Mr Alphonse Reyrolle (In his office above) came to Hebburn in 1901 to start his Electrical Company on the site of a former dye-works adjacent to Hebburn Station. Fred Nicod’s father had been manager of Alphonses small business in London and when they moved to Hebburn, he was manager there for about 15 years. By 1903 Reyrolle’s had ten employees and by 1906 they had over 500 employees and the company was fast becoming an integral part of Hebburn’s fabric. In 1906 two great engineers arrived at Reyrolles and they were 32 year old engineer Charles Hesterman Merz, born in Gateshead to a German father and an English mother (the sister of Mr Whigham Richardson a Tyneside shipbuilder). Unfortunately Mr Merz died in 1940’s at home in London when his home was bombed by the Luftwaffe. How ironic that was because he was half German.The other brilliant engineer who came to work for Mr Reyrolle in 1906 and who did more to establish the Reyrolle Company was Henry W Clothier who became chief engineer. Later, Henry became a Director and ran the company after Alphonse Reyrolle died in 1919. Below is a photo of Mr Clothier taken in 1936, just two years before he died age 64. Henry Clothier had served and built up the Reyrolle Company for 32 years
Like other industrialists in those days, the philanthropist in Alphonse emerged. The Reyrolle’s Employees Benevolent Association was born and as part of their remit provided ‘barefoot football’ for the children in the local area. A Reyrolle’s football team wasn’t far behind and created in 1912, joining the Jarrow & District Junior League
Like other industrialists in those days, the philanthropist in Alphonse emerged. The Reyrolle’s Employees Benevolent Association was born and as part of their remit provided ‘barefoot football’ for the children in the local area. A Reyrolle’s football team wasn’t far behind and created in 1912, joining the Jarrow & District Junior League.
Football had existed in the town since the 1880s with Hebburn Argyle but World War One took its toll and when the armistice was signed ‘Hebburn Argyle’ ceased to exist. Reyrolles, though, was going the other way and by the end of WW1 employee numbers were up to 800 and the team had progressed to the South Shields Combination. Alphonse wasn’t a well man and in 1919 just as his company was making international in roads and his football team expanding, Alphonse Reyrolle died.
By the 1930s Reyrolle’s employed 5000 people in Hebburn alone and was linked to a merger with General Electric. Throughout the 2nd world war and post-war period the Reyrolle Company grew and diversified so by 1950 they employed more than 12,000 . Alphonse’s, impact on Hebburn and the local area cannot be underestimated, yet he, Mr Merz and Mr Clothier are forgotten which is such a shame after what they did ,not just for Hebburn, but this area
Fred Nicod and his 7 brothers all worked for Alphonse’s creation. Fred recalled how as a young apprentice he accidentally hit Mr.Reyrolle with a snowball and damaged his glasses. He was sent for and shown the damage to the glasses and ordered to take them and repair them, which he did successfully. Mr Reyrolle was impressed & from then on Alphonse took an interest in young Fred. Alphonse was a bit upset when 17 yr old Fred joined the Army in 1916 after lying about his age. Fred wrote to Reyrolles from France and in later life treasured a reply he received from Mr. Reyrolle.
After the War ended Fred spent some time in hospital and on returning home in 1919 noticed the Reyrolle’s flags flying at half-mast. He was shocked to hear it was because Mr Reyrolle had died age of 55.
Alphonse was a benevolent employer and cared for everyone, particularly when they were sick or in any kind of trouble and did much to establish the family spirit. The Reyrolle Co always paid their employees well, and for employees it was nearly always a job for life. What a great man Alphonse Reyrolle was for bringing so much employment to little old Hebburn, and so sad that he and Henry Clothier are nearly forgotten.
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