Staff working at the Willans Works engineering site in Rugby had plenty of entertainment laid on for them during the annual company gala days.
The archives of the works are being catalogued at Warwickshire County Record Office and as well as showing what was produced at Rugby they reveal the social and sporting activities provided by the companies on the site – from Willans & Robinson to English Electric, GEC and Alstom.
The gala days were held at Dunchurch Lodge on the outskirts of Rugby and the 1954 programme shows what was going on that year – children’s and adults sports, fancy dress, a baby show, Punch and Judy, sack ball, a model railway, a fun fair, a gymkhana display, donkey rides, Morris dancing, tug of war and many other events. The day ended with a firework display by the lake at Dunchurch Lodge.
Later gala days included the ‘Amazing Derriers’ high-wire act and ‘Beryl and Bob’ performing on a trampoline in 1959. The spectators were being entertained by ‘Satans Motor Cyclers’ in 1960 as bike riders braved flaming hoops and crashed through glass panes. Other displays included police dogs showing what they were capable of.
Dunchurch Lodge was taken over by English Electric in 1950 and became its apprentice training centre. It expanded into general staff training in 1959 and later became Dunchurch Industrial Staff College (DISC) offering facilities for all companies. The site was sold in 2001 and is now the Dunchurch Park hotel and conference centre. Former English Electric apprentices still meet there once a year to hold a reunion.