Fringe Box



Wartime Concert Party Had The X Factor!

Published on: 28 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 28 Feb, 2012

by David Rose

They didn’t need TV programmes like Britain’s Got Talent to show off their entertainment skills in the 1940s – they had their very own X Factor.

These pictures show members of the Nelco concert party – largely made up of employees of the firm of that name which made electrical motors at its factory in Station Road, Shalford.

Doll Southern and Arthur Rose doing their tap dance routine.

It would appear that the concert party first took to the boards at local village halls sometime during the Second World War and continued on into the late 1940s.

I know a little bit about it as my late dad, Arthur Rose, was a member of it for some of that time, and he does feature in one of the photos seen here.

He did a tap dance routine!

He began working for Nelco just before the start of the Second World War and was one of its maintenance electricians right up until he was made redundant in about 1980.

In fact, he never told me much about the days of the Nelco concert party – I guess he thought it wasn’t interesting enough. However, I do have the metal taps he used.

My dad married my mum Freda (nee Kings) in 1947, and I think it was soon after they married that he hung up his tap-dancing shoes for good. Playing bowls became his passion during his spare time.

These photos came to me in a roundabout way via historian John Theobald of Godalming.

John is a collector and researcher of tokens, otherwise known as unofficial money. A few years ago, I ran a couple of stories and appeals for information about these in the Surrey Advertiser, including one on ‘tool check’ tokens that were at one time issued to factory workers.

Giving the Tiller Girls a run for their money! Joan Young, Bubbles Wise, Joyce Fox, Florrie Crawford, Doreen Gladwell, Glad Knapman, Eve Workman and Dorothy Ashby.

From those appeals, John met the now late Arthur Chuter, who had worked at Nelco.

In more recent times, Nora Hankins had given Arthur’s widow, Joy, these photos. Nora’s uncle was Ron May – a well-known Shalford resident. Ron’s wife Doll (nee Southern), was a key member of the Nelco concert party.

Members of the band: Keith Gladwell, Doll Southern, Den (surname unknown), Grace Granshaw and Fred Iddenden.

After Ron May died, Nora had taken possession of the photos. Joy Chuter passed them on to John Theobald and he kindly gave them to me for safe keeping, knowing my dad was a member of the concert party. It’s a pleasure to show some of them here!

Also of Shalford history interest, Doll’s father once owned a well-known bicycle repair shop in Kings Road, Shalford, facing the village green.

Fred Iddenden and Sid Capp. Don’t think they really wore lipstick like that – even on stage!

Ron May was a motorcycle enthusiast and a long-time member of the Witley Motorcycle Club.

The Nelco factory was closed in the 1980s, followed by its other works in Farnham, a few years later.

Both once employed a good deal of people (men and women) from the Guildford and Godalming areas, and surrounding villages.

The interesting thing about these photos is that the names of those featured have been written on the back of each one.

Also, they have been ‘artificially’ tinted in colour. It has to be said; in some cases the colours are a bit vivid!

Perhaps someone can add a post explaining how this technique was done.

The Nelco factory in Shalford (there were buildings on both sides of the road) was later split up and used as small industrial units. That was from the 1980s until more recent times.

Male vocalists perhaps? Keith Gladwell (piano), Bert Peto, Sid Capp, Jimmy Iddenden, Tom Morgan, Reg Fround and Ern Ridgwell.

The sites were cleared a few years ago for re-development.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has any memories of Nelco, or photos, and so on.

Was there no end to their talents? They all appear to be playing mandolin-banjos. Keith Gladwell, Den (surname unknown), Ron Stevens, Sod Capp, Fred Iddenden, Doll Southern, Eileen Iddenden, Glad Knapman and Dorothy Ashby.

Likewise, John Theobald is always keen to hear from people with any information about trade tokens – from the 17th century up to the present day.

Again, leave a post here or email me at

This one looks like something out of the 1970s TV comedy ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’. Shades of: ‘Sing Lofty, sing’. Pictured are: Bubbles Wise, Dorothy Ashby, Ruby Elwin, Sid Capp, Fred Iddenden, Daisy Austin, Florrie Crawford, Eve Workman and Joyce Fox.
The show they staged appears to have had a comedy routine as well – you can imagine it being based on something like an Arthur Askey skit. Seen here are Fred Iddenden, Sid Capp and Daisy Austin.

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