One of our more far-flung fans, Keith Walker from New Zealand, sometimes sends us his memories of the Beeston he remembers from many decades ago. We thought we’d print some of these, and see if any of our more senior readers have similar memories…
In the days when I was living in Beeston, there was a gated level crossing at the end of Station Rd by the railway station, which was the only road access to the Rylands and Ericsson Telephones factory. At the other end of Beeston Station was a footbridge from the end of Dovecote Lane leading to a footpath between Ericsson’s sports field just behind the station and the factory grounds, I think that is still there.
In those days, long before electronic banking was even thought of, it was the law that all wages and salaries had to be paid in cash and every week a car went from the factory to the bank to collect the cash for payday, the next day. With something like 6000 people working there, it was a very large amount of money, all in relatively small denomination notes and coins. There were plenty of different routes from the bank to the level crossing so the run was fairly secure.
A Land Rover was used to stop the wages car, the wages were snatched and another car used for the getaway
However, at some stage a bridge was put over the railway near Boots factory and that provided an alternative route into that part of Beeston between the railway and the river. The car carrying the weekly wages for Ericsson’s had only one route from the crossing gates to the factory and one day sometime after the other route was opened, the wages car was intercepted about 100 metres or so from the factory gates. From memory, a Land Rover was used to stop the wages car, the wages were snatched and another car used for the getaway. It was a very bulky load which would have taken some time to move from one vehicle to another. I worked in the pay office and remember it took a large 4-wheel trolley to carry the cash from the car to the office where the wages were made up for payment.
The getaway car was eventually found behind Lord Trent’s bust at the midway point of University Boulevard. I don’t know whether the thieves were ever caught or whether anything was ever recovered. I do know the bank had difficulties collecting enough cash together in a short time to replace the money that had been stolen.
When I visited Beeston in about 2001, I was surprised to find the level crossing gates had gone: there is now an overpass so traffic into the Rylands area isn’t delayed.
I have just finished watching, for the umpteenth time, the movie ‘Beestonia’. The old photograph of a WW1 bus running on a ‘balloon’ of coal gas reminded me that during WW2, Barton’s did exactly the same with at least one of their single decker buses. I was only a little lad at the time, about 9 or 10 years old.
During the war, Ericsson’s built several supposedly bomb-proof shelters in the factory grounds. They were used for file storage after the war. They were reinforced concrete, with walls about a metre thick, with a sloping ramp between the outer and inner walls and inside the inner wall, stairs leading up to the different floors. There was a third wall and inside that, the rooms where people could shelter. They have obviously gone by now but I wonder what exactly happened to them. They would have been difficult to demolish.