Pioneering Industry: Sadler and Courtaulds

Photography by Richard Sadler
Courtaulds worker, 1954 © Richard Sadler

The Second of three exhibitions looking at post-war Coventry, using the photography of Richard Sadler.

This series looks at Courtaulds, the synthetic fabric manufacturer, which was at the time an employer of 150,000 people across the UK. Coventry was its research centre, reflecting its national and international status as a city of innovation in engineering.

The photographs show the development processes for rayon and corlene and the engineers, scientists and factory workers who developed and produced it. Included in these are many of the fantastic women who worked at Courtaulds, including Dr Vera Furness, who joined as a research chemist post-PhD in 1953 and rose to become Technical Director, responsible for 400 graudate staff in Coventry and 1,400 across Courtaulds' nine sites. According to Haines (2001)

'No woman had held such a position in industry over professional men prior to this in England'

(Haines, C., 2001, International Women in Science, ABC Clio, p.108)

Under Furness, Courtaulds developed new polymers in the manufacture of man made fibres but also developed carbon fibre.

The era Sadler focused on is between 1951-54, just as Furness was joining. In this exhibition we can see the scientists and their facilities, a mix of cutting edge technology and earlier manual labour mixing, boiling, stretching and fixing as new fabrics were developed and produced.

As a part of this exhibtion we're delighted to include companies that today reflect the pioneering spirit of that earlier age.

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