Matthew Charlton and Sons Ltd
This personal account was written by Derek Sims and first appeared on Facebook in the Hexham Remembered group. Photos added from the HLHS Photo Archive.
Matthew Charlton the Company founder was born in 1822 in the village of Stamfordham, Northumberland. In 1842 after serving his apprenticeship as a Slater, he found the Company of Matthew Charlton. Matthew died at the age of 82 in 1904, but his sons John and Andrew carried on the business in partnership under the title of Matthew Charlton & Sons. John Charlton moved to Hexham in the early 1900s and rented a small yard that was part of the railway coal depot. He continued there until the first parts of the present premises were purchased in 1906.
John had three sons, Robbie, Matty and John who all served their apprenticeships as Slaters. Robbie and Matty continued with the family business and John went into another profession. Robbie and Matty served throughout the First World War (Matty was wounded at the Somme) and on their return they joined their father in the business. Robbie took over a branch at Stamfordham while Matty remained in Hexham. John’s daughter Catherine (Katie) joined the family business in 1919 and took charge of the office, remaining with the Company until 1935. John Charlton died in 1933 aged 73. Robbie and Matty were joined by their nephews, Douglas in 1939 and Rowland in 1941 and they in turn served their time in the Slaters. Eventually they volunteered for War Service in the Second World War, Douglas to the RAF and Rowland to the Fleet Air Arm. Matty died in 1954 aged 66 and Robbie in 1961 aged 75. Catherine died in 1988 aged 92. Douglas died in 1987 aged 67.
Up until the 1940s the Company has dabbled in the merchanting business and as far back as 1913, the records show a mixed consignment of cement, laths, timber, chimney pots etc. the Builders Merchants side of the Company took off after 1945 when Douglas and Rowland returned from the forces. The first step was into fireplaces and kitchen ranges and gradually spread to bathroom suites, sanitary fittings and plumbing materials. the first Company wagon was purchased in 1948 and this transported material for the slaters jobs as well as delivering orders for the Builders Merchants.
In 1950 the building on Station Road which had previously been the old stables was converted into a showroom for fireplaces, bathroom suites, etc. The policy of expansion was decided upon. No. 1 Meadow Terrace (the row of houses adjoining the Station Road premises) was purchased in 1946. This is now the bathroom and kitchen showroom.
The first new warehouse built in 1954 on the south side of the top yard gave an extra 1200 square feet of floor space and was known within the company as;The Bath House. In 1955 the company split into two separate limited companies Matthew Charlton & Sons (Slaters) Limited and Matthew Charlton & Sons (Builders Merchants) Limited. Douglas Charlton managed the Slating business and Rowland Charlton the Builders Merchants business.
More houses along the frontage of Station Road were purchased in 1957 and 1960 and were used for more showroom space. In 1963 a translucent cover was erected over the top yard that enabled vehicles to be loaded under dry conditions. In 1964 the company extended to the south where the warehouse was built in 1954, this gave a further 5,000 square feet of floor space.
A piece of land, previously an orchard, was purchased at Chareway Lane, Hexham where the Garage and Joinery Departments are now located. This was initially used to store building materials that could stand outside. In 1965 the first fork lift was purchased. In 1968 a workshop was built to house the machinery necessary for the timber yard and the main warehouse was extended eastwards to give a further 12,500 square feet of floor space. In 1969 the company went through massive internal alterations and the formation of four separate departments Building, Plumbing, Hardware and Timber, each department with a department head. In 1971 more covered yard was created by covering an area of the existing bottom yard.
In 1972 the company erected a building at Chareway Lane. In 1977 the builder’s yard at the east end of Outlet Road was purchased and in 1978 the land and premises owned by Alco in Outlet Road adjacent to Matthew Charlton & Son’s property was purchased.
In 1980 the Company converted what was its top yard into a new self selection area to cope with the expanding amount of retail business the Company was doing and also to make it easier for the tradesmen to shop.
In 1981 the main heavy yard opposite the main Station Road building was purchased from West Cumberland Farmers and converted into a heavy side store and hire department. In 1981 the Company renovated part of the W.C.F. yard, making the frontage into the Plant Hire and Sales showrooms.
In 1987 the Company managed to purchase from Shell UK a large section of land which had previously interrupted the flow of property between our main showroom timber yard and the Alco shed. This was converted into storage for timber and at a later date, a large timber shed was erected.
In 1988 a small DIY store in Morpeth was purchased. The shop had been called Robson’s DIY and continued to trade under this name for several years until it was felt that the Matthew Charlton banner should be put over the doorway. Charlton’s branch in Morpeth is a thriving part of the business, that not only serves the local retail community, but also has a thriving trade business, supplying items from their stock and acting as a satellite depot for products stocked at Hexham. In June 1994 the Morpeth branch moved to larger and better equipped premises in Oldgate and today continues to serve its customers to a high standard. In December 1995, we acquired the Builders Merchants H. Raine; Company (Trading as Contract House) in Ponteland. This was part of the expansion plans for the company in the Newcastle area. Ponteland Branch is today responsible for 10% of the company turnover and has a thriving trade and retail business. Ponteland has a good stock range but also, as with Morpeth, acts as a satellite depot for products stocked at Hexham.
In January 1997, Rowland Charlton, M.B.E., died. He was the company’s Managing Director and the founder of the Builders Merchants. Today Angus Charlton runs the businesses as a family concern. In 1999, The Builders Merhants business was sold to Jewson Builders Merchants. The company then focused its attention to property investments and property development. They also started to develop other markets around the world primarily in Asia where we sell garden paving products to DIY stores and landscape contractors throughout Japan. In 2003 the company opened an office in Shanghai, China and started to import products to the UK. We are still expanding our bases of operations and widening our purchasing operations around the world, most recently in Brazil. In 2006 Charlton i-source was established to provide consultancy procurement services to customers looking to buy in Asia and today has customers through out the world who rely on Charlton i-source to find and produce products for them.
Having served my apprenticeship at Matthew Charlton (Slaters) Ltd in the early 1970s, I still have fond memories of my time there. Herbie Harding was just a great guy to work with, as was John Munnelly, R.I.P. He was my 1st apprentice.
Derek A Sim.