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Chapter One

Gloucester was the furthest inland Timber port in the UK with ocean going tall ships reaching the City via the Sharpness Canal . Baxter and Nicks started in the mid 1800s in the Dock Head at Bakers Quay.   William Nicks was the second son of a builder and contractor of Warwick who came to Gloucester in the early 1840s as a traveller for the timber merchants Price & Co  . ( An interesting fact I am also the second son of a timber trader from Warwick  who came to Gloucester to sell for  timber company Williams and Farmer -what’s the chance of that ?!) There he met Robert Heane, and following a misunderstanding with their managing partner, the two young men broke away to set up their own business in 1849. Mr Nicks was 30 ( the same age I was when I left Williams and Farmer to re open The Gloucester Timber Co my first company which later merged into Nicks ! Another coincidence!?) They traded under the name of Heane & Nicks, and quickly built up a successful business importing timber for the railways being built in the Midlands. However, it seems that Heane was not very enthusiastic about business life, and in 1855 Nicks, then aged 35, took over the business in partnership with Thomas Wyatt Baxter, thus establishing a firm known as Nicks & Baxter The 1850s was a difficult time for the timber trade in Gloucester as the war with Russia in the Crimea had the effect of blocking access to Russian controlled ports in the Baltic from where many imports had previously been received. So early imports were mainly from Canada with less from Sweden. Each ship typically brought a few hundred baulks of oak or pine and several thousand sawn soft-wood deals and battens, often topped up with hundreds of barrel staves and/or lengths of lathwood. The firm also traded in slates for roofing, mainly in sizes known as duchesses and countesses, which smaller vessels brought from Portmadoc in North Wales We supplied builders and contractors in Gloucester and the Midlands. An invoice dated 1858 has survived for 29 bundles of lathwood, totalling 5050 feet in length and costing £2 18s 1d, supplied to Messrs Jones & Son who were builders based at Worcester Parade, Gloucester. Remarkably, the same firm continued as a customer for at least ninety years and probably longer . Nicks initially operated from premises on Bakers Quay with a 45 yards frontage on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal immediately to the south of the Pillar Warehouse and straddling what is now called Merchants Road (6). (Grid Ref. 826180) A large storage area was necessary to keep at least four months stock of timber because the Baltic froze over around the end of November and first open water was at the beginning of April. Their office is shown in a photograph dated 1863, and standing by the door is William Nicks himself wearing a top hat .

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