In 18511 the north-west side of the High Street from Wellington Street to Middle Street was a very busy area with a mixture of Merchants, School Teachers and Shop Keepers all adding to the fabric of the town as it developed into a much larger conurbation.
The 1861 Census shows us that 149 High Street is uninhabited2. The houses either side are occupied by a retired Flax Merchant (no. 148) and a General Practitioner (no. 150).
By the 1871 Census3, George Young Blair, having re-married following the death of his first wife, had moved from Norton Road to a more palatial residence befitting to a man who had become Managing Director with up to 1,200 employees, running a very successful enterprise. He had moved to 149 High Street, Stockton-on-Tees before 18674.
The Census indicates that both 149 and 150 High Street had been made into a single residence. Whilst Mr. and Mrs. Blair are not present on the night of the census, it was occupied by his Mother-in-Law; Sister-in-Law; three of his very young daughters and George Young Blair, junr. (who is in the occupation of an Engine Fitter). The household is complete by a housemaid, a cook and two nurses.
On the night of the census, Mr. Blair together with his wife, Margaret (nee Borrie) and his younger son, Peter Borrie Blair, are visiting a Municipal Borough Engineer, James Bower and his family in Gateshead.
In the intervening years between 1871 and 1881, George designed and had built a huge mansion house near to the village of Hutton Rudby. There were magnificent views of the Cleveland Hills and had extensive grounds and out buildings.
By the next census, taken on the night of Sunday 3 April 18815, 149 is inhabited by the Blair family and 150 High Street, Stockton is described as a shop, this may be due to the family having a ‘country residence’ named after George’s birth place of ‘Drumrauck’. The family may have had little requirement for such an extensive property in town, but this does not explain why the enumerator has entered ‘Shop’ for that address.
There is no indication where Mrs. Blair and their son Peter are, and there is no entry for their house in the Hutton Rudby district. At the time of the census George Blair is married and 57 years of age. He is J.P. for County of Durham, also an Engineer, Managing Director of Blair & Co., employing 1560 men and 320 boys. Together with his three daughters are his Mother-in-law, Sister-in-law, a domestic house maid, a cook and a nurse from Ireland.
In the following 10 years upto the census of Sunday 5th April 1891, Mrs Margaret Blair has died as had her son, Peter, only a few months prior to the census night. The census for High Street, Stockton-on-Tees shows that 149 is uninhabited or at least no formal response to the Census was returned, as is the case for 150 and 1516.
There is no subsequent information to draw any conclusions as to the state of the buildings. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the family is permanently living at their country home, as Mary Young Blair having married Percy Sadler and having a daughter are recorded being at Drumrauck Hall.
As George did not die till September 1894, he would have still owned the property in the High Street. In fact we can find George and his new wife Marian Bower at a Hydrotherapy Establishment in Harrogate.
It would appear that the family owned the property until the will of George had been assessed by the Executors. This included the furnishings and the property of 149 and 150 appropriately disposed of. This was performed by Mr Ralph Appleton, Auctioneer, on the 22th March 1895 for the property and the 25th and 27th March 1895 for the furniture and furnishings7.
The advert was published in the North-Eastern Daily Gazette, on the front page under the heading of Sales by Auction.
The property was advertised as: High-street, Stockton-on-tees, most desirable and valuable freehold properties in choice central situation for sale. Lot 1. All that spacious and centrally situated property, specially adapted for the conversion into business premises...
This would may imply that in the intervening months prior to the sale, modifications had been made with a view to there being a ‘change of use’ for the property.
The furniture and furnishings were advertised as: 149, high-street, Stockton-on-tees, important unreserved sale of valuable household furniture and furnishings. Messrs Appleton and Co. (Ralph and Snowdon Appleton) have received instruction from the Executors of the late G.Y. Blair, Esq., to sell by auction at the town residence...
There is no record of what the financial value of the Furniture and Furnishings brought nor for the dwelling house / business premise.
There is a report in the North-Eastern Daily Gazette for the date of 23rd March 1895 that the bidding for the building reached £3,300 but it is stated that the lot was withdrawn and no reason given8.
On the 28th of April 1896, more than a year after the auction, an advert appears in the North-Eastern Daily Gazette9, headed “Good News for Stockton and District”. This is the announcement that Mr M. Robinson was about to open extensive new premises at 149 & 150, High St., Stockton-on-Tees. Mr. M. Robinson, a drapery merchant already had premises in Hartlepool and was taking advantage of the unoccupied premises to extend his business in a most prominent situation in the High Street.
The advert goes on to mention: “Having recently purchased the large dwelling-house recently occupied by G.Y. Blair, Esq., J.P., 149 & 150 High-street Stockton. They have entirely gutted the building, and also built upon the whole of the large garden behind. The site is 673 square yards, and this has been covered four stories high, giving a floorage of 2,692 square yards. This is much the largest area covered by any Drapery Establishment in the County, or even the North of England, with one or two exceptions.”
Mr. Robinson had extensively revamped to building (149 & 150 High Street) to suit the needs of the Company in the selling of Drapery, Furnishings and Clothes. Most of the work was carried out by the local trades with the exception of planning and design, which was carried out be a firm from Hartlepool10
Thanks are expressed to the following for background information: Alice Barrigan; George Young Blair & Drumrauch Hall
- 1851 Census North West Ward, Stockton; DURHO107_2383_2383-1190 & 1191
- 1861 Census North West Ward, Stockton; DRURG9_3691_3696-0415
- 1871 Census North West Ward, Stockton; DURRG10_4904_4906-0016 & 0017
- 1867 Whites Directory - Stockton -- Blair G.Y.
- 1881 Census North West Ward, Stockton; DURRG11_4896_4900-0496 & 0497
- 1891 Census North West Ward, Stockton; DURRG12_4048_4049-0437
- 18950319 ‘Sales by Auction’ –P1- North-Eastern Daily Gazette
- 18950323 ‘Sale of 149 High St’ –P1C5- North-Eastern Daily Gazette
- 18960428 ‘Good News for Stockton and District’ –P?C1- North-Eastern Daily Gazette
- 18960428 ‘Mammoth New Enterprise’ –P7C1- The Northern Echo
Stories from the High Street participant: Martin Stabler
The ‘Stories…’ project is part of the Council’s wider “Grants for Heritage Buildings’ programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council, to help promote awareness and understanding of the town’s heritage.
Visit www.stockton.gov.uk/grantsforheritagebuildings for further information on the project.