South Shields Local History Group

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One German Pork Shop Through Time

One German Pork Shop Through Time

.~1869 to 1913~.

In 1869 Johann Kuch, born in 1848 in Blaufelden, Wurttemberg, the son of Johann Georg Kuch and Maria Barbara Maurer, arrived in the North East of England, equipped only with the pork butchering skills he’d learnt on the family farm. He was accompanied by his cousin Georg Kuch, born in 1850 on his Kuch farm in Alkertshausen. Georg had a pork shop from around 1873, on Saville Street West, in North Shields. It was customary in Germany, for the eldest son to inherit the farm, with the other siblings encouraged to find employment elsewhere. The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain provided the perfect means to deploy their culinary skills, to feed a hungry workforce in the industrial towns and cities.

Above : East Holborn circa 1880 source South Tyneside Photographs

Georg Dietrich had a pork shop at 107 East Holborn, South Shields. He had married Mary Bruck, in 1868 in Sunderland. Their son George Dietrich was born in 1870 in Shields. Georg Snr was born in 1841 in Blaufelden the son of Georg Andreas Dietrich and Maria Magdalena Barbara Kuch, making him yet another Kuch cousin. Tragedy struck in 1872 when Georg died, Mary tried to continue the business alone, but it must have been a struggle as a single mother. One can imagine her fear when her pork shop window was broken by drunken Thomas Smith, labourer in June 1874, although he was ordered by the court to pay her 6s 8d damages. Later that year, John Cook, Georg’s cousin married Mary and they ran the business together in East Holborn. In 1875 daughter Annie was born, then two years later, John Robert Cook and finally Minnie in 1884.

In 1891 the ‘Cook’s’ had left Holborn and had a shop at 30 King Street, South Shields. There was a further move between 1891 and 1901, when they moved to 42 Ocean Road which is our featured shop in time.

John Robert Cook and his older step-brother George Dietrich, must have had a difficult relationship. The headline ‘Step Brothers In Court’ appeared in the Shields Gazette in May 1894. John was accused of assaulting his brother and charged with ‘willful damage to complainants hat’. In his statement, Dietrich (24)  alleged that on Whit Sunday, he and his wife were stopped in Church Row by Mr. Cook (17), who challenged him to fight and then struck him several blows on the head and face. Dietrich’s hat was knocked off and fell under the tram wheels. John denied this account and said Dietrich had struck the first blow and the hat in question remained firmly on his head. Regardless, the Bench fined John 10 shillings and costs. Annie Cook (19), his undoubtedly feisty sister, was charged with spitting in the face of Annie Dietrich. Despite this she got off lighter and was bound over to keep the peace.

Sadly the following year, Mary became a widow once more, when John Cook Snr. her husband of 21 years died on the 15th June 1895. He was laid to rest in St. Peter’s Churchyard at Harton. The Gazette reported that many butchers from Middlesbrough, Sunderland and North and South Shields attended his funeral. There were 20 mourning coaches in attendance with a great number of people walking behind the cortege. The funeral was one of the largest South Shields had seen for many years.

His Will was proved by his widow Mary, of 42 Ocean Road and his cousin Georg Kuch of 26 Saville Street West, North Shields.

John Cook Jnr. made another unfortunate appearance in the Gazette, on September 16th 1903 when he was fined 2s 6d and costs for creating a disturbance (drunk) in Ocean Road.

Sadly, Mary Cook died in 1905 and following her death the assets of John Cook’s estate were sold by auction. Lot 1 consisted of 86 & 88 Ocean Rd. South Shields, which was occupied by John Robert Cook, was bought by Mr. T. W. Renwick for £1,150. Lot 2 consisted of No. 53 & 55 Laygate Lane and 2 Regent St, South Shields, were bought by Mr. J. R. Cook (the son) for £2,200. Lot 3 consisted of a shop and house on Whitley Rd., Whitley Bay occupied by Mr. Hub pork butcher. This lot was withdrawn as the highest bid was £1,375. Lot 4 was tenement property at 92 & 94 Eldon St. South Shields, which was bought by Mr. Sieber for £290.

John Cook’s youngest daughter Minnie married Leonard Andrew Julius Schmidt/Smith in 1903 in South Shields. They had two children, Minnie 1906 and Leonard in 1911. Leonard was a pork butcher and had a business at 45 Fowler St, next to St. Thomas’ church. In May 1915 Leonard committed suicide in the back shop at Fowler St.

Minnie remarried in 1914 to a German musician called William Gehm, who played clarinet in the West End Orchestra. They had a son in 1914 who they named John Henry. Sadly, Sapper John Henry Gehm (2126913) Royal Engineers of 20th Bomb Disposal Company was killed in Deal, Kent on August 31st 1944 along with Cpl. J. M. Inches. He is buried with his grandfather, John Cook, in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Harton. William Gehm died in 1943 and his wife Minnie in 1961. (Number 45, Fowler Street was sold to the Tonneson’s in 1915 and they traded as pork butchers until they sold it to M. I. Dickson in 1960. So Minnie and Leonard’s shop had another Cook relation behind the counter, albeit, forty five years later.)

Minnie’s older sister Annie, had married Conrad Ehrman at St. Aiden’s church in March 1901. They had a pork shop at Middle Market in Ashington and had children Albert and Lily. In 1939 Annie was widowed and living with son Albert (37) pork butcher, at 112 Station Road, Ashington.  Annie died in 1960. Albert died in 1992.

.~World War One~.

August 1914 and war was declared, German enemy aliens who had not become naturalised were interned and their wives and children were advised to return to their families in Germany.

On May 12th 1915, shortly before 11pm, the large plate glass window of Mr. J. R. Cook, pork butcher, Ocean Road was smashed. The culprit left the scene immediately. The damage was done by a paving stone which had been thrown with considerable force, as it was found inside the shop.

The family who lived over the shop (Johann Michael Friedrich Dietz) were startled by the noise of the breaking glass, but everything was quiet on the street, with few people about. Pork butchers in South Shields had been closing their shops at 9pm since a new lighting order had come into force, because of the threat of air attacks from Zeppelins with guns, searchlights and observers mobilised.

Above : Newspaper reports illustrating the actions of the German military against civilians, a rational explanation for the anger manifested towards Germans. War crimes against Belgian civilians, were committed in August 1914, when 23,700 were murdered in cold blood and thousands of women raped. 18,296 children were made orphans as a result.

Then on May 14th 1915, Fred South, a second engineer from North Shields was charged on remand with having unlawfully damaged a plate glass window in the shop of J. R. Cook, pork butcher, 26 Saville St. West, North Shields. Insp. Scougal who saw the incident said he stepped to the front of the crowd and raised his hand. Immediately there was a crash of glass and he took South into custody. The defendant stated that when he got to Rudyard St. he heard the sound of breaking glass. He was 50 yards from Mr. Cook’s shop and said there were about 1,000 people outside. The case was dismissed. Sarah Wall (57) a widow of Upper Toll St. was charged with breaking one of Mr. Cook’s windows by banging on it with something in her hand. On arrest she said “it was for my bairns”. The case was also dismissed. The Bench considered the mob were only playing into the hands of the Germans giving them an excuse for what they had been doing Mr. J. R. Cook said 3 of his windows were broken to the value of £16 12s 6d.

Events were going to take a turn for the worse for John Robert Cook, when he was arrested in his shop on Saville St. West on the 27th August 1915. He was entered on the charge sheet at North Shields Police Court, charged under Section 55 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations. Under this regulation during WW1, anyone in Britain could be arrested, fined, sent to prison, or even executed. Indeed, 11 Germans were executed for spying. All Allied nations on a war footing had enacted a regulation like this one. By September 1914, around 9,000 suspected acts of espionage had been reported. Defended by Mr. E. Hannay of South Shields, he was arrested without a warrant, the police hastily acting upon a telegram from the military in London, to arrest him immediately. The charge was kept from the public. Bail was refused and he was remanded into custody for 8 days. The information on the telegram was given to John Cook who said there was no foundation for the preposterous allegation against him. He was accused of spying.

The story was taken up by a letter published in the Gazette on September 8th by his solicitor. He wanted to present the facts as Mr. Cook had suffered serious damage to his reputation, his business and the distress he’d undergone being arrested. His arrest on the 27th August was due to a telegram from the War Office. His premises both at North and South Shields were thoroughly searched by policemen, but nothing incriminating was found. Hannay visited John Robert Cook at the police station where he protested his innocence and acting upon his instructions, Hannay journeyed to London and laid Cook’s case before the Director of Public Prosecutions. The result of the meeting was that J. R. Cook was sent immediately to Scotland Yard and interrogated by a tribunal, consisting of a number of officials of the War Office, who concluded there was no case to answer and he was released. The one and only charge made against him was that of having tried to send letters to Bergen via a seaman, which was proved to be entirely unfounded. Once released and undoubtedly annoyed, John Cook placed adverts in the newspapers to catch the culprit who made this damaging accusation.

Dear Sir,

Referring to our conversation with you on the telephone yesterday, when you said you don’t quite follow the grounds on which our client based his claim for loss of stock, we think it as well to explain the position to you, as if your Committee are not prepared to admit the principle on which our client claims to be entitled to recover, then it will be useless our going to the trouble and expense of bringing witnesses before the Committee to prove the amount of the loss, if liability is repudiated ; and in this case we will have to seek our remedy in the Courts.

Prior to the rioting our client purchased, as was his wont, a certain quantity of pigs, which were slaughtered and delivered to his shop in Ocean Road. Rioting took place after this, and our client was instructed by the police to close and board up his premises to prevent further damage being done. The pigs being of a perishable nature would soon go bad, and our client therefore sold what remained on his premises as salvage to a dealer in North Shields at a considerable loss, as if he had let the meat remain in the shop it would have all been unfit for consumption. These are the facts and we are prepared to prove the sale of the pigs to our client, the quantity he sold by retail, the quantity of salvage left after the rioting took place and the amount our client was paid for the salvage.

Kindly let us hear if you are prepared to advise the Committee to admit liability on the facts as stated, and in this case we will attend before the Committee on the 13th October to prove the facts.

Signed E. H. Hannay

.~The Inter War Years~.

The 1920’s saw extremes of poverty in the North East and John Cook embarked on acts of philanthropy. It was reported in the newspaper in December 1921 that between four and five hundred elderly people sat down to a sumptuous dinner, consisting of roast beef and Christmas pudding with all the trimmings, which was held in Smith’s Canteen, Coach Lane and provided by John Robert Cook of North and South Shields. John helped serve the meal along with the other dignitaries present. The Dock Band played a selection of Christmas carols. The article reported that Mr. John Taylor, proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Mr. J. R. Cook for his kindness and generosity to the old people.

In August 1922 the ‘Orphans Children Trip’ took 300 children to Jesmond Dene and John Cook provided 300 meat pies for their lunch.

Then, in January 1923 he entertained twelve hundred poor children of Tynemouth to breakfast, again at Smith’s Canteen. Three sittings were held and each little guest was provided with tea, bread and quarter of a pound of sausages. It was reported that the children thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast and gave hearty cheers for Mr. & Mrs. Cook. Three boys and three girls who sang after the breakfast were each given a small gift from Councillor Middleton and Mr. Cook.

Saturday September 25th 1923 was a happy day for the children of the Open Air School, North Shields. They were treated to a programme of thrilling pictures at the Boro’ Theatre and later a delicious meal was laid on for them at the Labour Party rooms on Saville St. by John Robert Cook.

As many as 550 orphans were given another outing in August 1924, which was organised by the Borough of Tynemouth. They were taken to Jesmond Dene where they took part in competitions and games. Dinner was provided once more by Cook as he provided sandwiches for each child. When the children were taken back to the orphanage, Mrs. Cook gave each child a stick of candy rock.

An unexpected calamity gave John got the fright of his life, when in July 1925,  his car very nearly plunged into the river Tyne.

“An alarming accident, involving five occupants of a motor car owned and driven by J.R.Cook, pork butcher of Shields, occurred early yesterday afternoon on the New Quay, North Shields.

It appears that the motor car was standing opposite the steps leading down to the direct ferry landing, when Mr Cook started the engine, a self starter and the car shot forward breaking down the iron railings and falling over on its side. An iron railing at the bottom of the steps stopped the car from dashing headlong into the river.

There was an immediate response for help from several men on the New Quay and the occupants were extricated without injury. The bonnet of the car rested on the iron railing at the bottom of the stairs, while the rear off-side wheel was jammed against the coping stone of the upper tier, the body of the car filling the stairway pit. Mr T. B. Renwick, of Coble Dene, North Shields said he and other men saw the car suddenly dart forward “There was a crash “  said Mr. Renwick “and then we ran. We got hold of the rear of the car in case it completely overturned and then removed the passengers. It was a close thing and the lady nearest the wall had a narrow escape” The occupants, Mr. And Mrs. Cook, another gentleman and two ladies, retired to the Northumberland Hotel and were able to go home suffering from slight shock.

It is believed that the driver was under the impression that the car was in reverse gear and when attempting to apply the footbrake, his foot slipped from the pedal. 

The car is a Crossley of a very powerful type.”

It would appear Cook was a Boxing enthusiast, because in July 1933 there was this small report in the newspaper – “Backing For Boxer – A money match could be made between Norman Dale, Newcastle and J. Ferguson, North Shields, a particularly interested party being Mr. J. R. Cook who writes from Kirton Park Terrace, to the effect he is prepared to stand £10 or £20 for Ferguson. Dale had won their last match on 12th June.

Sad news in February the following year as there was an inquest held in Gateshead on Maria Dietz (nee Kuch of Alkertshausen). Maria, a cousin of John Cook Snr., had married John Dietz who had a pork shop at 55 Laygate Lane in South Shields.  Maria was 73 in 1934 and was at that time a widow. She died in High Teams Institution, which was formerly the Workhouse Hospital, but was adapted as a General Hospital in 1931. It was stated that she had suffered from heart attacks and dropsy and on January 19th, she got out of bed, slipped on the floor and fractured her thigh. A verdict of death by disease of the heart was recorded.

.~War & Peace~.

The unthinkable became reality in September 1939, Britain was once again at war with Germany. Mr. & Mrs. J.R.Cook were donating £2 monthly (equivalent of £100) to the ‘Spitfire Fund’ in 1940. The town was trying to reach  the target of £8,000 to purchase a Spitfire. This initiative was started by  Lord Beaverbrook, to get the public involved in helping to fight the war.

Tragedy struck before the end of the war, as an inquest was held in North Shields in September 1944, on deceased Caroline Cook (67), the widow of John Robert Cook, pork butcher.  She had been found dead at her home at 16 Kirton Park Terrace, lying on a car rug on the floor of the kitchen, covered with an eiderdown and her head on a cushion. The oven door was open and the gas taps on. She had been depressed since her husband John had died on January 28th 1944.

As already described, in the 1911 Census, 86 Ocean Road shop was being run by the Dietz family under the name of J. R. Cook. The years preceding this, once fully trained by his Uncle John Dietz and Marie Kuch, Frederick Dietz started trading (circa 1901) from his own shop at 48 Prudhoe Street, in North Shields. By this time he had married Dora Burkett and they had started a family. Uncle John Dietz and Marie Kuch had also moved shop, from Laygate Lane to King Street in North Shields.

Several of Frederick and Dora Dietz’ children stayed in pork butchering. Daughter Ina married a pork butcher called Robson, Rosina married a pork butcher called Araker with a shop on Park Avenue, South Shields. Their son Frederick Victor Dietz emigrated to Chicago, Illinois. It was to be Albert Henry Dietz, born in 1906 who was to take over the Ocean Road shop, when his father Frederick died in 1942. In the 1939 Register Albert, the pork butcher had an extra war occupation as ‘Special Constable’. The family were no longer living above the shop after the war, but at 1 Sunnilaws, Cleadon. Albert had married Beatrice Gray in 1929 and in 1933 their son Albert Henry was born and eventually took over the business. Albert Henry Jnr. married twice and died in 1973. He predeceased his father, Albert Henry Snr., who died in 1980.

Above: The interior of M. I. Dickson’s shop at renumbered, 76 Ocean Road, with an advertisement from 1975. Copyright M.I. Dickson

Below: Tonneson’s pork shop in 1939 on Fowler St. next to St. Thomas’ church. Source South Tyneside Photos. The interior of Fowler St shop when owned by M.I. Dickson circa 1970’s. Copyright M. I. Dickson.

Following his death in 1973, J. R. Cook’s pork shop was sold to M. I. Dickson Ltd. The wife of the founder Michael Irwin Dickson, was Helena R. C. Kuch who was related to Georg Kuch pork butcher on Saville St, North Shields, Marie Kuch married to John Dietz and also John Cook/ Kuch born in 1848 in Blaufelden, buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard, Harton Village. M. I. Dickson also bought Tonneson’s pork shop on Fowler Street, in 1960, probably not knowing it was once owned forty five years before, by Leonard Smith and Minnie Cook/Kuch. However it was always known there was a legend of a suicide taking place in the shop.

(Michael Irwin Dickson was a Master Pork Butcher who was trained from a very young age, by Mr. Hay  pork butcher on Wallsend High Street. In 1940 he enlisted in 86th Hertfordshire Yeomanry Field Regt. R.A . After being demobbed from the army, he was to meet his future wife Helen, when purchasing Charles Dorsch’ pork shop in Howden. They were married in 1949. Helen’s father George Frederick Cook/Kuch had a pork shop in Walworth Street in Sunderland and her brother Frederick John Cook (ex tank driver in 23rd Hussars) had shops on Westoe Road, Dickens Avenue and Frederick Street, South Shields.)

NB* Shop numbers were renumbered – Ocean Road shop was eventually to become No. 76. Fowler Street became No. 35.

Written and researched by Dorothy Ramser (née Dickson)

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