C.W.Cheney & Son
(22/11/2016) Hi Ted, I have just very much enjoyed reading your blog on C. W. Cheney Factory Road. My Dad, Jack Horton, was one of the Tool Room Foremen, until he was made redundant in the 1980s. He is still very much alive at 92 and fit and well. As his daughter I remember the parties in the canteen and the trips to the pantomime, with a tub of ice cream for everyone. I recently brought dad to see his old area. He was born at the end of Benson Road and went to Benson Road School.
Kind regards Jill Marshall
FACTORY ROAD 13/07/08
My name is Eric Taylor. I am 73 years old and for over twenty years I worked (I use the word loosley) at C.W.Cheney & Son or just plain "Cheney's" at it w as affectionally known.
The impressive building itself stood in Factory Road (A strange coincidence. I don't know which came first, the building or the roads name but it seems fitting that it should have been named after the large factory or ( in "Street of Brum part 1" page 57 Carl Chinn mentions Factory Road and refers to Matthew Boulton and the factory he had built in 1764/5.)
According to the front entrance the building was erected in 18?? I can't quite remember. But what I do remember is that "Cheney's" was Factory Road. The owner Mr. Cheney must have been a very forward thinking person as his factory was miles ahead (apart from the wages) of any other factories in the area. It was a lock manufacturer which produced several types of very high quality locks for suitcases and travel luggage. It was said that he held the World market for them and I for one certainly believed that he did.
The Factory was self sufficient. Apart from the various metals that were bought in, everything else was done in house on the premises to make the locks. A large cutting shop which produced the many assorted blanks needed to make the locks. There were five large production departments which shaped on power presses the various components for the locks. A plating shop which covered all types of coverings from nickel to brass coating to chrome etc. An extremely large warehouse where the inspection and packaging was done very carefully by what seemed to be a hundred of young ladies (very popular place at Christmas) and a despatch department where the finished goods were finally crated and sent off to their various home and world wide locations.
Of course a firm this size needed a Toolroom, a Maintenance dept, Electricians dept, a Laquering shop and a canteen which served hot meals at dinner time. There was also a First Aid room which was run by the formidable Sister Williams. A proper Welsh Dragon that stood no nonsense whatsoever. At times she would stand outside the ladies toilets and moniter the girls as they went in (probably for a smoke and a chat) When she thought their time was up in she would charge and rout them all out and back to work. There was a social club run by a works committee which arranged various functions. For example at Christmas all employees with young children could take their kids to the firms Christmas Party. There would be food, fun and games and finish off with a visit from Santa plus a real good present to take home afterwards. The slightly older children were treated to a day out in town by coach to see a Pantomime at either The Birmingham Hippodrome or The Alex Theatres.
Even the pensioners who had retired were not forgotten. They were given a Christmas hamper complete with a card to go with it. If I remember correctly it was the firms van driver "Ronnie Hawker" who made the deliveries. As for the workers, we received a full weeks wages with no tax or anything taken from it. (A Christmas present indeed) Plus there was always a great Christmas Party held on the day we broke up. Every department trimmed up their shop for the occasion, but I think it was the warehouse who always came off best.
The power presses that Mr.Cheney purchased were all of the same kind and the tools that went into them were designed to fit any press. Each department (and remember there were five) had a different line of locks to produce. Most departments had roughly 70 presses with a labour force of 48 women to work them. Also the same department would have an assembly shop, where about 30 women would assemble the locks ready for inspection and packing.
The whole factory was a great place to work. There were generations of families. Husbands & Wives, Sons & Daughters, Brothers & Sisters. It always seemed to me that once you started working there, you never left. There were lots of employees with over thirty or forty years service in. Some of the men had worked there before the start of the Second World War enlisted, done their service and returned back to "Cheney's" to resume their various jobs. A large oak memorial board was made with all the "Cheney" mens names and ranks on it painted in gold. It was placed on the wall in the Reception Area so that all visitors to the factory could see it.
I'm sure that if an old "Cheneyite" reads this they will have a special memory from them days and could perhaps share it with us.
I've put down a few names of some of the people who worked there which might jog a few memories
Mr Eric Constable . . . . . . . . . . . . Works Manager
(He managed the factory after the death of Old Mr.Cheney on behalf Mr. Cheney's son Howard)
The following names were all foremen at sometime or other throughout the years and up to the time I left in 2000. Billy Partridge, Arthur Hatton, Vic Hipkiss, Ted Terry, Billy France, Harry Beard, Tommy Hughes, Billy Trueman, Jack Potter, Albert Kench, Reg Kite, Tommy Woods, Tommy Mortiboys, Ron Ffyfer, Bob Troman, Ray Howell, Doug Bradley, Joe Archer, Frank Archer, Jack Horton, Dennis Head, Tom Carty, Brian Smith, John Timms "Rudy" Eric Taylor.
Harry Hunt The Personal Officer, Sister Williams The Factory nurse, Edie Sister Williams sidekick, Norah Canteen manageress, Tommy Hawker Night Watchman
Luigi Night Watchman, Tommy Gloster Works Convener, Doreen Such Works Convener,
Albert Rawlings Works Convener, Miss Joan Woods Wages Office, Arthur Wall The Firms unofficial photographer, Elaine Dovey The Firms girl friday, John Constable A true gentleman; and very good at crosswords, Vic Buckley Affectionally known as the Factory cat. There are tons more worthy of a mention my apologies to anyone I have not included but my sole aim is to get this great old factory "Cheneyland" on record.
ERIC TAYLOR email@example.com
C.W.CHENEY. . . FACTORY ROAD 29/07/08
"THE DARTS ERA"
Ask any man who worked at Cheney's in the 1965-1980 years and I'll bet you a days pay he was in a Cheney Dart Team. If a new man applied for a job interview there I'm sure that the Foreman who did the interviews first words would be "Do you play darts?" If the poor mans answer was "No" . . . Tough If it was "Yes" . . . "When can you start?"
Originally it was all started by a chap who was a labourer in E.Department where I worked. His name was George "Chips" Raffety. He got a few chaps interested and started up a little league. He did the fixtures crudely in pencil and pinned them each week onto the Works Notice Board. That's where I came in. I offered to type them out each week together with the match results and the league positions and a few extra copies for those taking part. The interest around the factory grew and Inter-Departmental Darts was born. Shortly after that "Chips" got a better job at a nearby foundry "Avery's" and left. (Goodbye Mr. Chips) I then took over from what he had started and ran the Darts Competitons for nigh on the next fifteen years. I must hastily add that my wife Sheila, who did not work at Cheney's did a hell of a lot behind the scenes work for me. At first the different departments took on their own personal and department name. There was The Maintenance, The Toolroom, The Staff, Toolsetters United, The Polishing Shop and The Elect etc etc. They all bought their own dartboard and fitted it up in an odd corner of their department. Later these corners would become more revered than a Temple. As the Darts League became more and more popular more teams wished to enter the league. Mates from different parts of the factory would band together and form a team giving themselves a team name. for example "The Super Six" "The Golden Arrows" The Minstrels" "The Breakaways" were just a few of the many. Over the years the league became bigger and better. I introduced Trophies and Plaques for the various Winners and Runners up. We had a Works Individual Champion, Doubles Knock-Out plus other contests too numerous to mention. Then the women decided that they wished to enter an all girls team into the league and so the famous "Mini-Six" was born. Six ladies from all over the factory Staff & Works combined. They were never going to win any major trophies but they could upset teams averages which could lose them points.. Should a male team lose to them they were never allowed to forget believe me.
I kept the Darts Treasury going with various raffles and Name the number cards and with the help from darts members (Bob Busby & Pat Keogh) who would take the tickets etc around the different Dept's I was able to buy the trophies needed at the end of the season. Then it was decided that instead of just handing the winners engraved trophies at the factory a proper presentation should be made. So I decided to hold a Darts Presentation Dance. This is where my dear wife Sheila came in. She could charm the ducks out of the water. She would ring round various places to get the cheapest venue plus the cheapest disc jockey (Brother John) plus the cheapest engraver and so on and on. From then on The Darts presentation Dance was to be an annual event. The Works Manager Mr. Eric Constable would attend and together with his wife would present each receiver with his or hers plaque. Arthur Wall (The firms unofficial phoptographer would take photo's of the presentation which you could purchase from him at a very reasonable price)
Mr. Eric Constable donated a large silver cup, which we named "The Constable Cup" which was presented each year to the League Winners. It was a beauty of a cup that would have put Wembley to shame.
Later I began to use the local British Legion Clubs (Bacchus Road & Worlds End Lane) as our venues as they didn't really charge much for the room and they were glad of the extra business (All Cheneyites loved their ale)
Yes looking back on those years I have some great memories. The Darts League was a great ice breaker on the factory floor. No matter which department you worked in you would have at some time played against someone from other departments which would always be a talking point if you met up during the course of the day. You could make friends or rivals, it depended on who had won or lost!
It was with great sadness that in 1979 the factory was took over by a German Company. Redundancies were rife and practically half the factory workers, including myself, said their sad goodbyes. The C.W.Cheney Darts League was no more but I'm certain that a lot of the old employees will still remember with fondness those happy times.
I feel it only fair to mention some of the teams and their playes. My apologises to anyone who I may have missed out. Some names might appear twice as over the years players would swap teams.
The Warehouse . . . Billy Trueman, Ernie Farr, Brian Lancaster, Ray Howell, Kenny Burchell.
The Engineers . . . John Timms, Martin Finch, John "Oggy" Hancox, Albert Rawlings.
The Shadows . . . Ronnie Carpenter, Peter Badger (The tallest guy in the League) Dick Richards, Howard Jenkins, John "Nobby" Cannon.
The Cheney Rangers . . . Eric Taylor, Dick Richards, Bob Busby, Dave Field, G.J.Smith, Frank "Golden Hand" McArdle.
The Super Six . . . Tom Carty, Joe Carty, Doug Turvey.
The Minstrels . . . Lloyd Burgher, Charlie Soloman.
The Staff . . . Arthur Allen, Mac Clifford, Billy Partridge, Ted Terry.
The Toolroom Rovers . . . Alan Chambers, John "Oggy" Hancox, Derek Hannah, Tony Hipkiss.
The Golden Arrows . . . Clive Hughes, Barry Martin. Bob Busbie.
Toolsetters United . . . Eric Taylor, Bob Hubble, Peter Hathaway, Martin Finch, Roy Stubbs and Tommy "Mr. Spectacular" Slater (Always pulled something out of the hat for us)
The Elect . . . Brian Smith, Albert Kench, Roy Jones, Dave Everett, Kevin Tighe and Alan Cole (Who practically won everthing that was going)
The Hose Clip Dept . . . Billy Warren, Vic Dangerfield.
The Mini-Six . . . Phyliss Bickley, Elaine Dovey, Pat Keogh.
C.W.CHENEY . . . THE FINAL GOODBYE 20/08/08
In 1979 I and several others sadly took voluntary redundancies from C.W.Cheney & Son. In 1993 (After 14 years in the wilderness) I returned for the third time to my first love. The old firm was now a shadow of its former self. What had been a small empire was now condensed and confined to the downstairs floor space. The top floors had all been sold off to other small companies and were now off limits to Cheney employees. The old Warehouse had been transformed into the Cutting & Shearing Shop. The now small Toolroom had been placed at one end of the department whilst the Electics & Maintenance had been shuffled to one side of the same department. The rest of the floor space had been sectioned of into two halves; one for the power press production and the other half for Assembly, Packing and Despatch. the Plating Shop was where it had always been (It was far too dilapidated to move)
What amazed me most of all was that absolutely nothing had really changed. It was like going back in time or to put it plainer an extension of "The Black Country Museum!" The same power presses, the same assembly jigs, the same working condition, unfortunately the same wages and in several cases the same staff that had been there since the beginning of time.
Mr Graham Smith was now the Managing Director. Arthur Hatton was the Foreman/Supremo. He was in charge of everything (Apart from the Toolroom & Electric's) how he managed to run it all for all those years is beyond belief. Tom Carty was his second in command; he was another man who worked tirelessly for the Company. John Timms (Foreman) ( Now nicknamed "The Growler") ran the Toolroom together with Arthur Wall, Gerry, Jason (The First Aid Officer) and another chap (A Birmingham City supporter) whose name I can't remember. Albert Kench (Foreman) and Brian Smith ran the Electric & Maintenance Dept.
Dennis Snape & Stuart Waldron were the production toolsetters. Rudy Cohen was the Cutting shops leading hand Len Robinson his right hand man. His operators came and went with the exception of Peter Badger (The tallest guy Cheney's ever hired) I was able on my return to persuade a former toolsetter from way, way back to rejoin the Company. His name was Martin Finch (A pretty good Darts player as I remember)
Ronnie Carpenter well deserves a mention. He served as the firms Shearer for well over thirty years and still came in after his retirement to help train a new shearer whenever the occasion arose. Luigi and Vic Buckley were now the factory cats ( Never off the premises) acting as handymen and night watchman. And this guy called Ron looked after the Plating Shop again with various helpers. How he got that place to work at all was a modern day miracle. It was, I'm certain of, held together with paper clips, string and a wire coat hanger plus the never-ending attention it got from messer's Kench & Smith.
Upstairs in the Offices were Elaine Dovey (Cheney's Girl-Friday) John Constable (Another Cheney stalwart) John Hinton (Sales) Mr Larner and Joan & Teresa (Wages)
About three years after I had returned Mr Arthur Hatton retired (The end of a Legend) The Managing Director, I'm sure, acting on Arthur's advice split the factory floor into four quarters, Production/Assembly/Warehouse, Cutting & Plating shops. I together with Tom Carty, Rudy Cohen and this guy called Ron became the new department foremen. The next five or six years saw many comings and goings. Albert Kench retired (Brian Smith was made up to foreman) Graham Smith M.D. was replaced by the owner Mr Franchen's (Not sure of the spelling) daughter Pia (A tall willowy six foot blue eyed blonde with no real experience in management but pleasant enough to work with) At least she could get her father to pay the never-ending bills for the different metals we always needed. To be honest, by now, I think most of the factory floor could see the writing on the wall. Pia had returned to Germany. John Timms & Tom Carty were put in sole charge of running the factory production (And by Golly it really worked) until the money ran out. I remember quite well one morning sitting in my office with Tom Carty when Peter Badger burst in with the news that three "Blokes" (As Peter put it) had bought the factory lock, stock & barrel. There had been no previous news or rumblings of this and it came as a complete shock to everyone.
These three "Blokes" then proceeded to sell everything in the factory that was not tied down. Power presses, Assembly jigs, scrap iron and old obsolete perfectly good locks all went up for auction or off to the local scrap yard. The place was a circus. Timms & Carty did somehow manage to continue with current orders under very difficult circumstances and conditions.
The new owners rented parts of the factory floor out to another lock manufacturing company and again to a chap named Trevor who manufactured copper rings for Bulls noses (I kid thee not) The Plating Shop was sold off but the new owner kept this guy called Ron on as he was the only man on Planet Earth who could keep the place up and running.
It was now coming up to the end of 1999 and time for me at 65 to retire. In the year 2000 C.W.Cheney & Son finally closed its factory doors for the last time. Some of our popular lines in locks etc were bought up by another lock manufacture and transported to a place, I believe in West Bromwich. They took the machines & jigs etc and some of the existing staff and as far as I know they are still churning them out.
The Final story on "Cheneyland" is a sad one. There was a real good pension scheme set up by the original owner and management plus a workers settlement fund. All employees were in it and contributed to it all their working days. Apparently at the time of the factories closure there was near enough "Two and a half million pounds in the kitty" What exactly hapeened to it all I have no idea but what I do know is that it all disappeared and the factory workers were left with "Zilch!" Absolutely nothing for all those years they had faithfully worked for. Remember some of these employees had been with the firm for forty years. There was a fraud case brought up against the offenders. A trial has since been held and some of them went to prison. What the the final outcome was I can't with any proper knowledge say. There was a lot of newspaper coverage at the time and if you go to Google and type in C.W.Cheney's you will get the full story. The old building still stands proudly in Factory Road. I've heard several rumours as to what it is being used as today but if they are true I really can't say. It was a grand old firm to work for with memories galore and I'm happy to be just one of its many many employees.
ERIC TAYLOR firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Smith (or Smithy as he was often called) was one of Cheney's electricians who worked for the firm for over forty years. I went to the same school as he did (Handsworth New Road) and can say without reservation that he was a great guy who will be sadly missed by all his friends, colleagues and workmates.
A much laid back character with a dry sense of humor he could discuss any subject on this planet and often did (On Cheney time of course) with the many, many workmates (Both Male & Female) he had made over the years he'd worked there. Sport, Films, Music, Politics and Travel just to name a few, no subject was Taboo. He was also an accomplished photographer and I can remember the how proud he was when he became a grandfather for the first time and brought photographs in of his new baby grand-daughter that he had taken to show off to all his workmates.
Brian was involved in everything. In Cricket he was Cheney's wicket keeper. Darts he was the captain of "The Elect" Darts team. In Snooker he was on the committee that ran the different tournaments. He and his lovely wife Pam would also organise days and nights out to various places i.e. The West Midlands Safari Park or Pub Skittles with a fish & chips supper to follow and together with his life long pal Albert Kench they organised a very popular "Rally Club" which I can tell you from experience was a really wonderful day out.
I ran a factory "Mastermind" kind of Quiz over a couple of weeks in the firms dinner time break and needless to say Brian won it. He beat my brother-in-law Billy Holmes in The Final.
At his place of work Brian's workbench would be littered with (Foreigners as they were called) old steam irons, electric kettles and toasters that the women had brought in for him to look at and hopefully repair. Come Christmas (His busiest time of the year for Foreigners) well, he was bogged down with dodgy Japanese Christmas tree lights that half the entire factory had brought in for him to fix.
But despite all that he did a marvelous job of keeping things running in the factory. New plant machinery, new overhead lighting and of course that "Ruddy Plating Shop" kept him and the other "Sparkies" (Messes Kench, Cole & Jones) busy but Brian always seemed to shine through with a smile and a very dry joke.
Brian had his serious side and will always be remembered as a reliable, sensible chap who could always come up with a possible solution to your queries. He was a very good Shop Steward for the electricians and I can remember on many occasions that when a factory problem at work cropped up regarding Union matters, "What does Smithy think about it" would be asked many times by fellow Shop Stewards.
Sadly "Smithy" passed away this month (September) but through this fond tribute I know he will always remain in the memories of those of us who knew and loved Brian Smith . . . God Bless and rest in Peace.
JOHN CANNON aka "Nobby" 1937-2008 16/11/08
Johnny Cannon (or "Nobby" as he was always called) in my book was Cheney's number one character. He worked (and again I use the word loosely) at the firm as a labourer but was known by all for his skills of buying and selling. Each morning he would arrive with some items in a tatty bag, usually long playing records, toothpaste, biro's etc. and by the end of the day had sold them to somebody on the firm. If you had something to sell then "Nobby" was the man to do it for you. He was by no means a good looker and had his leg pulled mercilessly by the lads in the Toolroom about his love life. One true story that comes to mind is of a Presentation Dance that was being held. "Nobby" had told everyone with pride that his new girlfriend was coming with him to see him being presented with a darts trophy he'd won.
No-one believed he had a girl friend so we were all astounded when "Nobby" arrived with a real stunner on his arm. "Nobby" had scrubbed up well and looked really smart in a new long brown leather coat. A short time into the evening "Nobby" went missing. He even failed to turn up for his trophy. The next day at work we asked what had happened to him and his "Bond Girl" He told us that he'd bought her a couple of cocktails and she went off to powder her nose. When she didn't come back he went looking for her only to find that she had cleared off taking his brand new leather coat with her. That was "Nobby" for you.
A complete character who I'm sure will be up there in the clouds trying to sell God a new puppy. God bless.
Sadly another Cheney “Character” passed away this month, Dick Richards at the age of 83 years. He worked as a Shearer toolsetter/operator then became a power press toolsetter in the busy “Expanding Dept” from 1960 to 1980.Dick was well known throughout Cheney’s factory for his Domino League that he set up and ran on his own for many years. Again like the Darts League this too was very popular with half the male force of Cheney’s.
Many would say that Dick was an argumentive old cuss which would be fair comment but his heart was always in the right place. He held no grudges against fellow workers and would always be the first man up to the bar getting the first round in for all those present including his adversaries, some times after heated arguments, be they Dominoes, his love of Worcester cricket club or Union matters.
He brought many happy memories and plenty of unintentional laughs to those who worked in E.Dept. Those people could all tell you of his comical exploits that always caused a titter or two. With Dick in our department our days were never dull; he was the original fall guy. He played darts for my team “The Cheney Rangers” and in one crucial match against all the odds he won his game which was a decider and in doing so we won the League title.
A real strong union man, he became a shop steward who could and often would argue the cause till the moon came out. He was a good man to have at any meetings with the management, for while he was hammering away a certain point the rest of us had time to sit back and gather our thoughts, rethink and come back at the management from a different angle.
He was happily married with a family of seven children. Tragedy was no stranger to his life but he still soldiered on taking the knocks as they came. After he retired he did quite a lot of local Charity work and set up and ran a successful local pub Domino League. He was involved with The British Legion and attended many of their Remembrance parades. Dick was buried alongside his wife Joan surrounded by his family and friends at Quinton Cemetery. Characters like “Dick Richards” are few and far between. He was a real gent and will be sorely missed. ERIC TAYLOR email@example.com
It is with great sadness that I pass on the news that Bob Hubble passed away on Friday 14th May 2010. For ten years he had stubbornly fought off his battle with cancer but sadly he died in hospital with his wife Hazel present at his side.
Bob was a very popular guy at C.W.Cheney’s where he worked as a toolsetter for nigh on twenty five years till redundancy lifted its ugly head. His great happy smile and his genuine friendly manner will be remembered by all who knew and worked alongside him. He was the deputy foreman in a large lock production department where he supervised eighty power presses and fifty women operators of many nationalities. He also had fellow toolsetters working with him, myself included for twenty years. I can say with great honesty that he was well respected by us all. He was a real down to earth guy whom you could and did trust. Everyone was treated the same with no favoritism whatsoever. It was a pleasure to work alongside him.
He took an active part in many of the Cheney Social functions. He played cricket for the firm’s team, won quite a few trophies playing darts and was also a member of the Snooker Club, Camera Club and the Rally Club. His presence at any of these events was always welcome, for with him came his warm and friendly manner.
After being made redundant from Cheney’s he worked as a toolsetter for Frank Dudley’s and Swan Electrics which later became Moulinex. At both places it was no surprise that he made many new friends. He will I know be sorely missed by everyone who knew and loved him.
Bob’s funeral was attended by his wife Hazel and his daughter Karen, family relatives, friends and fellow workmates from Cheney’s. ERIC TAYLOR firstname.lastname@example.org