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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 Royal Hotel
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.
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 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.