Last survivor of Gummer business family remembers Rotherham firm
Peter Gummer (90) says that his family arrived from Somerset in the 18th century with nothing and built up the major employer G and WG Gummer brassworks.
Mr Gummer was involved in the business when it was sold in the 1960s along with his brothers William and George but has fond memories of the firm at Drummond Road in Rawmarsh.
He also remembers tales of how a relative tried to widen Rotherham High Street, though the shop owners would have none of it. and how another helped build the landing between the South Pier and central jetty in Bridlington harbour which was used by the RAF during World War Two.
Mr Gummer, who now lives in Roberttown near Cleckheaton, said: “We did so many things so we must have been good. The quality of our products was fantastic.”
Mr Gummer worked at the company from 1950 to 1962 alongside William who was sales director and George as managing director.
He said: “There was not a lot of room for me so they made me sales engineer and publicity.
“I wanted to join the company.”
Mr Gummer said that his father, Leonard, was forward-thinking and keen to develop the business even though its products were sold across the world.
Mr Gummer said: “After the war they were talking about automation. Father, with a group of others, went to America in the 1940s to see what American industry was doing in the brass trade.”
Mr Gummer said that his father thought that there was no machine which could build brass taps to the standard required but bought 50 to 60 second-hand lathes which he laid out in such a way that products could be built by moving along what would now be seen as a production line.
Mr Gummer said: “My father was quite forward-thinking. He was very very clever.”
Mr Gummer said that during the war orders came in to build valves for war ships and during the First World War Gummer’s made parts for shells.
In the 1940s a special order came through from the government which had to be specially dealt with. On the day of completion military top brass turned up to take the product away. It turned out to be shower fitting for General Eisenhower’s HQ.
Mr Gummer said that while people talk about old firms like Guest and Chrimes in Rotherham, Gummer’s was also important, providing items to the 1951 Festival Of Britain and getting on to the list of top 100 famous British companies.
He believes that staff relations were good although health and safety was sometimes less than would be expected today.
He said: “I don’t think we had many problems with industrial relations. We only had one threatened strike but that was a national strike.
“I was a junior manager so I didn’t know if people complained.
“But when you think of what health and safety conditions apply today, we had a furnace with sulphurous fumes coming out with people breathing it all in.”
Mr Gummer doesn’t know why the firm was eventually sold. He said: “My suspicion is that they wondered if the two children could cope. Perhaps they wanted new blood.”
Mr Gummer went on to work elsewhere and have a successful career, working for other people, and he also has charitable interests. He is the vice-president of the Safe Anchor Trust based in Mirfield which provides free access to waterways for special needs groups, improves towpaths and provides education and training opportunities for young people.
But he still looks back at being involved in the family business with some pride.