Tag Archives: Ringtons

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.

Domestos151011

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.

Domestosfactory1970s

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 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.

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

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

 

Heaton fliers: the Smith family and Newcastle Aero Club

Until its demise in 2004, Newcastle Aero Club was Britain’s oldest flying club.  It was founded in 1925 and for its first 10 years operated from Cramlington Aerodrome, which was situated near Nelson village and had been used for coastal air defence during WWI. In 1935, it moved to a site in Woolsington, which subsequently became Newcastle Airport. Arthur Andrews has been researching its connections with a well known Heaton family.

At an early stage, Ringtons Tea Company owner, Sam Smith, became involved with the club and was even its president for a time. We know from his great grand daughter, Fiona Harrison, that the Heaton entrepreneur loved flying. He was also a founder member of Newcastle Gliding Club. But flying was more than a hobby: he had business interests in aviation too, as a director of Newcastle Air Training Ltd and a founding investor in Dyce Airport, Aberdeen.

He generously bought Newcastle Aero Club two De Havilland Tiger Moths, one of which was called ‘The Ringtonian’.

SamSmith6TakeOff1938

Advert for Ringtons in Newcastle Aero Club magazine

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Sam Smith and Ada, his wife, at the hand over of the Tiger Moth to Newcastle Aero Club (Courtesy of Newcastle City Library)

Young Sam Smith

Following in his father’s footsteps, Sam Smith Junior obtained his pilot’s licence on 26 June 1936 at the age of 30.

SamSmithJnr_2SSJnrLicence31032_A200019-00617

Sam Smith Junior’s Pilot’s Licence

 

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Sam Smith Junior

He was the manager of Rington’s subsidiary, Northern Coachworks and lived at 17 Jesmond Vale Terrace, Heaton with his wife, Mary Ann Noddings, the daughter of horse dealer and exporter Edward Noddings and his wife, Catherine, who were now living at 2 Stannington Grove.

On 30 June 1936, just four days after getting his pilot’s licence, Sam was flying in the Derwent Valley. According to a newspaper report, he lost his bearings due to mist and rain and while he was trying to find a field safe enough to land in, the plane’s engine stalled and it crashed into the farmyard of Glebe Farm. Sam was thrown from the cockpit, hitting the farmer’s wife, Mrs Elizabeth Armstrong and ended up in a pool of water or slurry. Sam was uninjured but Mrs Armstrong was badly bruised and shocked. The headline was ‘Falling ‘Plane Strikes Woman – Pushed in Pool with Craft on Top – Amazing Escapes’.

SamSmithJnr4MedomsleyCrashcropped

Crash site at Glebe Farm, Medomsley, Co Durham (Courtesy of Newcastle City Library)

Nine months later, on 6 March 1937, another mishap took place at Woolsington, this time involving ‘The Ringtonian’ . It was not reported whether Sam was injured or how badly the aircraft was damaged.

SamSmith5ringtonian

Sam Smith with the ‘Ringtonian’ Gypsy Moth (Smith family archives)

Triple tragedy

A third accident took place on 14 May 1938, while Sam was piloting a Percival Vega Gull on a flight from Newcastle to Liverpool.

The weather was apparently fair in Northumberland but, by the time the aircraft had reached the Lake District, conditions had markedly deteriorated: a heavy mist gave little or no visibility and the plane crashed into a hillside near Skiddaw. Sam was killed along with his two passengers, Robert Radcliffe (26) and Norman Ayton (30). The coroner’s verdict was ‘accidental death’.

Sam’s younger brother, Malcolm, should have been on board too but fortunately for him,  a business commitment prevented him from boarding.

There had been other flying related deaths at Newcastle Aero Club, but this was the worst in its short history. The loss of  Sam Smith Junior was a great shock to his family and the local area. A large funeral took place with many local dignitaries attending. The City Council passed a vote of condolence by standing in silence.

The 1939 Register shows that Sam Smith Junior’s young widow, Mary Ann, moved back to live with her parents in Stannington Grove.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group;

Thank you to Fiona Harrison for help with the history of the Smith family and Ringtons;

Thank you to Newcastle City Library for permission to use photographs;

Sources

In addition to original research:

70 years of flying 1925-1975 by John Sleight ISBN 0952690802 (A history of Newcastle Aero Club)

Can you help?

If you know more about Heaton’s connections with aviation, please either post a message direct to this site by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Shields Road Landmarks and Legends

On Wednesday 27 July, Heaton History Group members are invited to join Mike Greatbatch for a walking tour of Shields Road in which old photos, maps and plans will be used to reveal the colourful history of this busy thoroughfare.
Beavans

The old Beavan’s shop on the corner of Shields Road and Heaton Park Road, (now the High Main pub)

Places are limited and so this walk is open to Heaton History Group members only in the first instance and booking is essential. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.
The walk will start outside St Silas Church at 7.30pm and  finish at the East End Library and Pool.
185 Shields Road

185 Shields Road

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Ringtons used to be on Shields Road (where the retail park is now) before it moved to Algernon Road

Ringtons’ Story

 

Ringtons is one of Heaton’s most long established family firms. The tea company was founded by Sam Smith and Will Titterington in Heaton’s Avenues in 1907 before moving to Shields Road and then, in 1928, to a magnificent new building on Algernon Road, which still stands today, with Ringtons’ head office now next door.

 

Fiona Harrison, Sam Smith’s great granddaughter, has been helping to organise the company and family archives. On 27 April, she will show us some fantastic photos and tell us how the firm came to be founded and take us through its history up to the present day.

Ringtons Tea

Simon Smith, son of Sam, and staff outside Algernon Road HQ, 1932

Early Days

Fiona has already supplied us with photographs and information about Ringtons’ early history for our article ‘S in Ringtons, Tea in Heaton’ and the display, still up in The Chillingham pub, for our ‘Heaton Avenues in WW1’ project. But her talk will tell the fascinating story of Ringtons from the birth of Sam Smith, the founder, to the present day.

To book

The talk will take place at The Corner House, Heaton Road, NE6 5RP on Wednesday 27 April 2016 at 7.30pm and is FREE to Heaton History Group members. Non-members pay £2. The doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154. Booking is open to Heaton History Group members only until Wednesday 10 February.

S in Ringtons, Tea in Heaton

The imposing white brick Ringtons building on Algernon Road bears the date ‘1924’, indicating that the famous tea company has Heaton connections going back at least 90 years.

Simon Smith, son of Sam, and staff outside Algernon Road HQ, 1932

Ringtons staff outside the company’s Algernon Road HQ, 1932

In fact the story starts much earlier than that.

Samuel Smith was born on 22 June 1872 in Leeds and christened on 22 December of that year along with his older brother, George. His parents were both local. William, his father, earned his living as a fettler, someone who cleaned the machinery in a woollen mill.

According to Sam’s great granddaughter, Fiona Harrison, young Sam started work, aged eight, as a ‘butcher’s boy’ on Friday nights and Saturdays. Aged ten, he joined the staff of one of the country’s biggest tea-dealers, as a ‘half-timer’. He gradually worked his way up and was sent to various of the firm’s offices across Yorkshire to learn all aspects of the business.

By the time he married Ada Emmerson, daughter of a Leeds milk dealer, at the age of 25, he was a travelling salesman for the company and was based in Sheffield. The couple’s two oldest children, John and Douglas, were born in Sheffield but the next two, Elizabeth and Vera, started life in Bradford and by time the youngest, Samuel and Harriet, came along, the family were back in Leeds but preparing for a new life in Newcastle.

We are extremely lucky in that, not only did Sam keep letters, diaries, notes, photographs and mementos, but that his family have treasured them and Fiona has painstakingly combed through the family archive to help us piece together the story of the birth of Ringtons and its relevance to our ‘Heaton’s Avenues in Wartime’ Heritage Lottery Fund project.

The records show that Sam had become increasingly disillusioned with the firm he worked for in Leeds. He felt its staff weren’t treated well and he believed that he could both run a successful company and live true to his values. His friend and colleague, Irishman William ‘Will’ Titterington, was of the same mind and they decided to set up in business together under the name of ‘Ringtons’, which combined the last part of Will’s surname with the first letter of Sam’s.

Sam Smith, founder of Ringtons

Sam Smith, founder of Ringtons

Tea to Newcastle

As was common at the time, there was a clause in their contracts stipulating that if they left their current employer, they couldn’t set up within 50 miles of its Leeds headquarters. The two men weighed up their options and were initially tempted by Scarborough, but in the end they couldn’t ignore the excellent opportunities offered by industrial Tyneside, where, although there were already a number of tea dealers including Brooke Bond and Pumphrey’s, none of them delivered door to door, which Sam and Will planned to make their unique selling point, one which has stood the company in good stead right up to the present day.

Fiona has found a letter from William Titterington to Sam Smith, dated 17 July 1907, and written from 2 Fourth Avenue, Heaton, where William is lodging in what is clearly a tiny room that the two men planned to share:

‘I have arrived at the combined room… This bed will only hold me, and I am afraid by the look of it, my feet will be hanging over the foot of it.’

On the other hand:

‘I am on the spot to assist at the shop and see that the workmen are getting on with the cleaning. This house is at the other end of the same terrace as the shop.’

Extract from letter from Will Titterington Fourth Avenue, Heaton to Sam Smith 1917

Extract from letter from Will Titterington, Fourth Avenue, Heaton to Sam Smith 1917

So it was in Heaton’s Avenues in 1907 that Ringtons was born. By 1908, the partners had two vans and four assistants and they were blending twice as much tea as a year earlier.

The first mention of the firm in the trade directories is in 1909-10 (which was probably surveyed in 1907-8). Ringtons was based at number 23 Third Avenue with Sam Smith, manager, living at 25. By 1911, the Smiths had moved to 129 Warton Terrace. Will Titterington and his wife Mary were living at 109 Tynemouth Road with their sons, William jnr and Francis, aged six and four.

By 1910 Sam Smith had bought Will Titterington’s share of the company and the firm itself had moved to more spacious premises on an abandoned rifle range at 392 Shields Road (where the Byker retail park is now).

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Ringtons, Shields Rd c1912

Ringtons, Shields Rd c1912 with extension to the 1910 building in the first picture

Here, their neighbours included a coach builder, cart proprietor, horse keeper and horse shoer, all vital to the Ringtons’ enterprise. Sam had worked hard to make the business a success and it had gone from strength to strength. By this time, there were 11 vans and 11 assistants.

Struggle for survival

But then World War One broke out. It changed everything, as Sam recalled later:

‘Of my staff of 17, some of whom were married, 15 were called to the colours and I promised to do certain things for them so their families should not suffer too much while they were fighting. Of course, I agreed to keep their jobs open for them.’

What Sam hadn’t reckoned with were the severe food shortages and the resulting rationing and restrictions. There was a sugar shortage so people were only allowed to buy it where they bought their tea. Ringtons didn’t sell sugar and couldn’t get hold of it, so business plummeted.

To compensate, the firm started to sell any foodstuff it could lay its hands on: tinned and evaporated milk, dried eggs, canned meat and fish, saccharine, pickles etc. However, often as soon as Sam had bought a consignment, the price of the commodity would be fixed by government at less than he’d paid for it.

‘ Somehow I managed to keep my promises to my soldier staff’ remembered Sam. ‘And somehow managed to relieve a little the distress of the widows of the three who never came back. But it was a fight to be able to pay my own rent and the wolf came nearer and nearer my door’.

At the end of the war, the 12 surviving members of staff returned, ‘three of them wearing the Military Medal’ and, as promised, Sam took them back although the outlook for the company seemed bleak. But gradually, once people and retailers were free to buy and sell what and where they liked, customers returned.

When the ex-servicemen received their gratuities, they clubbed together to buy Sam a watch, which from then on he always wore. It was inscribed: ‘Presented to Mr Samuel Smith, as a mark of gratitude and esteem, from the staff of Ringtons Ltd, on their return from military service. December 1920′

Loyal servant

One of the returning servicemen was Robert Ernest Sturdy, who, in 1911 was living with his wife, Minnie, and their three year old son, Norman Leslie at 57 Spencer Street, Heaton. Robert described himself as a ‘superintendent, tea trade’ . By 1916, the couple had two more very young children, May and Ernest. Robert volunteered to join the army, aged 32, in December 1915, just before conscription was introduced early in 1916. He described himself as a ‘manager (drivers)’ .

On enlistment it was noted that Robert’s heart ‘seemed weak’. His letter of enlistment stated that he was invited to join the Army Service Corps(Mechanical Transport), ‘provided he has not attained the age of 46 and is found medically fit for Service‘ Despite his heart condition, Ernest was accepted and he served on the home front for just over a month before being sent to France in October 1916.

Throughout 1918, he was in and out of military hospitals with conditions variously described as ‘mild debility’, ‘TB‘ and ‘Bronchial catarrh’ before being transferred back to the UK in October 1919, at which time he signed a disclaimer to the effect that he wasn’t suffering from any disability which was due to military service.

Robert returned to Ringtons where, as Sam Smith had promised, his old job was waiting for him. He was still there in the position of sales manager in 1934 by which time he was 50 years old. On completion of 25 years service, he was presented with tea and coffee services. Robert died in 1956, aged 73. By this time his son, Norman, was himself described as a tea dealer, presumably (though we can’t be sure) also with Ringtons. Robert’s younger son, Ernest ,was sadly ‘lost at sea’ during WW2.

The Somme

In total there were 14 people in Heaton in 1911 whose occupation, as recorded in the census, included the word ‘tea’. One was Sam Smith, of course, by now living at 129 Warton Terrace, with Ada and their six children. We can’t be sure which of the others worked at Ringtons, as employer names aren’t usually recorded, but Robert Clapperton Mair, aged 15, who lived with his parents, two brothers and a sister, at 13 Charles Street, described himself as a ‘tea merchant’s assistant’. He joined the 10th battalion Northumberland Fusiliers and was posted to France. Robert was one of those who didn’t return, having been killed in action on the Somme on 25 September 1916, aged 20. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial and also on that of Heaton United Methodist Church on Heaton Road.

Bravery award

Bothers Patrick and Thomas Sullivan were both ‘van salesmen (tea)‘. The family had moved from Dundee while the boys and their sister, Lizzie, were young and the family lived at 16 Fourth Avenue, just a few doors down from Will Titterington’s lodgings in 1907. When war broke out their father, Patrick, a tram conductor, was active in recruiting volunteers for the ‘Pals‘ regiments and we know that Tom enlisted very early on, in September 1914, at the age of 22.

Two years later, by now a sergeant, he was awarded the Military Medal and a Card of Honour for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. A full report of his actions appeared in the Newcastle Journal, reproduced below. (Despite what it says in the article, the family appears to have lived on Fourth Avenue, rather than Sixth, throughout the war).

Newcastle Journal 18 November 1916

Newcastle Journal 18 November 1916

 So Tom was one of the three recipients of the Military Medal who returned to Ringtons after 1918 and was remembered by Sam Smith almost twenty years later. This was confirmed for us by Tom’s great great niece, Helen Wells, who told us:

‘My mam remembers talk of Uncle Tommy. We knew he’d been awarded the Military Medal but we didn’t know why. Tommy worked for Ringtons tea. He moved to Thornaby near Stockton to work for Ringtons there. He died in the 1940s and had no children. Patrick was exempt from military service because he was colour-blind’.

Post-war

A hundred years later, the personal stories give us a tiny insight into the suffering of Heaton and its people during World War One. But within just a few years, the firm, its staff and customers showed their resilience. Ringtons’ business picked up to such an extent that in 1924 a magnificent, modern building was commissioned on Algernon Road.

Ringtons, Algernon Road c1930

Ringtons, Algernon Road c1930

Work began in 1926 and it was finished in 1928. It still stands, of course, and is much loved, although the firm has since moved again. Not far though. Ringtons’, first managed from a cramped single bedroom on Fourth Avenue, is still very much associated with Heaton. Its headquarters remain on Algernon Road, next door to its impressive 1920s HQ.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

This article was researched and written by Chris Jackson, with considerable help from Fiona Harrison, for Heaton History Group’s ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project, which has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund. An exhibition, ‘’Tea in Heaton’, will be on display at the Chillingham pub from October to December 2015.

Find out more

This article and the exhibition at the Chilli concentrates on the early days in the Avenues and the impact of World War One but it’s just one chapter of the Ringtons’ story. To find out more, pay a visit to Ringtons’ museum in their Algernon Road headquarters and look out for a talk by Fiona  in our 2016-17 programme.

Can you help?

if you have worked at Ringtons, know more about any of the people mentioned in the article and/or have memories or photos to share, please either leave a comment on this website (by clicking on the link immediately below this article’s title) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Heaton History Group Corporate Supporters

The following organisations have supported Heaton History Group this year with sponsorship or raffle prizes. Big thanks to them all.

Bijou Hairdressing, 220 Chillingham Road

Blyth Spartans Football Club

The Chillingham

Chillingham Collectables, 225 Chillingham Road

Clough’s Sweet Shop

Corner House Hotel

DW Sports Byker

Empire Cinema, The Gate, Newcastle

Fantasia Florist, 183-5 Shields Road

Hazy Daisy Florist

Heaton Stannington Football Club

Hemp Nation, 115 Chillingham Road

Icon Cards, 256 Chillingham Road

Leaf Hairdressing, 200A Heaton Road

Lin-D Hairdressing

Omer’s Convenience Store, 101 Addycombe Terrace

Ouseburn Trust

People’s Theatre

Ringtons

Sambucas, Heaton Park Pavilion

Sock Council, Heaton

Star Market, 179-181 Chillingham Road

Teasy Does It

Tyneside Cinema

Wild Trapeze

And thank you too to individual  members and supporters who have given raffle prizes or their time.

Heaton’s Favourite Buildings

Our vote for Heaton’s favourite caused quite a storm, with coverage in the Evening Chronicle and lots of interest at and after John Grundy’s talk. The shortlist, all of which were nominated by Heaton History Group members or Twitter followers, was;

Heaton Windmill We have to kick off with this one. Iconic is an oversused word but this feature of Armstrong Park is certainly a familiar and much-loved landmark and the one we chose to be Heaton History Group’s logo and feature on our home page. The windmill dates from the early eighteenth century and was already a ruin by 1844. Constructed from coursed squared sandstone, it’s been partially restored since then and is grade 2 listed. Has to be a contender.

Heaton windmill

People’s Theatre  It’s the art deco detailing together with, for many people, happy memories of time spent inside which makes The People’s such a favourite. The building was designed by Marshall and Tweedy and opened in 1936 as the Lyric cinema. During its first week, the two films shown were ‘Little Colonel’ with Shirley Temple and ‘Sweet Music’ with Rudy Vallee and Ann Dvorak. (Thanks to Tomorrow’s History for that information). Conversion into a theatre toook place in 1962. The first play performed there was George Bernard Shaw’s ‘ Man and Superman’. (Thanks to People’s Theatre). The photos below were taken in this week’s snow and shortly after the cinema opened in 1936. (Thanks to Newcastle Libraries for this one.) Does it get your vote?

Entrance to the Peoples 2013

Lyric cinema 1936

Shakespeare House  Although it’s in a pleasant, secluded, green corner  and, when we checked it out on a snowy day in March, the birds were in full voice, from the front 47 South View West doesn’t look too different from many other houses in Heaton.  It’s the gable end that makes it one of many people’s favourite local landmarks. William Shakespeare’s face (based on Martin Droeshout’s famous engraving of 1623) looks down on streets named in his memory.

The surrounding terraces – Stratford Grove, Warwick Street, Malcom Street, Bolingbroke Street, Mowbray Street, Hotspur Street etc –  were built before the end of the 19th century but when some houses were demolished 100 or so years later to make way for Hotspur School, the decorative brickwork was put in place.

The People’s has been putting on Shakespeare plays in Heaton regularly since the 1960s. The RSC’s been coming to Newcastle since 1977, with members of the company often lodging locally as well as intermittently appearing  at the People’s. The South View West gable end seems fitting somehow and it makes us smile.

Shakespeare

Wills Building

The Wills factory was retro even when it opened in 1950. Its foundation stone had been laid four years earlier but it was built to a pre-war art deco design by Cecil Hockin, an Imperial Tobacco Company in-house architect.  (WD and HO Wills was actually part of Imperial Tobacco as early as 1901, so even the buidling’s name was retro from the outset.)  Apparently at its peak, 6 million Woodbine cigarettes a day were manufactured at the plant. The complex included a theatre and other leisure facilities for staff as well as the factory itself.

Production ceased in 1986. Its last days were documented by photographer Isabella Jedrzejczyk  and can be seen on the Amber Online website with text by Ellin Hare.

The disused building was given Grade 2 listed status to prevent demolition.  It stood empty for 10 years until Wimpey Homes converted the former front wing into 114 apartments. The building is still a nationally important example of art deco architecture and its elegance and clean lines, together with its prominent position on the Coast Road,  makes  it a local favourite too. Luckily it just sneaks into Heaton – the adjacent railway line marks the boundary with Wallsend.

Wills Building

If you or anyone you know used to work at the factory, please get in touch. We’d love to find out more about what it was like to work there.

King John’s Palace Built before 1267 and so the oldest still (partly!) standing building in Heaton by some distance, King John’s Palace is a constant reminder of Heaton’s rich history. Despite its name though, it almost certainly doesn’t date from the reign of King John, which ended in 1216. Best estimates date it around 1255. There are traditions, however, that both King John and King Edward I stayed in Heaton which may have caused confusion. The building’s alternative names of The House of Adam of Jesmond or Adam’s Camera (‘camera’ here means ‘chamber’ or a usually round ‘building’), give better clues to its history. Adam was a knight and staunch supporter of King Henry III. Records show that he became unpopular for embezzlement and extortion and that he applied to Henry for a licence to enclose, fortify and crenellate his house. Adam went to the crusades from which he didn’t return and his house was allowed to fall into disrepair.

Thanks to the Jesmond Dene History Trail for the above.

King John's Palace

Beavan’s Beavans had been trading since the 19th century –  an 1879 directory lists ‘Fred Beavan, draper’ on the North side of Shields Road, where Parrishes later traded – but the lovely building on the corner of Heaton Park Road and Shields Road is Edwardian and contains many features, such as the round and stained glass windows, which are typical of the period.  A railway line used to pass under the building which apparently meant that permission wasn’t granted to build upper floors on the west side. The new store was opened in 1910 and traded until (we think) the early 1990s. You can still see original name plates ‘F Beavan Ltd, Ironmongers and Furnishers’ as well as a sign which reads ‘Beavans – the great cash drapers’. the building now contains apartments.

If you or anyone you know used to work at Beavan’s or know more about its history, please get in touch. We’d love to find out more.

Beavans

Ringtons The former head office of the  Ringtons tea and cofee business is the first 1920s building on our short list. Its distinctive white stone, green and yellow tiling and the elegance, especially of the slightly older southern half, along with its association with a long-established, local company make it a favourite with many people. It’s now the auction house of  Thomas N Miller,  with Ringtons operating from more modern premises next door.

Ringtons was established in Heaton by Sam Smith and his business partner, William Titterington, in 1907, at first delivering tea from small premises in the avenues.  Thank you to Ringtons for the older photograph which shows a busy scene from when the firm was using the horse drawn carts which helped make it famous – and notice the long-demolished houses in the background. Can anyone help us date it?

Sam Smith and his family later lived Warton Terrace. To find out more about Ringtons and its long association with Heaton, go to the small museum housed in the company’s current Algernon Road HQ which tells the fascinating story of the firm’s history.

The original Ringtons building.

Ringtons building detail

Ringtons

St Gabriel’s Church The tower of the parish church of St Gabriel is one the tallest structures in Heaton and so the church can be seen from some distance. It’s built in a free Gothic style of snecked sandstone, with a roof of graduated lakeland slate (Thanks to English Heritage for that information). Th e style and materials help it give quite a villagey feel to this part of Heaton and mean that it’s much loved not only by its congregation.

The church was designed by FW Rich (also responsible for Ouseburn School and Bolbec Hall)  and built in 1899 on land donated by Lord Armstrong. The south transept and chapel were added in 1931. It is now Grade 2 listed. This photograph held by Newcastle City Libraries was taken in 1957/8.

St Gabriels 50s

Heaton Road Co-operative Building One of several former Co-ops in Heaton, this fine three storey brick building adds character to the southern end of Heaton Road. It was built in 1892 and, as well as the date, carries the inscription ‘Newcastle upon Tyne Cooperative Society Limited, Heaton Road branch, Registered Office 117 Newgate Street’ on decorative white stonework between the first and second floors. Over recent years, many different businesses have operated from the ground floor but currently the owners of cafe ‘The Wild Trapeze’. florist ‘Hazy Daisy’, ‘Gold Star Gym’ etc are ensuring it’s looking better cared for than for some years.

Coop Heaton Road

If you could help us find out more about the history of the Co-operative movement in Heaton or have photos or memories of any of the stores, we’d love to hear from you.

Chillingham Road School Chillingham Road Primary School (as it now is – there used to be a secondary school on the site too) holds a special place in Heaton’s, and indeed Newcastle’s, history  and in the heart of many Heatonians. It’s the oldest still functioning school in Newcastle, with its 120th anniversary celebrations taking place later this year.

A sum of £15,130 15s was sanctioned by the Newcastle School Board to build the school which, when it opened in 1893, was considered to offer the most sanitory environment of any educational establishment in the city, with a state of the art ventilation system comparable with the best in Leicester,Liverpool, Glasgow, Nottingham and other cities. The first head was Mr R H Gilhespy, formerly of Arthur’s Hill School.

It’s also the school one of our best known historical figures, Jack Common, attended – and we can still read about life in Heaton and at the school just before World War 1 in his autobiographical novel ‘Kiddar’s Luck’.

There’ll be a chance to learn more about the history of Chillingham Road Primary School later this year when a programme of events is planned to celebrate its 120th birthday. On Wednesday 23 October Heaton History Group and the school will jointly present a talk about Jack Common by Dr Keith Armstrong. More details to follow.

Chillingham Road School

The photograph above dates from 1966 and is held by Local Studies at Newcastle Central Library.

Heaton Park Pavilion The original pavilion was erected in 1884 as an aviary housing exotic birds and animals. It looked out over a croquet lawn and, beyond that, a bowling green.  You can read what Jack Common said about the pavilion in a previous blog. It was later extended to accommodate a cafe and other facilities.  A lot of people think the original building   still stands but it was badly damaged by fire in 1979.

The surviving ironwork was restored at Beamish Museum and, painted in typically Victorian shades of dark red, black, cream and olive, used in a new building, which was made from handmade yellowed bricks. The reconstruction won a Civic Trust award. It is currently occupied by Sambuca, an Italian restaurant.

Its history, Victorian elegance and association with carefree summer days in the park combine to make it one of Heaton’s favourite building.

Pavilion old

Pavilion detail

Thanks to Heaton History Group Honorary President, Alan Morgan, for the above information. You can read more and see photographs in his book ‘Heaton: from farms to foundries’ or better still come to his illustrated talk on 22 May. Contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org to reserve a place.

And thanks to Newcastle Libraries for the image of the old postcard, which is undated.

High Heaton Library The most modern building on the shortlist and the third library to have been built the site. It was designed by Ryder Architecture Limited (who were also responsible for the City Library) and was commended in the 2009 Public Library Building Awards. its curving façade and intimate scale seem to contributes to its welcoming feel. Click on the third link below to see it looking beautiful by night. Sadly it’s due to close in June this year.

Here are links to images of the three libraries:

Wooden building taken in 1966 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

Circular library taken in 1967 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

Third library taken in 2009 (Thank you to Paul J White)

Corner House When you see the the Corner House, you know you’re nearly home to Heaton, standing prominently as it does at the corner of Heaton Road and the Coast Road. The Corner House was built at the same time as the Lyric cinema (now People’s Theatre). It’s changed quite a bit over the years but, empty roads aside, is still immediately recognisable in this photo taken in 1936 soon after it opened.

Corner House 1936

We especially like the Corner House because it’s where our 2013/4 programme of talks will kick off on April 17th with John Grundy’s Buildings of Heaton.

Hadrian’s Wall Ok, this last nomination is a bit contentious. Is it in Heaton? We think so. It forms the southern boundary of our catchment area and would definitely have been considered part of Heaton, when it was an independent township until the early 20th Century. We’re historians. It’s in. Is it a building? Debatable. The accepted definition usually involves some sort of shelter and human occupancy, but there were turrets every 500 metres or so and so we reckon the whole structure was, therefore, one very long building. And a lot of the foundations are still down there – somewhere. At nearly 2000 years old, it’s by far the oldest structure in Heaton, the most popular tourist destination in Northern England and the only World Heritage Site on our list so it’s got to be in the running.  You can follow the line of it marked out by studs on the south side of Shields Road. And also we wanted an excuse to mention that we’ve just booked Paul Bidwell OBE, Head of Archaeology at Tyne and Wear Museums and expert on  Roman archaeology, to give a talk later in our 2013/4 programme. Watch this space!

We had to stop there, although we realise that there were other contenders, many of which we’ll feature on this website over the coming months.

Top Seven

The top seven, announced on 17 April 2013, and listed here in reverse order were:

7th – Ringtons HQ

6th – People’s Theatre

=4th –  Beavans and Heaton Park Pavilion

3rd – the old Heaton Road Co-op

2nd – Wills Building

and the winner: Saint Gabriels Church

Thank you to everyone who voted and congratulations to FW Rich, architect, and everyone associated with the church!