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The British United Shoe Machinery Company (BU) was Leicester’s greatest manufacturing company. It existed between 1899 and 2000, spanned the twentieth century, and at it’s peak employed 4000 people at it’s Union Works site in Leicester.
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Two items I recently uncovered at home.The photo was taken in the Gear Cutting section around 1983 after I had taken over from Roy Benson who had just retired.
I was lucky to have worked in some very interesting departments: Photo Engraving in the Met Lab with Roy Birkett, which was behind the Hardening and the Electro Plating shops. Q Department which made the accessories for various BU machines and C Department with Frank Welford, which made cutters which I think cut and finished the soles. I finished my time at the BU on the K.T.M machines in building 51.
Happy days.Please correct me if I have got any names or departments wrong it was a long time ago.
Date posted: May 1, 2016No Comments
Mick Wiseman recollects his time as a BUSM apprentice in the 1970’s. All the college and further education courses he attended and qualifications gained. It illuminates the incredible lengths BU went to equip their workforce for careers as engineers.
I started as an apprentice at BUSM Co Ltd on July 26th 1971 at the age of 16 having just left Hamilton High School with 7 CSE‘s 5 grade 1 and 2 grade 3. I was one of about 60 or so apprentices to start that day joining a number who had begun their apprenticeships the previous Easter. The Articles of Apprenticeship duly signed by myself, my father and the BU secretary would see me Indentured as a Mechanical Engineer (Technician) after 4 years of training and day release study. Also in the agreement were the details of the award given per calendar month, paid annually, for satisfactory conduct and progress at approved classes for further education and in the workshops. These awards were based on age and at 16 it was £1.50, 17 – £1.75, 18 – £2.00, 19 – £2.25 and 20 – £2.50.
As I remember I started on the ONC course which straight from school I found very challenging with most people in my classes being 2 or 3 years older, there was one other apprentice from the BU on my course but he came off before the end of the year. It was a very intense year with classes at Charles Keene College 3 nights and day release Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Although I found it difficult I surprised myself and a few others by passing my O1 exams in Mathematics, Physics, Workshop Processes & communications, Electrical Engineering Science (credit) but just failing Mechanical Engineering Science. I requested to be changed to the electrical course for ONC O2 or drop down to the MET (Mechanical Engineering Technician) course but was told I had to do the Mechanical ONC O2. Workshop Technology and Drawing and Design were not too bad but I found the Mathematics and Applied Mechanics too much and failed year 2.
For 1973-74 I stayed at Charles Keene College and did Year 2 of Part 1 MET and after the struggle with ONC found the course much more to my ability and enjoyed it, this showed with my results being awarded a credit, it was also a lot less work with just 1 ½ days at college. Although recommended to go straight on to MET 3 the decision was made to continue my studies on the next level, MET 2 and over the next two years I went to Leicester Polytechnic and really enjoyed the atmosphere and way of teaching there even though the second year included 3 evenings. This again proved to be the correct course for me as I was awarded another credit after the exams in June 1976. Having successfully completed my apprenticeship in the July of 1975 and therefore having to fund any further courses I decided not to go on and take the final part, MET 3. All books for course work had to be purchased and this could be done through the company and money stopped weekly from your wages, also there were some second hand books available.
As well as the external examinations we also had regular lessons in the BU training school classroom on engineering processes and calculations for setting up machines etc. also as a fitter in the assembly shop where there was a lot of pneumatics on the machines we also had an in house pneumatic course which was provided by my then foreman Eric Hutton, something that I found more than useful in my future engineering career. One thing to note was that during the time that we had the three day working week if we were at college on the days we were not working we still did not get paid and it was just my luck that most days I was at college we were not working so I was still doing nearly a full week for 3 days’ pay.
I left BUSM Co Ltd in May 1978 to work at another of Leicester’s big engineering companies Wadkin Ltd who unfortunately went the same way as the BU at around the same time. I was getting married and was offered a fitters job on double day shift, the difference in money at that time when working shifts was quite a lot and even though I would be earning £58.67 plus bonus at about £20 per week bonus. One of the main reasons I was successful in getting the job at Wadkin was the reputation the BU had for their apprentice training and also my qualifications, it certainly set me up in good stead for my many years in engineering.
Date posted: April 7, 2016No Comments
Ray started with BU in 1945, aged 14; mostly running errands around the factory.
He left to do national service and returned afterwards, to the Tool Room, where this photo was taken in the mid 1950s. Ray’s still got all that hair – Just a different colour now!
Date posted: March 21, 2016No Comments
Val worked in O and M data preparation between 1958-66. These were pre-computer days and the below is one of the wages cards Val would have to punch in data on.
Here is Val in 1960, back row on the left, with the rest of her department. Next but one along is Ann Brearly, one of Val’s best friends, and she would love to get back in touch with her. The section boss was Betty Bancroft, and she appears on the front row, far right.
Date posted: March 14, 2016No Comments
Photos from last week’s...0
USM Group First Birthday Party,...0
The management buy out of BU completed in 1987 resulted in the renaming of the company. Britain’s largest ever Management buy out led by John Foster.
Finance Director Richard Bates said “We have broken free of the shackles of a multi-product group run on financial criteria, so we can now run a single industry business”.
Below are the menus from the USMG Dinner celebrating the first twelve months after the ‘Buy-Out’ held at the Pimasens Fair in Germany (Many thanks Walter Baynes).
Date posted: February 28, 2016No Comments
Our Next Event. March 1st0
Anyone know about our Splitting...0
Andrew White from Intertek needs some assistance;
“We have the Footwear sole ‘splitting machine’ – formally owned / located at ITS Leicester (see below)
The Footwear testing has moved from that lab and we have the equipmenthere at ITS in Leigh, Lancashire. This equipment clearly has some parts missing, and we need help in re-commissioning it.”
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Date posted: February 12, 2016No Comments
For Sale – Cutting Press0
Western Australia again. Donna has written “I have this cutting machine which we were using to press out carpet and vinyl samples. As you can see in the pictures it has one of your identification plates.
I no longer need this machine. Can you please tell me what else it can be used for and how much it is worth as I would like to sell it. Also, would you know of anyone looking for one? I am based in Perth, Western Australia.”
0423 623 752
Date posted: February 9, 2016No Comments