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GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street

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dutchman
Spon End
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1 of 19  Thu 4th Mar 2010 11:54pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3186

There was once a GEC factory on the south side of Gosford Street directly underneath what is now the ring road flyover. I know the factory was bombed during the war. I know that production was transferred to the Rudge Works in Spon Street some time between then and the end of the war. What I would like to know is was the factory completely destroyed during the war or was it only demolished some time afterwards?
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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2 of 19  Fri 5th Mar 2010 10:14pm  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:855

Hello Dutchman, and welcome to my attempt at making a forum! I hope you didn't think I was trying to compete with your "proper" message board? The main reason was that my guest book was starting to fill up with folk's questions, so I felt that a forum would be the answer to give them a proper place to 'chat'. And besides, I like a technical challenge - and this certainly was rather challenging! Anyway, back to your post.... I started my apprenticeship with the good old GEC at Spon Street in 1981, but all that time I had no idea that it had taken over from a factory in Gosford Street. So, I'm afraid I can't answer your question, but I just wanted to tell you about my GEC connection and to welcome you. From what I've seen on the "other" message board, we can all learn a lot about our favourite city from your depth of knowledge! By coincidence also, have you seen the 3rd photo down on this page of mine by Mike Tyzack... http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/memories/m-tyzack.php
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
dutchman
Spon End
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Thread starter
3 of 19  Sat 6th Mar 2010 12:02am  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3186

Hello Rob and many thanks for the warm welcome. I've been a great admirer of your site since it first began and consider it to be an invaluable resource. Not only is the content outstanding, the overall appearance and ease of use of the site are exemplary! I have indeed seen the picture you mention. The vehicle entrance to GEC's receiving yard is just visible in the middle of the picture half way between the former Morris engine works and the Mermaid Inn. The entrance to the factory proper was set some way back from the main road. The factory filled most of the space between the rear of the engine works and Whitefriars Lane immediately behind the pub. It stretched as far back as the boiler house of Gulson Road hospital. Much of the factory was below ground level and I think covered by spanning glass roof. There were large tunnels at the very back of the factory running towards the engine works but I have no idea what they were used for. Early in 1940 a bomb fell just inside the entrance to the factory proper leaving a crater right in the middle of the concrete vehicle ramp. (It probably didn't do the glass roof much good either). Amazingly when I moved to the area in 1960 it appeared that no attempt had ever been made to repair the vehicle ramp which makes me wonder if it was ever used again? The huge depression left in the ground by the removal of the factory was known by the local kids as "The Big Dip". It was often used as a short cut by pedestrians travelling between Whitefriars Lane and Gosford Street. To us kids, the whole area once occupied by the factory was an adventure playground to be explored and conquered many times over.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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4 of 19  Sat 6th Mar 2010 10:14pm  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:855

And many thanks too for the extremely kind words. If I'd added the feature with those "smiley faces" I think the blushing one would be appropriate here!!! Seriously though, to receive such praise from someone like yourself, who seems to have such incredible knowledge of Coventry, is very flattering indeed. Thank you also for filling me in about the area where the GEC used to stand. Working at Spon Street throughout the 1980s I must've cycled past that part of Gosford Street thousands of times, never realising what used to stand there. I agree with you, though, that it makes sense that it was never used again after its destruction. I wonder if Alan (aka IslandCafe on this forum) remembers this place?
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
dutchman
Spon End
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5 of 19  Sat 20th Mar 2010 1:38pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3186

This high resolution picture published only recently on Flickr is the first I've ever seen to show the factory: Wartime Bomb Damage The upper floors of the main assembly building in Whitefriars Lane appear to have taken the full force of the bombing. The office block in Gosford Street appears to be relatively unscathed. The latter is set back much further from the main road than I had imagined. Neither the outline nor position of either building bears any resemblance to official maps published at the time! Please note that the large chimneys behind the GEC works belong to the hospital and not to the factory. There is a rumour that the factory made the wireless sets for Spitfires. I've never seen anything to confirm that and the people who worked there would not be allowed to talk about it even if it did. A Luftwaffe flight-log entry from the night of November 14th describes the factory as being part of "Churchill's War Machine" which is quite funny from our point of view. The picture doesn't explain why the bomb crater just inside the Gosford Street entrance from a few months earlier was never filled-in? It is possible the management realised the factory was now a priority target and moved production to Spon Street even before the November Blitz.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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6 of 19  Fri 2nd Apr 2010 7:56pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:174

On the subject of GEC factories, I believe the Helen Street factory once belonged to the Daimler Company and was used to build cars. Is this correct?
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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7 of 19  Fri 2nd Apr 2010 8:37pm  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:855

Hi there DBC, and welcome. After working at Spon Street from 1981, most of us were moved to Helen Street in 1990, prior to the good old Spon Street works being demolished. Apparently, the Spon St factory was a listed building - we were told it was the first steel-framed factory of its type. (Maybe Dutchman will have more information about that?) But, as always, money talks, and despite its status we now have the Sky Dome in its place. Anyway, I digress - back to your question! I knew that before Helen Street became GEC it had been the Rover Meteor works, but I didn't know much about it. However, I've just done a quick search and found this useful webpage, which mentions Helen Street.... http://www.speedace.info/automotive_directory/rover.htm There's a helluva lot of stuff on that page - might take some dredging through! All the best, Rob
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
BrotherJoybert
Coventry
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8 of 19  Fri 2nd Apr 2010 8:53pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:128

Can't answer this authoritatively but they brought the building from Rover Cars. Most of the buildings in that part of Coventry were once part of the giant Ordnance Works, so I don't know if Rover had a separate building to the Ordnance Works (which closed in 1925 according to wikipedia) or themselves purchased part of the former Ordnance Works around this time.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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9 of 19  Fri 2nd Apr 2010 8:59pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:174

My mistake, it was Rover and not Daimler. During my time as an apprentice with GEC during the early 1960s I spent some time at Helen street on the relay and telephone instrument assembly sections, although I was mostly based at the main Stoke factory.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
dutchman
Spon End
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10 of 19  Fri 2nd Apr 2010 10:14pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3186

The Helen Street works was purchased from Rover in 1945 The same source tells me that the Spon Street (actually Crow Lane) factory was leased from Rudge in 1940. There is no mention of the Gosford Street works or the damage it suffered at that same time. "Meteor Works" was the name of the old bicycle factory in Garfield Road which was off Queen Victoria Road. It has since been renamed "Rover Road" and runs between the market and Iceland building.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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11 of 19  Sat 3rd Apr 2010 11:39am  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:855

Hi again Dutchman, You still astound me with your depth of knowledge! Are you David McGrory in disguise??? If not, then you ought to consider putting a book together - I'd buy one! If I have one regret in life, it's that during the 9 years I worked at GEC Spon Street I never took a camera there. Not only would the old factory have been an interesting place to record pictorially, but there would have been some great shots to be had from the rooftop. If only I'd thought about our heritage back then like I do now.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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12 of 19  Sat 3rd Apr 2010 11:48am  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:855

DBC said: During my time as an apprentice with GEC during the early 1960s I spent some time at Helen street on the relay and telephone instrument assembly sections, although I was mostly based at the main Stoke factory.
As an apprentice I also spent a few weeks at Helen Street, but in the early 80s. It was such a scruffy place back then, and probably not much altered from the war years I would guess. One of the placements we most dreaded was with Vernon Shepherd, an old scotsman who liked a dram or three of whiskey! He never used our names, but referred to us as colours as he sent us to sit at various mid-blowingly boring tasks, checking relay coils or springsets!
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
Dave Jessop
Coventry
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13 of 19  Sun 25th Jul 2010 9:14pm  
Member: Joined Jul 2010  Total posts:1

Hi. I have just stumbled across this forum whilst searching for other info. I worked for GEC and its successors most of my life, and have looked through the stuff I have got on its history in Coventry and come up with the following meagre facts about the Gosford Street factory. Known as the Whitefriars Works, it occupied 78,500 square feet, and was purchased in 1936 from the Coventry Swaging Co. It was destroyed by enemy action on the night of 14th/15th November 1940 (the Coventry Blitz), and I can't find any further mention of it until the site was sold to Coventry Corporation under a compulsory purchase order for Ring Road development in 1967, the implication being that it was never rebuilt/repaired.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
dutchman
Spon End
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14 of 19  Sun 25th Jul 2010 10:50pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3186

Thanks for the info Dave. It surprised me that the council only bought the land in 1967 as it had lain derelict for decades before that. The Whitefriars Lane section of the factory occupied the one-time site of "Whitefriars Mills" who as far as I can tell made needles for the textile industry's machines. Part of the Gosford Street yard was occupied by a paint mixing factory up until around 1966 and I was wrongly told that the entire site had previously been a paint factory. Maps from the period are at best ambiguous and in many cases downright misleading as to the location and use of various factories in the area.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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15 of 19  Fri 30th Jul 2010 11:03am  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:174

I don't know if this has been mentioned before but here is a potted history of GEC Telephone Works. I can remember some older people calling the Stoke Factory the "Peel Conner" long after it had become G.E.C. The article also mentions the Ford Street factory. As part of my apprenticeship I worked there briefly in the early 1960's when they were making a radio-set for the British Army.
GEC Telephone Works - Gosford Street

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