The R.A. Lister Company in Dursley

Post war to the present: 1945-2003. The end of the second world war brought a need to increase the workforce to cope with an increased demand for products. This was accomplished in large part by recruiting many Polish and other eastern europeans who had come to Britain during the war years.

The integration went well and the workers were readily adopted into the town and the factory and they remain so to this day.

Production continued apace through the late 1940's, 1950's and 1960's with constant introduction of new engines, predominantly diesels. Between the years of 1951 and 1969, 56 different new models entered the company's portfolio and another 19 were withdrawn. In 1948 much reorganisation of the factory took place and modern machines and production facilities were introduced.

However in all this period of activity the welfare of the workers and the facilities available to them were not overlooked, in 1950 the Priory gardens were modified to accommodate a bowling green and tennis courts. In that year also the company was granted a Royal Warrant to supply agricultural machinery and dairy equipment to the King.

1965 was the end of an era though when R.A.Lister and Co. was taken over by the Hawker Siddeley Group Ltd and hence was no longer a family owned business. However, Sir Percy Lister did remain as chairman and managing director and continued to influence the direction of the company. Two years later, in 1967, there was another landmark when Lister's celebrated its centenary with much ceremony. Over 10000 attended the Gala Day on the recreation ground or viewed the procession which made its way through the town. There was a multitude of activities including a fun-fair, donkey derby, tug-of-war, concerts by the Lister silver band and a grand firework display. Prospects for the company looked good.

In 1970 the railway line to Dursley finally closed and the company wasted no time in utilising the space occupied by the extensive sidings situated in the centre of its site to construct new buildings. During the first half of the 1970's, trade was good and order books were full. The foundry Castings Division was expanded to increase capacity from 11500 tons to 19200 tons per year. By 1978 though things were starting to change due primarily to increasing worldwide competition and initiatives for cost reductions began to be introduced. This led to substantial redundancies being made in 1979. Hand-in-hand with these changes was a move to greater rationalisation of the parts inventory to introduce a higher degree of commonality between engine models.

1982 saw the introduction of computer aided design systems and the beginning of radical changes in the way the drawing office functioned.

The following year though was not such an encouraging one. On July 27th a fire ripped through the main office block and burned down the commercial, financial and parts and services offices together with the pipe shop and the applications workshops. Other areas were also badly damaged. All-in-all 75,000 sq. ft of workshops and 50,000 sq.ft. of offices were lost. Recovery was rapid though and most systems were back working in alternate or temporary buildings within 10 days. By 1986 the offices had been replaced by a brand new administration building, Drake House, situated next to the Priory at the bottom of Long Street.

Lister Shearing Equipment Ltd
buildings, June 2002

January 1st 1986 saw the beginning of a new phase in the life of R.A.Lister & Co. when it merged with one of its competitors, Petter Ltd to form Lister-Petter Ltd, the name under which the company still trades. The Petter factory in Staines closed and many of their staff moved to Dursley to take up positions in the new company. Since this time fortunes have been mixed, the early years of the combined company heralded the introduction of the Alpha Series diesel engines which did very well and are still in production. However the late 1980's and early 1990's saw a recession and difficult times worldwide and the company has had to make several reductions in its workforce to the present figure of 500 or so. It's still a tough market but 2001 saw the introduction of the X-Series engines, the first brand new engine for many years, on which the hopes of the company are pinned.

In November 2000, The South West of England Regional Development Agency bought the 92 acre freehold of the Lister-Petter site for £15 million following the company's economic difficulties. The hope is that this will enable it to safeguard its future by restructuring the business and at the same time provide new employment and training opportunities, new homes and better roads and transport in the town.
Sign for the Lister site regeneration scheme
February 22nd 2003

Demolition of most of the buildings on the site began in June 2002 and is now (March 2003) almost completed. Lister-Petter still occupies buildings at the southern end of the site, near the bottom of Long Street but the intention is that the company will move to a new purpose built factory at the northern end leaving the rest of the landscaped site predominantly for housing. Times are still a-changing though and the next few years should bring some some interesting developments in the fortunes of Lister-Petter and the town of Dursley.

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