Employment History of Coventry

An elevated view looking down onto the Sapphire car production line at the Armstrong Siddeley car and aircraft engine works 1954 © English Heritage.NMR

An elevated view looking down onto the Sapphire car production line at the Armstrong Siddeley car and aircraft engine works 1954 © English Heritage.NMR

During the twenties, Coventry was becoming the centre of new industries which had no problems of technical obsolesce to overcome; a centre for the manufacture of motor cars, machine tools, telephones and synthetic fibres. The city became a magnet for young men from older industrial areas such as South Wales and County Durham, where the Depression seemed deep and un-ending. For them Coventry meant work and to Coventry they came. This meant an increase in Coventry’s population and heightening employment. During the industrial revolution Coventry also became a major centre for textile production and later on watches and clock manufacture. Coventry has thus become known for hard work and its successful industries, particularly in motors. This strong work ethic, high employability and industrial success continued throughout and after the war, despite all odds.

A 'Double Mamba' aero engine under construction at Armstrong Siddeley the car and aircraft engine manufacturers 1954 © English Heritage.NMR

A ‘Double Mamba’ aero engine under construction at Armstrong Siddeley the car and aircraft engine manufacturers 1954 © English Heritage.NMR

On 10th September 1950 a national Sunday newspaper published an article under the headline ‘Blitz town has become Boom town’. It did not by any means ignore the post war difficulties of life in Coventry; the city centre was still as the Nazi’s had left it and prices in the shops were applicably higher than those in neighbouring towns. Coventry had become somewhat of a shanty town of derelict railway coaches and homes made from corrugated-iron sheeting and wartime hostels and army camps were still occupied by squatters. The article however concentrated on the large number of jobs that were available in the city, offering £15 a week. Within the following fortnight 1700 applications by letter were received at the Coventry Employment Exchange. Coventry was prosperous once more.

Full employment was now accepted as an objective by both political parties and the devaluation of September 1949 was beginning to have its effect. The local trade-union movement, (an organization whose membership consists of workers and union leaders, united to protect and promote their common interests) which had acquired great strength during the war, was anxious to maintain the wartime level of wages as far as possible, and the Korean War was bringing fresh armament contracts into the city. Coventry also saw the expansion of factories and industries allowing for more jobs. Despite the effects and destruction caused by the Blitz Coventry, its people and its industries revived and continued to work and earn a decent wage until the 1970’s.

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