Marriage, Work, and Finding a House in Atherstone

A pair of well used braces, not from the Atherstone brace factory, mind!
Image courtesy of Richard Neale

I was actually born in Mancetter in 1949, and I lived there with my family until I married my husband at 18. We then moved in together in his parents in Atherstone. I had been working at a job that I had been at since I was 15 in the shoe factory in Atherstone. It was expected when I was young that you would leave school to go out and get a job. At the time Atherstone was just full of factories so it was never that hard to be employed, that’s definitely something that has changed for the young people up here, especially with the closing of the mines up this way.

When I was 19 I got a new job at the brace factory in Atherstone. The work was still hard, but less intensive compared to the lines in the shoe factory. At this time we were waiting for a council house, as living with my in-laws was not my dream marriage. We waited for quite a long time, we didn’t want to be housed anywhere expect Atherstone given both our jobs were in the area. My husband worked in a quarry as a winder, lowering the lifts into the mine shafts. It was a very important job and I was very proud of him.

A seven year wait

Eventually we were given a council house in Atherstone after seven years on a waiting list. We were able to move out and this was especially welcomed given we had had our son the year before we went into the house. I appreciated the help that came with living with family, but it was lovely to have our own space. We’ve now lived there for 45 years. We were given the opportunity to buy it when Maggie Thatcher was in power, so in 1980 we officially became home owners. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else now. It has been our sanctuary throughout all of my life, I’ve raised my kids there and created my home there.

Working at the brace factory

I lived there for the entire time I worked at the brace factory, up until I retired in 1997. As I said it was better than the shoe lines but it was still intense work to be doing, and it was monotonous as most factory work is. The brace material would come in one giant sheet, that I would spilt down into enough for twelve braces. They would then have to be cut so that they were still joined at the backs, any unsightly seams had to be sewn over, then the clips had to be attached on both the front and back.. It was the same pattern all the time, but I enjoyed working so the repetitiveness of the job didn’t bother me so much.

They were very good to me at the factory as well, because of my childcare needs they allowed me to work 9am-4pm rather than 8am-5pm which all the other lads and lasses did. This meant I could drop my children off to school before work and be home in time to be able to make them tea. Men didn’t often do childcare in those days and my husband worked long hours in the quarry, so taking care of the children always fell to me.

I liked the factory as well because they were always keen to let the local community be a community. They gave us the afternoon off when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Atherstone in 1985. I remember going and standing waving behind the barrier as they visited St Mary’s Church.

This article was published as part of the Warwickshire in 100 Objects project, part of Warwickshire Bytes.

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