Foots Buildings, Preston Village
These buildings were named after Mr. Charles Foot, a former Seaton Sluice man who, after serving an apprenticeship as a joiner started business as a cartwright in Preston in 1851.
Sometime during 1874 or 1875 his modest premises were destroyed in a fire and he was obliged to consider the alternatives of re-building the old workshops or having a brand new factory constructed. Since demand for his work seemed to be increasing, he wisely chose the latter of the two options. To ensure that his new premises were perfectly suitable for his purposes, Mr Foot designed the buildings and personally supervised their construction. The new building was 148 feet long and 34 feet wide with 43 windows on the front and 23 at the back and south end. There were 3 floors and at the north end of the building there was an arch with double doors which lead to the showrooms. Within these doors was a hoist upon which carriages could be lifted easily by one man to any of the upper floors. The Preston Carriage Works were opened in February 1876 -
"with a splendid Stock of Light and HANDSOME CARRIAGES
Consisting of 16 New Phaetons, 2 Stanhope Wagonettes, and 2 Wagonettes; 4 Pony Dog-Carts,
1 four-wheeled ditto, 18 Whitechapls, 1 Commercial gig,
1 Park Phaeton, for 1 or 2 horses.
Also, second-hand, new done up, 1 Stanhope, 3
Phaetons, 3 Dog-Carts, 2 Whitechapels, 1 Cab-Phaeton, Also,
New and Second-hand Wheels, Springs, Patent Axels, Lamps,
Waterproof Aprons, Wood-Mats, Whips &c."
(Shields Daily News 4.2.1876)
The Carriages produced by Charles Foot were of such good quality that his name was known throughout the country. Honours were bestowed upon him at many important exhibitions and carriages from Preston were exported to places as far away as India and Australia. The majority of his work, however, remained in the north east and examples of his carriages are on display in the open air museum at Beamish, Co. Durham.
During the 1970's whilst maintenance work was being carried out in one of the docks on the River Tyne, a small fire cart, manufactured by Charles Foot and son, was discovered in the mud on the river bed. There are no clues as to how the cart found its way there but it was returned to its rightful owners at the Preston Grange Fire Station where it has been fully restored and now makes the occasional appearance at local exhibitions and shows. To illustrate the success of Charles Foot w
e have only to look at the number of people that he employed. As a cartwright in 1861, he had 1 man and 2 boys working for him. In 1871, after he started to expand his business, he employed 7 men and 7 boys. By 1881, 20 men and 13 boys worked at the carriage works.
At around the beginning of this century, as the motor car began to develope, Charles Foot, who by now had brought his son into the business, turned his attention to the building of motor bodies. By the time of his death in 1916, Mr. Foot - Justice of the Peace, a former Tynemouth Town Councillor and member of the Tynemouth Board of Guardians, has placed Preston Village firmly on the map. His grandsons carried on the business until the 1930's but, after that, the company seems to have disappeared. In 1931, Welch and Sons, the confectionary manufacturers moved here from Howard Street, North Shields and made sweets in the main building until late 1938. Shortly afterwards, John H. Turnbull and Sons, the haulage contractors, occupied the main building whilst Holly House, the former home of Charles Foot which was attached to the north end of the building, housed a social club. In the 1950's part of the premises was used as a pet food and canning factory whilst the remainder was home to a box and carton factory. The company manufacturing boxes was called Foots Ltd. but it is not clear whether there is any connection with Charles Foot. It is more likely that the company took its name from the buildings in which it opened. By the late 1970's the buildings were empty and gradually decayed until 1984, history repeated itself and a fire on the premises necessitated their demolition. From the ashes grew Walton Park.
Before entering Front Street, let us walk south on Walton Avenue and have a look at PRESTON CEMETERY