Tiverton, Devon: Making Munitions and Gas Nets For The Front
The Heathcoat fabric factory in Tiverton recorded its war day by day. The company’s log books are a unique record of a local business at war and are a record of this local business making lace for Americans and for war widows, while making munitions and gas nets for the forces at the Front during World War One. American orders swelled during wartime.
Handwritten entries in two leather bound books record the lives and deaths at Heathcoats. In 1914, the factory was the town’s largest employer. It was also an exporter and had expanded its lace making business across the Atlantic and into Europe.
The company’s cashier recorded the loss of the continental markets, the profits of war work, the efforts to exempt lace-makers from military service and the debates over the work women could and couldn’t do.
The diaries also detail the people of the factory. They include the Heathcoat Amory family (the owners), the employees who went to war, the women who were first to work the machines, and the cashier who was to record the detailed story of a local factory at war.
Heathcoats Fabrics continue to make military fabrics today.
Location: Heathcoats, Tiverton, Devon EX16 5LL
Image shows some of the factory workers during the war
Photograph courtesy of Pam Sampson
Presented by Jo Loosemoore