“At your service ma’am,” local brands which saw us through the war – by Hannah Mather, Customer Service Assistant and Volunteer

This blog examines brands of food, cosmetics and cleaning products which were locally made and advertised throughout WWII.

Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd was a major British Company, based in Newcastle, that manufactured soaps. Two of its most well-known products are Fairy and Oxydol Soap, which were key household products during WWII. During wartime, when many things were rationed, advertisements claimed that these products were multipurpose and longer lasting than other products. It was even claimed that Oxydol had the ability to do almost twice the washing per coupon, a bold claim, which was popular with consumers.

Advertisements for food, cosmetics and cleaning products were particularly popular in wartime, in women’s magazines like Woman. Often taking up a full page, the more they could do, the better! The advert below claimed Oxydol Soap could save both ‘soap coupons and clothes coupons’ with impressive results that would leave clothes looking ‘bright as new.’

Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 17 April 1943, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


Another trusted household name, produced by Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd, was Fairy Soap. ‘The famous green household soap’ boasted about its ability to make floors and paintwork brighter. Despite being tough on stains, this product also claimed to be gentle on skin, being ‘kind as can be to your hands.’ Adverts for Fairy Soap took on the military theme during the war often using slogans such as ‘I’m on home service’ and ‘at your service Ma’am’ two examples of which are below.

Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 25 March 1944, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 15 Jan 1944, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


‘What about my looks?’

Whilst Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd took care of your home, there was a rise in popularity for cosmetic and health products that were affordable during wartime. Another big brand, produced right on our doorsteps in Newcastle upon Tyne, was Andrews Liver Salt. This product was thought to create ‘inner cleanliness’ as it ‘sweeps away, trouble-making poisons’ from the body. By achieving this ‘inner cleanliness’ adverts, like the one below, claimed that people would also notice improvements to their skin as a result of using the Liver Salts for ‘inner cleanliness comes first.’

Advert for Andrews Liver Salt from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 10 April 1943. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
















Shop Window Display of Andrews Liver Salt. Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives.


Andrews was manufactured and sold near and far by Scott & Turner Ltd. This picture, which can be dated to around 1934 (or earlier), shows a window display of Andrews Liver Salt. It was by the time of WWII already a world known brand.

Photograph of a woman working in a factory, making boxes for Andrews Liver Salt. Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives.

As a young woman born in Newcastle, I can’t help but feel a great sense of pride in what was once very local industry, one that produced brands which are still going strong. Though time has passed, we can be assured that these products have helped put Newcastle on the map as the production place for many great products that saw us not only through the war, but are still used to this very day.

My Primary School is at the Museum – By Virginia Wilkinson, Learning Officer for South Tyneside Museums 

I’m the Learning Officer for museums in South Tyneside working with Arbeia, South Shields’ Roman Fort and South Shields Museum & Art Gallery. Myself and the team work with many different schools and community groups using the museum collections, and engage with people from all over our local community.

It’s an aspect of museum life that not everyone is aware of.

I wanted to share the legacy of a trailblazing project we were involved in a few years ago with Kings College London, which has developed into a resource website for other educators.

My primary school is at the museum is an action project which was developed by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London against a backdrop of threatened museum services, a shortage of school places, and ever growing evidence to support the range of benefits of learning in cultural environments and through collections.

It involved placing three primary schools from around the UK in a museum setting for between two and five weeks in 2016.

At Arbeia we were delighted to be involved in the first pilot with the ever enthusiastic Hadrian Primary School across the road from the museum, with whom we have a fantastic relationship.

Hadrian Primary School exploring the Amazing Finds Gallery

We were very excited, but not really knowing of what exciting developments would open up before us as we tested the benefits of co-locating their year 5 (ages 9 – 10 years) primary school class for a term within our museum.

In short – the children used the museum as their classroom.

Hadrian Primary School, The Commanding Officer’s House

It is fantastic to see the widening interest in projects such as these as is evidenced in the growing participation in the website:


The aim of the blog is to become a one-stop shop for resources relating to the project, and anyone looking for more information on a museum residency.

Please take a look!

There is a YouTube video that gives an idea of what we did:


‘Make Do and Mend’: Woman magazine’s guide to wartime fashion – by Hannah Mather, Customer Service Assistant and Volunteer

During wartime, it was expected of everyone to put all their efforts toward winning the war. This often meant working harder and making extra effort. The Make Do and Mend campaign encouraged people to make new by using material from old clothing. Make-do and Mend classes were also set up. These classes taught people how to give their old clothing a new lease of life and make their rations go further. Rations were introduced due to a shortage in supplies. Each person would be provided with a rations book which contained coupons used to purchase clothing and food.

Winifred Cairns’ clothing ration book from 1942-1943 [TWCMS: 2008.1248]

Fashion magazines such as Woman often had tips and patterns inside them for how women could make-do with clothes which they already had by customising them, adding patterns, new buttons, collars and pockets, as well as mending damaged clothing. People often added extra lining in scrap material for easier repairs. Simple alterations could make an old dress look new. An issue of Woman magazine from 15 May 1943 had an article written for it about ‘clever dress tactics’, whilst another issue from 10 April 1943 discussed ways to “bring diversion to your wardrobe” by adding new fronts to dresses. These fronts could be made from almost any piece of scrap fabric which you may have around the house including, lace doilies which could be used to make a ‘frilly jabot.’

A ‘frilly jabot’ from Woman’s magazine 10 April 1943: pg.11

Children’s clothing often saw a lot of wear and tear; the solution to this during a time of ‘make do and mend’ was to reinforce the clothing so that it may last longer. Magazines would often include tips on how this could be done using simple techniques as shown below in the magazine Woman from April 1943.

10 April 1943 issue of Woman magazine: Tips on Children’s Clothing.


Despite rations and other wartime restrictions, life appeared to remain relatively normal for some. Parties would still take place and people were encouraged to add frills and scrap material to their dresses to create the perfect party dress. They were encouraged to accessorise with flower bracelets which could be recycled from flowers taken from old hats as can be seen below.

2 October 1943 issue of Woman magazine: Tips on how to dress for a party.

To conclude, wartime brought with it fewer resources and a change in attitude towards consumerism which encouraged people to be more imaginative with what they had rather than to buy new. It was an age of make-do and mend.

The Singing Sands of Eigg by Sylvia Humphrey, Assistant Keeper of Geology, Great North Museum: Hancock

In July 2017, Tim Shaw of Newcastle University and I visited local beaches between Blyth and Whitley Bay and made some recordings of the local sand ‘singing’.  Later that year, I travelled north from Newcastle to Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland for a trip to the isle of Eigg; I was excited by the prospect of experiencing the sound of the singing sands first discovered by Hugh Miller in 1844, as described in The Voyage of the Betsy.

Eigg (middle horizon) from Arisaig

Eigg (middle horizon) from Arisaig

Here is an extract from Miller’s account of first hearing the sound of the sand in the Bay of Laig:

‘I was turning aside this sand of the Oolite, so curiously reduced to its original state, and marking how nearly the recent shells that lay embedded in it resembled the extinct ones that had lain in it so long before, when I became aware of a peculiar sound that it yielded to the tread, as my companions paced over it. I struck it obliquely with my foot, where the surface lay dry and incoherent in the sun, and the sound elicited was a shrill sonorous note, somewhat resembling that produced by a waxed thread, when tightened between the teeth and the hand, and tipped by the nail of the forefinger. I walked over it, striking it obliquely at each step, and with every blow the shrill note was repeated.’
(Hugh Miller 1858).

Inspired, I set out for Arisaig harbour to catch the ferry that would take me on the hour-long voyage to Eigg.

Arriving at Galmisdale

Arriving at Galmisdale

Once landed, I located the taxi driver (enjoying his breakfast in the nearby café) for the next leg of the journey.  On arriving at the small settlement of Cleadale, he advised me to follow the blue marks on the rocks to reach the Singing Sands. The weather wasn’t promising and I’d already been helpfully informed that I wouldn’t hear the sand sing today on account of the rain and mist. Undaunted I set off on foot along the rough path, observed from a safe distance by a group of curious sheep.

'Follow the blue marks on the rocks...'

‘Follow the blue marks on the rocks…’


My destination was Camas Sgiotaig, a white sandy beach with fantastic views of Rhum, had the weather been fair.  Nevertheless, the views were amazing and there was not a soul in site.  Otters are known to visit the beach but I didn’t see them.

Camas Sgiotaig; sadly the weather didn't look promising

Camas Sgiotaig; sadly the weather didn’t look promising


On the deserted beach with a view of Rhum

On the deserted beach with a view of Rhum

The rocks that I could see from my vantage point on the beach looked interesting; a number of dykes (igneous intrusions), one of which bore signs of having been cored for analysis, crossed the sand from the landward side to the sea.  The large nodules that the island is known for also looked intriguing.  However, time was limited before the ferry returned for the trip back to the mainland so I couldn’t allow myself to be distracted.

Dyke (igneous intrusion) with core marks (centre)

Dyke (igneous intrusion) with core marks (centre)

Large nodule on the foreshore

Large nodule on the foreshore

Recording the sound of the singing sands necessitated walking back and forth across the beach so that my feet scuffed across the surface of the sand, much as Hugh Miller had done so many years previously.  With a portable hand-held recording device I traversed the upper (drier) part of the beach.  As anticipated, the sand did not disappoint, producing a pleasing squeaky sound interrupted only by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach and an occasional sea bird.


The Singing Sands (and tracks made while scuffing my feet to hear the sand squeak/sing)

The Singing Sands (and tracks made while scuffing my feet to hear the sand squeak/sing)


All too soon it was time to walk back past the sheep and blue-painted rocks for the short taxi-ride to Galmisdale; missing the ferry could have left me stranded on Eigg for days, not an unpleasant prospect.

Here is one of the recordings of the Singing Sands:

Anne Seymour: Doctor, Missionary, Refugee – by Dominique Bell, Assistant Keeper, South Shields Museum & Art Gallery

To mark the one hundred year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave some women the vote for the first time, South Shields Museum & Art Gallery created a programme of exhibitions about remarkable women connected to South Tyneside under the banner ‘Women 100’. The first of these exhibitions focused on Anne Seymour, an extraordinary woman who spent her life tirelessly and selflessly helping others as a mission doctor, and who lived in South Shields from 1976.

Anne Seymour. Credit Romano Cagnoni

Anne Seymour. Credit Romano Cagnoni


Born in Bromley in Kent, Anne trained as a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, University of London. In 1959 Anne graduated, first working two pre-registration jobs in orthopaedics and fevers, before spending six months in general surgery at Leicester and another six months in casualty at Watford.

“From my school days, I had known I had a call to work as a mission doctor and that this would be in Africa” – Anne Seymour.

Following her calling to be a mission doctor in Africa, Anne took her skills and training to Biafra where she helped local people before, during and after the Nigerian Civil War. During this time she became a refugee, a terrifying and traumatic experience which undoubtedly greatly influenced the rest of her life. Only 26 when she first arrived in Biafra, Anne worked in a mission hospital performing operations beyond her usual expertise and experience due to a shortage of qualified doctors. She was not trained in complex surgical procedures and on occasions had to refer to a textbook for guidance while operating on patients.

Anne in Biafra in 1969. Credit Romano Cagnoni

Anne in Biafra in 1969. Credit Romano Cagnoni

As the situation in Biafra grew more and more desperate, Anne travelled around the country on a bicycle, a Honda motorcycle or in a Volkswagen Beetle, providing urgent medical aid to local villagers. She even worked during air raids and severe shelling. Throughout the crisis Anne had several refugees living with her in her own home; she cared for them and shared her food supplies. It is estimated that up to three million people may have died during the conflict with more than two million dying due to starvation caused by blockades.

During this time, Anne kept a hand written diary – a moving account of her life and work during a serious conflict where she witnessed terrible things and her life was often in danger.  In 1969, international photographer Romano Cagnoni spent a day with Anne taking photographs as she worked. He described her as one of the most beautiful people he had ever met.

 “The last day at Isiukwator was a real nightmare. There were about four hundred people at the clinic and we had to choose forty to get midday meals at the “Feeding Centre” that Reverend Father was establishing. Being really firm we ended up with ninety six. Reasoning that forty servings would cover forty eight plates we divided them into two groups, one set to come on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the other set on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Some of the mothers stood in the sun for four hours to try to get a child or children on the list. In England mothers ask about school places but here it was: Was your child chosen to eat dinner?” – Biafran Missionary Doctor by Anne Seymour (1961-70) page 58-9.

By 1970 the war was over and Anne, living in constant fear of being shot or detained, waited alone until the Nigerian Red Cross arrived so she could hand over her responsibilities and leave.

“While I still maintain that we were morally justified in going to Biafra against the wishes of the Federal Government I never considered that entitled us to escape the legal consequences.” – Biafran Missionary Doctor by Anne Seymour (1961-70) page 119.

Anne came to South Shields in 1976 to work as a consultant at the Ingham Infirmary. Many local people (including some of the staff at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery) remember her from this time as she ran the ER. Anne had a somewhat fearsome reputation. Having witnessed children starving and having operated on people suffering terrible injuries during the Nigerian Civil War, Anne could be blunt and dismissive of Ingham patient’s concerns if she felt they were minor by comparison.  She was, however, well-respected and recognised as an excellent doctor, highly skilled at micro surgery and completely dedicated to her work.

After 13 years, fed up with the NHS’s increasing bureaucracy, Anne left Ingham and returned to Africa to work as a consultant in Cameroon. Her new post was at SAJOCAH, a rehabilitation centre in Mambu, Bafut in the Central African country of Cameroon.  The centre supports people, primarily children, with disabilities.

She retired in 1996 and came home to South Shields, this time for good. In her retirement, Anne continued to help others by founding and working for various charities and church groups. She gave her time and skills selflessly to the local community and those less fortunate than herself. Having been a refugee herself, Anne was particularly concerned for refugees and asylum seekers. Her charity work was fully acknowledged during her lifetime and Anne received many awards and commendations, including an MBE.

Anne after receiving her MBE at Living Waters Church, Laygate

Anne after receiving her MBE at Living Waters Church, Laygate

Anne was a very kind, compassionate and deeply practical person who would help anyone in real need, and indeed went out of her way to do so. There are many stories of her good deeds, from tending to people at their houses out of hours to driving patients home when they didn’t have anyone to collect them. Anne sadly passed away in 2016 at the age of 81 but she is not forgotten.

Anne wearing her famous butterfly clips on a hat

Anne wearing her famous butterfly clips on a hat

Local women recently developed a banner with The Cultural Spring which commemorates 100 years since some women got the vote. Included on the banner was a photograph of Anne as many of the women had known her and were inspired by her story. They took the banner to Edinburgh on Sunday 10 June 2018 to take part in PROCESSIONS, a mass live art event which was broadcast live on BBC One.