Oral history interview with Bob Willis about Cottis Iron Works, Epping, 28 May 2004
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Sub-Fonds
Epping Forest District Museum
Level: Series
Changing Perceptions oral history project
Scope and Content:
Interview with Bob Willis about his life, spent primarily in Epping, including his work for Cottis Ironworks.

Part One
[00:00:] His parents' background in Suffolk and their marriage; their move to Bures for his father's work as a carpenter; their move to Lavenham for father's work; their move to Gaynes Park Estate, Coopersale in 1937.
[05:00:] Attending Coopersale School; story about learning sex education informally; move to senior school in Epping; his first job on leaving school as a pattern maker at Cottis Ironworks, Epping; his first day.
[09:20:] His former workshop; description of his work.

Part Two
[00:00:] Training received before starting work and after joining Cottis; making items for himself at work; his wages and working hours when he started; giving money to his mother; going to Empire Cinema in Epping in his youth; different gangs in Epping in the 1940s-1950s; presence of military servicemen during the Second World War.
[06:00:] Colleagues in his workshop; history of the Cottis business, originally brickworks; other colleagues.
[10:35:] Woodworking equipment used in his work; lack of safety precautions; wood dust found in his lungs in later life; impact of the Second World War on changing working practices; accidents at work; working hours and lunch breaks.
[16:10:] Making model aeroplanes at his bench and furniture for home; memories of the Cottis family; attending funeral service for Reuben Cottis; working atmosphere with his colleagues; further memories of the Cottis family.
[22:00:] Story about getting a haircut during working hours; paid holiday time; union at the works; story about selling equipment to farmers directly.
[26:30:] Decline of the works and failure to modernise; story of getting dust extractor after factory inspection; gradual improvement of working conditions with increasing regulations, including provision of tea and cakes and washing facilities.
[31:30:] Reflections on the working atmosphere at the ironworks; story of catching and selling rabbits from the Estate; details of the family who owned the Estate; work done for the Estate to earn extra money prior to his marriage; father's retirement.
[36:10:] Purchase of cottage from Mr Cottis after his marriage; additional work to raise money for his marriage; work as a part-time fireman; story about the fire at Copped Hall; fires caused by sparks from passing steam trains.
[43:05:] Leaving Cottis in the 1960s; attempt to emigrate to Australia; purchase of poultry farm in Staffordshire, combined with work in local foundry; struggle to make profit; return to Epping in c. 1970 and work in the building trade.
[48:20:] Changes in Epping; his work in the building trade and property development; purchase of house in Coopersale from the Whiffen family and development of the property [ends mid-sentence].

Part Three
[00:00:] Paternal benefits of working at Cottis Ironworks; story of losing job for taking home timber.
[05:05:] Evaluation of his time at Cottis; development of the hardware shop on the High Street; changing work from agricultural machinery to war work in the Second World War; story of getting timber from horse chestnut felled on Gaynes Park Estate in 1943.
[12:00:] Decline of Gaynes Park Estate; sale of mansion on estate to Jewish family.
[16:15:] Closure of Cottis Ironworks; reuse of bricks and tiles from foundry; evaluation of changes in Epping [ends mid-sentence].
Dates of Creation:
28 May 2004
83 minutes 46 seconds
Creator Name:
Jenny Coumbe
Admin History:
Bob Willis was born in Suffolk in 1928. His mother was from Haverhill, and his father was from Steeple Bumpstead. They lived in Suffolk until 1937, when they moved to the Gaynes Park Estate, Coopersale.

Bob started working as a pattern maker at Cottis Ironworks on leaving school at the age of 14. He married in 1953 and had two children. He left Cottis in c. 1958-1960, when he purchased a poultry farm in Staffordshire and moved there with his family. Ten years later, they returned to Epping, when Mr Willis worked in the building trade.
Archivist Note:
SJM 1 September 2017
Custodial History:
Original reference number CP/EFDM/2004/055. Parts One and Two were originally Tracks One and Two on one CD; Part Three was on the second CD.
Acquisition Source:
Received from Epping Forest District Museum
Interviewees transferred their copyright to Epping Forest District Museum. Contact the Museum prior to use for public performance by the public, for non-Essex Record Office publications, for broadcasting on the radio or television, or for broadcasting on non-Essex Record Office website.
Physical Characteristics:
MP3 files created from two CDs
Originals Location:
Epping Forest District Museum
Related Unit of Description:
See SA 61/1/1/5/4 for a biographical summary from the interview.
Not Available:
Essex Sound and Video Archive: use digital copy available on Soundcloud

Key terms

TypeKey termsDescription
Subjects Carpentry Oral history interview with Bob Willis about Cottis Iron Works, Epping, 28 May 2004 Former carpenter
Personal Names Bob
Oral history interview with Bob Willis about Cottis Iron Works, Epping, 28 May 2004
Document Types Sound recording Oral history interview with Bob Willis about Cottis Iron Works, Epping, 28 May 2004
Institutions William Cottis and Son Oral history interview with Bob Willis about Cottis Iron Works, Epping, 28 May 2004 Former employee