Brian Writer

The Life of a ‘Market Man’ in 1957.


I left J.W.Clarke & Co (Buying Broker) in the autumn 1957 and Joined

Thomas Cumberlege & Inskipp (Selling Broker).

Dress code: Coat, Bowler Hat, Rolled umbrella, and leather gloves.

{Cardinal rule Never sit on a tasting counter and always hold your Bowler when seeing a Buyer!}


Twinings – to add to Malcolm’s story:


When I joined TCI Mr Frank Woodford was a senior M.Man and one of his principle accounts was Twining's. Mr John Wade was the Indian Buyer (A most important account as TCI catalogue was mainly Indian.

As time passed I was ‘promoted’ to do the ‘leg work’ Samples, Our catalogue with the valuations and anything else that Mr Woodford had forgotten!!

Hence my very careful ‘presentation on arrival at Ibex House. Mr Wade’s assistant Sid Mumford -   watch for an unfurled umbrella and the gloves left on the counter!! On leaving and opening the umbrella about 3 oz of tea rained upon you and gloves hade a sort of scratchy feel – Tea!

Mr Woodford was I think a strict Methodist.  He left the office after lunch on Fridays!

Leaving me to ‘cover’ for him!  Mr Wade started to phone me  Friday afternoon’s to speak to Mr Woodford. “Sorry Sir He has gone to the Dentist/not available/ with the Partners/cannot be disturbed tasting etc”.  After several weeks Mr Wade said “Writer has he gone home! Eh yes Sir !!!” A quiet chuckle. !!

When Mr Woodford retired it became my account. Very important as G.Harrison were the Buyers in Auction and we T.C.I. could only sell privately.

Two or three of the major Assam companies had a system to sell one invoice privately

the next to be sold in London Auction. So I had the opportunity of selling the CTC Broken Pekoe’s privately – This was the major ingredient of the ‘then’ Twining’s best seller.

Mr Wade generally purchase the private offers each week of the BP’s, until, on one occasion he rejected the tea. “I asked him why ?

He said ‘Writer’ when this tea ‘comes up’ in Auction, bring me a sample and I will explain!”

I did -  Mr Wade tasted with me and explained that it had lost its character and had become ‘soft’ and would not keep. I then started to learn and understand. !


The system for ‘landed Teas’ was that the Warehouse drew a landed sample and dispatched to our office, the weights would follow about a week later.

(Originally the Buyer, after purchase, had 90 days to pay!).


Mr Wade and Mr Last (Who was the Blender in the early 1960’s) did not see ‘eye to eye’!   The normal procedure was to take the Landed sample and the weights together to the Buyer. But one day Mr Wade asked me to bring down his new Landed Samples of Assam BP’s purchases - and if not in his office, LEAVE on his desk.

This I did. !! 

Mr Last phoned later that afternoon and berated me as he discovered these teas had been landed but our office was still processing the weights !

Of course Mr Last needing tea for the blend & took Mr Wade’s samples from his desk.

Mr Wade phoned me later and laughing said  to Mr Last YOU should have asked me – I KNOW the office hadn’t the weights.


It was a terrible shock when A.B.Foods, decided to close the Tasting Department in Ibex House in the Minories .  Everyone expected that it would be only a new factory in Andover the new factory !

Mr Wade was utterly devastated to find the new packing machines could not use

the Assam BP’s – which are a larger size to a Pekoe Fannings, and therefore had to use Ceylon BOP’s (Again the Factory imposed this size to fit the new machinery {More production per hour!}) The taste of Twinings ‘best seller’ had been destroyed !!

This had been Mr Wade life!!?


When the tasting room closed everything was going into skips.

Wonderful oak counters and draws etc. I approached Andy Cooper and ask if I could have some of the wood as we were having built a small staircase in our Breakfast Room.

Yes no problem so a friend and I collected some of the oak counters which we still walk on every day!