Our appeal recently for information about the old Sawtells feather factory in Melksham brought these pictures, from former Melksham man Norman Hutchins, who now lives in Trowbridge.

The picture above shows a train hauling 26 trucks loaded with feathers for the factory, part of a consignment of 41 trucks which was delivered via Melksham station on May 9, 1928.

Its authenticity is verified by the signature of Mr Drew, the then Great Western Railway stationmaster at Melksham.

Mr Hutchins’ father was an engine driver and although he did not work on the railways himself, spending much of his working life at the Co-op Dairy in Melksham, he spent 25 years as a volunteer with the East Somerset Railway in Cranmore.

“They had to send big consignments like this one in two trainloads because the station at Melksham was not large enough,” he said.

“They used to unload the feathers in the goods yard and them take them over to the Sawtells factory by train.”

The picture below left shows the station at Melksham and comes from a 1916 postcard sent by Mr Hutchins’ mother-in-law to her sister, who was in service in Bath. The card was making arrangements to meet in The Corridor in Bath and go for a day’s shopping. Dated October 24 1916, it was printed by Melksham firm W Bolwell.

Below right we reproduce the original Sawtells picture, which reader Nonie Shell, nee Dicks, of Westbury, has been able to add some detail to. Her father Fred Dicks worked at Sawtells from 1916 to 1940, and is pictured, right, leaning against the horsedrawn delivery lorry.

He was a checker at this time. She dates the picture to about 1928, and thinks the vehicle looks like a GWR Thorneycroft van.

Mrs Dicks lived next door to the factory in Old Broughton Road and as a child played in the delivery shed and fed the cats which were kept for catching rats.

She remembers that consignments of feathers came in from China at Christmas in huge bales and often had blue china ginger jars hidden inside as gifts for the Sawtell family and workers.