Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

By Matthew Bigwood

Lister Petter, a manufacturer of diesel engines, was based in Dursley, Gloucestershire, on a site more than a mile in length and at its height employing thousands of people. The original business, R A Lister, was established in the 19th century and originally manufactured agricultural equipment before branching out into engine production in the 20th century.

The Lister Petter foundry in 1998.

Lister merged with Petter, also a diesel engine manufacturer, in 1986 to become Lister Petter. I was granted access to their foundry in 1998 to photograph the process of casting engine blocks and components.

The foundry building, which opened in 1937, was lined with decades of soot, which ‘sucked’ in the small amount of available light. This contrasted with the white-hot molten metal being poured into the moulds. I wasn’t expecting quite how dark it would be, so I used the fastest colour negative film I could find in my Rolleiflex 2.8F twin lens reflex, Kodak Gold 1000, as well as Tri-X black and white film in 120 and 35mm in the Nikon FM2 I also used. I was able to push process the black and white film to 1600 or 3200 but still the shutter speed was around 1/60 at f/2 in the darkest parts of the building. I used a somewhat mediocre Sigma 28mm f/1.8, and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/2 and 135mm f/2.8 manual focus lenses.

Available light portrait.

It was a fabulous experience – I was shown around the foundry then left to my own devices to do what I wanted. It was a physically hard place to work and there were some great characters which I tried to convey in the pictures.

Working on top of the blast furnace.

The business was bought and sold by various parent companies and in 2001 the foundry was closed and the whole Lister site in Dursley demolished to make way for the Littlecombe development, a mix of housing and businesses. Lister Petter left Dursley in 2013 for good and is still building diesel engines at a site near Gloucester.

Pouring molten metal into a smaller vessel.

I’d like to think my pictures serve as a reminder of the town’s once-proud industrial past for future generations.

Very low light levels meant the film had to be push processed.

Thanks for reading, you can see more photos at www.flickr.com/photos/mattbigwood/

Share this post:

Find more similar content on 35mmc

Use the tags below to search for more posts on related topics:

Contribute to 35mmc for an ad-free experience.

There are two ways to contribute to 35mmc and experience it without the adverts:

Paid Subscription – £2.99 per month and you’ll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).

Subscribe here.

Content contributor – become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.

Sign up here.

About The Author

Comments

Gerald Hutchings on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 28/04/2023

Hi Matt, fantastic work as usual. It brought back a lot of memories for me. Especially as I worked for Lister Shearing about 10 years ago.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 28/04/2023

Thanks Gerald, all those memories of Listers!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kamil Leszczuk on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 20/04/2023

Excellent job, and in challenging lightning conditions too.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 20/04/2023

Thank you.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DANIEL STEVENSON on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 11/04/2023

Thank you very much for posting these photos. They give record to a closing episode in this community's past and these records are to often lost to history.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 11/04/2023

Thanks, seems like a lifetime ago!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jamie Willis replied:

Comment posted: 11/04/2023

I used to work in these Dickension places in the 60s so Iknow exactly what u mean about no light. Its an excellent job as most photographers would be scared s---less in a foundry with all the noise and heat.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 11/04/2023

It certainly was an unforgettable experience for me.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don Clement on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 09/04/2023

I love your images, especially the "Available Light Portrait". This image tells such a story. Thank you for your most excellent work.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 09/04/2023

Thank you.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ibraar Hussain on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 08/04/2023

excellent reportage! Reminds me somewhat of E Eugene Smith
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 08/04/2023

Very kind of you to say so.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scott Gitlin on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 06/04/2023

Wonderful captures. The respect shown to the captured employees shows in your work.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 06/04/2023

Thanks for the kind words.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

David Dutchison on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 05/04/2023

Searching for light? I think you found it. Really nice pictures.
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 05/04/2023

Thank you.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Steven G on Searching for light in the Lister foundry – By Matthew Bigwood

Comment posted: 04/04/2023

Fantastic images - thanks!
Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matthew Bigwood replied:

Comment posted: 04/04/2023

Thanks very much.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *