Ringtons Tea – a family tradition!


The ‘Ringtons man’ was a happy sight for housewives in the early part of the 20th century. It meant that they could get fresh tea (one of most perishable of dried commodities, which can quickly lose its aroma and flavour) delivered direct to their doorstep. Founded in 1907, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Samuel Smith and William Titterington (the company name was formed from the ‘S’ of Smith and ‘…rington’ from Titterington), a single horse and cart distributed tea from the Byker area of the city. Soon Sam Smith took control of the firm and it grew into major undertaking, with his sons, and eventually grandsons, managing the business. Some housewives prefered their tea delivered by real horsepower, but the company bought their first two motor vehicles in the early 1920s. Ringtons Tea tends to be prefered in the northern half of the British Isles, with the current distribution area including the whole of Scotland, the North of England, and down as far as East Anglia. My mother enjoyed a cup of Ringtons, as do I; indeed, I have a supply of their ‘Original’ blend tea bags in my office, today! I must admit that my mother would be amazed to find that I had bought the tea in a supermarket in Durham, rather than from a door-to-door salesman (although that is still possible, along with coffee, chocolate cookies and other items).

Here we can see a Ringtons delivery van, which was last used by the company in 1977, and then was donated to Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, in County Durham where it is now on display. You can see the marriage of technologies, as the traditional spokeshaved wheels are no longer have iron rims, but are fitted with hard rubber tyres, instead. Despite this ‘new technology’ , and the semi-elliptical springs, the ride quality for the driver, over the mostly cobbled roads, must have been harsh. The delivery van is still sometimes used around the 300 acre museum site with drivers in period dress.

As for the Ringtons horses, the last one, Monty, was given honourable retirement in 1962!

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