SUMMARY OF RECORDS DEPOSITED
1 - 62. Financial records, 1901 - 1982.
63 - 74. Correspondence, 1906 - 1950's.
75 - 103. Records of stock, orders, invoices etc., 1928 - 1982.
104 - 181. Records of wages, production, piecework etc., 1914 - 1973.
182 - 199. Trade catalogues, price lists and miscellaneous printed material, 1908 - 1981.
|Administrative / biographical background:
J. Jameson and Son Ltd. of Corbridge was founded in 1871. The abundance of clay around the Corbridge area facilitated the growth of the Company so that by the 1960's it was the largest employer in the town with a workforce of approximately fifty people. At various times the firm exported its product widely: during the 1930's the Company won a major order from Malta and Jameson's pipes were used in the reconstruction of the Island's sewage system. However, by the late 1970's a combination of factors - the recession and technological developments by much larger competitors - resulted in the firm being forced into liquidation. The fact that J. Jameson and Son is one of the last small earthenware companies in the country makes their records of particular interest to researchers of this business.
It is believed that the Jameson family originated from the Slaley/Blanchland area. Interestingly, some family members emigrated to Canada (see letter in Hexham Courant 7.1.1871) and may have taken records of the business and knowledge of its founding with them. Nevertheless, the business was started by the present Managing Director's great-grandfather, James Alfred Jameson (?).
Even though Jameson's is unusual in that it did not develop close to a colliery, as did most pipe works, the presence of large amounts of clay in the Corbridge area explains its growth. There were, moreover, brickworks already in existence in that locality: reference was made in White's Directory (1847) to Walker Wylam, Corbridge Pottery, and references are made in Kelly's Directory until 1929 to the firm of W. and J.J. Walker; similarly the firm of John Elliott Middlemiss, Hill Bank Brick Works, is mentioned in Bulmer's History and Directory of N'land, Hexham Division, 1886.Indeed, W.R. Iley in Corbridge - Border Village p. 197 refers to a conversation with T.L. Jameson's father who indicated that the firm would be celebrating its centennary that year (1971). Iley also says that Mr. Jameson was gathering material to write a brief history of the firm.
While the business became a limited company in 1901, production methods have, surprisingly perhaps, not changed a great deal over the years. Lately the Company had reverted to producing work by hand as opposed to machine production which was at its height in the 1960's. Over the years the main product of the Company has been the sewage pipe, Mr. T.L. Jameson says that the only thing to have changed in the pipe design has been the connections. Other products, such as bricks and ornamental work, were produced when demand for pipes was low. With regard to bricks manufactured by the Company, they are said to be hard-wearing but are discoloured by the weather and are thus not pleasing to the eye. As with other products, fire backs and flue liners have been manufactured only at times when demand was high; this aspect of the trade suffered as more people turned away from coal fires to gas and electric heating and because of the manufacture of concrete fire backs at a fraction of the cost of ceramic backs.
The site on which the firm operated is 10 acres, although the production area covered only 6 acres, the rest of the land being fields and the grounds of the house. At one time 10 kilns of the beehive type were in operation. The mine entrances are to the north of the main working area and are now all closed. The closure of the mines occurred in 1974 when production stopped for 20 months. At the resumption of production in 1976 it was decided to import clay rather than re-open the mines which, according to W.R. Iley, were operated on the bord and pillar system. Clay was obtained from the Butterwell site, from Durham and briefly from Workington.
The emergence of Hepworth's, a firm geared to mass production of non-salt glazed, non-interlocking pipes at a lower cost than the smaller pipeworks such as Jameson's, meant that the latter would inevitably go out of business. Ironically, the disappearance of more and more pipeworks, particularly in the south of England, meant that Jameson's could fill the vacuum left by these firms. Builders' merchants also wanted to see the smaller firms survive because of their desire to see an independent supplier in the trade. Although the firm had no sales force, the rigid practice of zoning - fixing prices for products in particular areas or zones by the manufacturers in that area - characteristic of the salt-glazed earthenware industry meant that it was very difficult for the firm to develop its exports to other parts of the country.