Tag Archives: chemist

Memories of Eighth Avenue

Reading Eric Dale’s series of articles in growing up in the Heaton’s Avenues was all the motivation one of our readers, Jean Sowrey, needed to put pen to paper. Here are her memories:

I was born Jean Rudd in 1936 In the front room of a two bed roomed flat in  Eighth  Avenue. I think a Dr Bell was in attendance and a midwife called Jean. For years to come we’d see midwife Jean around Heaton,  Mam continually reminding me that she was the reason for my name Jean.  At that time Dad was a postman and I had an elder sister, Margaret, who was 22 months old.

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Eighth Avenue

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Jean and Dorothy Rudd on the front step of their home in Eighth Avenue

Apart from the two bedrooms, our flat had a sitting room with a black leaded fireplace and the scullery with sink, gas cooker and a gas boiler  No hot water so kettle boiled  frequently and gas boiler used on Mondays (wash day) and for filling the tin bath. Latter used placed in front of the fire. Outside was the back yard where the mangle was stored  and also the toilet, no toilet paper only newspaper squares.  Washing was hung on a line  in the  back lane.

I think women had a hard life in the 1940s. Mam having to do all the  house work: black leading the fire place, doing the washing with a poss stick, plus shopping etc.  She also did a lot  of cooking. A pretty regular daily menu, Mondays always being Sunday’s leftovers .Occasionally we had jelly having been left  to set covered outside on a window sill. Having an abundance of relatives, we frequently  had Sunday afternoon callers –  the treasured tin of salmon opened.

Wartime

In 1939 Second World War started a month before my third Birthday. Margaret, my elder sister, was just about to start school. Alas Chillingham Road School had a glass roof  so  children were sent to North Heaton School. (Not sure if it was only the infant school?) .  More work for Mam having to arrange blackout curtains etc.  Dad in a reserved occupation didn’t need to enlist for military service but did so in 1941, joining the army Maritime Service as a Gunner. Previously from a young age,  he’d  served with the Royal  Scots Fusiliers, giving it upon  marriage.

In 1940 my sister Dorothy was born, our maternal grandmother, Frances Stephenson  having died a week before. She was buried in Heaton Cemetery.  The last of one of our grandparents

1941 and Dad went off to do military service. Women being required to work during the war, Mam started work at a chemists on Heaton Road, owners Mr and Mrs Bartle. They were excellent employers allowing Mam to take our younger sister Dorothy. How Dorothy occupied herself goodness knows!

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Margaret, Dorothy and Jean Rudd with their mother taken at James Riddell, Chillingham Road c1943-4

046772:Chillingham Road Heaton City Engineers 1979

Who remembers Riddell’s, the photographer?

School years

That year I joined Margaret at Chillingham Road  School. Memories are vague now  although I do recall a teacher Mrs Whitehouse  who absolutely terrified me and others.  She used a belt to reprimand pupils. One incident I recall was when she used it on   Cynthia Jackson, a girl  who wore a calliper on her leg. Fortunately it never happened to me, a rather mild child! One memory I have is when we celebrated Empire Day, marching around the Union flag. Another memory is Air Raid Drill. Going to the air raid shelter where we sang  songs:  ‘Ten Green Bottles Hanging On The Wall’ and many more.  If you were clever were top of the class you received a medal. Later my brainy young  sister Dorothy was frequently a recipient. Some pupil names I recall are my best friend Dorothy Rogers who also had a sister, Margaret;  Brenda Parker, Sheila Raine, John and Elisabeth Crowe, Gordon Winn, Dorothy Emily, Olga Hedley and, of course, Eighth Avenue children.

In Eighth Avenue my close playmates were Betty Kibble, Sheila Muir, Kathleen Flanagan, Freda Patterson, Joan Robinson, Eric Dale and  Harold Charlton. Other children in the street were Moira and Brian Law, Teddy Masterson, Alan  & David Hinkley, the Nicholson brothers, Ernest Wray, Lucy Aspinall, Joyce Munster. We played outdoors most of the time, hopscotch etc – and skipping ropes for the girls.

At home we spent a lot of time listening to the radio. Sunday lunch time ardently listening to ‘Two –Way Family Favourites‘ with Jean Metcalfe and Cliff Michelmore –  a programme for families and members of the armed forces – Dad even sent us a message.  Other indoor activities included knitting and letter-writing to Dad. My two sisters and I took piano lessons and the teacher would drop the shilling into a milk bottle: she also gave me dancing and elocution lessons gratis as she liked me. We also went to Heaton Swimming Baths and the library, and did a lot of walking to Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park, where I also played tennis. Occasionally we went to the cinema – The Scala and the Lyric.

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Scala Cinema, Chillingham Road (where Tesco is now)

During air raids we would go across the road to the Taylor family air raid shelter. The camaraderie of Eighth Avenue neighbours was incredible. I  believe their daughter, Lily, was serving as a  Land Girl. The air raid I still recall was when Guildford Place  was bombed and totally devastated. We felt the blast too, though luckily only windows shattered. That particular night Mam had taken Margaret and myself to the Taylors’ shelter. Baby Dorothy (5 months) sleeping peacefully in her cot, Mam decided  unusually to leave her at home. Fortunately Dorothy survived unscathed even though glass was all around.                                                                                                                         .

At the end of Junior School girls had to go to North Heaton School whereas the boys went into senior school. A bit unfair really as we were about to sit the 11 plus exam which meant some of us were only there one year. Margaret and I passed for Middle Street Commercial School  For Girls. Young sister Dorothy eventually went to Central Newcastle High School For Girls.

Dad didn’t come home in 1945 as he’d been involved in an accident in an army lorry in Greenock and suffered a broken femur. He ended up spending two years  in Hexham General  Hospital. He had been torpedoed twice during the war, luckily rescued and survived. However war finished and he had his accident  whilst awaiting demob.  Finally home in 1947 with a serious limp, he couldn’t go back to his Heaton postman job but was given work at Orchard Street Sorting Office.

Being an ex-Army veteran  and because of Dad’s disability we were given a brand new council house at Longbenton  and in 1948 left Eighth Avenue, but the first 11 years will always remain with me.

Acknowledgements

Thank you, Jean, for taking the trouble to write down some of your Heaton memories. Fascinating both for your contemporaries and for those too young to remember the thirties and forties.

Can you help?

If you know anything else about any of the people mentioned in this article, please get in touch either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

We are always interested to receive information, memories and photos relevant to the history of Heaton.

White Teeth to Blue Bottle: the Domestos story

If you’re a stickler for cleanliness (or a local historian), you might well know that Domestos originated in Newcastle. You might even remember the factory in the Ouseburn, where it was bottled until the then owners, Lever Brothers, moved production to Warrington in 1973. But perhaps you don’t know that its story began in a Heaton garden shed.

Origins

Wilfred (sometimes spelt Wilfrid) Augustine Handley was actually born in Essex in 1901 but his parents were both from co Durham and his older sister, Catherine, had been born in Heaton in 1893. By the time his younger sister, Doris Ruby, came along in 1905, the family (father George William, an insurance agent, mother, Dorothy Ann Elizabeth Jane, and older siblings, Robert William, Ruth Primrose , George Ingram Pope and Catherine Violet Beatrice, as well as young Wilfred) had returned to the north east. By 1911, they were living in Gateshead. Father, George, was no longer in insurance. He now worked as a ship’s blacksmith.

Dentistry

It’s something of a surprise then to move forward a decade or so and find trade directories listing both Wilfred and his father as dentists. This was around the time (1922) when the right to call yourself a dentist became regulated for the first time in the UK. Certainly there are sources which give Wilfred’s profession as ‘dental mechanic’ rather than ‘dentist‘. At the moment we can’t be sure but Wilfred’s younger brother, Cecil, followed in their footsteps and, like them, practised from the family home at 309 Chillingham Road for many years.

An article in the Evening Chronicle on 1 November 1945 states that ‘the Joint War Committee of Dental Associations announces that Captain C Handley, having been released from service of the Army Dental Corps is resuming practice at 309 Chillingham Road, Heaton on 5 November 1945’.

Directories list him as a graduate of Kings College University of Durham School of Dental Sciences, which was based in Newcastle. Some local people may remember him: his practice was at the same address on Chillingham Road until the late 1960s. He died at Heddon on the Wall in 1989.

Electoral registers show that Wilfred himself resided at 309 Chillingham Road from at least 1922 to 1934 (with the exception of 1932, when they show him living with his sister Catherine and her husband in nearby Portland Road, then part of Heaton ward). In 1935, he was at 152 Simonside Terrace.

Eau de Heaton

But it was while living at 309 Chillingham Road that the entrepreneurial Wilfred had his big idea. According to Unilever, which still produces it, Wilfred was a 25 year old dental mechanic when he started to dilute and bottle sodium hypochlorite,  a waste product bought from the chemical works, ICI Billingham, in the family’s garden shed. We can only guess that originally he was using the compound to whiten dentures (or even teeth?) but saw its wider potential.

In fact, bleach had been around since the eighteenth century when Claude Louis Berthollet produced potassium hypochlorite in his laboratory on the Quai de Javel in Paris. Hence it became known as ‘Eau de Javel‘. A hundred or so years later, in the late nineteenth century, an E S Smith patented the chloralkali process of producing sodium hypochlorite, which then started to be sold as a bleach under a number of brand names.

So Wilfred didn’t invent bleach but what he seems to have got right from the beginning was the marketing and distribution of his product. He set up the Hygiene Disinfectant Company and, according to Unilever, in 1929, chose the brand name ‘Domestos’, from the Latin ‘domus’ meaning house and the Greek ‘osteon’ meaning bone, suggesting ‘backbone of the home’.

The Handley family tells it a little differently: Wilfred asked his mother what his product should be called. When she enquired what it was for and he replied, ‘Domestic use,‘ the name ‘Domestos’ suggested itself.

Home delivery

At first, Domestos was marketed to local housewives and sold in large brown earthenware jars.

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Domestos jar (Copyright: William Morris)

Perhaps inspired by the success of Ringtons Tea, established in Heaton in 1907, Handley set up a system of home delivery. (Interestingly, the 1939 Register shows Robert E Sturdy, Sam Smith’s trusted sales manager at Ringtons, who we have written about previously, living next door to Cecil in the Handley family home on Chillingham Road). The jars were refilled by door to door salesmen pushing hand carts or riding bicycle carts. The photograph below was supplied by descendants but we don’t know whether it’s Wilfred himself in the picture. It’s certainly a very early picture of door to door Domestos sales, when the Hygiene Disinfectant Company would have been very small.

Domestos Bike

Expansion

Sales were buoyant enough for production to move to a small factory on the Quayside in 1932 and to expand into a wide range of polishes, disinfectants, shampoos and detergents. By 1933, goods were being shipped south to Hull by sea and, within two years, supply depots had opened in both Hull and Middlesbrough.

In 1936, Wilfred married Ivy Isabella Cissie Halliday, the daughter of a Gateshead publican, who was herself born in Walker. She was a typist with the Post Office in Newcastle. The same year the company was renamed ‘Domestos’ after its original and most successful line. Records show the subscribers or directors as both Wilfred and Ivy.

In 1938, the company acquired larger premises, the College Works, a former toffee factory on Albion Row, Byker. By now, Domestos was sold in brown glass bottles with specially designed caps that allowed gas to escape. The cost of a bottle in 1938 was 6d with a 1d returnable deposit on the bottle.

After the war, the company was unable to acquire enough delivery vehicles so, again like Ringtons before them, it bought the St Ann’s Works at Heaton Junction and set up its own coach building division. This was soon renamed Modern Coachcraft Limited and by 1965 had a van sales force of over 150 salesmen.

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An advertisement from 1951 (Copyright: John Moreels, Photo Memories Organisation)

The bleach wasn’t only promoted as a cleaning agent and to ‘sweeten’ drains. It was also used as a cure for sore feet and, during the war, a treatment for burns. By 1952 there was national distribution with offices in London, Manchester, Cardiff, York and Glasgow and a national research laboratory.

Stergene (launched in 1948 and specially designed for washing woollens) and Sqezy (launched in 1957, the first washing up liquid to come in a squeezable plastic bottle) were other well known products developed by Handley and his staff. But there were specialist brands too – a variant of Stergene, called Hytox was used in hospitals and garages. And it was now that the slogan ‘Domestos kills all known germs’ was first coined.

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A window display from 1950. (Copyright: John Moreels, Photo Memories organisation)

Philanthropist

In 1961, Wilfred sold the brand to Lever Brothers Ltd. The 33 years of success and eventual sale of the company meant that Wilfred found himself a wealthy man. In 1963, he established a charitable foundation, the W A Handley Charity Trust, with a large donation. The charity is still in existence today and gives money to good causes throughout the North East and Cumbria. The charity says that it tries to follow the wishes of its founder and support those who are disadvantaged, young, elderly or disabled; maritime and service causes; education, training and employment; communities; historic and religious buildings, the environment, music and the arts.

In the financial year 2015-16, the 100 plus beneficiaries included: Percy Hedley Association, St Oswald’s Hospice, the Lit and Phil, Northern Sinfonia, Shelter, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Bede’s World and Newcastle Cathedral.  Whatever your interests, if you live in the north east, you have good reason to be grateful to Wilfred Handley.

After the sale

After the sale to Lever Brothers (now Unilever), Newcastle at first continued to be the centre of production. There were by now 800 workers on the College Works site and a £100,000 four storey office building was commissioned. Nevertheless a  number of production lines, though not those of Domestos itself, were soon moved to Port Sunlight and Warrington.

In the 1970s, the bleach itself went from strength to strength (so to speak). It became thicker, the familiar blue plastic bottle was introduced and perfume was added for the first time. But in 1973, production was moved from Newcastle to Warrington ending Domestos’s long association with Newcastle. This must have greatly saddened Wilfred, who died in Low Fell on 8 May 1975.

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Domestos Factory, Albion Row in the 1970s (Thank you to Ouseburn Trust for permission to use)

However, the product first developed in a Heaton garden shed by the young dental mechanic, Wilfred Handley,  lives on. It is now sold in 35 countries right across the world. Think about that, as well as the many local good causes it has supported, while you’re whitening your dentures!

Acknowledgements

This article was researched and written by Chris Jackson, Heaton History Group.

Thank you to Jacob Corbin, Archivist and Records Manager, Unilever; Arthur Andrews, Michael Byrne and Allen Mulliss, Heaton History Group; John Moreels, Photo Memories Organisation; Michael Patten and William Morris, descendants of Wilfred Handley; Lesley Turner, Ouseburn Trust for their help. It’s much appreciated.

Sources

‘The Development of Domestos: a product of the Ouseburn valley’ / Michael Byrne in ‘Tyne and Tweed’ no 58, 2004 (Association of Northumberland Local History Societies)

Can you help?

If you know more about Wilfred Handley and the early history of Domestos or anybody mentioned in this article or if you have any photos you are willing to share, please get in touch, either by clicking on the link immediately below this article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

And if you have any memories or photos of work in the Domestos factory in Ouseburn please contact Lesley Turner at the Ouseburn Trust on 0191 261 6596 or by email at lesley.turner@ouseburntrust.org.uk

We are always interested to receive information, memories and photos relevant to Heaton’s history.

 

Slippers by the Hearth: home from home on Stratford Grove

In the mid to late nineteenth century, as Newcastle prospered and grew, the township of Heaton spread eastwards and northwards so some of the earliest streets to take shape were the ‘Shakespeare Streets’ in south west Heaton: among them the particularly desirable terrace of Stratford Grove, with its long front gardens leading onto a narrow walkway, with the only access for horses, carts, carriages and those new fangled bicycles round the back. An additional attraction was the grove’s westerly aspect across the Ouseburn and beautiful Jesmond Vale.

 

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View from Stratford Grove across Jesmond Vale

 

It’s not surprising then that among the first occupants were some high status professionals, Thomas Oliver Mawson,  a chemist; A Bolton, a physician; A Stephens, a tea importer and J H Shillito, a civil engineer. Stratford Grove was a very ‘respectable’ street indeed.

Slow boat to Heaton

As he spent his first evening by the fireside of number 11, Joseph Rose must have felt happy with his lot and very proud, particularly when he considered how far he’d come. For Joseph had been born around a quarter of a century earlier in what he knew as ‘Kurland’, a province of what we now know as Latvia but which was then part of Russia.

We don’t know exactly when Joseph set out on what would have been an arduous sea journey. Did he come as a young adult or earlier with his parents?  And what motivated him or the family? Were they simply economic migrants, tempted by seamens’ stories of the lifestyle to be had in an unknown industrial city in the distant north of England? There were long established trade routes between Newcastle and the Baltic ports so people in Kurland could have heard about the city’s recent expansion and known that ships, which took coal east, would readily take passengers home with them.

But perhaps too, they were refugees because his name suggests that Joseph was of Jewish background. And Jews had a difficult time in Russia in the mid to late nineteenth century. There were severe restrictions on where they could live and how they could earn a living. As the populations grew in the small towns and villages in which they were allowed to live (‘shtetls’), they became overcrowded and living standards declined. Many left, fearing the situation would worsen, which it did from 1881 when Russian Jews were terrorised and massacred in what was known as the ‘First Pogrom’.

Outsider

In the main, early Jewish migrants stuck together. This meant they had the support of neighbours who spoke their languages (Jews from Kurland mostly spoke German rather than Russian, Yiddish or Hebrew) and shared their customs. They also wanted easy access to a synagogue. In nineteenth century Newcastle, this meant living in the centre or to the west of Newcastle, close to the synagogues which had been established firstly in Temple Street and then Charlotte Square and, in 1879, in Albion Street near the new Leazes Park. Jews also usually married each other.

But Joseph was different. By 1881, aged 24, he had married a Newcastle girl, 20 year old, Margaret Kirk. Their marriage certificate cites both of their religions as ‘Church of England’. And the young couple’s first home was in Gateshead. Nowadays, Gateshead is known for its large Jewish community but back then that was not the case. Jews had lived in Newcastle for at least 50 years (and anecdotally over a century) but the first known Jewish inhabitant of Gateshead was in 1879, just two years before we know Joseph and Margaret to have been living there. The couple may have felt outsiders in both the Jewish and the indigenous, mainly Christian, community.

And yet, Joseph was a slipper maker, a business area dominated in Newcastle by Jews. Many occupations were closed to them in Kurland and so traditionally Jews were self-employed as tailors, button makers, roofers or, like young Joseph, a shoe or slipper maker. And when they arrived in Newcastle, these were the obvious trades at which to try their luck. 

By 1883, we know that the newly-weds had moved to Newcastle. They lived in Rosedale Terrace and Joseph had a workshop in Richmond Place. By 1887, he had done well enough to move his growing family, wife Margaret, five year old Frederick, three year old Henry, and one year old Lilian with another baby Joseph junior on the way, to a brand new property on Stratford Grove, a sizeable house with a garden and a view.

 

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Stratford Grove in 2016 (taken at Halloween – hence the skeleton!)

 

Fighting for Britain

And he must have made good slippers because Joseph’s firm had staying power. By 1900, it had moved to premises in Union Road, Byker and by 1911, it was in Albion Buildings, St James Street off Strawberry Place. His two eldest sons, Fredrick and Henry, had followed him into the family business. Third born, Joseph junior, however, had moved away from this traditional Jewish occupation. He was a ‘bioscope operator’ at Carnegie Hall in Workington (Bioscopes were early films, usually incorporated into music hall shows).

By this time, with the children grown up and both Henry and Joseph married and living away from home, the couple had  moved around the corner to a smaller property at 65 Warwick Street.

A few years later, we know that son Henry served Britain in World War 1. He was still a slipper manufacturer, married since 1909 to Elizabeth McLellan, and had already experienced tragedy when his four year old daughter, Margaret Ellen, had died of pneumonia. Happily, after serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers in Italy, Henry survived the war and was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He returned to his wife, Elizabeth and son, Duncan McLellan, and resumed the running of the slipper business. The firm was still operating in 1928.

 Neighbours

But what of the Roses’ neighbours in the newly built houses on Stratford Grove? Were they all born and bred in Newcastle? Not at all. Two doors down at number 13 lived Charles Gustav Felix Thurm, a ‘moss litter importer’, who had been born in Glauchan, Saxony around 1852. He was naturalised as a British citizen in April 1895, his application approved by the then Secretary of State at the Home Office, Herbert Henry Asquith. Sadly Felix, as he was known, died less than a year later.

And at number 25 lived Jens Thomsen Bondersen and his wife, Martha, both Danes, with their young daughter, Ellen, and a Danish servant, Alice Tranagaard. Jens was a ‘telegraph mechanician’.

Next door to the Roses the other way lived Oscar Constantine Kale Koch, a detective, who  had recently been a bandsman on HMS Britannia and who later rose to the position of Police Superintendent. Oscar had been born in London in 1858 to Charles, a musician, and his wife, Augusta, both born in Germany.

By 1901, the Thurms’ old house was occupied by Gerald Barry, an Irishman, and his family. Gerald worked for HM Customs. A number of Scots lived on the grove at this time too.

Ten years later, we find a John Jacob Berentsen, an Ordnance Engineer from Bergen in Norway, living at number seven and working at Armstrong’s works in Elswick., where we know he had been since at least 1892 as his success in first aid classes was reported in the local press. His wife, Jane, was a local girl.

So, one short row of 26 houses demonstrates that the present day cosmopolitan character of Heaton is nothing new. Despite having to endure some difficult times, migrants to Britain have been integrating and contributing to local life for more than 130 years. They are a big part of what makes Heaton.

Can you help?

If you know more about Joseph Rose and his family or any of the former residents of Stratford Grove or have photographs or anecdotes you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Sources

‘The Jewish Communities of North East England’ / by Lewis Olsover; Ashley Mark, 1980

‘They Docked at Newcastle and Wound Up in Gateshead’ / by Millie Donbrow; Portcullis Press (Gateshead Libraries and Arts Service), 1988

and a wide range of other sources, including Ancestry UK and British Newspaper Archives.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Chris Jackson for Heaton History Group’s Historic England funded ‘Shakespeare Streets’ project in which we are working with Hotspur and Chillingham Road Primary Schools to explore both Heaton’s theatrical heritage and the people of the streets named in William Shakespeare’s honour.