Step onto the factory floor at this Wymondham brush makers

A look at life in the busy Briton Bush Factory.

A look at life in the busy Briton Brush Factory. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

They worked hard but they knew how to enjoy themselves… let’s meet the families who worked at the famous Briton Brush factory in Wymondham.

Wood-turning was the major trade in the town back in the 17th century before weaving took over.

George Wharton busy at his bench on a bass broom.

George Wharton busy at his bench on a bass broom. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The well-established Robert Semmence & Sons were making brush-backs for the Page’s of Norwich and they built a factory and sawmill at Lady’s Lane in Wymondham in 1890.

By the early 1900s brushmaking was flourishing with hundreds of men and women employed in Wymondham and Norwich.

A look at life in the busy Briton Bush Factory.

A look at life in the busy Briton Brush Factory. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

A float from Briton Chadwick’s sister factory at Attleborough which made paint brush.

A float from Briton Chadwick’s sister factory at Attleborough which made paint brushes. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Eventually the Briton Brush Company took over and became famous across the world. And in 1922 the Co-op also opened a factory in the town.

The sawmills in around 1950. Here the brush handles are being moulded.

The sawmills in around 1950. Here the brush handles are being moulded. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The Norwich factory closed and the spotlight was on Wymondham. Briton was booming turning out vast numbers of every kind of brush you can imagine.

During the early 1930s a works playing field was developed where a whole host of events were held. The bosses would put up a marquee and treat children of the staff to bumper teas and entertainments.

The Briton Brush football team on their meadow at Lady’s Lane

The Briton Brush football team on their meadow at Lady’s Lane, having one Division One of the Wymondham & District League in the 1936/7 season. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Cup winners in the late 1940s. That’s Arthur Banham with the trophy.

Cup winners in the late 1940s. That’s Arthur Banham with the trophy. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

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The Briton football club was formed in 1935 and were a handy outfit in the Norwich Junior League and the Wymondham and District League.

The ladies also had a soccer team along with netball and hockey sides and when a swimming pool was opened in Brewery Lane in 1931 the two brush factory teams used it.

The Briton Brush ladies team football team in 1930/1.

The Briton Brush ladies team football team in 1930/1. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Outings were major events to resorts such as Great Yarmouth, Felixstowe and Southend and in 1937 the Co-op chartered a train to take their workers in Blackpool.

There were also Miss Briton competitions.

“The social-cum-dance always gave the directors an opportunity to present retirement and long-service awards,” said Philip Yaxley, the Wymondham historian and author sent us these pictures.

“In 1937 Tom Yaxley, my grandfather, received one such award for 61 years’ continuous service. They really were jobs for life then,” he added.

A staff “do” possibly at the Samson & Hercules.

A staff “do” possibly at the Samson & Hercules. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The Briton Brush ladies team football team in 1930/1.

The company concert party in 1932 which performed at a number of venues. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

And our reporter at the 1954 party in the Samson & Hercules ballroom, attended by 650 people,  wrote: “Everybody from the most junior office boy to the oldest pensioner joined in the fun.

“They are obviously happy people, these Briton people. Yes, their work may have been hard graft, but they really enjoyed ‘workers playtime.’”

A look at life in the busy Briton Bush Factory.

A look at life in the busy Briton Brush Factory. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Both factories have now been demolished…but the memories remain.

With special thanks to Philip Yaxley.

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