"Does anyone know what happened
to Stewart Brothers, Wool Brokers, in
"After leaving school in the
summer of 1964, I went to work for them in their Constitution
Street warehouse as a temporary labourer until taking up a job
with the Civil Service in London at the end of January 1965."
remember rightly, my pay was about £7-odd a week - useful money
for Saturday night outings to
The Place club in Victoria Street!"
The Fleeces Arrive
was not particularly hard, but it was
dirty. The fleeces as delivered to
Stewarts were completely raw and untreated, fresh off the sheep,
and not all sheep droppings actually make it to the ground!
I worked with one of the company's
permanent employees - a quietly spoken, good-natured young chap by
the name of (if my memory is correct) Jimmy Troop - on an
electric-hydraulic baling machine."
Grading the Fleeces
came into Stewarts in large quantities on lorries from other parts
of Scotland, mainly the Borders, I think. They were then sorted
and graded into their various wool types by men who were skilled
graders, each type of fleece having its own storage bay.
I think one of these graders that we
worked closely with was called Tommy Coyle, and the speed with
which he could pick up a fleece, examine it, categorize it and
fling it into its appropriate bay was marvelous to watch.
There was a range of strange-sounding
names for the different types of fleeces, but the only one that
sticks in my mind is Black Faced Ruby Ewe. Why
that's lodged in my memory for half a century, I've no idea!."
Baling the Fleeces
were enough loose fleeces of a particular type, it was time to
bale them and store the bales ready for future shipment to the
mills. As I recollect it, at that
time most of the collecting lorries came up from Yorkshire, mainly
the Bradford area, for the mills down that way. Remember
when Britain had a viable textile industry of its own?
Again if I remember correctly, the
baling machine was in two main sections, the fixed power/hydraulic
ram section, and an oblong movable balebox section which was
probably about five feet long by a couple of feet square. The
balebox could be rotated through 90 degrees, from the vertical to
the horizontal and vice versa, and could be opened to remove the
The vertical empty box would firstly be lined with a
heavy-duty jute sack, then tilted horizontally to receive the
baling ram and the loading would begin. When the bale seemed full,
the ram was withdrawn completely, the balebox tilted back to the
vertical, and before the bale was released from the box, a square
jute sacking lid was sewn on its top using string and a large
"The box catches would then be released, and,
all being well, there would be a perfectly-filled bale, as tight
as a drum, ready for shipment. Sometimes though, either because
the bale had been a bit over-filled, or the lid stitching wasn't
quite right, there would begin a slow ripping sound, getting
progressively faster, as the lid parted company with the bale, and
fleeces would erupt from the top of the now-useless bale.
Loading the Lorries
"Loading of the Bradford lorries was
done using heavy-duty two-wheeled porters' trolleys, baling hooks,
and grappling chain hoists. As I remember it. the trucks' loads
even extended over small load platforms above the cab roofs. They
must have been awkward to drive, with a high and heavy centre of
"A few other
pies and vanilla slices at meal break,
dirty, but soft, hands from the lanolin
field dirt from the fleeces
cycling home at teatime in the dark
and rain (or sleet!) up Lochend Road past the Hawkhill Bakery
finally, soaking in a nice hot bath,
listening to Radio Luxemburg or Radio Caroline North on my tranny
- 'Baby Love'
by the Supremes is a particularly vivid memory - before a very
welcome evening meal
"I see from Google Maps Street View
that the old Constitution Street warehouse has gone
- Did Stewarts eventually fold
because of the collapse of the
British woollen industry, or were they maybe taken over and
- What happened to the people?
I'd be interested to hear."
Laurie Thompson, Chipping
Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England: June 12, 2014