The Stroud Reconstruction Study - Chas Townley
Posted by on January 01 1970 00:03:28

The Stroud Reconstruction Study

In the summer of 1942 the Nuffield Institute undertook a report into the post war reconstruction of the Stroud Area - including Nailsworth, Stonehouse and Dursley.

The investigation conducted by Professor Hamilton Whyte assisted by Dr Idris Bell was intended to be “a review of the prewar position of of local industries and services and the employment dependent on them, an examination and comparison of the present position as affected by the war of those industries and services, and a consideration of the factors which are likely to affect the post-war industrial development of the area; and to obtain and comment on the views of representative local bodies on the post war development of the area”

The report is an extremely interesting and revealing report into the industries of the Stroud Valleys in 1938 compared with 1942. As well as interesting commentary about particular firms and the interviews with senior management it also includes information about all the firms employing more than 50 workers. It records that a number of companies had re-located to the Stroud Valleys - most notably Sperry Gyroscope and Hoffman's. Some local firms - Gloucester Incubators (based in Woodchester) and Tylers (a joinery and cabinet makers based in Stroud) had been diverted onto war work. .Additionally, Carpets of Worth's base at Ham Mills was been taken over as an Admiralty Store. There were also space provided for the RAF Accounts department (unsure but think that Wycliffe College was requisitioned for this).

Firms surveyed were asked about their source of power, whilst some firms had embraced electric power there were others who continued to use steam or water to power their business. At the time of the survey in the middle of 1942, Fibrecrete, based in Chalford, who made Asbestos products, used steam power which they considered inefficient and were in the process of changing over to mains electricity. Many firms, when asked about whether they wanted more electrical capacity highlighted the fact that they considered the cost to be too high and would only consider electrical power if the unit cost was lowered. On the other hand, Newman Hender commented that they provided additional power to the local network at times of high demand, though their own generating plant.

The report also noted the particular issues of Stroud's electricity supply. Whilst the West Gloucestershire Power Company both produced and distributed electricity throughout most of the area, the Stroud Electricity Company was responsible for distributing electricity in Stroud buying the electricity in bulk from other produced and reselling electricity to homes and businesses in Stroud which according to the Nuffield Report “inflates costs and prices to the public without giving any corresponding service”

Firms were asked about their own transport arrangements. Most only commented on their current transport which was often both road and rail. In the case of two firms they noted that when the canal had been operational they had used the canal for transporting goods. They were also asked about how their staff travelled to work. Some of the data provided challenges some of the “Dad's Army” perceptions of the war years, with very restricted use of cars by the general public. Sperry's with a workforce of nearly a 1000 stated that 11% came by car, but as would be expected most came by bus. What is clear is that the wartime emergency led to a signficant and wide seperation of where people worked and lived. Sperry's for example had workers travelling by bus from as far as Swindon.

The survey and report also considered the housing issue. From the report it is recorded that Stroud had originally been an evacuation area,but had then been a location for munition industries. Some firms noted that the housing problem was not new, Arthur's press for example noted “ The housing problem is the bugbear of our existence during the 30 years we have been established”. Henry Workman blamed the rent restriction acts (which has been introduced during the First World War to prevent war profiteering but had been kept in place during the inter war years) as it prevented them using the housing for workers. This suggests that the firm provided housing for its workers. Hoffmens according to the researchers had built 250 houses themselves and arranged for builders to construct a further 250. It is unclear whether this is a reference to the Ministry of Supply housing provided in Stonehouse in what is now know as Juniper Way.

The report concluded that there “seemed to be a general consensus that any industrial development and consequent housing expansion should take place in and around Stonehouse rather than in the valleys themselves, since the local people are keen to preserve the amenities of the district. There was also a suggestion that there were possibilities for the growth of satellite towns between Gloucester and Stonehouse. Whilst it is true that Stonehouse has grown since the Second World War and is a town in its own right and much later Quedgeley and Hardwicke have expanded and the only area undeveloped from the 1970's North Gloucestershire County Planning study is the area of land between Eastington and Whitminster which is often referred to as “Westington” . As yet it remains undesignated for redevelopment.

Despite development taking place very much as indicated in the report it is unclear what impact the document really had on post war construction. The document was reviewed by 3 civil servants shortly after it was received, which identified additional information to be obtained. As far as we are able to tell this information was never sought as this information has not been included in the file preserved by the National Archives at Kew, London. In addition to these three officials it would appear to have only been looked at on 3 occasions in the ensuring 5 years before finding its way to the Departmental Registry, where presumably it remained until it was transferred to the National Archives.

Chas Townley  - January 2007