War work at Ballito

Shells and stockings

By Amy Cooke, St Albans Museums

Hoisery staff at Ballito, St Albans, 1944.
St Albans Museums
Women working in the shell department at Ballito during the war
St Albans Museums

This photograph shows female staff of the Ballito factory on Hatfield Road, St Albans during the Second World War. The original caption reads: ‘Hoisery Staff – Women’. This photograph comes from ‘Ballito Into War’, a book of photographs produced by Ballito in 1944 to show “…how the makers of the famous Ballito stockings played their part towards final victory [in the Second World War]”. This book is in the collections of St Albans Museums. You can see more photographs from this book at the St Albans Museums Website

Ballito had been a hoisery factory before the war, making ladies stockings. During the war, like many factories it went over to making munitions as part of the war effort. Did someone from your family work at Ballito? Maybe you know someone in this photograph?

This page was added on 07/07/2009.

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  • Does anyone know the name Kellard in relation to this business?

    By Sally KELLARD (18/02/2021)
  • Commenting on London Colney has reminded me of further memories of that relatively short period of my life.
    II am not a local boy. I was born in Dagenham in Essex and at that time I was living in Hornchurch and in digs, firstly in Barnet and then in London Colney.
    The owner of the London Colney Service Station was a rather upper class gentleman called Gatley. I think his christian name was Clement, but I`m not sure. The foreman`s name was Hockey and the office manager was a Mr Burn, can`t vouch for the spelling. Mr Gatley had been a racing driver so there may be some details available. I haven`t looked yet. Sadly, I can`t recall the girl`s name in the office and we became quite friendly. She was a very interesting young lady.
    The family I lodged with in London Colney, and I can`t remember their name, were quite young
    and had a little girl. She`d have been nine or ten years younger than I was at the time. She could be in her early eighties, if she is still with us, so there`s a chance some one could be familiar with my recollections. I do hope so.
    There was a young couple who used to dance on the shop floor at lunch times, and they Jived, It was originally called jitterbugging, not a name I cared for, jiving sounded so much better.
    I could jive, but not on the shop floor, and we were entertained by the young couple who were very good..
    Mr Jacobs was the toolmaker/designer, a member of the “engineering aristocracy”, I recall. He wore a white warehouse coat and cut a very dignified figure.
    Talking about aristocracy, one of the employees was a titled gentleman who was rather fond of a drink. He used to go over to the pub lunch time and he had to clock out and back in again after lunch. If you were a minute late when clocking in, you were stopped a quarter of an hour`s pay from your wages. If this happened to the Honourable whoever he was, he went back to the pub saying “If I`m paying for the time I`m not wasting it not drinking.”
    In conclusion, I have very much enjoyed reliving this very significant, if short, part of my life. It was my first job, which wasn`t special career wise, but enjoyable because of the people and surroundings. It was less than six months and I sincerely hope for a response from people who remember being involved.
    I shall follow this page with eager anticipation.

    By Onorato Dossena known as Onre (19/10/2020)
  • My name is Onre Dossena and I worked at the London Colney Service Station in 1944 and used to go to Ballito`s dancing on Saturday nights with a girl who worked with me in the office.
    I was the assistant to the draughtsman and I also assisted the cashier, working late on Thursday nights doing the wages. It was sometimes a very late night if we couldn`t get the cash to balance. Everyone was paid cash in those days and all the envelopes were left open until the end and sealed when we got it right!? I remember the furore when they brought in Pay as you Earn when everyone thought they were being diddled. and blamed us.
    I was 16 then, I`m in my 90`s now and writing notes on my life and it`s London Colney, 1944 .
    I`ve just remembered, there were dances at a local hospital at that time ,too.
    Are there any other old codgers about?
    I enjoyed reading the comments above and the photos of 1944.

    By Onorato Dossena, known as Onre (19/10/2020)
  • Hi my mum also worked at Ballito her name was Dorothy Eckett better known as Dolly . My Nan used to live in the road behind the factory and in the 60’s my brother Melvin and I, Denise Freeman ,used to go dancing at the factory. We saw The Tremeloes and Dave Clark Five there . My Dad Harold Freeman had a grocers in Spencer Street St.Albans and we went to schools near the Ballito factory. Also quite coincidentally, one of the messages on this page asks about a South African connection with Ballito in Durban. Strangely enough my brother Melvin Freeman lives there he is now 73 and his house overlooks the beach. We’re both born in St. Albans and these memories came back to me VE Day 8.5.20 thinking of the fab nylons Ballito made sheer luxury. My mum and aunt Kate Eckett worked there in the 1940’s.

    By Denise Mitchinson (08/05/2020)
  • My mother Margaret Martin lived in a flat above the main entrance with her mum and dad in the 1930s. She is now 87 years old and lives in Maiden Newton, Dorset.

    By David Lloyd (14/04/2020)
  • During the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s three members of my family worked at Ballito. My mother Wendy Lawrence married in September 1950 in Bedford and moved to St Albans with my father Colin Lawrence who was at the time working for Tractor Shafts. They moved in with my grandmother, Maude Lawrence to Woodstock Road South, mum got a job at Ballito in September 1950 as an inspector, after a few months there, some of the lads asked my mum if my dad played football as they were short of numbers to make up the Ballito sports football team. Dad was invited along to a couple of the training sessions, where he gained a place at right back in the team. One day the lads got talking about work and told my father there were job opportunities at Ballito for fully fashion knitters, which at the time was a well paid job. Dad had no hesitation in leaving Tractor Shafts and going to Ballito where he trained as a knitter. He soon became involved in the sports and social clubs and Ballito sports went on to win the Bingham Cox cup at Clarence Park in 1951-1952. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s when the dances were held on a Saturday night in the large canteen, Dad was selling raffle tickets to everybody who included Mr French, Mr Elliott, Mr F, Ault (chairman) and his son Mr Michael Ault (Director) Also at the dance was Mr W K Bell (sales director) who noticed that my dad had sold raffle tickets to the board of directors, with this in mind he called dad over and said “if you can sell raffle tickets to the board you can sell tights and stockings for me” so began a journey from Knitter to Sales Rep, and having to move to Derby to take over the territory of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire in 1961. During this period my mum and dad used to take myself, my sister and brother to the Ballito Christmas party in the works canteen, staying at my grandmothers who had now stopped working at ballito. After a few years, dad was promoted to regional sales manager for the North and eventually the whole of the country, flying up to Scotland and Ireland from East Midlands airport. Hosiery week in London was a particularly busy time entertaining buyers and guests, hoping to secure large orders for hosiery from all the large department stores. A particular promotion that Ballito did in the late 1960’s was lady Cantreece, where they sponsored the girl with the most beautiful legs, her name i recall was Nina Scott, who travelled the country with my dad, promoting Ballito stockings and tights. Dad resigned from Ballito in 1972 after Courtaulds had taken over and work was transferred to Baldock. My dad later died in July 2001 aged 74. A few names now that my mother can recall from her days at Ballito are Eric Pearmain, Chick Conway, Ginger Norris. Some of the Ballito football D, Martin, Stratton, P Muskett, C, English, G, Reutledge, E, Whitby, W, Southeron, W, Tupholme and R, Smith.

    By Peter Colin Lawrence (03/04/2019)
  • My worked at ballitos in the 40s. Her name was Marion Miller. She married Peter Freeman in 1954. Her friend was Sheila I don’t know her single name she became Sheila Pickering.

    By Christine Sanford (23/03/2019)
  • Good gracious that’s my mum Queenie Gordon (nee Rodford) standing centre, picture 2. I believe her, her sisters Phylis & Kitty & brother Ernest worked at the Ballito before & after the war.

    By Geoff Gordon (28/05/2017)
  • My grandfather Bernard Gladwin lived on Woodstcock Road st St Albans and worked in the hosiery business all his life. He began framework knitting at 17 in Belper Derbyshire. Moved to J and R Morley of Nottingham in 1912. After WW1 in the army he had a a spell in London. From there in October 1929 to McDougalls (Glenmuir in 1929) From 1929-30 until his death in 1969 he worked at Ballito, it was his life and he really enjoyed it and all the people who worked there.
    I have a few items from Ballito that he kept and would be interested to hear from anyone who knew Bernard Gladwin.

    By Christine Asher (18/10/2016)
  • I worked at the Ballito from 1960 and danced most Saturday’s when the dance was on. I met and am still friends with Audrey Rough who now lives in Australia. I also played with, now Joan Johnson nee Allen, as a child.

    By Jacqueline Hayes nee Ranger. (07/10/2016)
  • Does anyone know of a connection between the Ballito factory and the town of Ballito in South Africa?

    By Frances (17/09/2016)
  • Perhaps Caroline could contact Courtaulds Brands the owners of the Ballito brand. They may like the letter for their archives.They are at:

    West Mill  Bridge Foot  Belper Derbyshire. DE56 1BH

    By Dr Bramwell G Rudd.


    By BRAMWELL RUDD (05/11/2014)
  • I have recently found a letter dated Feb, 1955 from Mr H.P.Elliott (Director and Company Secretary) of Ballito written to my father who witnessed a distressing car accident involving mr Elliott and his chauffeur where a young boy was killed….. It thanks my father for his witness statements and invites him to ask if my mother would like to accept some boxes of stockings as a thank you….if my father would write back detailing what size my mother might like!! It’s on headed paper and signed by the Director and makes interesting reading…wondering what I should do with it…??!!

    By Caroline Moore (17/04/2014)
  • my uncle Daniel Quinlan was employed at the mill prior to Joining the Army during the second world war, he was sadly killed in action in March 1945 and is buried in the Reichwald forest in Germany, Daniel was an irishman who married a local lady named Hannah and had previously served in the local home guard, i do not have any other information would appreciate any help.

    By Mike Quinlan (22/09/2013)
  • In reply to Adrian’s comments about his grandfather, I do remember Mr. French from when I worked in the offices at Ballito. Can’t quite remember which department he was the head of, but the company secretary was a Mr. Elliott. I seem to recall that he may have been known as Harry French.

    By Joan Johnson (nee Allen) (19/06/2012)
  • My Grandfather, Henry S. F. French worked at Ballito, I belive he was either Chief Accountant or Company Secretary. He lived on Elm Drive with his wife and their daughter (my mother) He retired and moved in Bournemouth in the early 1960’s. Does anyone recall him?

    By Adrian Smith (27/04/2012)
  • My grandmother modelled for Ballito during the 30s and I’d love to know if there’s any way I can find copies of the posters; they were apparently displayed on the underground. I’d be very grateful for any help you can offer!

    By Eira Morgan-Jones (16/01/2011)
  • During the 1960s three members of my family worked at Ballito. My brother worked in ‘the boards’ where the stockings and tights were shaped. My mother worked part-time in the warehouse packing the products into cellophane bags (all workers who handled the stockings and tights used to have regular free manicures). I joined Ballito in 1963 as a shorthand typist and stayed until 1966. On Saturday evenings the large canteen was used as a dance hall where the mods and rockers would congregate to dance to live music I enjoyed working there and made some good friends.

    By Joan Johnson (23/03/2010)