Wearside Echoes: Rolling back the years

SIXTIES SCENE: The new intake of apprentices at Bristol Aero Engones pictured in 1965.

SIXTIES SCENE: The new intake of apprentices at Bristol Aero Engones pictured in 1965.

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MEMBERS of Sunderland Antiquarian Society have spent months digitising dozens of pictures of Pallion-based Bristol Aero Engines – now known as Rolls-Royce.

Few of the photos, which were taken from the early 1950s onwards, have ever been published before - and today we feature another nostalgic batch.

“It is a marvellous collection, packed full of memories for many, many people,” said society member Colin Metcalf, who worked for the firm for 35 years.

“I can put names to faces on some of the pictures, but not all. It would be very interesting to gather together all the names, as it would make our records complete.”

Bristol Aero Engines, which was later known as Bristol Siddeley, took over its first factory at Pallion in March 1951, employing a staff of 100.

A second factory opened just six months later, in August 1951, and a third in March 1954 – representing a capital investment of £2.25million.

“Bristol Aero Engines, which provides work for 1,200 people, represents one of the greatest industrial assets the town has secured since the war,” reported the Echo in 1956.

Colin’s father,Leslie, found work at the firm in the early 1950s. Colin then followed in his footsteps in 1967, working his way up from stores to checking aircraft engines for faults.

The original factory initially concentrated on producing components for pistol engines but, by the mid 1950s, the firm had expanded into propeller turbines and gas turbine marine engines.

“It really was a great place to work,” said Colin, of Eden Vale.  

“There were all sorts of clubs for the staff, and the firm looked after our children and retired workers as well.

“The old pictures of the firm are a wonderful addition to the Antiquarian archives. I just hope people may be able to add a few more names to faces for me.”

l Do you recognise any of the people in these pictures? Contact Sarah Stoner at sarah.stoner@northeast-press.co.uk or write to Colin c/o Sarah Stoner, Sunderland Echo, Pennywell, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.