If you have an interest in the social history of 20th Century industrial Britain you will want to know about a new set of resources recently released by the University of Leicester. Manufacturing Pasts is a collection of digitised material documenting the changing lives of those working in factories after World War II. It contains an array of primary sources including photos, maps, factory plans, newspaper articles and audio interviews with the workers themselves.
A set of learning materials has been created around these resources on themes encompassing de-industrialisation and urban regeneration.
All the Manufacturing Pasts resources and the accompanying learning materials can be retrieved and browsed via Jisc MediaHub and are part of My Leicestershire History, which can be viewed via our ‘Explore by Collection‘ page . Why not extend your search and explore other Jisc MediaHub collections which contain industrial heritage material?
Amber Films was set up in the North East of England in 1968 and has been producing documentaries and feature films since that time, many of which cover the effect of declining industries upon working-class communities.
‘Quayside‘ was made in 1979 as an elegy to Tyneside and was part of Amber’s campaign to preserve the industrial heritage of this area. It captures the mood and atmosphere of Newcastle’s Quayside and a way of life now gone through combining oral accounts with a visual portrait of the old industrial architecture.
Films of Scotland
This wonderful collection contains a range of films documenting life, industry and social change in Scotland from the 1930s until 1982.
‘Wealth of a Nation’ is one of seven films made for the 1938 Empire Exhibition. It looks at how the decline in heavy industry in Scotland after WWI resulted in the birth of new manufacturing industries and how the ensuing social change offered workers a different way of life, including time for leisure activities. This new golden age brought problems of its own as machinery replaced manual labour and jobs were cut.
A few decades later a brand new factory was purpose built at Linwood, in the West of Scotland, for the manufacture of the Rootes Group’s Hillman Imp. ‘Rootes Group’ is a documentary film which tells the story of how this innovative car was created in the early 1960s to rival the new Mini.
New estates were built near the car plant to attract workers from nearby Glasgow, where unemployment was high. By 1966, however, the future looked bleak for many of those who had relocated to Linwood as 450 workers were to be made redundant. You can follow more stories like this in the Newsfilm collections:
The Newsfilm Collections
Explore our extensive Newsfilm Collection to research the history of different industries across the 20th C and into the 21st C.
This 1978 ITV newsclip shows how the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent organised a display of pottery manufacturing to demonstrate rare skills which were disappearing in the area. Modernisation of the pottery industry, combined with global competition, led to a major decline in the workforce. Although many potteries have been closed or bought out by foreign companies, there are still potteries which are thriving around Stoke-on-Trent.
The mining industry underwent radical change during the last half of the 20th C as coal stocks declined and foreign imports became cheaper. This culminated in the Miners’ Strike of 1984 which is arguably the bitterest UK labour dispute in living memory and has had not only a huge political impact but blighted communities permanently. In this clip mining families from Grimethorpe Colliery reflect on the changes which have taken place as a result of the dispute.
The University of Brighton Design Archives
This special design archive contains images of artefacts which were products of British design between 1945-85. The collection contains material from the major post-war exhibitions as well as posters, product design images and photographs of British retail spaces. Part of the collection relates to manufacturing processes such as furniture, glass and printed textiles.
Whitefriars Glass was one of the most successful glasshouses in England, rising to prominence during the 19th C as the Gothic revival created a demand for stained glass. Some of the designs were created by William Morris and other celebrated artists. The image above shows how design rolls were stacked on shelves for storage.
This photograph, taken at the factory of S.Clarke and Sons in 1947, shows women machining and tying off trunk handles. There are many more images of leather luggage manufacture at this factory, with a proportion of tasks still done by hand.
Royal Mail Film Classics
The GPO Film Unit were responsible for making many groundbreaking documentaries about British industries around the time of WWII. As well as celebrated classics such as ‘Nightmail’ there are many other films portraying social change stemming from technological advancements which took place during 1930s Britain.
‘Men in Danger’ resulted from a growing awareness that accidents occurred more readily among those carrying out repetitive tasks with potentially dangerous machinery. Until now there had been little regard for health and safety issues and working people were often exposed to risk. This beautifully crafted film shows the measures which could be taken to make the workplace safer.
‘Spare Time’ is a black and white film, made in 1939, which shows how people enjoyed their leisure hours. It looks at three communities from the steel, cotton and coal industries and observes how their different shift systems have had an influence on their activities.
North Highland College (Johnston Collection)
The Johnston Collection offers a unique glimpse into the lives of those around Wick before the Second World War. Many thousands of archive photographs reflect the work and leisure activities of the community and show us fascinating details of industries which have long since gone.
At one time the small town of Wick was the biggest herring port in Britain but the industry began to decline in the 1930s as herring shoals became less common and faster transport links removed the need for salting and curing. The photo above shows James More’s herring curing station around 1925. The fish were gutted as soon as they were landed by girls who worked in “crews” of three; two gutters and one packer. If the fishing was heavy they worked on into the night in all weathers and open to the elements.
The herring industry was of such importance that for many years the community of Wick celebrated the summer ‘Herring Queen’ festival. This eventually stopped during the 1950s when the industry declined.
There are many more industries which can be researched through Jisc MediaHub, so why not take some time to explore our collections for material which interests you.
- Post World War II Manufacturing brought to life
- Amber Online Film and photography collective based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne comprising of Amber Films, the Side Gallery and the Side Cinema
- Stoke-on-Trent Pottery Industry Lots of useful resources on the North Staffordshire Pottery Industry
- Whitefriars Glass Information about the Whitefriars archive kept at the Museum of London after the company closed in 1980
- University of Brighton: Faculty of Arts: Design Archives
- Derek Jacobi on the GPO Film Unit Engaging interactive resource from the British Film Institute
- An A-Z of the GPO Film Unit Interesting background article from the Guardian
- Wick Heritage Museum Background to the herring fishing industry
- memorynet Capturing memories and experiences of communities linked to the sea
- Why doesn’t Britain make things anymore? Business article from the Guardian