John Crowell Pollard (1859-1906) > Part 2 | HEATHER'S HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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JOHN CROWELL POLLARD (1859-1906)
UPDATED: 01 MAY 2021
PART 2: SOUTH SHIELDS COUNCILLOR & BUSINESSMAN - INEXTRICABLY LINKED!
BACKGROUND

It was in a bundle of family records that I came across a receipt for the re-opening of a grave in Westoe Cemetery in 1901 for the burial of my great uncle, Thomas Young (1880-1901).The grave was that of my great grandparents Thomas Young (1844-1881) and Sarah Pollard (1847-1884) and the name on the receipt was 'J C Pollard'. I later learned that he was the brother of Sarah and according to her death certificate, he was also present when she died.

In 2011, whilst browsing through a file of newspaper cuttings in South Shields Library that I found the fascinating commentary of a conversation between two gentlemen riding on a tram in King Street reported in Shields Morning Mail of the 18th October 1900 which I transcribed and forms the content of Part 1 focusing on Councillor John Crowell Pollard. In this part I am considering his work as a councillor, civic & philanthropic activities, the china and pottery business and an arbitration case emanating from a potential conflict of interest. Most of the material I have selected is on the basis that there is a personal link which I do confess, is sometimes rather tenuous!

1 The First Councillor for the South Shields Beacon Ward

John Crowell Pollard served three terms of office between 1897 and 1904 as an independent Councillor; it is this meeting that has enabled me to establish possible reasons for his appeal to the residents.

SOUTH SHIELDS ELECTION. BEACON WARD. Address J. C. Pollard at the committee rooms in Baring Street.
Summary: He said that it had been his pleasure and privilege, to sit in the Council as their representative for the past 3 years acting for neither clique nor party, voting as he thought best for the interests of that ward and the town generally. Born in that ward, and naturally his sympathies were there.

1 Historic Guns at the Lawe Beacon: Proposal to transfer them to the South Park which he lobbied to reject via his membership of the Parks Committee, supporting the local Pilot fraternity in their strong opposition, €˜the guns which were taken by our gallant soldiers at the Crimea and presented to the town by the War Office should be retained by those who likewise had done gallant service for their country in saving life'.

2 Developments to extend the Parks

3 Seaside Improvements to popularise the town

4 Extension of the Borough Boundaries to outlying villages and communities He felt that it was unfair that practically all the privileges of the borough were enjoyed without a contribution to towards the rates being made by these groups.

5 Tramways extension to the Borough Boundaries, so that outside communities would share the advantages equally with themselves (Beacon Ward).

6 Building of an Underground lavatory to be built on the space between the parks.

7 Electric light into the parks.

All these proposals were acted unanimously. (Shields Daily Gazette - 31st October 1900) (1)

POLLING

In the BNA there are several advertisements requesting support for his candidature:-
This one is particularly significant as it provides an insight in the methods applied by opposition candidates to destabilise his campaign.


Shields Daily Gazette - 16th October 1897 (2)

This promotion requesting support for the election campaign names John Crowell Pollard's agent as Mr K Lawson whose office was at 27 King Street. The Committee Rooms were on the corner of Bath Street and Mile-End. His representation was not without incident borne out by the accusation that he had been brought out by lobbyists wanting to ensure the continuation of unregulated gambling prior to the election of 1897.

STREET BETTING

This was common practise in South Shields as indeed it was throughout the entire country. The Market Place was the hub of this, a central location for men working in the docks on the riverside. It was apparently a contentious issue at the time of the municipal elections of 1897, which was the reason why John Crowell Pollard had to declare in the local press, that his candidature was not influenced by those opposing any action taken to the pending local intervention of making 'street betting' illegal.


Shields Daily Gazette - Thursday 21 October 1897 (3)

TRANSCRIPTION:
EDITOR'S LETTER BOX. [To the Editor the ''Gazette.''] SOUTH SHIELDS ELECTIONS. Sir, - When I first noticed reference made at Mr Davidson's meeting last Thursday, relating to being brought out by the betting fraternity I immediately advertised in your columns that this was false. In personal canvas I find that some interested people, who are well-known, have persisted stating that the candidate nominated by this party. If it is still necessary to reassure the electors, again publicly announce that l am not brought out by any betting party, nor an advocate. For months it has been my intention to contest the seat lor the Beacon Ward (even under its old name), in fact, long before the betting by-law, of which 1 am a strong supporter, was ever mentioned. Hoping, that this frequent public denial mv part, the conscientious doubts the electors will finally be set at rest. - Yours, John C. Pollard.

By 1904 it was an issue for Parliament and presented as the STREET BETTING BILL. It was debated in the House of Lords on the 10th May (4). In 1906, the Street Betting Act was passed into Parliamentary legislation. Needless to say, that this form of gambling was not in fact curbed, and I well remember my mother telling me that this was the livelihood of the father as an unlicenced bookmaker of one of the girls in my primary school.

It was in 1961 that the government introduced legalised betting shops as a means of taking gambling off the streets and ending the practice of bookmakers sending "runners" to collect from punters. Several acts have followed.

TOWN COUNCIL

He appeared to be a significant member of the town council, for example at the monthly meeting in the Town Hall on the 2nd February 1899, he was one of twenty-two council members supporting the successful candidature of the Mayor, Thomas Dunn Marshall to be appointed an Alderman following the death of Ald. T G Mabane (Shields Daily Gazette - 2nd February 1899). (5)

Mr Pollard did not seek re-election for the fourth term:


Shields Daily News - 19th July 1904 (6)

Although no explanation of 'I cannot see my way clear, owing pressure much more important matters, again to fight for the honour of Representing you' is given it was most likely because of his declining health and relocation (see Part 3) together with his retirement from his business and the acrimony with the Town Council (Section 4).

Victoria Seawater Swimming Baths (1885-1916)

I am commencing this section with the background to the development of this swimming facility as this is the first information, I have found relating to J C Pollard's involvement in the life of the town.

(7) 'Opened by a private company in July 1885. Designed by Joseph Morton. Cost £6.000. The baths were supplied directly from the sea at high tide. 16 months later the baths were sold for £2,710' (8).

In this annual report of the newly established company for the first quarter of 1889, a list of the shareholders is given including John Crowell Pollard and his father (my gt gt grandfather), James Caddle Pollard. James and Robert Readhead were also shareholders with the latter, the chairman.

'The result of the first year's working has, on the whole, been successful, considering the cold weather which prevailed during the whole of the summer months. It is to be hoped that the season this year is more genial and warmer than last, the revenue account will show a large increase and enable a dividend to be declared. Certain alterations in the baths are now being carried on, and in a short time Turkish and vapour baths will ready lor use' (Shields Daily Gazette - 25th March 1889). (9)

The salt water baths which stood at the Pier Head in South Shields (10)

The company lasted until 1902 and the baths closed around 1916. In 1921 the building became the Marina Theatre then the Majestic Ballroom with a new 1930s frontage, then an amusement arcade'. (11)

I recall it as the site of 'Laser Quest' (laser tag game using infrared handheld units and vests) which was a popular venue with both my sons Alex (son and editor) recalls enjoying many visits including with friends prior to his birthday parties whilst Dominick informed me that it was the best in the area because it was spacious and occupied two floors! The building was demolished in 2010 and the land is now part of the site of the futuristic Haven Point Swimming complex.

The Popular Pass Time- Bowls

This was an activity that John Crowell Pollard had already declared his interest during his journey along King Street in 1900 (Part 1). In 1894 he was a member of the newly formed St Aidan's Club (named after the church in the Beacon Ward). At the annual dinner at the Criterion Hotel of forty men on the 21st November 1894, it was evident that he took an active role, as a committee member, winner of a competition, offering a vote of thanks and supporting a campaign to improve the 'greens'. The president John Readhead, J P. (Shields Daily Gazette - 22nd November 1894). (12)

I well-remember watching my grandfather, Alfred Ernest Young playing in a competition on one of the bowling greens in the North Marine Park in the late 1950s; he may have been a member of this club, that of his uncle!

By 1896, the club was thriving with twelve new members according to the Annual Report given at Queen Street Lecture Theatre. There was success in competitions, winning thirteen of the twenty-three played including the North and South Shields cup competitions and being the representative team against Durham County; a match they lost. 'The thanks of the club are also due to J. C. Pollard, who gave a beautiful tea service ... played for by all the members of the club in a single-handed competition, and which was won by A. Scott' (Shields Daily Gazette - 20th October 1896). (13)

By 1897, the club had almost a hundred members. John Crowell Pollard also played in the two major competitions: the Readhead and Gentles Cups (Shields Daily Gazette - 8th June 1897). (14)

Bowls was evidently also a very social activity much the way that golfing is today:- The South Shields Drake Club sponsored a match at the Marine Club green between teams especially selected of thirty players. 'Afterwards adjournment was made the large room the Golden Lion Hotel, where a successful smoking concert was held ... The president John Readhead, J P., president was the chairman, supported by the Mayor (Ald. Marshall) and Councillor J. C. Pollard (Shields Daily Gazette - 24th August 1899). (15)

Model Yacht Club

At a race of fifteen yachts sailed on 'Saturday afternoon on the lake in the South Marine Park, the prizes were given by Councillor J. C. Pollard' (Shields Daily Gazette - 3rd September 1900). I remember sailing my navy-blue coloured yacht on this lake with several other children. Now, together with Health & Safety issues and that the lake is the habitat for colonies of ducks, presumably this is no longer an acceptable activity (Shields Daily Gazette - 3rd September 1900). (16)

Chrysanthemum Society

Annual Meeting on the 24th June, 1904 at the Royal Hotel, South Shields. - Mr J. C. Pollard agreed to donate a cup for one of the competitions. The society was apparently in its ascendancy sponsoring Mr Bernard Cowan, F.R.H.S., as a delegate to the National Chrysanthemum Society with the president and the chair for the evening, the notable civic dignitary, Mr James Readhead, J.P. A sum of £25 was given to the new children's ward at the Ingham Infirmary. (Shields Daily Gazette - 25th June 1904). (17)

3 China and Pottery Business 1880-1904

John Crowell Pollard's business was located in two premier streets in South Shields. Initially this was in Ocean Road at the corner with Pollard Street, a street named after his father James Caddle Pollard (1822-1894) responsible with John's elder brother George Pollard (1849-1909) for an extensive housing development. The family home, a double-fronted terrace house was at 20 Pollard Street.

The Pollard family were entrepreneurs born out by the fact that my grandfather, Alfred Ernest Young (1878-1963), orphaned grandson of James Caddle Pollard, at the age of fourteen, in 1892, was given the option to work in any of his uncles' businesses which included building, joinery, stationery, china and pottery, glazing & paint manufacture. He selected the latter; he too eventually owned the business trading as J W Pollard in Ocean Road for fifty years.


Shields Daily Gazette - Wednesday 5th December 1894 (18)

So, for fourteen years, John Crowell Pollard had established by all accounts a successful business transferring in 1895, to newly purchased premises, 38-40 Fowler Street, closer to the main street in the town, King Street. He was a benefactor in his father's will of 1894 so he may well have used some of his inheritance to purchase the property.

There were several promotional advertisements and public notices in in the South Shields newspapers:


Shields Daily Gazette - Tuesday 15 July 1902 (19)

The purpose of this Public Notice was to inform shoppers that the store would be open on the August Bank Holiday but closed on the day of the coronation of King Edward VII and his wife Alexandra which was not known on the 15th July. In fact, it took place at Westminster Abbey on the 9th August 1902.

The End of the Business

The apparently successful business continued trading for a further ten years until 1904 when there was enforced closure due to the South Shields Improvement Act of 1900 (Section 4) ostensibly based on the widening of Fowler Street. There would have been an option to relocate, but John Crowell Pollard decided to retire from trading and move to Hove, on the South Coast.

This is a notice advising of the disposal of stock by auction that provides an insight into the range of glass, china, and earthenware for sale.


Shields Daily News - 19th July 1904 (20)

I am very fond of my Dinner, Tea, Breakfast and Dessert Sets and collections of crystal. Items with the same purpose were on sale in 1904, however, I appreciate the fact that the majority of these items would no longer have a place in most households today, e.g., Trinket Sets, Chamber Sets (single and double), Jardinieres on Pedestals, Hand-painted Vases, Sets of Jugs, Teapots, Decanters, Water Bottles and Glasses, Celery Glasses, and Fancy Goods! It is purely speculative to claim that an odd Victorian glass, plate, or bowl I have inherited, may have been purchased from this very store.

4 Arbitration: South Shields Improvement Act of 1900

Between 1900 and 1904, there was an ambitious plan to widen Fowler Street which meant that the forty or so businesses trading in the area of this compulsory purchase scheme required recompense. As far as I can establish, the South Shields Corporation undervalued the properties which led to the owners individually, taking the Corporation to arbitration to achieve more agreeable settlements. The total cost to the Corporation was approximately £125,000.

Mr John Crowell Pollard, China Merchant

Shields Daily Gazette - 1st July 1904 (21)

He owned adjoining premises 38-40 Fowler Street, and not only did he have to gain a settlement for the enfranchisement of his business and property, but he also had to fight the besmirchment of his character in the assertion by the Corporation that he was guilty in effect of 'insider dealing' (a conflict of interest between his business interests and that of the town councillor) in fixing the price of the extent of his compensation entitlement.

On the 21st June, at the Station Hotel in Newcastle, the arbitration case was heard before, Mr Thomas Gow; the Town Clerk, Mr J. Moore Hayton was represented by Mr Lewis Coward K.C. Mr Crowell's solicitor was George Scott jnr. and he instructed Mr E Boyle, KC., to represent him. The case was found in favour of Mr Pollard, he was awarded £4,760 and his reputation restored.

In a separate arbitration case, Henry Pollard another of my great grandmother Sarah Pollard's siblings, brother of John Crowell Pollard and owner of a nearby stationer's business was awarded arbitration in the amount of £2,450.

Messrs Miller and Co., provision merchants in Fowler Street

This was the final case and perhaps the most significant of the cases. Initially they claimed £15,040. A compromise was reached whereby £3,700 was awarded together with £3,739 for rebuilding on the prestigious corner site between Fowler Street and Keppel Street which was transferred to them (Shields Daily Gazette - Monday 24 October 1904). (22)

They traded as high-class provision merchants Miller and Douglas and for several decades. I recall the business later trading as 'Hinton's'; memorable to me not only because of the distinctive smell of coffee, the wonderful displays of products but above all the Pneumatic tube system whereby payments were put into a metal tube then 'whizzed' to the floor above to the counting house with change and receipts returned to the customer.

Latterly the business was a shoe shop and when trading ceased, the Borough bought the premises, a listed building which is currently being sensitively restored. (23)

COMMENTS

The final word from John Crowell Pollard was the on the 19th July 1904 (6) when he declared that he was not contesting the pending council election even though there was support. At the same time, the stock of his China Merchant business was being auctioned (20). His life in South shields was coming to an end.

Although he had cleared his name in the arbitration case of the 21st June (21) following presumably many months of negative publicity in the accusation that he 'fixed the price at which the Corporation of South Shields were entitled to take compulsorily, his freehold premises inclusive of his business' this must have had an adverse effected effect on his well-being.

The unfounded accusation that he 'fixed the price' was based on his roles as a successful businessman, conflicting with that of his as independent councillor for the Beacon Ward. The assumption was that he had knowledge of all of the council's development plans. There is no evidence that he served on a relevant committee overseeing the South Shields Improvement Act of 1900, formulated in the previous decade (Ten years or so ago, I did scour the council minutes stored in the old South Shields Library, but I could find no evidence of reference to any of the litigation taken out by the Fowler Street business community at the turn of the century).

In his Election Address of October 1900 (1), I we learn something of the man; his interests were to serve the needs of his constituents, maintain the historical landmarks. Improve transport, as well as improving the facilities for tourists potentially increasing the revenue to the town. Prior to this, in 1897 (3), he had to defend his reputation in declaring that he was not in favour of illegal betting or that he was influenced by the lobbying group supporting this.

The suggestion that he endeavoured to inflate the value of his business in Fowler Street, that he was in effect an unscrupulous businessman strongly contrasts with the information I have gathered in preparation for this writing; a successful businessman and philanthropist giving freely of his time and wealth.

In his final message (6) he refers to 'well-wishers and supporters' who perhaps had not wavered in supporting him in the arbitration case and wanted him to continue in civic office or was he referencing his declining health preventing him from continuing as Councillor and China Merchant. The months of accusations and uncertainty must have taken a toll on not only that of himself but also of his family (see Part 3).

This period 1888-1904 in the biography of John Crowell Pollard, provides an insight into the life of an upwardly mobile and ambitious gentleman in the late Victorian and early Edwardian era in South Shields. It is in the concluding Part 3, that I will write about his family life, death and reflect on his obituary. In addition, there are two fascinating incidents to consider and set in context.

References

1,2,3,5, 6,9,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,22: Courtesy of British Newspaper Archive
4 Hansard vol 134 cc867-76)
7 South Tyneside Libraries: Ref. STH0010564
8 Tyne and Wear HER(17073): South Shields, Pier Parade, Victoria Sea Water Swimming Baths, 2010
10 The changing seafront at South Shields-article 'Chronicle Live', 21st April 2015
11 ditto 8
21 Shields Daily Gazette - sourced South Shields Library: GR Thompson/Ancestry
23 The Shields Gazette, 29th May 2019