Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Playmakers: Your Memories of Slazenger

As part of our Playmakers exhibition at Wakefield Museum, we have been asking visitors to share their memories of the Dunlop Slazenger factory at Horbury and we haven’t been disappointed by your responses.


The Playmakers exhibition at Wakefield Museum

Famous sports manufacturer, Slazenger came to Horbury in 1942 when it merged with rival firm, William Sykes Ltd, which had been established by a local saddler’s apprentice in 1860 and grown into a major international company. Slazenger’s London factory had suffered serious bomb damage in the Blitz and the company moved most of its production north. Slazenger later merged with Dunlop but the Horbury factory remained the company’s manufacturing centre until 1986.


The William Sykes Ltd and later Dunlop Slazenger factory at Albion Mill, Horbury

 Many of you have been telling us about working at the factory or sharing your family connections to Slazenger. We’ve had responses from former racket stringers, football makers as well as cleaners, paper boys, mechanics, salespeople and managers. Most people have fond memories of their time with the company.


I worked at Slazenger from 1966-1976 stringing tennis rackets. They were really good days. I’ve got many happy memories.

I worked at Slazengers from 1960-1970, first making golf balls. The department moved to Speke near Liverpool and I then made tennis rackets. I enjoyed my days there- good place to work.

I worked in the golf bag department. Great times!

I was in the archery department sanding arrows. I loved watching the cricket bats being made.

My mum worked as a machinist at the Slazenger factory for 10 years in the 70s and 80s. She met a few famous sportsmen there and has a photo with the legend, Seve Ballesteros.


Quiver of arrows, Slazenger, 1950s

 On loan from Roger Byard

Don Bradman Autograph cricket bat, William Sykes Ltd and Slazenger, 1940s, produced shortly after the two companies merged
Don Bradman Autograph cricket bat, William Sykes Ltd and Slazenger, 1940s, produced shortly after the two companies merged

Lots of employees stayed with the company for many years and held several varied roles.


My late husband worked at Slazengers from leaving school in 1966 for 23 years. He made tennis rackets, sprayed golf clubs and table tennis tables. He worked a short while in the laboratory, getting the paint so it was a good finish and gave optimum bounce to the table tennis balls. He went from Horbury to Normanton when it opened.


Working at Slazenger was frequently a family affair. Often, multiple generations of relatives were employed by the factory.


I worked there when I left school. The interview was: “Do any of your family work here?” / “Yes” / “No problem then.” Many families in Horbury and Horbury Bridge were fully employed there.

My Dad worked as a sales office manager from 1960 up to his retirement. I used to clean the factory during the summer holidays from college.

I’ve been connected to the factory all my life! My uncle was works manager, my Dad in the golf department, and my husband a sewing machine mechanic. I worked as a machinist in a few departments. Fantastic place to work!


Some visitors have also been reminiscing about owning Slazenger goods.


I had a Slazenger tennis racket when I was at Wakefield Girls’ High School. I played with it for many years after I left school. Slazenger and Dunlop products were so well known.

I had a Slazenger hockey stick and tennis racket at grammar school, 1950s/60s. They went to university with me. They were bought via the shop at Slazenger. I’ve still got the tennis racket.

I got my first Slazenger tennis racket in 1965. Had it throughout grammar school- it went to teacher training with me too!

Slazenger Demon tennis racket, 1950s/60s and Slazenger Challenge Bi-hander tennis racket, 1970s

 On loan from Jim Warner
Slazenger Demon tennis racket, 1950s/60s and Slazenger Challenge Bi-hander tennis racket, 1970s

 On loan from Jim Warner
Did you or anyone in your family work at the factory? Have you played sports with Horbury-made  Dunlop Slazenger products? Please keep your stories coming. Share your memories with us when you visit the museum, leave us a comment below, or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter: facebook.com/wakefieldmuseum, @wfmuseums.

Visit Playmakers to read more memories and add your own recollections to our comments board. You can also check out our oral history films of former Slazenger employees.

Playmakers is at Wakefield Museum until 1st July 2017.

1 comment:

  1. My late father worked at Slazengers in the 50's & early 60's. As far as I know, he made footballs & rugby balls. He went on to become the "Wakefield Saddler". His first shop was in Lower Kirkgate, where the new History Centre is now. I think he had to declare bankruptcy there & recall there was a stigma attached to that. Later, he started up again further up Kirkgate near the car park at the corner of George Street. Business blossomed and in the early 1970's, he moved into 76 Westgate at the corner of Carter Street. This was a prestigious spot right at the bus stop. With the import of cheaper leather goods & saddlery, business dropped a little. To be competitive, he diversified into sweets & tobacco, supplying other shops & pubs with wholesale cigarettes & tobacco. Business was good so my father took another shop in Bank Street and separated the two businesses, selling the saddlery and leather goods and doing the repairs there. My mother had been ill in the mid '70's and eventually managed to return to work in the shop. Unfortunately, in the early 80's, she became ill again and needed a lot of care. My father had to sell the tobacconist side of the business and for a while, kept the saddlery side going until he had to sell that too to care for mum full time. He did this until his untimely death in 1989 at the age of 55. He never forgot his time at Slazengers and I recall him talking of it with fondness.


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