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Historic Stratford company employed 500 in its heyday

IN its heyday NC Joseph Limited of Stratford was one of the town’s principal employers with about 500 staff.

Its huge processing plant on Birmingham Road closed in the 1990s and is now the site of houses, a care home and shops, but the business is fondly remembered.

Which is why a chance conversation over a pint in a pub has inspired a former NC Joseph employee from Wellesbourne to plan a re-union where he hopes memories from yesteryear can be recalled.

Former NC Joseph employee Peter Vale-Humphreys is planning a staff reunion next year.
Former NC Joseph employee Peter Vale-Humphreys is planning a staff reunion next year.

Most people of a certain age will have known someone employed at Josephs – as it was known locally – and who were involved in the mass production of car parts, coffee percolators, stainless steel tea-sets, tea pots and kettles under the brand name SonA – Stratford-upon-Avon.

It was a way of life for many, like Peter Vale-Humphreys who worked at Josephs for 16 years from 1st June 1967 through to mid-1983. He wants to hear from fellow former colleagues who might help rekindle and shape the NC Joseph story at a planned re-union next year.

“It was a great firm to work for,” he said. “Engineering presses, meter boxes, trolleys and toasters, in fact whatever the market place needed were made there.

“I started off at NCJ in the accounts department, rising through to cashier and ending as payroll accountant. Departments ranged from tool room, press shop, anodising, spinning, polishing, quality control, kettle shop and coffee percolators.

“The site had one of the largest single-span roofed warehouses and there was a massive canteen and refectory which doubled up for entertainment with its own stage, snooker table and a bar. Workers were bused in from far and wide giving outlying villages work opportunities. We had our football, cricket and snooker teams and a great camaraderie and lots of friendships.”

Peter also thinks he also knows how the brand name SonA came about.

“I recall a gentleman, who was caretaker at Henley Street Further Education College or the adjacent library, came up with the brand name for the aluminium and stainless steel wares of SonA. It was based on town name of course,” he said.

Peter got the idea for a get together while in the Kings Head pub, Wellesbourne, when he met another former employee.

“I did not recognise George initially but just sharing our work histories got us talking at length. He was a tool setter for 22 years. The memories just kept flying through the air and I have since thought how nice it would be to reunite more ex-employees for an evening to swap stories, chin wag and update each as to where they are now.

“It’s not compulsory but old friends could get together and you never know where it might lead,” he said.

Peter believes Josephs was around during World War II and probably started operating in the 1930s, possibly involved in wartime ammunition production.

The last accounts were produced in 1997.

“Ownership started with Barney Joseph and two sons, David and Alan, and a cousin, Claude Joseph. It was a real family organisation that was the principal employer in Stratford – it even owned an aluminium kettle plant in Bourton-on-the-Water.”

Next door was Stratford Canners, which was initially a linked company to NCJ.

Peter added: “Over time, the controlling interest moved to General Electric of America in Pennsylvania. There was a Canadian division which was annexed and that’s when things changed a bit with less manufacturing and the buying in of branded goods and homewares.”

Although the proposed reunion is in its early stages, Peter is keen to hear from anyone who might like to attend. Call 07752 447517 or email: pvh69@icloud.com.

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