‘The next stage after school was to work at Player’s’: What John Player’s meant to Nottingham

A former John Player’s factory worker says that for her generation ‘the next stage after school was to work at Player’s’.

John Player & Sons, known locally as Player’s, was a tobacco and cigarette manufacturer based in Nottingham.

John Player opened up the first of his factories in Radford in 1877 – Nottingham would become the home of the British tobacco industry for the next 140 years.

By 1937 Player’s sold nearly 3.5 million cigarettes making up two thirds of all cigarettes sold in Britain.

But in May of last year the last ever English-produced cigarettes rolled off the Player’s production line as the factory closed its doors.

The factories closure was blamed on changing attitudes towards smoking.


The John Player & Sons factory in Nottingham.

Former John Player’s factory worker Linda Ledbetter says that for her generation growing up in Nottingham working at Player’s was always the next step after leaving school.

“With Players it was like how the men would go down the pit and the sons would follow – at Player’s you would always follow on,” she said.

“My Grandma worked there, my aunt worked there, it just seemed that the next stage when you left school was you would work at Player’s.

“Your first thought was; it’s the best place to work, there’s different factories all round Nottingham and it’s like keeping it in the family, you just wanted to all go.

“It went right back to my Gran – she worked there in the twenties, my aunt started in the fifties and I started middle of the sixties, so we’ve always had someone working there right up until the end, till it closed.”

“Nearly everyone had an overflowing ash tray”

As its peak the Nottingham-based firm employed 7,000 staff and made 52 billion cigarettes each year.

Linda said: “I was not a big smoker but once I started at Player’s I would smoke more because obviously it isn’t like now we would smoke in the office, you could go anywhere and smoke.

“Nearly everyone had an overflowing ash tray, that’s just how it was – and of course you got the benefits of working at Player’s you got so many cigarettes free every week and also you could buy them for a little bit cheaper than if you went the shops.

“I don’t know anyone to be honest that didn’t smoke – It’s a nice city now but to me it was a great city, I think it has killed it all the places closing.”

Former smoker Linda says nothing could get her to kick the habit, even seeing her parents die, until she discovered vaping.

“We all know you can get COPD from smoking both my parents had that,” she added.

“It should have made me stop even more when I saw both my parents – my mums on oxygen and my dad was very poorly with it, they both died through it really and even that didn’t stop me.

“My mums on oxygen in the house and I use to go outside and have a cigarette.

“I tried everything to quit, I’ve tried patches and gum but it was not successful and then my brother-in-law who smoked about 40-a-day bought this vape pen, I thought if he can do it I can, I don’t smoke nowhere near as much as him.

“I don’t think anyone will smoke in ten years time because it is dying as the elderly start to die, then my generation will fade away and what the children of today have learnt from us is not to smoke.”

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