Townhill, Peter (b.1922)

Peter Townhill was employed for the whole of his working life by Morlands, a sheepskin factory in Glastonbury.  He worked in the offices, doing accounts, salaries and staff bonuses, and eventually he was responsible for budgetary control.


He talks about the shock that the workers felt when Morlands went into receivership during the 1980s because many of them were third or fourth generation family members to be employed there.

The Morlands Factory, Northover, 1900. The Morlands Factory, Northover, 1900.
Sound File
Listen to Peter Townhill - 1.59MB Duration 3:27 min.

AH: What was the feeling with members of the staff and workers when it did close?  How did...?


PT: All I can say, I think the best way to say that is there were mixed feelings.  There was a quite a number who clearly blamed the directors.


AH: Because it was a shock for the community, wasn’t it?


PT: Oh yes.


AH: I was living here at the time and remember thinking, gosh, this is really important for Glastonbury.


PT: We were the main employer in Glastonbury, admittedly Clarks were strictly in Glastonbury, we were the biggest employer.  And a lot of us thought, well, wherever are we ever going to work now, in future.


Clarks was running down as well for different reasons but um, we did think, and most of the people who had to go outside Glastonbury then to work, they’d been spoilt for years by working on their doorstep, but then they had to travel to go to work.  And it came a bit of a shock.


AH: Yes, it is rather nice, isn’t it, if you can get to work within ten minutes?


PT: Well, yes, you’ve just got to get on your pushbike and you were there.  But um, a lot of people were not able to, never settled in a job outside Morlands even if they, perhaps they still had ten, fifteen years working life in them.  They were not able to adjust.


AH: I suppose for quite a few generations of one family, they would all have been working there, a sort of network?


PT: At one time there were say, four or five generations of the same family worked through.  I think we had at one time the Carters there at one time where there was four generations working at the same time.  I think there was about eight or nine members of the Carter family worked there, and there was families who worked there, became a thing that mother and father worked there, the son automatically went there.  A few of them broke away but in the main, yes, it was families that brought their boy into the business.


AH: And the fact that the mothers worked and significantly a number of daughters as well.


PT: Oh yes, in the clothing department, which was the department which sold off all the footwear, you had several generations of ladies there who worked there.  The average life then of a woman who left school and went into the sewing department there, was only about six or seven years was the average working life because by that time they’d left to have a family.


So at one time we had, [] Mr Joliffe will tell you about this, there was a training department of about a hundred machinists.  You have this throughput of women.  With the men it was a bit different, they had a longer working life.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in 2005. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.