Guide tells of history of Morpeth

A.G. Marshall, 43, Bridge Street, Dispensing, Agricultural and Photographic Chemist.  Mr. Marshall is the man on the left.
A.G. Marshall, 43, Bridge Street, Dispensing, Agricultural and Photographic Chemist. Mr. Marshall is the man on the left.

Morpeth’s first Official Guide was published for the Borough Council by Mate’s of Bournemouth in 1906.

It was written by James Fergusson who was, among many other things, a prominent local historian.

Robert Jackson, House and Sign Painter, was at 28 Newgate Street.

Robert Jackson, House and Sign Painter, was at 28 Newgate Street.

As well as history, the Guide naturally tells us a lot about Morpeth in the Edwardian period, especially through the photographs that appear both in the text and in advertisements.

We begin with A.G. Marshall, 43 Bridge Street, Dispensing, Agricultural and Photographic Chemist. Mr Marshall is the man on the left.

His shop is now the left-hand side of the Yorkshire Trading Company and, judging by what one can see of the brickwork and windows, is the same building.

The shop front in his day was a splendid example of the shopfitter’s art. The stall risers are inset with what look like glazed tiles featuring heraldic crosses. Finely-carved pilasters on each side lead up to panelled console brackets, and the cornice (the narrow roof above the fascia) has an ornamental parapet surmounted by urns picked out in gold.

Dance & Carr's restaurant was in the YMCA Buildings, the fine Victorian block at the corner of Oldgate and the Market Place.

Dance & Carr's restaurant was in the YMCA Buildings, the fine Victorian block at the corner of Oldgate and the Market Place.

Like most chemists then, Mr Marshall was also a druggist, meaning that he sold raw or semi-processed chemicals, and likewise preparations of his own invention: Marshall’s Toilet Cream and Marshall’s Curative Syrup, as advertised in placards on either side.

He stocked photographic plates, films, developer, bromide paper, gaslight paper, ‘tabloid chemicals’, accessories and P.O.P. Do any of our photographer friends know what P.O.P. was? Customers were invited to use ‘our spacious dark room free’ and, perhaps at a charge, ‘our Gaslight Enlarging Apparatus’.

Finally, he was sole agent for Lipton’s Teas, and sold cage bird foods.

n Robert Jackson, House and Sign Painter, was at 28 Newgate Street, the shop now occupied by ARC Kitchens and Bathrooms.

The stepping stones. The large building behind is the Union Workhouse.

The stepping stones. The large building behind is the Union Workhouse.

Beside his painting and decorating business, Mr Jackson also sold wallpapers, picture frames, brushes, paint, glass, china and earthenware of all kinds.

The wheelbarrow parked outside, instead of a nose-to-tail row of cars and vans, speaks eloquently of the difference between then and now.

n Dance and Carr’s restaurant was in the YMCA Buildings, the fine Victorian block at the corner of Oldgate and the Market Place. It was on the first floor, now the Manzil Tandoori. But, whereas the entrance to Manzil is through a finely-ornamented doorway in Oldgate, Dance and Carr’s was where Subway is now.

They were ‘Refreshment Contractors, Caterers, Pastrycooks and Bride Cake Manufacturers’. Specialities included braised beef, ox tongues, hams, chicken, Game according to Season, fancy cakes and chocolates, china and cutlery hire, and ‘Thick Fresh Cream in 6d. and 1/- Jars, fresh daily from Cumberland Dairies’.

n Our last picture is of the stepping stones. Two neatly clad Edwardian young ladies stand on the stones, one of them in the space between. The large building behind is the Union Workhouse.

By every account, it was a horrible place. Bridget Gubbins, in The Mysteries of Morpeth’s Workhouse, identifies the building directly above the girl in the dark dress as the hospital. It was larger than it appears, being mostly hidden by trees. The detached buildings in the nearer corner were the infectious wards.

The right-hand side of the main block (as we see it) was for men and the left for women. The ground-floor, not visible in this picture, contained the kitchen. Both hospital and kitchen were infested with rats at night and somebody’s first job in the morning was to chase them out.

The lowest visible range of windows contained the day rooms. The dining room was in the centre, men on one side and women on the other. The children sat in a recess, perhaps in the projecting central offshot.

The segregation of husbands from wives, and children from parents, was one of the most hated things about the workhouse. The original idea was that women and children should be separated from unrelated males, and the old, sick and mentally ill from all the rest. The next floor above contained the dormitories and probably the master and matron’s accommodation, who had to be a married couple. The children’s dormitories may have been on the top floor. Most of this, however, is conjectural. Despite every effort, Mrs Gubbins could never find a proper plan of the workhouse.

n Despite two articles on Mate’s Illustrated Guide to Morpeth, we have looked only at a fraction of all the pictures and advertisements in it.

We really need someone to republish it, in the way that Appleby’s have done the earlier Wilson’s Handbook to Morpeth.