The Laidlaw Family of Brush Makers


Unlocking heritage through historically authentic research of people, buildings and places

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 Cemetrey 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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