THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a Lamson pneumatic cash-carrying pod. Not any old Lamson pneumatic cash-carrying pod, not a run-of-the-mill Lamson pneumatic cash-carrying pod, but it is the holy grail of Lamson pneumatic cash-carrying pods.

Yes, this particular pod is from Bishop Auckland’s famous Doggarts store.

And if you have any memories of a Lamson pneumatic cash-carrying system, they will be from either a co-operative or from a Doggarts.

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You will remember from Memories 312 that, in times gone by, the front counters of department stores were connected to the back office accounts office by a network of tubes. The shop assistant would put the bill and the customer’s money into a pod which would go into the tube and would then be either sucked or blown, or sometimes catapulted, through the tube to the accountants. The accountants would work out the change and note down the divi, and whizz the coins in the pod back to the front counter.

William Lamson of Massachusetts first patented this communication concept in 1881 – one of his earliest “cash railways”, dating from 1885, is to be found in the co-op at Beamish museum, and our pod still bears the faded name “Lamson” on the back.

Our pod was saved by Kevin Hillary, of Hurworth Place, who worked in Doggarts electrical maintenance in the early 1970s.

The Northern Echo:

PNEUMATIC STORE: Doggarts on the corner of Bishop Auckland Market Place

“In our workshop, where we had our breaks, as I was the new boy, my seat was against about ten flow and return pipes through which the pods rattled up and down to the office and the counter,” he remembers.

The pod, or torpedo, is about 12cm high (7in) and 5cms (2in) in diameter. It is made of brass and has sturdy rubber bumpers on each end. Considering it was to be moved by air-power, it is surprisingly heavy.

When you twist it, the door opens to reveal the pod in which you place your money. The door has “3D” engraved on it, which we believe refers to the shop’s department.

Since salvaging the pod, Kevin has found that it has acted as a handy container for keeping electrical flux in. However, he very kindly Brasso’d it up so that it looks absolutely splendid in our pictures.

Doggarts, of course, was the “fair deal family firm” founded in 1895 in Bishop by Arthur Doggart. It grew to have 13 outlets across south Durham, and in each of its towns, it was such an institution that it was the origin of the phrase “if that’s not true I’ll bear my bottom in Doggarts’ window”.

Or something like that.

The founder’s grandson, Sandy, closed the stores in 1980.