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Westwood Works 1903-2003

Getting to Work

The Westwood site changed dramatically over the years, not only to accommodate increases in production and manufacturing technology but also to reflect the changes in how employees got to work.

The cycle and bus were the usual mode of transport to and from work well into the 50s and 60s. A sight to behold was Westwood Bridge, filled from wall to wall with a solid mass of cyclists. Any unfortunate who made the mistake of attempting to go against the flow at starting and knocking off times soon learned the error of their ways.

The following appeared in the October 1966 issue of "Group News":

Be glad you're not going the other way!

One of these days, someone is going to get very badly hurt or even killed. Sometimes I wonder why it does not happen every day."

That is a pretty fair summing up of the sort of things people who travel to work by car say after motoring over what must be one of the most nerve-wracking pieces of road in the country - Westwood Bridge when people in their hundreds are streaming to or from work.

It's not all one sided of course. Car drivers are given daily palpitations by pedestrians and cyclists. Cyclists might be forgiven if they need treatment for shock at the way some drivers and pedestrians act. Pedestrians lucky enough to cross the road at the foot of the bridge without a daily dice with death must stop and scratch their heads in amazement.

Some kind of fever seems to grip people as they cross the bridge. All thought for the safety of others - or self preservation - seems to vanish.

It's not a very wide road but some pedestrians will insist on walking on the south side of the bridge. The fact that there is no footpath there, but a perfectly safe one on the other side, does not seem to occur to them. Cyclists go gaily on their way three abreast oblivious to traffic trying to pass. Just as a car starts to overtake, a pair of cyclists abreast will pull out to go past a line of three abreast.

Car drivers charge up the slope on the right hand side of the road without the faintest chance of seeing what is coming the other way. Cyclists coming to work stick out their hand a split second before turning right to go to the racks by the railway. The fact that there might be a car driver directly behind them who might have to stand on his brakes to avoid hitting them never seems to enter their minds.

And when it comes to sorting out which line to take at the traffic lights on the far side of the bridge from the works, the situation would be hilarious - if it were not so potentially dangerous.

There's not much anyone at Baker Perkins can officially do about it. It's scarcely likely that any amount of pleading will change the situation. It might well be one of these tragic cases where it takes a major accident to restore some form of order.

At least there is one thing to be thankful for - that you are not one of those unfortunate people trying to drive in the opposite direction to the stream of people from Westwood. I'd rather take a lengthy detour than try that!

An Alternative Solution?

Soon after the above article appeared in "Group News", E. Hall, a book-keeper in the Export Company's accounts department offered a few thoughts on the problem recalling his training days in Peterborough, proving that even in adversity, a sense of humour comes in handy:

"Take Westwood Bridge away and you cut the artery carrying blood to the heart. This very bridge undoubtedly constitutes Peterborough's claim as a cosmopolitan city. Being used only to the traffic at Piccadilly Circus, I found it a frightening experience to take the plunge to reach the bridge's head at 8.25am.

The working and timing of the traffic lights must have been set on a Sunday when the roast beef unites all the family and leaves the streets dreaming undisturbed. Between 8.15 and 8.25, hundreds and hundreds of Baker Perkins employees try to converge on 25 square yards, furiously pedalling, hooting, motoring, scootering and even walking. Those living on the west side of Peterborough manage the task of getting to work in a more sedate fashion.

After the first day, I was resolved to find a less nerve-wracking way to reach Westwood. Here is my recipe - a hammer, and old haversack and a platform ticket. As the Darlington train stops at platform three at the North Station, go through the ticket barrier and start to tap the carriage wheels with the ex-foundry sledgehammer. The haversack provides you with the required mantle of authenticity. Gradually tap your way towards the engine and then sneak along the line, reaching Westwood Works unscathed.

It might even work!".

The Journey to Work - From Willesden Avenue to Westwood Works

Rhubarb Bridge before the Parkways came. The Willesden Avenue junction with Lincoln Road was just out of shot on the far RH centre of the photograph.

The Triangle at New England. Lincoln Road is to the right.

Bottom of Westwood Bridge. The junction between Westfield Road, Westwood Street and Taverners Road before the Parkways were built. In the photo on the left, a short way into Taverners Road on the left hand side, can be seen Cyril Mundy's Cycle Shop. Cyril was a very well known local cyclist but perhaps his greatest claim to fame, certainly as far as Westwood employees were concerned, was his readiness to repair the all too frequent punctures experienced on the way to work for a very modest fee. Cyril was always ready for the inevitable influx of exasperated cyclists early in the morning and after lunch and never failed to have the cycle ready for collection when needed.

From the creation of Willesden Avenue in 1933, up to the mid 1960s, a special Eastern Counties double-decker bus service provided transport to and from their homes for many Baker Perkins employees. 3 buses travelled each morning and evening from Willesden Avenue to the car-park near to the cycle sheds at the front of the site in Westfield Road. A return journey was also made at lunchtime. Each bus took a slightly different route :-

Buses to other parts of Peterborough and the surrounding district, including one for Whittlesey, left from Priory Road. Dennis Taylor remembers the 310 from Wansford making the early morning detour via Westwood on its way into town. He believes that the 310 started off at Westwood in the evening, then travelled to the Bishops Road bus station, before heading out to Wansford.

When the factory was first built, car ownership was the exception rather than the rule, the only obvious facilities visible on the early photographs being the Directors' Garage and some visitor parking spaces inside the front railings. From the mid 1950s to 1960s some car parking spaces existed in front of the "Tarslag" building. It will be seen from the 1962 aerial view that even these took up little more space than the sprawl of cycle sheds close to the Main Works Entrance. Other car parking was located in the space between the Marston Hut (later the Materials Centre) and the north end of the Plate Shop. This was close to the Motor Vehicle Workshop then located in a building next to the Pattern Stores. Some employees were allowed to park their cycles in racks sited near to the 1908 office building along the east side of the factory, adjacent to the CPO, Tool Room and Stores building. It is interesting to note that a census carried out by Security in the middle of 1956, showed that more than 80 motor cycles and over 30 power-assisted cycles were stored on site each day.

The large car park to the west of the site does not appear on photographs until after the Holdings building was erected in 1966. Over the years, this was gradually extended until it stretched almost to the northern boundary of the site, progressively encroaching on space previously used as Apprentice Sports Grounds.

The Sports Club Motoring Section's garage was located in the north-west corner of this car park.

By 1966, the cycle sheds had also been relocated from near the main Works Entrance to the rear of the Holdings Building, their original site being used for the two-storey Welfare Building and for Visitors car parking. Here they remained, in various configurations, until the site closed.

Jim Farrow recalls that as car parking increased and cycle use diminished, security became more sophisticated. Individuals were allocated their own cycle rack with Sergeant Griffin maintaining the register. The system worked very well. There were, however, occasions when someone placed their cycle in someone else's space. The cycle was usually promptly removed by the "real owner" of the rack and placed in some far away place around the factory yard. Security were called in and, although sometimes hidden in unusual places, they generally managed to find them. Those affected learned never again to use other peoples' racks!

Examination of site plans and aerial photographs indicates just how much space was taken up by cycle sheds, and later, car parking spaces. It is interesting to compare the area shown on the 1991 Site Plan as being used for this purpose with that used for manufacturing.

Directors' Garage - The first Directors' garage is shown in the 1914 photograph next to the 1908 Office Block. This was demolished to make way for the 1935 multi-storey block. It was re-sited at the front of site to the east of the Main Works Entrance. Used each year by the National Blood Transfusion Unit and to house a major Table Tennis Tournament; this garage was, in turn, demolished when the 1975 Office Block was erected.

Pool Cars - The Company owned a number of "Drawing Office" and "Works" cars and vans, used for visits to company premises around the country. These were parked near to the Static Water Tank behind the "Old" Canteen. They were serviced in a Motor Vehicle Workshop (built in 1933) sited next to the Pattern Stores at the north end of the site. In later years, Company vehicles were serviced in a Vehicle Workshop located in one corner of the "Old" Canteen building (by then used for Cylinder Assembly).

The Directors' Garage in 1923 The original Clocking-On Building The Cycle Sheds and Car park in 1962 1968 Site View Site Plan showing extent of Car Parks and Cycle Sheds in 1991

Clocking On

All Works employees were obliged to "clock on" on arrival and "clock off" at the end of the day or shift. Prior to the early 1950s this was done in the building shown in the photograph above.

Front and Reverse of typical Works Clock Cards. It is believed that the cards were colour coded - but we have been unable so far to crack the code. It is known that the three cards illustrated belonged to: Buff - Biscuit Fitting Shop; Blue - Maintenance Department ; Red - Foundry. We would be pleased to hear from anyone who has more information.

This was a large building, fronting on to Westfield Road, with big sliding doors, and housing around twelve or so "clocking on" machines. Works people were allowed from 3 to 6 minutes' "clocking time" dependent on where they worked. The Pattern Shop, for example, which was furthest away from the clocking on station, was allowed 6 minutes. After this time, they were "late". Once the maximum time had expired, the doors were closed. It was a very strict procedure and anyone arriving after this time had to seek approval from their foreman, via Security, to enter the factory and have their clock card signed to authorise payment. It was here that the men were paid their weekly wages on a Thursday afternoon.

During the early 1950s, the clocking in stations were relocated closer to the actual place of work. The clocking in building was then taken over by the Spares Department and used as offices until being demolished to make way for the 1975 Office Block.

This is Jim Farrow's recollection of the arrangement of the Clocking In Station and the buildings adjacent to it. It indicates the position of the Surgery before it was relocated to the 2 storey Welfare Building in 1966, the Hairdressers (H/D) , Sports Club Office (SCO) and the Security Post (SP)

Inevitably, there were strict rules governing the clocking-on procedure. The Works Handbook quoted:

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