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This page is all about Alfred's best known book, which is now available to read online. Alternatively, it may be viewed in (searchable) text format, directly through www.archive.org (see the links below). As this site is new, this is another page that is under construction.

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Alfred Williams's book recounts his experiences as a hammerman in Swindon Works.

By February 28, 1911, he wrote to Edmond Fitzmaurice to say he was compiling "a record of my experience in the workshop - strong, faithful pictures of the industrial life, rough and vigorous".

In September 1911, he wrote to Fitzmaurice again, saying: "I have written a prose book this summer entitled Life in a Railway Factory, about 250pp, which greatly pleases me. I have the confidence to hope that it will be of interest to a great many when I have the opportunity of printing it, which will not be yet, however."

Because of its frank approach to recording conditions and attitudes 'inside' (as Swindon people always described working for the GWR), publication was impossible as long as Alfred was employed by the railway company.

He finally resigned from his job on September 3, 1914, and completed the final draft of what he called "my factory book" in early May 1915.

It was finally published in October 1915, by Duckworth, and dedicated to Alfred Zimmern.

Leonard Clark called it "the most daring and comprehensive condemnation of factory life that had appeared in Europe for thirty years", and Alfred himself was pleased with it, saying it was "the only good book on factory life that we have in England written by a working man".

Although undoubtedly the single most important commentary in the history of Swindon, and a landmark documentary of industrial life in Britain, the book sold only a dozen copies in Swindon itself in the six years after its publication.