Contributed by Ash Museum
In 1913 Richard Alfred Hyde (1843-1937) of Runfold owned a large premises next to Tongham Railway Station. His company, Hyde and Co Ltd., were at that time described as Bird Food Specialists. The Burney and Blackburne motor cycle company moved into Messrs Hyde’s premises in Tongham in 1913.
At the outbreak of war all of Burney and Blackburne’s motorcycles were commandeered by the Army, and the three directors enlisted for active service as despatch riders. The father of two of them, George Quinlan Roberts, took over management of the business in Tongham. He was also secretary of St Thomas’s Hospital in London 1903-1928, and in1919 was awarded the CBE for his services during the war.
The directors of Burney and Blackburne were:
- Captain Cecil Stanley Burney 5th Signals Company Royal Engineers (Army no 28014).
- Acting Captain Edward Alexander Burney 5th Signals Company Royal Engineers (Army No 28035).
- 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Quinlan Roberts Royal Field Artillery who was killed in action 16 May 1915. (Formerly Royal Engineers Army no 28007)
Cecil’s brother Serjeant Allen Quinlan Roberts Royal Engineers (Army no 28012) also enlisted.
Other employees volunteered too, and the Surrey and Hants News 6 November 1914 reported that Corporal [Robert] Lewis of Tongham, Royal Engineers, one of the Burney and Blackburne Despatch Riders at the front, had sent a postcard home saying he was quite well but “we are having plenty of excitement”.
Burney and Blackburne started manufacturing munitions and employed 120 men and 40 women. The Ministry of Munitions Department of Engineering compiled a directory of manufacturers of munitions, and recorded that Burney and Blackburne’s work in peace time was general “motor engineers, motor engines and cycles, general engineering, brazing, acetylene welding, case-hardening etc.” Their munitions work was general and motor engineers and coppersmiths, gun mountings, tractors, fuses, grenades, experimental work and searchlights. The “Blackburne Engineering Works” continued to offer motor cycle repairs, which were advertised in the local paper in December 1915.
Between March 1917 and October 1918 Burney and Blackburne Ltd. expanded, purchasing three pieces of land on the other side of The Street. Although the company moved to Bookham in 1922, they owned this land until 1945, and there was a large building fronting onto The Street. (SHC ref 6159/6/1-6)
The sanitary state of Tongham in 1916
The Surrey and Hants News 27 July 1916 reported that Mr Richard Hyde had written to the Rural District Council to complain about the sanitation problem at Tongham. He stated that the military had taken possession of nearly all of his yard, and that Messrs Burney and Blackburne were renting a factory on lease from him and had large military contracts and were employing many more men. Messrs Burney and Blackburne confirmed that they were taking on more men and used buckets for toilets. They had been emptying the soil in the field behind Messrs Hyde’s, but the field had now been taken over by the military. They asked if the council could collect the soil at least once a week in a soil cart, but the Clerk replied saying there was no chance of the council providing a scavenging scheme or a drainage scheme. They were advised make their own arrangements for a field and a cart.
A football match in 1916 “Burney & Blackburne v Village and Depot”
The Surrey and Hants News 21 September 1916 reported that Mr Edgar Chrismas was to become vice-president of the Tongham Village and Depot Athletic Club, and the old ground near the vicarage was to be used for the ensuing football season. Lance-Corporal O’Dell of the AOC Depot Tongham was honorary secretary, and he wanted to hear from clubs in the area to set up fixtures. The opening match had been the previous Saturday between ‘Burney and Blackburne’s’ and the ‘Village and Depot’. The referee was Corporal C Heap RE, and the players were:
Messrs Burney and Blackburne’s: J Wilding, goal; Fisher and Allchin, backs; Holmes, Ede (captain) and Riches, half-backs; G Wheeler, Staplehurst, Ingold, Brooker, A Wheeler, forwards.
Village and Depot: Corpl Ball, goal; Lance-Corporal Richardson and Sergeant Mayn, backs; W Harrison, Pte Johnson (captain) and Lance-Corporal Gibbs, half-backs; Pte Clements, F King, Pte Smith, Pte Cox and Pte Peters, forwards.
Burney and Blackburne led by two goals to nil at the interval. “Shortly after the resumption of operations they increased their lead by three goals. By this time the Village and Depot had come to the conclusion that their ‘Big Push’ was long overdue, and the preliminary bombardment was begun immediately after the third goal had been registered against them. It proved most effective, for they got the game fairly in their own hands. ‘B and B’ were pressed severely, and thrice in four minutes their citadel was successfully stormed. The honours of the game, however, eventually fell to Burney and Blackburne’s who scored a fourth goal. Sotherton (2) Wheeler and Brooker scored for ‘B and B’ and Pte Cox (2) and Pte Smith for the Village and Depot. Lance Corporal Gibbs was the best man on the field.
Henry Marshall, a munition worker at Burney and Blackburne
The Surrey and Hants News 17 and 24 May 1917 reported the sudden death Private Henry Marshall 2nd Protection Company Royal Defence Corps who had died suddenly in the street in Tongham 11 May 1917 aged 62.
An inquest was held in the Institute Tongham, and his widow Florence lived in Yew Tree Cottage in Tongham. He was an old soldier who held the Zulu medal and had joined up again in 1914 and been put in the National Reserve, now the Royal Defence Corps. After he was discharged he had been a munitions worker. A post-mortem examination revealed that he had died of an aneurism of the aorta.
Mr Marshall was given a semi-military funeral. The coffin, enveloped in a Union Jack, was borne to Seale Churchyard on a gun carriage furnished by the Royal Artillery, his old regiment, and the bearers were men of the Royal Defence Corps. Reverend AR Wiseman, Rector of Seale, officiated.
Mr Allright represented the firm of Messrs Burney and Blackburne, his employers, and Mr Mattie represented his fellow workmen. A beautiful wreathe was sent by the company and workers. The local troop of Boy Scouts followed. Mr Marshall took a great interest in them, and was shortly expecting his papers as an instructor of their ambulance section.