Tag Archives: German pork butcher

76 Heaton Road

The story really starts in Dean Street in Newcastle’s City Centre where, at number 6, John R S Baker is a Pork Butcher. In the 1891 Census we find his 20 year old son, William, there as a Shop Assistant. Seven years later William Charles Sanzen Baker would be anxiously awaiting the shop, with dwelling premises above, to be completed so that he could move in and follow, in his own right, the trade he had been brought up to serve. 76 Heaton Road was about to be known as William C S Baker, Pork Butcher.

The 1901 Census would see him living above (at number 74) with his wife, Elizabeth, and their one year old son, John, but in the following census 1911 we see that the enterprising William has brought two pork butchers and sausage makers from Germany into the business, Charles Siegel and Charles Hermann. William’s mother was originally from Germany and she might have had an influence in the venture.

In this day and age many of us have enjoyed sampling German sausages and we can understand why William would consider the outlay of bringing those with expertise in producing such a speciality into this country to bolster his trade but soon the war with Germany would be looming. As people started to avoid purchasing German produce, William must have adapted his business strategy accordingly as not only did he keep going through the war years but he remained trading until 1920. William eventually moved to Monkseaton, became a Civil Servant and died on the 30th of June 1924.

Edgar Couzens

According to his grandson, Edgar Couzens, who was born in Norfolk in 1887, had moved to Newcastle in 1908 with his brother, Bert, for better job prospects. By this time, he already had a shop at 185 Shields Road and after the war, in which he served in the Northumberland Fusiliers Army Veterinary Corps, he was doing well anough to expand his business. He bought the 76 Heaton Road shop from William Baker.

Edgar later bought a shop in Raby Street Byker, which Bert later took over, and one at 263 Chillingham Road Heaton and he ran the expanding business almost until the outbreak of World War 2. Luckily for us, Edgar also found time to be a keen amateur photographer and his grandson, Mike Couzens, has sent us a number of interesting photgraphs, which are featured here and elsewhere on our website.

Edgar Couzens in his shop

Edgar Couzens in his shop

Edgar Couzen's shop

Edgar Couzen’s shop

Edgar Couzenn's van

Edgar Couzen’s van

Ann Ladyman Robinson

In the latter part of 1937 George and Ann Ladyman Robinson nee Curwen took over the Heaton Road business from Edgar Couzens and lived upstairs at number 74. Both had previous pork shop experience. However, family recollection has it that George was to take no part in the running of the shop as he became ill and tragically died in the winter of 1938. The shop then had its first female owner. Ann was known as Nancy but always addressed as ‘Mrs Robinson’ in the shop. She was born in High Spen in 1899 and married George in Gateshead in 1919.

Mrs Robinson was the driving force behind the business; her innovation and energy steered the shop successfully through both good times and wartime shortages. She never really retired but, as she grew older, took a less active part. Nancy had no children to leave the business to but after her niece Eva married Arthur Shaw they collectively formed a Limited Company with Arthur as the manager. Ann Ladyman Robinson died on the 18th of August 1982 aged 83 with the business in good hands.

Arthur Shaw

Arthur had been an RAF pilot in the Second World War and after being demobbed found that good jobs were hard to come by. He studied commerce at King’s College and was then employed as export manager for G M Horner (who famously made Dainty Dinah toffees). Before joining Robinson’s Arthur temporally moved to York where he received training in all aspects of pork butchering by an elderly shop owner eager to pass his skills down. With this valuable apprenticeship completed in 1949, Arthur was not only capable of expertly managing the Robinson’s shop but in time became the National President of the Pork Butchers section of The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders. He needed to be a good businessman: competition was fierce. At one point there were other butcher’s shops on the same block as Robinson’s: Charley Young’s, at 72 and Dewhurst Ltd at 64. Dewhurst’s was part of a huge international food business, the Vestey Group.

Robinson Pork Butchers in 1960s

Robinson Pork Butchers in 1960s

Maureen Waugh and Irene Garrett serving in Robinsons in 1960s

Maureen Waugh and Irene Garrett serving in Robinsons in 1960s

Arthur Shaw

Arthur Shaw

In 1997 Arthur became more involved with the second Robinson’s Pork Shop situated at 349 Benton Road leaving Matty Hunton, who he had trained since a boy, to run Heaton Road. When the Heaton Road shop finally closed on the 14th of May 2008 Matty went to manage Benton Road.

Matty Hunton of Robinson's

Matty Hunton

Some would say that the pork shop that served the folks of Heaton for well over a century became the victim of the bulk buying might afforded to modern day supermarkets yet though determination, resilience and friendly personal service the shop on Benton Road remains defiantly open. And as with Mrs Nancy Robinson no one could tell you when Arthur Shaw retired and so Matty Hunton, be prepared, you are there for the duration!

Recent history

In 2010, 76 Heaton Road became Heaton Deli specialising in some of the produce that had made Robinson’s famous. Meena Saggar ran Heaton Deli for two years and closed the shop in February of 2012 to move to the next block on Heaton Road and manage Uni Lettings.

Heaton Deli

Heaton Deli

At the time of writing in 2013, it is an Indian food outlet, called News India: some shops just lend themselves to satisfying the eating habits of the folks of Heaton – long may it remain that way.

Can you help?

If you know more about any of the people mentioned here, can help fill in any gaps or have any photographs of 76 Heaton Road, please get in touch. In fact, we’re interested in any historic photographs of Heaton shops and to hear your memories.

Ian Clough (with additional research by Chris Jackson)

185 Shields Road

This photograph shows the premises at 185 Shields Road, now occupied by Fantasia Florist, a family business, which has had shops in Heaton and Byker for over twenty five years.

IMG

The first shop on the site of 185 Shields Road seems to have been Peter Hilton’s grocery store which occupied the site from 1886 to 1889. Its number at this time was actually 271. The road was renumbered around 1890, a not uncommon occurrence in those days.

Peter Hilton was born in Belford, Northumberland, and at the time of the 1881 census he was living with his Middlesex (Holborn) born wife, their son and Peter’s sister in Holly Avenue, Jesmond. Peter had been a grocer for at least 15 years before opening the Shields Road shop. After his retirement, he lived with his son and daughter in law in Third Avenue, Heaton (1911 Census).

German pork butchers

The first mention of number 185 Shields Road in the trade directories was in 1890 when, for a couple of years, the shop was George Pfaff’s pork butcher’s. George and his wife were born in Germany and lived next door to the shop.

German pork butchers were a feature of British high streets from the mid 19th century. Most of the first wave of immigrants came from a small area around the town of Künzelsau in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. Nobody is entirely sure what brought so many to Britain but this part of Germany was affected by population growth, agricultural depression, crop failures and the traditional inheritance practice of primogeniture (excluding all but one sibling from taking over the family estate). Many people emigrated and news must have been relayed back home that there was a good living to be made as a butcher in the growing towns and cities of the newly industrialised North of England. Subsequent German immigrants in the 20th century continued the tradition.  (See the story of Rudi Kuhnbaum here http://woodhornexhibitions.com/treasures/13.html).

185 Shields Road remained a pork butcher’s under Henry Abel, who like many pork butchers who settled in Britain, was born in Wurttemberg. His wife was also German born but they married in Newcastle in 1896. The Abels were proprietors for about 16 years but gave up the shop during World War One. There were many reports of persecution of Germans and specifically of German pork butchers at around that time including, in 1915, in Byker. The war is certainly a possible reason for Henry and his family leaving Shields Road.

Edgar Couzens

The next proprietor was also a pork butcher but Edgar Couzens (pictured below) was born in East Walton, Norfolk in 1887. In 1908, he and his brother, Bert, moved to Newcastle, where there were better job prospects, and Edgar trained to be a butcher. He soon opened his own shop on Heaton Road.

Edgar Couzens

On 7 February 1916, Edgar joined the 6th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers Army Veterinary Corps but he seems not to have been called up for active service until December of that year. In the meantime, he married Gwendoline, who’d also moved from Norfolk. They lived on Sefton Avenue and opened this shop at 185 Shields Road. After Edgar was called up, Gwen managed the shop until he returned from service. They later had shops in both Chillingham Road and on Raby Street in Byker. Edgar died in 1971 aged 83 while living at Charminster Gardens, North Heaton. Gwen died in 1986, aged 96. Their grandson, Mike Couzens, has provided us with fascinating information about the life of his grandparents and other family members. We are especially fortunate in that Edgar was a keen amateur photographer and over the coming months we’ll be featuring many of his photos along with information provided by Mike.

Mains’ grocery

In 1927 185 Shields Road is listed as Fisckhoff and Sons, egg merchants, but the following year Robert Mains’ grocery store, pictured above, was established. The poster on the left suggests the photograph dates from soon after it opened. It advertises the film Love me and the World is Mine, which starred Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry and Betty Compson and was released in 1928.

Robert was born in 1896 and in 1911, he was described as an office boy and was living with his father, a postman, his mother and two brothers on Mowbray Street, Heaton. (Census information for 1921 isn’t available for another 8 years so later biographical information is limited at the moment.)

The other name in the window is that of Charles Frederick Hunter. There were several people of that name living in the Newcastle area at this time, including more than one in Heaton itself. However, although the lettering between the two names is difficult to make out, it says ‘Ten’ (we think) ‘years with’ and so it seems most likely that it refers to a provisions merchant who lived in Smallburn, Ponteland. It looks as though Robert worked for him before setting up on his own and that Hunter’s reputation was such that it enhanced his own standing.

The address isn’t listed in the directories from 1930 until 1936. S Grossman (another German name), woodworker, was the occupier from then until 1940. It then seems to have been empty for a number of years. Did it just become dilapidated or was it perhaps damaged in the war? Either way it was eventually rebuilt.

Post war

From 1956 the shop was called Home Comforts and described as a linoleum merchants. The proprietor in 1959 was given as P Bransky (a name of Polish origin). Home Comforts seems to have been successful. It was still there in 1968, benefitting from greater post war affluence which led to more expenditure on the home.

Fantasia Florists

The shop occupying the premises is now Fantasia Florists, a family firm headed by Shirley Ovington. Shirley is Newcastle born and bred. The family has been running florists for twenty five years including, in the past, two on Chillingham Road, in premises now occupied by the Pine Shop and Subway. Shirley bought the lease of 185 Shields Road from a photographer and thinks that the shop was once a bakers, as there are still cooling vents for the oven at the back of the shop. In the picture below, you can clearly see that the shop building is more modern than its neighbours.

Fantasiaflorists

Sources

Sources consulted for this article included:

Karl-Heinz Wüstner: New light on the German pork butchers in Britain (1850 – 1950), http://www.surrey.ac.uk/cronem/files/conf2009papers/Wuestner.pdf

Your turn

Perhaps more than anything, the story of 185 Shields Road shows that migration to the East End is by no means a new phenomenon. The population of Heaton in the mid 19th century numbered only a few hundred and so almost everyone who made it the bustling suburb it is now had origins outside the area – whether elsewhere in Newcastle or the North East or, as was often the case, much further afield.

And this is where we need your help. Can you add to the information here? Do you remember Home Comforts, a bakery or the photographer’s or any other shop there’s been on the site? Do you have any memories or photos of Heaton shops that you’d like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org or leave a comment here.