Posts filed as 'The Work'

BU Engineers! Specs on,...


Take a look these photos please. It’s a machine of some sort that was made by BU. Ronnie Jones acquired this it… “The machine came from a clearout in a firm I worked for some years ago, Robert Lunt & Sons in Liverpool. They were a major saddlers in the past, from about the mid 1800s and switched to tarpaulin manufacture as the leather industry declined. It’s one of those things that gathers dust on my shelf, of no practical use to me but looked too interesting to end up in the scrapyard, which is were it was headed! It was only recently that I managed to clean the badge enough to make out the wording. I’ve attached a few more photos to assist the identification. Looking forward to having this little mystery finally solved!”



Date posted: November 12, 2014

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Business Cards..


Paul Price discovered these in his garage the other day..


Date posted: May 30, 2014

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Starting work at BU in the


Thank you to G.F. Densham for keeping these documents safe for so many years and for sharing them with the BU History Group.


Date posted: March 21, 2014

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BU Advertising, 1970s



Memories of the BU Advertising Department, from Walter Baynes. As well as machinery, BU also made and sold vast amounts of shoe making machinery.

“Dick Kursa is cameraman and Peter Minshall on sound recording – A businessman exiting his private plane, before driving off in his Rolls Royce and wearing shoes featuring ‘Clarino’ uppers. BU marketed Clarino, a poromeric upper material, as a synthetic substitute for leather, having many of leather’s high quality properties.
“Filmed at Leicester Aero Club it was an exciting sequence to shoot and looked stunning in the finished programme. You saw the plane land, taxi, the chauffeur driven Rolls pulls alongside, business man gets in and is driven off. At every opportunity there is a close-up of the stylish, expensive looking pair of shoes! Those were the days!”

Date posted: March 10, 2014

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Charnwood Branch


Glyn Jones has sent us his memories below.. BU Boy…


“I joined the BU in July 1966 I was only 14 and 10 months old (birthday 29th August). I was only a little lad and the BU was huge. I trained in the apprentice section on the fourth floor of the main building along with about 80 other young hopefuls. I stayed at the Belgrave road site for about 18 months before moving to Charnwood Branch on the Abbey Lane, a much smaller building. I remember I worked in several of the departments in Charnwood but spent most of my time there building machinery. Although we built shoe making machines we also built an assortment of other machine as diverse as screen printing and conveyors to chip making machines for the catering industry. In about 1969 I remember helping to build a huge machine that cut out the material for making ladies bra’s. A roll of cloth was loaded into one end and out came all the bits to make the bra’s from the other end. 80 x 12ft and stood 8 ft high.”
“My father in law Ted Elkington worked in the stamping dept and set up all the machines for the operators , who were mainly ladies. Ted worked at the BU all his life and in his younger life travelled the county installing machines. I will talk more about him later.
“Charnwood had a new extension in about 1970 and the fitting section moved out to the last building on Ross Walk next to the sea cadets hut. We were there for about 12 months until the new building was built.
I have never forgotten my time at the BU , had a great apprenticeship meeting some great people on the way. I left in 1977 to join the NHS as an engineer in the maintenance department. Moved though the ranks retiring as the engineering manager of a Shropshire hospital.”
“Hope I’m not too late for the tool box contest. I made two of these and all of the tools in the other picture. They both originally had lots of BU stickers on but as I moved jobs the tool boxes changed their use. If you look closely you can see I used one of the box’s as a key box when I did high voltage maintenance, and still have them to this day.”


Date posted: March 4, 2014

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Eric Johnson



Date posted: February 20, 2014

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Cliff Allen has written to us about… “What for me was the best company I have ever worked for. I have realised working for other companies since the sad demise of the BU that as far as conditions and benefits for employees were concerned the BU was way ahead of its time.


“The picture is the retirement of Alan Plant who was a sheet metal worker in Charnwood department. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War so unbeknown to him the staff at Charnwood built a ship out of cardboard, which unfortunately is not in the picture, and arranged for two sea scouts from the sea scout base on Ross Walk to come and pipe him aboard. To say he was surprised is an understatement, but he thought it was a fantastic thing to do.

“I started as a trainee welder at Charnwood which was the sheet metal department of the BU, in September 1968. It got the name Charnwood from the factory on Abbey Lane where it was situated. The factory had been called Charnwood Engineering and, as was told to me, was owned by a European count, I can’t remember which country, who had to return home to look after his sick mother, and the BU took the factory over. It was on the site that is now the Renault garage. Before that the department had been situated in the Star Works which was the old tram station next door to the Pineapple public house off St Margerets. In Charnwood there were various departments, welding, fettling, sheet metal, break press and punching, drilling, tool room, assembly, paint shop and maintenance, producing a range of shoe making machines. As far as I can remember there were about 140 staff, and the manager was Mr Bernard Rix. We had our own canteen and two ladies used to prepare the best hot sausage and hot cheese and potato cobs for morning break and meals at lunch. The BU was such a big firm in the late 1960s and early 70s that the blood donor unit decided it was worthwhile to come down from Sheffield and set up in the concert room of the social club. I can remember my foreman Charlie Mitchell telling us that a coach would be transporting us to the club to give blood, I was a young lad at the time and had never thought about giving blood and said I wouldn’t bother. Charlie said it was for a good cause, you’re going, and many years as a blood donor began.

“As the years went by, I can’t remember the dates, the roof on the building needed an expensive repair so we relocated to the empty ground floor of the main building on Ross Walk, and the Abbey Lane building was sold. After a few years we moved again into what had been the old knife shop where we remained. That’s where the picture of Alan Plant is taken. I would guess its the late 80s early 90s, and about 50 staff were employed in Charnwood at that time. In the book (BU People) one of the stories mentions the various clubs that employees could enjoy, one that I didn’t get a mention is the shooting club which was popular with many of the welders.

“I felt proud to tell people I worked at the BU. There was a feeling of belonging to a great company, the like of which I don’t think we will see again. It’s a scandal it ended the way it did, after providing employment for so many Leicester workers over so many years, making what were regarded by many as the best products on the market.”

Date posted: February 11, 2014

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BU People Book



JPEG Cover

BU People is a 52 page landscape A4 size book made up of contributions from many people connected with BU. This people’s history contains memories, history and many colour and black and white photos. It covers much of the company’s 100 year existence, from early rapid growth through to closure and the workers pensions’ struggle. In between are stories about being an apprentice, the Quarter Century Club, the BU at War, family life connected to the firm, technological excellence and innovation, and pride and satisfaction at working for BU. It serves in part as a snapshot of factory life in Britain from just a few decades ago.


The book is priced at £5 (of which £2 will be donated to LOROS, a Leicestershire hospice charity). It is being sold in the following LOROS shops: High Street Leicester, Queens Road Bookshop, Anstey and Birstall.

Postage within the UK is an additional £2. Therefore please send a cheque for £7 made payable to the BU History Group, to 8 Greenhill Road, Leicester LE2 3DJ. Any enquiries please email

BUHG members Alan Carlisle and Dave Tipton also have a supply.

Date posted: January 30, 2014

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Doug Gill


Doug Gill passed away on Friday January 10th. There will be service of remembrance at St Peters. Church Langton. Leicestershire, on Friday January 31st at 1.30pm.

His friend, Peter Wright, has written these words about Doug’s BU career.

“Doug joined BU as a Management Trainee in 1962. He was appointed to London Branch as a representative in 1963.

He was appointed as assistant manager to the much bigger Leicester Branch in 1967

He was promoted to Manager of Bristol Branch in 1971.

He was appointed Manager Branch Administration, responsible for all the UK and Eire branches in 1973.

In 1975 he was appointed Sales Manager Machinery Division responsible for all UK and unrepresented territories worldwide except Eastern Europe, which continued to be controlled by David Gorrod.

He was appointed to the Board of Management in 1975

Representation in unrepresented territories worldwide was formalised in 1977 with the formation of USM International and Doug became Director of Sales.

In addition to his USMI responsibilities he was appointed Manager of the Scandinavian Affiliate Companies for both machinery and materials in 1980.

He was appointed Sales Director Europe for the Texon Materials section of BUSM in 1987, a position which he was holding when the United Machinery Group bought the Texon Group in 1990 and which he continued to hold until 1993.

It was Doug’s suggestion that after the purchase of Texon that UMG Shoe Materials should be renamed USM Texon, a suggestion which was approved at Board level.

In 1995 USM and USM Texon were split into separate companies with senior staff also being split between the two companies. Doug joined Texon as Sales Director and remained in that position until his retirement.”

Date posted: January 24, 2014

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Sheila Wilkinson


Settle back and read Sheila’s wonderful memories of working at BUSMC 1963-1967

“Before leaving school, RusheyMeadGirlsSchool in 1963, after being interviewed by the Careers Advice Service where I made my preference to become an audio typist clear, a lot of my peers and myself were invited to an interview at the BU.  We all attended (more like a class trip, really) and had a kind of interview by the Personnel Department.  We were told that there were a number of jobs on offer and we then sat – what I now know as – an aptitude test, which I found totally boring.  After this test, we were then told what jobs would be offered to us.  We weren’t really streetwise (I was 15yrs and 1 month old) and were just glad that we could have a job to go to, as you did in those days.

“I, along with a lot of others, turned up to the Personnel Department on our first day of work and were read the riot act on how to behave by the Personnel lady (I don’t know what her title was, but I think she saw me as someone she could bully as I was very shy and not at all assertive).  I was told I was going to be a filing clerk in the Production Control Department and was taken there to be introduced to the lady I was to work with.  I walked through the Apprentice Training department to wolf whistles (being a girls school pupil I was definitely not streetwise and was a little bit intimidated at this first onslaught of attention – I later got to quite like it!!!).

Sheila2The office was situated on the top floor of the building that was accessed by the bridge over Ross Walk.  The floor below housed the cloakrooms and we were told that under no circumstances could you take your coat into the office and a coat on the back of a chair was a definite no-no.  On first entering the office I was shocked to see how sparse it was, even for those days.  Bare floorboards, grim paintwork and the office was really big.  The boss (Mr Gimson) sat at the end of the office in a glass office, his secretary sat on the first row of desks after that together with some clerks.  The deputy boss (Mr Hamilton) sat on the next row and it was he who came to give out orders from the boss.  My line manager was a chap called George Akers.  I can’t remember the names of the others in my immediate section – age has taken its toll!  I think there was a lady called Gwen who worked one of the machines that printed the work envelopes and cards etc.  I also remember the afternoon tea lady who was called Lucy.  Mr Hamilton’s wife also worked in the office. (I came to live in Birstall when I got married and they also lived in Birstall;  I saw them often, but would never talk to them because they made my life a bit of a nightmare really when I was working at the BU.

“My first day was a bit overwhelming, getting to know all the others in the immediate area I was working and really getting over not being in school.  However, that feeling soon came to an end because if anyone came to talk to me, or anyone really, we were all told not to stand around talking.  After about a week, I was approached by the deputy boss and told – not asked – to lower the hem of my skirt (which I had rolled up to show my knees – as was the mini-skirt fashion in those days).  I was amazed!  We weren’t allowed to have plants (considered un-office-like) and we had to be in the office on time or you were told off by the deputy boss.  There was no flexi-time in those days and woe betide you if you were late more than once in a week.  There was a lady called Irene who had what I now know as Parkinsons but she was a good old sort, always cracking jokes and then laughing at them.

“I was taken at lunchtime to the canteen at the front of the main BU building where there were canteens for the shop floor workers, a canteen for the lowly office workers, a canteen for ‘staff’ and a canteen for the Directors (or God – as you weren’t supposed to look at them if they came into the room).  I didn’t really like the canteen, it was a bit big for my liking, so I used to go to the shop on the corner of Ross Walk and McDonald Road to get a cob and crisps, or go home (I used to live on St Matthews).  I remember the Personnel lady cornering me once in the canteen and telling me off for having my hair loose.  My workmates said that I had left school, so not to take notice of her, but as I was very scared and very young, I did as I was told and tied it back. I remember having to walk the gauntlet of wolf whistles again later on in my job, as I had to often go to the costing office with documents. I remember the non-stop lift and remember being completely scared of it.  I used to wear really high heels in those days (I was only 5’ tall) and I was always scared I would trip.  One of the apprentices once held me on the lift until it went over the top and down again, just so he could prove I wouldn’t die!!!   I remember being given a tour around the new computer block and seeing the massive computer that had been installed in a specially built building.  Later I was to work at Metalastik (Dunlop) who had provided rubber mountings for this building, and also married my husband in 1968 who had worked on the building of it as an apprentice).

“My best friend in the office was a girl called Jean who married Grahame Gregg who worked in the Metallurgical department.  I was bridesmaid to Jean and Graham but lost contact with them once I married myself.  Graham died recently and I made contact with Jean again on her sad loss.

“After about 18 months or so I was asked if I wanted to have a ‘promotion’ to a typist.  I think my wage was £1. 18s. 6d a week then and I was given a rise to £1.19s 0d.  My mum let me keep my first week’s wages so I could get some work clothes, but after that she had half as board.  My job as a typist was to type the date on the envelope that held the computer work cards and labels  and also any special instructions, the biggest being “as soon as possible”.  I could see that I would never get to do the job I wanted in that office so  I eventually put myself through a typing course and in 1967 took a job as an audio typist with DCE on Thurmaston Lane, and it was that firm that actually taught me that job and put me through a shorthand and typing course.  I went on to have better and better jobs until my last job as a secretary to the Managing Director of Mellor Bromley Air Coinditioning before I had

“I eventually stopped work to have my children and to help my husband start his business, but 20 years ago I started work in the NHS as a PA until my retirement two years ago.  However, I still look fondly on my time at the BU and although the first job I had was lowly, it was a foundation for all I did afterwards, the work ethic and respect for my bosses.

Sheila1I am aged 15/16 in the photos, just the time I was at the BU.  Note the tight jeans!  My friend and I used to catch a bus to Victoria Road East to a shop who used to sell ice blue jeans (blokes ones) and we used to stitch ourselves into them!  My hands are placed on my legs as they are to hide my suspender fittings, the jeans were that tight!!  Things you do when you are young eh?  I used to go roller skating in them as well, and to this day I don’t know how I managed to tie my skates up, cos I could hardly bend down in them!

I can remember once, when I was working there at 16, there was a lot of scurrying around.  We were all told to make sure that no cardigans (or jackets for the men) were on our chair-backs (we weren’t allowed to take coats to the office anyway but sometimes when it was cold, some people did – although working conditions then seemed normal to us, nowadays they would be termed as Dickensian).  All paperwork was tidied up or removed completely, the printing machines were dusted, boxes of parts cards tidied,  stuff taken off the windowsills and even some windows deemed to be dirty were cleaned and all because GOD (or, as I was told, Sir Charles Clore – it may have been someone just as important but I have always remembered being told it was him), was coming through the office – not TO the office, but through.  Well, along he came, over the Ross Walk Bridge into the office, didn’t even look around whilst talking to the chap who was escorting him (I peeked a look at him as I was doing some filing, looking towards the door, even though we were instructed not to look at him) and disappeared through the back office door to the warehouse, and from there who knows where he went!!  Two days had been spent tidying up the office for that!

“I remember one lad who worked in our office had what we all thought was a very exciting lifestyle.  He used to go to London at weekends and told us many times of the parties he went to where he met people such as Frankie Howerd, Shirley Bassey and other stars!  He would also tell us of some of the things he did, like smoking ‘reefers’ which, he said, was like getting drunk but much quicker , and popping ‘Purple Hearts’and that we ought to try it!  Thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to do that!  I did, however, once have a ‘drag’ of a friend’s cigarette when I was experimenting with smoking at 16 -which, now that I am an adult, I know was cannabis. I only had one ‘drag’ but couldn’t walk home from our meeting place which was about 300 yards away!   I have never smoked, or taken any recreational stuff since then.  What an experience!  The lads who had provided the stuff were violently sick and I don’t think they ever touched the stuff again either.

“When I married I became a temp and was sent a couple of times to the BU as such.  I worked then with a chap who used to work in Production Control but I can’t remember his name.  However, in the in-between years, things had obviously loosened up at the BU and it wasn’t so much like a prison.”

Some other names Sheila recalls… Joan Anderton, who was in charge of apprentices. Glenys, Mr Gimson’s secretary. Pat Langton who drove a fork-lift truck. Nora Thornton, a typist, and Margaret Hamilton, Mr Hamilton’s wife. Also, Pan – (Pancholi) and his wife also worked there.  Pan did his apprenticeship and stayed there for years.

Date posted: January 22, 2014

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