Did you work at Johnson & Sons in Great Yarmouth? Historian wants to hear your memories

A HISTORIAN is appealing for pictures and details about people who worked at a Great Yarmouth factory.

Ann Green, 52, from Holton in Suffolk is writing a book about the Yarmouth-based clothing firm Johnson & Sons, and she would like to hear from former employees

Ann, who has written on subjects including the Somerleyton Estate and the Southwold to Walberswick Ferry, is particularly keen to hear stories from factory workers, and to see any photos or documents in existence.

Johnson & Sons started manufacturing oilskin clothing such as sou'westers for fishermen and merchant seamen in 1801 but it was at the end of the century that the business really took off.

It became a limited company and started Yarmouth Stores with WG Knights and GW.Chadd. The firm exported their clothing including knitwear and oilskins all over the world; with the goods produced in factories inMiddlegate Street, South Quay and South Gates Road.

During the second world war the hosiery department was evacuated to Leicestershire, and the building in Free Library Row was bombed.

The workers returned to premises in Admiralty Road and when the main factory and head office in Middlegate was also hit in 1941, the cotton clothing side was transferred to Pier Plain, Gorleston and the head office to North Quay.

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Some of the most famous products of the company were Holdfast overalls and Monument shirts and pyjamas. The number of employees varied from less than 50 in the early days to more than 1,200 before the war.

Later, as well as working in factories, women could work from home and were provided with sewing machines.

Ann said: 'It sounds as if there was a real family atmosphere at Johnsons. Young women could get a job there and learn how to sew, and it was a skill they've been using all of their lives. Many stayed in touch.'

And Ann has learned only single women who promised not to marry or have children could become supervisors.

She explained: 'That's what is so good about social history, we hear about practises that would never be allowed today.'

Johnson's was taken over in the 1970s by the Lesser Group and ultimately disappeared, but Ann hopes those connected to the firm will help ensure the story of Johnson and Sons Ltd is not forgotten.

If you can help, please email annandco@btinternet.com

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