Engineering - Not Just about the History

Article excerpt


It's probably a mistake to over-romanticise the loss of much of British heavy industry over the last 30 years, even if we are talking hundreds of thousands of jobs disappearing forever.

So many of those jobs, be they coalmining, shipyards, steel, textile mills or whatever, were dirty, dangerous and prone to exploitation by deluded union firebrands with their own selfish agendas. The era of Arthur Scargill is long gone, and few outside the hard left will genuinely mourn its passing.

But there was something deeply poignant about the news that the former Longbridge East Works, which once produced aircraft to help defeat the Nazis, was to become a housing estate with over 700 new homes.

Formerly the workplace of thousands of men (and women) who built aeroplanes in wartime and cars in peacetime, the East Works will soon be just another suburban residential sprawl.

Its proud wartime history and unique role in Britain's post-war manufacturing sector will be largely unknown to the young families who make their homes there, over 70 years after Birmingham workers sheltered in tunnels from attack by German bombers.

The fate of the Longbridge East Works is almost a metaphor for the UK economy, with vast swathes of heavy industry which once helped to make Britain the workshop of the world swept aside by a rampant service sector, nurturing identikit shopping centres close to identikit housing estates with identikit gardens. …