150 years of the Chamber of Trade?

In 2018, the Morpeth & District Chamber of Trade “chose” to celebrate their 150th anniversary. This article by Chamber Chairman Ken Brown explains why:

Until a couple of years ago, it was believed that the Chamber of Trade has only been in existence since the 1950s. However, after research by Chamber members, it has been discovered that a predecessor of the Chamber was already active way back in 1868, as evidenced by a Morpeth Herald article referring  to the “Chamber of Commerce” holding their “usual meeting” in the Black Bull. So, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade chose to celebrate their “150th anniversary” in 2018.

The Organisation has changed its name a few times in its 150 years. In 1903 it changed from “Morpeth Chamber of Commerce” to the “Morpeth Tradesmen’s Association”. This lasted until 1943 when the then Chairman, Malcolm Wood, became despondent at the apathy of local traders in responding to the threat of the German Luftwaffe,  despite having established a mutual aid scheme to provide aid to traders whose property was damaged by enemy action.  In the hope of broadening its appeal, the Association changed its name back to the Morpeth and District Chamber of Commerce. Since the 1960’s it has been known as the Morpeth Chamber of Trade.

Many of the issues dealt with by the Chamber over the years continue to return…  For example, in 1906 there was an angry response to the “foolish proposal” of not permitting horses and carts to stand in Bridge Street for unloading as they were continually being moved on by the police.

In 1949, there was a plea to remove parking charges (only the Terrace Car Park was free at the time). There was also outcry when it was claimed that cars were being forced off the main street by police as the proposed bypass wasn’t likely to happen for a number of years. Sounds familiar doesn’t it!

In the late 1960s, the Chamber launched “The Morpeth Rant” a free publication for the people of the town. This carried news, in particular news relating to businesses and the development of the town and much more besides.

At that time, the town’s Christmas Lights were hand-made and erected by members of the Chamber of Trade – probably something that would scare the pants off Health and Safety experts in the current era. It was very labour intensive and became more and more expensive – so Fair Day was created primarily to provide funds for the Christmas Lights.