R.A. Lister & Company Limited – Victoria Works – Dursley

R.A. Lister & Co. Ltd.’s Great War Munitions Workers, Dursley (12th July 1917).

Facility Type & Function:

A privately owned engineering company specialising in agricultural machinery and stationary petrol and diesel driven engine sets.

During the Great War, the company produced petrol engines, lighting sets, pumps, 3-inch diameter shrapnel and incendiary shells, 18-pdr High Explosive shells, primers, repair of primers and motor ploughs. During World War II, the company similarly produced engine and lighting sets along with shell cases for the war effort.

Brief History:

Robert Ashton Lister founded R.A. Lister and Company in 1867. The company was based in a former mill building in Water Street, Dursley and manufactured agricultural machinery as well as butter churns and barrels for the dairy industry. In 1893, Lister’s became incorporated as a private “Limited” company and in 1896, a public company.

In 1889 and 1909 respectively, Lister’s acquired the UK rights to manufacturing a novel centrifugal cream separator along with a range of petrol driven stationary engines.

A distinctive green painted Lister’s Petrol Driven Stationary Engine Set.

During World War I, Lister’s factory (the Victoria Works) primarily focused on War Department orders, producing petrol engines, lighting sets, pumps, 3-inch diameter shrapnel and incendiary shells, 18-pdr High Explosive shells, primers (plus the repair of primers) and motor ploughs. Many of the male staff left the company to enlist in the armed services. This, as in other locations within Britain at the time, resulted in the large scale need to fill their places with female workers. In 1918, the work force at Dursley numbered 657 men and 661 women.

A group of women munition workers from R.A. Lister & Co. Ltd.’s Victoria Works, Dursley, c.1914.

After the Great War, Robert Lister retired and handed the management of the company over to his grandsons. The company became increasingly known worldwide for the manufacture of its distinctive (green coloured) petrol and diesel fuelled small stationary engines. In addition, they also started to make a range of light weight three wheeled trucks (the Lister Auto-Truck) and narrow-gauge railway locomotives. The 1920s and 1930s heralded a time of significant growth for Lister’s which by 1926 employed approximately 2000 people. By this time the company’s local headquarters were in the old priory building in Dursley.

The “Old Priory”,  site of R.A. Lister’s Dursley Head Office (early 2000s).

In the nearby valley was located a foundry, together with a machining shop, capstan lathe shop, engine assembly lines, and a coopers’ shop. Many goods were shipped out from the nearby Dursley railway station, which was located on land leased from the Lister family.

R.A. Lister & Co. Ltd.’s Victoria Works, Dursley (c.1920s).

During the 1920s, Charles Ashton Lister travelled to Germany to secure a dept owed to the company. This was a period of hyper-inflation in Germany and Charles was forced to settle part of the debt in local currency. To try to protect the value of this repayment he invested it in German property, including a hotel in Bavaria. Charles saw at first-hand the rise of the Nazi Party and used the company’s assets in Germany to assist those trying to rescue Jewish families from Germany and Austria by bribing officials.

The factory returned to war production at the onset of World War II, producing engines, lighting sets, agricultural implements and shell cases. In 1940, the factory was visited by Queen Mary who spent much of the war at nearby Badminton House. During World War II, the company increased its war production by opening components and sub-assembly plants in Nympsfield (1942), Wotton-under-Edge (1943) and Cinderford (1944).

After World War II, the company purchased Marine Mountings of Swindon from the Admiralty. The company’s good fortunes continued, and they remained a family run business with a good reputation for looking after the well-being of their workforce.

In 1965, Charles Ashton Lister died and the company was purchased by Hawker Siddeley who merged Lister’s with their former main rivals (Petter) in the small diesel engine market to form Lister Petter Limited. This new company continued to operate under a succession of new owners and finally a management buyout team before going into administration in 2003. There were several further attempts to keep the company going but these all eventually failed.

For more on this company’s history click on video link below.

Location Details:

Dursley, Gloucestershire, England.

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I

Function: Canteen/Refreshments token (Note 1)

Material: Injection moulded white plastic

Design: Bifacial

Shape & Size: Circular, 21.9 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Y.W.C.A. and around bottom edge CANTEEN all within an outer raised edge border. In the centre field, the legend LISTER’S.

Reverse: The mark of value 6D. in the centre field within an outer raised edge border.

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 140 – MMT018. Private Publication. 2011.


Type II

Function: Canteen/Refreshments token (Note 1)

Material: Injection moulded blue plastic

Design: Bifacial

Shape & Size: Circular, 21.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Y.W.C.A. and around bottom edge CANTEEN all within an outer raised edge border. In the centre field, the legend LISTER’S.

Reverse: The mark of value 2D. in the centre field within an outer raised edge border.

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 140 – MMT017. Private Publication. 2011.


Type III

Function: Canteen/Refreshments token (Note 1)

Material: Injection moulded red plastic

Design: Bifacial

Shape & Size: Circular, 21.4 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Y.W.C.A. and around bottom edge CANTEEN all within an outer raised edge border. In the centre field, the legend LISTER’S.

Reverse: The mark of value 1D. in the centre field within an outer raised edge border.

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 140 – MMT016. Private Publication. 2011.


Type IV

Function: Canteen/Refreshments token

Material: Yellow plastic with black in-filled legend.

Design: Uniface

Shape & Size: Circular, 26.6 mm

Obverse: Legend around upper edge reads R.A. LISTER & Co. LTD.and around bottom edge DURSLEY. In the centre field, the mark of value 6D. .

Reverse: Blank

Date: 1910s to 1950s (Note 2)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 140 – MMT015. Private Publication. 2011.


Notes:

  1. The female munitions workers employed at R.A. Lister’s during the Great War were housed in accommodation huts run by the Munitions Workers’ Welfare Committee of the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.). In the Autumn of 1916, the same committee of  Y.W.C.A. opened a munition makers’ canteen at the Victoria Works off Long Street in Dursley. The canteen’s first manageress was a Miss C.E Garside. For her excellent work looking after the welfare of the predominantly young munition girls at Dursley, she was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1917. With the aid of locally raised funds, the Y.W.C.A. also opened a recreational club in early 1918 for the female munition workers. This wood-fabricated building stood at the end of Long Street close to R.A. Lister’s main offices in the “Old Priory”. For the monthly membership fee of a shilling, these workers were able to make full use of the club’s facilities, which comprised a large recreation room, a reading and writing room, a small “quiet” room, a bath house plus a kitchen from which refreshments were served. The monthly membership fee also covered the attendance of classes and lectures which were held in the club.
  2. The precise issue and usage dates of these tokens are unknown. While they may belong to the Great War period, their general design style could place it to a much later period.

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