A sizzling look at Calne factory’s history
Sue Boddington, trustee and chairman of the Friends of Calne Heritage Centre, and David Harris, son of a former employee.
A new exhibition at the Calne Heritage Centre focusing on the Harris Bacon Factory includes several fascinating mementos from the town’s past.
Visitors can explore the history of the factory through an interactive touch screen or by browsing exhibits including displays of product labels for lamb tongues and brisket of beef.
The factory, which employed around 1,700 people in its heyday, was opened by brothers Charles and Thomas Harris in 1888.
To collate the exhibition, curator Sue Boddington sought the help of David Harris, a direct descendant of Thomas Harris.
Mr Harris, 74, is the son of Cyril Harris, who worked at the factory until the 1930s when it merged with the Bristol firm of Marsh & Baxter, famous for its York Hams. The merger meant he was unable to work there.
Instead he trained as a journalist at the London College of Printing and worked as an industrial editor, producing magazines for the Brookland Tea Group.
Mr Harris, who was made a trustee for the heritage centre, said: “I have a tremendous heritage behind me, of which I’m extremely proud.
“I’m just amazed at the amount the Harris family put back for the benefit of their employees because times were hard and they helped where they could.
“I only wish the business would have remained in the Harris family because I would have joined it.”
Thomas Harris was mayor of Calne five times and supported the town in many ways. In 1902 he gave land and £300 towards the cost of building the Calne Free Library, which is now the Heritage Centre.
Also on display are early account books dating back to 1873, staff magazines, photos of factory life and of its demolition in 1984.
The exhibition shows part of the original Harris uniform, including safety boots worn by workers with horseshoes fixed to the bottom, and the diaries of Thomas Harris.
Ms Boddington spoke to several people in the town about their memories of working at the factory.
She said: “A lot of people I’ve spoken to enjoyed it in the factory, but I think they enjoyed it because of the social aspect. It was a family firm and they had the sense of belonging to a family.”