Thomas James Herbert
(1878 - 1966)
Thomas James Herbert was the second son of W A Herbert Snr, and was born 'over the shop' at 319 Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross on 21st November 1878.
He was educated at Thanet College in Margate, Kent and proceeded, in 1896, to Finsbury Technical College to study engineering, where he started designing scales for the firm.
He joined his father William Alfred Snr and elder brother William Alfred Jnr in the business in October 1898.
Like his elder brother, Tom also joined a volunteer regiment, The London Rifle Brigade (LRB) where he won several silver spoons for shooting. On the outbreak of the South African (Boer) War in 1899 he was accepted into the City Imperial Volunteers (CIV), but was not sent to South Africa in 1900 as was his cousin Fitz Herbert. Two years later he was encamped with the LRB on Salisbury Plain in preparation for embarkation when news came through that the war was over.
Tom Herbert travelled extensively in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and North Africa before WWI, and while in Portugal he negotiated contracts for Herbert & Sons to supply various items, including pewter measures for the port wine trade. These were still being supplied to Portugal until after WWII.
In his early years whilst working for the Company he was hit in the eye by the lever of a weighing machine, suffered a detached retina and lost the sight of that eye. As a consequence he was turned down when volunteering for service in WW1.
At the age of 47 in 1926 he married Margherita Lindsay Drummond Fairweather Fairlie, and their only child (William) John Herbert was born in 1927.
Thomas became a liveryman of the Cutlers' Company in 1900 and of the Butchers' Company in 1906. He was elected Master of the Cutlers' Company in 1938.
His father, WAH Snr, hung on to control of the Kings Cross business until a year before his death at the age of 92 in 1936, so Thomas was nearly 60 when he and his brother took over the reins. This part of the business did not prosper through WWII, and as his son John Herbert recalls, were still using a horse drawn van for all deliveries up to 1946. Finally, in 1948 the two brothers sold out to their cousins. Thomas died in 1966, his wife Madge in 1975.
In the 1960s John Herbert recorded a series of conversations with his father of his early life in the firm. Among his recollections of Herbert & Sons (Kings Cross) were:
"And the boy downstairs in the workshop used to take me by the hand to the school out of the workshop…he used to have to stop on a Saturday afternoon to sweep up the shop, and clear up ready for the next week. He used to work from seven o'clock in the morning to seven o'clock at night and have a break at one o'clock and a break at five o'clock when he used to have a good tea for half an hour and then work on 'till seven o'clock. The highest paid man got thirty eight shillings a week, a skilled man, he'd been apprenticed to the trade, to my grandfather I think, and he was getting on in years and his uncle left him a chalk-pit. George Organ his name was. He had to leave to look after this chalk pit, they used to burn the chalk for lime. He was a good workman. We didn't have any heating in the workshop and the first thing they used to do at seven o'clock, they used to come down and if they had any filing to do they used to get hold of a file and go hell for leather at it to get warm. They had to work to get warm, that was the only way to get warm you see. Now by law, the Factory Act, they have to have the factory at 60 degrees. In those days they had to get on and work, if the chap had got any forging to do he used to light the forge and get a jolly good warm up there and hammer it out on the anvil. Now, of course, the worst of it is there isn't this heavy work to be done! Therefore they've got to heat the factories up. All the lathes, all the machinery is becoming automatic now."