The day the Longbridge MG Rover factory closed – moving and nostalgic photos and memories
It was the sad day the Longbridge car factory fell into stunned silence. Assembly lines came to a halt at the Birmingham-Worcestershire border as workers emerged from the factory gates in disbelief, taking their dartboards, tools and memories of longtime friendships with them.
A century after it opened in 1905, this manufacturing hub that defined generations of families came to an end with the collapse of carmaker Rover MG Rover in April 2005. Workers have vivid memories of that day, many of them tarnished with anger and regrets at how a lifetime of happy experiences in the factory was ruined overnight.
Tony Moore, who worked at the plant’s East Works on the Conrod line in the non-prismatic machine shop, remembers that fateful day. “We were all called to a meeting about the West Works,” Tony said.
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“There we had a meeting with Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, who said, ‘I’ve got you all a week off with pay, go home and enjoy it.’ We all went back to the factory.our stuff and left.
“It was then that we were threatened that if we were searched and had items we couldn’t prove we owned, we would be fired. I never got a chance to say goodbye to most of my colleagues with whom I had worked for most of 18 years.
“It was a sad ending to what had been a wonderful start to my professional life, as I started there when I was just 18.” The demise of the Longbridge factory came on Friday April 15, 2005 when the official receivers of Price Waterhouse Coopers announced the closure of the MG Rover factory and workers were told to leave.
A week earlier, production had been suspended at the factory, bosses blaming supply problems with “isolated” components. Within days the government unveiled a “substantial” package of support for MG Rover workers who have been made redundant.
The immediacy of the closure meant that car bodies, door handles and other parts lay exactly where they had been left on the factory floor, frozen in time. Cars, including a Mini Clubman, lay abandoned in tunnels at the site and some were auctioned off years later.
Once employing up to 25,000 workers, it was the huge factory site dating back to classic Austin and Mini cars. Tanks had even been made for the war effort in the 1940s. A small car manufacturing operation continued until 2016.
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The derelict buildings of the former MG Rover car manufacturing plant were later demolished to make way for the regeneration of Longbridge by St Modwen. It was so large that Aston Villa’s home ground at Villa Park would fit 227 times into the Longbridge site.
St Modwen has now transformed the Longbridge factory site into a retail park including M&S and Sainsbury’s, Cofton Village Hall, 4,000 homes, business centers and the Bournville College campus.
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