Littlewoods is being remembered through the eyes of its legions of workers in a unique showing at the Museum of Liverpool.
Littlewoods was an iconic brand founded in 1923 by Sir John Moores and his brother Cecil. The Moores brothers were considered as ahead of their time and employed a female-dominated workforce
Dr Ruth Doughty, Programme Leader in Film Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, spent five years researching the company’s history, with the help of the university and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
She said: “The Littlewoods Heritage Project has been going on for five years.
“It initially started when I was going to work, and I heard on Radio Merseyside that the Littlewoods building on Edge Lane was going to become a film studio.
“Being the head of film studies, this was really exciting. It means our students don’t have to go to London for jobs, they might be able to work in Liverpool.’’
Listen to George McHugh’s audio report here:
The spark for Dr Doughty’s five-year journey into Littlewoods’ full history ignited when someone asked her if she knew the depths of the company’s past.
She said: “In that time we have created a community film, we’ve done 30 plus oral history interviews with former employees, we’ve made a website, the digital archive the exhibition.
“So it really has been a mammoth journey. We started off just making a community film but as we went along, we realised that there was so much we could do and connecting with the community has been brilliant, the stories have been so rich.
“We just kept finding new ways in sharing these stories with the general public.’’
They were very fair and accommodating
Littlewoods was renowned for paying the best wages in Liverpool, and also looking after their workforce. The ‘Littlewoodies’ were often treated to day trips and given the opportunity to join in-house sports teams, choirs, and amateur dramatic groups.
Anne Ward, Littlewoods employee, said: “They provided plenty of opportunities, there was always chances of a promotion.
“They were very fair and accommodating when it came to child-minding.’’
Littlewoods is also known for the humble beginnings of the Football Pools in 1923, and this collection is safely housed in Preston.
The Littlewoods digital archive was made possible by Liverpool John Moores University students who recorded interviews, and digitised material from the collection that is held at the National Football Museum.
Peter Holme, Collections Officer at the National Football Museum, said: “We are very grateful that the university provided interns over a period of five years to digitise and record the collection of thousands and thousands of objects and photographs that needed cataloguing.’’
During the war, Littlewoods buildings were commandeered to make barrage balloons and Halifax bombers as the women were repurposed for the wartime effort.
With the rise of automation, they were one of the first companies in the UK to introduce IBM computers.
Dr Doughty added: “It was amazing for the women of Liverpool. Rather than working as domestic servants or for the perilous textile industries, Littlewoods offered women the chance to earn one of the highest wages safely, and their pride in being a ‘Littlewoodie’ played a big part in the company’s commercial success.’’
The exhibition will be showcased at the Museum of Liverpool until April 28.
Visitors can expect to see vintage photographs, coupons, promotional materials, and memorabilia which has a strong focus on the social life of the factory and its legacy in the wider community.
Watch Cassie Ward’s video report here:
Featured image (c) Cassie Ward