John Groves worked as a Design Engineer at Westland for nearly 50 yrs and remembers the rush to get away from the factory at the end of the working day
If you ever knew Westland Road when the works piled out, it was a madhouse. There were bikes the full width of Westland Road, all the way down.
All trying to leave at the same time?
Well, yes, coming out through there. Buses, they had about, well, must have been at least a half a dozen buses used to come into the factory lunchtimes, mornings and evenings. Oh, it was a right madhouse, that was. There were many minor pileups. The most amusing one I can remember was I was coming in the main gate where they were all constricting and I locked handlebars with somebody on a push bike and he disappeared. Cliff Vivian it was, he was a charge-hand in the wood mill. He fell off his bike in all the traffic. The supervisor said to me, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” and I said, “Nothing”. I said “It’s just one of those things isn’t it.” It wasn’t done intentionally. Motorbikes came right into the factory in those early days. We had motorcycle racks, bike racks and it wasn’t until the fifties when they started building the big external car parks. People used to park where they could, the few who drove into work.
Was there not much security on the gate in those days?
Oh yes, there was actually. They were quite switched on. We all had badges with numbers on because occasionally they used to hop on the bus down there and go all round the bus to make sure everybody had their badges and things like that. I know I was in digs up the top of Westfield at the time, in Eliotts Drive and one of the buses, lunchtimes, used to come and park up the end of Eliotts Drive while you were having lunch and we used to get on and go back. They had dedicated routes for the works buses.
What about the canteen? What do you remember about the canteen?
Oh well, the works canteen was very basic. They used to use good stuff, you know. The staff canteen was one up, of course, that was more like a cafe and, as far as I remember, they had three, and the senior staff canteen they had as well for senior management. The staff canteen was tables and tablecloths, the works canteen – benches. It was alright, the grub was alright, you know. They used to have a little shop there as well, cigarettes, sweets and all sorts of things. Even those on staff used to go in the works canteen. Damn sight cheaper for a start!