North Devon in 100 Objects 73

73. The Shapland and Petter Hooter

The Shapland and Petter works hooter was familiar to Barumites thoughout the 20th century for its loud cry that sounded every working day over Barnstaple.

The hooter is built on essentially the same lines as a steam locomotive’s whistle, although it is rather larger and audible over a far greater distance.  It sounded several times every working day, particularly to summon the work-force to the factory.  There was a preliminary blast on the hooter five minutes before working day started in the morning, and then a long blast at the actual start of work.  The mid-day break was also announced with a blast on the hooter, at which a tidal wave of cyclists all poured out of the factory gates and rushed across the Long Bridge, heading home for the cooked dinners that their wives had prepared.

Of course, the wives and mothers had to time their cooking to perfection, as it was just not done to be late back to work because the food was not ready. The workers were summoned back to work at one for the afternoon shift which ended with a blast on the hooter at half past five.

Although Barnstaple people were proud of and often amused by the “four-faced liar” (the Albert Clock in the Square), the real time-keeper was Shapland’s hooter.  It told children every morning if they were late for school, and on Factory Friday, just before Christmas, the midday hooter signalled the start of merrymaking throughout the town.

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