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When Neighbours Became Enemies

Berwick’s First World War project has uncovered many amazing stories of bravery, loss, endurance and survival in the experiences of local people both at home and on the war front a century ago.

One such story, researched by Berwick Archives volunteer Elfieda Waren, revealed how an ordinary Berwick family found themselves the targets of public unrest in the town, and how the family’s version of events has passed down through the generations.

An incident on the night of Sunday 16th May 1915 brought the conflict of the First World War onto the streets of Berwick.

German-born Frederick Hick and his wife Rosa had set up their pork butcher’s business in Berwick at 56, High Street (now part of the Savers shop) around 1893, and together with Taylor’s, another German pork butchers further along at number 68 (now Boots the Chemist), had become well-established in the town.

By travelling to England to seek his fortune as a young man from the Hohenlohe region of Germany, Frederick was just one of hundreds of German pork butchers who had come to Britain in the nineteenth century to satisfy the demand for ‘fast food’ for a busy industrial population.

By 1891 there were 50,000 Germans in England, the largest single immigrant group in the country, and the Newcastle Daily Journal commented on German pork butchers’ shops in 1897: ‘There is now hardly a village throughout the North of England that has not one or more…’

For Frederick and Rosa, life in Berwick went well for many years; they had seven children, and Frederick became a naturalised British citizen in 1905.

Frederick Hick’s Naturalisation Certificate (Page One)

Frederick Hick’s Naturalisation Certificate (Page Two)

Thanks to the internet, some of Frederick Hick’s descendants have been traced to Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, where his three sons Eddie, Henry and Fred moved from Berwick in 1919 to set up a pork butchery businesses of their own.

Today, some of Frederick Hick’s descendants are still trading under the family name in Dublin, including J. Hick and Sons Pork Butchers which is run by great-grandson Ed Hick. Through Ed and his cousin Rosa, contact was made with Berwick resident Marie Dalgleish, Frederick’s granddaughter, and between them they have been able to offer snippets of family memories.

Frederick Hick in 1912

(Courtesy of Ed & Rosa Hick)

Frederick Hick’s son Henry in uniform during the First World War (Courtesy of Ed & Rosa Hick)