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Some history about Pirelli General Cable Works Limited
2019 article from the Daily Echo, Southampton.

Note:
Both Mum and Dad worked at Pirelli's in Southampton/Eastleigh.
Mum Barbara, joined just after WWII, and that is where she met Dad, who was her supervisor.

Dad Vic, worked there before WWII in Cable stores, then went off to join the Army for active service in North Africa and Italy, where he had his own stores truck servicing the front line tanks.
He rejoined after the war.

Mum's father William also worked at Pirelli's for many years, cycling to work every day.

Several other family members also worked at Pirelli's.

The factory played a key role in... the Second World War, it supplied three-and-a-half million miles of wire to the Royal Corps of Signals and provided special wiring rigs for the Lancaster bombers.

(During the war, one of Mum's jobs was maintaining the landing lights on Lancaster Bombers. This involved having a tool belt and climbing to the top of a ladder.)
www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/17885167.nine-things-may-not-know-remember-pirelli-general-cable-works-limited

By Ian Crump, Heritage writer.
accessed 27 January 2022

1. BUILDING BEGAN IN 1914

The date was January 20, 1914, when Italian manufacturer Pirelli signed the contract to open a factory in the UK, choosing Southampton as its UK headquarters.

Several sites were considered but eventually an area of reclaimed land on the east side of Western Esplanade transpired to be the preferred spot.

Building began that year on the site, chosen because of the convenience of the docks for importing raw materials and shipping finished products.

2. IT WAS NOT A HIT WITH THE NEIGHBOURS

The new factory’s neighbours were far from happy with the prospect of their amazing views across the water to the New Forest being decimated by the buildings.

Many locals – already threatened by the nearby power station and lido – took the hint and moved out of the area.

3. PROBLEMS WITH CONSTRUCTION

After construction work began, several 70ft poles – used to strengthen the foundations – completely disappeared into the still settling reclaimed land.

Contractors eventually won their battle against the building problems and, slowly but surely, a sprawling forest of concrete columns rose from the ground which had once been part of the banks of the River Test.


4. PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN FIRST WORLD WAR

When the new Pirelli General was ready to begin production, there was no grand opening due to the turmoil the European continent was already in.

In Southampton, soldiers camped out on the common, awaiting orders that would take them across the Channel to the battlefields of France.

As part of the war effort, Pirelli manufactured thousands of miles of field telephone wires for trenches and assembled hundreds of telephones which were packed in locally purchased egg boxes.

5. WORKING CONDITIONS WERE BASIC

Working conditions were primitive and the factory was cold, with male employees wearing scarves and boots while women wore long skirts and bonnets. The foremen lavishly wore bowler hats.
All heavy-lifting was carried out by chain and pulley, hand truck and raw muscle power - forklift trucks were in their infancy and not widely used at the time.

The canteen was simply a place where workers could eat their packed lunches and where water was boiled to make tea.

People worked a five-and-a-half day week and holidays were unheard of - but in the years following the Armistice people were grateful to have a job, as there was always a queue of potential employees outside the gates.

6. SUBSIDENCE LED TO RELOCATION

In the 1920s, cracks began appearing in the buildings as continuing settlement resulted in drops of up to 9in and the corridors and floors contorted.

The company was forced to look for another site.
The search took Pirelli to Eastleigh Great Farm, which had been used by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. The land had been owned by the Nutbeem family for decades and legend has it that the ghost of “Old Man” Nutbeem haunted the factory.

By 1928 the new development was ready to begin production and many employees were transferred from Southampton to Eastleigh.
In the 1930s, with the construction of Western Docks, the factory no longer looked out over the water. The company took the chance to extend its city centre site for future expansion.

7. FACTORY PLAYED ROLE IN ANOTHER CONFLICT

The factory played a key role in another conflict when, during the Second World War, it supplied three-and-a-half million miles of wire to the Royal Corps of Signals and provided special wiring rigs for the Lancaster bombers.

A special pipeline was designed and manufactured at the building in order to deliver fuel to vehicles involved in the D-Day landings. The pipeline under the ocean – or PLUTO – was an integral part of the military strategy.

8. THE BUILDING WAS SEVERELY DAMAGED DURING SOUTHAMPTON BLITZ

On the evening of November 20, 1940, 120 German bombers dropped around 800 bombs on the city leaving 137 dead.
Major buildings including Pirelli General Cable Works and The Daily Echo were severely damaged in the six-hour long attack.

9. THE WORKS WERE GRADUALLY WOUND DOWN

After the Second World War the Southampton operation continued for some years but as the 1960s arrived, the huge works were gradually run down.

After more than 70 years of production, the factory gates closed for the last time in 1990.

Every brick, block and cable disappeared as the 35-acre site was cleared for the start of the Esplanade development that has become part of modern day Southampton.


Pirelli History
www.prysmiangroup.com/en/company/prysmian-group-history

With over 140 years of cumulative experience, the Group has a long history and has always been at the forefront of striving to meet evolving customer needs.

The history of our business charts the history of the cable industry itself, marked by many major milestones along the way, which cement our reputation as an early adopter and industry pioneer.

The company originated in 1879 as Pirelli Cavi e Sistemi.

In 1881, it secured a contract to produce submarine telegraph cables for military engineering.

In 1886, it opened a submarine cable production plant in La Spezia. It later helped to lay the entire Italian telegraph network on behalf of the Italian state-owned company Telegrafi dello Stato, and to install the electrical grid for domestic use in Milan. It also laid telegraph cables in the colonies of Italian East Africa.

In 1925, it produced 5,150 km of submarine telegraph cabling for Italcable for communications between Italy and South America. Its collaboration with the Italian government continued with the laying of cables for the Italian interurban telephone network.
Wikipedia