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The Laidlaw Family of Brush Makers

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The history of the Laidlaw family of brush makers in Newcastle spans one hundred and sixty-eight years. This article has highlighted an extremely brief section of the story, with association to Gosforth and Jesmond. The complete account written by David Wardell is available (with incredible detail and illustration) to read at the bottom of this page. David follows four generations of the family through the rise and fall of fortunes, times of tension when their land was taken for rail improvements at Manors and various business exploits as one would expect over such a long term. The story is accompanied by numerous news snippets which illuminate particular instances of the lives of individual family members deemed to be news worthy and set in print for us all to read.

David has generously made his full research available to everyone as a pdf which can be either read on this site or downloaded for your convenience.


The Laidlaw Family

This story begins around 1752 with Adam Laidlaw who was born in the town of Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. Adam became reverend Adam Laidlaw and moved with the church to St. James Chapel, Newcastle in 1785. St. James Chapel was near Grey’s Monument at the junction of Blackett Street and Grainger Street and later became the YMCA premises.

Rev. Adam Laidlaw married Mary Laidler on 8th May 1786 at All Saints Newcastle. The couple had six children.

Children of Rev. Adam Laidlaw & Mary Laidler 

William Laidlaw                     b. 11th Feb   1787

Adam Laidlaw                        b.   5th May 1788

Thomas Laidlaw                     b. 12th Nov  1789

John Whitfield Laidlaw          b. 16th Jul    1791

Robert Laidlaw                     b. 22nd Jun  1793

David Laidlaw                        b.   6th Jul    1798

Robert Laidlaw 1st Generation of Brush Makers in family  b. 22nd June  1793

Robert is the person with whom the Laidlaw Brush Company started. He would have undertaken an apprenticeship in his mid teens or even earlier and this would have lasted for seven years when he would have become a Journeyman Brush maker around the age of 20-22 yrs.  Perhaps around 1815.

Robert Laidlaw married Mary Ann Dunford, the couple had seven children. Among them were, Adam Laidlaw, born October 1825 and Robert E Laidlaw born 1837.

In the 1851 census we find Robert and his wife Mary Ann living at 9, Oxford Street, Newcastle. Adam is now 25 years old and is a clerk and traveler, possibly for his father’s brush company which now employs 27 men. Robert E. Laidlaw, age 16,  is apprenticed to a hardware man.

Adam & Robert Laidlaw 2nd Generation Brush Makers

1856 Adam and Robert Errington Laidlaw assume control of the Laidlaw Brush Manufacturing Company in partnership after the death of their father Robert. This partnership became apparent at a later time when it was dissolved.

Adam (2nd generation) married Hannah Gibson the couple had seven children including Robert Babington Laidlaw born 1866. (D. 1928) Detailed information about Robert Errington Laidlaw and Adam Laidlaw is included in the full history at the bottom of this page.

Newcastle Daily Chronicle 30th September 1890 carries the notice of Adam’s death aged 64. At this time Adam was living at 7, Eslington Terrace Jesmond. The internment was at Jesmond Old Cemetery on 30th September 1890 at 11.30.

Robert Babington Laidlaw 3rd Generation Brush Makers

By 1901 Robert Babington Laidlaw 3rd generation brush maker in the Laidlaw family is living at ‘Glen Farg’ on Linden Road in Gosforth with his wife Robina and their small son Roland Babington Laidlaw who is ten months old. There is a nurse / housemaid, Mary Cole, living in with them. A second son Robert Anthony was born about 1902.

Newcastle Journal 21 February 1928 records the death of Robert Babington Laidlaw in a nursing home on 20th February 1928. The internment was at Jesmond Old Cemetery at 2.30 p.m.

Roland & Robert Anthony Laidlaw  4th Generation Brush Makers

Roland Babington Laidlaw b.13 Jun 1900  Newcastle  d. 23 Feb 1986 Newcastle

Robert Anthony (Tony) Babington Laidlaw b.abt.1902 Newcastle d. 6th January 1968 Newcastle

Following their father’s death Roland and Tony Laidlaw became joint proprietors of Robert Laidlaw & Sons.  Their father had been the sole proprietor of the company. This entry in the 1945 telephone directory shows Laidlaw’s Home and Garden Ltd are trading from 145 High Street Gosforth.

Quote about Tony Laidlaw from a friend

“ Robert Anthony Babington Laidlaw, or Tony Laidlaw, was a well-built gentleman who liked his beer. He used to drink quite a bit in the Brandling Villa along with Frank Nettleton, Chris Billetop, and a couple of other businessmen. He also spent a lot of time at Northern Rugby Club.  He lived at 23 Regent Road Gosforth.  His older brother was Roland. They owned a brush factory on Glasshouse Street, off City Road.   Tony and Roland both ran the shop on Gosforth High Street and the factory on City Road in a very much hands on way“

Photo credit James P Deans

“ghost sign” at Algernon Road Byker / Shields Road, Byker

Robert Laidlaw & Son – Brush and Mop Manufacturer and Dealer

Ghost Sign Byker.jpg | Robert Laidlaw & Sons Brush Manufactu… | Flickr

Laidlaw’s Shop on Gosforth High Street

Next to Northern Rock on Gosforth High Street with NatWest Bank just beyond was Laidlaw’s Home and Garden Shop, selling brushes, hardware, wallpaper, paints & gardening requisites. It was a small competition for the longstanding Thorpe’s Hardware opposite and the only wallpaper source on the High Street. In those days, wallpaper came with a protective edging on both sides of the sheet known as the selvedge. Once you had chosen your paper, for a small fee, the shop would remove this edging on a little hand-operated rolling machine with two cutting wheels on either side. Since they had to roll right through by hand, you had to leave your paper with them for a day or two longer while this was done. A fascinating process to watch for a small boy, with the selvedge streaming off the sides of the roll in a continuous ribbon.


Memories Of Gosforth High Street (part 3) Mentioning Laidlaw’s shop.


Deaths & Probate for Anthony & Roland Laidlaw

Anthony Laidlaw died 6th January 1968.  Probate 6th March 1968.





Anthony Laidlaw met with a terrible accident  from which he died after a bad fall in Crag Hall Dene, Newcastle. He had lain at the foot of a cliff for some 14 hours and was found by three children who raised the alarm. He died two days later in the RVI.  It was not known why he was there and various ideas were suggested, such as an accidental fall,  a fall due to inebriation or perhaps an attack.

Roland Babington Laidlaw died 23rd February 1986. Probate 23 February 1986.

Tel. Directory 1977 

Last directory entry showing  Gosforth High Street Shop

Read The Full Account of David’s Research

Four Full Generations Of The Laidlaw Family

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My Scottish Townhouse Story

My Scottish Townhouse Story Portrait a3 poster ©Discovering Heritage

My Scottish Townhouse Story offers a unique way to add an extraordinary hallmark to your house. Our specialist archival research displayed with an elegantly designed illustration of your property offers a link to history that allows you to travel back through the years and view your house alongside the residents of yesteryear.

Do you hold your Scottish heritage close to your heart?

We all love the famous stories that run through Scottish history; the colourful characters who were brandishing fervour in the fight for justice throughout a historical landscape that rose and fell with the lives of its inhabitants.

Who were these inhabitants, and where did they live?

Descendants of Scottish heroes built the cities and townhouses of Scotland. Their lives have become interwoven in the fabric of Scottish history. Discovering the history of your house can uncover some interesting stories!

Who Lived In My House?

39 North Castle Street Edinburgh. 1801 – 1826

Today this charming property is split into city apartments—the property boasts at least one famous Scottish resident. 

My Scottish Townhouse Story Sir Walter Scotts residence Edinburgh ©Discovering Heritage

Sir Walter Scott

In the autumn of 1801, Sir Walter Scott became a tenant of this house, described as being in Edinburgh’s new town. By Whit – Sunday 1802 Scott had purchased the property for £850 cash + £950 bond. He lived at this residence until 1826 when the house was sold to aid his financial situation.

Imagine sharing a resident legacy with such a prominent Scottish author! 

By researching records and publications, we can add details that bring the history of your house to life. During our research for this article, we came across an entry in a book describing Walers Scott’s frustration on moving into the premises in 1801. Finding the painters and workmen had made the place almost uninhabitable!  

“To augment this confusion my wife has fixed upon this time as proper to present me with a fine chopping boy, whose pipe, being of the shrillest, is heard amid the storm, like a boatswain’s whistle in a gale of wind.”

Walter Scott His Life and Personality Hesketh Pearson.

This property on North Castle Street was also the subject of a pen and ink drawing by Turner. Such a provenance!

http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/graphics/39castlest.jpg

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-no-39-castle-street-edinburgh-former-residence-of-walter-scott-d26336


House histories can connect you to a heritage you never knew existed.


My Scottish Townhouse Story Ann Street house ©Discovering Heritage

44, Ann Street Edinburgh 1823 – 1915

 Ann Street was described by Sir John Betjeman as

” The most attractive street in Britain.”

44 Ann Street was designed by the Scottish painter Sir Henry Raeburn with the architect James Milne. The house was completed in 1823, and the street was named after Henry Raeburn’s wife, Ann. Ann Street was also one of the first streets in Edinburgh’s New Town to be designed with private front gardens.

This beautiful townhouse has a legacy of residents; we have looked at a few dating from 1823 to 1915, including a banker, a commissions agent, a teacher and a silk mercer with attending live-in servants.

Tracing Property History

From 1617 the movement of property in Scotland from the humble croft, townhouse, or stately castle was legally recorded and traceable.

In 1617 The Registration Act (General Register of Sasines) was passed under King James VI. A sasine in Scottish law is defined as the delivery of feudal property, typically land. In this sense, feudal property means immovable property, including buildings, trees, and underground minerals. 

The original act underwent several adaptations. Finally, 2002 witnessed the last legal ceremony of Sansine. And in 2007, Automated Registration of Title to Land (ARTL) allowed people to register their title deeds online. 

My Scottish Townhouse Story

We can uncover your unique heritage with archival research to find the story of your own house.

My Scottish Townhouse Story is a bespoke illustration featuring a colour drawing of your house alongside a potted history highlighting its individual legacy.


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