A CHANCE visit to the centre manager's office in The Shires shopping centre in Trowbridge when the photo booth was on the blink, resurrected fond memories for Raymond Earle and his 92-year-old mum Gwen.

Mr Earle, who himself is in his 70s, spotted a picture of a mill worker on the office wall and realised it was his mother. The Shires stands on the site of the former Salter's Mill, one of the six wool mills which made Trowbridge famous, and Mrs Earle worked in five of the six from the age of 14.

She took a break to raise her family, two sons John and Raymond and two daughters Patricia and Josephine, returning to the mills until her retirement in 1976 at the age of 62.

Mrs Earle started work as a cone winder at Kemp and Hewitt's Mill and also did quill winding and weaving.

She joined other members of her family working at McCall's Mill at Cradle Bridge and later worked at Clark's Mill and Palmer and MacKays. Salter's Mill, where the photograph was taken in 1976, is where Boswell's Caf now stands.

Her station in the factory was roughly where BeWise is now. During the war Mrs Earle helped produce cloth to make uniforms for the forces. She recalls working in one factory that was dedicated to white products where she helped make cricket trousers and covers for tennis balls.

During the week she started work at 8am, had an hour for lunch and finished at 5.45pm and on Saturdays from 8am to noon. When she worked on the weaving machines Mrs Earle earned 7/6pence a week (that's 37.5 in decimal currency) but as the workers got paid according to the amount and type of cloth they could cut, this sometimes doubled to 15s (75p).

"They were all good times, I would go back tomorrow," she said. "We had a good gossip but we got on with our work. "They were really happy times and because there were many processes in dealing with cloth we depended on each other and all got on well. I was really sad when the factories closed."

Mrs Earle has 22 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Three of her four children still live in Trowbridge and Raymond lives in Bath.

Shires centre manager Steve Murray decided to present Mrs Earle with the old photograph and it now hangs proudly in her dining room.

Her only regret is that her husband Joseph can't see it. Joseph, a former government worker, died 16 years ago.

Mrs Earle recalled how in the 1930s there was a glut of cloth and workers were given the chance to make clothes for themselves which they could buy at a discount. Gwen made a coat for herself and was amazed when. recalling her interview with the Wiltshire Times to her son Raymond, he said: "I've got that coat hanging in my wardrobe."

Mrs Earle has donated the coat to Trowbridge Museum.