Remploy, originally the Disabled Person’s Employment Corporation, welcomed the heritage work by the PhD researcher Andy Holroyde

SHORTLY after the Second World War ended, an iconic institution was created to help injured veterans and people with severe disabilities find work again and over the years its legacy has largely been forgotten.  However, this is about to change after a University of Huddersfield PhD student has been conducting an in depth investigation into the history of the company, now named as Remploy, and has discovered it was a pioneer of its time.

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Andy Holroyde pictured alongside people working at Remploy Andy Holroyde (pictured left), Violin production line at Remploy's Bridgend Factory in 1947 (pictured right) - Photo courtesy of Remploy

Andy Holroyde, is in the final stages of his PhD, supervised by Dr Rob Ellis and funded by the Heritage Consortium.  His research has been uncovering Remploy’s journey from the its beginnings in 1945, when it was known as the Disabled Person’s Employment Corporation offering sheltered employment to severely disabled people, through to being a modern-day recruitment and employment services agency for disabled people and those with barriers to employment.

After being created in 1945, the company expanded rapidly and by 1952 was operating 84 factories and workshops and reached its height in the late 1980s when it employed over 10,000 people across 94 sites around the UK.

In the factories, the employees made an array of items including furniture, wheelchairs, motor components, school furniture and later were known to make chemical, biological and nuclear protection suits for police and military in the UK and overseas.

However, due to a change in the political climate and the Government’s rapidly shifting social and disability policies, the factories began to close with the final one shutting its doors in 2013.  Remploy moved from providing sheltered employment to a role supporting those with disabilities and health conditions into mainstream work.

It is this rapid change in development which sparked Andy’s interest for his PhD.

“Over the years the history of sheltered employment has largely gone untouched with research into the history of disability focusing more on the topic of welfare and benefits,” said Andy.

Remploy was a pioneer and the first company to do what they did on such a large scale and were really keen to get a better understanding of their history and what went on in their factories now they’re all gone

PhD researcher Andy Holroyde

As a culmination of his research so far, Andy has created a heritage section to accompany Remploy’s website, information boards explaining Remploy’s history for its offices and has curated a small exhibition consisting of Remploy memorabilia of which Andy says their furniture has now become somewhat of a collector’s item on internet auction sites.

Also included were issues of Remploy News, a monthly newsletter first issued in 1952 and photos of the disabled employees who formed the workforce in Remploy’s first factory, which opened in Bridgend in South Wales in 1946.

Andy is now in his third and final year of his PhD and once completed hopes to work again with Remploy in the future.

“We have discussed doing something with an oral history element,” said Andy.  “The hope would be to try and expand what I have done for my PhD and capture some of the experiences of people who actually worked in the factories.”

Andy can be contacted on Twitter@andyholroyde or email