An Edwardian Grocer’s

The shop at the foot of the High Street (no. 16) has always been a grocer’s. At present it is a Spar store, prior to that it was A & S Brown’s, Sinclair’s and Johnston’s Stores. But it started its days as Thomas Roger’s high class grocery.

Thomas started in the grocery trade as an assistant in Dundee before coming to Newport in about 1873 and opening his own shop at 40 High Street (currently NewPaws on Tay). In 1890 he feued the vacant plot of ground at the foot of the street and by 1892 the shop on the ground floor and 2 flats above had been built.1

Thomas was not the only grocer in the town – his opposition included J Anderson, P D Wighton, and Andrew Malcolm / Charles Barrie. Each one tried to keep one step ahead of the rivals.

Being an Edwardian high class grocer to fit in with Newport’s prestige meant sourcing the best supplies from around the country. Usually you have to rely on adverts in the local papers or promotional material to get a flavour of the trade.

This advert is from a 1908 directory for Newport.2

Notice – no fewer than 6 standard blends of tea, as well as a special China tea.

However, a deep clean by the Browns in the 1990s uncovered a bundle of old papers from Thomas’s time in the shop. They consisted of a group of 120 suppliers’ invoices to Thomas Roger for part of 1902-3 and another bundle, still tied with its original string, of an almost complete collection of 470 invoices for the second half of 1905. (It is possible that an unknown small number of invoices from this bundle beginning with ‘A’ had disintegrated over the years.)

The invoices have all been photographed and made available here. (Because of the small size of the photos on this blog, you are better to follow the links to the main site to see the invoices clearly.)

When looking through them, I was struck by the number of individual firms that are being dealt with. There  were certainly wholesale grocery suppliers (e.g. Carswell, Laskie, etc), but a large number of household names were supplying goods individually. There are invoices from Cadbury’s, McVitie & Price, Nestles, Reckitt and Sharwood, and more. At the other end of the scale, Mr Maxwell in Dundee is supplying scones (and only scones) every week.

Coffee and tea came from Edinburgh, methylated spirits from Liverpool, eggs from Kirriemuir and Dundalk in Ireland (they must have been some eggs!), bacon – as advertised – from Ayrshire, Belfast and Wiltshire, suet from Manchester, and so on. There were also the empties to deal with – biscuit boxes to be returned and bottles to go back. Shipping and carriage charges had to be dealt with, both on the supplied goods (frequently ‘carriage free’) and on the empties. Pears soap from London was sent by steamer to Dundee. The bacon from Belfast was insured for its journey. There are bills from B L Nairn, Dundee, for shipping charges, and from the Caledonian Railway for carriage.

There were local suppliers of seasonal produce. St Fort Gardens provided fruit & vegetables, even grapes. Redcurrants came from Charles Moon in Tayport. Mr Fearn at Forgan Smithy shod the horse every few months, and Mr Rhind at Woodhaven Farm supplied potatoes.

The big disappointment with so many of these invoices is that they are itemised as ‘To Goods’ or ‘To account rendered’ when you really want to know what was being supplied. Just what were T & S Plum in Copenhagen supplying direct?

The shop provided a delivery service whereby customers could leave a note for an order, it would be made up in the shop and delivered by horse and van later. Of course, sometimes Roger’s were asked for an item which was out of stock. To avoid disappointment, the missing item was ‘borrowed’ from one of the opposition shops and was repaid later. All of this unknown to the customer. As an example, there is an invoice from James Anderson in Robertson Place showing that Roger’s was supplied with a packet of Force.3 The give-away is that the invoice isn’t priced and the goods were returned as soon as Roger’s had them in stock again.4

Thomas Roger was a member of Newport Town Council from 1892-95 and 1896-1905, serving as Provost 1902 – 1905.5

There are a few household bills included – for example Thomas’s annual subscription to the Newport Bowling Club, some chemist’s bills, and for coal. Some are addressed to him at his home ‘Snowdon Bank’, and some are even addressed to Provost Roger.

These may be just crumbling pieces of paper but they can still be explored and provide a glimpse that we would not otherwise have into the world of commerce on Newport’s Edwardian High Street.

You never know what will turn up next.

Notes & Sources

  1. Architects: Durward Brown & A J Gordon, London – the Newport connection is that Durward Brown was the second son of James Brown, the builder.
  2. The Tayside Annual and Directory for Newport, Wormit and Tayport, McFarlane (ed.), published Dec 1907,  held by Dundee Central Library
  3. Force was a ready-cooked cereal (there is an advert in the Liverpool Evening Express, 12 Aug 1903).
  4. When I did this for Beatt & Tait’s in the 1960s, I took items with the same retail price to barter with Johnston’s Stores for the missing goods and no record was needed. I am sure that one tin of Ovaltine went up and down the High Street many times!
  5. Photo: Provost Roger, from Newport History Group


In the 1820s Marytown* (the area between William Street and James Street, Tay street and Queen Street) was created on a green field site. A steam ferry to Dundee had recently been introduced and the area was seen as being ripe for development. Of the first 10 feuars, 5 were in the building trade1 and one of the first was John Murray, a mason from Sutherland (although when he took on the ground he described himself as a mere labourer).2

Murray feued a block of 5 lots of ground between Union Street and King Street, and extending from James Street three-quarters of the way to Robert Street – that was a large piece of land. But its shape allowed part of it to be used as a quarry – ideal for a mason. The quarry face is still there, behind 50 Union Street. Murray built 5 houses along the King Street boundary, opened up the quarry, and established a walled garden for fruit and vegetables. He called the houses ‘Murray Place’.3

Fife Herald 1837
Fife Herald 21 Sep 1837

Advertising the property to let in 1837, the houses take pride of place – one is suitable for a genteel family, then the garden, and last the quarry. In another advert in 1842 the houses were ‘well adapted for summer lodgings’.4

Business must have had its ups and downs. Murray was able to rent out the quarry, and the houses would have easily found tenants. But in 1846 he defaulted on a loan secured over the property5, which meant he lost it all.

Fife Herald 1846
Fife Herald, 10 Dec 1846

Notice this time the ground and garden are placed first, the houses second and the quarry last. The land could be feued off to provide ‘marine villas’. Property adverts need to be taken with a pinch of salt – the railway line was only a proposed line; and the comparatively new houses were at least 15 years old.

Eventually the whole site was acquired by Alexander Rhind, corn merchant and tenant of Woodhaven Farm.6 About the same time, Rhind feued the site at the other end of King Street on the corner with Gowrie Street. On the Gowrie Street site he built a bakehouse and shop, while on the Seacraig site he built Seacraig House.7 Rhind moved into Seacraig House himself and Murray rented one of his original houses.8

1854 Ordnance Survey map
1854 Ordnance Survey map

Over time, Seacraig House was home to Harry Walker, Dundee jute merchant (Dura Works & Caldrum Works), who lived here before Westwood (now St Serfs) was built; then retired sea captain Robert Brown.9 Eventually it was turned into flats about 1914, and demolished in 1956.10 It is now the site of Seacraig Court.

Seacraig 1943
Seacraig in 1943. Seacraig Garage – the large building above the K in King St.; Seacraig House – above St. in King St.; Seacraig Cottages – between King St. & James St.

The Murray Place houses were later called Seacraig Cottages. They too made way for Seacraig Court. (The whole site between King Street and Union Street had actually been identified as a possible site for housing by Newport Town Council in 1919.)11

The productive walled garden in 1869 became the first home of Newport Bowling Club. They moved to Scott Street in 1877 and the green here was then used by the Maryton Bowling Club. From 1925 it was the site of Seacraig Garage, and now of the houses 31-37 King Street.12

The quarry had stores and stables on it and the bungalow was built in the 1920s.13

Seacraig Court was opened for new residents in 1958.14

StreetView 2009
Seacraig Court seen from King Street in 2009 over the last remaining piece of the surrounding wall – even that has gone now.

* Marytown in Newport is frequently spelled Maryton, and is not to be confused with Maryton, a parish near Montrose, which is sometimes spelled Marytown. Searches for either must include both spellings.


(Look on this as an example of what can be gained from documentary sources; links to the Archive pages have further reference details there):

  1. Sasine Abridgements, Fife, originals at National Records of Scotland
  2. Sasine Abridgements, Fife 1826 03206; Census 1841 Forgan parish, Fife, District 1, p 12; Census 1851, Forgan parish, Fife, District 1, p 13, originals at ScotlandsPeople
  3. Registers of Voters, Fife, 1832
  4. Fife Herald, 28 Apr 1842, p1
  5. Fife Herald, 10 Dec 1846, p1; Sasine Abridgements, Fife, Marytown, plot of 5 pieces of ground
  6. Sasine Abridgements; Fifeshire Journal, 19 Feb 1846, p1
  7. Dundee Courier, 21 Nov 1911, p6 – obituary of H S Rhind
  8. Census 1851, Forgan parish, Fife, District 1, p 13
  9. Directory and Valuation Roll entries for Seacraig House
  10. Minutes of Newport Town Council, 1956
  11. Minutes of Newport Town Council, 1919
  12. Directory and Valuation Roll entries for Marytown Bowling Green; and Seacraig Garage
  13. Valuation Roll entries for quarry site
  14. Fife, Scotland, Electoral Registers, 1914-1966, available on