A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the sad loss of the 1960s Colt office building at the north end of New Lane. The ‘We’re Backing Britain’ campaign from 1968 which spread rapidly down the lane to Kenwood, has been immortalised in a BBC Radio 4 play, first broadcast on Sunday 23rd September. Available on BBC iPlayer at this link, it’s well worth forty five minutes of your time if you remember those days and the importance of New Lane to the town of Havant in the sixties.
The ‘We’re Backing Britain’ campaign was soon picked up by Kenwood, just down the lane from Colt, and I was delighted to see a terrific turnout at The Spring on Saturday 29th September for the launch of their six month Heritage Lottery funded Kenwood local history project.
Soon after my seventeenth birthday, I punched into the time clock at the Kenwood factory for my first experience of paid employment. Within an hour I was handed a roll of ‘Kenwood – We’re Backing Britain’ stickers, the ‘K’ of Kenwood picked out in the colours of the union flag. The stickers, intended for the boxes of appliances leaving the production lines, were also proudly displayed on the flasks, lunchboxes, bicycles and cars of the workforce.
It’s a sad day for those of us who remember New Lane in the heady days of the late sixties.
In 1968, my first real ‘summer holiday’ employer, Kenwood Manufacturing, was supporting Colt in their famous staff initiative. Boxes of Kenwood Chefs, Kenwood Mini foodmixers and the first ill-fated Kenwood Dishwashers left the plant with ‘I’m Backing Britain’ stickers lovingly applied.
Fred Price had been the mastermind behind Colt’s ‘I’m Backing Britain’ message, and with Kenwood’s staff quickly joining the movement it wasn’t long before New Lane and its predominantly West Leigh workforce were the focus of national news bulletins. Lying between Kenwood in the south and Colt in the north were Goodman’s Industries, a once respected name in the British HiFi market.
Fifty years on, none of these companies manufacture in New Lane. The Goodmans site was razed to the ground some years ago, Kenwoods has long been a warehouse operation for imported Chinese manufacturing while Colt moved their administrative offices up the road to Petersfield and their manufacturing ‘offshore’.
Love it or hate it, the Colt office building at the north end of New Lane was an iconic sixties structure. Until today, that is. The photograph below was taken this morning while the New Lane frontage was still there. By this evening, the machinery had moved large chunks of the frontage out, waiting for the concrete crushers that will be running for many weeks to come.
In its place, another development plan that will continue to have its fair share of public debate. In years to come, some of us may begin to wonder why we didn’t campaign to get this building listed.
It’s a kind of Tricorn / Marmite thing.
(In fairness, this is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Havant Civic Society)