I wonder how many of you remember Wagner’s Christmas cracker factory on the A127 in Laindon back in the 1950/60s. The building still survives but the Christmas cracker business has long since removed to China. It was owned by John Wagner with his sister Lillian in the office. The factory was run by Brothers Bill and Cliff Cowell and provided work in the factory for about 25 people and countless others in their own homes. In the factory itself they made the “expensive” crackers these were destined for the high class shops in London. The outworkers were from all over Laindon, Pitsea, Wickford and the surrounding areas; this was a prime job for mothers with young children, as they could work from home.
The work was delivered to them in a huge van with Richard and Bob the two lorry drivers. These women made the crackers from start to finish and boxed them ready for collection.
They managed about 6-8 gross a week (1 gross = 144) and 12 went into a box so they had to work very hard to make up the numbers and the pay was poor.
The factory was divided into separate departments. Upstairs the girls made the crackers and “finished” them (stuck the fancy bits on them). The box makers were also upstairs; they made the boxes and covered them with Christmas paper ready for the crackers to be inserted.
Downstairs were the big machines. They cut the cardboard into shape for boxes, the crepe paper to make the crackers and the tissue for the hats, as you can imagine there was a lot to do as they provided all the makings for the outworkers as well as those in the factory itself.
The snaps the bit that goes bang were bought in complete to be added to the cracker in the making, but everything else was made in house.
We did move down to Wash Road at a later date.
I can remember some of the girl’s names with apologies to those I have forgotten, blame it on old age. There was Peggy, Glad Brockwell, Marji, Florrie, Millie, Ethel and Freda.
They were good days thanks Mrs H. Eldridge.