We blogged recently about the Barton and Tredworth website going live again after its designers, Community Sites, had converted it to a more accessible WordPress platform. The same process has been happening to another of our partnership sites, celebrating the Gloucester engineering company Fielding and Platt. Fielding and Platt was founded in 1866 on the site of what is now the Quays retail outlet, and two blue plaques on the site commemorate its previous use. This photograph from the 1950’s shows the rail entrance to the site from Southgate St (can you spot the poster for the Ealing comedy the Ladykillers?).
The Archives’ connection with Fielding and Platt began in the 1980’s, when Arthur Rigby and Stan Wood, two long term Fielding’s employees, worked here. By this point Fielding’s was in the process of scaling down its operation, formally closing in 2003. John Bancroft, (who joined Fielding’s as an Apprentice in 1961, but had worked his way up to becoming an Associate Director before leaving the Company in 2000), and Arthur were instrumental in an initiative to rescue its records, and what survived was deposited at the Archives.
A successful bid for Heritage Lottery funding in 2012 allowed the Archives, working with local and national partners, to commence a project listing these records, and this is now available on our online catalogue (D7338). As part of the project we also started a separate collection of documents brought in by former employees, and a list also exists for this material (D12789). Many former employees were interviewed, and edited versions of these interviews appear on the website.
Listening to Arthur and Stan, what came across very clearly was the sense of family that working for Fielding & Platt instilled in its work force. They would tell stories, for instance, of impromptu cricket matches breaking out on the factory floor, with members of the Fielding family joining in! This sense of belonging became even more evident as we worked with other former employees to deliver the project. It finished in late 2013, but there was still lots to do – there were still many employees to interview, incoming records from former employees to list, and a detailed analysis of the early Company order books to continue. Thus the Fielding & Platt Heritage Group was established, and this continues, on a voluntary basis, to carry out these tasks, and to organise highly popular social events for ex-staff.
The website reflects two main themes. Firstly there is the sense of camaraderie amongst the staff, evident in both the People and Social Life sections. In the latter, check out particularly the lovely Christmas cards that Jack Fielding created, and you can also watch a short film in which his daughter Pippa discusses them. The dedication of the staff who worked there was a strength of the Company, but so was the quality of the equipment that they produced, which very quickly acquired a worldwide reputation. The Machinery section of the website examines the Company’s output in detail, and shows why it attracted the attention of both Monsieur Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty fame) and the makers of Concorde.
If you enjoy visiting the site, watch out for presentations about Fielding & Platt during this year’s Gloucester History Festival in September. Happy browsing!