Thomas Rowland Smitheman was born without arms and legs in 1878 and was raised to adulthood by his mother in the days before the welfare state and NHS.
He was said to be man of exceptional mental and moral character and numbered his friends in the thousands.
From 1897 onwards the readers of the North-Eastern Daily Gazette and North-Eastern Weekly Gazette subscribed a total of nearly £400 to erect a shop and cottage for Thomas and his mother, in a campaign where he was known as ‘A Hero In Humble Life’ (this equates to something in the order of £40,000 today)
The official opening event on Saturday 25th February 1899 is covered in the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough with two illustations one of Thomas and one of the shop
The shop still stands with the plaque on the side at 5 Beaumont Road in North Ormesby
Records suggest Thomas died aged 69 in March 1946