Jam factory memories 1960s-1990s
Market Lavington Museum preserves the history of Market Lavington and neighbouring Easterton. Preserves were very relevant to the history of Easterton. For many decades it was home to a jam factory. Amongst our many photographs, labels and other artefacts from this business, we are also fortunate to have an oral history by one of the former workers, Haidee Bailey.
The factory had belonged to Samuel Moore but, by the time Haidee started working there, for a few years in the 1960s, it was run by his sons, Wilfred and Billy. Her early memories were of how hard the work was, with most of the workers, all local people, suffering from bad backs. This was partly due to having to lift very heavy crates of jars. She also recalled that mincemeat was poured into holes in the floor and the workers had to bend over to put it into tins.
In the early days, all the fruit was grown locally and picked by local folk. Haidee’s husband, Cliff, had grown up in the village of Easterton and remembered blackcurrants being grown near the factory in the area of the current village hall and recreation ground. His mother would spend days picking blackberries near the railway and Wroughton’s Folly, which she would sell to the jam factory.
Cliff and the other children would find 1lb and 2lb jam jars in people’s rubbish, wash them in the brook and sell them to the factory for a farthing each. (Four farthings made an old penny.)
Haidee returned to working at the jam factory in 1975. By then it had changed owners and become more automated. The work became easier physically. For example the heavy crates were replaced by boxes and the jar caps were no longer put on by hand. With production becoming faster and with more staff being employed, it was no longer possible to source all the fruit locally and some came in by lorry, though they still made local blackcurrant and gooseberry jams.
In the early days, jams and tracklements had been made for London hotels. Haidee recalled jams, marmalade and other products being sold to supermarket chains, such as Tesco. The higher quality jams had a Wiltshire label.
In 1979, the business was sold on again, this time to Hazelwoods. The factory became even bigger and the staff were employed from various local towns. At first, the new owners would turn the machines up very fast to increase production but, if the workers couldn’t keep up, jars would get broken.
Eventually, the owners wanted to expand and were hampered by the awkward access for lorries, which would sometimes hit the churchyard wall. Although they looked at alternative sites locally, they finally sold up to a German firm. This meant that the 120 workers on the factory floor and those in other jobs at the factory were made redundant. Haidee was the factory manager and said that the workers had been told they wouldn’t lose their jobs all the time the factory was making a profit. She became involved in ensuring good redundancy settlements for all the employees, but it was still a hard time for the ‘lovely team’ of workers, especially for those where both husband and wife lost their jobs.
These are Haidee’s memories, but we have many more blog entries about the jam factory in Easterton. For more information and photos, see In the jam factory, Jam Factory Workers, Yet more jam factory girls, More Jam Factory Workers, A Jam Factory Lorry, More Jam Factory Girls, Jam Factory Workers, The Jam Factory at a carnival, Princess Anne at the jam factory again, Easterton Jam Factory in 1985, Easterton Jam Factory, Jam Factory Ladies, We’re jamming again, The final pot of jam, Right Royal Jam and The Princess Anne Plaque.