Monday, 29 June 2015


I have arranged this blog so that it reads like a book for, after all, that is what it is.  It is a project which has enthused me for over thirty years and I intended to publish it as a hard copy. In 1981 I had a couple of “rants” published (Western Daily Press and The Guardian – you will find them later in my blog), in which I declared that I would write “The Rise & Fall of a Small Business, dedicated to Margaret Thatcher who assisted in our demise”.   It is now 2013. I have written three chapters in thirty years – it has been more fun just talking about it … 
 The blog has come about because my granddaughter Emma, opened a blog for my daughter Julie, and now Julie has done the same for me.  I am now in my eighties and not very computer literate, but with some help we are going to get it 'out there' at last.  The advantage of sharing my story this way, is that I can work on it over time, add any number of illustrations from my vast collection of ephemera, and be able answer your questions and comments.  As I am still working on it, you will find 'empty' chapters at the end, waiting to be filled, I may not use them all!

Welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading about our business.

All the words and illustrations are copyright protected and belong to Jan Morland. Please do not use them without my permission.

Besides photographs and illustrations, which were created by members of the family, I am also including some professional photographs and newspaper articles.   I understand from the copyright law that I may do this, provided I acknowledge the sources, which I have done wherever possible.

Grateful thanks to the photographers and to local newspapers such as the Central Somerset Gazette and Western Gazette etc, and later to Gifts Magazine and to The Guardian and no doubt other publications for allowing me to use this material.  I apologise if my references are incorrect – please write to me at 18 Cavendish Lodge, Magdalene Street, Glastonbury BA6 9FD if necessary.

Saturday 20 April 2013  2 am   The first 3 chapters were written around fifteen years ago and submitted to a Writers News magazine critique - which was quite favourable.   I used them as a basis for a talk I gave to our U3A Local History Group on The Rise & Fall and then re-wrote them early in 2012.   But I didn't proceed with the project because we still lived in our bungalow in Glastonbury and I had over 600 pots and tubs to look after ...  Now we are reasonably settled into our retirement flat, oldest daughter Julie has insisted on setting up this blog, so I will have to get on with the story.

Please forgive me if some of the events are repeated.   I never remember what I have written, unlike local journalist Rachel Humphries.   In 2001 she wrote a lovely piece about us  (in the Bristol Post?   I will have to find the article when I go down to the storage container this week) and last year, when Seve Balesteros died, she remembered that we had mentioned we had a letter from him after he won the Open at St Andrews, when John had sent him one of his hand coloured prints of St Andrews golf course.  She remembered something she had written over 10 years previously!   I can't remember what I wrote yesterday.

I have finished my cup of coffee and must go back to bed.   In the morning, I will start looking through the box of papers for 1972, which will form the basis of Chapter 4.

Please note- A fault in our blog access has meant that for several months, we have been unable to edit these posts. And because we are making it read like a book, all the posts had to be created at the beginning. This meant we could not add any more chapters either. I have found a rather unsatisfactory solution, which is to copy and paste the old posts onto new ones which can be edited. I do apologise for the resulting sickly-coloured backgrounds! They should improve after chapter 9 as we shall be creating them from scratch.

Chapter 1 1982


The sun is setting across Loch Sunart as we near the end of a long day’s journey from Glastonbury.   It is summer 1982 and four years have elapsed since our last holiday, during which time we have contrived to lose the greater part of the small business lovingly developed with such high hopes during the Seventies, together with the home we created during 30 years of marriage, sold to pay off the debts.

The tide is out and some birds are still feeding amongst the rocks.   A heron rises awkwardly and flies out across the water;    I am crying, so John is driving.   Though these are not the bitter tears which I shed at the beginning of the crisis in 1979, when the annual holiday had to be cancelled as we struggled to cope with the downturn in our business.   These are tears of pure happiness at being back in our beloved Scotland again

“Do you remember coming to Strontian for the first time ten years ago with the children, staying in Kilcamb Lodge and driving for hours on that narrow road to the end of the penninsular to Sanna Beach, getting back just in time for supper?” I said, with a lump in my throat as John negotiated the turning onto the A884 road to Lochaline on the Morvern peninsular, where the road sign warns of sheep and passing places.   (The correct pronunciation is “Loch-a-lin”.)   “And then over the next couple of years, when we spent our fortnight self catering in Mrs Jack Cameron’s cottage, Rockfield, in the morning we would ask her opinion as to whether the sun would shine if we went to Sanna today.   She would crinkle her eyes and look up at the sky and, after some pondering, she would say yes.   It would take us three hours to drive 30 miles from Strontian to Sanna, allowing extra time when we had to stop and help dig the caravans out of the ditch as people weren’t used to negotiating the passing places.   And the sun always did shine.”  

When we were going through that horrible time, I used to say to myself firmly:  the sun always shines on Sanna Beach.”  It was the only way to retain a glimmer of hope for the future.   For by November 1979 we had lost £40,000 and the nightmare had begun.  

Sanna is the most westerly point of the UK mainland – an enormous deserted white shell beach with a cluster of little crofts and the Ardnamurchan lighthouse close by.   Icy cold, clear blue sea and a solitary telephone kiosk.   It must have been a gorgeous day at Sanna today.   “We found the seaside pansy on those dunes,” I said.   (You will hear more about that later).   “And do you remember reading “Night Falls on Ardnamurchan” – that book of reminiscences by the son of a crofter living on Sanna beach?”  

We must have been staying at the time in one of the cottages at Laudale (pronounced “Lau-dle”) and Julie and her husband Simon with us. 
   Laudale is a Georgian shooting lodge on the shore of Loch Sunart, listed Category B by Historic Buildings, with an estate over 12,000 acres and an income from forestry and fish farming.   
Without realising the similarity, they had spent all one afternoon sitting in their car somewhere near Camasnacroise, people watching through their binoculars.  The author of the book (which alas I cannot find now) described how one had to check – through the binoculars – whether it was convenient to visit their neighbours after supper.   Was another visitor already on the way – or were the neighbours just leaving to visit someone else?    Julie described how, first of all, the postman visited the pair of cottages across the bay, obviously stopping for refreshment or gossip with each occupant.   Then the old lady came out and shook her doormat and the old man next door fed his chickens;  greetings were exchanged over the garden fence.   And so on.
“I suppose we started renting the cottages at Laudale a few years later,” said John.  “And in those days, before the Ballachuilish Bridge was built in 1976, we used to queue for two hours for the ferry across Loch Leven.”   “And the Corran Ferry used to have a notice which said:  This is NOT the Ballachuilish Ferry.” I added. 

We have passed the fish farm where the salmon were leaping in their nets and have turned off the main road past Liddesdale, winding along the couple of miles of single track which follows the shoreline to the estate.   I can smell wood smoke;  sheep and rabbits bundle out of our way and the delicate white bark of the birch trees shines in the gloaming.  Huge spires of foxgloves line the road.   The sunset is up to expectation – is that a mackerel sky?   We negotiate the corner, where the remains of the old jetty rise stark above the loch, and there is the Big House which sleeps 14 and which, a few years later, we were to rent for a memorable holiday with all the family.   This time, we will be staying in one of the two wooden chalets, now called Osprey and Eagle, which were originally built for the estate workers   There are wildflowers in a jam jar on the table and a welcoming note from Geoff and Liz.   It is quiet except for the stream and the sheep.   Nothing has changed.   We shall sleep well tonight.

John and I met at Sidcot School during the war - a Quaker boarding school on the edge of the Mendips.  I am not a Quaker.   I was sent to live with an aunt on Exmoor in 1940 after an acrimonious divorce the previous year and packed off to boarding school.   To begin with I had lived with my mother and younger sister near my grandparents in Chester, but she couldn’t cope with a ‘seriously disturbed child’, and threw me back at my father.  He made me a Ward of Court and  I was forbidden to have anything to do with my mother (and younger sister) until I was eighteen.   My father and stepmother (Jane) meanwhile sailed from Scapa Flow in the autumn of 1940 with all the books from the British Library under the aegis of the British Council,  taking them to South America where they were left with embassies or ministries for safe keeping.   They had to flee from Bilbao in a cargo ship “chased by  the Japanese”, and after various adventures they  ended up in Calcutta.   We kept in touch with aerogrammes;  one had to write the letter on a special sheet of paper purchased from the Post Office.   This was photographed and reduced to a negative before being sent across the world; it was  then printed again in a size resembling A5 and delivered by the postman.

John was born in 1930 in his grandmother’s bed in Ynyswytryn at the bottom of Wick Hollow in Glastonbury – the family home made into flats in the 1960’s by Uncle Humphrey Morland. 
  John’s father, Bry, was the youngest brother and there was no room for him at the factory.    John’s Great Grandfather married Mary Clark in 1865 (the Quaker family who were already producing shoes in Street) and in 1899 the partnership of these families became  “Clark Son & Morland Ltd”, occupying the site at Northover now named The Red Brick Building.   In its time, it was the biggest sheepskin tannery in Europe.  By the outbreak of war in 1939 Bry and his wife Deena lived in Hampstead.  John remembers going up to the Elephant & Castle in the holidays and looking out at London burning, with the silhouette of St Paul’s standing firm against the crimson flames.  

John left school in 1947 and I left the following year.   My aunt and I were not getting on very well (teenage troubles no doubt!) and as my father and Jane had returned from India following Partition,  I went to live with them in Chelsea.   
   John and I got together again and after a couple of years of courting, we were married in December 1951. 
John was 21 but I was three months younger and had to ask my father’s permission.   Because of the family break-up, I couldn’t decide whether to have a Quaker wedding, or to be married by Grandad the Bish – my paternal grandfather - who had retired to the Lake District.    So we compromised and were married in Chelsea Registry Office with only my father and Jane, Deena and Bry (John’s parents) and a couple of friends in attendance.   The Bishop’s sister, Great Aunt Beatrice, wrote to me afterwards:  “What a pity you didn’t have a proper wedding with all the presents and good wishes that go with it.”   I wish I had kept that letter;  it caused much amusement when we celebrated our Diamond Wedding recently!

John had spent two years studying tanning at the National Leathersellers College in Bermondsey, followed by two years (deferred) National Service.  This finished in August 1952, after which we came down to Glastonbury.  He was the fourth generation of the family to join Clark Son & Morland Ltd, working to begin with in the Development Department;  he designed and produced the first sheepskin coats in 1958 and was made a Director.    By this time we had two children – Rob was born in 1954 and Julie in 1955.  
But clashes of personality with Uncle Humphrey Morland, then Managing Director, took its toll.   By the Sixties,  soon after our youngest daughter Ruth was born, poor John was suffering from migraines which continued to haunt him for the next 30 odd years until he had an angioplasty.   So it must have been a heart problem all that time.   He would get one or two migraines each week, which entailed having to sit quietly for an hour or so while his pills took effect

In 1954 we bought an acre of orchard at the top of Bushy Coombe from Uncle Humphrey;  as he was chairman of the Planning Committee of the Borough Council, we (together with other members of the family) built four houses in the Coombe, three of which were designed by Jack Hepworth, who worked at Morlands and who was married to John’s first cousin.  
In 1962/3 we doubled the size of our house, renaming it “Schehallion” after our first holiday in Scotland in the early Sixties.   This is the name of a mountain in Perthshire – with spelling somewhat modified – and which the whole family, including Ruth aged about 5, managed to climb in gum boots.   

 Now I have filled you in with our back history, we must return to Laudale.   It is 6 o’clock as we begin unpacking the car.   We have taken 12 hours to drive nearly 500 miles from Glastonbury and we are tired.   “Let’s have baked beans on toast”, I say as we struggle to carry the gas fridge (borrowed from our neighbours) into the kitchen.   There is no electricity, unless it rains, when their own hydro electric comes into operation. 
  Only once, in all the years we spent there, did we enjoy electricity and then it was only for the first day or two of the holiday, as it had rained the previous week.  Another time, we returned home after a perfect fortnight in Scotland, when some French visitors to Strontian had complained of the heat, to find that the floods were out on the moor at Cowbridge.

Tilley lamp and candles are the order of the day;  large stocks of food ordered in advance from our nearest shop, Munroe’s store at Strontian (about 8 miles away, round the top of Loch Sunart), await in large boxes.   We even have to bring our own bed linen.   The trouble is that sometimes the milk was not fresh.   This was delivered to Strontian from Inverness, a hundred miles away, mostly by single track road in the seventies;  it was presented in plastic tetra bags which were just piled up in the shop with no thought for rotating the stock, so it would often be sour when opened.   And snipping the corner was quite an art – milk would spurt out before we could pour it into a jug.  

The week’s ration of a half hundredweight sack of anthracite sits beside the Rayburn.   Before Geoff and Liz Abbott managed the estate, an old man living in a cottage a couple of miles down the road seemed to be in charge of the holiday lets;  we used to call him “the good fairy” when he brought our second bag of coal as we were always running out.   On one occasion, we had even travelled up with an extra sack on the roof rack, together with a box of worms for the fishing.   Otherwise one had to drive about 30 miles to Fort William (across the Corran Ferry) to get more – and make a second journey in order to return the empty the coal merchant.

After supper we go down to the water’s edge.   It is 9 o’clock and the sun is setting, but it will never get really dark at this time of the year.   The sandpiper is still calling from the other side of the loch and the cool gentle breeze smells so fresh – I feel surrounded by the scent of mountain streams, heather, shell fish and seaweed, and wood smoke from the cottage occupied by Liz and Geoff.   But the midges are everywhere.   After fishing for mackrell from our inflatable dinghy on the loch one evening a few years ago, we had come ashore and lit two fires; 
  one on which to cook the fish and the other of dried seaweed.We stood in the smoke of the latter for awhile to escape their attention.   Then, before these became commercially available, John had got his mother to buy some fine dark material from Harrods from which he made his own protective veil – the only alternative in those days was a dab of oil of citronella.   “We’d better go back now”, I said.  

I wonder if we will find mushrooms this year and whether the raspberries are ripe yet.   We will pick raspberries for supper tomorrow.   “Tomorrow is Sunday” said John.   “Let’s rest after all that driving, then we can go to Sanna on Monday if it is fine.”

I look at the sky.   Perhaps the weather will hold for a day or two. “All right”, I say and give him a hug.   “And I hope the sheep don’t keep us awake this time”.   On one occasion they had wandered round the cottage all night, calling for their lambs.   Ruth can do a good rendering of a Scottish sheep.

Chapter 2 1970

One Saturday morning in the summer of 1970 I found John at his desk in the upstairs sitting room in “Schehallion”.  “What on earth are you doing?” I asked.   “I thought I might try something based on those pencil drawings I did some years ago,” was the reply.
Western Daily Press 5 January 1972
John is a natural artist.  At Sidcot School, he used to design posters for films and plays. 

We have six framed pencil drawings recording holidays in Switzerland (with his parents before he left school), and in Wales, Scotland and Ireland with our young family in the late 50’s and early 60’s.   During those years he had also drawn “The Siege of Mockbattle Castle”, and when he spent a few days in a London hospital while they were trying to find a cause for his migraine, he had amused himself by creating “The Hospital Tree”;  which  the matron had coveted, but John refused to give it to her.   It was those pencil drawings which were the inspiration for a set of 4 posters (A1 size), drawing this time with a Rotring pen – no Tippex in those days.   One of the posters took him 40 hours to complete.   And of course this was achieved in his spare time, as he continued to work at Morlands for a further eighteen months.

We had come to Glastonbury in 1952, the year after we were married, and he had worked his way up from the development department at the factory.   His early training, besides National Service, was at the Leathersellers College in London, so he was a tanner by trade.  Nearly twenty years later, as a Director of Production, he was responsible for sheepskin coats (which he had introduced in 1958 from his own designs), in addition to the long established departments producing slippers, boots, rugs and even pram canopies, which had been introduced to fill the summer market.   He was Chairman of the British Leather Manufacturers Research Association, travelling to meetings at Egham, as well as attending trade fairs such as the Semaine du Cuir in Paris.   For several years he ran coat competitions for students attending fashion courses at the Art Colleges of Gloucester, Bournemouth & Poole and  Plymouth.   

Fashion drawing by john
Fashion drawing by John

I had had secretarial training and a couple of sedate office jobs (including two years at Gould & Swayne, solicitors in Glastonbury), before we started our family.   Neither of us had been on the sharp end of business administration.   Small businesses and self employment was not part of the language in those days, although (as I discovered later), the Bolton Report was published in 1971.  I was occupied with looking after our home and three children, going to coffee mornings supporting the National Trust and the Save the Children Fund and attending West Pennard WI.  I was on the committee of Strode Theatre in Street in my role as PRO, working with the theatre manager, John Lowe, spreading the word by getting friends to help deliver posters in the Mendip area, as Shirley Powell well remembers.  
Photo courtesy of Mid Somerset Newspapers
Photo courtesy of Mid Somerset Newspapers

We owned three ponies – Candy, Misty and Bracken – and a field down on the Godney road, helped in this venture by two teenage girls, Anne Hawkins and Suzanne Vine (we also accommodated her pony, Pip).   The “Cradlebridge Gymkhana”, run by Henry and Joyce Tinney, was a most popular event;  in its first year about 4 horses participated, and we all took turns in entering the competitions.  On one occasion, riding Candy, I nearly won the “Cradlebridge Canter” – which was actually a mad gallop …

Rob and Julie were at Quaker boarding schools by then, Rob at Leighton Park and Julie at Sidcot, where Ruth would join her in 1971.   My diary is full of arrangements to pick up children at the end of term;  travelling to London to visit Deena and Bry; driving down to Bilbrook (near Minehead) to visit my mother and stepfather, Bernard Kinch – who later helped a lot with advice and introductions into the gift trade.

Fortunately I had begun a collection of ephemera in the late 60’s, before this story begins, which I can use to jog my (rather poor) memory of events.   I never did have a good memory and it is even worse now that I am writing this in my eighties ….   It began with a few newspaper cuttings and letters stored in a Clarks shoebox, but later the accumulation has piled up and my “summerhouse” contains large boxes of stuff for each year from 1970-2000, when I had to STOP as I was running out of space.   That part of my collection consists of general news items from local and national newspapers, a Biba catalogue, the Radio Times before it went colour, womens’ magazines and Berni Inn menus snuggled out under my coat, plus letters from friends and family.  And in our spare bedroom/office is another collection, specifically relating to “Glastonbury Prints” and to Morlands.   

Without all this stuff, I would never remember enough detail to be able to paint a picture of what it was like to be self employed in the 1970’s.   Please forgive me if I have got something wrong.

Pat and Alban  Leyshon had opened their shop “Pat Li Shun” at the top of Glastonbury High Street in the late 60’s and were very helpful mentors, advising us about the gift trade and allowing us to use their address, because we weren’t supposed to run a business from our house.   Pat was an artist, designing chopping boards for Taunton Vale Industries and producing her own cards, which Alban printed on ancient Heidelberg machines in his workshop next door.  Famously, she painted their frontage with brightly coloured flowers, horrifying the Borough Council – but Alban had done his homework  and he could not be forced to remove this street art as the decoration did not contain any wording;  it continued to delight visitors to Glastonbury for perhaps another ten years.   In an article in The Guardian entitled “The Hippie Vale of Avalon”, the town was described as “strong magic”.  

Pat is crouched down by the door to finish the painting.
“One day,” Pat said, “I was visited by Alderman Goodson, who complained that this would encourage the hippies to come to Glastonbury.   Alban and I managed to persuade him that this would not be the case, but just then the doorbell pinged and in walked a hippy.   The Alderman turned on his heel and left the shop without another word.”   

“Glastonbury Prints” was itself born from an earlier downturn in trade.   During the slump of 1969/70, Morlands was not doing well.  No doubt there had been several mild winters which inhibited the sale of coats and boots, and there were other economic factors in which I took no interest.   Home and family were all I cared about.  There were rumours in Glastonbury that the firm was about to be absorbed into the Clark empire (these are our Quaker cousins, the well known shoe firm in neighbouring Street).   The town was very jaded and shop keepers anxiously asked me – as a Director’s wife – for the latest news.

Though the crisis cannot have been as bad as feared, John was sufficiently shocked out of complacency and security to wonder what he should do if his job disappeared, so that is why he started drawing the posters.   My step father, Bernard Kinch, was a sales agent in the gift trade and promised to try and sell these for us.   He recommended his accountant in Woking; we found a printer (Bigwood & Staple, Bridgwater), registered the name and arranged our letter-box address.   It was upon a spirit of fun, adventure and devil-may-care that we based our new business.   All those years of silver spoons, conventional behaviour and of being regarded as pillars of society, based not on our personal achievement but on the family we represented, would be swept away.   Alas, the euphoria of the affluent sixties and flower power was very different from the post oil crisis seventies. 

 How could we foresee, as we hesitatingly started on the path of insecurity and self employment, that Morlands’ own demise would occur soon after the collapse of our small manufacturing enterprise in less than a decade.Ten year old and hundred year old firms, large and small, succumbed to the same sad fate.  It was the anger engendered by the destruction of established businesses such as Morlands, producing beautiful and useful things, providing employment for generations of families, creating wealth in small towns, which drove me to tell our little sob story.   The feelings of disappointment, trauma and loss of everything we had achieved  must have been an experience shared by many thousands of people during those dreadful years.   And of course since the credit crunch of 2008, history is repeating itself as I write.

These are photos of Morlands taken by Julie in 2012 - the family firm closed in 1981 and those buildings had been derelict until it was taken over by the Red Brick Building Trust.   Bailys tannery (with the tall chimney) was already on the northern part of the site when John's great grandfather John Morland, who had married Mary Clark in the mid 1800's, built his tannery at the southern end around 1890.

So here we are at the beginning of May 1971, collecting the first price lists from Clarks printing works in Magdalene Street, inscribed with the newly registered Business Name of “Glastonbury Prints”, based at 88 High Street and showing the price of three cartoon posters at 50p each including purchase tax.   Bernard was supplied with a set of samples and on 7 May I sold a dozen posters to Pat Li Shun, value £6.   By the end of the month I had made 20 entries in the ledger.  Some of those first customers were still on our books eight years later.

I even ventured on the road, visiting Tridias, a very illustrious toy shop in Bath.   Struggling with an enormous portfolio, I introduced myself.   “My husband has drawn these posters which will appeal to children right up to teenagers,” I confidently asserted.   The owner of the shop was doubtful and his assistant even less enthusiastic.   “I would consider any of the teenagers in my family who professed such taste to be mentally deficient,” she said firmly.   However, I must have persuaded them to take one of each, because I have a piece of headed paper accompanying a cheque for £1.50 on which is scribbled the words “They sold, dammit – could we have some more.”   (copy)

Bernard had been in the gift trade for some years, having arrived there by means of fudge.   My mother made it and Bernard sold it – to the Army & Navy Stores, Fortnum & Mason and Eton College Tuckshop, as well as gift shops across the west country.   Mum made one hundred weight of fudge on her kitchen stove in the last three weeks before Christmas, a year or so before this story begins, and our children nicknamed her “Fudge Grannie”.   This was long before Health & Safety Regulations and fudge shops. 
Bernard & 'Fudge Granny'
By now Bernard had several agencies, including The Russian Shop and some high class cookware called Copco, as well as representing Taunton Vale Industries which produced chopping boards and other items (some decorated with designs by Pat Leyshon).   I have one of their very early chopping boards.   The gift trade consisted of many small businesses (usually husband-and-wife partnerships in fact), involved with manufacturing or with managing retail outlets.   The manufacturers employed selling agents on a commission basis, where the UK was divided up into a number of areas, each covered by a different agent who carried perhaps six or eight companies’ products.   Besides visiting the shops on a more or less regular basis – less often as the price of petrol became prohibitive – the agents usually helped to man their principal’s stands at various trade shows during the year, when retailers put in their main orders and hunted for new lines to stock.   Companies with a turnover of £1M or more however – Dartington Glass and Royal Worcester, for example – could afford full time representation, while the larger retailers and department stores employed professional buyers.

A diary entry for Wednesday May 5 1970 records what was probably our first visit to the accountant recommended by Bernard,  Mr Sayers of Herbert Parnell & Co, Woking, who gave us advice about keeping records of sales.  The first proper ledger is dated from May 1971, in the front of which is a foolscap sheet of detailed instructions from him “on the operation of an analysed cash book”.   Bernard also introduced us to agents in the gift trade – Phil and Dave, who covered the West Country, and the redoubtable Mona Russell from Harrogate.   John was packing up the odd order in our garage by this time, while I must have been writing out the invoices by hand.  

John went on to design a series of black and white silhouettes.   We had been invited to see a collection of Victorian silhouettes by Mrs Cotton, a venerable member of West Pennard WI.   They were farmers and John remembers Mr. Cotton’s workworn fingers tenderly holding these delicate pictures.   He was also impressed by the oval mounts and later commissioned a local engineering firm to produce a metal “forma” which he used to cut the apertures.   This continued for several years until we invested in suitable mount cutting machinery.

Later that summer, through Pat’s generosity, we were introduced to the Jessups of Taunton Vale Industries and John was commissioned to design a set of roses for their tablemats, to be produced in black and white.   This led him to consider designing pictures for Glastonbury Prints in addition to the posters.   He drew five roses, four birds and one butterfly, references 1-10 in a range which finally contained nearly 600 images – the four birds continued to be the best selling pictures right up to the end.

“My customers would preferred the pictures to be coloured,” reported Bernard.   It so happened that I had just taken on a cleaning lady called Rose.   “Would you like to do some painting for me?” asked John.   So she spent the morning in the upstairs sitting room, learning how to colour the roses under John’s careful tuition, while I had to wash the kitchen floor and vaccum the bedrooms.   And this is how it all started.

To begin with, all John’s designs were drawn with the pen and printed in black and white;  colour printing in those days was very expensive for short runs.   And we knew nothing about picture framing – a craft at that time restricted to a few specialists in big towns offering a bespoke framing service, while a handful of larger framers supplied the galleries on a contract basis.   Somehow we were put in touch with a gentleman called Bill Williams, who was an agent for a moulding manufacturer and for Whitehouse, Willetts & Bennion Ltd., Worcester, makers of photographic frames.

The trip to Worcester to collect the ready made frames became a regular run as business built up.   This was my job, in my Ford Escort Estate, taking the best part of a day, as the southern leg of the M6 was still being built and the Avon Bridge was not opened until 1975.   Through Wells, over the Mendips on the Old Bristol Road past Chew Valley Lake, down the steep hill from Dundry with magnificent views over the city, across the river and under Clifton Suspension Bridge along the A4 to join the motorway somewhere near Shirehampton – no falling rocks along this route in those days!   Soon I could see the stilts carrying the road across the River Severn, and thence north through beautiful dying elm country, a foretaste of the devastation which Somerset was to suffer a year or two later.

W.W.&B. inhabited an old three or four storey Victorian Block to the north of the town;  a dusty picture framing shop fronted the main road and access to the loading bay was down a narrow back alley.   There were two Whitehouse directors, one of whom spent most of his time going round the world on Rotary business, while the other worked in the office with the manager, Douglas Lee.   Douglas took an affectionate fatherly interest in everything we were doing.  While the car was being loaded, banter was being exchanged, laced with good advice given in a dialect reminiscent of my childhood in Derbyshire.

Chapter 3 1972

Thursday 1 August 2013 – with apologies for taking so long before writing the next chapter – firstly in the spring we weren’t very well and then the hot weather has been a bit much!

Going back to my ephemera collection for 1970 I found a copy of the Gazette dated Friday October 16 bearing the front page headline: “Petition Calls for Rejection of Road Plans”, which would lead to the Inner Relief Road Protest Movement.   This favoured a by-pass following the former railway line, which was led by the redoubtable Mr E. Jackson-Stevens, supported by Councillors Ian Tucker and Hugh Barker.

The Inner Relief Road plans were still in the Council plans the following year, because in the newspaper dated 31 December 1971 the headline reads: “Traffic Study Favours the Inner Relief Road – conclusion of the County Surveyor”.   Aren’t we lucky that the Protest Movement won the day?

In the same edition on the back page. the Jack Blandiver Column features “Fantasy posters start new business”.   And Mr West’s Diary, Western Daily Press for Wednesday January 5 1972 has an article with photos of us both: “The boss presents his amazing imp poster circus”.
Thanks to Western Gazette and Mid Somerset Newspapers for these cuttings

In the box for 1971 there is a set of new decimal coins dated Monday 15 February and a Guide which states that it was delivered to every household, containing a message from Lord Fisk, Chairman of Decimal Currency Board: “with a little practice, you will find that decimal currency is not difficult …”, explaining how the changeover will work.   Thank goodness decimilisation occurred before our business got going!   And there is a programme for the musical “Hair” which was being performed in Bristol Hippodrome – I took our youngest daughter, Ruth (aged 11) from Sidcot, telling her that there would be naughty words which she wouldn’t understand.  Later I learned that most of the scholars knew these off by heart.   Lastly, there is the prospectus for the Open University for 1971/72 and I sign on for a Foundation Year in Humanities, starting in 1972.

Our eldest son Rob is a steam buff.  On Thursday 6 January 1972 I take him up to the Kilmersdon Colliery near Radstock.   He is 17 years old and is already spending time on the Talyllyn Railway in North Wales, where he learns his engine driving skills.   My first cousin once removed was Tom Rolt, founder of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in 1950, but unfortunately we didn’t realise this connection until Tom had died. Now, Rob is one of the Trustees of the At Steam Locomotive Trust and has actually driven Tornado on the Grand Central Railway in 1999.   To return to Kilmersdon, here we spend a happy afternoon on the footplate with Mr Herbie Loader, taking the coal trucks from the head of the mine to the incline, where they were let down by the shunter to join the main railway line to Bath.   No health and safety regulations in those days.   I return home with a face black with soot.   That shunting engine, named “Kilmersdon”, is now at the S & D Museum at Williton.

Returning to Glastonbury Prints in 1972:  the West Country Gift Fair is held from a Sunday to Thursday in Torquay in January.  My step father, Bernard, said:  “Would you like to share my bedroom in the Palace Hotel?   So I was away for a couple of nights the following week, taking my turn on a stand for our first trade show.  The Palace Hotel bedrooms were taken over by small exhibitors and I laid out our pictures on the bed.   There were a couple of other small exhibitors sharing the room, but I can’t remember who they were now.   Our dentist and John’s fishing friend Frank Campbell, together with his wife Jean, had a holiday cottage nearby and they very kindly let me sleep there.   As you will see later, Frank then allows us to rent his attic room behind the dental surgery in Magdalene Street, Glastonbury, as our workshop for awhile.

Early in February I visit the International Gift Fair at Blackpool for a night, meeting several sales agents who had been introduced to us by Bernard – I can’t remember much about this time though.   Bernard and his colleagues could not have afforded their own stands at this show (renting a space at the West Country Gift Fair was less expensive), but they probably helped out on their principal’s stands during the exhibition, which lasted for 5 days from Sunday to Thursday.  

We paid our agents 10% commission on sales and each agent handled goods from several small producers and importers – Bernard represented The Russian Shop, Copco (up market kitchen ware) and Taunton Vale Industries among others.   The larger firms like Portmeirion and Royal Worcester (and Morlands in the clothing and footwear trades) employed full time representatives who visited customers.

The diary now shows when my projects (each month) for the Open University need to be completed;   I am listening to radio programmes, watching the occasional television programme and doing all the necessary reading.   After each section of the course we had to write an essay.   All that as well as managing Glastonbury Prints; fetching the frames from Worcester and collecting packing materials from Ashton Containers in Bristol;  processing the orders;  visiting our accountant in Surrey;  dealing with sales agents;  and packing children off to boarding school or collecting them at the end of term or putting them on a train to London to visit John’s parents, Deena and Bry, in Hampstead  In March, the wreck of the SS Great Britain comes to Bristol – we probably go and look at it during the Easter Holidays.

 Remember, John was still working full time as a Director at Morlands.   In our first year he was drawing the cartoon posters (one took him 40 hours to complete) in the evenings and at weekends.   By the second year of the business,  he had moved on to drawings of birds and flowers.   When a collection was complete, he would take the originals up to Radstock Reproductions, who produced the plates which were used in the printing process by Bigwood & Staple, our printers in Bridgwater.   Print unions were very powerful in those days, but John was privileged.  Gordon – against union rules – allowed him to watch the printing process and make suggestions about how much ink was being used.

All the printing was in black and white of course, in short runs.   However, after Bernard reported back that customers would prefer the birds and flowers to be coloured, this was done under John’s careful instructions;  I have already told you how my cleaning lady, Rose, became our first hand painter, working at her home – our first outworker.

On 12 April 1972 my diary entry reads “saw flycatcher at lunchtime” – this would have been from our kitchen window at Schehallion.   For several years, a flycatcher built its nest in the vigorous and vicious yellow rose (Mermaid?) growing at that time on the front of the house.   On the first occasion, when the gales blew and the branches of the rose moved, the eggs dropped out of the bottom of the nest.   Next spring when I groomed the ponies I brought handfuls of horsehair home, hanging it in a bag on the bird table.   This time, the flycatcher nest survived and the great tits went off with beaks full of hair, looking just like Jimmy Edwards.   When the bird table was visited by the lesser spotted woodpecker, the flycatchers would valiantly mob him.  

We are still cultivating a large garden, with vegetables and lots of fruit bushes as well as harvesting Bramley apples from our orchard.  There were lawns to be mown and trees to be pruned.   We did have some help from Salvadore Buccione, one of the Italian prisoners of war who stayed behind here after the war ended in 1945.    In 1956, the year after we moved into our new house, I started keeping records of bottling and jam making (unfortunately I did not record vegetables).   That year the list is as follows:

gooseberries         40 lbs
blackcurrants        25  “
raspberries              2  “
cherry plums        31  “
Victoria plums     10  “          total 108 lbs of bottled fruit plus 21 lbs of jam

However, fifteen years later my records are fragmentary, probably because of other interests and the acquisition of a freezer.

Returning to Glastonbury Prints:  the accountant, Mr Sayers (who had been recommended by Bernard), set up the first balance sheet with our year ending on 22 April and introduced us to the Kalamazoo accounting system – I am visited by their representative, Mr Maskell on April 10.   We used a version of this system until the late 80’s I think;  it consisted of hand written ledger cards bearing the names of customers or suppliers, using carbon paper to record the entries onto the appropriate cash or sales sheets.   No small computers or calculators in those days of course, nor mobile phones or internet or any of the other stuff with which I am not familiar (all I can do is use the computer as a word processor and get our older daughter, Julie, to put the results on the blog for me!   Please don’t send me emails as I shall never read them).

This book keeping system served us well for many years – later we employed Betty Abbott as our book keeper   She was so meticulous that she had the pleasure of correcting British Road Services when they issued an incorrect invoice and admitted that their accounts were in a muddle!   I think our end of year figures balanced within a few pennies.

In May, I write to Mr. Sayers with a list of our expenses for the previous year of trading, totalling around £464 including £268.73 purchase tax and £80 commission paid to the four agents.   (note the purchase tax).   I paid Clarks Printing Works (then off Magdalene Street, Glastonbury) £2.76, probably for our price list.   I didn’t realise until years later that they also called themselves “Glastonbury Prints” – but we had successfully registered our name with Companies House around 1971 I think.

John begins clearing the land.
John’s Great Uncle Oliver Morland had founded Kalamazoo before the War.  Uncle Humphrey Morland, managing director in the 60’s, was looking forward to becoming wealthy when Oliver Morland (who was childless) died.   We also had some shares in the company (probably given to us by John’s father) which we sold in 1953 in order to buy our acre of orchard at the top of Bushey Coombe from Uncle Humphrey, on which we built the first part of our house “Wick Beech”, with access from Bulwarks Lane.   He charged us £1,000, a lot of money in those days!

The builders.

Under construction.

  In 1962/3 we built an extension and created a drive leading into Wick Hollow, changing our house name to “Schehallion”. 

The extension being built.
I must digress and tell you a story about Great Uncle Oliver.   He and his wife Eileen lived in a lovely big house at Chideock and we went several times in the early 50’s to visit them, travelling down on the motor bike and sidecar before our children were born.   We had noticed that there were often pheasants on the B3151 about a mile beyond the Somerton turning, so the next time we were poised and ready – I leaned from the pillion and whacked the pheasant on the head with the pump and we hastily stowed the body in the boot and went on our way.   After lunch Uncle Oliver saw us off.   “I see that you have been lucky with your pheasant” he commented with amusement – there was the tail sticking out of the boot which of course we hadn’t noticed!   Our first bit of road kill, well out of season.

Humphrey never inherited the Kalamazoo fortune because Eileen Morland spent a lot of money after her husband died, building an old people’s home in Bridport and putting copper domes on the roof.  Sadly, Kalamazoo had not kept up with modern developments and went into liquidation (in the 1990’s?);  we lost around £15,000 worth of shares, which we must have inherited from John’s father.
John and I had both been taking photos of people and events since before we were married.  John’s first camera was a prewar Kodak bellows camera which he had bought from a retired professional photographer in Hampstead -  together with a Parker pen - with his first wages earned at Columbia Fur Dressers (a Morlands subsidiary where he worked for a couple of years after leaving school in 1946).   This of course used black and white film (was it 410?) and which continued to be used until after we were married and moved to Glastonbury.   I took this photo of John around 1953, when we were still living in a flat at the eastern end of The Thatched Cottage, Bove Town, Glastonbury, as tenants of Uncle Harry and Aunt Elizabeth Scott-Stokes:-

Thatched Cottage
(photo of John with motor bike parked at the end of the barn, then part of the Ynyswytryn estate and now the home of Rory Weightman, Bushey Coombe Farm.)

 Later, John was using a more up to date camera with colour film to photograph his subjects, which he would later draw with Rotring pen;  sometimes he would use pencil for buildings.   He always drew and painted from photographs.   I have been taking colour slides since 1958  –  our older daughter, Julie, has digitised the early family pictures and I have hundreds of record shots of our business from about 1971 until we retired from the shop in 1998.   (You will hear about opening the shop in due course.)   We didn’t go digital until 2005. 

So with the Glastonbury Prints business building up, John was no longer able to continue to fulfil orders;  he had been putting pictures together in his free time in the garage at home and packing them in parcels to take to the Post Office.  Out fishing with Frank Campbell one weekend, they must have discussed this.   “Why don’t you rent our back room?” was Frank’s helpful suggestion.   After moving into the attic room up a steep staircase at the rear of the dental surgery at the end of May, we then took on our first employee, John Chaffey.   I think to begin with he must have worked in the evenings on a part-time basis, but on 14 August I record that he was “officially employed” at £2.35 an hour.   The back of a hand coloured and framed print of a wren bears the following inscription: “Made in attic 1972  J.Chaffey”.    

John’s wife Elizabeth was the receptionist at the dental surgery and had introduced him to us.   She was also studying the Open University at the same time as I was, so we sometimes compared notes;  she went on to complete the six year course and gain her degree, while I gave up after the Foundation Year because of increasing pressures from the business.  

By the middle of the summer we had four groups of agents covering the country – my stepfather Bernard;  the redoubtable Mona Russell, who covered Yorkshire and Lancashire and probably further afield;  Philip Smith from Rochester;  and “the boys” from Marlborough who were gradually taking over the West Country from Bernard.   Phil Turner and David Haines came to stay with us on one or two occasions.

On Wednesday 12 July John attends the British Leather Manufacturers Association, of which he is the Chairman, in order to receive the Queens Award to Industry.   But we were now beginning to discuss whether he should leave Morlands in order to concentrate on the business.   He must have given in his three months’ notice to his fellow Directors by September, though the official news would not have been released until much later.

In August I take Julie and Ruth to stay with John’s parents in  Hampstead (Rob is away working on the Talyllyn Railway), while I drive up to Norwich to attend the Open University Summer School.   What an experience!   I had left school at 17 and my only other experience of education had been Mrs Hoster’s Training College in London, where I learned shorthand and typing and office procedure (whatever that meant).   And for a term before that, in the autumn of 1948, I had attended a short housewife’s course at a Polytechnic.   Still rationing of course, so ingredients were rather limited.  (I have given the original cookery book to one of our children.)  

“I can’t cope with all the paperwork for Glastonbury Prints as well as the Open University any more,” I complain to John.   So we take on Vera Osmond on the 19 September at £2.29 an hour, probably for a couple of mornings a week.   She is seated at the dining room table, using an old adding machine that Rob had brought home in the holidays from Reading Dump.  Remember, he is a boarder at Leighton Park School – apparently they often raided the local rubbish heap.   This machine had been thrown out at the time of decimilisation, so Vera only logged figures in the “pound” places, leaving shillings and pence alone.   After the figures were printed onto the paper roll, it was simple to add decimal places.  Then these were recorded in the accounts in our hand written Kalamazoo system.   Turnover wasn’t very great and this served us well for a few months.  It had to be hand cranked of course.   In those days computers were only for the large firms (like Clarks and Morlands).  

A later investment would be a small Roneo machine.   Producing lots of copies of documents involved cutting a stencil on the typewriter, wrapping it round a drum which had been carefully inked by hand and using it to duplicate pricelists or “Dear Customer” letters.   All other letters were of course written on the typewriter with one (or perhaps two or three) carbon papers.

By now there were several hand painters, working in their own homes under John’s detailed instructions.   Over time the painting round grew to about 25 colourists, with a supervisor who visited them every week, inspected the work and paid them on a piecework basis.   In our prime, we produced 1,000 hand coloured pictures a week.

I take the Open University exam on Tuesday afternoon, 31 October 1972.   Can’t remember where though.   I did manage to pass the Foundation Year.  

And on the Friday we are visited by Dudley Tremaine of Cooper & Tanner Ltd., estate agents.   “I hear that you are considering moving the business into larger premises” he said.   “There are rooms available at 5A High Street, which you could rent from Mr. Trussler and which I think would suit you perfectly.”  This building was formerly the Health Clinic – I remembered going there to collect orange juice when the children were small.  When the surgery moved out into the new building in  Feversham Lane, Mr. Trussler of Western Relining Services took over.   It consists of a large two storey rectangular building at the back of what used to be Frisbys Shoe Shop (now a bookshop), with vehicular access from St John’s car park and a passageway from the High Street;  it is now called “Number 10 St John’s Square.”

Two rooms upstairs were ideal, with plenty of good daylight.   I remember spending a couple of hours cleaning the filthy staircase and suffering from a sore throat afterwards!

A month later, on Friday evening, November 24, John returns home and declares “I am leaving the factory at Christmas.”   Our adventure has begun.