COME TO CORBY
'Come to Corby' was the title of a talk and slide show given by Corby Council in Ilford town hall in 1973 - so keen were they at the time to attract new people to the town (as were Ilford council to get rid of people!).
The audience saw pictures of the town and surrounding countryside and heard about all the wonderful new housing estates that were being built at Danesholme and Kingswood, the wonderful new town that was being developed and the opportunities there were for employment. Although from Buckinghamshire, I was living and working in Ilford, Essex at the time. Just on the point of getting married, Corby seemed a wonderful place to settle down!
After the presentation the audience were given the opportunity to sign up for a coach trip to the town. My name was duly added to the list and in a few weeks I had my first sight of Corby, was shown around the newly built council houses on the Danesholme Estate and ended up queing up for a job interview in the British Steelworks canteen.
I went back to the town a few weeks later to have a proper look around, which was when I first encountered 'the Scottish connection' - most of the inhabitants talking with a broad Glaswegian accent. At that time a brand new semi-detatched house on the Danesholme estate cost around £ 8,500.
I started work in the management accounts department of British Steel at the end of 1973 and soon became aware of the resentment that a lot of local people held towards newcomers moving into the town, who they felt were being given preferential treatment. It was an uncomfortable few months. But things soon settled down and I became well acquainted with the pool table at the British Steel hostel, where I stayed until I got married in April 1974.
At this time in the early 70's the steel works was in full production and the majority of families in the town had a least one member who worked there. As a shift system was in operation getting to work was sometimes a problem, which gave rise to the large number of London taxis in the town, which still operate today. The area around the steel works was frequently affected by smoke from the furnaces and the smell of sulphur in the air was something you just got used to in time - it was great for roses in the gardens!
This was all in 1974 - not long before the town was greeted with the news of the impending closure of the steelworks. When this happened, the whole town started suffering from depression. Most men in the town had worked for most of their lives in the steelworks, and had very few skills in anything other than steel making. Unemployment hit an all time high and the stress and worry about the future was clearly reflected on the faces of the people as they walked around the town, consoling one another.
The town's fortunes took a turn for the better in the early 80's when it became a designated 'Enterprise Zone' and the government poured money into the area to attract new industry to the town. This proved fairly successful with several major firms moving to the area including RS Components, who are now the town's largest employer. The number of government grants available also prompted a lot of ex-steelworkers to try setting up their own businesses and until the recession of the early 90's took it's toll life was pretty good in Corby.
Today Corby is going through another period of regeneration with plans to attract even more industry and expand the town's population in order to justify more development and an up-dating of the town centre.