Iris Richards

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: Iris Richards 1 ( KB)

Iris Richards 1

Iris introduces herself and explains what she did as a canteen worker

Iris Richards 2

Iris describes working her way up from veg prep to serving in the "Saloon"

Iris Richards 3

Iris remembers the camaraderie of the company and how "everybody was like a family"

Iris Richards 4

Iris recalls seeing machinery being built in the Fitting Shop "pits" and a sad story about her father-in-law falling into one

Iris Richards 5

Iris talks about her husband, Fred, who worked in the Boiler Yard and the foremen at there and in the Works

Iris Richards 6

Iris recounts how one of the directors, Mr Whittaker, "became a friend" to those who worked in the canteen

Iris Richards 7

Iris describes her 50th birthday celebrations at Fielding's

Iris Richards 8

Iris recalls having to leave when she reached 65 but being taken back part-time

From "veg prep" to canteen favourite, 1947-1983

By Ollie Taylor

Iris started in 1947 as “a veg prep person”. However after a fortnight she was promoted by Miss Palmer to the canteen to serve in the directors' "saloon". She stayed to do “canteen work” at Fielding's for 36 years.

Great big urns

As a canteen worker, Iris went round the Works and the Offices serving tea and refreshments. She also carried trays to the directors as well.

“I had to make the tea into great big urns and then go round the Works with it”

The canteen workers would push the urns to the various parts of the Works on trolleys. If they ran out of food they would run back to the canteen and get it because "we didn’t like the boys going hungry", Iris remembered. One girl (or pair) would serve the lower offices and another girl (or pair) would serve top offices. Then they would alternate the offices they would serve every other day.

There was always lots do and time went quickly. Especially when men in the works used to play practical jokes on them. “They used to play lots of tricks on us!  They were real good fun all of them were”. The camaraderie of the company was such that “everybody was like a family”.

Mops and managers

In clip 6, Iris recounts how one of the directors, Mr Whittaker, “became a friend” to those who worked in the canteen by introducing mops and a concreted floor to it.

On of the canteen workers jobs was scrubbing the floors of the canteen itself. However, they were often interrupted by calls for tea trays by the directors.

“If you were halfway scrubbing the floor and somebody called for a tray – they’d say “a tray for two!” and the manageress would call up “tray for two!” – you’d have to get up, wash your hands, pull your stockings up, get the tray ready, and dash it off, upstairs and downstairs it was, it really was a bit of a do!”

On hearing of this, one of the directors, Mr Whittaker, had the floor of the canteen resurfaced and bought mops for the canteen staff so they didn't need to get down on their hands and knees to do this job.

The best birthday

Iris fondly recalls her 50th birthday celebrations at Fielding’s and how Lionel Longney and the Drawing Office made it very special for her.

“When I got through the door, there was all of them lined up singing ‘Happy Birthday’.  All my trolley was bunged up with paper, things, and balloons.  Oh, I didn’t know what to say!  Fiftieth birthday – that was the best birthday I ever had at work.  And then I had a great big box of chocolates off the Drawing Office.  And the Salesmen before we got there they were the same with flowers.  Beautiful!”

Iris would have continued working in this close-knit, friendly workplace after her 65th birthday but, reluctantly, she had to retire. Happily, however, she was taken back part-time. She also began working in the paper shop opposite Fielding’s until she retired fully aged 76.

If you remember Iris - working with her, or her bringing the trolley round, or serving in the canteen - please share your memories and stories by clicking on Add a comment about this page below.

This page was added by Ollie Taylor on 17/06/2013.
Comments about this page

I am Iris's granddaughter. Unfortunately she passed away on Jan 7th 2014. She will be missed greatly by many.

By Debbie Drinkwater
On 16/01/2014

Hello Debbie. I am very sorry to hear about your Grandmother, Iris,passing away recently. I well remember her bringing down the tea trolley into the fitting shops where I worked during my time at Fieldings. Two of the other 'tea ladies' that I can remember being with her on the trolleys were Rose Sharp and Phyllis Winstone. It was always a happy time when Iris and the other tea ladies arrived in the workshops, in the morning and then again in the afternoon. I also remember her working over the road from the factory in the paper shop, Pittmans I think. When I was working nights I used to go over and get a morning paper as soon as the shop was open.   Chippy Aston.

By Graham Aston
On 16/01/2014