Wednesday, 11 November 2009

All work and...some play

I have completed cataloguing the corporate and share records of the company and it is now time to move on to a much bigger series: employment records. There has been a great amount of interest in these records from people whose relatives used to work for Chance and they are, therefore, a priority for the project. The expected records associated with employees are all present, including registers, salaries ledgers, pension records and health and safety records such as accident books. But the list does not end there. Chance were very interested in the welfare of their workers and a whole host of opportunities and initiatives were open to them.

The best place to look for information about these services is in the staff handbook. The book was designed to 'make every reader feel at home' by ensuring that 'nobody is ignorant of what might be called the larger life of the Works'. The first part of the book introduces the employee to the welfare services that are on offer including, amongst many others, Provident Society membership offering admission to convalescent homes and benefits in the event of sickness absence or death, various assurance and savings schemes including a depositors scheme to help employees gain a financial interest in the company and opportunities to voice their opinions through the suggestion scheme and Works Consultative Committee. The second part of the book is devoted to the 16 rules every employee should follow regarding working hours, clocking in and out, collection of wages, health and safety, sickness and secrecy. Rule 8 regarding conduct is quite amusing:

'It is not our affair how you amuse yourselves away from the Works, but in the Works themselves, in the interests of everybody bad language, skylarking, cycling, idling, card playing, gambling, or betting, or offering tickets for sale or receiving in exchange for money tickets for football or racing sweeps, or distributing or collecting football coupons or betting slips, etc., are strictly prohibited.'

This does not mean, however, that the Works did not indulge in some amusement. Employees were expected to contribute towards the upkeep of the recreation club pavilion and ground for sporting activities, dances and concerts. These activities were greatly appreciated by the workers and this is clear from the fond reminiscences of past employees that were recorded as part of The Public's Taking Chances project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2006. Their stories are available in the Chance Encounters magazines and website produced as a result of the project. This website is available at

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