Walking Through Longbridge
Walking Through Longbridge by Sas Taylor on Flickr

As redevelopment of the old Longbridge works land continues, a Bromsgrove resident has launched a campaign to have a Museum of Working Life on the site.

Local activist Mark France wants to see a museum to remember the contributions that workers at the car factory, from Austin through to Rover and MG Motors, made to the area. Mark’s father, grandfather and aunts and uncles all worked at the Longbridge plant.

Mark was inspired to start the campaign when he read an article in The Independent’s i newspaper.  The article ‘Home is where the factory was’  looked at how the Longbridge site is being developed. In particular, it was comments from renowned local historian Carl Chinn, which made Mark want to start the campaign. In the article, Professor Chinn told i: “I’d urge the developers to bring in public art and even a museum that recognises the workers; the designers. We need to make sure our children and our children’s children know about Longbridge and about the pride and status of the place.”

Professor Chinn is supporting the campaign and told us that it is important that we have something to remember the hard work of all the men and women who made Longbridge what it was.

In the first step of the campaign, Mark has set up an e-petition to ask Bromsgrove District Council to work with Birmingham City Council, local educators NEW and Bournville Colleges and others to work towards the establishment of a working life museum.

The issue will be debated by Bromsgrove councillors if the petition reaches 1250 signatures. You can sign the petition here. 

Through the campaign’s Facebook group, other supporters are working to set up a petition aimed at Birmingham City Council which you will find here on b31.org.uk once up and running.

Read more:

Petition to Birmingham City Council

Petition to Bromsgrove District Council

BBC News: Petition calls for museum of Longbridge MG Rover plant life

Campaign Facebook group

Sign the Birmingham petition:

[emailpetition id=”3″]

Go to petition page

9 COMMENTS

  1. Longbridge has 100 years of British Manufacturing; the site was the heart and sole of the community.

    With all the redevelopment and new beginnings starting Longbridge is an ideal place to bring your business to.

    Museum.

    The history will always run through my family’s veins and be close to our heart, like many others who lived by and worked at the Longbridge site.

    When Rover closed a lot of funding was given and administered through Birmingham City Council via the then Labour Government.

    With this CSB commissioned the DTA ( Community Development Agency) to look at a community development trust being set up. This was a great success but sadly the then administration 2006 didn’t feel it had enough back bone. I know from other successful CDTs like THE GOODWIN PROJECT in Hull it would have been amazing and third sector groups would not be closing or fighting for funding.

    A museum is needed to keep the history but the best thing that could be done for the past and future is to have a Longbridge Community Development Trust which can have an arm of a small museum. This will then enable the local community to become a self sustainable area.

    It will support local people and local jobs. I do support the need for a museum but need to emphasise that it will not be financially viable, the only way forward is to take this idea of CDT.

    Gaydon Heritage Centre has done an amazing job rescuing items from skips, storing a lot of items. It would be great to have the items on a 6 month rolling display within the CDT.

    BCC should start an amazing historic route, from Longbridge travel up the A38 to Cadbury, Selly Manor the list is endless then ending up in Town.

    Perhaps the wording of the petition could support the CDT as it will hold the Heritage forever and support the future.

    A meeting is being put together to see how we can move forward I will post it on here for all to be involved.

  2. No one more than me would welcome a museum on the old Longbridge site as we must never forget the 100 years of employment and history it has given the community of Longbridge and the west midlands.

    I call for people who are interested to get round the table and work out whats best for this great idea of bringing our history back to where it belongs.

    These people should include local councillors
    MP Richard Burdon
    The Austin Federation
    Rover community action trust
    EX Rover workers
    MG motors ltd
    st modwens

    We need to do whats best for all concerned and we can only do that by listerning to the views of all those that want to get involved.

    Lets all work together and give the people of Longbridge and the west midlands the museum they want.

    Councillor Andy Cartwright
    Working for all in Longbridge.

  3. Andy and Gemma, thanks so much for commenting.

    I’m really glad that this campaign has started the ball rolling again on looking at how this could be delivered in a way which also benefits the community of Longbridge.

    If and when you get a meeting organised, let us know!

  4. I think this is a great idea and I whole-heartedly support it. It would be great to be involved. I think the people of Quinton – where there are many ex-MG workers – will be right behind you too.

  5. Gemma, Andy, Sas, and John…. I was at the 40th Anniversary Saltey Gate Event today…. and met up with several old Longbridge Stewards who were present they were really supportive of the Longbridge Museum Campaign … By the Way a brillant Rally – Scargill, Bob Crow, Paul Mackney, Norman Goodwin, Tom Burke and many other excellent speakers reliving the events at Saltley Gate Mary Pearson from B’ham Trade Council who was chairing Allowed me to speak at the end of the Rally and I was able to promote the Museum of Working Life Idea.

    Also I got a phone calls earlier this week from Kevin Dicks the CEO of Bromsgrove and Redditch Council and Mike Murray from St Mowden… They have obviously realised the petitions are gaining support and media coverage… I was able to explain to both of them that Gemma is planning to convene a meeting hosted by Gary Egan of MG UK within the next month of all interested party’s to discuss the practical next steps forward…
    I have also been working on some practical ideas with funding possibilities focusing on the Longbridge East Site as a possible site for a multi-use community centre and Museum Venue [Within Bromsgrove District Council’s Area]
    I even have a proposed name for this Venue ‘THE FLIGHT SHED’

    The e-petitions may be just ticking over at a couple of signatures a day but I was pleasantly suprised when I went to the shops in Cofton Hackett after a Longbridge East Site visit to find that 3 of the businesses already had printed hard copy petition sheets on their counters…..

    Finally, with ‘The Factory’ youth centre due to open soon…
    I hope we get a meeting together in early march to discuss all our ideas … including my ‘Flight Shed’ proposals…I also think the time is right to invite both Sajid Javid and Richard Burden the Bromsgrove and Longbridge MP’s to the meeting if we can schedule it at an appropriate time… and of course Carl Chinn if he is available.

    Anyway…. keep up the good work comrades… anyone who wants to chat give me a call on 01527 836156 anytime….
    Look forward to meeting you all in the flesh early next month!
    Love and Solidarity
    Mark

  6. Born in 1940 I have lived and worked in Longbridge most of my life. started my first business outside the factory gates in grovelly lane and now have a business in Longbridge Lane. Most of my family and friends since leaving school worked at ‘the Austin’ and we all remember it well in the 50’s
    I also have photographs of Longbridge in the 1950’s

  7. Hey Norman,
    You’ll remember the BIG STRIKE in 1956 then?
    I’ve written something about it and here is bit…
    “In the Mid 1950’s most Longbridge workers used public transport, works buses and trains, bicycles or ‘shank’s pony’ [Walking] to get to the plant. Although relatively well paid, car ownership was still far too expensive for most workers. The newly established British Motor Corporation centred on the two huge plants at Longbridge [Austin] Birmingham and Cowley [Morris] Oxford, was by far the largest car manufacturer in Europe and the 4th Largest in the World.
    A combination of factors including the increasing capacity of US manufacturers to meet domestic demand and a weakened car market in the UK and Europe meant that BMC management were faced with a crisis of overproduction. The efficiency and productivity of the workforce led to thousands of vehicles being stockpiled and these were not selling in Britain, not because of any problems with the quality of the cars, but because the British working class were still too poorly paid to buy the products of their labour. There was emerging crisis and in the summer of 1956 BMC management acted to implement their preferred solution. Without consultation BMC announced the sacking of 6,000 workers including 3,000 at Longbridge. Management had clearly not understood the mood of ordinary workers and their unilateral act triggered the ‘Big Strike’ which was the first major test for the NUVB and other unions at Longbridge in the post war period.

    The newly established ATV covered the strike: http://www.macearchive.org/Archive/Title/midlands-news-00071956-longbridge-strike-continues/MediaEntry/949.html
    In the first days of the strike the Police turned up with Horses and threatened to break up the picket line outside the West Works. As the tension between strikers and police rose the NUVB Convenor, Dick Etheridge, asked my dad if he used to collect marbles as a kid, my dad bemused by the question said ‘yes – and I still have a big bag of them at home’. Dick said ‘well leg it back home and bring all the marbles you can find’.
    Within half an hour Barry was back with his marbles ready for whatever they were needed for. The ‘plan’ of Dick Etheridge was to roll the marbles under the hooves of the Police Horses if they charged, but the picket line held firm and Barry never ‘lost his marbles’.
    Faced with such spirited resistance the police withdrew the Horses and over the next few days the Strike became an expression of a new found confidence as ordinary workers joined picket lines and participated in spontaneous marches up and down the Bristol Road South.
    Often at the forefront of the Big Strike were women workers from the ‘Trim Shop’ who would wait at the various gates to ‘slow hand clap’ those ‘blacklegs’ at the end of their shift. These shaming tactics worked and the numbers on strike grew. The highly charged atmosphere during the last week of July came to a head after a failed attempt by Sir Oswald Moseley to hijack the anger of Longbridge workers to support his campaign targeting Jamaican immigrants. Longbridge workers wanted nothing to do with the Fascists and drove them away from the picket lines. My dad Barry was there at one confrontation and remembers a bloke he knew getting his hands badly broken and bloodied by a Fascist wielding a hammer. It was the ‘Longbridge Fortnight’ annual summer plant closure that took the heat out of the dispute. BMC management shocked by the resistance had to negotiate a return to work after the holidays lifting the threat of compulsory redundancy for thousands of workers.

  8. Update on Longbridge Museum Campaign…. March 2nd 2012
    Firstly, a big THANK YOU to all the people who have participated in the campaign and those who have signed both the e-petitions and the paper petitions.

    Running total e-petitions signatures direct to Bromsgrove District Council now at 415 [another 810 needed to trigger full debate in council chamber]

    Running total of B’ham City Council/B31Voices hosted e-petition signatures 128 [not sure how many needed to trigger B’ham City Council debate]

    Various places and individuals collecting paper petition sheets with the goal of collecting all these sheets at the Pride of Longbridge Rally on 14th April… no info of running total so far but seems to be going well…[for example 75 paper signatures collected from Cafelicious in Rubery this week]

    Funding investigations have begun with a ‘pre-application’ to the West Midlands Heritage Lottery Fund.

    Initial meeting held at Cafelicious on February 3rd –
    With Andy and Gemma Cartwright, Sas Taylor, myself and Gary Egan. Initial media interest shown via BBC hereford and Worcester, BBC radio WM, Evening Mail, Brosmgrove Standard and Advertiser during Late January and early Feb now dried up. But the publicity did lead communication from Senior Surveyor of St Modwen Plc, CEO and Community Arts Officer of Bromsgrove Council and other interested individuals…

    I would like to propose that we hold a planning meeting on Friday 30th March if possible hosted by Gary Egan at MGUK …. aimed at a final push to gain media coverage to help reach e-petition targets and Promote the Pride of Longbridge Rally after Easter on April 14th.

    I am prepared to convene this meeting and invite people – I could do with a contact number for Gary Egan to confirm MG venue availability… What do other folk think??

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