John Thomas Ashworth was my great grandfather. I wrote about him for my On This Day Project on the occasion of the anniversary of his marriage to my great grandmother, Emma Jane Gooding, in 1891.
By the time of the 1911 census John Thomas was employed as a butcher's shop manager by The River Plate Fresh Meat Company.
The River Plate Fresh Meat Company was founded in Argentina in 1883 by Mr G. W. Drabble for the purpose of freezing mutton, shipping it to England and then selling it on to consumers. The company also started to freeze, export and retail beef and it expanded rapidly. The main works were at Campana, about sixty miles from Buenos Aires, and could process 800 cattle and 3000 sheep each day. By 1910, the company was shipping 50,000 tons of meat each year to Britain and selling it through a chain of retail and wholesale outlets.
The shop John Thomas managed was in Normanton, near Wakefield in Yorkshire. It would probably have looked similar to this shop in Wales.
This postcard from 1905 is Market Street in Normanton with the shop sign visible on the right.
In 1914 The River Plate Fresh Meat Company amalgamated with James Nelson and Company, a large-scale importer of meat from New Zealand. Between them the two companies dominated the frozen imported meat trade but were under increasing threat from American companies that were trying to break into their market by under-cutting them.
Somewhere along the way I think I've read that the River Plate Meat Company morphed into Dewhurst's, the High Street Butchers, that I guess every town in the UK had until the mid-1990s.
Unfortunately John Thomas didn't continue working as a Shop Manager. By 1927, when his youngest son Horace was married, he was working as a night-watchman which must have been a bit of a come-down. Family recollections seem to suggest that he might have had a gambling problem.
I found this nice little story about the River Plate Meat Company in 1910 on the British Newspaper Archives website.
It's seems odd that even though the meat had been frozen, they called it the fresh meat company. I don't suppose the River Plate De-frosted and probably gone off Meat Company would have sounded so good.
If you need something to put you off meat eating, try this story from 1905.
My grandfather, the previously mentioned Horace, actually enjoyed eating tripe. In case you don't know this is the dish made from a cow's stomach. My grandmother cooked it in milk with onions. It looked disgusting and smelled even worse but Grandad loved it!
I haven't any photographs of John Thomas but this is me with Horace and my mum. The old lady is Emma Jane, the wife of John Thomas. She died in 1957 when she was 86 years old. John Thomas died in 1931 so maybe the story of him losing his job through gambling isn't true; perhaps he was ill and couldn't cope with the shop manager's responsibility any longer.