Adderwell Works, Frome

Archive: Wessex Film & Sound Archive
ID No.: AV40/6
Title: Adderwell Works, Frome
Date: 1944
Film-maker: Mr W J Evans
Colour: Black & White and Colour
Sound: Silent
Duration of complete item: 18 min.
Themes: Community life; War-time Industry


Amateur film, taken mostly by Mr W J Evans, of his factory and workers at Frome, Somerset during the Second World War (having been moved from Portsmouth in 1941), showing armaments, visits by Government officials and HRH Queen Mary, and the workforce relaxing at a 'Works Wonders' concert and at boxing matches.


The film opens with footage of the factory workers assembling guns and transporting them. At the ‘Works Wonders’ concert recorded for BBC radio, crowds are seen arriving. The event, includes a number of musical and variety performances. It was organised by Ken Ashman, and took all its performers from the factory itself, including the concertina player Jack Ballantyne and the band led by Len Godfrey. In other factory events, a boxing match takes place with Jimmy Chapman and the factory is visited by Queen Mary. The visit features Jack Evans and women workers from the factory, partly filmed in colour. Final scenes show another visit, this time by Sir Stafford Cripps, showing Fred Lee, the company secretary.


Mr W J Evans was a well known Portsmouth factory owner, who took over the engineering business of J Evans & Son (Portsmouth) Ltd. from his father Jack just before the outbreak of War. Heavy bombing of Portsmouth in 1940-41 forced the factory and its remaining workforce to relocate to Frome in Somerset, where local people were also recruited to produce armaments and other War equipment in the Adderwell Works.

During this intensely busy period, Mr Evans still found time to record some of the activities at the Works (and at home with his family) on film. Highlights include a ‘Works Wonders’ concert, and a visit by HRH Queen Mary in March 1944, for which he somehow found colour film stock for his camera. Somebody else must have taken this particular footage, however, as he is shown on the film escorting Her Majesty around the Works. Before leaving, it was her “express wish” that she be photographed with assembled women workers, and this is duly shown in the film.

The ‘Works Wonders’ concert, in which all performers were from the factory, was filmed in one of the Adderwell Works buildings as it went out ‘live’. Works Wonders was a series of programmes broadcast by the BBC from factory canteens and described as "a lunch-time concert presented to their fellow workers by members of the staff of a large munitions work somewhere in England". A recording of the 30 minute concert was made by the BBC on direct-cut gramophone disc, and this is also held by WFSA (Ref: AV40/21); it does not synchronise with the film.

Mr Evans went on to film many more work-related activities, including the return to Portsmouth in 1945 and re-establishment of the business, making food packing and brush making machinery, precision machine tools, etc. This is outlined in a booklet about the firm produced around this time, called ‘The Story of a Successful Enterprise’. Another film, made in 1950, showed how disabled people could perform useful tasks in his engineering factory at Portsmouth, and encourage other employers to follow his example by taking on disabled employees.

Mr Evans became Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, 1969-70, and died in 1974.

Adderwell Works, Frome (1944)

Adderwell Works, Frome (1944)

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