A cup of tea was a must when sisters Christine Rowell and Fiona Harrison came calling.
The sisters are the great grand daughters of Samuel Smith, who founded the North East tea firm of Ringtons.
They were visiting the rather grand home which Samuel built in Gosforth in Newcastle in 1927 – 20 years after he set up his company.
Houses have histories, based on the people who have lived in them.
Some of that surfaced when staff at the Abbeyfield Residential Care Home in The Grove in Gosforth came across a photograph album while sorting through the building’s archive.
Dating from the 1930s, it contains commissioned photographs of the interior and exterior of the house, then known as Ellerby Lodge.
It was the home of Samuel, his wife Ada and their seven children.
The family sold the house in 1944 to Vivian Ewert Berry, a director of Kemsley Newspapers, which, back then, owned The Journal.
Later, the house went to the Samares Lodge Trust, to be used as a “Home for ladies by birth and education, who have become reduced in circumstances and are less than 50 years of age”.
In 1970, the trust transferred the house to the Abbeyfield Society, and it is now home to 32 older residents.
Fiona and Christine called in to leaf through the album at the house, built on land for which Samuel Smith paid £1,000 in 1924, with construction taking three years.
Paddy Porter, volunteer committee member at Abbeyfield The Grove, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have Fiona and Christine visit our home and share their memories of growing up as a member of one of the region’s most loved businesses.
“Many of our residents have been Ringtons customers all their lives and feel a connection to the company, so it’s lovely for them to know they are now living in the founder’s former family home.”
Fiona Harrison said: “It was lovely to visit the family home built by our great-grandfather, to see first-hand where our ancestors would have grown up.
“Samuel came from humble beginnings, so to have been able to build his own home within just a few years of starting his own business is staggering.
“The photo album illustrated with photographs from Newcastle photographer Arthur Hackett has stayed with the property for the past 80 years, and we feel it should stay with the house.”
Ringtons was founded in 1907 when Samuel Smith began selling tea from a horse and cart to households in Newcastle.
He started with an initial investment of £250 from business partner William Titterington. The company name came from the last half of William’s surname and the S from Smith.
In 1914, Samuel bought out William’s share in the business, and Douglas, Samuel’s son, joined the company as a van boy.
In 1926, Samuel built a six-storey head office and factory on Algernon Road in Byker, Newcastle, and three years later Ringtons launched its first ceramic products, made by the Mailing Pottery in Newcastle.
Samuel Smith died in 1949, aged 77, and Douglas took over. His sons – Douglas Junior, Norman and Johnnie – later joined the business.
In 1962, the first tea bag machine was installed in the Ringtons factory on Algernon Road and, by 1995, the decision was made to commission a factory in Balliol Park, Newcastle, to produce Ringtons tea products.
Ringtons is headed by a fourth family generation – Nigel Smith, great-great grandson of Samuel is chairman, while his brothers Simon and Colin are chief executive officer and Tea and Coffee Packing Division director respectively.
Ringtons recorded a £41 million turnover in June 2013.