Last month we were fortunate enough to be able to wish our past employee, Annice Unwin, a happy 100th birthday, which she celebrated with her 3 daughters, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Annice started work as 'day girl' at Lea Mills, Derbyshire factory aged 14, before moving on to work at our old Clay Cross factory as a Cup Seamer. We spoke to Annice's daughter Maralyn to find out more about her time working at John Smedley.

Annice in her younger years, when she worked at John Smedley

When did Annice start working for John Smedley?

The year would have been 1932. After leaving school at fourteen, a friend of the family took Annice to the factory to help her get a job. She was taken on as a ‘Day Girl’ running errands for the other employees. She remembers someone asking her to fetch them a glass hammer! She then went on to work in the ‘Welting Corner’ before moving to become a ‘Cup Seamer’ where she would work on the underwear and outer garments.

Left: The snow shows how bad the winter's were for Annice's commute. Right: A coin given to Annice by John Smedley

How did Annice get to work? 

When Annice first started at John Smedley she lived with her parents at Teversal, Nottinghamshire. She would walk from her house to Tibshelf to catch the bus (around a 20 min walk). She recalls the journey feeling long and the big hills the bus would have to climb. In the bad weather the bus would not run and Annice would have to walk to work. She would also bike to work when the weather was good. When Annice married in 1939, she moved to several villages in Derbyshire including Shirland and Wessington before settling in Heath where she worked at the Clay Cross factory. She started work at 8am and finish at 6pm, where the bus would be waiting outside.

Left: Annice enjoying her retirement Right: Annice celebrating her 100th Birthday last month

What was the atmosphere at the factory like?

Annice recalls it being friendly. The work room was really large and they used to sing and she would set them off with old songs such as ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush.’

Since retiring, Annice and her family make regular visits to the John Smedley Factory Shop in Lea, Derbyshire and enjoy walks down Cromford Canal nearby.


Annice wearing her John Smedley Silk Scarf given to her by John Smedley on her 100th Birthday

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