Tom & Ted Brown - Brains & Skills @ Meggitts, Sutton-in-Ashfield.

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Tom and Flora BrownThomas Brown (1871-1941) was employed at the Meggitt Factory at Sutton-in-Ashfield. It was a steady job that paid well and Tom encouraged his only son Ted to join the company and learn a trade as a fitter turner.

Tom was the eldest of nine children and was palmed off by his parents because the house was overcrowded. He was not found in the censuses after he was a baby until he was grown up. Tom’s father, Tomas, was an iron moulder from Mansfield. His father Jabez was a bleacher also from Mansfield.

In 1888 Tom married Flora Ackrill at the United Free Methodist Chapel in Mansfield. Tom worked his way up. In the 1891 census he was a General Labourer, in 1901 a Ware Houseman at the glue works and in 1911 a Glue Boiler. And at the time of son Ted's wedding in 1919 Tom was a Foreman.

  William Edward (Ted) Brown (1894-1969) was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield in 1894 and started work at Meggitts at 14.    

Ted's apprenticeship indenture was drawn up in 1909 and makes fascinating reading; a commitment to hard work, honesty & thrift by father, son & company. In the 1911 census Ted was a 'Fitter Turner'.

In 1914 Ted joined the Army as a Private and on December 14th of that year received Christmas greetings from his old work mates at Meggitts, organised by Walter Hole, the Works Manager. An inspiring and reassuring message from home!

Another souvenir from Ted's days at Meggitts has somehow survived the ravages of time ... a compliments card ...

Ted was demobbed in 1919 and the same year he married Florence Ellis at Kirkby.

Tom also did his bit for the Meggitts war effort; he was secretary of the employees war savings association! Robert M Kindersley, 1st Baron Kindersley, was Chairman of the National Savings Committee 1916-20.

Ted BrownShorty afterwards, father & son both left Meggitts and Sutton-in-Ashfield for a new  challenge. Tom knew all about glue making; upwards, backwards & inside out and Ted was a skilled practical craftsman ... and Messrs G A Shankland, a glue company in Eynsham in rural Oxfordshire, were embarking on a new factory development.

What was this project all about and what was the nature of the tie up between Meggitts and Shanklands before both companies ended up as parts of British Glues & Chemicals?

The sequence of events started in 1913 with German investment and a controlling interest in old established Samuel Meggitt & Sons. During the war, along with many other German interests, the company was taken over by the Controller of Enemy Businesses and a new company formed; Meggitts (1917) Ltd. The Directors appointed to the new company were R Duncalfe, J E Grimditch, V H Poynter, E H Quibell and G A Shankland ... all were well respected leaders from other British glue & gelatine companies ... clearly Gilbert Archibald Shankland was a Director of Meggitts in 1919 when Tom & Ted Brown moved to Eynsham to build the new factory at the old mill on the Evenlode.

G A Shankland Ltd was a new company formed in 1919 ... it seems Tom & Ted were 'head hunted' by their own boss to establish the new facilities at Eynsham Mill!

Tom Brown's ClockWhen Tom left Meggitts he was presented with a magnificent clock, still going strong today, bearing the inscription -

'Presented to Mr Tom Brown by the Staff & Workpeople of Meggitts (1917) Ltd - June 13th 1919'

It seems Shankland and the Browns left Meggitts for the new venture on amicable terms because the project went well and after two & a half years Ted received glowing testimonials from both the Meggitts, Works Manager, Walter Hole, and the Shanklands Chief Engineer, J T Wilson.

In 1922 the Enysham period came to an end. Tom returned to Meggitts at Sutton-in-Ashfield to train up a Frenchman in the arts of glue making (according to the reminiscences of one of his daughters in 1977). Next he worked for three months in the North East of England, almost certainly at the Tees Refining Company at Thornby. The family lived at Yarm during this brief sojourn on Teeside. Tom then moved to Northamptonshire for a short time, probably to work with Charles Massey at Market Harborough. By this time both these firms, together with Meggitts were part of British Glues & Chemicals.

Ted, who now had a baby son. Edward Gordon (1920-1980), born in Eynsham, took up employment at Peter Lenton's potato factory in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Perhaps he was looking after the machinery or maybe using his WW1 aquired lorry driving skills? He lodged with his sister and brother in law in Hartshill.

From Northamptonshire Tom moved to Rusholme, Manchester. He was joined by his son Ted in 1923

 Ted's daughter, Cynthia was born in 1928, and at 84 Cynthia still remembered the old days in Manchester. Her dad and grandfather both worked in a glue works in Red Bank (behind Victoria Station). Tom was in charge of the glue making and Cynthia inherited the book on the recipes. She always regretted having later disposed of it. Ted was responsible for keeping the machinery going and was often called out when it broke down. One of Ted's sisters, Olive, worked there for a while also until she returned to Nottinghamshire to work in the lace industry.

Cynthia had visited the factory on a number of occasions and remembered it being in very poor condition, accessed by a wooden staircase without handrails. She always thought the factory was part of Meggitts and it was referred to as such at home.

She does not know why the family moved to Manchester from Eynsham, after pausing briefly at Hartshill. There was no family connection in Manchester, and it might have been expected that they would have returned to Nottinghamshire after the Eynsham episode? Perhaps there was some Meggitt connection which took them to Manchester certainly the glue works was always known as 'Meggitts' in the family.

Ted was sent to Cortaulds in Trafford Park during WW2 but Cynthia remembered someone from 'Meggitts' coming round to the house after the end of hostilities to invite him back.

Eventually, the glue works replaced Ted with a younger man after he had returned from an assignment to buy 2nd hand machinery. The new man had persuaded them they should be buying new.

There was only one reference to the glue works in Cythia's records and that was an address, C H Smith, Hargreaves Street, Red Bank ... the address was written on the back of a letter written to advise Ted and Florrie of the death of her mother. Elizabeth Jane Ellis, Florrie's mother, who died on 10 April 1929.

The Bone WorksC H Smiths

As early as 1832 there was a glue works on the banks of the Irk near Hargreaves Street, Redbank, just east of Victoria station. Not exactly idyllic surroundings! Captured in an illuminating photo was the Irk from Roger Street the bone works was on left, Phillips Rubbers and The Dyers Arms on the right on the corner of Bromley Street and Dantzic Street in the Irk valley. There was a dye works there and The Dyers Arms enthusiastically supplied exhausted workers with invigorating Cornbrook Ales.

Mervyn Busteed and Paul Hindle pinpointed the insalubrious industrial site of 'Gibraltar' (now underneath Victoria Station!) which received via the Irk 'excrementitious matter and filth of the most pernicious character from the bone works' ... the glue works proprietor was Charles Henry Smith; C H Smith. In 1889 a Samuel Smith was involved in shipping manure from the works at 4 Hargreaves Street ... and in 1901 there was a horrible explosion at Smiths which involved fatalities , and a Board of Trade enquiry. It appeared Charles H Smith had started to use closed pans to boil his glues in a vain attempt to reduce complaints about the stench. Unsuitable vessels became pressurised, exploded and tragically killed some of the workers who were desperately trying to reduce the environmental nuisance (no wonder C H Smith was intent on recruiting more competent engineers like Ted!) ... Slater's Directory of 1903 confirmed the company in Hargreaves Street ... and Slaters again in 1909 ... C H Smith & Co recruited steadily during the war, The Manchester Evening News carried adverts for staff with interesting restrictions on candidates as defined in the 'Defence of the Realm Act' ...

Redbank FactoryThe 1891 map of Hargreaves Street, Redbank clearly showed the Button Manufactory and the Chemical Works on the banks of the Irk.

In the 1871 census Samuel Smith (1830-), a Bone & Button Manufacturer employing 22 men, 11 women, 10 girls & 9 boys. He was living at Disbury Road, Rusholme, Manchester, with his wife Ann (1831-) from Rochdale and children William R (1859-); Ada C (1861-); Sidney (1864-); Charles Henry (1867-) and Fredrick (1868-) with two servants.

In 1881 Samuel Smith (1830-), Button Manufacturer, was living at Thomlea, Withington, Manchester, with his wife Anne (1830-) and children William Rigby (1859-); Ada C (1861-); Sidney (1864-) and Charles Henry (1867-) with two servants. All three boys had joined Samuel's business.

In 1891 Samuel Smith (1830-) was a widower, living on his own means, at 47 Palatine Road, Withington. Still single and living with him were Sidney, Manager of Glue Department, and Charles Henry, Button Manufacturer. Ada C was also living with them but Ada had married merchant Frederick Arnold (1861-) of Manchester.

William R, Button Manufacturer, was still working in the business, he was living at 16 Oak Road, Withington, he was married to Francis A (1861-) from Manchester and they had 2 sons and 2 daughters.

In 1901 Charles Henry Smith (-), Button Manufacturer, was married to Edith (1871-) from Huddersfield. They were living at 26 Oak Road, Withington with a servant but no children.

In 1911 Charles Henry Smith, Manufacturer of Specialities in Animal Products, born in Rusholme, a widower, was living at 26 Oak Road, Withington, South Manchester with one servant.

In 1913 Charles Henry formed a new company with his partner Mr F W Brooks, an accountant from Trafford.

Kate's Story... this was the bone works where Tom & Ted Brown found employment?

Luckily we can glean much more about the Browns life in Manchester as the whole area of Red Bank and Collyhurst was the back drop to a fascinating fictional biography written by Billy Hopkins in 2001.

'Kate's Story' recounted the reflective old age musings of Billy's mum which he felt compelled to record.

A familiar emotional experience which many human souls have experienced ...

Tom died in 1941 at the age of 70. He was working in the late 1930s when Cynthia would sometime see him on the tram on his way to work, whilst she was on her way to school.

Ted died on 21st of May 1969 in Withington Hospital, Manchester.

Clearly Samuel Smith's (1830-) old business on the Irk was taken over by the younger son Charles Henry Smith (1867-) but the elder son William Rigby Smith (1859-) branched out and established his own business in Tattenhall near Chester. 

The Tattenhall Boneworks.

Interestingly by the time of the 1901 census, William Rigby Smith and family had moved to Glendale, Kilmory Road, Newton, Chester. In the census he described himself as a Manufacturer of Specialities from Mineral Products? William Rigby had in fact established W R Smith and Sons which took over a slaughter house and bone works which had been established on the Chester canal at Tattenhall around 1857.

 The Tattenhall & District Local History  website has some fascinating notes on the works assembled by the enthusiasm of Terri Hull -

Tattenhall Bone Works history page.

Philip Randles and Alice Dutton remember ...

Particularly interesting was a postcard displaying a fine panoramic view of the extensive bone works banks of the Shropshire Union Canal at Tattenhall.

Well worth a look!

It appeared the Smiths had moved to Kilmory Road as early as 1893 ... and were confirmed at The Tattenhall Bone Works 1896 when The Cheshire Observer reported a familiar story about filthy contamination ... and again ... 'enough to knock a man down' ... but the problem, of course, was not easily solved, in 1900 cost effective technology was not yet available but good jobs and valuable manures were being provided for the folk in Tattenhall ...

In 1899 in The Derbyshire Times W R Smith were looking for agents and advertising their quite famous prizes for crops. And more agents were wanted in 1902 in the Luton area for selling glues & size. And in 1925 in The Western Daily Press agents for glues, gelatines and sizes.

1910 Kelly's Directory of Cheshire listed W R Smith & Sons at Tattenhall.

In 1911 William Rigby Smith (1859-), Manufacturer of Animal Products, was with Frances Ada (1861-) living at Dee Fords, Sandy Lane, Chester with their two sons Samuel Gordon (1884-1965) and William Stanley (1890-) who were both working in the business.

The Tattenhall Bone WorksIn 1917 W R Smith was advertising for a Mechanic in the Liverpool Echo for 'all classes of repairs to plant & machinery in a chemical & bone works' ...

Terry Goodwin who had a life time of hard work in the animal products business moved to Red Bank in the 1970s when Gortons took over the C H Smith business. Terry had started at the Paddington Works, Warrington at 15 in 1949 as a process worker. In the years to 1978 he experienced all the processes from degreasing, evaporation, coal fired boilers and a 'pearl plant' for making small goblets of glue which formed through a drip tray and dropped into an 80ft tower of refrigerated white spirit. Modern German plant & equipment was installed at Paddington, nothing but the best!

The new MD at Smiths in 1970 following the Gorton purchase was Philips, he replaced the incumbent, Vivian Upton. The work at Smiths at this time was predominantly from a contract with a Manchester abattoir for the processing of 20 tpw of bones into animal feeds. 

 

PS In 1925 The Times of London advertised that the Shankland business was up for sale. Did BG&C buy this firm in 1925?

And in 1926 what was going on in the courts, Shankland v. British Glues & Chemicals, King's Bench Division on the 'Warned List'?

 

Any corrections and additional information gratefully received contact john p birchall

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