James was born Newcastle in 1854, son of James Hewitt, fruiterer and market gardener born Crookham in 1821. James Snr and his family migrated south to Newcastle in the 1840's.
The two families would merge to become one of the largest firm of fruit brokers and one of the oldest businesses in Newcastle.
"The history of the Naylor firm is of particular interest as is is one of the oldest businesses in Newcastle , dating from 1840. Another interesting fact connected with it is that it has always occupied the same premises in Nelson Street (Nos 13, 15 and 17) and has never therefore been in the market* itself.
It continued under the title of N. Naylor until 1916 when a limited company was formed with the name Naylor Hewitt Ltd. Prior to that Mr N. Naylor and Mr James Hewitt were in partnership for over 40 years."
The Pre War Years
This brief little note holds a wealth of social information. "Our Flat" was a comedy farce written by Mrs H Musgrave that ran for over 645 nights at The Opera Comique theatre also in the Strand before its closure in 1899. The show must have moved to The Strand Theatre in which the then renowned actor and comedian Willie Edouin had a financial interest. He both managed and starred in the production. The Strand theatre along with others in the district was demolished to make way for Aldwych tube station in 1905. Disused parts of this station were used to protect artworks from galleries and museums from bombing during both world wars. The station itself closed in 1994.
"Melons are dear, but thought would send you one basket, such are making here 5/- and more - Jersey grapes better than Turnbulls are worth 4/6 per lb, thought that too dear. Radishes sent today were a very nice lot and a little cheaper, will not send many tomorrow. Broccoli I could see thought a little below market price if more required tomorrow wire early......"
The last entry in the telegraphic message book is 3rd Oct 1896 to Edward Todd of Sunderland offering him various varieties of grapes described as "fine bunchy stuff" purchased in Glasgow the previous Friday.
This list illustrates the variety and quantities of fruit and veg that was imported into Newcastle in the years 1898/99 and the turn of the new millennium.
From other literature I have read, the fruit is almost always described as "boxes", or packages rather than cases or by weight. I have taken that to be the 'case' here also.
The above shows a similar imports return for the year 1913. Not only have quantities vastly increased, but the type of produce being imported has also changed. Imported potatoes, mandarins, lemons and apples now make an appearance.
When compared to the return on the left the number of importers has almost doubled, particularly of onions.
Another point I find interesting is the apparent popularity of pomegranates, with nearly 1,000 more cases being imported than lemons, and over 2,000 more cases than tomatoes.
Almost all the fruit and veg imported at this time came from Valencia is Spain.
Amongst these pre-war papers I came across this letter in response to an advert for a job vacancy, placed in the Newcastle Chronicle on 28th June 1892. (It is interesting to note the Chronicle was as popular with job seekers then as it is today). I am pleased to report that Alfred Hedley was successful in his application.
Again this scrap of paper holds vital information for the family researcher, with his address and age enabling the researcher to follow his progress and trace his background.
In the 1901 census he is still living at 35 Denmark St, with his Mother and four of his five siblings.
Alfred remained loyal to the firm throughout the war and beyond retiring in 1937, aged 62 after a service of 45 years.
In 1829 the longest serving employee was William Hall, Quay Foreman who had been in the service of Nat Naylor for 47 years.
1914 - 1918, The War Years
In 1907 Nat Naylor Hewitt was to visit Spain with his young wife Eveline Burgess, where a business relationship and friendship with grower and shipping agent Henri Leopold Sacki, was forged that would span the generations
"drastic measures be taken to cease all dealings with enemy firms in Valencia ......It was moved and agreed that a direct appeal be made to the Fruit Brokers and Receivers in the United Kingdom to support the scheme and to agree, individually and collectively to refuse to handle, finance etc., enemy goods, chartered ships, or enemy interests, whether concerned directly or indirectly."
"First of all many thanks to you as a true friend. It is in such moments that one gets to know people properly - I won't forget it for the rest of my life.....and have been able, favoured by circumstances to load my boats rapidly and at good rates, people here got jealous and some of them which I considered less true friends acted against me. Armstrong knows a a good deal about this but I never expected things would reach that point. What wrong have I done that such measures are taken against me? I am most anxious to get to the bottom of this affair...."
"I am instructed by the Director of the War Trade Department to inform you that any adverse opinion which may have hitherto been expressed by this Department or the Foreign Trade Department relating to Henri Leopold Sacki of Valencia is now withdrawn..."
Further complications ...
"....... I am directed by Viscount Grey of Fallodon to inform you that in order to avoid risk of perishable goods becoming unmarketable pending the production of Certificates of Interest, instructions have been issued to his Majesty's Custom Officers that such goods may be handed over to the broker to who they are consigned ......"
By April 1916 it was estimated that Britain had only six weeks of wheat stocks remainingg, with wheat imports coming to Britain from mainly America and Canada the German unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 had a devastating effect on British merchant shipping in the Atlantic.
1914/15 - 218,185
1915/16 - 210,359
1916/17 - 231,007
1917/18 - absent
Volumes may have dropped but the business carried on.
Defence of The Realm Regulation 41A
The above list gives us the names and addresses of all such exempt employees of Naylor Hewitt Ltd, Alfred Hedley is second from bottom aged 42 and now living at 20 Lily Crescent, Newcastle. He has avoided conscription by the skin of his teeth. The reverse of the document also states that there were four women working for the Company, but no further details of them or the positions they held are given.
All three of Eveline's brothers fought in the war, but only two would return Sidney & Roland. During their absence the business of Roland Burgess Ltd, textile wholesalers was overseen by Nat Naylor Hewitt in addition to his own business interests.
Post War Years
I can find no further mention of Mr Jacob Elkan amongst the company's papers but a listing in a trade directory of 1936 describes him as a 'fruit salesman' and in a letter home in 1940 from Stephen Burgess Hewitt, kind regards are sent to Herr Elkan. It would further appear that he settled in Newcastle and married Helen Surtees in 1924 with whom he had a daughter.
Richard N Hewitt was awarded an MBE for service to industry in connection with this project. He retired on the 30th June 1974 and with no sons to follow him into the business, thus ended the family connection of Naylor & Hewitt with the fruit trade.