A CROWD gathered in the Vaults in Bradford to come together and commemorate the rich history of Avon Rubber before the official unveiling of the Iron Duke.

Former employees of the factory and family members Avon Rubber workers were welcomed to a reception in Kingston Road on Saturday (September 24) morning where they were treated to a glass of bubbly and various displays of the factory.

Jim Lynch, of the Bradford on Avon Community Area Network, introduced two films before everyone made their way down the street for the unveiling. Both films chronicled the families and faces of Avon Rubber, sharing their memories of the famed business.

Chris Whitting, 66, of Tory Place, said: "I worked in the gatehouse after coming to Bradford in 1975. I stayed until 1980 then went to get my heavy goods licence, then came back in 1988. I can still see it how it used to be, hearing the whistles go off, seeing people running around the place. I was also working in the police force as well as doing the security."

A large number of people discussed how their lives were so closely linked to the Avon Rubber factory, many of whom were linked by either a colleague or family member.

Mrs Janet Jory, 78, of Church Walk in Melksham, said: "My mother Winnifred Cootes used to work for Avon Inflatables. She started there in 1963 doing the Avon Dingeys, she was asked to travel to Bridge End in Wales to show people how to make them."

Following the presentation and the films, everyone made their way to Kingston Road to watch the main event, but not before a talk from Mayor Alison Craddock.

"It is excellent to have such a hugely important part of the industrial beauty Bradford is known for back here in the town. I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make today happen," she said.

Former employees of the Avon Rubber Factory, Chris Greene, Nita Wadham and Mike Clifford, were chosen to cut the ribbon and drop the cover and present the 16-tonne machine to the two hundred strong crowd. Once the curtain had fell a round of applause rose from the onlookers, a moment everyone had been waiting for since the start of the project five years ago.

Mervyn Harris, chairman of the Bradford on Avon Museum, said: "No one will have seen the Iron Duke look as it does today.

"Everyone in the rubber industry knows the important part it played in the industrial revolution in this town. This is a massive part of history."

The films and other projects are now available to view online at www.theavonworks.co.uk