Like working in Dickens' times

COMPANY accounts written in a ledger with pen and ink, by a clerk sitting on a high wooden stool, conjures up an image of a character from a Charles Dickens story.

David Kindred

COMPANY accounts written in a ledger with pen and ink, by a clerk sitting on a high wooden stool, conjures up an image of a character from a Charles Dickens story.

Working in an office so cold in a severe winter that staff had to go to the large engineering company nearby to fill the kettle or use the toilet.

Both are memories from readers of Ipswich transport company W Christopherson, who had offices at 6 Dial Lane, Ipswich, and premises on New Cut West and Harland Street until the late 1960s.

The company was referred to in a recent Kindred Spirits by Don Turvey of Beecroft Road, Ipswich, in his memories of working for Ransomes and Rapiers.

R Banyard, of Luff Meadow, Needham Market, said: “I was employed by Christopherson's from 1953-1968/69. On leaving school in 1953 I was a junior clerk at the company office in Dial Lane, Ipswich; the company was then trading as corn and agricultural merchants.

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“To a 15-year-old it was a bit like stepping back into Charles Dickens times with old upright desks and tall stools on which to work. All work at that time was still done with pen and ink. All ledger and account work was hand-written so it had to be neat and tidy.

“All the ledgers accounts and cash boxes etc were stored in a cellar below the offices and had to be brought upstairs in a crude wooden lift operated by rope pulley.

“The staff I remember at that time were Mr Bremner, the managing director, W Tostling, company secretary, S Banyard, secretary, (no relation), F Cobb, head clerk, who later became the managing director and B Boon, the senior clerk.

“In addition there were five sales representatives, D Bremner, the son of the managing director, V Cornish, G Cook, J Ware and A Coupe, mainly covering the whole of Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

“I continued with this job until I was called up to do my two years National Service in the forces in 1956. On my 'demob' in 1958 I returned to my old job and I was soon offered the post of warehouse foreman at New Cut West.

“The warehouse staff I remember at this time were Ernie Salter, who doubled as steam-crane driver, and Bill Simpson who in the days of sail had been deck hand on the barge Memory which was owned by the company and captained by R Horlock and plied its trade mainly between London and Ipswich.

“Bill was a marvelous old man, when I first knew him and he taught me a lot. He used to cycle from Pin Mill to Ipswich in all weathers until his early 80s.

“Apart from the warehouse staff there were also four lorry drivers, J Pleasance, F Butler, F Mayhew and A Mouser. One of the jobs of Ernie Salter on the steam crane was to lift logs of wood, which were stored in the river just beyond Stoke Bathing Place, into trailers used for transportation to WM Brown, timber merchants.

“In my early days our main business was selling animal foodstuffs purchased from the London Mills of J Rank and the Ipswich Mills of Cranfield's, R and W Paul and BOCM Ltd. We also stored and sold fertilizers from Fison's and ICI.

“The company had a building constructed behind the warehouses in New Cut West which housed a garage for four lorries and a petrol tank and pump.

“Above this was an office block, which in time became the main office block and Dial Lane was closed as was the old lorry garage in Kemp Street.

“The company expanded into grain drying, seed cleaning. Powdering plant was purchased and we started selling our own named seed grains.

“We also bought machinery to produce and sell our own named pig poultry and cattle foods also crushed oats. We still stored and sold fertilisers of Fison's and ICI.”

Tony Chittock, of Goodwood Close, Ipswich, also started in the 1950s. Tony said: “I started my working career there in 1957 as an office boy.

“My starting pay was �2 a week, and after spending the shillings on my weekly season ticket on the bus from East Bergholt to Ipswich, I was left with one pound ten shillings to spend, which I thought was a fortune!

“W Christopherson Ltd was a subsidiary of Ranks Hovis McDougall, and specialised in feed, seed and fertiliser, supplying farmers all over East Anglia.

“Before the Second World War the company was a coal merchant, and the coal was delivered by rail direct to the warehouse at Griffin Wharf.

“The picture in Kindred Spirits recently was taken outside the warehouse at Griffin Wharf, on New Cut West. When I started work, the office was in Dial Lane, in the centre of Ipswich.

“This was closed when the firm built offices next to the Warehouse at Griffin Wharf. During the very cold winter of 1962/63, when everything was frozen up, and we had the use of the neighbouring offices of Ransome & Rapier for filling the kettle and going to the loo!”

Christopherson's was closed in 1968, when the business was merged with Brooks of Mistley, another Company in the Ranks Hovis McDougall Group.

- Is there a former local company you would like to recall? Write to Kindred sprits at the Evening Star or e-mail