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Holman Bros., Millwrights of Canterbury: A history

The staff of Holmans



Thomas Richard Holman and his employees, 1870s
Thomas Richard Holman and his employees, 1870s. Photo: Holman Brothers Ltd

It would be impossible to calculate how many employees walked through the gates of 12(13) Dover Street over the 159 years, but what has been calculated from the records at the Mills Archive and other sources is upward of 300. Those employed included millwrights and wheelwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, turners, engineers, engine drivers, painters, and bricklayers. The only holidays the employees were entitled to, according to 1891 records, were the six bank holidays. A fantastic and rare tintype photograph from the 1870s survives in the Holman Collection showing TRH with his staff.

One of the earliest and longest serving employees recorded was Ethelbert Thomas Kemp who, on the 1841 Census, was an apprentice wheelwright and by 1861 had moved to one of the Holman cottages at 13(14) Dover Street where he stayed until his death in 1890.

The census returns for the Holman directors state the number of employees up until 1881:

1851 – John Holman, 13 men and 3 apprentices; 1861 – JJH, 16 men and 5 boys; 1871 – TRH, 15 men and 7 boys; 1881 – TRH, 18 men and 5 boys.

Saturday Wage Book listing employees in July 1878
Saturday Wage Book listing employees in July 1878. Source: Mills Archive / Geoff Holman Collection

This link (PDF, 315KB) opens a comprehensive list of over 300 names of men and women employed by Holmans. The list was compiled using the two Holman Wage Books for the years 1876-1880 and 1898-1901, England census returns, and Geoff’s notes. It is by no means a complete record, but it does highlight the many men, and also women, who were employed by the firm.

The Holman bell which was partially destroyed in the 1942 air raid
The Holman bell which was partially destroyed in the 1942 air raid. Source: The Holmans of Canterbury, Oaten Hill and District Society, Local History Publication 3, 1992

Workplace traditions were a mainstay at Dover Street. One included the staff addressing HBH’s sons as Mr. Frank and Mr. Tom. Presumably this was to ease confusion between the five Holman men at that time. Another, which was recognised throughout Canterbury, was the Holman bell which hung outside the carpentry shop at Holmans from 1854 until the 1942 bombing raid. It was rung at seven o’clock in the morning for the men to start work. It rang again at 8.30 and 9.00 for the breakfast break, again at 1.00 and 2.00 for the dinner break. The men worked a 48 hour week finishing at one o’clock on Saturdays and five o’clock during the week. Mrs. Wood remembers that the gates were closed at 5pm precisely every night ‘people would set their clocks by it’. At one time Canterbury was supposed to have taken its time from Holman’s bell and Williamson’s Tannery hooter.


Many employees started their careers at Holmans as apprentices, and some took their newly learned skills on elsewhere. The following are apprenticeship indentures for Thomas Richard Holman, Howard Darney Filmer, and Christopher Alan Richardson.


This indenture witnesseth that Thomas Richard Holman, son of John Holman of the City of Canterbury Millwrights of his own accord doth put himself Apprentice to the said John Holman to learn his Art, and with him after the Manner of an Apprentice, to serve from the First day of May now past unto the full End and Term of seven years from thence next following, to be fully complete and ended; during which Term the said Apprentice his said Master faithfully shall and will serve, his Secrets keep, and his lawful Commands everywhere gladly do; he shall do no Damage to his said Master nor see it to be done of others: but to the best of his Power shall tell or forthwith give Warning to his said Master of the same: The Goods of his said Master he shall not waste, nor lend them unlawfully to any: Hurt to his said Master he shall not do, cause or procure to be done; he shall neither buy nor sell without his Master’s Licence; Taverns, Inns, or Alehouses he shall not haunt; at Cards, Dice, Tables, or any other unlawful Game he shall not play, nor from the Service of his said Master Day or Night absent himself, but in all Things as an honest and faithful Apprentice shall and will demean and behave himself towards his said Master and all his Family during all the said Term. And the said John Holman in consideration of the natural love and affection which he hath and beareth towards his said Son and of the work and labour to be done and performed by him doth promise and agree that he the said John Holman the said Apprentice in the Art, Trade, Mystery, or Business of a Millwright which he now useth shall teach and instruct, or cause to be taught and instructed, after the best Way and Manner that he can finding and allowing unto the said Apprentice sufficient Meat, Drink, Lodging, Wearing Apparel and all other necessaries fit for an apprentice during the term aforesaid.

And for the true Performance of all and every the Covenants and Agreements aforesaid, either of the said Parties bindeth himself unto the other firmly by these Presents. In Witness hereof, the Parties abovesaid to these INDENTURES interchangeably have set their Hands and Seals, the Eleventh Day of November in the tenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of God, of the united Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c. and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and forty six

Sealed and delivered (being first duly stamped) in the presence of

Thomas Richard Holman

John Holman

F V Nutt Solicitor, Canterbury


This indenture witnesseth that Howard Darney Filmer son of Arthur Newell Filmer of Faversham doth put himself apprentice to Thomas Richard Holman Millwright of Dover Street Canterbury to learn his art and with him after the manner of an apprentice to serve from the twelfth day of October one thousand eight hundred and ninety six unto the full end and term of five years from thence next following to be fully complete and ended. During which term the said apprentice his master faithfully shall serve his secrets keep his lawful commands everywhere gladly do. He shall do no damage to his said master nor see to be done of others but to his power shall tell or forthwith give warning to his said master of the same. He shall not waste the goods of his said master nor lend them unlawfully to any. He shall not contract Matrimony within the said Term nor play at Cards or Dice Tables or any other unlawful Games whereby his said Master may have any loss with his own goods or others during the said Term without Licence of his said master shall neither buy nor sell. He shall not haunt Taverns or Playhouses nor absent himself from his said Masters service day or night unlawfully. But in all things as a faithful Apprentice shall behave himself towards his said Master and all his during the said Term.

And the said Thomas Richard Holman agrees to pay to the said Howard Darney Filmer wages as follows. For the first year five shillings per week. Second year six shillings, third year eight shillings, fourth year ten shillings, and the fifth year twelve shillings per week & in consideration of which he shall teach his said Apprentice in the Art of a Millwright that he can shall teach and Instruct or cause to be taught and instructed.

Also the said Arthur Sewell Filmer agrees to pay the sum of thirty pounds premium for the said apprentice.

And for the true performance of all and every the said Covenants and Agreements either of the said Parties bindeth himself unto the other by these Presents In Witness whereof the Parties above named to these Indentures interchangeably have put their Hands and Seals the twelfth day of December and in the Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria by the Grace of God of the united  Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and ninety six


Howard Darney Filmer

Arthur Newell Filmer

Thomas Richard Holman


William John Holman


THIS APPRENTICESHIP DEED is made the sixth day of June one thousand nine hundred and fifty six BETWEEN CHRISTOPHER ALAN RICHARDSON of 64 St Martins Road in the City of Canterbury (hereinafter called the ‘Apprentice’) of the first part JACK RICHARDSON of 64 St Martins Road Canterbury aforesaid the father of the Apprentice (hereinafter called ‘the father’) of the second part and HOLMAN BROTHERS (CANTERBURY) LIMITED whose Registered Office is situate at Dover Street in the City of Canterbury (hereinafter called ‘ the Company’) of the third part.

WITNESSETH as follows that is to say:-

1. THE Apprentice with the approbation of the Father places and binds himself as apprentice to the Company and its successors and to each other person or persons as may from time to time carry on the business now carried on by the Company to learn the trade or business of Engineer fitter and with the Company after the manner of an apprentice to serve from the Fifth day of May one thousand nine hundred and fifty five until the seventh day of March one thousand nine hundred and sixty one.

2. THE father hereby covenants with the Company that during the said term the Apprentice shall honestly faithfully and diligently serve and obey the Company its directors managers and foremen and shall not do or commit or suffer to be done or committed any waste damage or injury of or to the property of the Company and shall not unlawfully absent himself from the service of the Company.

IN CONSIDERATION WHEREOF the Company hereby covenants with the Father and also with the Apprentice that the Company will during the said term take and receive as its apprentice and will employ and instruct the Apprentice or cause him to be employed or instructed in the said trade or business of Engineer Fitter and in all matters incident thereto to the best of its skill and knowledge and ability and will also pay to the Apprentice which shall from time to time be in force during the said term and will on the completion of the said term indorse on these presents a certificate that the Apprentice has duly served his apprenticeship in due conformity with these presents and deliver the same so indorsed to the Apprentice PROVIDED and it is hereby further agreed that in case the Apprentice shall at any time during the said term be wilfully disobedient to the lawful and reasonable commands of the Company given by its directors managers or foremen or shall otherwise grossly misconduct himself it shall be lawful for the Company to discharge the Apprentice from its service.

IN WITNESS whereof the Apprentice and Father have hereunto set their hands and seals and the Company has caused its Common Seal to be affixed the day and year first above written.

Signed etc…


Staff cottages, 14-16 Dover Street
Staff cottages, 14-16 Dover Street. Source: The Holmans of Canterbury, Oaten Hill and District Society, Local History Publication 3, 1992

It’s estimated that around 20 properties were purchased, leased and sold on Dover Street, Old Dover Road and other surrounding roads for the purposes of accommodating employees.

The earliest example of this is in 1861 where Ethelbert T. Kemp is living at 13(14) Dover Street. A Fire Assurance policy was taken out on 24 June 1861 for ‘£300 on two private dwelling houses brick and timber built in tenure of T. Kemp [sic] and T. Bax [sic] situate in Dover Street Canterbury (in equal proportions) adjoining each other.’ Investigation of that year’s census identifies the properties as Nos. 14 and 13, now 15 and 14.

Exactly when Holmans purchased the three attached cottages  is not known, however a look at the census returns for the following years provides answers as to who was living in them.

Dover Lane/Street

12(13): 1841-1851 – John Holman, Millwright.

             1861 – John James Holman, Millwright.

             1871 – Thomas Richard Holman, Millwright Engineer.

             1881 – James Welby, Brass Finisher.

             1891-1911 – Not listed on the returns and likely taken over as office space.

13(14): 1861-1881 – Ethelbert Thomas Kemp, Wheelwright.

             1891-1901 – Ann Kemp (widow).

             1911 – George Spicer, Fitter.

14(15): 1861 – John James Holman, Millwright.

             1871 – James Welby, Brass Finisher and Gas Fitter.

             1881-1911 – William Spinner, Wheelwright.

15(16): 1861 – Thomas Bax (tenant).

             1871 – Henry J Roberts (tenant).

             1881-1901 – James Kennett (tenant).

             1911 – Mrs Kennett (tenant).

12-17 Upper Bridge Street, just before demolition
12-17 Upper Bridge Street, just before demolition. Photo: Holman Brothers Ltd

Other possible employees with occupations relevant to the firm were living on Dover Street over the years. Houses were bought to provide more accommodation for the firm’s employees. These included 2 York Road in 1916 and Nos 8, 9, 25, 27 and 28 Dover Street.

An advertisement published in the Kentish Gazette on 22 February 1919 reads:

Three brick-built and tiled cottages nos 25, 27 & 28 Dover Street. A walled in garden with 2 greenhouses.

Two brick & cement built and tiled cottages nos 8 & 9 Dover Street (Let to Messrs Kite & Dalton).

For auction on 26.2.1919.

47 Mandeville Road was rented to G.W. Packman for the period 2 September 1953 – September 1963. Nos. 21, 23 and 29 Old Dover Road were purchased on the 8 April 1963, and No. 9 was let to an employee. On 11 September 12-17 Upper Bridge Street was sold.


As with many industrial businesses, unfortunate accidents and deaths sometimes happened. Some of those that occurred to Holmans’ employees were reported in the local newspapers of the time. Here are some examples.

The Kentish Gazette, p.4, 15 January 1856.

Accident of William Marsh reported in The Kentish Gazette
Accident of William Marsh reported in the Kentish Gazette. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

The 1851 Census reveals the above to be William [Henry] Marsh living at 26 Cross Street, Canterbury, aged 14, and working as a millwright. He survived the accident and by 1871 has changed profession to a pattern maker and was living in London with his wife and family. He died in 1883.

The Kentish Gazette, p.4, 7 July 1868.

Accident of William Knott reported in The Kentish Gazette
Accident of William Knott reported in the Kentish Gazette. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

Research into this employee reveals him to be William Florentis Knott who, on the 1861 Census, was living at 8 Nunnery Fields, Canterbury working as a wheelwright. Sadly he did not survive his injuries and died shortly after.

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 25 July 1891.

Accident of John Fry reported in The Whistable Times and Herne Bay Herald
Accident of John Fry reported in the Whistable Times and Herne Bay Herald. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

The 1891 Census confirms that John Fry, 23, of 52 Broad Street, Canterbury, was a general smith. By 1901 he had left the employ of Holmans and moved away from Canterbury.


Criminal activities by employees happened on occasions, and the three descriptions that follow give an insight into some misdemeanours.

The Kentish Gazette, p.3, 27 October 1857:

Report of F. Head and R. Best's criminal activities in The Kentish Gazette
Report of F. Head and R. Best’s criminal activities in The Kentish Gazette. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

In July 1882, Herbert George Sladden, an apprentice millwright to Holman and Collard, was charged on remand, along with Walter Uden of Dover Street, ‘with a robbery of tools at Nackington […] on the 24th April.’ A Police Constable ‘went to Messrs. Holman and Collard’s works in Dover Street and searched a tool chest there used by Sladden, in which he found the two bradawls, bevel, bit, and gauge produced.’ He and Uden were taken to court at the East Kent Quarter Sessions on 17 October 1882 where both were found not guilty of larceny, with Sladden having turned Queen’s evidence against the other perpetrators.

This was not the first time Sladden had been arrested for criminal activities. Newspaper reports back to March 1882 show that he had been remanded, and later acquitted, of several thefts of various items around the city. What’s interesting is that both Sladden and Uden vanish from all UK records following the trial. Further research revealed that Uden had emigrated to America in 1885 and ended up in Chicago.

26 Jan 1912


Edward Charles Granville: stealing a quantity of coal, value 8d, property of Harry Brandford Holman. Witness statements: Police Constable William Holness; James Vaughan an Engine Driver for Messrs. Holman Bros.of Dover Street Canterbury. Vaughan said that the coal was taken after he had given the defendant a lift back to Dover Street from Tile Lodge Farm Sturry where they had both been threshing. The defendant said, “I am Guilty. I am very sorry and I will see that it shall never occur again.” Charge proved and the defendant was discharged conditionally on his own recognizance of £5, to be of good behaviour for 6 months, under the supervision of The Probation Officer of the Court, John George Kerridge of 15 Beaconsfield Road Canterbury. Documents include forms No 1 & 2 of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c. 17, ss 1, 2.)


Documents and records provide one side of the Holman story, but the true stories are held within the memories of those who worked at the firm. Following the publication of The Holmans of Canterbury by The Oaten Hill and District Society in 1992, former employee Bob Fryer wrote to Tom Holman on 8 January 1993:

Dear Mr Tom Holman,

I was so pleased to read Holmans of Canterbury. There was quite a few people mentioned that I knew, and a few people still around that I worked with. Like Bernard Barber. I remember Raymond Barber, Bob Sin, George Stedman, Fred Walters, Norman Harris, and I think there may be one or two more like Harry Friar’s wife.

There was no mention of Bert Cook or Archie Finn, who I think worked for you for many years. I kept in touch with Bert up to him passing away, and his wife passed on about 6 months after him.

There is another man I would like to know something about – Eric Float, he had a pal Eddie Webb, we all played cricket together. […]

[…] I see you still have the bell, Jack the storekeeper used to ring it every morning. Jack liked a drop of beer, when he got to the top of the spiral stair, he used to let his wind go free and all the voices rang out good morning Jack. […]

Yours sincerely,

Bob Fryers

PS I can still remember when you caught your hand in the drill grinder.

Fred Waters, a millwright at Holmans between 1925 and 1951 – and started as an apprentice for 5 years on the following wages 1st year 10/-. 2nd 12/-. 3rd 16/-. 4th £1. 5th £1/4/- per week – recalls:

When I left school at fourteen I went as an apprentice to Holman’s, it was a five year apprenticeship and I learnt millwrighting work which was wood working and metal working and a lot of the time I was repairing old mills. I worked under Bob Barber who was an excellent workman, he knew his trade inside out, he lived opposite at 58 Dover Street.

Bob Barber adzing a midling for Black Mill, Barham
Bob Barber adzing a midling for Black Mill, Barham. Photo: Holman Brothers Ltd

Robert Gordon (Bob) Barber worked at Holmans for many years, and was a respected man in his profession. His son Raymond followed his father to the firm in 1938. An obituary was contributed by Fred Waters and published in the Newsletter of the East Kent Mill group, Vol. 3 No. 12, October 1979:

Death of Canterbury Millwright

One of the finest millwrights in East Kent during this century died on Tuesday, 20th March, 1979, at the age of 91. He was Mr R. G. (Bob) Barber who lived at 58 Dover Street, Canterbury. He was employed from 1912 until his retirement in 1958 (full time), 1963 (part time), by Messrs. Holman Bros., the well known Canterbury firm of engineers and millwrights who closed down their business four years ago.

Born at Shoreham, Sussex in 1888, Bob Barber served a long apprenticeship with his father at a Sussex firm of millwrights where he worked on a variety of mills in that county. He then came to Canterbury and throughout the years with Holman Bros. he worked on repairs, replacements and installations at practically every windmill and watermill in East Kent that was operational at that time.

The millwright of that era was a craftsman in both woodwork and metalwork and at these skills Bob Barber was a perfectionist. Details of the work he accomplished over the years would fill volumes, a few of the more time consuming jobs would include making and fitting new sets of sweeps and midlings for windmills, re-gearing large wooden-teeth gearwheels with new sets of cogs cut from seasoned hardwoods, and making patterns for the casting of iron and brass components, all types of work calling for great accuracy.

The last new windmill to be built in Kent was at St. Margarets Bay in 1929/30, it was made and erected by Bob Barber with two assistants.

As wind and water power were superseded by steam, paraffin, petrol and diesel engines, Holman Bros installed these in many places in East Kent, Bob Barber being responsible for much of this work, and latterly working also on electric motors. In addition to wind and watermills he worked in malthouses, breweries, tanneries, laundries, pumping stations, electricity works, hop oasts and barns – in fact anywhere in this district where there was machinery. Whatever the job, he approached it with careful planning and conscientious workmanship until it was successfully completed.

His only absence from Holman Bros was during the first World War when he was sent to the Enfield Small Arms factory to work on machinery maintenance.

Whilst conducting his research for this report, Geoff interviewed Chris Richardson who recounted some interesting reminisces:

I started work in 1955 aged 15. The first year was to see if I would be acceptable for apprenticeship. I attended a day release course at Canterbury Technical College. I worked in the Old Dover Road yard where the millwrights had their workshop. If I ever called it the carpenters’ shop, I used to get a clip round the ear and told it was the millwrights’ shop. They were very particular about that. I started work under Bert Cook, who was in charge of the machine shop. I helped him for 2 or 3 years on lathes.  During this time I had to make my own tools such as dividers, square etc. One day Mr. Tom came into the workshop and asked if I was making a square. I told him I was and he said let me see it – I thought he was going to tell me off for doing it in work time, but he said, look at that it’s not quite right, do it like this. He must have known I was making it and had come round when I wasn’t there and checked it out.

Next I worked with Harry Friar doing well work, mainly on Thompson pumps. Holmans didn’t dig wells, but pulled pumps up with rods to service them. The Divers were a local family of well diggers. After well work I was employed on a variety of things including welding and I was also working on tractors. The firm were still doing work on mills whilst I was there – Bob Barber, George Wells and Ginger? were permanently on mill work. I helped them on occasions, making the metal base for cog wheels using old big lathe at Dover Street. Bob then made wood cogs. Bob was a cantankerous old sod but a good craftsman. Every morning he used to come in, look at his watch and say ‘Works clock’s wrong again’.

New windmill sweeps were made in Old Dover Road yard. The millwrights’ shop upstairs had large doors so you could drop things straight down into a lorry below. Bob Barber smoked a pipe; he used some black tobacco cut off a lump. If he forgot his pipe he used to chew it. Terrible being out on a job with him smoking in the van. I was millwrighting after Bob Barber retired. I remember going out to work on Barham mill when its top had got out of true and had to be lined up again. Two of us put a new main shaft on the waterwheel at Speldhurst mill, a big job. Steel rings were made to shrink onto the ends of the new shaft. They were heated up on a fire then put on with tongs, hammered into place and then cooled with water. After the millwrights left, I was also installing equipment such as dryers, elevators and separators. One day I went out to Grain Harvesters with Bert Cook as he was the only man available at the time to repair a bearing, it was at the top of a dryer. I had to do the job myself as Bert refused to go up as he didn’t like heights.

Fred Waters left around 1955 and went to teach at Canterbury Technical College. I sometimes worked with the blacksmiths. Two men worked there permanently, one the striker and Bill or Bob Castle was the blacksmith who knew my grandfather who used to get reports on how I was doing at work. The Tappenden brothers were in charge of the threshing and plough tackles. Frank Morphett was also on that until his eyesight went. Ernie Sutton was an odd job man running around in an Austin 7 van. Bill Wallace started as a cook boy on the steam tackle gangs when he joined the firm. He said he never had much money, but when out on jobs he got very good at darts and used to challenge people for a beer. Albert Hopkins was also employed doing general work originally with the outside gang. Another employee was Harry Prior who worked on Ruston and Blackstone oil and gas engines. People used to join the firm at 14 and stay on until they retired. Packman went round in one of the three Austin A40 pickup trucks. Bert Benfield was a salesman after being in the workshop – men used to say all he could sell was a keg of grease.

There were two sets of ploughing tackle, but only one set was being used when I was there. Two portable steam engines were hired out. The two sets of threshing gear were available for hire – including balers, trussers, elevators and a house van. Traction engines were used to generate steam for sterilising glasshouses, one contract being with Mounts nurseries, and also for grubbing out orchards. The firm were doing a little steam driven threshing when I was there, but stopped using steam and went out with a Fordson tractor instead. Traction engines had enough weight to allow them to negotiate down hills with all the ploughs etc. behind. When they were replaced with a tractor, it did not have the weight to brake the convoy so they fitted skid pans under wheels – a cast iron metal plate which fitted under a wheel which stopped it turning and acted as a brake. They used to tear up the roads a bit, so were not popular with the Council.

A tractor was also hired out a lot for mole draining work in fields; the drains usually lasted for several years.

Later they hired out a combine harvester, but didn’t last long. When I started they were doing a lot of contract baling with a McCormick T50 with its own power rather than a take-off from the tractor. It went out with a trailer which had a BSA motorbike on it so they could get back at night. When International tractors first came over, they came in parts and had to be assembled. There were no instructions, so they had to work it out as they went along. They had terrible problems with the radiator on the first one – until they worked out that it went on the side rather than the front.

Holmans didn’t pay that well. Mr. Tom caused a riot one year. The day before Xmas he told men he had been so busy that he didn’t have time to go to the bank for the wages and they would have to wait until after the holiday. The men went spare, but Mr. Tom managed to get the money and gave them all cigarettes and chocolates to pacify them. Overall Mr. Tom ran the show. Mr. Frank was called ‘Dreamy Daniel’ as he used to wander around in a bit of a dream, but he stayed mainly in the office. There was a discernible atmosphere in the firm, there appeared to be a lot of friction in the office. After I had been there a couple of years I used to be given jobs. Mr. Jack would give me a job, and I would be getting tools together and finding a van when Mr. Tom would come along and say ‘What are you doing, because I want you to go to so and so.’ I would say Mr. Jack had given me the job to go to, Mr. Tom would say ‘Well I want you to go to so and so instead, I’ll sort it out with Mr. Jack.’ The problem was having three bosses, but men were told that what Mr. Tom said went. If you had worked for Holmans and were called up into the Army, you were guaranteed a place in the REME as Mr. Jack would put in the word for you.

After Mr. Jack left, the impression was that firm was going downhill. The opportunity to act as agents for large firms such as Ford and International was turned down, which was a shame as Holmans were the biggest engineering works in Canterbury. The agencies went to competitors. A high standard was maintained. I didn’t matter how long a job took, it could not leave the premises until it was perfect. One job I had was making large screwed bolts on the lathe. I didn’t polish the ends as they were to be buried in concrete – that was not the point, people would see them before they went in, so I was made to polish them off properly. 

There was a rope shed in the Dover Street yard. Rope sheaves were used with a block and tackle in conjunction with shear legs (gin poles) to lift heavy items up. Next to the rope store was a paint shop.

One year in the 1950s my father towed a caravan to a site in Ilfracombe. Mr. Tom had a caravan on the site. My father knew him, so perhaps that was how I got a job there originally. My aunt lived at 22 Old Dover Road which overlooked the yard. Mr. Tom had a spare engine for his old Austin York saloon; he made up all the bearings for it.  He later got a newer Austin and the old one was left in the yard, but if all the vans were out, we would sometimes have to go out in the old Austin. It was sometimes a bit damp in the back with mould growing. Mr. Tom could change gears easily, but I couldn’t manage the crash gearbox. At one time the petrol gauge had gone wrong, so he had a wooden dipstick marked up. Sometimes I used to go out in it with him. He sometimes said ‘You in a hurry to get home?’ I said ‘Not particularly’ so he used to park up somewhere with a view, light up his pipe and sit there for an hour in silence. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, but as I was getting paid I just sat there with him deep in thought… He did that several times.

The staff I remember being at Holmans when I was there were 8 outside crew, Dick Castle was one of 2 blacksmiths, Bert Cook and me in machine shop, 4 mending tractors, engines etc., 1 apprentice, 2 on mowers, 3 millwrights, Jack in the office who used to play organ in the Regal cinema. Steve was the bookkeeper. A new workshop was built in the meadow at Dover Street in the mid-50s to replace the one blitzed in the war. Fred Ratcliffe helped in the construction around 1956; he was working as a carpenter. Machinery was gradually moved over from the Old Dover Road. Heating was by 2 coke stoves, which got very hot and were good for making toast. The firm had stands every year at the Kent County show and at 2 ploughing matches.  Michael Holmes started an apprenticeship at the firm.  I finished in 1962 and went to Grain Harvesters for more wages.