Historic Wiltshire tyre factory to shut this week

The Cooper Tire & Rubber Company was a major employer in Melksham

Historic Wiltshire tyre factory to shut this week
Photo: Google Street View

A famous tyre factory in Melksham will shut its doors for good this week, leaving hundreds of people out of work and bringing to an end over a hundred years of production in the Wiltshire town.

The last tyre rolled off the production line at Cooper Tire & Rubber Company earlier this month, with the factory closing on Wednesday 20 December. The company, which produced Avon tyres, became a subsidiary of Goodyear in 2021, casting a shadow over the future of the site.

As reported by the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF), doubts were raised when car and SUV tyre production was moved to mainland Europe. Cooper Tire & Rubber Europe’s general manager Jaap van Wessum made assurances that the manufacturer of motorcycle tyres in Britain would continue, saying: “We plan to keep the production of Avon motorcycle tyres in Melksham and may have the opportunity to grow the business.”

In October 2022, the company announced plans to close the Melksham site, leaving 350 employees on notice of redundancy.

Alan Yates, who worked the last shift at the factory, told The Melksham Independent News: “I said, I might as well keep the last few tyres going through and it just so happens, they didn’t get back until I was putting the last tyre in.

“It’s quite weird really, quite an historical moment.

“It feels quite sad to be winding down now. Some of the lads have been here nearly 40 years. I have done a couple of different roles around here and I have really enjoyed my time, it’s been brilliant. It’s been a good bunch of people.

“I was here when they had the 100-year centenary, that was quite a big point with parties. I have also seen a lot of changes. What with the takeover of Goodyear and Cooper Tires that took it over from Avon, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the site.

“I grew up in Melksham as a kid, I can remember the big fire here. I had relations that worked here. My brother worked here in the ‘70s, and uncles and aunts, it’s been a big employer.”

As for the future of the site, a local community group is campaigning to save a section of green space from development. The Melksham Green Space group hopes to secure a 40-acre plot alongside the river.

Councillor Jennie Westbrook told the BBC: “No one is denying that the factory side is a brownfield site. That space should be redeveloped and turned into something amazing for our community.“

The land will go up for auction in January.

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