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Temples of Industry: How the Decline of Heavy Industry Shaped West London

Start exploring the three factories

In the early 20th century, the West London landscape was transformed with industries setting up in Ealing and Hounslow.

The factories along the ‘Golden Mile’ of the Great West Road were modern and eye-catching, designed to help promote and advertise their products. They included well-known brands such as Trico windscreen wipers, Pyrene fire extinguishers, Jantzen American swimwear, Gillette and Coty. Land which was previously rural was used for the factory sites. A brand-new electricity plant as well as easy transportation access encouraged development.

Although each factory went through changes and the workers faced various challenges, for half a century manufacturing boomed. However, this was not to last and the 1980s and 1990s saw a steady decline with many of the factories closing.

Thanks to a grant from Historic England’s ‘Everyday Heritage’ fund, we have been working with volunteers to research and record the oral histories of those who worked at; A.E.C Southall, Trico Folberth and Firestone on the Great West Road.

“We were surrounded by factories in those days, I mean the Great West Road was still almost the Golden Mile, factories - all there. There was factories all round Ealing... Park Royal, all these estates, Southall, Brentford”
Sally Groves, Trico employee

Temples of Industry

This short film explores stories of the factories from the people who worked there.

Made by Protégé

Explore the AEC Factory
Explore the Firestone Factory

Robert Singh, former employee, on starting at Trico in 1970

Audio transcript

Now, being at school, living on your own I had to rent a room, so I needed some form of financial security and I thought to myself, ‘I wanted to continue with my studies’. I was 16 at the time, I had to go and find work. And, at that time, in late 1969 along the Great West Road you had what was called the Golden Mile, Gillettes, Firestone, Trico all those factories. I went to Firestone first and they interviewed me for a job, then I went to Trico. Firestone offered me a post and so did Trico, and I considered it but for some reason I just decided to go to Trico. And I will never forget when, after the interview, they said to me, ‘You can start on the Monday, bring your cup for your tea and your national insurance number if you have one’. So, I started on the Monday and this was in January 1970.

Explore the Trico Factory

Inside the factory

Who were the workers?

The factories employed large numbers of “skilled”* and “unskilled”** workers on their shop floors. It was often quite easy to get work and could be done without the need for a CV. Assembly workers would be paid for each piece they assembled, rather than by the hour. The industrial boom in this part of West London attracted not only people all across England, but also from Wales, Ireland, and later Afro-Caribbean and South Asian migrant communities.

Good to know

Key words

**Unskilled work – often referred to as work that could be done with no experience. The necessary skills would be taught by other, more experienced, workers. The work was often repetitive such as packing and assembling products.

*Skilled work – refers to work that would need qualification. These roles would often have apprenticeships.

We do not believe that any work is unskilled or low skilled.

A Special Thank You

We're very grateful to everyone who contributed to this project

Volunteer Researchers:
Alison Lawrence
Pamela Monk
Stephanie Sackey

Oral Historian:
Sarah Lowry

Project Participants:
Eric Fudge
Leila Rutter
Michael Martin
Monica Fontaine-Alexander
Paul Lucus
Peggy Farmer
Phyllis Green
Robert Singh
Sally Groves

Contributing Archives:
Ealing Local History Centre
Hounslow Local History and Archives
Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick

Community Groups:
SGSS Gurdwara

Protégé Young Filmmakers:
Tajshara Airey
Andrew Bell
Anouska Brooking
Emmanuel Ojua
Radwa Osman
Marktum Rwakarambwe

Supported by:
Historic England ‘Everyday Heritage’ Grant

Explore the first factory: AEC

Supported by: