Stephen Fieldhouse of Wolverhampton left St. Joseph's School in Steelhouse Lane in 1955 and recalls that "my first job was at Sankey's of Bilston, the Albert Street Works, where I was a welder.

"We had a large family and I had six sisters and two brothers. All of my sisters worked at the Ever Ready in Park Lane. My eldest brother Billy worked at a firm on Wednesfield Road, after he came home from the Navy after the war. My youngest brother Michael was born with Down's Syndrome. As with all families, money was very tight and my mother told me to get a job at the Wolverhampton Steam Laundry, in Sweetman Street, Whitmore Reans. The reason for this was it was coming up to Christmas and if I could get on the delivery vans I might get some tips for Christmas.

The old Ever Ready factory in Park Lane, as seen in 2001.

"The following year, 1956, my mom heard that my mate across the road in Hednesford Crescent had got a job at the Osier Bed Rolling Mills, Horsley Fields; I lived on the opposite corner of Foster Road. Billy had started in February as he was a few months older than I, and you could not start until you were 16 years old, so I stayed at the laundry until June. As soon as I was 16, my mother arranged an interview with the mill manager, Mr. Cope. The job was three shifts, so mum arranged my interview at 5.30 in the morning to show that I could get up for the 6-until-2 shift and I duly got the job.

"The rate for the job was paid on tonnage, but you had to wait a while to get on the rolls, so my first job was filling a large skip with coal, probably a ton at a time, to be tipped into the coal fired furnace.


"My mate, Billy Boult, had by now got a job on the rolls, I think it was tramming which involved dragging the white hot billet from the strand roll to the first set. My wage was £10 per week which I took home to my mom and was given £2 back for pocket money. One of the jobs I had as well as filling the skip was fetching the beer for the men on the rolls, they would all have their own pop bottles and I would push a barrow to the 'Oak' in Alma Street, Heath Town. I would give the piece of paper with the order to the publican and he would start filling the bottles and he asked me if I wanted a pint, but I told him I was only 16. He said that if I was old enough to wheel the barrow and work in the mill I was old enough to drink a pint. So in later years I blamed him for being a hardened drinker.

"After a while I got a job on the rolls and one of my first jobs was on the 'guides'; this could be a killer of a job especially if we were producing one inch rounds off the roller. Mr. Norman Cox had to tighten the guides and you had to pinch the bars in and many times your hands would be close to bleeding; the rollers' cure was to run to the toilet and urinate on them.

"As the time went by I saved enough money for a deposit on a brand new Francis Barnet Rover motorbike from Copes in Stafford Street, costing £179 plus £9 fully comprehensive insurance, and things were going fairly well until late 1957.

"I was on the afternoon shift 2 until 10, and was travelling down Horsley Fields when a car shot out of a side street.

"This is where the story gets interesting. I was semi-conscious in the middle of the road and someone carried me into the nearest building which happened to be Jennings the Funeral Director and I heard a man say 'Don't leave him in the foyer it's bad for our image'. For years the joke in the family was that I was the only man carried into Jennings and carried out alive.

"I spent a couple of months in hospital with a badly broken leg, and as time went by I ran out of money and had to let my bike go back to Copes.

An advert for Osier Bed Rolling Mills from 1959.


"When I finally went back to work it was on nights and I asked the roller, Mr Cox, if I could have a light job for a couple of weeks, he started laughing and said a light job didn't exist and I had to work topside, this involved dragging a billet of up to two hundredweight from the first set to the third set and by the end of the shift I could hardly walk. I stuck it out for a number of months and was gradually getting worse - but my mate Billy Boult was a great help.

"I asked the mill manager, Mr C, if there was a chance of learning a new job such as roll turning but he laughed and said those sort of jobs weren't for the likes of me and I would always have to use a pair of tongs.

"I left just after and got a job back at Sankey's Bankfield Works, Bilston, as a trainee toolsetter for about three years before moving to Chubb's, Wednesfield Road, where I spent many happy years, but I never forgot my time spent at the Wolverhampton and Birchley Rolling Mills’ Osier Bed Works."

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