Liz Capper is the granddaughter of Percy Petter who, with his twin brother Ernest, founded Westland in 1915. She says the brothers were very much alike in their looks but very different in their outlook
They looked very similar and, in fact, I only discovered recently that one used to wear a bow tie and the other wore a tie so that you could decide which was which. They looked very similar. I think my grandfather was slightly more rotund than Ernest but they looked very similar.
Did they get on well?
They got on, you know, I think they got on fairly well, yes. I think both of them could be fiery but I think they did. I mean together they developed the firm and they built it up, yes, I think they did, I think they sparked off each other. Their own father was very, very difficult and, in fact, there is a story that actually he tried to ruin the setting up of this firm, that he made it extremely difficult for them. There had been an iron works in Yeovil and the original business couldn’t support all their siblings and these boys borrowed money to set up this firm which really took off.
Didn’t Percy or Ernest go into politics?
Ernest. It was Ernest who tried to go into politics and he campaigned …
He stood for Parliament, didn’t he?
He stood for Parliament, he didn’t get in though. He was a real politician.
Where do you think all of this creativeness came from?
Well, the Victorians were wonderful. It was the time of engineers being the famous people really and they had so many ideas and were always developing new ideas. It was usually Percy who had the ideas and Teddy had the ability to develop them so there was a sense of teams-manship. From childhood there were pranks, you know, stories about them being given a penny-farthing and managing to crash it before they officially had it and so on and so on. There are many, many stories. They were like that but it was the Victorians pushing forward and also they had a great belief in giving something a try and developing ideas.
Their father, he must have been a remarkable man although apparently they didn’t really get on too well did they with their dad?
Well, I think there were some difficulties with their father. I mean they were a very big family. There were sixteen children and I should think that must have brought lots of challenges and, yes, it’s very difficult to know. I can only read about what happened but I think my grandfather felt that his father was extremely unfair in certain aspects when he was a young man and didn’t give them the opportunities that he might have done.
How much do you know about the shop business that their father had? I mean there was a shop in the High Street?
Yes, that’s right. All that I know is that it was successful but it wasn‘t bringing in enough money to support all the children. That’s the only thing I know.
It’s a huge family isn’t it? How did they manage to fit all under one roof?
I have no idea how they managed. I mean it was very challenging and, you know, each one wanted to do their own thing but there wasn‘t enough work and income coming through to support them so they did spread out. Some of them went to Canada. It was necessary for them to find other spheres of work.