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The theatres and pubs of Consett and Benfieldside before the Great War 1910

Theatres and Pubs

1910

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 Royal Hotel, Consett. Head Office of the North Eastern Brewery in 1910

The Royal Hotel

1910

The Royal Hotel was a huge stone built building with these five massive windows.

It was built for business; it’s all finished now. There was a station near by and next door the Mart for all the Blackhill farmers round about Lanchester. There was a huge yard. The station took all the deliveries for the Paper Mill and Flour Mill in Shotley Bridge.

There were six in the office above the bar and taproom.

J.G. had a private office across the passageway. I was the office boy. Joe Trones was on the sales ledger, Bill Barron, was the principal ledger clerk (tenants, free trade). Tommy Morland, who came from Medomsley, was the cashier; he held the bank cash book. He was 38 when I stared. Then there was Ernie Caldwell, the estate agent and local brewery area manager. Mr Gardener was General Manager of the branch and stores. Mr Gardener was in his fifties. He’d been with the North Eastern Breweries for 26 years. I got to know his son later on. John Gardener was just a year older than me. His mother lived into her eighties as did John. I must have been the Spa water we were used to drinking!

Bill and I used to do the column.

We’d sneak out of the office and go down the corridor to the billiard room that overlooked the spirit store and bottling factory.
There were two tables. We’d slide in and keep the door from the office locked. We’d sneak back as if we’d come back from the telephone. We got to know Tom Brown who worked for the Consett Iron Works. He used to play billiards when it was open. Tom and Bill were a similar age. Tom was from Wokington. He was nearly 30 when I started at the North Eastern Brewery. He lived at 7 Constance Street, Consett . They were a five of them, there was Bill, Dick, George and his sister Florence. His father, George was from Yorkshire. His mother, Mary was from Durham. Tom was a big strapping lad. Before the war his brother was shot in the leg and he lost it from gangrene.

Bill had a brother called Ridley who was a good footballer.

Just before the War Bill got a message to say his brother had been killed in a fall of stone in the mine at Busty Pit, Medomsley. Ridley had started out as a coal hand puller ‘underground’ at Busty Pit when he was 14. He was killed on 8th October 1912. He was kirning in a longwall gateway in a seam 2 feet 2 inches thick when a large stone fell between slips canting out some props and crushing him.

Bill was broken hearted. In those days all the mines were going: Hunter, Busty and Derwent interlinked with their own railway with iron ore from Spain.

Ernie Caldwell used to count all the coins, it was all gold then.

He had this desk next to a massive iron safe. When the figures didn’t add up he’d put it down to petty cash. When they came to move the safe they found all these coins stuck down the back. Ernie Caldwell came to me one day.

“John, I’ll show you how to work a pub stock out.”

And he put this pub stock sheet in front of me.

One of my jobs was to take all the coins down to the bank.

With it being the brewing trade a lot of them got sticky. I remember once the bank manger got fed up with getting sticky fingers and handed me the bag back.

“Go and wash them; I’m not handling them like that.”

So from then on before I went to the bank I’d take the coins into the lavatory and wash them in the sink.

There were three joiners and two horse keepers for the twelve Cleveland Dray Horses. The pop factory was run by Tommy Blackburn. There were six bottling girls and a bottler we called ‘The Dummy.’ They bottled Bass, Guinness, Wheatley Hops and their own beers.

Crossley Gas Engines ran the machines – there was no electricity. That factory was sold to the Venture Bus Company, now the Northern.

All the letters were hand written with copying ink.

You put an oil sheet in, damped the blotting paper, put your letter in and squeezed it to make a copy – that was before the typewriter.

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