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  Themes Homepage > Jobs in the Factory
 
People
Jobs in the Factory

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The opening of the new factory in 1846 led to a dramatic increase in the number of employees. The majority of workers - men and boys - came from the local area, though by 1861 one or two came from as far away as Australia.
 
Machine Operators, around 1925
Machine Operators, around 1925

Making the Biscuits
The manufacture of biscuits was the main job available for men and over half the workforce attended the machines and ovens. Once the biscuits were cooked they were packed and sorted. In 1857 ninety male employees - mainly boys - carried out this task.
 

Female Employees
As the factory grew in size unmarried women were taken on by the firm to pack and sort biscuits. Until the mid-twentieth century the company would not employ married women. By the 1870s the female workers were given an afternoon cup of tea as it was thought that it would help them to work more effectively.
Packing tins, 1940s
Packing tins, 1940s
 
In addition to the manufacturing and packing workers, there were tin washers and platers in the tin department; box carpenters and coopers in the carpenters’ department; fitters, smiths and pattern makers in the engineering department; painters, plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters in the building department; together with yard-men, engine drivers, shunters and oilmen for the railway sidings.
 
Factory Guides
Factory guides were employed from 1919 to show visitors around the factory. The guides were well-educated women who would carry out secretarial tasks when they were not showing visitors around.
 
Factory guides, late 1930s Guide uniform, 1950s Memories of the factory guides, 1998
Factory guides, late 1930s Guide uniform, 1950s Memories of the factory guides, 1998

Office Workers
As the firm grew more office staff were employed to cope with administration and finance. The firm sought to build up a structure that afforded reasonable pay and prospects for the office staff and it attracted many men of good background.
Memories of the office routine, 1997
Memories of the office routine, 1997
 
Boy packing watertank, 1954
Boy packing watertank, 1954

Special People
Employees were chosen not only for their skill or dexterity, but also for their size. Small boys were required to pack tins into empty 4ft square water tanks ready for export. The boys would be lowered through a 14 inch opening into the tank and would then be passed tins of biscuits to pack securely into the tank.
 
Fire Brigade
Each department of the factory had a member of the company’s own fire brigade which numbered 150 by 1900. Every precaution was taken to protect the immense factory from fire with extinguishers, sprinklers and hydrants available. Telephones connected the factory with the home of every fireman and in seconds an alarm would summon each man to his post if a fire broke out at night.
Factory Fire Brigade, about 1900-1914
Factory Fire Brigade, about 1900-1914
 
The members of the fire brigade were all volunteers whose services were at the disposal of the Corporation of Reading in case of fire in the town.
 
Fire float, 1909 Fire brigade long service medal, 1909 Fire engine, 1890s
Fire float, 1909 Fire brigade long service medal, 1909 Fire engine, 1890s
Fires in the Factory
Every quarter a full drill of the whole brigade took place, although it was rarely called into action for fires within the factory. The only widely publicised fire at the factory was on 27 July 1885 when a store was destroyed and the help of other local brigades had to be sought.
The last fire attended by the Huntley & Palmers brigade was in July 1928 when a billiard hall, shops and timber yard in Kings Road caught alight.
Serpell's fire, 1904
Serpell's fire, 1904
 
 
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