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Review: Trico: A Victory to Remember. The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford. by Sally Groves and Vernon Merritt.


9781912064878_200x_trico-a-victory-to-rememberThe current dispute of women council workers in Glasgow over equal pay reminds us of the long road travelled since the famous Match Girls’ Strike in East London in 1888. Just as famous is that of the women Ford upholstery workers of Dagenham whose successful dispute of 1968 got made into a movie years later.

Less well-known but no less hard-fought was the strike of women workers at Trico Folberth (will refer as ‘Trico’ from here) of Brentford in 1976. It lasted 21 gruelling weeks.

This book tells that story.

Trico was – and is – an American manufacturer of car accessories, primarily windscreen wiper blades and the associated water pumps and motors. Their UK-based factory which supported car manufacturing for both domestic and international production was based on the Great West Road at the eastern end of Brentford’s ‘Golden Mile’. Today the enormous GSK complex dominates its former site.

The enabling legislation which led to this dispute was Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act, 1970 which came into effect at the end of 1975. Put simply, it legislated that men and women should receive identical pay for the same work. While many companies complied with the legislation, many did not. The Act, as Sally Groves points out, was riddled with loopholes which company lawyers throughout the country skipped through with consummate ease. Trico fell into the category of company which thought all of this could be ignored by dint of its male and female staff working almost completely apart.

Trico was a 24 hour manufacturing operation where men worked night shifts and women through the day. Never the twain would meet until in 1976 the night shift was cancelled, some men laid off with the survivors joining the women on the day shift. With this the pay discrepancy between the sexes soon became apparent, something that took the women workers completely by surprise. The consequences soon took the management by surprise too.

Negotiations between union representatives and management took place but led nowhere. On the afternoon of 24 May, at a union mass meeting in a nearby park, approximately 400 women production workers voted for all-out strike. They picked up their belongings from the factory and went home. Virtually none had ever struck before and most of them expected to be back at work in a matter of days.

P-009 John Bracher addressing strikers in Boston Manor Park Eric Fudge standing middle background with bucket. Morning Star, courtesy Bishopsgate Institute_500

Strike meeting in Boston Manor Park. Courtesy Bishopsgate Institute.

This is where the real story begins. It should be noted that about a  hundred men also came out in support. The remainder – including some husbands and boyfriends – stayed on, keeping the factory ticking over. It was to be the single women in particular who felt the most hardship in the following months.

From here we find out how these green strikers grew in determination and experience. Author Sally Groves, who became the workers’ press officer, admits they were virtually clueless at the beginning. But support for them grew in the trade union movement, among local Brentfordians and others, and their cause soon spread from the local press to national media.

P-012 Sally Groves' banner on Trico railings. Morning Star, courtesy Bishopsgate Institute_500

Sally Groves’s homemade banner on the railings at Trico, Morning Star. Courtesy Bishopsgate Institute.

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Trico strikers lobbying TUC Brighton. Source unknown.

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On the march.

At the centre of this story, though, is friendship and solidarity. Previously black and white and brown workers didn’t really hang out together: now they did – lifelong friendships were forged. There are dozens of vignettes, heartwarming, sometimes sad but often amusing which, added together, led to final victory on 15 October when the strikers voted to return to work after Trico management agreed to all demands.

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Kind permission of Joan Bakewell, DBE.

The reasons this book succeeds so wonderfully are many. First, I believe, is that while both authors were directly involved in the strike, their contributions are some forty years apart. Vernon Merritt’s original manuscript had lain untouched since when he left it in the dispute’s immediate aftermath. By contrast, Sally Groves has completed the job very recently. This has given the whole a very inperceptible yet balanced feel. Second, there are plenty of verbatim accounts of those directly involved which are separated from the main narrative in grey boxes so the work is rich in reportage, reminiscing, anecdote: those who were around in the 1970s will experience a strong tinge of nostalgia, I feel, whatever their politics. Third, dozens of wonderful photographs, cartoons, ephemera. Finally, this book is excellently designed, footnoted and indexed as every good history book should be.

Quite apart from being a wonderful read, I believe this to be an important work in the history of equality and industrial relations in this country. I commend it to you.


Trico – A Victory to Remember (238pp) by Sally Groves and Vernon Merritt was published in June by Lawrence and Wishart in association with Unite trade union. Erroneously listed as paperback by Amazon at time of writing.

A signed copy of the book will be the November book prize in London Historians Members’ Newsletter.

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This is an update from a post from June last year, but I think deserves a new one, such is the outrage of this case. Observe this lovely riverside image in Brentford, directly opposite Kew Gardens.

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It is the developer’s own picture of its redevelopment of the St George’s Chapel site, until relatively recently the home of the Musical Museum. Looks lovely, I’m sure you’ll agree. Look at the small white building with the red roof to the left. Let’s zoom in a bit.

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That building is – or was – the historic Sarah Trimmer’s School, dating from 1806. It is – or was – significant as the first and only remaining example of an industrial training school in this country, mainly for young women. Historically highly significant.

Here is all that is left of it as of Sunday.

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Only the west and south facing walls remain. They almost certainly will not survive. The developers – IDM Properties – have sneakily, deliberately and steadily destroyed the building while they got on with the chapel development next door.  Why? Because they can maximise their take by building three teensy bungalow apartments against all advice of local historians and council denial of their planning application for same. Hounslow Council gave them a bit of a slap on the wrist last year, but now seemingly have given up the candle.

The developers are greedy scumbags (show me one that isn’t). The Council are cowardly and lazy collaborators. If they could wash their hands of the hassle of protecting our heritage, they would. I live in this borough. I am ashamed of them.

I say again, delinquent developers must do jail time. I bet that’s in nobody’s manifesto!

 

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I live a matter of a few hundred yards from the major trunk road in question, so when I spotted this in a shop in Kew last week, I had to have it.

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It’s a print commemorating the opening of the Great West Road in 1925 by George V and Queen Mary (who’d be a monarch, eh?). Made of tissue and folded like a paper napkin, it would have been dished out to the local crowds, or perhaps sold for a penny or two. It’s in really good condition, a remarkable survival.

The text badly spills over into the border decoration. This tells us, I think, that the souvenir printers made large stocks of coloured templates and then customised them for different occasions by overprinting text etc in black.

“The new Great West Road which has just been completed at a cost of £1,000,000 , will be opened by the King, accompanied by the Queen to-day. 

This new arterial road, which is eight miles in length, has for the greater part a width of 120ft. It extends from the Chiswick High-road near Kew Bridge, by-passes Brentford and enables traffic to avoid the congestion bottle-neck in the town.

The road continues through Isleworth and meets the main road again at the Bath Road, just beyond the Hounslow Barracks Station, then crosses the main road and passing through Hatton Village, joins the main Staines Road at Bedfont.” 

The building of the Great West Road was essential. Historically, the route to Bath and the west ran through Brentford. There was bad enough congestion during the days of horse-drawn vehicles, but once cars, buses, lorries and especially trams hit the streets, the narrow high street became all but impassable.

It didn’t take long for large businesses to realise the potential that the new thoroughfare offered. Beautiful industrial art deco buildings sprang up, giving us Brentford’s “Golden Mile”.

LH Member James Marshall wrote a book about this back in 1995. It’s out-of-print now, so available copies are very pricy. They are easily borrowed from local libraries however.

 

 

 

 

 

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Exhibition at Hogarth’s House, 22 January – 3 April 2016

A guest post by LH Member, Val Bott

Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653, a study of the way humans have modified their bodies for cultural and cosmetic reasons

Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653, a study of the way humans have modified their bodies for cultural and cosmetic reasons

Layton’s Library: A Curious Collection will display some of the most beautiful and unusual examples of 17th and 18th century books once owned by Brentford antiquarian Thomas Layton. These are amongst the oldest volumes from his remarkable collection and this is an exciting opportunity to see them for the first time.

Supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Thomas Layton Trust is running a project to raise awareness and understanding of the collection. The exhibition has been curated by a team of dedicated local volunteers who have selected books for display from around 8,000 volumes! Visitors will be intrigued by these early books, their various subjects, their bindings and their illustrations. They will also learn a little about Layton and his passion for collecting and the Trust hopes the exhibition will raise awareness of the collection and share it with a new generation of readers.

The exhibition is on show at Hogarth’s House, Chiswick, admission free. Visitors are welcome from Tuesday to Sunday, between 12 noon to 5pm, until 3 April. From 30 April 2016, some of the exhibition will be on show at Boston Manor House in Brentford, where the Trust is planning a range of workshops for adults and children during the summer months.

Thomas Layton (born in 1819, died 1911) lived for the majority of his life on Kew Bridge Road in Brentford, West London. He was a lighterman, a coal merchant, a churchwarden, a member of the Burial Board and a Poor Law Guardian but, above all, he was a collector. During the course of his life he built up an enormous and intriguing collection of ‘every conceivable thing that can be found in an antique store’, including maps, prints, spears, swords, tokens, medals and coins, but his plans to endow a museum and library in Brentford ran into difficulties.

Many of his antiquities are on public display in the Museum of London; the river wall in their London Before London gallery. However, by far the largest element of his collection – the extraordinary collection of books – has remained relatively unknown and little used. The laytoncollection.org website has brought many of the elements together as a “virtual museum” for you to explore.

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Rules for drawing caricatures: with an essay on comic painting, Francis Grose, 1791, with wonderful illustrations by the author

The books on show include
A Compleat Collection of English Proverbs, John Ray, 3rd edition 1737
New, Authentic and Complete Collection of Voyages Round the World, Captain Cook’s First, Second, Third and Last Voyages, by George William Anderson, issued in 80 sixpenny parts 1784-6
Picturesque Views on the River Thames, Samuel Ireland, 1791
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1631 edition
The Fables of Aesop, Paraphrased in Verse, Adorned with Sculpture & Illustrated with Annotations by John Ogilvie Esq, 1668
Indian antiquities or Dissertations relative to Hindostan, Thomas Maurice, 1792
A discourse concerning old-age Tending to The Instruction, Caution and Comfort of Aged Persons, Richard Steele, 1688
The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement, 1790
The English House-Wife, Containing The inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a Compleat Woman, Gervase Markham, 1683
Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling, John Bulwer, 1653
Rules for drawing Caricaturas: with an Essay on Comic Painting, Francis Grose, 1791

The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex. Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement. Vol. XXI for the year 1790 - genteel entertainment, one year's monthly issue bound as a single volume.

The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex. Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement. Vol. XXI for the year 1790 – genteel entertainment, one year’s monthly issue bound as a single volume.

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Preview evening. 

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Preview evening. 

All images by Toni Marshall. 

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lucozade

Millions of commuters to and from London on the Chiswick flyover from Heathrow and all points west will be familiar with the animated neon advertisment for Lucozade.

Not any more.

Whoever owns Lucozade nowadays has pulled it down and replaced it with a nonedescript static sign, not just for Lucozade, but also – at time of writing – Mercedes.

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The old sign was at least the second of its type on the site at the crossroads of the Great West Road and Ealing Road. Like Lucozade itself – orginally a Beecham product  – the sign was very much part of the Brentford streetscape. In the age of corporate takeovers, Lucozade found itself in the portfolio of Glaxo Smithkline, who had swallowed up Beecham as part of the Smithkline Beecham merger. It remained, therefore, something of a local product. But not really fitting in with the business of the pharmaceutical super giant, it got sold on about two years ago. From that moment the sign was in danger. Very recently Lucozade got handed on again to another faceless corporate. I honestly don’t know who, and couldn’t care less. But this proved the final blow for the cherished sign.

But back to the old sign. It used to say “Aids Recovery” until the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s when the slogan was changed to “Replaces Lost Energy”. At some stage the original neon sign needed replacing: it was simply worn out. Unlike the current owners of Lucozade, someone recognised the heritage value of the sign and it was carefully stored in the industrial archive of nearby Gunnersbury Park Museum. It’s still there as far as I’m aware.

The advertising site is run by the street advertising behemoth, JC Decaux, who ironically also have a local presence in Brentford. They occupy one of the art deco industrial buildings for which Brentford is rightly proud and famous. What an irony and a pity, then, that neither they nor the current Lucozade owners value local heritage.

Realising there might be trouble in store for the old-style sign, I took this video clip in early 2014. At that time I wrote up the story of the sign in a little more detail, here.

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I was taking a stroll down to Brentford High Road yesterday and noticed that the old cop shop is for sale: it’s been closed for years. A typically charmless 60s commercial building, purpose-built for the boys in blue, it replaced the rather fetching Vestry Hall of 1900. The hall was designed by local architect Nowell Parr, many of whose pretty buildings (mainly Fullers pubs!) still decorate Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick. The old hall could host meetings and talks of over 600 attendees and also housed Brentford County Court. But in 1963, the bulldozers and wrecking-ball moved in. Progress!

I hope to do more on Nowell Parr in the near future. Meantime, enquiries regarding the lovely police station should be directed to Messrs Frank Knight.

 

nowell parr, vestry hall

Weep.

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Last November, outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux applied to Hounslow Council to change the famous Lucozade sign next to the M4 flyover in Brentford. They wished to switch the animated neon sign for a modern technology giant LCD screen, the type which has become commonplace on major trunk roads in recent years. The content was to remain Lucozade.

Locals (including me) got wind of this very late and there was outrage that the beloved sign was in danger. But on 31 January, the council turned down the application to sighs of relief all round. I announced this on Twitter which evinced a huge and positive response, and not just from Brentfordians. The sign is widely loved, it seems. Read more here. Not very good film clip by me on YouTube, here.

The current sign is, in fact, a 2010 replica of the original 1954 version which was on a building about 250 yards east of the current site. The first sign is stored in Gunnersbury Park Museum (worth visiting). Lucozade was a locally manufactured product along with other household names such as Mcleans toothpaste and Brylcreem. That remained the situation despite various mergers and takeovers over the late 20th century resulting finally in the pharmaceutical giant GSK. GSK offloaded the Lucozade brand to Japanese company Suntory last year, giving rise to the current Lucozade sign brouhaha.

I think this affair raises a lot of questions. First, if the owners of Lucozade decided they no longer wanted to pay for advertising, would it be okay for them to get free publicity on the massively busy M4 flyover? Furthermore, who would then pay for the electricity and maintenance of the sign? JC Decaux? Hounslow Council? English Heritage? I don’t think so.

There is a precedent, of sorts. Back in sixties, Ferodo – makers of brakes and related accessories – decided that their medium of choice was to be railway bridges and the deal was done, presumably with British Rail at that time. Of course, when the deal came to an end, clever Ferodo got many years of free advertising. Last year, the one on the Caledonian Road got painted over but I saw another one still proudly with us in Bow. There must be others.

Ferodo advert

Caledonian Road. Half done. “Ferally”

Ferodo Advert

Bow Road.

Of course, there are key differences. Ferodo brake pads are less personal products than Lucozade and crucially, the Ferodo signs are ubiquitous whereas the Lucozade sign is a one-off and has strong local connections. For the moment.

But what else is going on here? This is pure speculation on my part. Suntory have picked up Lucozade, and with it the Brentford sign, which like it or not, they’re obliged to keep going. What to do? Change the sign for a modern one while committing to keeping the advertisement exclusively Lucozade as a sop to local and motorway traveler sentiment while fulfilling the heritage brief. Then, it’s the easiest thing in the world to change to other advertisers later because with a modern sign, the heritage argument has actually been lethally undermined.

Suntory and JC Decaux will be back. In the end, I think they will win. For some of the above reasons, I believe we must reluctantly accept that the sign will eventually go, there are much more deserving things to fight for around London. Equally as worthy in my opinion, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining (except me!) when we lost the lovely Christmas trees on the old Beecham building after Barratt Homes took it over.

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