Thursday, 18 April 2013

Chapter 7 1974-75

Chapter 7

Before I move on to 1975, I have some more comments to make about 1974.

I see from notes dated a few years ago that we rented the Old Ciderhouse, Back Lane, Glastonbury from Leo Garvin for £1,000 a year, later increased to £2,000, and that we were introduced to this by Cyril Driver of IMCO, who had been the last tenant.   We were there making frames and cutting mounts for the next five years.   We didn’t use the cellars as they were inclined to flood.   On 3rd June we took on John Grinter at £2.24/hour, and Yvonne Jones and Norma West for £1.13/hour.

The huge obsolete guillotine which we had first installed out at Baltonsborough in Roly Bisgrove’s barn was moved here, used for cutting up mount board, though the apertures had to be cut afterwards by hand.   Our daughter Ruth, who now runs Glastonbury Galleries, has a marvellous computerised machine which can be programmed to cut sophisticated shapes.   But remember we were in the early days of picture framing, still using the oval forma for our mounts.

I have found in my keeping box for that year a couple of booklets written by our landlord.   One is entitled “Garvin’s Gazette Oct-Dec 1974 (52nd Year)” and the other is the Golden Jubilee of L.Garvin & Co. Ltd. 1920-1970, which is a fascinating story of how Leo Garvin came over to London from Denmark, and which contains a photo of an elderly gentleman outside his Victorian house, which I think we visited, somewhere up on the Mendips, and where perhaps he moved after the war.  

Their main business became the importing of honey from all over the world.   He describes his first few years of business “in a small, rather dark, one room office in Change Alley, off Cornhill … with one typist and the writer, Managing Director, Sales Manager, Advertising Manager, Cashier and office boy all rolled into one.”   Sounds familiar.   He also dealt in milk powder, which became an important part of the business during the war.   It was during the war that they became involved in producing cider and acquired the Cider House.   (I can remember going there to buy a bottle of cider in the early 50’s.)   He also tells a funny story of trying to dig peat on Dartmoor at Bridestowe, from which “we retired, wiser but considerably lighter of pocket.”

 Tony Osmond had became our full-time manager on 2 January at £3.62/hour – he would have worked at 5A High Street, where we expanded into 4 rooms including one tiny room as an office, shared by Tony, his wife Vera, and myself.  

The main room at 5A was where John Chaffey was in charge of putting together the orders for framed or mounted only prints, and somewhere along the corridor was a cupboard where Linda Garland would assemble the black and white prints ready for the hand painters to colour.   Natasha Smith became hand painting supervisor on 2 December at £1.68/hour – did she take over from John, or was there someone else before her?   John Chaffey (known as John Chaff, to distinguish from John Grint and John M) also supervised the packing and dispatching of parcels. 

We obtained specially designed packing boxes from Clifton Containers in Bristol into which framed and mounted only prints were placed for dispatch by Royal Mail Parcel Service – the lorry would call at 5A several times a week to collect the orders.   Glass of course is fragile and everything was wedged with newspaper, as bubble wrap and other materials had not yet been invented.   We consumed large quantities, so all our staff had to bring us their newspapers – how did we collect enough?   The parcel weight was limited to 10 kgs I think.  

There were breakages of course, in spite of the large “fragile” labels.  On one occasion, the customer provided us with evidence that the delivery lorry had actually run over the parcel – there were the tyre marks.

Another problem was naughty customers.   If a customer was known to be a late payer (the rule was within a month of invoice), they had a red sticker on their ledger card.   I don’t know what mark we used for the ones which never paid.  Certainly we would not let them have another order until they had done so.  And our agents were asked to chase these up.  No doubt there were occasions when we had to take someone to the Small Claims Court.

John and I went on photographic trips in the spring.   My notes describe how on May 7 we drove to Exeter, where John took photos of the cathedral and we visited The Blue Boy Gallery (one of our customers), driving on to Penzance before returning on May 10 via Dunster Castle.   We set off again on May 14 until Thursday 23 May, when we visited Chepstow Castle;  Cardiff Castle;  “bought stuffed birds at Machynlleth”;  Harlech Castle;  Conway Castle;  Chester Cathedral;  Rievaulx Abbey;  York Minster;  Fountains Abbey;  Harewood House and Peterborough Cathedral, where we were taken round the Palace garden by the gardeners Mr & Mrs Barnard.  

My grandfather Claude Martin Blagden was Bishop of Peterborough from 1927 – 1949 and was one of the senior bishops who sat in the House of Lords.   The express trains used to stop specially at Peterborough station to pick him up and drop him off from his trips to London.  Before the war, my father said, they had 25 staff!   This would have included gardeners and secretaries and a chauffeur as well as domestic servants.   During the war, when I stayed as a child (10 or 12 years old), there were land girls helping in the garden and Grandad the Bish was adept at laying and clearing away the table after meals, no doubt produced by Grannie Hester.   I remember bedrooms which were called “Cathedral 1” and “Cathedral 2” and Heaven’s Gate Bathroom. 

After the war when I was a teenager, he leaped on and off London buses in his gaiters and took me to see the House of Lords, which was at the time was occupied by the House of Commons, since that had been bombed.   I even typed much of his memoir “Well Remembered”, published in 1953, the year after he died, by his son in law Paul Hodder-Williams, who was MD of Hodder & Stoughton.

After the war when I was a teenager, he leaped on and off London buses in his gaiters and took me to see the House of Lords, which was at the time was occupied by the House of Commons, since that had been bombed.   I even typed much of his memoir “Well Remembered”, published in 1953, the year after he died, by his son in law Paul Hodder-Williams, who was MD of Hodder & Stoughton.

After visiting Peterborough, we went on to Cambridge and Woburn Abbey, calling on the RSPB at Sandy Lodge (who stocked our bird prints in their shop).   This is only some of the venues – there are lots of comments about buildings being no good – covered with scaffolding or because it was raining – visiting customers, difficulties with finding bed and breakfasts.   “Carlisle Castle and Holm Cutram Abbey – neither very attractive and wasted a whole morning.”   Altogether we travelled 1,500 miles in around 14 days.   John went on to draw many of these castles and cathedrals

And at the end of May we visited my sister and brother in law, Sal and Ben Lewers, and we all went to the opera at Glydebourne.   Next day we drove down to Canterbury and then, at Dover Castle  “John hurt his right foot by jumping off a bank into the road”.   Poor John was in great pain so I had to take over the driving, and he was obliged to sit on the grass while I walked over to Bodiam Castle.   After returning to Sal and Ben for the night, we visited our accountant Mr Sayers at Woking and came home “via Stonehenge”.

We must have become familiar with CoSIRA - Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas – an advisory and credit service, sponsored by the government with stipulation that “members should not employ more than 20 skilled persons and be situated in a rural area or country town with a population of 10,000 or less”.   Glastonbury Prints is listed as a craft workshop at 5A High Street, Glastonbury, not open to the general public, in their booklet “Craft Workshops in the Countryside – England and Wales 25p” which has my note saying that this pre-dates 1975 because of our address.

Here is the invitation to our stand at the Harrogate Gift Fair in the Crown Hotel, July 14-18 1974,  This was our first time at Harrogate, though Peter Dufour had displayed some of our prints on his stand the year before.   The Crown was a grouping of exhibitors who couldn’t fit into the other venues and our “passage” in this hotel provided us with adequate space, with nearby rooms occupied by Denby and other well known names, so that plenty of prospective buyers passed through.   John designed the layout of the prints beforehand – I have a copy of this particular exhibition carefully executed on graph paper with all the references, consisting of about 40 10 x 8” prints and 50 smaller framed pictures, so it was quite a spread.   Presumably we provided display boards onto which the pictures were hung, as I don’t think we would have been allowed to bang nails into the walls!   Somehow he fixed spotlights on a couple of beams balanced precariously across the passage.   One year, a beam came crashing down on Mona Russell’s head as we were erecting the stand, nearly knocking her out.   She was our agent for that area and must have been quite elderly (late sixties?) at the time, but she carried on bravely without complaint.

As soon as we had returned from Harrogate Gift Fair on Friday 19 July, we needed to get ready for our holiday in Scotland.   I see that on Saturday we need to drive to Castle Cary Station to meet Rob and Ruth off the London train – presumably Julie had accompanied us to Harrogate while the other two stayed with Deena and Bry (John’s parents) in Hampstead.

Anyway, we then board the motorail at Bristol, travelling with our Volvo estate car on the sleeper train to Stirling and driving to Edinburgh to stay for a couple of days, before making our way to Mr & Mrs Jack Cameron’s cottage, “Rockfield”, for the rest of the fortnight’s holiday.   The Camerons moved out of their home in the summer, sleeping in a caravan on the croft and spending most of the day in a large shed outside the back door.   We continued our exploration of the Ardnamurchan Peninsular, using this lovely folder entitled “Strontian – car tours and notes for the visitor” dated 1972 with leaflets covering Ardgour, Moidart, Ardamurchan and Morvern.   One of these sheets includes the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse:  “The road ends a short distance from the lighthouse.   Here you may clamber down the rocky shore and stand on the most westerly point of the mainland of Great Britain, over 20 miles further west than Lands End   The view to the Hebrides is magnificent, more so from the lighthouse, which may be visited at the discretion of the head lighthouse keeper.”  

The lighthouse was still run by a keeper at that time, and we climbed up to the balcony which runs round the light and watched the keeper taking weather records and also inspected the huge boilers which produced the energy for the fog warning system.   After that, we went to Sanna beach and some of us were brave enough to swim in the clear, cold sea before we enjoyed a picnic in the dunes – or “machair” as it is called in Scotland.   The coarse grasses were full of wild flowers and to begin with I thought the little yellow ones were cinquefoil.   But upon crouching down to spend a penny, I discovered what turned out to be a yellow pansy, which we called the “seaside pansy” – John drew this and a number of other flowers, sitting in the front porch of “Rockfield” where there was good light.

We must have packed up on Friday 9 August, driving back to Stirling across the Corran Ferry – we needed an early start and I think the first ferry ran at 8 am – in order to put the car on the train again and return to Bristol overnight.   On Sunday, we put Rob on a train to London.

Our business adhered to the tradition of the “factory fortnight” stipulated by both Clarks and Morlands, consisting of the last week in July and the first week in August, which made it more convenient for some of our part-time staff whose families worked for those factories.   This is not usually the best time to visit Scotland, but we seemed to be lucky with the weather;  one year when we stayed with the Camerons, she reported that the village stores had overheard some French visitors complaining of the heat.   When we returned home, the floods were out on the moors.

By this time we must have employed quite a few people, most of them part timers, though John Chaffey (in charge of the workroom at 5A), John Grinter (in the Old Ciderhouse, making frames) and Tony Osmond (our manager) were all full time.   Tony’s wife Vera kept our accounts in her meticulous beautiful script together with a typewriter for the invoices (quarto in those days), using the Kalamazoo system of ledger cards and carbon paper, which enabled everything to be recorded again on the ledger sheets.

Linda Garland must have been full time too, in charge of the painting round and preparing orders for the workroom to put together, plus running errands up to the Post Office, though the completed parcels were either collected from 5A by the Post Office service, or were wheeled up the High Street on a trolley by one of the men.   She was also involved with using the duplicating machine, which consisted of an inked roller round which the prepared stencil was stretched, which had previously been cut into a special foolscap sheet on the typewriter.   When the handle was turned, a printed page was produced – used for some pricelists and for the dear customer newsletter I used to write at Christmas.   Proper pricelists and other material were printed for us at Clarks Printing works and later by someone else in Street.   The office was a tiny sliver of a room with a bench each side – maybe Vera and I worked cox and box while Tony was able to use the other side.   John of course was at home, designing new ranges, taking the original drawings to Radstock Reproductions to be made into plates ready for Bigwood & Staple, Bridgwater, to print.

The ancient guillotine had been installed in the Ciderhouse, as I have already described, together with simple machinery for cutting and pinning the frames.   We could cut large pieces of mountboard into 10 x 8” and 4 ½ x 3 ½ “ sizes, then the oval apertures would be cut by hand using John’s metal forma – later perhaps we obtained a simple machine to do this.  

I think we invested in a little van so that John Grinter, or perhaps his assistant Ron Dunsmore, could bring the required frames and mounts up to 5A, no doubt using instructions provided by Tony after the current orders were analysed.   We offered 4 choices of frame – F1 etc – and around the same number of mount colours.   Agents were supplied with a box of loose mounts, frames and a large folder containing one of each hand coloured print in the range.   The various permutations of mount and frame could be demonstrated by putting these over the images.   The first set of agents sample boxes were made individually by John, lined with sheepskin of course, but later we invested in suitable suitcases – I still have three of these!

On Saturday 12 October, Julie and I fly from Gatwick to Los Angeles, Californjia, with a group of other Europeans on a subsided trip, celebrating the 300th anniversary of American Independence under the banner “Meet the Americans”.   We must have been met at the airport by our hosts Bev and her husband driven to their home in San Diego, where they entertained us for over a week.   Somewhere I have a diary of this visit, together with masses of slides.   I do remember that we went across the border to Tihuana in Mexico one day, where I bought a huge heavy glass lampshade for 10 dollars and a kiss.   I still have it – now in a cupboard.   It had to be packed carefully in a large cardboard box and somehow we were allowed to secure it on an extra seat on the plane back home.   Years later, an American couple visited Glastonbury Galleries and bought a very large heavy framed and glazed painting from us, declaring that they would not have any problem getting it back.   They visited us again the following year and told us that it had been safely secured behind the pilot’s seat

From my diary I see that I am still doing meals on wheels with Pam Bracher;  attending WEA English Classes;  taking Julie to Taunton College of Art, Rob to Plymouth Technical College and Ruth to Sidcot when the autumn term begins;  going out to supper with friends;  attending West Pennard WI (there was no Women’s Institute in Glastonbury in those days);  on top of helping to run the business.   John would visit the workrooms at 5A and the frame making department in the Old Ciderhouse nearly every day and then work at home.   But a couple of times a week he would be overtaken by migraines – he reckoned he lost each day a week because of this, poor John.   Maybe I have already said that these continued right up to about 1998 when he had an angioplasty.   It was a small hole in his heart, perhaps caused by conflict and tension at Morlands 30 years ago, when Uncle Humphrey Morland was keeping John back in order to make room for his own son.

In succession from the early sixties, for the next forty odd years I took my turn as secretary of the following organisations:-

West Pennard WI (just mentioned above);
National Federation of Small Businesses, Wells Branch - I will be coming to that organisation later; 
Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce - I don’t think this organisation is still alive – we must have joined when we bought the shop and John became chairman in 1976/7, while I did a stint as chairman in 1986/87;
Glastonbury in Bloom  - Bill Knight and I started this in 1982, though we didn’t hold it every year, then Alan Gloak took over a decade later and built it up to what it is today;
Glastonbury Conservation Society;
Mid Somerset Camera Club – I was also chairman for one year only, sometime in the late 90’s perhaps.

I have thrown away all the paper records of these organisations, but I must have some more recent material on this computer which I will investigate when I have the time!   In the early days I would have used shorthand, but I soon forgot how to do this and scribbled instead.   Fortunately I have never forgotten how to touch-type, because I continued to use this facility regularly.   Sadly I threw away my old Imperial typewriter when we moved a couple of years ago.   When did we have our first computer?   Our son Rob is an IT specialist and I have an invoice from Watford Electronics Ltd dated 29/5/96 totalling £1,693.19, so perhaps that is the one.

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