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Toy Planes from Gamages
We used to send off to A.W. Gamages for these model aeroplanes made from balsa wood.
They were made with three-ply tea-chest wood and had a propeller with a bit of an elastic band. Gamages were at 116-128 Holborn, London. They sent you a 900 page catalogue every Christmas. Billy and I got paid lugging this equipment around for Lubbock, making deliveries to the big houses, which is how we got to know everyone, and fixing the cars. We knew what made the things tick and with no mechanics about we learnt to do the job. I could drive at 13; I’d manoeuvre them about the yard and from time to time father would take one of the cars saying he had to run it in or check the new tyres or something. There was no traffic to speak of, mostly gigs and tub traps. You had to watch out for startling horses and upsetting old ladies who liked to carry their loads down the middle of the road.
Office Boy in the offices of the North Eastern Brewery
One day my father comes up to me and says.
“Mr Murray wants to see you up at the house at Six O’clock. There’s a vacancy in the office.”
I was not fourteen so I couldn’t leave school.
I went up to the house where J.G. had me writing and one thing and another. He asked what class I was in. “Standard Seven” I said, which was about as far as you could get.
“You’ll learn a lot more in the office.” He said. And he was right.
I started work at the North Eastern Breweries in August 1910.
I was fourteen years of age. I was on Five Shillings per week and got an annual increment of Half a Crown which was (2/6d) – 2 shillings and 6 pence (Around £11 in 2012 money)
(In today’s money, 2012, Jack was getting around £25 a week for doing five days plus Saturday mornings. A 44 hour week? He was only 14 though and learning the ropes).
I walked the two miles up the hill to work.
Bill Baron, who was the cashier lived down in Shotley Bridge took me in. He’d started work as a clerk at a railway station. His mother Margaret lived in Bywell. He had two sisters. He was a bit older than me; he was 28 when I started. He walked up from Shotley Bridge which was further away still and fetched me up to the offices which were right up at the top.
Tom Young was in my class; his Family lived on Harvey St.
He joined the Consett Iron Company works as a clear. And one called Ripley, who made a fortune; his father was a coalminer and his mother was from Stanhope.
He became a foreman at the works.
Theatres and Pubs
J.G. used to build a theatre and a pub together.
He had the ‘Three Masons Arms’ and the ‘Globe’.
In those days there was nothing else, no cinema, just these theatres. I remember Gracie Fields was pelted with tomatoes at Stanley with the miners; she was a Rochdale girl and my age. She was in ‘Our Towers of London.’ She started out in Music Halls and became a film star in the 1920s and 1930s. The cinemas helped to black the music hall artists out.
The cellars held two gallon jars of gin and Irish etc:
The cellerman had an office which had a speaking tube running up to the first floor; you had to whistle down it to get your attention. Wagons would come in by these big double doors round the side. There were steps down in the cellars.
The manager of the Globe would ring his beer order down.
I’d run down to the phone in the corridor to take it down. I was just a boy and the man, a Cockney, asks for “Three barrels of oil.”
I went back to the office and asked.
“Where can I get some oil?”
They all laughed.
“Ale” they said. “He wants three barrels of ale.”
One day J.G. had my father carry this ‘Blick’ up from the car; it was a German typewriter.
J.G. tried to show me how to use this Blickenfurentstater. It was a portable affair with a wooden case. The top row of letters began ZXKGB so it came in before QWEERTY when they had to slow the action down on account of the metal keys getting jammed if you typed too fast. I did all the typing after that, up until the war. We started doing the letters with carbon copies. After the war they had girls in doing that job.
There were no girls in the office before 1914.
The First Cars in County Durham
The first person to have a car in the area was Dr Ralph Renton.
Everyone knew when he was coming because you could hear the engine.
“Chug, chug chug, chug.”
You’d then see him sitting there bolt up right like he was at a desk. Dr Renton lived at Oakfield, Blackhill; he was born in 1878. His mother’s name was Mary Renton; she was born in 1850. She had two sisters who lived with her, Marjory and Agnes. They were still in Benfieldside 1901. Ralph’s father, Dr George Renton had been the GP at Shotley Bridge before his son.
Dr Renton’s car was a chain-driven 8 HP Single Cylinder Rover
This was their first motorcar, designed by Edmund Lewes who had been working for Daimler. Before that they’d made motorbikes and before than they’d made bicycles. There were mostly horse drawn vehicles when I was a boy, private cars were very rare.
They next people after that to have a motor car were C.T. Mailings of Ford Potteries, Greenwood, Shotley Bridge. It was a Lanchester.
It had tiller steering and bicycle wheels
When the cars came on the go JG got a mechanic driver, a man called Geldart, to come up from Middlesborough to teach my father how to drive.
The Murrays bought a 10 HP Coventry Humber from this firm in Middlesborough and later bought a 30/40 Beeston Humber.
Thomas Humber was a blacksmith from Beeston near Nottingham
He started with velocipedes, they had no chains, you just sat on them to make them go by running your feet along the ground. He got into bicycles and then tricycles and by the 1890’s he was building copies of Leon Bollee’s tricar. As well as tricycles, they built motorcycles and voiturettes. They had two speeds those first cars, one forwards, one backwards. They were well built and a more expensive car.
As a boy my father used to take me up to the yard to fiddle on with the engines
When old Dick Murray built Benfieldside House he had two massive stone pillars put up at the bottom of the drive. There was a little wicker gate into the lodge where we lived. J G. used to have a go with the Beeston Humber. One day he missed the gate and ran into the pillar which twisted round its base.
“How he didn’t knock it into our cottage I don’t know”.
These pillars were incorporated into the estate agent’s house which is called ‘Glastonbury’ and is on Benfieldside Road.
A second groom was taken on to look after the horses and my father took on the new role of chauffer. He used to drive J.G. all around the branches of the North Eastern Breweries, to the Moor Street Brewery in Sunderland, the Tower Brewery in Spennymore, the Weir Brewery in Stockton and up to the bottling plant at Blackhill next to the offices where I worked.
I blame cars for the growth in crime. You never heard of burglaries, but once the criminal types could nip in and out by car they’d target these big houses. Put the wind up a lot of people that.
Richard Murray’s Legacy
When Richard Murray died in 1912 he left £60,000 to build the hospital behind the house.
My father told me he gave each of his sons £30,000. Dick was born in 1839 and died 1912, on February 7th. His wife was called Elizabeth. She was born in 1841 and died on 14th February 1920. She is buried next to her husband in Blackhill Cemetery. They had a daughter Maggie who married a Robert Taylor. She died on the 16th November 1902. She was only 33 years of age. Her family put up this lovely marble column and her parents are buried at the same spot in Blackhill Cemetery.
‘J.G’ (John George) Murray left his legal practice at 42 Westgate Road to take over the business.
There was a horse-trough where horses watered on the way up from Newcastle. And I remember a lamp lighter too – he had a stick with a hook on it.
The Five Wilson Boys
I had five brothers.
Percy, who was born in 1893. He was born over in Dalston, and christened over there. His name was Twentyman, but we called him Percy; he died of TB in his twenties. Then me, I was born in 1896.
Billy was born in 1899
His full name was William Nichol Wilson. His birthday was 27th October. He died in June 1919 when his plane, a De Havilland Bomber, crashed over Belgium. He was delivering mail to Cologne. He was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF. He’s buried in the a civilian Cemetery, Belgium. He’d gone through the Great War unharmed by some miracle. He’d lied about his age; a lot did that. He was taken on by the Royal Flying Corps when we has 15. Flight Lieutenant William Nichol Wilson. RAF 110th Squadron. Died 8th June 1919. Age 19. I went out to visit the grave the next year.
By then the family were living out at Castleside, at 25 Consett Road
Like everyone the Murray’s had to cut back with the War and they had to let go of most of the staff, my father included.
“Why don’t we have a sister?” We kept saying to father.
I think he tried his hand but it didn’t come off.
Spencer was born in 1909. Then Stuart in 1911.
Percy went into a nursery as a gardener
He was a real gardener, not a half inch one. He trained with people called Kidd. The place was established by Walter Kidd of Ashfield, Shotley Bridge, to sell produce into Newcastle. Things were booming then around Consett & Shotley Bridge.
Billy worked at the solicitors J Ainsley & Sons on Tailor Street, Consett.
Like me he left school at 14 and joined them as an office boy. He had lovely writing so they made he a clerk. He did the copywriting. Everything was written out by hand in those days; there weren’t even typewriters, let alone computers to take your words down. You used a piece of copying paper that you dampened and laid across the paper to make a copy.
After the War I was shown some graffiti on a wall at J Ainsley & Sons. Billy had written his name there behind a picture that had been up on the wall. Beautiful handwriting. J Ainsley & Sons were owned by the Murrays. Your Great Auntie Pegg, she’s an Ainsley girl and your mother was at school with one of them.
Spencer was more or less an unqualified architect working for Murrays, Hoyles and Aynsley’.
They were all intermarried the Hoyles and Anandales, Murrays and Ainsleys. Spencer become a draughtsman in Billingham, then a manager to a concreting firm in Birmingham. He was like an architect, but an unqualified one.
The Big House, the Murrays and Domestic Servants
My father called ‘J.G.’ the ‘Governor.’
He’d been a solicitor practising in Newcastle when his father died and left him the business.
There was his Mrs Murray. Her name was Isabella and she was born in 1867; she came from Wylam and their daughter Miss Ethne. Miss Ethne had a birthday in May and was born in 1894, same age as my older brother Percy. There was a harness with everything in glass cases, saddles etc: Miss Effne had a little Shetland pony with a cream tub trap. She had an Italian Governess for a while, a Miss Rosina Frache, a spinster in her thirties. And later a German Governess who had things thrown at her when war broke out; she was interred. They were locking Germans up. The butcher changed his name and we let him get away with that; he made these excellent sausages. He took the name ‘Butcher,’ which everyone liked. After that we made up our own names for anyone that had a German sounding name. Shotley Bridge was made by a German family; it was a German who had set up the sword makers back in the 17th century.
The house had a butler, called Fry.
A housekeeper, called Mrs Kirkpatrick. A cook, called Mrs Woodburn who was replaced by Annie Ridley. A house maid, called Emma Housby, a laundry maid, Kathleen Robertson, a Waiting Maid, Jessie Brown and an 18 year old lass they called the ‘Dope’ as the Kitchen Maid – her name was Edith Walker. There was a gardener, called Booth, two gamekeepers, Jack Bell, and a Scotsman called Frank Carruthers. Jack lived at Elm Park and Frank was up at Allensford, Blanchland. Bell lived on the other side of the railway; he’d come over to cut the lawns on a Monday, if the weather was good. Bell pulled on a bit of cord and Booth pushed; it wasn’t motorised and you weren’t to use a horse or pony because that would spoil the lawn. They had these big rollers too; they kept it like they were going to play cricket. All you ever saw was a bit of croquet or lawn tennis.
Jack Bell paid the wages for everyone working at the Big House. He kept these single entry estate books up at the Royal Hotel.
We were living in the lodge
As a boy, I used to come up to the yard to fiddle on with the engines. I remember at one time there were these great crates of dinner sets to unpack for the cook.
General Factotum to the Murrays
We were living at Benfieldside, Shotley Bridge, Co. Durham
It was on the road which ran up to Blackhill on the way to Consett. It was eventually sold to the Consett Iron Company for £6,000 and became a students’ residence. It’s now part of Murray Court – opposite Saint Cuthbert’s Avenue which runs down to the Church. Dobson designed the Church, the man who designed Grey Street in Newcastle. So you see, there was a lot of money in Consett at the time. An Estate Agent bought the Big House in 1967, demolished the old house and built all those houses.
My father, Twentyman Wilson was general factotum to the Murrays
The Murrays owned the North Eastern Breweries. My father left Cumberland for Consett in 1894 to take up this position as a Coachman; he later became the Chauffeur when they got a car and they got another groom in. When J G Murray moved into Benfieldside House a relation of my father’s suggested that he apply for the job of ‘general factotum’ and a letter of introduction was prepared for him. This relation was a cousin Mary who was a domestic servant to the Annandales. She married a miner. I took your mother over there on one occasion to pay a visit but your grandmother was funny about it; bit of a snob to tell you the truth. Your grandmother didn’t know her own roots, her father had been a shop assistant when he started out. There was a lot of that going on, people doing well and moving up a peg. JG came from a farming background, his father set up a grocer’s shop, then a wine merchants, from that a pub and another grocers and so on. Once they got a dozen Inns they started the brewery. He had this idea of building a pub with a theatre attached. As the railways spread they built hotels by the stations. There was money to be made if you knew how. Consett in those does was a thriving town.
I had three aunties and two uncles on my father’s side
There names were Sarah (b1853), Thomas, known as Tom (b1856), Joseph (b1861), Mary (b1863), Ann (b1868) and Edward (b1874). So you can imagine, if there was a wedding or something the turn out could be huge. We had big families in those days, five or six children were the norm.
My father did all sorts for J.G: before the motorcars he looked after the horses – they had two landaulettes – everyone got around in carriages and pairs. He also had charge of the garden and would bring in extra men at busy periods to cut the lawns and such. That was done by two men hauling a cutter; none of these mowers you see these days.
Twentyman was well in with the Murrays. He was part and parcel of the outfit.
He used to look after the hunters and would go with J.G. (b1865) and the Braes of Derwent Hounds. Twentyman would take a second horse for J.G. to change onto when his became tired. The Braes of Derwent Hounds still go out – Otis Ferry, Bryan Ferry’s son, is the huntmaster.