Listen to our latest conversation for the The Kathleen Project – collecting stories about Manchester’s industrial past, in the words of those who lived it.

In our fourth conversation for this project, we chatted with Christine who was raised in Salford and, in the early 1960s, found work in clothing factories there, aged 15.

Christine was brought up in Dockland in Salford in near poverty.  At 15 she left school, unable to read or write, and began working as a pieceworker sewing collars onto checked shirts in a factory near Victoria Bus Station.

When this business declared bankruptcy a year later, Christine took up a job at a factory in Lower Broughton sewing the linings into mens’ overcoats.  It was tough work so she left to take up a job in the next door factory sewing linings into ladies’ macs instead.

Salford was known for its rainproof garments. Greengate and Irwell Rubber, off Ordsall Lane, had 2,500 workers by 1961, but it closed in the 1970s. J Mandleberg & Co Ltd, of Albion Works Pendleton, had two vast factories in Pendleton. link

Unlike her first job, the factories in Lower Broughton were large operations employing hundreds of people.  It was noisy, dusty work and the machinists worked hard.  In this shared experience however there was a feeling of togetherness, a community spirit, with workroom singalongs, older female workers mothering younger staff and workers willing to help each other to get work completed.

The Burton factory in Salford – By 1939 Burton had 400 shops and numerous factories including one in Salford, next to the East Lancashire Road, which employed 4,000 at its peak. It closed in the 1970s. link

At 18, Christine left the industry to care for her sick mother.  At 25, after her mother’s death, she returned to work in the factories.  It was during this time that she met her husband – they were married when she was 27 and she left the industry for good.

Christine went on to have two children, putting her sewing skills to use making clothes for herself and her children.  She took an English course to gain reading and writing skills and was diagnosed dyslexic; she pursued a career in theatre management including work with the Manchester International Festival.

If asked to go back to work in the factories, Christine says she “would jump at the chance…it was amazing to be in that environment, even though it was hard…because you had that friendship and that community… it wasn’t just a factory, it was a community.”

Christine S [The Kathleen Project]


The Kathleen Project, episode 4: In Conversation with Christine S

The Kathleen Project, episode 4: In Conversation with Christine S (full episode)

Thanks so much to Christine for sharing her story with us! If you know anyone who worked in Greater Manchester’s textile industry and would like to take part in the project, please do ask them to contact us.

Listen to all of The Kathleen Project Conversations

The Kathleen Project is led by Stitched Up and supported by Historic England.