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Jeans Story – History of Tolson Mill

In September 2016 I saw 2 ladies walking past our gym window, I went outside and offered them a drink as it was a hot day. They came in and explained that Jean used to work in this mill in 1939 .. the rest of the story is better said in an email to me from Jeans daughter Elaine. (The black and white picture was taken in 1941 outside one of our windows)…


Thank you for inviting us into the fitness junction recently.

Mum (now at the age of 91) was thrilled to visit the building where she worked years ago and I’m enclosing a couple of the recent photos and an old photo taken c1941 with Mum on the right (she was Jean Bates at the time) and her friend Mona Fernihough.

Jean started working in the offices of Tolson’s Mill around 1939 when she was just 14. She worked there until she married in 1946 and cycled from Kingsbury to Fazeley every day in all weathers. She started as an office junior addressing envelopes and progressed to the position of secretary, learning typing at college in Birmingham and shorthand and book-keeping in Wilnecote. Mr Morley who may have been an accountant at Tolsons at the time would also ask her to check the figures in his ledger. The office window looked out onto the Watling Street and the saw-mill opposite.

Her boss was Eric Chute Tolson who was a real gentleman. He would often sit beside her while she was typing and she would accompany him into Tamworth on his visits to the bank and do small shopping chores for him while he conducted the bank business. The Tolson family lived in Dosthill Hall at that time and Eric Chute Tolson is buried in the churchyard of St Pauls Church, Fazeley as are many of his family.

Jean would often visit the mill itself where we understand there could be 400 looms working all at the same time. The noise was deafening. At lunchtime she would also visit the dye works which were on the opposite side of the canal, probably to flirt with some of the men there! Coincidentally I recently found that some of our ancestors were labourers in a bleach yard in Fazeley in the late 1700s/early 1800s.

There was a row of old cottages on the opposite side of the canal to the mill and some of the workers lived there.

It was probably at the end of the war that two young men came to work at the mill, one being Rodney Tolson Gausden. He had been born in Japan and was the nephew of Eric Chute Tolson, and had been a Flight Lieutenant in Bomber Command during WW2. He died just last year and had been a director of William Tolson Holding Ltd, a company which still exists I believe.

I hope you find some of the above interesting! Thanks again for your hospitality.

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