|The history of Lancing Carriage Works John Walker wrote this article as part of his GCSE history course in the 1980's - I am very pleased that John gave me permission to add this interesting and well researched item to the website, many thanks John!|
The Carriage Works at Lancing played a major role in the history of the village, but its arrival in 1912 was greeted with uproar as residents saw their picturesque village turning into an industrial area. When the closure was announced in 1962, however, the fight to prevent it was fought just as zealously. This was not surprising as the Works had brought a great deal of employment and money to Lancing.
My interest in the Carriage Works is due to personal involvement, both my parents worked there (in fact they first met at the Railway Works) and many other people who were employed there are still living in Lancing today. Primary research showed that no book had been written about the Carriage Works and it only commanded a small section in each of the two books written about Lancing. Why this is so, I cannot imagine for the Works affected a large number- of people which means there is a wealth of information in Lancing. The problems arise when you try to find people who can remember this information and are prepared to give up the time to pass it on.
In this assignment I hope to show what an impact the arrival of the Works had on Lancing and how this fitted in with the general trend of the railways. I also hope to discover what it was like working there and what happened to cause its eventual closure as well as studying the activities that took place during the war. Today the Churchill Industrial Estate covers the site of the Works and there are only one or two clues to show it ever existed, but it has still left its mark on the people of Lancing.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE WORKS
The London and Croydon Railway was opened on the 5th of June 1839. However, it was soon amalgamated with the London and Brighton Railway to form the London, Brighton and South Coast Company. As this system extended other constituent companies were formed to expand the network. These were; Banstead and Epsom Downs Railway, Bognor Railway, Brighton and Chichester Railway, Chichester to Portsmouth, Brighton and Dyke Railway and the Chichester and Midhurst Railway. On the 24th November, 1845 the first train reached Worthing, stopping at Lancing on route. (Mr.J. Leeds, Railway History Information Sheet - Lancing Library)
In 1910 the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway purchased 66 acres of land to the south of Lancing railway line at a cost of £21,683 2s. 6d. The Works were constructed in 1911 and work and employees were transferred from Brighton. This decision, however, met with opposition from both villagers and railway men. The Brighton men did not like having to go to such a rural area and the people of Lancing did not relish the idea of an influx of workers or of industry starting up in their village. Occasional violent incidents, often at the "Farmers" Public House, between the Lancing men and the Brighton workers showed the depth of feeling. However, it could not be argued that the Works did not bring prosperity to Lancing. Prior to its arrival the main industry in Lancing had been market gardening, which offered only a few poorly paid jobs. With the arrival of the Carriage Works came competitively paid jobs in a number of different fields. A majority of these jobs went to Lancing people. It was not long before the Carriage Works was an accepted part of the community.
THE WORKS IN ITS HEYDAY
By 1927 a new system for repairing coaches with a moving belt had been introduced. This innovative 'assembly line' style repair system allowed carriages to be repaired much more quickly. Specific repairs were carried out in different areas and then the carriage was moved on. The rate that they moved at was relative to output, but generally moved at the rate of six inches per minute for maximum efficiency.
The system was the first of its kind in Britain and enabled the production of eight underframes, complete with bogies within one week, which was unprecedented in railway history. It attracted many railway officials who eventually decided that all the coach repair work from the Southern Railway (which resulted from the grouping of the railways in 1925) should go to Lancing with the closure of the Carriage Works at Ashford in Kent. By 1923 five hundred men had moved to Lancing and this presented new problems. At first these men had to find lodgings in Lancing and return home at weekends. This meant that they did not consider Lancing as their home and they were treated as outsiders. Eventually, however, the railway company granted mortgages to enable the men transferred to buy houses and so make the workforce more settled. This demand for housing resulted in Wembley and Annweir Avenues being built.
Eventually the Ashford men began to settle in and take an interest in the affairs of Lancing. They became involved in the Trade Union and some even became members of the Parish Council and the Fire Service (Mr. J. Leeds)
The Carriage Works efficient 'belt' system was matched by the hard working employees. For the 54 years that the Works were open there was not form of industrial dispute and the workers were extremely loyal. Each year an open day was held which served several purposes. Primarily it raised money for the "Southern Railway Servants Orphanage & Homes for the Elderly". It gave the railwaymen a day when they could relax and show their families their workshops and take a pride in the place where they worked. Thirdly, it was an event where the people of Lancing met up "and enjoyed a day out. This helped to keep good feeling between the railway and the local residents, keeping the residents happy was extremely important for the success of the Works. A public relations officer, complete with models often appeared at the Works. These open days were held for 14 successive years and the last one took place in August 1963.
At the Lancing Works all aspects of carriage repair was carried out. This meant there were employees with various skills including Technical, Supervisory and Clerical. There were various workshops on the site, including frame shops, paint shops, a saw mill, wheel shop and break shop. Apprentices from the age of sixteen were trained in ten different skills, which was impressive for a single plant. The trainees were given every opportunity to gain experience in all branches of their particular trade and were encouraged to promote their technical education (Lancing Library). The workforce at Lancing Works was dedicated and well trained.
The war greatly changed the whole situation in Britain and this included the Railway Works at Lancing. As petrol became scarce and was rationed more trains were needed to transport both troops and civilians. Goods trucks were needed to move badly needed supplies around the country, and to move produce from industries working frantically to keep the war effort going. Passenger trains were badly needed and Lancing was kept busy repairing coaches damaged by bombing. The majority of work, however, was repairing goods wagons, many of which were badly damaged by bombs while being loaded and unloaded at Southampton. A new demand for covered wagons was created as these were needed to transport munitions and other military equipment.
The railways played such a major part in the war that many of the men who were employed there were told not to join the armed forces. One of these men, Mr. Cyril Yeates, came to Lancing from the Great Western Railway after finishing an apprentiship [With them. He recalled to me, from his Lancing home, how the Works had changed during the war. Passenger carriages were converted into mobile ambulances in preparation for large bombing raids from Germany. They also converted trains into military hospitals complete with operating theatres ready to support the army during an invasion attempt. Coach building skills also had to be turned to other areas. Bailey bridges used by the military for river crossing were built in one workshop while the tail planes for Horsa gliders were being constructed in the frame shop. The plywood frameworks were constructed in jigs and then covered in extremely thin three sheet ply. The ribs were made from spruce and then the completed sections were covered in stretched canvas before being sent to the aircraft manufacturers for final assembly. At the same time guns and munitions were being produced in the machine shop.
As with all industrial plants the Carriage Works was at great risk from bombing and being on the south coast it was within easy range of German bombers. Mr. Yeates: could remember four occasions when direct hits took place. One attack destroyed some coaches in a yard, two fighter bombers hit the panel shed and on two occasions the forks were bombed at night, although the majority of damage was to rolling stock and with little damage to the Works.
The railways were concerned that too much working time was being lost due to air raids, so the employees were instructed to work right up until the final siren, and then they left the Works and went to the air raid shelters which were situated where the football ground is today. Each shelter housed one hundred people, which included one A.R.P. warden and one ambulanceman. As each man entered the shelter he handed the warden a ticket with his name on it. These were put in a circular metal container and when the shelter was full the warden would throw it out of the shelter. That way .f the shelter took a direct hit railway officials would know who had been in there, this was still considered too lengthy a procedure so the railways started a 'spotter' system. The 'spotters' worked a shift of four hours on, four hours off and were stationed on the roof of the Works. The air raid sirens were totally ignored by the employees and when the spotters actually sighted an aircraft they rang a bell. At his signal the workers took refuge in metal shelters that were constructed within the workshops.
Mr. Yeates told me that if a large number of glider tail planes were needed at one time he and his colleagues were sometimes asked to stay back during the evening and continue working. This evening work was interrupted many times by bombing raids penning the workers often didnít get home until three in the morning, showing their true indication.
Of the stages in the life of the Railway Works that I have covered the closure of the Works is by far the most controversial. There appears to have been no reason to lose down an efficient and profitable works and transfer it to a less effective location. The workforce was well trained and the Works were an accepted part of the community. It was not a great surprise for me to discover that this unexplainable decision was political. Lancing was a safe conservative area where as Eastleigh was very marginal seat. By transferring the Works to Eastleigh new jobs were created Improving government support in that area.
On 20th September 1962 the 'Evening Argus' led with the line "It's the end of the Line", The paper told how the whole of Lancing was picking itself up after receiving the news of the planned closure. Dr. Beeching's plan involved terminating the
employment of all the 1,683 employees. To prevent a flood of people looking for employment the redundancies took place in stages - 196? 333 redundancies, 1964 900 redundancies, 1965 the final 450 redundancies. This process also meant that some men were kept back to clear out the workshops. Union official Herbert Strauss predicted 'Lancing will become a depressed area". This concern was not unfounded, of the weekly payroll of £25,000, 40% was paid to residents of Lancing. The removal of this money would be painfully felt not only by the railway men but also by the shop keepers and publicans. There was also considerable anxiety about what effect the closure could have on Brighton.
It was true that for maximum efficiency closures were necessary. An investigation carried out by Dr. Beeching on the instruction of Sir Steuart Mitchell (Deputy Chairman Irish Railways Board) showed that if things stayed as they were by 1965 there would be roughly one third more workshop capacity available than needed due to the completion f the large building programmes that took place after the war. The investigation predicted that by 1967 less than 55į of the works would be utilised. Evening Argus, Thursday 20th September, 1962)
A purely economic decision, I feel sure, would not have transferred the Works to Eastleigh. Despite this the decision went ahead. Most of the men at the Works belonged to the National Union of Railwaymen but some were in the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. These unions had a difficult problem on their hands, for they could not fairly represent both the Eastleigh and Lancing men, for their interests were .n direct confrontation. However on 19th September, 1962 union leaders held emergency meetings during which they decided to ignore the agreement put forward by the Works Manager, Mr.L. Cheeseman and fight for the jobs.
Mr. Jack Diamond, an N.U.R. spokesman, gave a warning at Worthing Town Hall of the widespread effects the closure of Lancing Carriage Works would have on the whole of Sussex. He said that about £23,000 a week was coming into Sussex from the Works, any sections of the community would be hit, especially small traders. During the meeting Mr. Diamond also made a declaration: "We shall fight to keep Lancing Works going the job for which it was built, We only claim the right to compete. We claim we are one of the most economic units in the whole of British Railways"
Railway men from all over the country were angry the way the Lancing men were being treated, especially when their exceptional record was taken into consideration. There lad never been a stoppage, a strike or even a demarcation dispute, a much better record than that of Eastleigh. The workforce not realising the true reasons for the closure resumed it was based on an economic ground and demanded that they be allowed to produce figures for the British Transport Commission to consider. Had they been aware f the true grounds upon which the decision was taken they would have known they were 'wasting their breath.
Ironically, Mr. H. Pownal, Chairman of the Trades Council, said the discussion on how to fight the closure was not an occasion for party politics. It was pointed out that men who had been transferred to Lancing from Brighton found themselves redundant for the second time. All this was to no avail, however, so attention was turned to preventing the men becoming unemployed. (West Sussex Gazette, 25th October 1962).
Negotiations took place between Lancing and Eastleigh Works committees over the transfer of eighty key workers. It had been agreed that certain skilled men from Lancing should go to the new Carriage Works. What the Eastleigh Works committee would not agree to was the proposal that the transferred men would take their service seniority with them. Mr. Norbert Strauss, Union Official, said there was an agreement at national level that said men's seniority of service stayed with them all the time they were with the Railway. He said he could see the Eastleigh point of view but that had to work both ways. The Eastleigh committee still insisted that any man starting there would start as a new recruit, as a junior man in the Works. This was totally unreasonable when some men had twenty to thirty years service. It was surprising that a decision was not taken in favour of the Lancing men at a higher level considering the unfairness of the decision to close it. In the end it was agreed that if the seniority of service was to be lost then there must be a guarantee of long term employment ahead. The main classes of men involved were trimmers, body makers, finishers and painters and they were advised by their union not to accept the positions at Eastleigh. (Worthing Gazette 18th September 1963).
As soon as the battle to keep the Works open had been lost another one started, this was for what purpose the 66 acre site should be used. The Works committee of ten railwayman with long years of service who had fought to save the Works from closure became determined to ensure that the Works area remained as an industrial site. This battle was one and the County Council purchased the site, which later became the Churchill Industrial Estate. This coupled with the large area from which the workforce came meant unemployment did not become a major problem. Anthony Butcher, aged 21, who lived in Lancing said, "I am not at all worried about the situation as it affects me. If I cannot get a job in my trade I will retrain for another job".
Older workers showed more concern because there was no local industry requiring their specialist skills and they had no prospects of any but the lowest grade of work nth lower pay after years of higher class work with apparent foolproof security of work. When the closure came it was not dramatic. It had been phased in gradually and when the last 73 workers left on the 25th June, 1965 there was no ceremony.
THE SITE TODAY
The Churchill Industrial Estate now covers the site of the Railway Works and much of the land that surrounded it. Built to prevent high unemployment after the closure of the Works it has become an extremely efficient area. One or two railway buildings till exist but due to modernisation it is extremely difficult to identify them.
Miles, later to become Link Miles, was one of the first industries to set up on the site. They decided to transfer their operation from Rustington in 1963 so it would nearer their main plant at Shoreham airport and are one of the main employers in the area today. Over the years other firms have set up there and the estate continues to grow.
One of the few reminders of the Works is Tower Road, which runs parallel to the railway line and was named after the water tower that used to be situated there which supplied the Railway Works. Another is the Works War Memorial which after the closure of the Works was placed next to the village Memorial by the Parish Hall. Apart from that there is little to remind the people of Lancing that the Works was ever there. Occasionally there is still talk of the unjustness of the closure, with rumours that Eastleigh books were fiddled to make it look the more efficient Works. This will never be proved but it shows how much people cared and what an important role the Carriage Works played in their lives.
I chose the Carriage Works at Lancing as the topic of my enquiry for two main reasons. Firstly it interested me as I had heard quite a lot about the Works and the many interesting characters who were employed there, so naturally I was keen to learn more. Secondly, for a long while the Carriage Works had been the main employer in the area so I imagined there to be plenty of material available. I was wrong, and found to my surprise that no book had ever been written. Information in Worthing and Lancing libraries was scarce and unfortunately much of the workforce has either moved away or passed on.
I am sure that with enough time and resources information could be found to form the basis of an interesting book.
Each section of the enquiry had to be tackled differently. Newspaper cuttings told clearly the story of the closure, but had little or nothing concerning the war. This section was based on an interview I had with Mr. Cyril Yeates, a former employee. The information about the everyday working of the site was taken from documents written by Mr. Jack Leeds for Lancing Library and from Mr. Yeates. This was the most difficult section to write and I was surprised by the lack of recorded material.
I have enjoyed compiling this enquiry and hope that the people who read it will gain I as much pleasure from it as I have.
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