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The Last Sawmaker

A Nose for Sawdust

Sydney Reuben Tyzack was a puckish fellow, always ready for a prank. Life was for fun when he was a young man and that was the way he ran his business.
The shop he inherited, on the busy Ball's Pond Road, was at No. 10, Kingsland Green, near Dalston.

Around the year of 1905, Edgar Tyzack his relative, who ran a shop, only half a mile away, at the other end of Kingsland Road, changed the name of his business at No. 345 Old Street. The sign over the front now boasted `Samuel Tyzack & Sons Ltd'. Sidney always kept an eye on what his relations were up to. He thought that there must be advantage in a name change, so he took it into his head to change the name of his shop. Sidney's shop was called "Henry Tyzack Sawmaker". Ever since he had taken over from his father, Henry, when his father had died eight years before, that was the name on the shop. From now on the sign would say freshly, `Sidney Tyzack Sawmaker' and all would know who was running the outfit.
Once having started to think about strategy it was not long before expansion was in mind. By 1913 the trade directory showed that Sidney had plucked up his courage and was using the next door premises. He added number nine to his number ten.
Sidney was lucky, a mere lad aged 18 years old, when he inherited the business. The older brothers, William Ebenezer aged 32 years, A. Samuel aged 22 years and A. Henry aged 24 years were all left out in the cold. Henry, his father, knew what it was like to be the youngest. He did not intend his youngest son to feel left out as he had felt. Hearsay has it that the business was left to Sidney because he was the only one without either a current job or a trade. So if you want to get ahead, don’t be too quick to learn.
The bequest caused a fair amount of family resentment. Sidney took sometime to treat the business seriously when he first took over. When he began to trade he had nowhere to live so he stayed with his sister Adelaide, known as Joe. He says he had a place in front of the fire where he slept on the rug. Joe charged him five shillings per week, a princely sum in those days. He used the carpet in front of the fire, until he married, shown here. Sidney married Lillian Dimmer in 1902 but few of his family came to the wedding.

1902 Wedding

Wedding Group
10 &11  Lilian & Sydney
9  Alf Dimmer Great Grandfather
1  Lilian's Father Alf Dimmer
2 Not Sure
3 Lilian's Brother Will Dimmer
4 Sydney's Sister Minnie Tyzack
5 Husband Lilian's Sister Kate Alf Hendy
6 Lilian's Sister Kate
7 Edie, Alf Dimmer's 1st Daughter
8 Lilian's Sister-in-Law
12 Ade Sydney's Sister
13 Husband of Ade, Thomas
14 Harold a bit touched
15 Katie, daughter of Kate
16 Babs, daughter of Kate
17 Not sure

Probably the bequest still rankled. They had three children, Sydney John, and Leslie Ernest, who were born at Woodside Gardens, Tottenham and Doris Irene who was born in Yarmouth, by the seaside. By this time smaller families were becoming more normal.
The shop was a large one with saws and other tools hanging up in the ceiling. Outside a large York sandstone grinding wheel rested against the front wall. Years before the grindstone had been operational in the workshop but now it had gone beyond its normal operating life by becoming too small and misshapen. It was finishing its days as an advertisement. Although a prime activity of the business was knife and tool sharpening, passers-by could come along and sharpen their own knives on the stone for free. He lent new saws to friends and that way they avoided purchasing.
Inside the shop, on a small raised platform near the counter was a fairly tame baboon. At this date it was common for ordinary people to keep exotic pets for their own amusement. Sailors coming home would bring in such animals to the docks and make a little money by selling them as they returned from their trips abroad. Sidney owned the baboon for some time but it caused a rumpus when it spied some wax fruit on a lady customer's hat. The ape snatched off the fruit it couldn't resist, complete with the bonnet. Exit one screaming lady to return shortly with the local constable! The law did not lock him up. It didn't even lock up the baboon. "You'll 'ave to do something with that damned animal Sid" was fortunately the way the law exercised its power in those days.
In the years immediately before 1913, the business began to lose its customers. Nobody was buying saws, at least not from Sidney Tyzack. Sidney suspected his brothers. He had caught one of them once reading his order books and forever after that he thought they tried to steal away his customers. Who knows whether it was true?
So in 1913, just as markets to this day have their periods of ups and downs so a mini depression in the business climate hit the saw making business. Soon after the local trade directory showed the additional shop next door the financial position became serious. The day came when the business at No. 10 Kingsland Green, was insolvent and it had to be let go to discharge the liabilities. Even after selling all the assets there was still money owed.
The family moved out suddenly to Yarmouth! They called it a moonlight flit, in those days. At the time, Yarmouth still had jetted houses built in rows so that neighbours could shake hands if they had a mind so to do, from the upstairs windows.
It all adds up to a disappearing act. At the time of course the war had been declared and able bodied men were expected to join the army and die for their country. This is what happened to my maternal grandmother’s brothers, surnamed Moore, and to the fiancée of my subsequently maiden aunt Florie. Unlike my mother’s family there was no history of Army service in this part of the Tyzack family. So could it be that Sidney was keeping his head down for army service or was is just debt? He returned occasionally to London while in Yarmouth. Perhaps he went to sell some saws and make some money. Certainly the family was very hard up during the period there. It is not apparent how they made a living in Yarmouth.
About 1915 they returned to London. The family went to a rented terraced house at No. 111, Sirdar Road, Wood Green. Nearly next door at No. 115 lived Maud Duke, my mother, who later married Sidney's eldest son Sydney John, my father.
Our family stayed in the living room for most of the time. This living room at the back of the house, was really the kitchen. There in one wall, stood a large black-leaded double oven, coal fired. Today the nearest thing in appearance is an Aga cooker. In Sirdar Road the oven had a covered hole at the top at one end for putting in the fuel. A door at the front with a brass knob, which needed a glove to open, was at the other end. It gave access to the oven. Incredibly the oven did not cook the cat that used often to sleep in it. The kitchen table was wooden and scrubbed and so was each chair. Out the back was a water closet with a large beechwood board on top. The board was the seat. It had a nine inch hole in it with a rounded edge.

The Last Sawmaker

The portrait of my grandfather is from a painting in oils by his son Sydney John Tyzack, my father, who was an accomplished artist.

Sawmakers' Flypress

Sidney had a workshop nearby. The tools would be collectors' pieces today. The front of the bench supported a leg vice. It stood about three feet tall. It had a hinge at the bottom and a large wing nut at the front to close the vice. As a child it needed both my hands to tighten it.. On the bench was a screwdriver with the most shiny ball handle about the size of a flattish tennis ball. It had a blade about eighteen inches long and used for what I cannot say. On the wall above the bench many types of hammers for all kinds of special purposes hung between pairs of rusty nails. Boxes of tool bits were there to be fixed to the fly-press to fashion a variety of saw-tooth sizes. Saws were made by unrolling a piece of steel from the coil it arrived in and first flattening it. Then it was cut to size and offered to the jaws of the fly-press. This held a saw tooth shaped piece of tool steel in its bed and another such piece exactly matching it but in female relationship to that in the bed below. This upper tool was fixed to the ram which was lifted and brought down quickly by means of a helical screw thread which was turned by a horizontal handle counterbalanced by an enormous steel ball.
Such a workshop was a small boy's Aladdin's cave of wonderful but inexplicable objects collected over the years and which had enabled Sidney to earn his living.

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