lovely feeling about the place and I would hate to have to uproot and head elsewhere.

Thanks for your postings. They're very informative and I've greatly enjoyed reading them

Anonymous said...

My dad worked for Eriksons and it was taken over by Plessey in 1960s. My dad was given the ultimatum of move to Dorset and have a job or stay in Beestin and don't... so we moved. Things go round in cycles ('scuse the pun!)