Working at the Wills Factory

The Wills Building was voted Heaton’s second favourite building in our recent poll. It’s now a smart, residential apartment block but until the 1980s housed a cigarette factory. We’ve interviewed two former workers to get a feel for what it was like to work there:

Olga Jackson (born 1935) initially worked in retail at C&A in the centre of Newcastle but her love of Newcastle United forced her into an early change of job where she didn’t have to work on Saturdays. Here she describes the amazing social life at Wills and the inauspicious circumstances under which she met her future husband:

This photograph shows the stage in the dining room where Olga’s drama group put on plays:

Wills Factory stage in the canteen

Wills Factory stage in the canteen

Thank you to John Moreels of Photo Memories Organisation for permission to use this photograph from the Ward Philipson collection.

Next Olga describes how cigarettes were made.

Although Laura Young (born 1936) was born in Heaton at 7 Sackville Road, her family moved to the West End when she was a small child. Her father, grandfather and cousins all worked at the John Sinclair tobacco factory on Bath Lane. She joined them when she left school but when that factory closed in 1953, she, along with many other John Sinclair workers, went to work at Wills. Here she describes how finding an alternative to the long bus journey home led to her meeting her husband.

This photograph of the outside of the building is reproduced by kind permission of the Amber Films and Photographic Collective:

Wills Factory Exterior

Wills Factory Exterior

You can see more photographs of the Wills Factory, taken by Isabella Jedrzejczyk just before it closed in 1986. here.

Olga has a collection of Wills memorabilia which she hopes to bring to the Heaton History Group members’ night in November.

Many thanks to both Olga and Laura for giving up their time to be interviewed and for giving us permission to use extracts here and in any future publication and to deposit the full recording in a local museum. If you or anyone you know would be willing to talk to Heaton History group about your memories of Heaton including schooldays and play, work and leisure or living through World War 2, please get in touch with Chris Jackson – chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org. We’d love to collect more memories.

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