The R.A. Lister Company in Dursley

Into the 20th Century: 1907-1945. In 1909, the first petrol engine was introduced to the company's product line. This initial model was actually acquired from the firm of F.C.Southwell & Co. who were based in London. These engines were very much in demand and were put to a wide range of uses ranging from driving electric generators to powering Lister's other newly introduced product, the sheep shearing machine.

In fact the growth in production of petrol engines and sheep shearing equipment led to a shortage of space in the factory and in 1909 the Victoria Works was extended in order to cope.

It wasn't all work and no play though. Ashton Lister was a philanthropist and took a keen interest in the social welfare of his workforce. In 1910 the whole of the works was closed so that everyone could take a trip to the seaside. The company chartered a train from Dursley which took employees and their relations to Weston-Super-Mare where they took full advantage of their break, only returning to the town in the early morning of the following day. This morale-raising style of venture was to be repeated on a number of occasions in later years. In a similar vein he also had built the terrace of houses in Rosebery Road and the estate of Garden Suburb to accommodate desperately needed workers for his factories.

Despite these advantages for the workers, the years before the First World War was a time of conflict throughout the country and Lister's was no exception. In 1914 the whole of the workforce went on strike in support of the demarcation of engine building skills. However the strike did not reach a conclusion before hostilities began in August, the workers returned and Lister's began a new phase of its life, manufacturing for the war effort. Production of petrol engines, lighting sets and munitions components took the factory to capacity. Women workers replaced men who had gone off to fight and they readily learned new skills in order to cope with the increasing demands. However, by 1918 it was all over, the lucky ones came back, the women resumed their homely duties and a period of rebuilding and growth swept the country.

The marketplace had changed though and the boom was not to last. Increasing competition from abroad meant that the company needed careful management and this was provided by a new board of directors comprising of Ashton's grandsons Robert, Frank, Percy and George together with A.E.Mellerup. However it was still some time before another new product line was introduced, which arrived in the shape of the autotruck in 1926. These were a great success, serving a multitude of purposes transporting goods around factories, railway stations and dockyards the world over. In fact it was so successful that production continued all the way through to 1973.
"Lister Standard" Advert
June 1930

1929 was a significant year for R.A.Lister & Co Ltd because of two reasons. The first was the death of its founder, Robert Ashton Lister at the age of 84. The second was the introduction of the diesel engine which was to play a huge part in the company's fortunes. The first model had one cylinder which produced 9hp and hence was known as the 9-1. Further models followed soon after, the 5-1, 10-2, 18-2 and 38-4 all arriving in 1930, the 27-3 in 1931 and 3-1, 'CD' and 'CE' in 1933. So it went on with new models following every year or two. 1931 was also the year in which the Ruston-Lister Marine Co Ltd was set up to exclusively serve the maritime market. It was also the year in which the Duke of York visited Lister's where he spent many hours touring the whole of the works where he showed a keen interest in the various processes and products produced.

By 1936 Lister's had what must have been the largest output of diesel engines of their kind in the world and produced a range of 80 different sizes and types of diesel and petrol models. They were also making very large quantities of pumps, churns, cream separators, autotrucks, generating plant and sheep shearing equipment. In addition the Woodware Works produced ornamental tubs, garden seats and many other items. By this time the company also had a fine welfare scheme with its own medical centre and a social club which exists to this day.
The Duke of York is welcomed by Percy Lister on the Priory steps in Dec. 1931

War clouds were looming once again though and in 1939 many of the workers were called up to the services. Products manufactured during World War 2 included engines, agricultural implements and shell cases in increasing numbers. Another royal visit also occurred in 1940 when Queen Mary came to Dursley to tour the works. By this time production was starting to ramp up further with a high demand for output and this was handled by opening new factories in Nympsfield (1942), Wotton-under-Edge (1943) and Cinderford (1944). These factories were primarily used for component assembly, Lister's was certainly playing its part to serve the national cause.

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