Farm Hind & Family at Ravensworth
Close House Farm Ravensworth was sited half way along the Coach Road between Lobley Hill and Lamesley
The Farm was owned by gentleman Farmer Mr Andrew Sanderson and the bulk of the land then being farmed extended over what is now the Team Valley Trading Estate.
This ‘contract of employment’ written by Andrew Sanderson and dated 3rd April 1929 refers to the engagement of James Nesbit and his family as agricultural workers at Close House Farm, Ravensworth.
THE CONTRACT READS
Newcastle Hiring’s 3rd April 1929
This is to certify that I Andrew Sanderson at Close House Farm Ravensworth Gateshead do hereby engage James Nesbitt as Hind (Farm Labourer) at the wage of Thirty Eight Shillings per week with free house and coals led and one quart of milk per day and one hundred stones of potatoes in the year.
Also his daughters:
Anne Nesbitt at £1. 4d per week
Isabella at £1. 3d per week
Alice at £1. 3d per week
And his son John at £0.18d per week
From May 13th 1928 to May 13th 1929
Signed: Andrew Sanderson
One of the ladies mentioned in the contract, Isabella Nesbit (pictured above), whose wage was £1.3s.0d. per week (today £1.30p), delivered fresh milk twice a day to the Bensham and Saltwell areas of Gateshead.
During this period the morning milk bottle system had not developed. And Miss Nesbit's daily task was to ladle milk into jugs and other receptacles on customer's door steps.
However, this lady also carried out this task during seven days a week for fifty two weeks a year! Isabella and her two sisters, also mentioned in the contract, were responsible for feeding, milking and otherwise administering the fann's considerable herd of cows. Anne and Alice also worked seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year.
It will be noted that the contract is headed 'Newcastle Hirings'. The 'Agricultural Employment Year' began in the month of May. And farmers needing workers for the forthcoming employment period attended 'hirings' which were held annually in April, in local towns.
The Newastle Hirings were held in the Bigg Market, where agricultural labourers seeking work for the forthcoming year would assemble in a circle. The employing farmers would move around within that circle talking to the men, learning what experience they had, and discussing terms of employment i.e. wages. In reality it was similar to a slave market.
As was the case with the Coal Owners in Mining, It was obviously advantageous for the employer to engage a man who had a young working family, as in the Nesbit's case. In the employers eyes the children could be used as and when they demanded or their father face dismissal. No Trade Unions or Employment Tribunals in those days, the working man had no one to help them.
The Team Valley was almost entirely rural until the early 1930's when an idea, formulated from Slough Estates, to creat factory space and attract entreprenuers to rent for manufacturing and thus relieve the mssive unemployment wflich then existed.in the North East of England.
The first purpose‑built industrial estate was therefore born with the creation of the Team Valley Trading Estates Company, in 1936.
The Close House Farm buildings remained in their somewhat isolated position until 1971 when they were demolished to make way for the construction of the Gateshead Western Bypass.
The photographs and historic details were donated by Mr Douglas Shield of Whickham, the grandson of James Nesbit.