by S. A. Barnett

with Frank Sharman and Reg Aston

Work and Play at John Thompson

John Thompson was not only owned and operated by one family but it employed many families.  There developed a tradition of members of a family following in their parents’ footsteps into employment with the company. 

And from their earliest days the children were involved when they were invited to the annual Christmas party. This old photo shows the party in the Motor Pressings canteeen, 1929.

Every year, when it was time for school leavers to start work, the first opportunity of jobs was given to children of existing employees.  Apprenticeship schemes were introduced and a training school was established. There were three types of apprenticeship.

Craft Apprentice:  to train skilled workers such as toolmakers.
Indentured Apprentice:  to train technical staff such as draughtsman.
Commercial Apprentice:  for training in subjects such as finance and sales.

An Indentured Apprentice starting work in 1936 was apprenticed until the age of 21, so a lad was paid ten shillings a week until his seventeenth birthday when the weekly rate went up to fifteen shillings.  At eighteen it rose to a pound, and at nineteen was twenty five shillings, rising to thirty shillings at twenty, which was then paid until his twenty first birthday.  The wages were less state insurance deductions.

A group of John Thompson workers photographed about 1910.

But the company, like most other large companies, provided, or subsidised or otherwise encouraged all sorts of sporting and social activities.  Apart from the family’s interest in looking after their workers, they had to provide facilities to attract and keep staff. 

The Motor Pressings football club was formed in the early days of the limited company.  In 1919 the team played in the Wolverhampton and District Works League Division One.   They resigned in 1927, re-entered in 1942.  In the 60s various Thompson teams amalgamated and played as Thompson Group teams.  They played on the company athletic ground at Stow Heath Lane before the war and then the sports ground at Spring Road.

Another group of workers, of an unknown date.  Note the young boys in the front row - and the array of flat caps.

JTMP also had a successful bowls section, playing in the W & D WL with teams such as Rubery Owen, Harpers, Chillington, Palethorpes, Sunbeam, Bradleys, Manders, Star, Vaughans, Sankeys, Jenks & Co and Wolverhampton Gas. 

And there were clubs for gardening, chess, judo, fishing, snooker, billiards as well as a male voice choir.  In 1925 a Poultry Club was started which in 1928 became the John Thompson Motor Pressings Fanciers Society, with competitions for rabbits, eggs, flowers fruit, vegetables.

And the company had a brass band which in the 20s and 30s played as the Band of the 6th Battalion South Staffs Regiment.  After WW2 it was known as the John Thompson Works Band. 

JTMP had a canteen in Davis Street.  There was a Group canteen behind the cottages in Millfield Road.  The canteen building was also an assembly hall hosting a variety of events.  There was a billiards table and bagatelle table and outside were two bowling greens and a croquet lawn and a bandstand “of timber and asbestos construction” .

In 1961 the new canteen was opened on the sports field next to the axle bay. 

Other ways of attracting and keeping staff were also in use from early times.  In 1918 when the limited companies were formed employees were allotted shares in accordance with their number of years service.   

There were also presentations to acknowledge long service with the company. A certificate was awarded for ten years service, and medals were given for fifteen years. 20 years, 40 years and 50 years.  There was also a small monetary gift. 

The  issue of long service awards began in 1924 for employees having 10 or more years in continuous employment and by 1950 well over 100,000 years of service had been recognised The awarding of medals continued until the nineteen sixties and in 1966 a gold watch was given to mark fifty years service.  This dropped clown to forty years and finally ended at 30 years service.


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