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At work, rest and play in the '50s

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 02, 2014

  • Bernard Francis (third right) with colleagues at Thompson Brothers (Bilston) Ltd

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LOOKING at these pictures, you get a real sense of the camaraderie of the workplace. In the post-war heydays enjoyed by many Black Country firms, employers often provided for their staff's social and sporting lives too, with many social clubs and sports teams.

These photographs from the early 1950s have been kindly loaned to us by Bernard Francis of Walsall. They were taken during his time working for Thompson Brothers (Bilston) Ltd., one of the Black Country's many celebrated engineering companies.

Bernard joined the firm in 1947 and at the top of the page we have a couple of photographs of him and his colleagues on the shop floor. In our first picture we have, from left to right, Tony (surname unknown), Harry Redwood, Ron Shorthouse, Alf Mills. Arthur Glotham, Bernard Francis, Eddie Armstrong and Edgar Armstrong.

In the second picture we have Roy Butler, Edgar Armstrong, Bernard Francis, Arthur Glotham, Alf Mills and Geoff Hadley.

Bernard was not entirely happy working on the factory floor so he kept up with his education, attending evening classes, and trained to be a draughtsman. In 1951 he took a new job in the drawing office at the firm and the rest of the pictures show his colleagues there.

One picture was taken at the drawing office Christmas party in 1953 and shows a group gathered for a singsong around a piano. Tickling the ivories is Lionel Draisey while standing from left to right are Bernard Francis, George Elwell, Bill Turner and Colin Farmer. The name of the moustached man at the far right is not known – does anyone recognise him?

We have another office Christmas party photograph from the early '50s but the exact date is not certain. Standing from left are Ken Guest, Fred Mantle, Jack Newton, George Elwell, Bernard Francis, Sid Hill, Colin Farmer and Fred Daniels. Seated at the front are Harold Brindley, Lionel Draisey, Bill Turner and Harry Worrall.

Bernard's last picture shows the office football team in 1954. On the back row are Bill Jones, B.J. Downes, Bernard Francis, Pat Minshall, Graham Doody and Ken Nock. Kneeling at the front are W. Newman, Alan Hough, Eddie Evans, Frank Wagstaffe and J. Kirk.

Thompson Brothers (Bilston) Limited has its origins in the early 1800s, making a wide range of iron and steel goods at their Bradley Boiler Works in Bilston. In the 20th century they made a foray into car production but are probably bessed remembered for their tanks and storage vessels.

Have you pictures from your workdays to share? We're interested in photos of the workplace as well as works social and sporting events. Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle .co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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