George Absolom was born in 1900. His first wife was Lydia Sweeney, with whom he had a son, Robert, born 24th February 1927. Sadly Lydia died in a tragic accident when, at home alone with Robert, she fell down the stairs. Following his mother’s death Robert was sent to live in Cheam, Surrey, with his maternal grandmother.
At this time George was a Sound Engineer with Western Electrics. He met his second wife Margaret Chisholm (known as Peggy), a 19 year old hotel receptionist in Galashiels, Scotland and married her. Together they went to Johannesburg in South Africa, where George was involved in converting the cinemas there from picture only to “talkies”. George and Peggy had a daughter, Joan, during this period.
On their return to England in 1932, George and Peggy bought 52 Lansbury Drive, Hayes, at a cost of around £500. It was a brand new three bedroom end of terrace house on the left end of a block of four on the Grange Park Estate, built by Taylor Woodrow in 1932. This address is quoted on the patent application George made in the May of this year.
The house has a shared driveway beside it leading to a semi-detached garage. Number 54, the house to the left of this driveway was owned by George’s sister Edith (known as Eddie) and her husband, Reginald Juster (known as Reg).
In those days, before the era of trading estates, it was not unusual for businesses to operate in garages and small buildings within residential areas. The two garages between the houses were converted into a workshop and employed about 5 or 6 men. There was another building attached to the garages as an additional workspace.
The present owner can still detect some signs of light industrial use. There is some blackening of the rafters in the garage, the vestiges of a doorway between the two garages, and a second telephone line terminates at the rear of the house as if it once led to the garages.
On May 2nd 1932 George submitted an application for a patent on his invention, the Teesmade.
George’s son Robert returned to live with his father and stepmother in approximately 1934, when he was about seven years old. At this stage Absolom was chiefly engaged in producing automatic tea makers in the converted garages at the back of his house, but he was also involved in other projects.
In August 1934 he submitted an application to patent an ingenious device which used coloured lamps to indicate the approximate speed of moving vehicles for the benefit of other road users and pedestrians. Now wouldn’t that be a good way to clamp down on speeding today?
On leaving school at the age of 14, Robert joined his father in the business, where he continued to work until 1962, apart from 2 years National Service in the Royal Marines from 1945 to 1947.
Robert Absolom beleives that following the Teesmade Cabinet his father developed a model with a tapered frontage, both kettle and teapot being situated behind the clock. Then on August 21st 1935 Absolom, together with George Herbert Johnson of Hampton Works, Sheen Lane, Mortlake, SW14, applied for a patent for a new design, patent no 440941. George reached an agreement with L.G.Hawkins to manufacture these tea makers for them. The unit, branded as the Tecal, was manufactured by George Absolom from 1936 until the beginning of World War 2 in 1939.
George’s second daughter, Heather, was born in 1936, but tragically, she died aged about four in a terrible housefire accident while she was on holiday with Peggy’s sister in Scotland.
During World War 2 production of tea makers ceased as there were no materials or capacity for domestic products. During this period George Absolom was involved with the production of Rheostats that controlled the lighting on tanks, and various other machine based work.
In 1949 Absolom and Hawkins jointly applied for patent number 616208, for an automatic thermal cut-out for an electric heating element.
After the War, the company traded under the name Teesmade Engineering, a change of name instigated during the war period as a result of contracts involving metal working rather than wood. At first the company concentrated on making electric kettles and tumbler elements for hot drinks, which were in greater demand than luxury items.
George and Peggy’s elder daughter, Joan, married Stanley Forrest, an engineer, and had a son, Stephen, who was born about 1952/3.
In 1952 next door neighbours George and Peggy Absolom and Reg and Eddie Juster decided to sell one of their houses and move into one house together. The buyers were to be the Monks, whose son Michael kindly provided much of my initial infomation on George Absolom. Originally the Monks were to buy number 52 (they were keen because George, in true innovative fashion, had turned the air-raid shelter into a swimming pool!) – but at some stage they changed their minds and sold Number 54 instead, for about £2,500. Number 52 was turned into 2 flats and Reg and Eddie moved into the first floor flat. The conservatory at the rear of 52 served as the office and the business in the garages continued.
Michael Monk, whose parents bought Number 54, writes, “As a child I grew up with George and his wife Margaret (Peggy) as colourful neighbours. My parents used to make a little extra money as outworkers, assembling the clocks in the evenings. The machinery included presses and paint spraying, and a machine on which the heating elements for the kettles were wound.
“I remember an occasion when George was throwing half-crowns into the air and any I caught I could keep – I think I made about 17/6d that evening which was not inconsiderable in 1953/4! I also recall Peggy coming round to get my father to collect George from the pub. In his later years he turned to drink for escape – I suspect a man whose potential for invention and enterprise was thwarted by events.”
George’s son Robert confirms that his father enjoyed socialising at the local pub but feels that it would be wrong to suggest that his father had a drinking problem.
Michael continues: “I’m sure I remember hearing my Father say that George felt very bitter that he had effectively been cheated out of his patent invention by Goblin who took his concept and made a few adjustments before patenting it themselves.” When I asked George’s son Robert what his father’s attitude was towards Goblin, his answer was unequivocal: “Father felt that he had been robbed.”
In 1954 George Absolom submitted a patent application, number 645238, for improvements relating to thermally-actuated electric connector-plug ejectors.
Tea makers were manufactured once again at Lansbury Drive in around 1954. The first models to appear were the Teaboy and the Teaboy Junior. In 1954 Teesmade Engineering entered into an agreement with Pifco, to produce two preexisting models in their name, as the Pifco 1045 and 1047.
George’s son, Robert, married Gwen in 1956, and she too was employed in the family business, handling the paperwork in the conservatory. At this time George was suffering from emphysema. Robert and Gwen were expecting their first child, a daughter, when George’s illness worsened. He made the decision to transfer the company to his son’s name (Robert W Absolom). George remained at hand and involved in the business until eventually he became so ill that he was hospitalised. On visiting him in hospital, George told Robert that he had left him the business, however, after his death in February 1957 no will was found.
Family Photos courtesy of Robert Absolom ©