I left school at fourteen and first worked for Mr. Hambley at the Grocery Stores on Barris Corner. (The Stores were later owned by Maurice Burrow and then became Topstyle, Denise Glover’s hairdressers, and now part of Barris House). From there I went to work at the other Grocery Shop in the village (now The Ark) before starting at Ambrosia.
I usually walked or, if I was late, cycled down. I met my husband whilst working at Ambrosia and he worked there until it closed. He was Chief Butter Maker, a job which involved making all the butter in a big churn. It was then packed up in boxes and sent off for distribution on the nearby railway.
We usually split our working day taking turns between three different jobs, all organised by the two forewomen. In the Drying Room the dried milk came through rollers like sheets of paper. We used to clear the sheets by breaking them off the rollers and tipping them into a small bin, then scooping it into another container and eventually it came out as milk powder which was then used to make the tinned baby milk.
When working on the production of Baby Milk we used a machine called ‘the elephant’. This was because paper bags were fitted under the ‘trunk’ to catch milk powder to fill each bag. One bag would contain the correct quantity to fill one tin of baby milk. The whole bag was placed in the tin, folded down, the lid fitted, sellotaped round, and then it would be sent further down the conveyor belt where others would pack the tins into boxes.
I also worked with labelling the famous Ambrosia Rice Pudding. This would be up in a higher room. The puddings were already made and in tins. The tins would be put down a chute to be labelled and then packed in boxes for distribution to the shops.
These are all memories of happy times. We used to sing whilst we worked. It was a lovely gang to work with; we all had a laugh and were really happy.
My Dad, Alfred Andrews, also worked for Ambrosia, first as a lorry driver on the churn collection round and then, in later years, he worked in the Tin Smith building. The two main buildings at Ambrosia were named after prisons – Broadmoor and Holloway.
Barbara Stentiford (née Andrews)