Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Crickhowell's industrial heritage

Crickhowell market square 1954
The factory was built in 1950

Peter Whitney recounts the history of the Elvicta Cabinet and Tool factory which employed more than 100 people in Crickhowell during the 1950s.

I have read with great interest the account by John Addis concerning Elvicta, a satellite company of the Cannock works of Elliot Lucas which made pliers and other metal tools.

Initially Elvicta was known as Elliot Lucas (hand tools)Ltd, until the transfer to Crickhowell and indeed, stamping dies with this name were used for some time after the move.

Late in 1948 I joined other men from Crickhowell who were lodged at an industrial hostel at Causeway Green, Warley. A large number of immigrant workers were also resident there.

We were lucky to have as our trainer Seymour Morris, a former Birmingham City player and a wartime international player for Wales, who worked at Elvicta
Peter Whitney

The hostel was an ex-army camp and accommodation consisted of huts which were spread around the site.

Two men occupied each room, and there was a communal wash place with toilets attached to each block.

spent bullets

Breakfast and evening meals were served in a large canteen.

The factory in Oldbury was situated in an old cinema, where working conditions were primitive to say the least .

The building was situated opposite the local police station, whilst the sawmill was accessed by a small road which came to a dead end, not big enough for two-way traffic, but large enough to let timber lorries deliver their loads.

Many loads of beech logs, imported from the continent, were often full of spent bullets, which meant that saws had to be sharpened more often than was normal.

A number of trainees were allocated to the mill to train as woodworking machinists, whilst I with two other men was placed in the factory to train as joiner hand-tool makers.

On our return to Crickhowell we were involved in the setting up of machinery in the new works ready for production.

Riveting

The factory was officially opened, some time after production started, by Brecon and Radnor MP, Tudor Watkins.

By which time we were able to put into practice our skills of setting up jigs, operating saws, morticing, riveting, tapping, and milling machines as well as spindles, disc and belt sanders necessary for the production of high quality tools.

A number of carpenter/joiners and a cabinet maker were also employed when the company diversified into joinery and cabinet making.

Much of my work making tools such as try and mitre squares, set squares, and bevels, involved hand and machine riveting.

I also made mortice and marking gauges, builders levels, mallets, bow saws, and plumbers tools such as dressers, setting in sticks and bossing sticks.

We supplied tools to many other well-known manufacturers and companies, such as Rabone, Tyzack, Sorby and JC Clay and John Hall of Cardiff.

Dance band

Later came the advent of four-day and even three-day working which made life difficult for everyone, and which led eventually to redundancies during which a number of former trainees left to find work elsewhere.

On the social side of life there were trips organised by the Elvicta Social Club committee, which included trips to musical shows in Cardiff and also a trip to the Festival of Britain.

Christmas parties were held in the canteen. The committee helped to organise such entertainment, often with a dance band in attendance.

I do not recall Aker Bilk appearing at Elvicta, but I do know that through the influence of a lady on the office staff (and her boy friend at the time), we were able to arrange a dance at the Clarence Hall at which Aker Bilk appeared.

Unfortunately the dance was poorly attended and we barely covered our expenses.

As well as being the secretary of Elvicta Social Club I was also secretary of the Crickhowell Youth Football team.

Rosewood

We were lucky to have as our trainer Seymour Morris, a former Birmingham City player and a wartime international player for Wales, who worked at Elvicta.

By kind permission of the management we were able to use the cloakroom facilities for home games until a hut was built on the football field.

I left Elvicta in 1962 to undergo training on a social work course under a scheme organised jointly by the London County Council and the Home Office.

After training I moved with my family to Warwickshire in 1964 and remained there until taking early retirement in 1986 returning to Wales in 1988.

Sadly the days of good quality handmade wood and metal tools ended and now we see tools made of plastic which were formerly made of rosewood, teak, mahogany or beech.




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