Up the Ladder

Adeline Hodges, (nee Corkhill).

These are the memoirs of a lady whose life covered the years 1899-1980.

She always told us that she was born in the era of the pony and trap but lived through the innovation of the aeroplane,- she experienced both types of transport.

These memoirs were written only for we four children, to show us our background. We hope you who read them find them interesting and like us will derive pleasure from her history.

She was an intelligent and elegant lady with a disciplined moral code which she instilled in her family. She was well loved and appreciated by all of us and together with my father Ben, brought magic to our childhood.

If more information is required or if you wish to use extracts, please contact us first via Brian Scollen through this website who was instrumental in persuading us to allow you this privilege of a glimpse into the past.

Joan Pace (nee Hodges)

Elder daughter of Adeline.

UP THE LADDER (Complete version) by Adeline Hodges

 ‘I Remember’

A fascinating snapshot of life in a Seaham mining community at the turn of the century.

 Reproduced here with kind permission of her daughter Joan Pace.

Adeline Hodges and her husband Benjamin

I was born on 20th May 1899 at 70 Swinebank Cottages, Dawdon. (Darden as we called it).
It was a small village of stone built cottages for miners working at Seaham Colliery called the ‘Nack’. The most widespread opinion as to the name ‘Nack’ was that the windmill which stood at the foot of a bank called the Mill Bank made a clicking noise of ‘nicky nack’ as the arms turned round and round and so the pit was known as the Nicky Nack, or just the Nack. This colliery was perhaps three miles from where we lived at Swinebank Cottages and the miners had to walk. One road was called the Pitman’s Walk, now known as Strangford Road. Men had to use this road from Dawdon to the pit. Then, the little village of Dawdon consisted of 83 cottages standing in four rows. Two rows with their backs separated by toilets (middens) and coalhouses standing in a back yard. Gardens were at the front and the two centre rows of gardens were known as Garden Walk, at the top of which stood the village school run by the Londonderry Family. This also served as a church and Sunday School. The teachers at the school were also expected to teach at the Sunday School. The Vicar of Seaham Harbour used to pay intermittent calls and the Vicar of St. Mary’s, whom we called Daddy Copley, paid more infrequent calls, but he was a grand old man and his visits were heralded as if they were royal.
The cottages at Dawdon were built of stone. I have heard my parents say that they were built for two families to each one. One family occupied the front and one the back, which is why there were remains of toilets at the bottom of the gardens. Then they were altered to house one family each, because miners with plenty of sons were given the houses with their jobs. The world often seems to turn topsy turvy. Then men were encouraged to have families, now they are discouraged and the know-alls are scheming how to punish the big families.

Each cottage had a sitting room, a small living room with a big pantry running along one side and a staircase with three bedrooms. I mention the staircase because they were the pride and joy of every housewife. You see, before the houses were divided they just had a ladder to climb up to the bedrooms. Hence the saying ‘up the ladder’ when it was bedtime. My father kept his ladder for many years. He carried it to the bottom of the street, stood it up by the big fence surrounding the football field, and had a free show. Well those with big families could not afford the ha’penny admission for every week.
You notice I always say the top or the bottom of the street. Well everything seemed simple in those days. When parents looked for children they looked at the top or at the bottom, ‘go to the top’ my father would say and watch out for the caller. It was the man who came with a crake and told the miners if it was working the next day. Weather or lack of boats used often to lay the mines off. My father was a stoneman down the pit and he would bid me listen to the caller to see if he said ‘all the pits idle the morn, shifters, wastemen and mechanics’, ‘and mechanics’ was the vital part for my father because if the caller stopped at wastemen my father would work, but if he added the dread words ‘and mechanics’ my father would loose a shift. I remember the first time I was sent to the top to listen for the caller. My father asked what he had said. I told him ‘all the pits idle the morn, shifters, wastemen and me nannies’, I never lived it down.

The four rows of cottages were surrounded by fields. At the bottom was the football field I have mentioned, called the ‘Stars Field’ after the name of the team which was mainly composed of Cottages men. Then the South Hetton railway running down to the Docks separated the Villa’s field where the Villa team consisting of Seaham Harbour men mostly working at the Bottleworks played. There was great rivalry between the teams. Don’t talk of rough play, I know, my eldest brother was goalkeeper for the ‘Star’ and he had all kinds of injuries, but it was accepted as part of the game. What rejoicing when the Star players won a silver medal. There couldn’t have been more rejoicing or more honour heaped on them if they had won the Victoria Cross.

There was a road at the bottom of the street and the football field which had only three sides fenced. The other side needed no fence because there was an embankment and at the top the North Eastern Railway ran. My father used to say that people let their pigs feed on this embankment and that was how it was called Swine Bank Cottages. Of course that would be before the railway was laid. Then on the south side of the cottages was the cow’s field owned by the farmer who owned Dawdon Farm. Our garden walls in the last row of cottages formed part of the fence for this field. It was beautiful meadowland and we spent most of the summer playing in it near the garden walls. Only the farmer himself would chase us. Periodically he would ride round his land on a beautiful horse. We scattered when he came towards us. We did no harm. Our pleasure was picking the flowers, and playing the lovely game of funerals. One child would lie on the grass full length with arms duly crossed on the chest and the other children would heap grass and flowers on top of him. We made wreaths and crosses of daisies, buttercups, dandelions, bluebells, cranesbill, ladies fingers, cowslips and many more. It was difficult to get anyone to tackle the dandelions for we firmly believed if we touched them we would wet the bed. That would set off an argument as to how many ‘skelps’ mothers dished out on bare bottoms for committing this awful crime. I was once the victim of a funeral. I was buried under a great mound of grass when all of my playmates scattered. Someone shouted ‘keep down and he won’t see you’. My goodness the horse went very close to my head, too close for comfort and I very nearly became a real dead one. It was the farmer. One hears of so many cases of poison these days and I wonder how we escaped. We ate the corns of the cranesbill dug out of the soil without washing, we ate sour docks, which were the leaves of the dock plant. We would make fiddles out of them first. That was pulling the centre of the leaves apart leaving the strings or veins like a fiddle. Then we ate them. They tasted like vinegar, we got turnips out of the big field on which Deneside is now built and had feasts off them. We plundered our gardens for mint, lettuce, rhubarb and carrots. We would play on summer days from dinner time until bed time without going home for any food. The taps were in the street so it was easy enough to put ones mouth under and get all the drinks one needed.

Miners were very proud of their gardens. They had the most beautiful flowerbeds in great profusion, the colours had to be seen to be believed. Every little hole and corner was decorated with boxes or barrels. Mother had barrels of chrysanthemums, bronze and white at either side of the front door with boxes of nasturtium growing up the wall under the window. But the good gardeners had Canterbury bells, phlox, marguerites and many more. They were ready for the big flower show held in Seaham Hall grounds on the first weekend in August. It was called ‘the big flower show’. Big marquees were erected in the grounds. There were all kinds of side shows, and refreshment tents. That was the day of the year, for people came from all the surrounding collieries and there was great fun. I look back with nostalgia on these great days although I always had to sly into the grounds. The first time I was allowed to go with my sister was when I was eleven years old. One had to pit ones wits against the gatekeepers, but we won at last. We had the magnificent sum of one halfpenny between us – but that did not mar our fun in the least. There were plenty of boys to chase us and plenty of other people with a lot of money to spend so we watched and shared in their fun. Then the gardeners had Paddy Finn’s Leek Show which followed a few weeks after the big show. Paddy was landlord of the Station Hotel and had a big marquee erected outside his hotel at the top of Marlborough Street. On Whit Monday morning was the big cycle parade. Cyclists from far and wide joined in. I do not know where they started from or where they went to, but I can remember taking my stand at the corner of Railway Street and North Terrace to see them all sweep around onto the North Road.

On Good Friday there was a big parade of all the Sunday Schools, excepting Catholics, scholars and adults marched along the main streets singing lively hymns. Nobody would miss this. Then on Easter Monday the Cottages folk en bloc would go ‘down the Dene’. It was a lovely little dell in those days and Easter Monday saw it crowded. Everybody skipped and danced, the boys chased the girls and stole their hat pins and everybody picnicked on the grass. Then there was the celebrated race with our eggs. We rolled them down the bank that leads into the Dene. The winner took the egg from the loser. Then there was the game of jarping. You held your egg closely in your hand while your opponent bashed it with his. The wide boys knew exactly how to win. These eggs were dyed and on Easter Sunday morning we would run to our friends houses with a can full of eggs, one for each child in the family and then they would return the compliment. We had Carling Sunday. These were greyish brown peas, which our mothers steeped on the Saturday and we all had packets of them to eat on the Sunday. We would pick the wild rose branches and stick a carling on each point. It was who could get the biggest one to hold the most carlings. Simple things, but then we were simple. Our fun never had to depend on money. We had a holiday on Pancake Day, and one on Royal Oak Day. The boys and girls would gather into gangs and roam up and down the four streets singing ‘Royal Oak Day on the 29th of May, if you don’t give us holiday we’ll all run away’.
But I think the greatest day for the children was the Sunday School treat. It was always held on the Friday the schools closed for the summer holidays. We, from the Cottages, joined with the mother church of St. John from Seaham Harbour. We marched in procession from the school along what is now Princess Road and so far through the Dene then into the Jubilee grounds, which have since been closed because of mining subsidence. These grounds were large and had swings and roundabouts and May poles. There was a large building with tables and forms right down the centre, where we had tea if it rained. If the weather was fine we sat on the grass and school teachers and parents supplied us with the tea, buns and sliced currant loaf from clothes baskets. The boys and the men would take the women and girls up on the swings, but I remember a big row when a new curate stopped the fun because he would not allow such infamous goings on as mixed swinging. He stopped a couple by hooking the swing with his walking stick and nearly caused a serious accident whilst tearing the lady’s blouse. She happened to be the wife of a policeman and there were ructions about it. He, the curate, didn’t last long after that. There were rebels you see in those days too, for they made their voices heard although they stood in awe of church authority.

There was a drill hall beside the Co-operative store at Seaham Harbour. Every year the volunteers staged a big parade – it was a grand sight. All of the officials at Seaham Colliery were the top notchers in the volunteer brigade, and they headed the parade in their grand uniforms and plumed hats, some on horseback, some on foot. There were brass bands and the whole population (en mass) of Seaham Harbour and the Cottages (it was seldom referred to as Dawdon) turned out to watch. At night a big ball was held in the drill hall. We stood around the outside to watch the people arrive for this great event. We goggled at their dresses of velvet, silk, satin and the jewellery worn by the women. The men were mostly in uniform, but some few were in tails. I remember peeping in and seeing a great cannon standing in the middle of the floor. I suppose it would be moved for the dancing. Yes, times were good and mildly exciting. We were poor, but we did not miss what we never had and we depended mostly on the weather for our enjoyment. What we had most of was fresh air. Families were large, houses were small, so we had to come in only at meal times. Even in the cold weather we spent most hours out of doors. We were warmly clothed, had good strong boots, had good plain food so we took no harm. When our fingers were cold we would stand up against the gable ends of houses and warm them on the wall. It was surprising the heat that penetrated from the large fires of the miners. They had free coal in an adequate supply so everybody was warm. Bricks or oven shelves were put in the beds to warm them. I can remember when we had only oil lamps. It was quite a ritual trimming the lamps each night before it turned dark. A man came round selling lamp oil. He had a trolley and he would shout ‘lamp oil, lamp oil’. It was a favourite pass-time of the children to stand round a corner, pop out and shout ‘what do you feed your donkey on’ and he would shout ‘lamp oil’.

We only had three little tuck shops at the Cottages. Old Janey had one in the first street. Danny had one in the second and MacDade’s had one in our street. Then a family had a little paper shop in their front room. They had a family of boys, one of whom fancied himself as a yodeller. You could hear Joe yodelling in the early and the late hours of every day. I remember their father used to bath them every Saturday afternoon in the poss tub in the back yard. We would see one little naked body after another running across the back lane into the house to be dried. They were as tough as nails or so we thought. However mother’s predictions came true for they were not a long living family. You see mother thought the best place after a bath was bed, and that one paid the price in after years for all this ‘foolhardiness’. It may have had no such effects.
Meals were not elaborate in our early days. All bread was baked at home. We had small round ovens, which were always hot. Mother used to bake 48 loaves at a time. She and her neighbour had an arrangement whereby one would bake one day and half was baked in the neighbours oven after she had made her midday dinner. Then when she wanted to bake Mother would stoke her oven and return the compliment. Then mother baked forty eight tea cakes each week. The boys liked them for their ‘bait’ down pit. A couple of tea cakes with jam in between was considered a good ‘bait’ down pit. Then she baked a large ginger cake in a big dripping tin and it was cut into squares. I can still see my father with a pint pot of cold water, a large chunk of ginger cake and his cracket, strolling across the back street. He would sit in the sun with his back to the backward wall and have his snack. He was also very fond of rhubarb pie and Victoria plums. We had a big bed of cherry rhubarb in our garden, so while it was in season we had plenty of rhubarb pies and puddings with white sauce over them and rhubarb jam. Gosh! I could never eat rhubarb jam again. There were stacks of seven pound jam jars stored on the top shelf of the big pantry. Some with a little apple mixed in and some with ginger. Mother worked exceedingly hard to make ends meet. She sometimes baked bread for sick neighbours, or washed a few shirts or towels to help a neighbour to ‘put over until she was well again’. She made all of our dresses and underclothes and night clothes. Everything she made was decorated with feather stitch. I remember she made my father and brothers some new flannel body shirts for the pit, and my father who was very witty said how nice they were but one thing was missing – the feather stitch. These shirts were put on when they finished their shift so that they absorbed the sweat and helped the miners to prevent them catching cold when they came to the cold atmosphere at bank. She also made ‘bait pokes’ and many a family bought them from mother. She also made ladies aprons, just very plain, made of white calico for best and blue and white checked ones for every day. She made a lot of chemises (shifts as they were called). Some were very decorative and lots of people having babies would buy them. All babies were breast fed in those days. Then there were things called abbot shirts which women wore when feeding babies. These prevented them from being too exposed. Pit men wore flappers. These were very simple and while covering the men allowed them plenty of air. They were worn like bathing trunks. When pitmen came from work these flappers were so wet and covered in pit dust one would have thought they had been dipped in a muddy pool. It was the job of the girls of the family to ease the lives of the miners by having hot water ready to fill the tin bath, and after the bath we had to wash out the flappers and socks and put them to dry. Then we took all the pit clothes outside and dashed them against the wall to remove the pit dust. One had to feel in the pockets and take out face cloths or bait pokes and often one found beetles in the pocket. My father and brothers would often say that they hung their clothes and bait pokes on pit props down pit and when they went for them they were covered in beetles. So a tinsmith set up a shop and began to make bait tins which were carried in their pockets. Then they had tin bottles made by the same man to carry their drinking water. Often we had to take these bottles to have new bottoms put in. They had a little ‘lug’ at one side of the neck through which a string was passed and it was hung on a button stitched to the shoulder of his coat. My father loved to scour the beach at the Blast Sands’ to collect corks washed up from the sea. Mother kept these in a special drawer after she had sterilised them, and everybody in the Cottages knew where to get a new cork for a pit bottle.

We also had to grease the pit boots. This kept the leather pliable. We would put tallow candles in a tin, put the tin in a warm place to melt the candles, then after removing all dirt with a scrubbing brush, we used a cloth to rub on the tallow. Men’s feet were often covered in blisters by the time they had walked three to four miles from the pit in ‘clarty’ socks and heavy boots. When the pit clothes were ‘dashed’ we put them in the right order, the coat spread out first, then the shirts then the socks then wrapped the sleeves of the jacket around the lot and put them into the cupboard under the stairs. When the time came around for another shift we lifted them out and spread them before the fire on the fender. Daughters had to work very hard in a family of pit workers. Woe betides you if you ever forgot to fill up the boiler at the side of the fireplace. The boiler was on the right and the oven on the left with a flue to feed each with hot air. The back of the fireplace had a shelf of two bricks wide. Coals were heaped on here to rake down with a big coal rake when needed. We had to take our turns at filling the coals’. How many mother? ‘Two on and two to stand’ was the answer. One full pail stood in readiness at either side of the back yard step. We had two steps up and a foot scraper at one side. This was sorely needed as streets were like ploughed fields in wet weather and at your peril to bring mud in on the good mats. People made their own mats in those days. Mother made one or two, as was needed, every Christmas time. As soon as the mat back was stitched into the frames we smelt Christmas. Mother would buy some red, green and gold felt at the store and cut it up into clippings. Some people measured these with a match box. Not Mother, she was as quick as lightening snipping the clippings and I bet you all would be the right length when she was finished. These coloured clippings were used to outline a pattern which my father had already designed. He was very good at drawing although he could neither read nor write. Mother was a good reader but oh the fun we had with her spelling! As she ran out of things for the pantry she would write the items with chalk on the back of the pantry door. We have spent hours trying to decipher them. She could, and always said the same thing ‘you talk about scholars, I can beat the lot of you’. Back to the mats. The rest of the mat was filled up with mixed clippings from old trousers or coats or such strong material so as to give good wear. Oh yes – and the border was always black. When the mat was finished and cut out of the frames it was my father’s job to make a big pan of toffee and this was shared amongst those who had had any share in the making. What a time to look forward to and to be the first to roll on the new mat. Great days. You will all notice that our pleasures had to be without cost. Mother many times had to go to bed as soon as my father had left for work, around 8:00 to 8:30, because she had no money for oil or the gas when it was installed.
Only twice can I remember my father and mother having a trip on a Saturday. Once they went on a train trip to Stockton. We children thought they had gone to the other side of the world. We had never been left on our own for so many hours, although my older sisters and brothers were quite capable. Father told us the train would pass along the line at the bottom of the street and we were all to wave farewell. We waited and waited but most of us were asleep before they came home, but we wakened up, came down stairs and they had brought a big bag of horehound candy. What jubilation. The other time they went to Sunderland. My mother brought a new hat for me. It was bright red and exactly like the helmets worn by Dad’s Army, only it had a big feather sticking out at one side. I hated it, however one of the girls in my Sunday school class chewed the feather almost entirely and finally when out one blustery evening the crown blew away and I was left with just the rim. Mother always bought our clothes when she saw bargains. Whether they fit or not was a different matter. I remember the sailor’s suit she bought for my brother John, to wear on the Sunday school trip. The legs reached down to his ankles, but it was Mother’s contention that that was the wise way to buy clothes then you grew into them. Poor bairn – he looked comical and matters were worsened because he had to wear his straw bertie with it. These were very popular but not with a sailor’s suit and to make matters worse everybody laughed and pointed. John had a violent temper and I often wonder that he did not take the offending trousers and rip them to pieces, instead of which he just walked with a red face and a very set mouth. It made him look worse. But we did not realise then as we do now in these affluent days, the struggle mother had to make ends meet. We were well fed and warmly clad thanks to her ingenuity. She could always manage a trip to the pantomime on a Saturday afternoon in the winter, a small present each from the three penny bazaar, with a new hanky and a new penny at Christmas time, a paste egg at Easter and carlings on Carling Sunday. No birthdays were celebrated, but then ‘there were too many’. Mother used to get very angry when one used this phrase in any connection with her family. She would say never say too many if you were talking of her family, because if God gave her a choice to sacrifice one she would not be able to decide. She was a good wise woman, but very strict, but then she had to be as there were twelve of us every day, including father, mother and Jack Blake. The latter was a cousin to us, nephew to my parents. His mother was my mother’s only sister and when she died, Jack, who was thirteen, joined our family. We always referred to him as Jack Blake. He was a good worker, and every fortnight on payday he would give each of the little ones of the family a penny. We looked forward to this as we never got any other money; men were paid every fortnight. One weekend was called pay weekend and other was called baff weekend. The pawnshops did a good trade every baff weekend. I remember one family, in our street, would have a glorious time on pay weekend. Friday was payday and all the family would be off to the theatre on the Friday night, into town on the Saturday and dead broke after that. Everything possible was pawned the next week. Mother was too proud to live this way. She schemed and pinched and made her money serve. Theatres and pictures were out of the question.
Boys and girls all played together. We played with balls and skipping ropes and hitchy dabbers and diablos (father called me the diablo queen) but he always predicted a broken nose. We played rings, choosing the boys we wanted to kiss and we played boy’s games as well. In winter the boy would put a candle in a jar hung with string. This was known as ‘the Maggie’. They would run away in the dark, shine their Maggie and we had to follow the light and try to catch them. As we ran we shouted the jingle: ‘Jack shine yer Maggie, or the dogs canna foller’. The girls played buttony. We had bags of buttons round our necks and we would play each other or in teams. We had to throw a button up against the wall and then your partner would follow suit. If you could span the distance between the two buttons you were the winner and took your partners button. Then we played hitch bays. Bays or squares were chalked on the ground, we had no pavements, and we hitched the dabber from square to square. Of course there were many rules and diversities in the game and one had to practise a good deal to be expert. We were not allowed to play any of these games on a Sunday, It was supposed to be against God’s rules, but I suspect it was because of our Sunday boots. But like all children we could find a way round. We played ‘Sunday bays’ which omitted the dabber, and ball games against the wall. The wall took the battering instead of our boots and that did not offend God. We could not play ring games like ‘Looby Loo’, ‘Old Roger is dead’, ‘Oh Mary what are you weeping for’ and Romans and British’ etc. because we could not sing songs on Sundays. I had to take the younger children out for a walk on Sunday morning while the dinner was being made. Of course we went to all the forbidden places. Many a lie we’ve told to cover up. Then we went to Sunday school which was held in the village school. I remember we were never allowed to miss, both mother and father were strict on this. But we never received a prize for good attendance. This went on for some years until Mother noticed that the prizes were given to the children who lived beside the teachers in the first and second rows. Some of my friends received a prize for good attendance in several successive years. So Mother took us away and sent us to the Free Church in Seaham Harbour. I loved it, and received a prize for my contribution at the Anniversary. It was a book called ‘A Basket of Flowers’. I loved the happy singing at Sunday School and it was such a bright lovely church in those days – alas it is no more. However, old ‘Daddy Copley’ was paying frequent visits to our house to bring us back to the fold, and after about a year and a half we were sent back to the dreary old school again. After this some of our family did get the odd prize. They stood on the best table which was covered with a plush cloth. The big family bible stood in the centre with grandmother’s photo on top, then the books at each corner with a photo of uncles and aunts on top. I remember some of the books quite well. My ‘Basket of Flowers’, ‘The last of the Mohicans’, ‘What Katy Did’, ‘The Log Cabin’, ‘Children of the New Forest’, ‘Bachelor’s Buttons’ and some I don’t remember at present. I loved them but Mother wasn’t keen on reading ‘trash’. All books were ‘trash’. She thought one’s time was better spent on mending, darning, knitting, etc. You see how times change and progress. I read a good deal when my children were young. Stories at bedtime, and rhymes and jingles were great pleasures for you when you were young and not the distorted versions my father used to repeat to amuse us. He would draw for us mostly amusing pictures and make up a story as he went on and we would be in stitches at him and remember he was no scholar. He bitterly regretted this all his life and was determined that we should not be like him. He told us many times that when he was only an infant he was brought to Seaham Colliery. His father was a miner and he went from pit to pit. He was taken to the local school and in order to find out which ‘class’ he was fitted for, the master asked him to read from a child’s book. Father recognised the picture and reeled off the nursery rhyme. The master looked very pleased but when asked to read the next page he did not recognise the picture and could not read a word. The master thought he had been taken for a ride and that he thought, should not escape punishment. He beat my father so severely that he ran from the building and no further punishment or persuasion could ever make him return.

Of course in those days children had to pay to go to school and no doubt my grandmother would be glad to be relieved of this debt. But how different these days, thank God or man for making it so. There was a life blighted from childhood for when he became an invalid in his latter years he would have been glad of a nice book to pass his weary hours in greater pleasure. Yes times have changed and the greater part for the better, but don’t believe that the old days were all bad. We were very poor, but we had a peace which you will never understand, that is why I still find great pleasure in my old age, watching the cows go back to pasture across our village green. It recalls my very young days when I sat on our garden wall and watched old Sally from Dawdon Farm call the cows, ‘kee-op, kee-op’, she would shout and all the cows would turn and follow her, I can see her still in her milk maid’s bonnet, skirt turned up at the front and pinned behind, with several frilled petticoats down to her heels and a coarse apron tied with string around the waist She had big boots and a very weather beaten face, having worked on the farms all her life. We knew her by no other name but Sally. We crossed the same field, went under the ‘Dardon Bridge’ to the farm for milk. We always took three cans ‘two pints of old and one of new please’. The old milk was very cheap and we had it on our porridge for breakfast. We used condensed in our tea. We never had coffee or cocoa. The latter we didn’t like and the former we had only heard of in the shops. The ‘hitchy dabbers’ I mentioned before were got from the ‘bottle house’. This was a factory making glassware. It was situated along Ropery Walk at Seaham Harbour, just before my time there had been a Ropery and a Blacking Factory, but these had ceased and the ‘Bottleworks’ employed many of the adult population of Seaham Harbour and the Cottages. Many of our friends worked there, but mother thought it a common place for girls. The ‘Blacking Factory’ I mentioned used to make, amongst other things, blacking for boots and horses harnesses. You put these black cakes in a tin, poured water over, then applied the paste to the boots or other articles to be polished. It needed a lot of elbow grease to make a shine. Jack Blake was an expert at making his boots shine. He took a great pride in his boots, so much so that no one had to touch them but himself. It was the girls’ job to take all the Sunday boots into the back yard on a Monday morning before school and clean them ready to put away until the next Sunday. Then when we got ‘off the floor’ that meant school or bed, in this case school. Mother would brush all the Sunday clothes, remove anything from the pockets and they were then folded and put away in the two bottom drawers of the tall boys (chest of drawers) until the next Sunday. Nothing but a funeral would disturb those clothes until the following Sunday. ‘Funerals’ – there was an occasion, alas not an uncommon one. Everybody in the Cottages would rally around the bereaved and on the day of the internment the body was brought from the house into the street and set upon chairs. The population would gather around and sing hymns and standing in the background would be the ‘waiters on’. These women would be dressed in their Sunday black with a white apron on. Mother was usually amongst them. Then the coffin would be carried to Dawdon Cemetery. Only the better off could afford a hearse. These huge black painted, glass fitted monstrosities were decorated with plumes at each corner. The bigger the plume the dearer the service. The mourners rode in cabs. If it were a child being buried, a box was hung on the back of the cab. It had sides of glass so that you could see the coffin. But I remember as a child seeing women carrying little white boxes under their arms. These were babies of a few hours or days old being taken by the midwives to the cemetery.
But even at death the miners could joke. They had a very keen sense of humour, and so many of their pals met with fatal accidents in those days that they must have developed this humour to protect themselves. The powers that be at the collieries showed no respect. It seemed to be considered as one of those things. I remember a man falling down the shaft into the sump. His wet dripping body was brought by comrades through the streets on a very roughly constructed hand cart. He had been a very short sighted man who wore very thick glasses and I, as a little girl, wept as I saw it go along. But I heard the men joking and actually laughing about it afterwards. Again I remember the story father told mother when one of our neighbours was killed. The official at the colliery chose a man to go down and break the news to the family. This was always a terrible job, so the chosen one tried all the way to think of a gentle or subtle way to break the news. This particular messenger knocked on the door and the housewife answered. He said “does widow Brown live here?”, she said “my name is Brown, but I’m not a widow”. He said, “well you soon will be when you see what is coming”. Yet they were only callous outwardly. Underneath they were a grand lot of men extremely kind to all children.
Men played several games in the little free time they had. I remember seeing them at marbles with a huge ring chalked at the bottom of the street. Street played street in competitions, and their knuckles would be red raw by the time the game was over. Remember we had no well laid roads or streets and no footpaths as we have today. They used to box, bare fists, and wrestle, all in fun but there were many black eyes and bloody noses, when they were finished. Another popular game was handball. The miners had a ‘ball alley’ at Seaham Colliery. This was a high very wide wall built on some waste ground near the bridge which led over the railway to the pit. It was smoothly cemented and was always kept in good trim. Men would smash a hard ball with their fists against this wall. They counted and followed various rules. They played in teams, and other collieries joined in matches just as they do with darts today. Then they had cards and domino matches. My father’s hobby was pigeons. Most men kept them. They had dockets at the bottom of their gardens, had pigeon races and really enjoyed their one day off at the weekend. Some men had whippets. You always knew a whippet man because he wore a red handkerchief tied tightly around his neck. These men were the gamblers, so my father wasn’t amongst them. Many men went fishing, especially those with male families. They owned their own cobbles, so fish was plentiful and cheap. They brought their catch and hung it on iron roped fences at the bottom of Church Street at Seaham Harbour. So if we wanted fish we went to the ‘rails’. There were four fish and chip shops in Seaham Harbour. These were only open at night, every night excepting Sunday. One proprietor was known as George Willie. It was near the Theatre Royal, the only place of entertainment in those days and at the interval, all would rush to George Willie’s. “Two ha’porths George Willie”, meant a fish and a ha’porth of chips. These were usually the families like the ones I mentioned before who lived up our street, no breeches with backsides in and no shoes to their feet, but the whole family excepting the father, would be at the theatre each week. We were only allowed to go to the pantomimes at Christmas time, but we were well clothed and well shod.

We looked forward with glee to pay Saturday. We had several families at the Cottages where the father took too much drink, and caused a terrible scene at the weekend. One man always opened the upstairs window and threw out pictures and crockery or anything that would go through the window. Another couple, for both drank too much, fought with flour. It is quite true. She would fetch a large bowl of flour from the pantry, put it on the table and they would throw handfuls at each other. Crazy! But great fun to watch. It was like a comic picture. Another one had a rifle. He was a poacher and he would scare the life out of the whole street. We children would see him rolling back home and we would scatter shouting ‘Jimmy Thomas’. The streets were emptied till Jimmy was safely indoors. I never knew him shoot the rifle but there was always the chance.
There were many hawkers in those days. We had only the little tuck shops at the Cottages, so hawkers were very welcome. There was the lamp oil man, the pikelet man with two clothes baskets on his head. These were filled with pikelets and covered with clean white cloths. When warmed and buttered these were lovely for tea. There was the yeast man. He came round once a week in a little trap. Mother could get the yeast on the baff week to pay for it on the pay week. There was the egg man, hen and duck eggs, brought in big baskets. No milkman, we carried our own from the farm. There was the ‘prop wife’ called one eyed Clara. What a character. Terrible to look at poor thing and this enhanced with her rags that she wore. She carried the props on her shoulders and called out “clothes props”. The boys and girls teased her unmercifully and she would reply with the foulest language, words that we had never heard but guessed they were swear words because it was Clara. She would go berserk, put down the props and chase them all, and really to see her with her arms and legs flaying the air was very laughable, but thank goodness she never caught anybody. Then there were fruit hawkers. Whatever was in season, someone would come round with a small horse and cart selling that fruit. There was the ragman. Oh their trumpets! They would give candy for rags, bones or jam jars. So any raucous noise was referred to as ‘the candy man’s trumpet’. Oh, I forgot to say the pikelet man rang a little hand bell. Then there was the potman. His visits were fairly rare, but I can still see him with about a dozen plates in his hand which he rattled. He held them like a man holds a stack of cards when he is displaying them. He also sold brown dishes and jars. Then there was the second-hand clothes woman with her big basket. They were clothes begged from the better off and sold cheaply to the poor. Not for mother. She said you never knew what diseases you might get from them. There was the vinegar man. It was surprising the trade he had, but then people in those days were very fond of vinegar and gardeners had onions, beetroots and pickling cabbages to pickle for the winter. In every pantry you would see big jars of pickles ready for the winter. We never had preserved fruit. Mother believed in fresh fruit when it was in season. Once a man came round selling eggs. They were extremely cheap. He said he had got them from a boat in the docks. Someone who had been served first happened to use them straight away and found out they were all bad. Word went round the grapevine in no time at all, and the poor man was pelted with the rest of his eggs before he could make his escape. Make no mistake, tempers ran very high if they thought they were being cheated.

Money was scarce so every halfpenny counted. I remember going shopping with mother and a thing would be marked 6 3/4d. Now the farthing was being phased out, so mother reckoned if you could not get your farthing change why mark things in farthings? So she decided she would have her money’s worth and asked for a farthings worth of pins in lieu of her farthing. She never purchased anything without a lot of palaver. She would ask for something made of cotton and she would pull this way and that and examine it thoroughly and reject it saying it was full of starch and when washed would be like a clout. If by buying two small items she could save a farthing she would buy two. I can still feel her nudging me with her elbow and saying “you have to watch shopkeepers, they are selling but I’m buying”. Every Monday following the pay Saturday she would go to the Co-op. She would say “if I only have a penny or tuppence to put in the savings bank, I know that I am not in debt, and always remember pennies grow into shillings”. She would also say “you can look anybody in the face if you have a pound or two behind you”. She didn’t economise on food, she bought all she could afford, but we often just had half a kipper each for tea, or even half an egg. I often think of her when I have a boiled egg. I can see Mother with one flick of a knife, slice an egg in equal halves and never waste a bit of yoke. What a mother to be proud of. Mind you, disobey her, or cross her in any way and out came the tawse. We called them ‘the tars’. This was a leather strap with tails cut half way up. One lash with the ‘tars’ and you submitted. Yet we had a lot of love. Father would sit by the hour asking guessing stories. Many of them were made up by himself. He would repeat nursery rhymes which had little semblance to the original but were much more entertaining. The same with fairy tales. His father was quite a good scholar although he was self taught. At the early age of eight he lost his parents, and his sister and he was left alone. They lived in the Isle of Man. His sister went to train as a nurse in London, she being the elder, and my grandfather came to Cumberland as a stowaway. He often used to tell us of the old cottage they left behind. One room downstairs with half of a ceiling built above. This half made an upstairs bedroom, which had a ladder. I saw one which I imagined must be very similar when I was in the Isle of Man. He never heard from his sister again, as he had landed in Whitehaven. He was looked after by a miner and his family and worked as a trap boy down pit. He was only eight years old. As he grew older he went to other pits, then married and had a family, finally settling in Seaham Colliery. He was a great one in the union movement and was deported to America, as he was blacklisted and could not get work throughout the country. He was brought back and became one of the best respected men at Seaham Colliery, but a strong trade unionist.

My father David, called after his father, was the second son. He married my mother who was an orphan. She had a sister (I am called after her) and a brother. Mother was the youngest. Her father was a sea going man. He had gained his tickets and had been promised his own ship on the next voyage, but was lost at sea, just off Hartlepool. This was a great tragedy for the family. My grandmother was terribly crippled with rheumatism and could do nothing. In those days when the head of the house was taken the whole family fell to pieces. Mother’s sister and brother had been well educated (for a poor class) but mother got not further education after reaching seven. At eight years old she was working at the farm, but she was always grateful for the kindness the farmer’s wife displayed towards her mother. It wasn’t the coppers she received but the butter, eggs, potatoes and a turnip each week, sufficient with care to last them. All those years afterwards mother still used to weep about the heartbreak her mother suffered over parting with her bits and pieces. They could receive no assistance as her mother refused to part with her sewing machine. All they had left was the table, three chairs and the beds. Although grandmother could no longer use the machine she was bent on keeping it for mother. Grandmother had been a tailoress, indeed, she made the riding habits for quality in her younger days, being employed in a shop for that purpose. Mother too was very handy with the machine. Employers seemed so heartless in those days. Yet mother always got comfort from the fact that she had been spared the fate of my father’s aunt.
She worked down the mine. She pulled the tubs like a beast. Yet she lived till she was eighty. She was a very small, thin but tough old lady. She always looked as if she had just got out of a tub of hot water. Her clothes too were plain but immaculate. She wore a little bonnet tied with ribbons under her chin, a big warm shawl and very bright black boots. I do not think she had ever ridden in any vehicle in her life, but walk, my goodness, she had her constitutional every day. Her house which consisted of one room and a pantry was as clean and neat as herself, and I remember she made ginger beer to get a few coppers, well she had to, her room cost one shilling and sixpence a week rent. Mother used to send her a quarter pound of tea every pay weekend. Her husband had left her with two small children. You see she was a Salvationist, a non smoker, non-swearer, non-drinker and non-gambler, just a good efficient housewife. She was very roughly spoken, but very honest. Matt her husband was none of these and so at last she gave him to understand that he must either conform or get out. He chose the latter and she worked very hard to bring up her two children respectfully. Years afterwards, she was paying a visit to her sister (my grandmother) when they heard someone singing in the street. Thinking it was a beggar, a very usual thing in those days, grandmother looked out of the window and asked Aunt Annie if it was Matt. Yes it was. She got up to the window and pelted him with all the tea things on the table. The astonished Matt made his getaway as quickly as possible and was never heard of again.

Grandmother was a little stout woman with the pinkest parting down the centre of her snow white hair. She was what we would call a canny little soul, mild and gentle and greatly loved by grandfather. He was boisterous and drank a lot, talked a lot but left the house and family in control of grandmother entirely. When I was very small they lived in the old mill I told you of at the beginning of this tale. It had ceased to work and was converted into a dwelling house called the Round House. It was extremely quaint but neither hygienic nor satisfactory. Next to it were some little old cottages called the Mill Cottages. They have long since disappeared. Next to the Round House was a big field, one had to climb a stile to get to it, and I remember the big dog grandmother had leaping over this stile. In their latter years they lived a little distance from this mill in the Miners Homes. Grandfather paid frequent visits to the Mill Inn, where he was well known and well treated. His legs were failing him and when he left the pit at night he would stand and shout “Janey, Janey” at the top of his voice and Janey would come and take him home. He had to promise he would not cross the road without her. He died when he was 83 and grandmother soon followed him at 81. Their family did not reach anything like these ages. My father was only 53. He never touched spirits in his life, yet my grandfather has been known to drink several bottles in a week. He used to say it preserved him and that was the last thing he asked for before he died. Grandmother’s house was very clean but very poor as was normal in those days. I remember Grandfathers big arm chair with the spittoon beside it. He was not allowed to spit into the fire place. She had a square table, a dresser and some odd chairs. I also remember a stool made out of a butchers block. It was very, very heavy, but it stood solid on four legs and could not be tippled. Grandmother seemed so opposite to Grandfather. She neither smoked nor drank, nor swore. She had little to say, whereas Grandfather never stopped talking. After rambling on he would look at her for some comment and all she ever said was “aye so Betty was saying”, or “aots man” yet she could rule him and he loved her.
As I said before Father had his pigeons. Uncle Bob (he was father’s brother in law) lived up the street and he was a great pal. He had a very loud voice, which was always heard above all others, and when he laughed it could be heard all over the Cottages. He laughed all the hours that he was awake mostly at himself, which my father used to say, showed the quality of the man. I remember when Uncle Bob built his first pigeon ducat. He built it in the attic room of his house, and then found he could not get it through the door. He had everybody in the Cottages up looking at this beautiful ducat he had made before he would take it to pieces again. It caused peels of laughter, the loudest from Bob himself.
Talk of smoking. Even the old women smoked pipes. Ganny Race would sit at her back door enjoying her pipe. I can picture her so vividly. She was a tiny little woman with a very wrinkled face. She always called bananas ‘fananas’. Her husband was just as tiny. He had an accident at the pit which caused brain damage. He became like a little child, I remember he used to run out of the house as soon as her back was turned. One day I and some other children were playing at the bottom when we saw the old man running towards us. He was just in his shirt, no pyjamas in those days, so we ran for Ganny. Of course, before she caught him he was half way across the cows’ field. We were highly amused when we saw her bringing him back. She was holding up his shirt tail and slapping his bottom as he ran, just like you would treat a naughty child. “Run away wad ye, I’ll larn ye”, she was saying. I am saying old Ganny Race, but you know she would not be sixty, because she did not die until nearly twenty years later. But people looked and dressed old when they were comparatively young. Grandma bonnets and capes, with long trailing skirts made them look very old. Mother never wore those, they were going out of fashion.
Mother had to go down into Seaham Harbour every Saturday night to do her shopping. Shops were open then until near midnight. She would see all the work done and the young ones bathed and in bed before she went out. Two older ones were left in charge. As my oldest sister went into service I was left with my sister older than me to keep charge. My sister was always up to some tricks. Once she varnished all the furniture. My mother was really mad when she returned and we couldn’t sit on a chair or touch the furniture for days. There was no quick drying in those days. Another time she had a fancy to make welsh rarebit, but as the frying pan would smell of cheese and give the game away she fried it on the dust pan. The greasy mark left behind gave the show away. Another time she would make some pancakes. But instead of a few tablespoons of flour, she used a very big dish full, mixed it with water and poured a good pan full out. It would not set so we had to get rid of the lot. Where and how, that was the point, so we each took a cup and threw a cup full into every midden in the street, thereby spreading the load. It was years afterwards when we told mother. For once we fooled her.
Then my father began to stay with us instead of going out. He would make a pan of toffee and would tell us not to tell mother or he would get into trouble for wasting the stuff. This was just a joke because he knew what would happen. When mother returned we would stare at her until she asked what was wrong and childlike we would say “father hasn’t been making toffee”. Sometimes when the little ones were off to bed, he would make a big pan of hot pot. He knew my brother and Jack Blake would be hungry when they returned. Mother had already made some flat yeasty cakes ready for tea. This was always our Saturday tea with a big jar of strawberry jam. A treat from the rhubarb. Many a chunk has Mother given to the beggars. There were many of these in those days both men and women and especially cripples. Some would sing some would play mouth organs and some would dance. Especially popular were the Scots in full regalia with bagpipes and swords. They would do the sword dance and many of the women in our street would join in a highland fling. They would give these men the very last of their coppers. I remember one beggar who came regularly and was often served by mother. She must have been very short this day but had not the heart to face the man. So she told me to say “she is not in today”. He said, “well I’ll not be back tomorrow”. Out popped mother and told him “never” would be soon enough and he could save himself the bother of ever calling again. That was the last we saw of him. There were several men who lived in the caves on the ‘Blast Sands’. One was known as Loppy Dick. He hung in absolute rags and never washed, but he didn’t beg and no matter how he was teased he never spoke a word. He lived there for many years but was never in any trouble for he molested no one.

We had our weirdoes even in those days. We were severely warned against them and would scatter quickly when we saw them. They molested little girls and the funny thing was they belonged to very good families.
I remember the women who came round at Christmas time with a dolly in a box, supposed to be the Christ child. It was always on the Christmas Eve, after mother had hung up the mistletoe. These were the rims of apple barrels, two inside of each other and decorated with coloured tissue paper. Mother was a good hand at these. Then we bought little toys, sometimes candy ones, to hang on the mistletoe. I remember spending all my money at one go on a wax angel. It was so beautiful with its little gilt wings I couldn’t leave it in the bag. I was taking it out to have another peep when I let it fall. I remember I said “aoh-ah” and that lived with me for many years. The poor angel never reached the mistletoe. I can still picture father teasing us on a New Year’s Eve telling us to go to the bottom and we would see a man with as many noses as there were days in the year. After looking at all the men we saw we would come back and tell him they had all only one nose. My mother had to explain, because he just went on teasing. We all had to sit very still when he was using his cut throat razor, getting ready for going out “where are you going Da?” we would say, “to get my ears pinned back” “Are you going to the doctors then?” “Aye my doctor”, he would say meaning the pub but we didn’t guess. When he came back we would examine his ears very closely, but could see no sign of any shifting but he would insist we were blind. The next time he would say he was going to have his lugs put back again and there was the same performance. He used to get 2/- or 2/6 every fortnight for pocket money, and every Sunday following the pay day he would send us to old Janey’s shop to buy some sweets. This cost him 2d. He would share the sweets amongst us. We had to choose small sweets so that they would go round. This always happened after we had been to church on the Sunday evening. We couldn’t wait for the service to finish. In the later years, as we got to thirteen or fourteen we were allowed out for a while after evening service. Everybody made for the terrace at Seaham Harbour. Boys and girls would follow each other, exchanging chat, from the Railway Street corner to the old infirmary and back again. The Terrace was brightly lit with sweet shops and it was a great attraction. I bet every couple in that generation met and courted on the Terrace. Very few young people ventured beyond the old infirmary, it was a dark stony frightening road beyond. Yet in daylight we loved to roam down Lover’s Lane, now Denehouse Road but when we got to the sea we turned back again. On summer nights Saturday and Sunday it was a great delight to go into Adam and Eve’s gardens. These were beautifully kept gardens, where bunches of flowers, fruit and drinks were served. You went down Chapel Road as far as the police station and opposite was an opening. You walked down a bank, across a foot bridge over a stream and into the gardens. There were stone effigies of Adam and Eve set in the flower beds.
Talking of the police station reminds me of our village bobby. He lived in the first house of the Cottages. The mistress of the school, a Scots lady lived in the same street. The policeman was a big, strong fellow, magnificent in his uniform. He was a friendly, fatherly figure, but mind you everybody had the greatest respect for him. Boys used to get up to tricks but anything beyond the limit and they got a severe clout across the face with his gloves. They seldom repeated the offence. Everybody went to him with their troubles and he always lent a willing ear. He had a big family himself and understood young people. He joined in all activities so there was always order. I remember only once Jack Blake had had too much to drink. He had the horrors as they were called. Bring the police. Now, he would whip him into custody but not our village man. He sat on Jack, douched him with cold water, undressed him, put him to bed and stayed until he was sound asleep.
Our doctor lived in Seaham Harbour. He was six feet three, a very fine looking Irishman. He had great respect for mother. He thought she was the best and most efficient housewife he had come across and told her so. When the last of her nine children were born, he asked her what she was going to call it. She said she had run out of names, so he suggested calling it Gerald after himself. This mother did and he gave the baby a threepenny bit. He sometimes rode on a horse to pay his visits.

I seem to be hopping about like a cat on a griddle. I am back again to New Year’s Day. This was Mother’s Day. Father would say “let ma alone today, look after yourselves because it’s her day off”. You see the neighbours had parties in each others houses. Mother’s was always on New Year’s Eve. There was singing, dancing, joking, eating and drinking. Mother always boiled a ham, a big piece of beef, a pig’s head which was pressed in a dish with a plate on top and on top of that the flat iron. She did a big dish of spare rib and rabbits made into a pie. With the stock she made a furnace pot full of broth. It would take my father a whole day to chop the vegetables. We had plenty to eat for a full week, so that the celebrations could go on. You see life was still good even on ginger wine. She was due to this week of celebrations because she had papered and painted and scoured and washed and made mats all in preparation, and all with the greatest enthusiasm and anticipation. She was a great dancer. I can still see her twinkling toes whenever she heard music. Father never danced but he would sit in a corner and enjoy watching.
Of course we had ‘broken up’ at school. We had had ‘the scramble’. This was a ritual always held on the last day of school. The Marchioness of Londonderry supplied an orange for each child. Then she supplied a big sack of mixed nuts. The centre of the big room was cleared and the nuts were thrown onto the floor and we all had to scramble to get at them. The thickest skin held the longest out. Needless to say the boys did better than the girls but it was all hard fun. Sometimes Lady Londonderry would visit the schools when in residence at Seaham Hall. We were taught special songs, mostly patriotic to sing to her. She was a singer herself with a deep contralto voice. I remember she sang for us once, ‘Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep’. I can still see this well made woman, weighed down with a big hat trimmed with huge ostrich feathers. I thought my mother looked far nicer in her new hat with the bird’s wing in the front, which she bought to go to Stockton, and she had a much smarter figure. In fact she was more commendable in all ways to our minds, but don’t tell the Marchioness.

The big day in the year for the men was ‘Cavel Day’. This was a draw at the pit to see where the putters and hewers worked for the next so many months. Some places were good and some were very bad. On Cavel Day all one could hear was “what’s thee cavel Dave”? “Oh in the watta”, was the reply. This meant he worked in a seam full of water, which brought their skins out in great big boils. It was the dread of every man to ‘get in the watta’. Some families were very lucky and got good cavels, others always seemed to be dogged with bad luck, so there was either great despondency or great joy. These men worked in teams, called ‘marras’. “Wee’s the marras?, one would ask another, when the man told his enquirer “bugger my” you knew the poor fellows marras weren’t up to much. The putter filled the coals into tubs. The coal hewer hewed the coals and the putter filled them into the tubs and hung a token on each one as it was filled. There were ‘token slingers’ at work sometimes. This was a man who changed the tokens on another man’s tub. They were hard to catch, but when they were, they were either heavily fined or dismissed. His life wasn’t worth living if he was caught for he was never forgiven by his workmates. These hard working men had Saturday and Sunday off, but maintenance men had no respite and men like my father only had a Saturday. Mind you they could be sent for at anytime of the day or night for an extra shift, which was always reckoned a ‘god send’. Sometimes father would work a double shift. A boy would call for extra bait to be sent down to him. I remember my oldest sister writing on the bait poke Father’s name, The Maudlin, Staple Top. The ‘Mauldin’ was the name of the seam. Then there was the ‘the Main’ and many others. My father’s ‘marra’ lived at Seaham Harbour but they always met at the crossing to travel along pitman’s walk over a footbridge onto Seaham Colliery Road, then up the Black Road to the ball alley, across the railway bridge and into the pit yard. It was a long way on foot especially in the winter, and it was very, very lonely and dark. I remember I once walked up the Black Road in daylight as I was going to visit my grandmother, then on my way back I had to call at the overman’s office and collect my father’s pay note. This was every other Thursday just after tea. As I went up the Black Road, two pitmen were walking in front of me. I kept well behind and when they came to the high wall around the pig field they stopped. So did I and they shouted “away hinney we’ll not hurt ye”, but I off back home without the note. This was a terrible thing to do, as you had to have a very good excuse for not collecting the note at the proper time or place, otherwise it was returned to Londonderry Offices where all the knobs worked and they could treat you with great disdain. When I explained to father he said the men would be hiding their pipes near the wall, with their matches so that when they left the pit at the end of their shift, they could have a smoke on their way home. This proved correct as the two men recognised me and explained to father. You see when mother was a little girl, a playmate was murdered on Feather Bed Rock and we got so many warnings all men were suspect, so I was forgiven. I do not know how or where the note was collected.
I forgot to mention the game of quoits which was very popular. A big spike was driven into the ground and the mean threw heavy rings called quoits to land on the spike. All these games have many rules which must have made them very entertaining as they were very popular. Collieries played collieries for prizes.
Every morning very early say two three or four o’clock a man called a caller used to come round to call up men for the first shift. He would knock on the door with a knobby stick, and shout ‘caller’. He would continue to knock until you answered so it was best to jump straightaway or all the house, or even the street, would be wakened. I remember one caller was very deaf and would go on knocking until someone opened the door. My brothers thought it would be good fun to frighten him. They waited until they heard his footsteps at the yard gate and then they hammered on the inside of the door. He was mad and they could hear him cursing all the way down the street. The man who came to warn about the working of the colliery was called ‘the crake man’. He rattled this crake up and down the street before telling that the pits would be idle.
I have told about funerals, now I shall tell about christenings. These were big events, almost as big as the weddings. Even the fathers would not miss or the uncles. The woman who carried the baby to church would give away its ‘cheese and bread’. This was the name given to the little parcel presented to the first girls she met if it was a baby boy being christened, or the first boy she met if it was a girl being christened. The parcel had small cakes, a piece of the christening cake and some money in it. Weddings were big occasions too. It wasn’t common for the bride to be in white. Any gay colour would do. Everybody wore buttonholes and most people walked to the church, but the bridal party went in a cab drawn by two horses gaily decorated with ribbons. All the children of the Cottages would gather and as the bridal cab began to move we shouted “hoy a ha’penny out”. The men would throw out coppers and we would scramble for them. The men would all go off to the pubs after the meal and then return late to end in a punch up. The newly married couple usually set up house in one upstairs room of their parent’s home. In Seaham Harbour there were many houses with little cottages built in the back yards. These little two bedroom cottages were greatly prized but one had to know the landlord to be able to acquire one. Key money as it was called was often exchanged as bribes in those days as houses were in short supply. They were between 1/6 and 2/6 a week rent. My cousin set up in one of these cottages and it was very comfortable. My Aunt Annie whom I mentioned earlier had one room downstairs at the corner of Adelaide Row and above her in one room was an ex-schoolmistress. Aunt Annie was very religious and thought God has blessed her in choosing such an aristocratic lady to be her near neighbour. All the ‘elite’ of Seaham lived in Marlborough Street. Seaham Harbour Station stood at the top. There was a ramp to walk up to the Station and as children we used to love to run up and down this on a Sunday morning. To get to it we had to walk down to Seaham Harbour and go up Marlborough Street. There was an alternative, but we had to cross the South Hetton Line and walk along the Black Road which brought you out at the cabin crossing. But this Black Road was very narrow and hemmed in on one side by the railway embankment and on the other by alley-ways leading to the allotments. One man who had one of these allotments was a bad character so we were forbidden to go along the Black Road without escort. So we used Marlborough Street but we were often chased away. These houses had small front yards and footpaths. The occupants all boasted maids who scrubbed the steps and paths so we were not allowed to walk on them. We had to walk on the road and even so were often made to turn back. Class distinction was very rife. We went down the docks to play on a Sunday morning, because we knew there would be no one around. We were forbidden to go there, but children have always been the same. Then we went back home to our Sunday dinner. After dinner, Sunday School and mother would have an afternoon nap on top of the bed. This was a great treat for her.
As I have told you before we all had earth closets. There was a big wooden seat which stretched from wall to wall narrow ways. This had to be scrubbed after washing day, because one could not throw out good hot soapy water. Then it was scrubbed again at the weekend on a Saturday morning. It was a rotten job and we used to wrap a scarf around our nose and mouth. Poor Paddy the midden man had to shovel them out and lead his load away to the tip. Some people used to scrub their chairs and tables. We scrubbed, baking boards, rolling pins, potato mashers, brushes and broom handles and anything made of wood and used in the house. Then we cleaned knives, forks and spoons with bath brick every Saturday morning. An older member of the family would do the brasses. These consisted of fender, tidy betty, brass kettles and stands, candlesticks etc. The hearth was whitened with whiting, and the fireplace blackleaded. This would all take up to dinner time. Then the floors would be scrubbed downstairs and mats replaced which took up to teatime, when the men would return from their football matches. The females of the house relaxed after tea until it was time to bath the little ones and put them to bed. Monotonous? Well we were so glad of a relaxing hour or two that we enjoyed it. Anyway it was our way of life and grumbling got you nowhere. There were no places of amusement as in these days, but we enjoyed an early evening with “The Band of Hope” or at church concerts. Sometimes we had a ‘magic lantern’ show. These were generally shown to help missionary work. These all took place in the long winter evenings, in summer you could find your own recreation in the fields or streets.

Religion in those days was a scary thing. We believed that for every lie we told we would pay for it in the hereafter by having a hot poker pushed down our throats. ‘Don’t eat while you sit on the netty, or you were feeding the devil’ was a firm belief. The netty was the name for the earth closets. It was so widely used we thought nothing of it; in fact people had the name in whitewash on their back yard doors, because any hawker or beggar could use it without question. God was never presented as a kindly fatherly figure but more of a spy watching, unseen, any little misdemeanours one committed, yet overlooking the good. One expected him behind any door ready to pounce and slap you down to size. Death was the ultimate, when God decided to send you to heaven or hell, where you burned in a fierce furnace forever for any sin committed. Imagine any sensitive child lying in sheer terror at nights recalling all his little sins of the passing days. We feared our parents, the priests, the policemen and the ‘class’ of our society. I often think now that we only enjoyed God’s free gifts like, fresh air, wind, rain, snow, the green grass and most of all for me, the birds and flowers. Seeing a swallow now brings surges of happiness that I have forgotten for so long. My father was a bird lover. After a hard long night shift in the mine he would come home, have his bath, get his breakfast, crumble some bread to put on the yard fence posts for the birds and take an early stroll across the fields onto the Blast Sands. He would come home have his dinner and go to bed until it was time to go to work again.
Everybody bathed in either the poss tub or big tin bath. If the poss tub was used it was rolled to the back door after use and tipped over the step. The water cleaned the yard and gutters with the aid of a broom. If a tin bath was used two people had to carry it to the door to tip it for the same process. We had to rub the backs of the miners with a coarse towel. These towels were made from coarse sugar bags. Every family had one or more coarse towels hanging from a nail on the pantry door. You used them to dry any part of your body excepting your face. As I said before we rubbed men’s backs with them, as it was a general thought that washing weakened a miner’s back. You can imagine what it was like for all the members of a big family to get a weekly dip. The tin bath hung on a nail in the back yard when not in use.
We had our own special dialect, which was a mixture of Scottish, Irish, Wels and English, like the population of the Cottages at that time. We never said ‘go’ but ‘gan’, ‘tak’ instead of ‘take’, thrippeny bit, ‘hume’ instead of ‘home’, ‘lugs’ instead of ‘ears’, ‘brick’ instead of ‘break’, ‘breed instead of ‘bread’. Oh dear, it was like a foreign language. For example – ‘had away doon the bottom an see if ye can fin the bairns’, ‘if I etter tell ye again the can luck oot for it”. The boys in class at school felt positively soft when they had to read from a book. In fact some of them could not understand the language, swear words were used always by many children, but they had to be clean swearing. It was not allowed in our home, but we knew all the words.
School was a terrible place. It was the rule of the rod, and parents had no redress. It was supposed to be good for us. The lessons were very monotonous. Reading, writing and arithmetic. Writing in the winter was really terrible, because a blot from your pen brought severe punishment. We had a little geography and history when we reached the senior class, but geography was just a repetition of all the rivers, mountains and promontories around the coast of England. We learned songs, mostly patriotic, but these lessons were only occasional. When you reached the top standard the boys got drawing and the girls sewing. A garment like a nightdress would be produced by each pupil and that was all. We learned all we ever knew in sewing and knitting from mother. One could sit an examination at 12 or 13 years to leave school. It mostly depended on the state of the labour market whether one succeeded. Boys went to the mines girls went to the Bottleworks or into service. A servant girl was lucky to receive three shillings a week for doing all the work including washing, cooking and minding the children while the mistress went out at night. They would have Saturday night free, one week and Sunday night the next, always depending on the whims of the mistress, but as mother said if they were in service they ‘were one less to feed out of our own pantry’.

Life was very hard for our parents but, of course, like all children we did not realise this. But one good thing was we were free from all fears of war, which when we came to experience war later on brought home to us our peaceful security in our very young days.
Washing days were the greatest dread in those days. I remember our clothes were made of strong heavy stuff, like worsteds or woollens, for endurance as they had to be handed down. These were hard to wash and harder still to dry. People had very big mangles in those days, but no spin dryers, or biological washing powders. No, the dirt had to be removed by hard scrubbing with hard blue mottled soap. This was bought in long bars and stacked for weeks to harden so that ‘they would go a long way”. Mother bought blue mottled for household purposes and ‘pale’ soap for personal purposes. All was hardened in a cupboard for weeks until you could scarcely cut it up. Clothes were possed with a poss stick made of hard wood. The part that possed was like a tree trunk cut like clothes pegs are cut. Then there was a handle convenient in length for the handler, with a thick wooden peg at the top to hold when possing. Plonk, plonk, plonk went the posser, plonk, plonk, plonk if you double possed. Mother had two possers because everything was double possed. But the drying was a different matter. If the weather was fine and windy all was well. The clothes were hung in the gardens and across the back street. But in bad weather they hung in the small kitchens for nearly a week, and tempers were frayed to breaking point, trying to dodge damp clothes. If the weather was good tempers were good and there was singing and much banter between neighbours. I laugh now when I think of the clothes flying in the back street. Women’s wide voluptuous shifts and bloomers of every deep colour you can imagine, swelled out with the wind like barrage balloons. Men’s long Johns and wide big shirts of flannel, all blowing in the wind. The remarks passed were jolly and in clean good fun. There was widespread happiness on those lucky days. But big rolleys covered in, bringing goods from the co-op would be sure to come on washing day. Some of the drivers, who always came from Seaham Harbour, would be anything but helpful. There was widespread antipathy towards the Cottages people to start with, so they would drive through the clothes, knocking out the props and snapping the lines. Clothes would be dragged through the streets and dirtied. The women decided they had had enough. They knew the drivers and decided to wait. It only needed one rumpus, and no driver did it again. They knocked at the door and asked if they could be through, sometimes clothes had to be taken down, sometimes they could be propped higher, but peace was restored. There were Catholics and Protestants all living together, and sometimes there was trouble but no more so than between Catholic and catholic or Protestant and Protestant. Gunpowder Plot was a great night. There were plenty of crackers and London lights and a big bonfire. It was a welcome way to get rid of a year’s rubbish for parents, and a jolly night for all of us. But our joy was marred the year a tiny tot was burned to death in its pushchair. Its older brother or sister had left it too close to the bonfire. I witnessed it and I have always been fearful of bonfires since. But the old order changeth. When I was nine years old a railway line was built along the bottom of our street connecting the South Hetton line to a site near Dawdon Farm. It was the foundation of the ‘new pit’ as it was called at Dawdon. Trucks began to fly backwards and forwards an on this line and one of my playmates was killed, crushed between two wagons. He was a rough boisterous happy boy. As he came rushing out of school that fateful lunchtime I remember the teacher shouting after him. “Tom Wharton, you know what’s in store for you when you come back”. But he never came back. Then houses began to spring up, houses for the new miners, occupied first by the sinkers and freezers working on the new pit shaft. Our little peaceful village was no more. Streets and streets of houses, newly built, began to be occupied by miners from outlying collieries, and we began to be despised. Although these people had left worse colliery houses than our beloved cottages they felt superior in their new houses, and we were gradually pushed out. A new school was built and new teachers bought in. A new church was built and a new vicar installed. A new surgery was built and a new doctor appointed. What a change. We did not want to stay anymore. Whereas we had hated the idea of leaving the Cottages to go to Seaham Colliery, we now queued to go. Once over everybody longed to be given a house at the Cottages, now nobody was keen, only as a last resort. Mind you I had never heard of Durham Big Meeting until Dawdon Colliery came into being. I suppose it was too costly for our fathers to go to Durham so it passed us by. But not now, this new breed made a great thing of their big meeting. It was talked of for a good few weeks before and then on the day before the women folk were kept busy baking. I remember seeing meat pies and bilberry pies galore outside cooling, all in readiness for the big day. The banners and band were on the march to Seaton Station at six o’clock that morning. What a turn out and what a return in the evening. We had never in all our lives seen as many drunken men. But we were to see a lot of them in the future. I suppose it was a way of life then and, of course, times have changed again.
At first I didn’t like the school although I loved the new teachers. I didn’t like the church, but all this was because it was a new way of life. At first the church called ‘St Hilda’s (HILD’S??) and St Helen’s’ was referred to as the brick factory. The inside was all bare brick, no doubt the best of bricks, but the pillars were square and all brick. We had been used to round, plastered pillars nicely painted, but this was new, and it took some of us a long time to accept it. All our lovely fields disappeared and new roads opened up to what had been to us inaccessible places, we felt old, small and despised. The Cottages had died and we mourned its loss and many of us forsook it and went to live at Seaham Colliery. I myself felt my childhood had been ruthlessly destroyed. I think we look back with nostalgia on many things which are better to look back on than to endure. Our parents were very strict and ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ was strictly followed. I know if mother said we were to be punished we were punished. I remember the time near Christmas when a concert was to be given by the Sunday Schools in the Candlish Memorial Hall. This was a big building, a community centre, we would call it now, situated near the Bottleworks. I had been presented to the community in memory of one of the Candlish family who owned the Bottleworks. Now a girl who lived in our street, who fancied herself as a theatrical, and whom we regarded as a stuck up clown (which she may not have been) was one of the artists. She was going to sing and dance. Our motive for going to the concert was quite ignoble, for we had no idea of the girl’s ability. To us it was a great joke. We had looked forward for weeks to the great event but when the Saturday dawned the rain simply pelted down and we couldn’t go out of doors. A Saturday of all days to rain like that when there was so much work to be done in the house. So mother said we could play in the upstairs bedrooms, but not in the best room. Well there was a crowd of little feet galloping around and the noise got on mother’s nerves and at last she said ‘any more and no concert’. You would think this would have curbed us but somehow it didn’t, and we thought she would be so glad to be rid of us for the whole afternoon that she would relent. Not mother, all our apologies and tears could not move her, so we did not go to the concert. Our friends afterwards sang high praises for our girl and we had missed it. You can imagine what we thought and said on the sly about our punishment, but no doubt we deserved it. I wouldn’t care there was only a collection and we could pass the plate without any shame, we were so used to it.
Shanks’ pony was our way of travel. I can remember my first ride in a train; I would be eight or nine. Mother took us to Roker in the summer holidays. ‘Never again’ she said and no wonder. We had bottles of water, bread and jam and teacakes, which we thought a sumptuous meal. But the seaside air made us so hungry it had gone as soon as we hit on the beach. Mother couldn’t afford to supplement this and we were all crying out for something to eat before we had been there half of the allotted time. It was a long trail from Roker to the Sunderland Station and another nearly as long from Seaham Harbour Station to the Cottages. That was the end of our trips. Mother said and quite truthfully that we had more fun playing in our own fields with much less bother. Then I remember having a ride in a trap. A man living at Seaham Colliery had ponies and traps which were used for public travel. Two used to stand at Seaham Harbour beside the store. It was called the Castlereigh Stand. It took you up Seaham Colliery Road to Model Street. That was its terminus. My grandmother lived in the house attached to the Miners Hall. So we left the trap and walked up the Black Road. I thought I was somebody great because I had ridden a trap. We always walked. The doctor rode a bicycle, a contraption with very high handlebars and two big wheels. Before that he had a horse. But when we went to Seaham Colliery the doctor had a motor bike. You should have seen the excitement when this noisy thing roared through the streets and in those days the doctor seemed to be always on the roads. His surgery was open every day and all hours. But I remember when the new surgery was built at Dawdon and I had to go to register a call. I rang the bell, a new innovation, and I heard a voice saying “yes, what is it?” I could not tell where the voice was coming from. A maid came to the door at last and she must have been mad at me and I bet she thought me the nitwit of the year and pointed to a speaking tube just above the bell. I was so frightened and confused I forgot my message. This was when we still lived at Dawdon. I am skipping around aren’t I? But it is just as I remember. The same man with the traps had traps standing at the foot of the bank that led into Dawdon Dene from Dawdon end and these carried passengers through the Dene to the foot of the bank leading out at Dalton-Le-Dale. There were no lights along this road and there was no other means of transport. I remember years after, a young man was killed on his motorbike at the Dawdon end of the Dene. He ran into the shafts of one of the traps standing there. This Dene was very popular on a Sunday night in summer time when families went out walking. Aunt Annie, whom I have mentioned before, used to walk right through and back again once every week, winter and summer. She was a funny old girl very determined and very brave. She and my grandmother used to chuckle over the stories they could tell of Uncle Matt. Evidently this gentleman made a habit of grumbling about his dinner, no matter what was set before him. He always said the same thing “what muck is this then”. Annie would say it was no muck and many a man would be glad of it etc. etc. whereupon he would fling it away. One day she went to grandmother’s very distressed and told her he had flung away his dinner again and said he would rather have dog muck as eat that rubbish. Now grandmother never had any trouble like this. She said “well Annie, you can easily satisfy him there”. It set the notion in Annie’s head and she soon was thoroughly enjoying the thought of seeing his face the next day when she put grandmother’s suggestion into action. Sure as life “what’s this muck then?” She removed the cover and said “something you’ve been asking for for a long time Matt, and I hope you enjoy it”. He never grumbled again, but he never mended his manners either and at last decided to disappear altogether. She used to say it was the best thing that ever happened to her. What a woman, scarcely five feet high with a face so thin and weather beaten that her eyes, nose and ears swamped her head, but she was afraid of no-one. Isn’t it funny the things you associate with people when you are young. I remember one day when I walked across to the back yard, and as I put my hand out to lift the sneck I thought my goodness that looks like my uncle’s face. And do you know to this day when I look at an old fashioned sneck I am reminded of him, I think it was the way he wore his cap tilted over his brow. Many of the men who lived at the Cottages were very small in stature. It seems to me, as I look back and remember that this present age is much taller than they were then, although my father was nearly six feet and very straight. People always thought he was a member of the volunteers.
Living in a family of boys is a great experience. You had to be tough to stand up to them because they were very rough. Mind you we were never allowed to fight with fists. Mother always said she was quite capable of chastising all without any help, and so she was. As is the case today boys didn’t like best clothes. Sunday was a penance. Indeed they never liked decent trousers or gansies (jersies now). I remember my brothers deliberately making holes in the knees and seats of trousers to have a patch so that they could be one of the lads. Their boots had to be filled with hob nails, with steel toe and heel caps. The heavier they were the better they liked them. A case ball to them was as good as a gold mine. They used to go to the butchers shops on a Tuesday night which was killing night and get the beasts bladders which they would blow up for footballs. Cricket was not popular to my knowledge although we had a cricket field and a team. People tried to make a little bit on the side to help out in those days. Some would make toffee, some would make ginger beer, others would boil and sell crabs and winkles, many sold fish from their cobbles. I know a man who would fill your boots with protectors. These were three pronged nails and even girls shoes or boots were covered in these. In the later years of my father’s life when he became a complete invalid mother used to do all our cobbling. She could rip off a sole and resole the shoe as good as any man. She even stitched with the waxed thread any splits. She could turn her hand to anything. She was solely occupied with her home and family and a visit to the local theatre when there was a good drama called ‘The Fatal Wedding’. There was great fun over this because two very subnormal people we knew got married at that time and wit was flying high. The theatre did well that week and the actors and actresses must have wondered at their popularity.
Lovers Lane’ now called Dene House Road was the popular place to walk on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but when darkness crept in the couples went onto the terrace. Lovers Lane was a country lane with fields on either side and many couples met there and later married. At the sea end was a deep hollow where the Dalton-le-Dale stream ran down to the sea. This hollow was called Bessy’s Hole. We were told it was the haunt of witches and were warned never to go there. But we did and although we never saw any witches we were still convinced that they lived there, but perhaps were engaged on some terrible deeds somewhere else. It was a frightening way of life really. All sorts of weird tales were told of things that would happen to you if you told lies, red hot pokers would be pushed down your throat when you died. If you sinned in any little way you would be cast into everlasting flames. If you passed the cemetery gates in the evening you would see ghosts with flaming swords sitting by the closed gates. If you walked round a tomb stone three times then put your ear to the ground the corpse would speak to you. If you bit your tongue it was a sign you had told a lie and punishment would catch up on you. If you looked into the face of a cross eyed person you were going to die. Think of the effect of all this on simple childish minds. Yet I cannot recall one delinquent.
It was a code of honour strictly adhered to, to show respect for old people. The roads were very bad in the winter, indeed they weren’t good at any time, and everybody would help old people to get from A to B, or run messages or fill pails of water or coals. We thought nothing of it but that it was the done thing. And you must remember women were old at 60. Children were old at 8 or 9 years. We all had jobs to do in the home even before this age but girls of 9 or 10 would stand on a cracket (stool) and poss the clothes. We had huge mangles that would wring blankets and quilts. They had a big iron wheel to turn and one girl would put the clothes in the mangle while the other turned. Most of the clothes were pressed by mangling as ironing was a long job. We used flat irons, which as their name implies, were flat pieces of dressed iron triangular in shape with a handle. The fire had to be very red and a stand was hung on the front bars with flat irons resting right up to the fire. To test the heat you turned the iron up and spit on it. If the spit slid down and off the iron without leaving a mark the iron was ready. It was such a slow job that ironing was kept to a minimum. No dress shirts, excepting very special occasions, mufflers instead of collars, no pyjamas, table cloths only on Sundays, everyday cloths were made of oil cloth which were rubbed clean with dish cloth. Boys wore white rubber collars for school. They were uncomfortable things as they rubbed against the neck and caused sore red patches. They were fastened at the neck with a stud. It was a grievous calamity if you lost your stud just as you were getting ready for school, as excuses were never tolerated. As soon as we came home from school, the girls took off their white pinafores, folded and put them away for the next day. The boys took off their collars and all changed shoes. School ones were cleaned ready for the next day and then we could go out to play. The master walked up the front and down the back of the lines of boys assembled in the playground and inspected back and front of feet and looked at their collars. The mistress inspected the girls in the same manner, looking at shoes and pinafores.
A big boy was set outside the playground to watch for the appearance in the distance of the head master or mistress. He would run into the school yard and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ lines were formed and teachers stood at the ready. Woe betide anybody, scholars or teachers, if they as much as blinked when the head walked into the school yard and up those lines.

School was very monotonous under the Londonderrys. Religious reading, writing, arithmetic, home time and homework. We only learned patriotic songs when some VIP was expected, but on a Friday afternoon after playtime, the boys would have drawing and the girls needlework. Even so this was dreary, for the boys would draw a jam jar and the girls would stitch a hem on a piece of calico about 5″ x 3″, the object being to get even stitches. But when we went to the Council School when Dawdon Colliery was built, we got library books to read every Friday afternoon. How I loved this and I still remember being very upset when I went up a class and could not finish my library book. It was called ‘A Rough Shaking’ and was the story of a young boy’s experience in an earthquake. I have never heard mention of it in any way since that time although I made many enquiries. I promised myself I would buy it when I grew rich.
I have been watching the ‘Horse of the Year Show’. There was a parade of beautiful Suffolk shires which reminded me of bygone days. The coal carts, midden carts and rolleys were drawn by big horses very similar. I remember the Clydesdales drawing the coal carts. They were great big powerful beasts. The clop clop of their hooves on the rocky streets was the only traffic noise we knew, other than the roar and whistle of the railway engines. We loved to give these horses dry crusts of bread. The coalman’s horse would not move from our door until he got his crust.
Down pit they had ponies, called Gallowers. The putters loved their Gallowers. My father had one which refused to start his shift until he got a black mint. Father was very kind to all birds and beasts. His ‘marrer’ down pit said he would never use a whip or stick like other men but would flick the animal with his cap, but my father would say life was bad enough for them, working so hard and never seeing the light of day without being cruelly treated, so when we went for our ration of sweets on a Sunday night, we brought black mints for his Gallower. Many cruel things were done to ponies down pit when men lost their tempers. Father loved birds as I have already said. He fed them every morning before he had his own breakfast and it was considered a sin in our home to throw the tiniest crust on the fire. The Cottages was a place of many birds, swifts, skylarks, house martins, swallows, amongst the many that were common to us. Amongst the trees in what is now called the Green Drive were many owls. We never saw them because being so lonely it was forbidden ground, but if we awakened through the night we could hear them hooting. A funny thought has struck me. I cannot recall many families with dogs. There was one in our street, a big retriever dog which used to tear down the street and across the football field to try to catch the train which passed every day at 1:10 pm. This train was so punctual we as children knew it was about time to go back to school. Punctuality was a great thing in those days and no excuse saved one from punishment. There was also the Bottleworks buzzer. This blew at one o’clock and was never known to be a minute out. Everybody set their clocks and watches by the Bottleworks buzzer. My father used to say that the sun and moon might go wrong but not the buzzer. Then there were the ships’ buzzers. We knew many of the ships by their buzzers and on foggy nights the fog horns were very familiar because we were very close to the docks as the crow flies. Yes the buzzers and the fog horns, the whistle of the trains, the clip clop of the horses and the bells or crakes used by hawkers, and the candy man’s trumpet were all the nuisance noises that disturbed our peace in those long ago days. And walk, my goodness how we walked. To the farm right over at the far end of Dawdon where the pit is now, and to Seaham Harbour at the butchers before we went to school on a morning but we were all in bed before my father set off for work just turned eight o’clock at night. Mother would be sitting in her nighty waiting for him to go, and would shoot the bolts, then his voice would call “goodnight and god bless” and mother would say the same to him, then all would be quiet until he returned early next morning. “Open the door to nobody when I have gone at night” he would repeat to her. I wish it was in the nature of things to turn back the clock and have a reunion just once in a while, then we could say all the things we neglected to say in their lifetime.

Little boys and girls were all dressed alike in those days. No boy wore trousers until he was nearly five years old. I remember taking my two little brothers and sister out one Sunday morning and the one five years old went missing. I was in a panic and weeping bitterly. A woman advised me to go to the police station where a policeman asked for a description. All I could tell him was that he was dressed in a velvet frock made out of mother’s old coat. When I got home the culprit was there. I expected a thrashing but my distress excused me.
I can picture mother sitting on her cracket with a knitting sheath in the waist of her skirt and her knitting needles clicking so quickly you couldn’t count the stitches. She was always re-footing stockings or socks. We all wore wool ones and the legs could be green with age but as long as they held together they were re-footed and worn again and again. All clothes were handed down from one to the other. Mother counted herself lucky that her family were so spaced that this was no problem. There was my oldest brother the first born, then four girls, followed by four boys, which was ideal for the handing down system. Nothing went out of fashion in those days. Household things were bought very cheaply or handed down from one generation to another. There was a pokey little shop in Seaham Harbour owned by Annie Redman. It was a dark, dingy, tiny little place, but it was amazing what was stored there. Couples setting up rooms could buy anything from a brass bedstead or big mangle, to a tiny little Kelly lamp for a bedroom. Pots, pans, dishes, brushes, flat irons, poss sticks, tubs you mention it Annie had it in her shop. She sold blacking, blacklead, bath brick, tallow candles, curtain rings and bamboo poles – everything and anything. Many a home has been set up for less than five pounds which in those days was counted a fortune.
The firesides of the house proud were works of art. First of all the old brick fireplaces were blackleaded and polished until they shone like mirrors. A lid with a brass handle covered the boiler. These lids along with pokers, coal rakes, dust pans and blazers were made at the colliery blacksmith’s shops, on the sly of course. Then we had an ash box made of metal under the big bars.

Bars and ash box were both blackleaded. Next came a tidy betty which stood in front of the ash box. This was made of steel and was polished until it looked like silver. It too had brass knots on the front and a row of brass spindles under the top rim. Then we had two brass stands with brass kettles on them standing in the fireside, with a big steel fender with brass spindles to match the tidy betty which surrounded the whitened fireside. At your peril to put your feet on that fender. We had a long seat which my father made at one side of the fireplace and if one sat in the corner and put down the round oven door it formed a table on which to have a meal. All places were utilised at meal times, but this was a much sought after seat especially in the winter so we had to take our turns. Life seemed to be made up of turns. Who would sit nearest the fire, who would get the crusts off the loaf, who would get the legs of the rabbit. Mother would try her hardest to be fair but in the end her word was law and sometimes we thought unkindly of her decision. Who filled the boiler, who filled the coals, who slept in the middle, the warmest place when three in a bed. Who went to the farm, or who went to the butchers. Who scrubbed the netty seat and who did the knives and forks, who washed and who dried the dishes. These little things were of great moment to us when growing and we fought like little tigers. Often we ended with a good hiding plus the job we hadn’t wanted. When the jobs were finished we were free to roam. Vandals didn’t exist in those days. Nobody would dare destroy property. They were colliery houses and nobody could afford to replenish so it wasn’t done. Little things happened of course. Boys played at knocky nine doors, or rattled bobbins down your windows. This sounded like the firing of a repeating pistol and would frighten the inmates nearby to death. They would raid your gardens for carrots. Another thing was often practised was when at night we wanted to go to the toilet we would take a candle in a jar and two of you would go together across the street and into the back yard. Boys playing about would see you and know where you were going. They would get some water from the tap in the street and quietly open the wooden hatch (used for emptying) and throw the cold water up onto your bottom. What a fright! Once when mother had been baking, she put two yeasty cakes, or oven bottom cakes some used to call them, out on the window sill to cool. It was a dark night and when she went for the cakes there was just a tiny bit of each left. Mother questioned us but we all denied any knowledge. She wasn’t convinced and said we should own up and we wouldn’t get wrong. Next day the pals of my eldest brother sent a message to say that they were the best yeasty cakes they had ever tasted. So the mystery was solved with no hard feelings.
As I have said before our language was quaint and far from King’s English, but we were never allowed to swear. Mother’s hair would have stood on end if we had used the word damn, never mind anything else. She would say “talk proper its just as easy as the other way, talk proper”.
All men and boys had nicknames. Stinker, Nobby, Gussier, Shorty, Lengthy, Footie, Loppy, Nitty, Potty, Tuck and many more. One family had a ‘tupenny a penny and a hapenny. Some had been handed down from family to family. There was a family of three boys, not very bright, who during the years of the depression searched the gutters for tab ends. They were nicknamed Stop, Point and Pick. The first one would stop, the second would point and the third would pick up the cigarette end. They always walked in single file. There were expressions used that one never hears today. Like ‘that’s wasky water’ when it tasted soft. We were used to the limestone water. Mother used to call us ‘gleyky when we were a bit daft. My father would chastise us by saying “I’ll mak the down slot off yer heed”. I couldn’t fathom this for years. A person who was a little subnormal was always ‘not reet. ‘Gie ye ways out an play’ was always the command when you were one too many on the floor. When people were wasteful mother would say ‘they spare at the tap and pour out at the bung’. I remember the time when my brother, when he was around five years old came to mother and said ‘gis a ha’penny ma’. Of course, she hadn’t one so she said ‘adaway and luck for one’ so he did. He was searching around when a neighbour a little worse for drink came along and asked him what he was looking for. Joe said ‘a ha’penny’. The man helped in the search and finding it fruitless put his hand in his pocket and gave Joe one. Whereupon he turned round and asked for ‘one for our Herb’. The man said ‘has he lost one an’ all?’ Joe replied “no man I was just lucking for one”. Of course this story went the rounds of the pit and father got to know that way. I remember some girls coming to me at the grammar school and saying, “so your brother is a hawker now”, I didn’t know what they meant but apparently Joe was going around the street with his little toy barrow hawking horse muck, penny a lump. In the family he was often referred to as the fat juicy turnip full of sweet yuss, because this was a sentence found in one of his writing books brought home when full. He had been writing an autobiography on ‘I am a turnip’. This kind of humour might not please nowadays but it caused great fun in the family. There were many little things like this which might seem unworthy of comment today, but fun in those days was directed towards oneself as well as all the family. As I grew older I had to help in the cooking. Mother never made fancy cakes but on a Sunday we had rock buns. My first attempts were not very successful they really lived up to their name. Of course a situation like this was not allowed to pass unnoticed. So one of my brothers came in on the Monday and said to my other two brothers “eh lads, Cornish Street is declaring war on Australia Street tonight around seven, so we’ll tak some of our Addie’s rock buns in stocking legs for our secret weapons”. He thought the other side would never stand a chance. Life was great fun amongst them all. They were always trying to scare the girls in the family. Once when mother went out and my sister and I were in alone we heard some heavy footsteps on the stairs. Ghost stories were all the rage and we were petrified, but it turned out to be the boys who had climbed through a bedroom window. As I have said the Old Cottages were surrounded by fields and boys could let off steam with football or cricket or I remember a game something like wrestling. Perhaps the lack of the space accounts for a lot of the vandalism now, although money was so scarce we would have been in serious trouble if we had spoiled property of any kind. If we could take the joy of those days with the real joy of today it would be Utopia. I often think back on my early days with longing for the quiet peace that reigned and I think of Winston Churchill’s words “the old world in its sunset was fair to see”. But then I have never been faced with the anxiety that poverty entails and perhaps mother and her generation would have different thoughts. One thing I do know, if she knew of our existing circumstances she would say “my goodness if I were in your position I would own streets of houses”. Owning her own house was her burning ambition but she never achieved it. But then she used to say “you cannot have both stock and money”. She certainly had the stock. What a straight women she was, never devious but called a spade a spade. Her firm conviction was ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be’. She would say that if your circumstances never improved it was no use to resort to borrowing. Neither did she like to lend or borrow household goods. I remember Mother’s big shiny tin baking mug. It had to be large because as I think I told you she baked forty eight loaves at one go. This baking tin was used for no other purpose. A neighbour came to borrow it and mother loaned it very reluctantly but she made the stipulation it was to be returned with the paste sticking to the sides. We protested saying why should we wash it after she had used it, but mother said it was the only way she could be sure that the neighbour hadn’t washed the pit flappers in it.
There was a neighbour whose husband had a wood stump. He had lost his leg from above the knee in an accident at the pit. He drank more than he should. One afternoon father was standing at the gate getting his fresh air, when old Mary came past. “I’ve fettled him the day Davy” she shouted to my father. “He’s anted till I come back” and she opened her shawl and showed Father the wooden leg. ‘Anted’ was a word used by pigeon fanciers when the birds had settled into their ducats, and would fly back ‘home’ from any distance. So poor Paddy was ‘anted’ until Mary returned with his wooden leg. This leg was just a thick wooden stick like a fat broom shank with a leather socket and straps at the top. When father was bedfast in his later years a miner friend used always to call with a flower from his garden, preferably a rose and father would have it as a buttonhole in his shirt. This man was ill too and now I know it was sclerosis but not known as such in those days. He died just before or just after my father. He went by the nickname of Blunt for obvious reasons.

I hope I do not give you reasons to despise our way of life, for we had a code far more to be desired than some today. We were taught that honesty was the best policy, even If we sometimes doubted it. We were taught respect for all our elders. Nobody would have cheeked a neighbour, and neither boy nor girl would refuse assistance of any kind to the old folk. We ran messages without any reward as far as money went, but often we would be given a slice of jam and bread. This was never despised.
Men were always drunk at weekends, when they would often be very generous. One just had to say “Hello Mr So and So” and he would give you a ha’penny. We were quick enough to exploit this even though forbidden. A lucky bag or a lucky potato was a great treat. Some were supposed to contain a threepenny bit (a tiny little silver coin) but I never knew anyone to be so lucky.
There – the cows are coming back to the farm yard again – no Sally and the lights have gone on in the village. That reminds me of the lamplighter when I was a little girl there were gas lamps then, one at the top of one street and the bottom of the other so we had four lamps for the Cottages. Old Tommy used to come with his long pole and light the lamps. This was a great step forward for we had only lamp oil before that. Old Tommy, who lived at Seaham Harbour, was everybody’s friend. We used to wait for him then follow him all around the Cottages until the lamps were lit.
I remember the ‘Maypole Shop’ in Seaham Harbour. We always went there for our margarine. You got double weight, that was if you bought one pound you got a pound free, so we went each week for three pounds of double weight. Now that had to last the stipulated time. When the margarine ran out you had to have jam, treacle, fat (every drop of fat was saved) or sugar on your bread. We did not mind, when the fresh margarine came it tasted all the nicer. We even got presents at intervals when buying the margarine. A balloon, a flapper, a windmill, and at Christmas a new penny. The new penny was given with every pound sold so, of course, Mother sent each one for a pound, so that each got a new penny. It was given to mother, but it appeared in our stocking on Christmas Eve. Of course, it was from Santa Claus. You had to have all your buttons on in those days and Mother had none missing. I have known eggs be 48 a shilling when Easter came round. You wouldn’t have had an Easter egg otherwise. There were no chocolate eggs for us in those days. Even the boiled eggs were rationed out. You could eat one on its own on Easter Monday but the rest had to constitute meals. Often we were given a ha’penny between two and thought ourselves extremely lucky. We were, because father would make us toffee. We would go for a penny worth of sugar and he would make a pan of toffee. This was a great treat, more so because he used to add things to the toffee for variation like condensed milk, nuts, raisins or anything he could find at hand.
As I have said previously all clothes were handed down. I remember little reefer coats which had been worn at certain ages by every member of our family. Mother was quite convinced that if you put them away in a drawer over the summer they would clean themselves and come out brand new in the winter. Not so with footwear. Each wore ones own, but even if they crippled you nothing could be done about it until your turn came round.
Every step was bath bricked. These were hard square blocks, cheap to buy. You washed your step thoroughly then while it was wet you rubbed on the bath brick. Then we had to wet the floor cloth and rub the bath brick evenly all over the step. Some people used to make fancy patterns with the bath brick and leave it like that. Pantry floors and water closet floors (or netties) were done the same. Two blocks of bath brick were rubbed together to make a powder and this was used to clean knives, forks, spoons, fire irons and the flat irons. Firesides were done with whiting which was 4d per bag like a pound bag of sugar.
Everybody hadn’t fancy fireplace’s like mother had. One girl with whom I played had no covering on the living room floor, just a very old mat at the fireside which was just kept swept. The ashes just fell into the space under the grate and half a wagon wheel served as a fender. This was very common in the poorer people’s houses, I say poorer but the father worked at the pit the same as mine and he had a cobble to go fishing and their family consisted of six whereas ours had twelve. So you see it’s the same as today some make the best of things while others couldn’t care less. As a child I loved to go to this house as there were no restrictions about the house. The boys could go upstairs through the window and slide down the roof, or chop and hammer and make sleighs or go carts in the house – nobody bothered. Such licence seemed enviable to us, but in after years we realised that mother’s ways was for the best and fitted you better for the life that was to follow.
Another family of girls we knew all worked at the Bottleworks. They had a nice clean home like our own. They took in a lot of weekly books like The Red Letter’. These had stories, in weekly instalments like The Life of Mary Ann Cotton’ or ‘Mary Martin and the Red Barn’. The girls used to talk about them and wait for the next issue with great anticipation. They would have passed them on to us but mother would never allow them in her house. A hard backed book ‘a proper’ book as mother called it was just tolerable but not this ‘trash’. We would be better employed knitting or sewing. Diversity was never considered. When I was nearly thirteen we moved up to Seaham Colliery, I hated it. The only thing I liked about the house was the back door which was in halves. One could open the top and let in the air, but shut the bottom half and keep out the cats. A daft thing to recommend a house. The people were a different breed altogether. Their language was rougher, many of their habits were totally alien to us and yet only three or four miles had separated us. By this time I was attending the Upper Standard Girls School in Princess Road. When we lived at the Cottages his road was just a rough unmade track to the cemetery. We only used it to go to the cemetery or to walk along pitman’s walk to go to Seaham Colliery. A wooden bridge was built over the railway which connected Pitman’s walk with Station Road. A similar wooden bridge connected the Low Colliery with the Black Road leading to the pit and yet another over the same railway at Seaham Harbour, now known as the subway. This railway ran from South Hetton to the Docks and was known as the South Hetton Line.
Another break and more recalling and I am back to the Cottages School. It is a strange thing but I cannot recall one story or poem learned in those early days. Patriotic songs I recall but not one poem or story and I have thought very earnestly about this. But I do remember being introduced to some beautiful poems in the council school. Perhaps they are not appreciated now but I loved them, The Slaves Dream, The Brook and The Revenge. These are some of them. I loved poetry and I loved stories. Greek fairy stories and Hans Andersen’s to start with, then our library books. In my first year at the Upper Standard School our head mistress encouraged us to read many of Mrs Henry Wood’s books. She, my head mistress, was a great temperance woman, so I suppose this was the reason. But her pet author was Shakespeare and we studied several of these. Julius Caesar, the Merchant of Venice, Coriolanus, King Lear and Macbeth. At sixteen I was sent as a pupil teacher to an infant school. The First World War was raging and many of our men teachers were among the fallen, I had the magnificent wage of sixteen shillings a month, from which I received one shilling a month pocket money. I went to church on a Sunday three times so my pocket money just lasted. Then after a year the situation was no better so I had to continue pupil teaching for another year. Because I had had a year’s training I was sent into a senior school and was paid twenty five shillings a month. I received 2/6 a month pocket money. I was going up in the world. Mind you my first class of fourteen year olds consisted of fifty seven boys; I can truthfully say it was one of the most satisfying years of my life. I put everything I could into my work and I loved the boys who were very respectful towards me. I have taught many of their grand children since then. Those war years, in both the first and second war were very difficult as we were very limited in materials. The tiniest stubs of pencils were used and many, many scrap books I have made for classes out of old paper blinds or wallpaper to eke out in our work. We did not worry about working in the evenings as long as we had Saturday night and Sunday free. I didn’t think of it as drudgery but was proud to be able to make do. Now what a change from those days. What marvellous opportunities for our young folk if they will only take them. Mind you they could teach me now. I realise how limited my education was but that is progress. I hope God thinks I have used my talents to the best of my ability. I did not go to college. I went on teaching by day and attended ‘The Tec’ at Sunderland in the evenings. I went there for two years and then was reckoned qualified to teach and received twenty five shillings a week £5 each month. Gradually this increased until after the war when the crash came and we were back to square one. This was after the First World War. On resuming during the Second World War I commenced on £10 a month.
But I have had a good and enjoyable life. I was very happily married. I have a family second to none and now I have my grandchildren, but above all I have memories.
And I still love the cows, I also have words. I have just heard an account by Hardiman Scott on the wireless, he was reading one of his poems ‘When the words have gone’ or ‘When the words are done’. You see my memory doesn’t carry me along for less than an hour, but the title was one of these. It reminded me of the fascination words have for all children. That is why they pick up some of the words not as nice as others. It’s because they are new to them. I remember when I was a little girl I used many words that my father and mother used in their natural ignorance. A gimlick was always used by father for a gimlet. Even when I was at the Upper Standard School I talked of a clad hammer, again my father’s expression. One of his friends told me it was clawed hammer. A ‘sar’ for a saw, and who is the comedian who talks of his ‘shart’ for his shirt. We talked like this and it was hard work to change and learn to spell these words. We’ve come a long way since those days but I do not think we have suffered much in the process. I remember I was quite old when I realised that a bee which we called a ‘reed arsty’ was not quite the thing. Our brothers said it and we did not question. Nobody raised their eyebrows because we were all as ignorant as each other. My father used to say no words were bad, but the thoughts or venom behind them made them bad. He talked of clean swearing and dirty swearing, but he was a kind and loving soul with never a bad thought about anyone. One never hears now of lice and lops, but in my childhood our mothers waged constant war against them. As very young girls my sisters and I had to ‘small tooth comb’ our hair every night as we came from school and mother inspected them every weekend to see if we had carried out the operation. I once sat in church and watched two lice have a royal time on a woman’s coat collar. I heard nothing of the sermon I was so fascinated by them. When I came home and told my father he said a poet had seen the same thing once and written: ‘you dirty donnet, sitting there with a louse upon it’. He said it was Burns but I cannot tell you the truth of this.
Hop again Cassidy, I’m back to the Cottages. Many families kept hens. Some kept pigs. Every scrap of food was kept and taken to these people. We got a couple of sweets for doing this and it was a great treat. When Christmas came and the pigs were killed everybody would receive a few slices of bacon, a bit of sausage and some black pudding. Each street had its own customers.
When Harvest Festival time came round everybody sent something to the church (the little school in our case). There was a great show and after the harvest was celebrated the produce was distributed to the Infirmary which stood at the corner of the Terrace, the fever hospital away back in the fields off Princess Road, and the very poor. Father was very proud to give the best of his leeks, potatoes, and parsnips each year. Mother would never miss this service.
Celebrating the New Year was a grand occasion. Parties would last a whole week. As children we would come downstairs on New Year’s morning and say to our parents: “A Happy New Year, the bottle a-stir, please will you give us a New Year’s gift”. We would get a piece of cake, a glass of ginger wine and a penny. What a treat we thought it.

You know we had no bedroom suites in those days. We had iron bedsteads all with comfortable feather beds, and big boxes with two strong iron handles, one on either side. The box had a lid. We called these ‘chests’. They were draped with pretty coloured cotton and on the top was a white honeycomb cover. On top stood a mirror. These chests held bed clothes or materials bought in the winter for summer wear and in the summer for winter wear. Mother was always ready. Every place was scrupulously clean although sparse. We had a little basket chair with an antimacassar on the back tied with ribbon to match the paper in every bedroom. There was a lot of basket work in those days, like tables, chairs and plant, pot stands. We had them in our home. I remember when mother got her first carpet. It was for the sitting room and was turkey red. We talked of nothing else but turkey red for months. From the living room door straight across the carpet to the front door was a long piece of white canvas patterned in turkey red along each side. This was ‘tracking’ to walk on to save the carpet. Then mother got a new green plush sitting room suite. A couch, two armchairs (one with arms and one without for father and mother) and four chairs. Buckingham Palace didn’t have a look in and neither did we, we weren’t allowed inside that room. The lace curtains were spread right across the floor beside the window and the basket work plant stand with a huge palm plant stood in pride of place right in the centre of the window space on top of the spread out curtains. Then to crown it all mother got a piano, but she never had money to spare to pay for lessons. But we had Cousin Dolly who played well and in after years, two of my brothers were good players. But just to have a piano was a status symbol and standing on a turkey red carpet, with a green plush suite sent us high up the social ladder. When the turkey red carpet had to be lifted in the spring for cleaning, mother and father and my oldest brother would carry it down the garden and throw it over the wall into the cows field. They would spread it face down on the grass and then we would all dance on it to beat the dust out. Then some hefty boys would help to run up and down the field trailing the carpet behind them. This was the method used for cleaning carpets for we had no hoovers. It was great fun, I’ve seen the boys be far our over the field trailing the carpet behind them shouting and laughing. Cleaning a room had great technique in those days. The room was stripped bare for everything was carried across the front street into the garden. Suites were beaten and brushed with a short handled carpet brush. Everything was washed that could be washed. The walls were rubbed down with coarse towels and the ceiling whitened. The best lace curtains had been sent to the laundry. It was great day. These same curtains would last until the next spring cleaning.
I have just had my breakfast. I have had a slice of brown bread dipped in bacon fat which has sent me soaring again. I remember the big seven pound stone jar where mother saved every scrap of bacon fat. Indeed one could buy a big parcel of fat bacon ends from any grocer for a few coppers. When mother saw these on display in any grocer’s shop she would buy them, then rend them down’ in the oven and fill up the jar. We loved it on our bread for breakfast after our porridge. More especially did we like it on our yeasty cake. But mind you it wasn’t often you got it other than breakfast time. There was jam or treacle for tea and once a jar of jam was opened it had to be used up. Remember they were seven pound jars. I still have two of these jars in my house. Mother gave them to me when I married forty-seven years ago. How lovely to sit and recall all these things. One seems to recall all the good, for if there was any bad it was safely hidden from us.
On the days when mother made big tins of hot pot in the oven, she would boil large suet puddings and we would have these with treacle on for dessert. Mother reckoned this was the greatest health giver one could have. If we had a boiled pudding like an onion pudding or meat pudding, we had rice for dessert plus meat puddings. They were boiling in a great big pan when we set off for school. Mother reckoned three hours for a meat pudding. We had to have our meals in relays, because there was never plenty of room for all to sit down altogether. Do you know I can even remember when father and mother ate from the one plate like Jack Sprat and his wife. What a long time ago it seems. I reckon it will be nearly seventy. Well another break until something else jogs my memory.
Perhaps you will find this boring but at least I have enjoyed myself. I remember the Spotty Dicks mothers used to make. These were suet puddings with currants and sultanas in and were eaten with white sauce. Mother used to say she would have to make a pail full of white sauce to satisfy us. It was the same with rabbits. Mother used to make rabbit and spare rib pies. There was always a row about who should have the leg that week. You got it last time. No I didn’t I got the ribs. You didn’t cos I always get the ribs and so it’s my turn. Mother would say “you forget it’s a rabbit and not a spider”. We all liked broth and what broth it was. I can still see mother with the long handled ladle dishing out the soup as thick with vegetables and barley as it was possible. On the first day we had the soup and dumplings on the next day she would boil some potatoes to eke out the broth that was left and cut up the shank and boiling meat which had made the broth.
There was more socialism practised in those days then there is now. Parents helped the young married couples by letting them have a room, which they furnished for them. Things were given by all relatives and nothing was too old. Parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all helped out; when parents grew old their families looked after them. My mother had little to spare but she would send a yeasty cake and a tea cake each week for Grandmother (Ganny we called her) and for my father’s Aunt Annie of whom I have already spoken. Then every pay weekend she sent them each a quarter of tea. Her brother called on his way from work every Wednesday tea-time and got a good meal and a yeasty cake to take away with him plus a teacake. He was separated from his wife and lived alone in one room in Sunderland. Of course old people did not get the pensions that we get now. We do not need that kind of help now and we have better health now than they had at a much younger age. But then women were considered old as soon as they passed child bearing age and were treated as old people. Now at 73 I cannot think that I am old. I was amused the other night to hear the paper boy shout to his assistant “put one in the bottom door where that ad wife lives”. “Ad wife” and only 73! But seriously life is drawing to a close, but I cannot grumble, I shall still enjoy the remaining years, and still look back with nostalgia on all that have gone before.

I remember when I was about eight, at one of mother’s New Year’s parties, a man was there called Ben. He made a great fuss of me; you see I had beautiful fair hair. I could sit on it and he was fascinated with it. Childlike I thought he was great and said to myself ‘I’ll marry a man called Ben’. Wasn’t it strange that I did do just that and I have come to the conclusion that all Bens are great.
I only know of one new coat bought for 5/- at the dividend sale at the Co-op for my mother. This was the coat she wore on the famous trip to Stockton. She always wore a fur cape handed down from her mother, a relic of their better days. She used a fur muff to match. This muff served as a handbag as well. For ordinary wear she had a big grey shawl. Father had a navy blue suit. It was the only suit he ever had to my knowledge, brushed and put carefully away for better days only. So clothes did not present a major problem. Mother used to say our feet were her greatest worry. We wore high boots in the winter; sometimes they were buttoned up the side nearly to the knee. One could always find a shoe horn and button hook hanging at the side of the fireplace. Sometimes we had high boots which fastened up the front by criss crossing laces on studs. These were called rinking boots. Mother spent the maximum on footwear, because she said all ailments stem from cold neglected feet.
We had a long brass line hung above the fireplace on which towels were always drying. In a big family like ours it was a problem to keep towels dry for use. There were tea towels, coarse towels and face towels constantly in use. But one had to take great care in hanging them on the brassline as they were apt to slide off and into the fire. We never had our chimneys swept. They were always fired at night when no one’s clothes were hanging out to dry. Mother used to say if you used a blazer to blaze your fire first thing, you never needed a sweep. Every household had a blazer made in the blacksmith’s shop at the colliery. These were big sheets of metal made to fit into the fireplace. They were blackleaded and usually had a brass handle firmly attached. This and the lid of the boiler matched. These things were free if you could get round the blacksmiths. It was the same at the Bottleworks. Many beautiful things were blown at these works by the glass blowers but their main production was all kinds of glass bottles. I loved to look on the shelves of the little chemists shop at the top of Church Street. It was a pokey little place in my young days and was called the Beehive and was owned by old Mr Storey. There were fancy shaped bottles of all sizes and colours. We used to go regularly for 3d worth of paregoric and nitre for father’s bad chest. Mother used to have big dishes of black Spanish cut up into pieces steeping in syrupy water. We as little children used to try to pick out pieces of the Spanish but they were too slippery. We used to be dosed with orange and quinine wine to prevent colds and physiced with Epsom salts and lemon in the spring time. All these things were homemade. You must by now realise how busy our mothers were all through the years. The running out and emergencies.
Ah! I must tell you of the wreck of the butter boat. It was before my time but was a constant topic of conversation. Evidently one very stormy night a Danish boat was in trouble just off Seaham Harbour. It was beaten against the rocks and badly damaged. Barrels of butter were washed ashore and the inhabitants of Seaham Harbour swooped like locusts. Best butter for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. The people couldn’t get over it and all had a glorious time. The police, which were very few in number, couldn’t do anything about it. We never tired of hearing about it and our parents never tired of recalling it. All kinds used to be washed up on the Blast Sands. Father once came strolling home with a huge enamel kettle and I mean huge. There was nothing wrong with it, of course father kidded the neighbours it was to be used at a big party, but we used it as a watering can. We had to water the garden and it was common thing to ‘water the doors’ that meant the back street. Mother had a thing about ‘laying the dust’. Before sweeping the parlour carpet we sprinkled damp the leaves, saved for the purpose, on the carpet ‘to lay the dust’ then with a short carpet brush and a dustpan the carpet was swept. Everything was utilised or hoarded in those days, because things were passed on from generation to generation.
On winter nights we stitched multicoloured patches together and mother would criss cross them by machine onto old blankets to make quilts for the beds. They were very gay and very warm. It was a great treat to get a bundle of patches from friends who were dressmakers. As a very little girl I used to love to get a shoe box and make it into a doll’s bed with a clothes peg for a doll. I would use some of the patches to dress the doll and the bed. But we had always to take the needle to mother for her to put into the pin cushion so that she was sure it was not lost amongst the clippings of the mats.
My goodness how ignorant we were in those days. Our world consisted of English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish people, of whom many lived together. We thought the waters that washed our shores stretched away across the world where the black people lived and that we were far removed from these races. Of the continent we learned nothing so you can image what a narrow but safe little world we lived in. I remember black men coming into our port, and sometimes lived with white women, but they were always talked of as kind and gentle people. One woman mother knew married a black man and mother used to say he made a far better husband than many white men she knew. But then mother’s motto was ‘look for the good in people and your task will be easier and pleasanter than searching for the bad’. If we told tales, detrimental tales, about other children she would sat “sit down now and think hard, have you never done that same thing”. If we liked playmates but called their parents mother would say “don’t despise the tree if you like the fruit”. She was great with ‘sayings’ always found one to fit the occasion.
I spent my childhood teaching the walls in the backyard. One big bump in the very uneven walls was the big dunce in my class at school. I used to hammer him hard and father would say “God help the dunces in the class if she was the teacher”. When father was finished with his pigeons he cleaned and whitewashed the ducket and said I could have it for my school. He made me a blackboard and easel, a blackboard rubber and a cane (very important in those days) and pitmen always had chalk in their pockets to mark the tubs, so I was set. Mother would say “you never have far to search for her”. I would go round the streets and pick up all the hairpins that had been shaken off the mats and put up my hair. I would find safety pins and join them end to end to make a chain to lift up my skirts. These chains were worn by ladies to lift their long skirts out of the muddy streets. My long skirt was one of mother’s underskirts. Children have always liked to dress up. You see mats were lifted and shaken outside the back doors every day and all kinds of things dropped from then. If it was anything like a brooch it was returned to the people, we would never have considered keeping anything like this. We would have felt great shame in such a small community. Remember ‘honesty is the best policy’. ‘See a pin, pick it up, all the day, you’ll have good luck’. This was a rhyme we all knew. As children we firmly believed in it and so many pins dropped from the mats we were hard put to think of our good luck during the day. But childlike we kidded ourselves. Mesmerism – that was a thing much talked of at one part of my childhood and a young girl living in our street told us she was a medium. She had to stand up against a wall whilst another playmate moved his hands backwards and forwards before her eyes. When she swooned she was in a trance. We all ran but when she caught a victim he or she had to do as he was told. Mind you she had sense enough to order childish things – take your dress off and dance a jig, go and put your head under the tap, knock on no 24. But when she ordered me to go and ask mother for a penny she had gone too far. Neither I nor any of us would have dared to ask for such a thing for ourselves, but you see we were under her influence. She soon lost this influence where mother went after her and our family was expelled from the trances. What you will believe when you are young.
We had five brothers and then Jack Blake. You had to be tough to live amongst them. Then my oldest sister married and came home to have her first child. It was a boy. How my brothers loved him, so much so that after about two years old he would not go home. He would be away into the boys’ bed waiting for them to come home. Shrieks of laughter would come from the room, because he would be in the middle and the others would crowd him in. Then someone would shout turn and they all had to turn over. Someone was bound to fall out and this went on until they were all exhausted. They were noisy exhausting but happy days. Beds then had straw mattresses. Straw strung tightly together and covered in coarse hair, and about 4 to 6 ins in depth were the foundation. Mother had feather beds on top which were very warm and comfortable but this was the exception rather than the rule. Some people used to use mats to give warmth in the winter, or overcoats, these because they could not afford blankets. I have known families go to bed in the clothes they wore all day just to keep themselves warm, but in later years I could not understand this. The men all worked at the colliery and the differences in pay were very slight. We had one of the biggest families in the Cottages and only one of my brothers of working age, yet we lived so much better. There was only one explanation, mother’s ingenuity. Mind you there were others as well off, but most had smaller families.
There was a fine old man lived in the next street to us. He had a tall military bearing, snow white hair but a black face. We were told that he had been in the Nack explosion and his face had caught the blast. This had been the second explosion within a few years. Mining was a dangerous job in those days and when we went to bed we were taught to pray for them. We also had to pray for all the family. I remember this prayer that we all said:-

God bless me ma
God bless me da
God bless me ganny and granda, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers
God bless everybody in the wide world
God make me a good little girl
Forever and ever Amen
We would never dare go to sleep without saying this prayer. I remember one night we had all got smacked because we carried on in bed. Mother came up with the tawse and gave each one of us a lash. Come prayer time and as my sister and I started (God bless me ma) my sister said ‘the bad bitch’ and we went off into giggles which we couldn’t stop, so we got another lash each with the promise of double the next time. We had to cover our heads up with the bed clothes to smother the laughter which was now mingled with tears. But for the life of we couldn’t stop. We laughed over this for long enough. Now when it’s too late we understand that Mother’s nerves must have been stretched to breaking point often and often. Yet she was a very happy soul, singing and dancing at the least provocation, and I can still see her laughing over some little incidents. She would be so helpless that at one touch from one of the boys and she would roll over helpless. They got a great kick out of this.
Johnny Race my oldest brother’s pal was the best laugher I ever heard. He was like the laughing policeman. The whole Cottages would pop to their doors and say “Johnny’s off again” and all would join in although they didn’t know the joke. In contrast we had an elderly couple who never smiled. They had very little to say although my father used to tell the tale about him joining in a conversation once down pit. The men were talking about their wives and how they managed and this fellow outdid them all by saying his wife was so clever she could make a good pan of broth out of the dishcloth. Father said it was so unexpected the pit rang with their cheers. This same man never went out excepting into his garden, or across the road to the football field fence on a Saturday. Like father he had a free ticket.
Boys used to earn coppers by ‘putting the coals in’, ‘hoy your coals in Mrs for tuppence’, ‘what, tuppence?’, ‘allreet then a penny’. A penny for nearly a ton of coals, hoisted up and through a hatch at least four feet from the ground. You see all exploited somebody without knowing it. If two boys shared they still got the same between them. But coppers were of great value. A penny took you into the theatre or bought you a good fish and chip supper. Hoy meant throw and was the common word at that time.
Hoy the coals in.
Hoy a ha’penny out.

As I have said before there was real socialism practised amongst us. You could not buy a loaf in the Cottages but you could borrow one. If the coals did not last the allotted time and some had more relatives or friends to help than others, someone would volunteer to help you out. No-one paid for domestic assistance while having a baby as there were plenty of neighbours willing to help out. A night out was an hour in your neighbours house having a chat. But work had to be done first and also all depended on the shifts of the workmen in the family. Mother would take an odd Monday afternoon to look for bargains at the Co-op or the highlight of her life was to go to Bloom’s Sale. This was held in a big marquee on the Bottle House field. This was an annual occasion and mother would not miss it. That was where she bought her seven piece green suite and her turkey red carpet. Another time she bought my father a gold watch and guard for his birthday. This was to be a secret until he returned from work on the morning of his birthday and although father did not mention it to her he already knew from the men ‘down pit’. Evidently another miner’s wife had bid for the watch but mother outbid her. Of course, spiteful people wondered where she had got the money from, but I can assure you all it was by dint of her own hard work and clever management.
On this same Bottle House field used to be ‘the shows’. Murphy’s Amusements used to come every few years. The place was brilliantly lit, and people from Murton, Easington, Horden, Hendon and many more surrounding districts used to congregate. These amusements would be there for about a month and it was a time of great jollity. Boys and men were running around with balloons, coconuts, feather brushes, monkeys on sticks, windmills etc. which they had won on the stalls. There were chip vans, hooplas, shuggy boats, horses and maypoles. A good time was had by all. But in the midst of all this our family had to be home in time for father to go to work. He would not have gone if any of us had been missing. Of course Sunday was respected by everybody. When I think back on the work and life of my parents I think their living was much more meaningful and noble than the lives of great men and women who have been landed to the skies but then as Shakespeare said:-
‘gnats are unnoted, whereso’er they fly, but eagles gazed upon with every eye’.
As I have told you washing days were terrible days with a family like ours, so father decided he would turn the big back yard into a washhouse. He put a roof on and built a set pot as it was called that meant a big boiler with a fire underneath. There was great joy when he finished and tried a fire, for it worked perfectly. He built a long table on which to scrub the clothes and mother was set. She declared washing day was a pleasure. He had found all the materials he needed at the Blast Sands or on the dump. Mother could even hang the clothes in there in wet weather to take the thick of the dampness out of them. They had good mangles in those days with large wooden rollers and they would wring clothes of any thickness. There was a very big wheel to turn which was hard work. Father used to whitewash the walls regularly to make it lighter and found he had to put in a skylight both for light and ventilation. Nothing deterred him if it was to assist mother. I can see him now crossing the back street with his pail of whitewash and his brush, and dressed in one of mother’s voluptuous nightgowns as protection. There was always much banter from the neighbours, but mother was the envy of them all until their husbands built them the same. Oh yes, life was still good, and love which we were taught meant service was the order of the day. I have always been surrounded with love first from my parents, then from my husband. God bless him and now from my family. Again I quote Shakespeare ‘my crown is in my heart, not on my head. Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen, my crown is called content’
Yes, my childhood was spent in a world of contentment for we longed for nothing we could not have. The small shops only sold what was within our means to buy and no-one could outclass another. Of course, some never tried to improve their status but even so they were content with a warm fireside and the food they could afford. I knew no-one in dire poverty living at the Cottages until the big strike came. Mother had foreseen this and had two huge bags of flour stored in readiness, because she said you would not starve if you had bread. But I remember these bags were stored in the front lobby and the mice got in. There we all were with sheets of clean papers spread out all over the place and with a knife we were searching amongst the flour for the mice dirt. Mother could not afford to waste it and so we fished amongst it. “The graded grains make the best flour”. I always laugh at this and think of the mice and our grading. We had heaps of fun and our full share of clean fresh air spring, summer, autumn and winter. I remember mother making her Christmas cakes, one for Christmas and one for the New Year. We all had a stir and a wish and we fought hand over fist to ‘rake the dish out’. As soon as the big dish came into sight someone would shout ‘rakies’ and the fun would start. Mother would say ‘I notice none of you shout clean the dish out’. So one of us would get the order. Then she would make her ginger wine. I often wish I had got her recipe. I know she put in four things, but it was a delicious syrupy mixture. Of course, we argued again as we all tasted it at its various stages, some wanted more ginger others didn’t but it was always settled by the boss. But mother’s Christmas pudding was just a ‘spotty dick’ because she could not afford fruit for cakes and puddings. But it was a Christmas pudding to us. It could not be anything else because it was boiled on Christmas Day, and it was decorated with holly.
I remember Mother and her staircase. She went to the Co-op on Monday and when she came home she had looked through the open door of a ‘quality’ house and seen the staircase. At the foot of the stairs was the banister with a large knob on it which Mother thought was elegant. She told father and soon afterwards he found the very thing washed up on the beach at Blast Sands. He brought it home and polished, smoothed, and polished again and again and finished up with a beautiful mahogany knob which he installed on the stairs. Mother was very proud of this I am sure she thought it could vie with any staircase in castle or palace. Little did the poor good and little did they get. Not Shakespeare this time but one of Maria’s quotations. Whenever she quoted, one of the gang would shout a poet’s name. One day one of them shouted ‘John Bull.
Another game we played was ‘rhymes’. One would say a line then another would make another to rhyme and so on. It was great fun. One of my brothers had on a pair of velvet trousers and he would always make up the best rhymes so these were called his poetry trousers. Life is great and lived to its fullest in a big family. We would have musical evenings. One of my brothers would play a tune, by ear, on the piano another on the organ, yet another would beat a rhythm on the brass fire irons and one on the music stand. This was a bamboo affair and on each of the four poles was a gilt trimmed disc which rattled when you touched them. It was surprising the music that came from all this. The girls sang, that was their contribution. Any of our friends would come in for an hour or so in the evening in these later years.
Life was good in spite of very hard times, but we had to make our own fun and we had the numbers and the capacity to do just that in our family. Mother used to emphasise the goodness of God in preserving her family from fatal illnesses or accidents.
We always welcomed a baby into our house. The joy was unbelievable when a new one came and time after time we were astonished at the size of its little hands and feet and revelled in the soft pink, blue and white nighties mother had ready for it –
Life is good and full of joy if you look for it
The sun, the sky, the flowers, the birds Raindrops falling or the whistling wind
Are gloriously free
But the smile of welcome on a loved one’s face
Or the little hands of your child

Pub Lists

Compiled by David Angus July 2008                                                                                           

www.east-durham.co.uk click here for Photographs of a lot of pubs featured in the list

Most of the dates pre 1938 given below are drawn from the Trade Directories shown here, as you can see not every  year  is represented so that, for example, if a date is given as 1855 the true date could be anywhere between 1852 and 1855. Additional information taken from  locally compiled census reports 1841-1891.


Pigot’s 1834William’s 1844White’s 1847Slater’s 1848

Hagar’s 1851

Slater’s 1855

Whellan’s 1856

Kelly’s 1858

Ward’s 1861-62

Slater’s 1864

Whellan’s 1865

Christie’s 1871-72

Kelly’s 1873

Kelly’s 1879


Ward’s 1889-90Kelly’s 1890Ward’s 1893-94Whellan’s 1894

Ward’s 1899-1900

Kelly’s 1902

Kelly’s 1910

Kelly’s 1914

Kelly’s 1921

Kelly’s 1925

Kelly’s 1929

Kelly’s 1934

Kelly’s 1938


                                Of the first 133 buildings completed in Seaham Harbour by 1831, 12 were pubs.


If you have photographs of any Seaham pub or club, however recent, that you would allow us to use, please get in touch. dave@east-durham.co.uk


ADAM & EVES, 1851, The Dene.

Before becoming a public house this building was called Garden House. I have seen this public house referred to as THE PEAR TREE.

Another reference states that Adam and Eve’s Gardens opened to the public in 1829 by Colin Fair and taken over by his son Ralph in 1838. Ralph had previously been landlord of the SHIP INN.

The licence was transferred from here to the RED STAR, Station Rd in the early 1930s.

BAY HORSE 1851, Blue House Farm Seaton,

Also known as The COCKFIGHTER and The BLUE HOUSE, last entry 1865, quite possibly very much older than 1851. The licence was transferred from here to the Seaton Lane Inn. The farm was later known as Manor House Farm and was demolished during building of the A19 c1971.

BLANDFORD HOTEL, 1893, (1850s) 13 Blandford Place.

Would seem to have been run as a beer house since the 1850s by a ship-owner, James Noble, when it was listed as 34 South Railway St. as it is at the junction of the two streets.  Just to confuse matters. Closed  late 1990s.

BOTTLEMAKER’S ARMS, 1873, (1856)10 Pilot Terrace.

Operating as an unnamed beer house in 1856, licensee Robert Simpson . Often referred to as the RED LIGHT. Pilot Tce was built before 1841. Probably closed c1935.

BRADDYLL ARMS, 1847, 68 Adolphus Street.

Also addressed as Adolphus Place and South Terrace over the years. Brewer. The licence was transferred from here to THE MALLARD in November 1964.

BRIDGE HOTEL, 1894, (1861), 33 North Railway St.

First appears as a beer retailer in 1861, a beer retailer and confectioner  in 1889, also known as BRIDGE VAULTS. In old directories North Railway St. is occasionally referred to as Bridge Street. It is quite possible that the LYNN ARMS was operating here in 1834 and continued as an unnamed beer-house until it became the Bridge Hotel. The DISCHARGED SOLDIERS AND SAILORS SOCIAL CLUB AND INSTITUTE was operating from 33 North Railway St from c 1915 and by 1925 it was William Nixon’s drugstore.

CANTERBURY ARMS, 1893/4, 16 North Railway St

Closed early 1960s when swallowed up by the expanding Snowdon and Bailes factory


Became the CARLTON in 1982, closed 1990s. Elsie Orton and her husband Joe left here in 1949 to run the Seaton Lane Inn.

CROW’S NEST, 2006?  East Shore Village.

DAWDON HOTEL, 1914, King Edward Road, Dawdon.

Demolished after fire 1990.

DEMPSEY’S BAR, 1997, 14 North Terrace.

A beer house in 1861, possibly earlier, run by Joshua Redshaw, by 1873 a drapery then variously a marine engineer, auctioneer and grocer until c 1934 when it became Frank Valente’s ice cream and confectionery business until opened as a restaurant then bar by the Goodings family.

DRAY CART INN, 1894, 10 Frances St. First listed as a beer retailer in 1871/2 then a Co-operative Store in 1879.

DUKE OF WELLINGTON, 1844,  8 South Railway St.

Variously known over the next few years as LORD WELLINGTON or WELLINGTON INN. Recent name change to DUKE OF SEAHAM. Known locally as THE DUKE.

DUN COW 1856, Seaton Village.

EDINBURGH CASTLE, 1894, (1865), 12 South Tce.

In 1865 a beer retailer, George Stranghair (Straugher?), previously a Co-operative Store?. Closed c 1970.

ENGINEER’S ARMS, 1864, 6 South Tce.

FORESTER’S ARMS, 1844, 10 North Railway St.

Closed and demolished in 1959 during Snowdon and Bailes expansion.

GEORGE, 1936, The Avenue, Deneside.

GOLDEN LION 1829/30  1 South Railway St.

The first habitable new building in Seaham Harbour. In 1861/2/4 listed as the GOLDEN ANCHOR. Brewer. The town’s first school opened in a room here in 1830.

HAT AND FEATHER, before 1902,

I have seen a note somewhere that this pub was at Seaton in which case it was possibly another name for the BAY HORSE, an early name for THE SEATON LANE INN or possibly a village farmhouse, the most likely contender would be West Farm which was adjacent to the “main road” which ran past the Times Inn, through the west end of Seaton Village, Burdon, Tunstall and on to Sunderland.. I have seen no other reference to this name, other than the 1902 “poem” which though reputed to mention all Seaham pubs only managed 29 of 49. If anyone has any other information I would be delighted to hear it.

HAVELOCK ARMS, 1865, 27 South Railway St.

First appears as a beer house, licensee Robert Simpson in 1864, no mention after 1865.

HIGHLAND ARMS, 1851, Back North Tce, Highlander by 1855, Matthew Adamson licensee, listed as licensee of the Oddfellow’s Arms Back North Tce in 1847.

KING’S ARMS, 1830,  9 North Tce,  Listed as the KING’S CROWN INN in 1861 and 1862. Traded until around 1970. Probably open by 1831. A stagecoach ran from here to Sunderland from the 1830s.


LONDONDERRY ARMS, 1830, 4 South Crescent.

The foundation stone of this building was laid on the same day as that of the dock in 1828. Brewer.  Re-named Sylvia’s c 1980s. Probably open by 1830. Name often shortened to THE DERRY. From the early 1830s, stagecoaches left here for Sunderland, their arrival and departure announced by a bugler. Closed c 2006. Now a Thai restaurant.

LONDONDERRY HOTEL, 1894 (1864), 1 Fenwick Tce/Row, opposite (west) of the Bottleworks.

A beer house since 1864, possibly earlier. Fenwick Row was built before 1856. Locally known as THE PARROT. Closed 1971.

LORD SEAHAM 1834 18 North Tce,

Brewer. Became the HARBOUR VIEW in the 1970s. Probably open by 1831. The first Roman Catholic services were held in an upstairs room here.

LYNN ARMS 1834 licensee George Bamborough.

Though no street numbers are given, the position of G Bamborough in the 1841 census would place him at the western end of North Railway St. There is every possibility that the Lynn Arms eventually became the Bridge Hotel/Vaults.

LORD BYRON, 1894, Back North Railway St.

Locally known as THE CUDDY, earlier the KICKING CUDDY.

MALLARD, 1964, Stockton Rd.

Licence transferred from the Braddyll which closed November 1964.

MARLBOROUGH,  1990s, Charles Street, Emily Street,  formerly SEAHAM HARBOUR CONSERVATIVE CLUB since 1902.

MARLBOROUGH HOUSE, 1894, (1873), 7 North Terrace.

A beer house in 1873, closed 1932. Previously various trades including perfumer, insurance agent and printer and stationer. Licence surrendered when licence transferred from Adam and Eve’s to Red Star, Station Rd.

MASON’S ARMS, 1834,  South Railway St.

First licensee Parkin Thornton, also mason and bricklayer. Probably open by 1831, by 1861 re-named the Northumberland Arms, later, c late 1980s became The Inn Between.


Appears in the first Seaham Trade Directory of 1834, possibly much older. In 1834 known as the WINDMILL, the MILL INN by 1856,     demolished and rebuilt on same foundations in 1892 possibly incorporating parts of the original building.

NEW SEAHAM INN, 1873,  Station Road.

Was locally known in the 1880s as WALLACE’S in the 1930’s as GIBSON’S and later LACEY’S. Re-named The Kestrel in the 1970s?

NOAH’S ARK, 1834,  1 North Railway St.

Brewer. Probably open by 1831.   Generally known as THE ARK. Closed c 2000.

NORTHUMBERLAND ARMS, 1844, Back North Terrace,

Owned by Robert Scott, no mention after this date. In 1858 Robert Scott is listed as a beer retailer in John Street.

NORTHUMBERLAND ARMS, 1861/2, 27 South Railway St.

From 1831 until 1861 called the MASON’S ARMS. Also owned by Robert Scott, in the 1980s became THE INN BETWEEN. Often referred to as the SCOTCH HOUSE when the Northumberland Arms.

ODDFELLOWS, 1847, Back North Tce,

Matthew Adamson licensee. (listed as licensee of the Highland Arms Back North Terrace in 1851). The Oddfellows (BNTce) is not mentioned after 1848, it may have ceased to exist or changed name to become THE HIGHLAND ARMS.

ODDFELLOWS ARMS, 1894, (1861) 52 Church St.

A beer house in 1861 licensee Mrs Jane Appleton. Name often shortened to THE ODDIES.

PEMBERTON ARMS, 1830s?  Cold Hesledon.

Originally called the BRADDYLL ARMS, then became the COLD HESLEDON INN

before adopting its present title. Locally known as the WHITE HOUSE.

RED STAR, 1934, Station Road.

Name often shortened to THE STAR. Re-named ISLAND SOCIAL CLUB in the 1980s?

ROSE & CROWN, 1855, 13 Church St.

Closed c1980.

ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE ARMS, 1894, 6 Back North Tce.

This address was at the southern end of Back North Terrace.

ROYAL OAK 1864, (1858) Pilot Tce.

Operating as unnamed beer house in 1858, licensee Wm Henzel a Seaham ship-builder. Demolished between 1933 and 1936.

SEAHAM HALL, Old Seaham.

Briefly a public house in the 1980s, a nursing home by 1988. Now a hotel since 2002.

SEATON COLLIERY INN, 1856 (Colliery Inn) Mill Bank.

Bombed during WW2 on 25th of November 1941, two people killed, rebuilt as the PHOENIX in the late 1950s.

SEATON LANE INN, 1873, Seaton Lane,

Previously a blacksmith shop and house since c1600, known as Bleak House. Locally known as the ROADSIDE. There is just a possibility that this pub was the elusive HAT AND FEATHER in it’s early days.

In an early 1980s CAMRA Good Beer Guide this pub was described as “an oasis in a northern desert”

SHAKESPEARE INN, 1894 (1864), 5 North Terrace.

A beer house from 1864, closed 1910. Previously a Hosier and a Marine Store Dealer, probably at the same time.

SHEPHERD’S ARMS, 1861, Back North Terrace.

Last mention 1864. As no street number was given, there is no way of knowing what became of this pub.

SHIP, 1851, 5 North Railway St.

SHIP INN by 1856, last mentioned in 1910.

SHIPWRIGHT’S ARMS, 1855, Back North Terrace. Last mention 1865.

STATION HOTEL, 1858, 39 Marlborough St.  Originally THE RAILWAY. Situated at the very top of Marlborough St, next to the Railway Station. Demolished 1971.

TIMES INN, 1841, Stockton Road, Dalton le Dale.

VANE ARMS, 1847, 74 Church St. Brewer.   Closed c1970 to become a bingo hall, now demolished.

VOLUNTEER ARMS, 1873, 43 Frances St.

Operating as unnamed beer house owned by George Gunn Walker in 1865. Often referred to as THE VOL. Now all that remains of Frances Street.

WHEATSHEAF, 1834, North Railway St.   Does not appear after 1848.

WINDMILL, 1834,   MILL INN by 1856, rebuilt on same foundations in 1892.

ZETLAND HOTEL, 1894, (1864), 3 North Railway St.    A beer house, licensee John Atkinson in 1864.




The fellows of the Royal Naval Reserve entered the Ship built of Royal Oak and sailed up to the Adam and Eve Gardens where they met with some Foresters who informed them that the Duke of Wellington leaving the Edinburgh Castle, had got into a Dray Cart. He was escorted by some noble Volunteers, all loyal to the Rose and Crown and headed by a Highlander playing on his pipes. They passed through Northumberland and on arriving at the Bridge they were met by Marlborough, Zetland and Braddyll who had just returned from Canterbury.

The assembled company here sat down to discuss various subjects, the merits of Shakespeare, the latest achievements of the Engineers and the industry of the Bottlemakers but were repeatedly interrupted by the chattering of the Parrot.

Then a party of Oddfellows suddenly entered the room and informed them that a Golden Lion had escaped from Noah’s Ark and was speeding by the Colliery to the Times Inn hotly pursued by Lord Seaham wearing a Hat and Feather and mounted on a Kicking Cuddy.



BRITISH LEGION CLUB, 1925 (1914-21) Tempest Place.

Originally  COMRADES OF THE GREAT WAR SOCIAL CLUB, same building same site, sometime between 1914 and 1921. Later British Legion Club, North Railway St.

CONSERVATIVE CLUB  (New Seaham), 26th October1895, 208 Station Rd.

CONSERVATIVE WORKING MEN’S CLUB,  March 16th 1894,  Charles St./Emily Street, Became THE MARLBOROUGH (Club) in the 1990s.

DAWDON CRICKET CLUB,  Bar in the clubhouse from 1965, Green Drive.   Cricket Club formed c 1907.

 DAWDON MINER’S INSTITUTE, 1910, Mount Stewart St. Dawdon.   (Dawdon Welfare) opened 3/12/1910

DAWDON WORKMEN’S CLUB, 1914, Princess Road.

Burned out in 1977. Closed c2005?

DEMOCRATIC CLUB AND INSTITUTE, 1938, (1925), 8 Vane Terrace.

Formerly the IRISH CLUB AND LITERARY INSTITUTE, 1925, Generally known as THE DEMI.

DENESIDE WORKMEN’S CLUB, 1930s, The Avenue, Deneside.


Formed sometime between 1914 and 1921 this club has the same address as THE BRIDGE HOTEL/VAULTS so would appear to have taken over at that time. Short-lived, William Nixon’s drugstore was trading from here by 1925.

LABOUR CLUB,       Malvern Crescent  Deneside.

 MASONIC CLUB, 1889/90, 3 North Road.


Generally known as the NACK CLUB. Now re-named the KNACK SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB.

RAFA CLUB  post WW2, Station Rd,

Later renamed SHOOTING STAR then OASIS.

RED STAR SOCIAL CLUB, 1980s, Stockton Road.


RAOB CLUB, known as THE BUFFS. Now operating as SAM’S.



RUGBY CLUB, 1990s, York House, York Road.


SAINT CUTHBERT’S SOCIAL CLUB, 1980s, Mill Road New Seaham.

Generally known as PAT AND MICK’S.


(site possibly now occupied by SNOOKER CLUB), later moved to York Road and  became SEAHAM HARBOUR WORKING MEN’S CLUB and was generally known as  YORK HOUSE, then became the RUGBY CLUB.

SEAHAM HARBOUR CONSERVATIVE CLUB, 1902, Charles Street/Emily St East,

later, in the 1990s THE MARLBOROUGH.

SEAHAM HARBOUR CRICKET CLUB, Bar in the clubhouse from 1967, New Drive.

Cricket club formed in 1868

SEAHAM HARBOUR GOLF CLUB, c1910, Shrewsbury St.


Known as YORK HOUSE.

SEAHAM OLD SCOUTS SOCIAL CLUB, Dow House, 1978, South Crescent.

Formerly The Seamen’s Mission

SEAHAM PARK CRICKET CLUB,   Bar in the clubhouse from 1965, Seaham Town Park.


Generally known as PARKSIDE CLUB.

SNOOKER CLUB (Lengs), 1980s? North Terrace.

Possibly built on the site of the former SEAHAM HARBOUR & DISTRICT SOCIAL CLUB.

PLAYBOY (Nightclub), 1960s, Church St,

Later renamed PANTHERS now an amusement arcade.

VANE TEMPEST CLUB,  1950?, New Drive.

WESTLEA SOCIAL CLUB, 1950s, 5 West Grove, Westlea Shopping Precinct.

Now trading as MITCHEL’S.


Many of Seaham’s pubs started life as a beer-house or beer retailer, apparently without a recognised name (or not one that has survived), in many cases it has been possible to tie together the beer house and pub through the address using trade and census records  though this is not always possible as early Seaham records gave only the street name at best.

Here I have tried to remove all doubtful businesses and hopefully there are no duplications (businesses often changed hands many times over the years).

This list can only be a rough guide, there were many more beer houses than are listed here, much more work needs to be done.

I give only the first entry for any particular address.

Froud’s Cottages Dalton le Dale, the licence was transferred from here to the TIMES INN in 1864.
1847    David Ferni John Street
1851    Thomas Akenhead Back North Tce
1855    John Burn Bainbridge 9 Church St. This was a butcher shop by 1873 currently MeatMart.
1858   Henry Herbert Railway St.  In 1855 this man was licensee of the Shipwright’s Arms in Back North Terrace.
1861   Matthew Adamson 18 North Railway St. no mention after 1890
1861   John Bell 18 North John St. no mention after this date.
1861   William Cook Todd’s Buildings
1861   John Cuthbertson Cuthbertson’s Buildings
1861   Robert Feery (Ferry) 16 South Railway St. by 1889 an undertaker, 1902 unnamed shop, no mention after 1910.
1861   Robert Jobson 10 Blandford Place, from 1893 a grocery shop, 1910 a confectioner, by 1925 a chemist and in the mid 30s painter and decorator J R Oliver, still run by the same family as a DIY shop
1861   Richard Merritt 8 Pilot Tce., no mention after 1862
1861   Margaret Nicholson (Mrs) Back North Terrace.
1861   Joshua Redshaw 14 North Tce. By 1873 a drapery shop.
1861   Robert Tindall (Tindale) 30 Church St. only listed in 1861 and 62.
1861   Robert Davison Frances St.
1864   John King 15 South Railway St. by 1890 a general dealer 1914 a plumber then no mention.
1861   John Nattrass 9 North Railway St., a watchmaker (Henry Metcalfe) by 1889 until 1914 then no mention.
1861   Stephen Richards Henry St.
1861  Wm Richardson Back North Tce.
1861   Florence Shewan 21 Church St., John Mileham’s fish and chip shop by 1899 until after 1938.
1861   Anthony Stark 7 Blandford Place. various other businesses from 1889.
1865   James Jones Church Street.
1865   Joshua Redshaw William Street.
1865   Parkin Thornton Frances St.
1865   George Gunn Walker 43 Frances Street. Innkeeper, this was not the Dray Cart which was at number 10.
1865   Mary Wood Frances Street.
1871   Miss J Lawrence 9 Adelaide Row, grocer and beer retailer, then in 1910 beer retailer only until by 1921 a fish and chip shop until after 1938
1871   William Hendry 32 Frances Street. a Co-op shop by 1873.
1871   D. Nicholson 22 Henry Street.
1871   G Oliver 34 Henry Street, by 1914 a bazaar.
1871   J Dobson 25 North John Street, ale merchant.
1871   R Lynn 10 South Railway St. Innkeeper.  Young’s the printers by the 1890s.
1871   David Dixon 28 South Railway St.
1871   Andrew Wilkie 33 South Railway St.by 1890 a dressmaker then confectioner etc until Septimus Hall opened his fried fish shop in 1938, still trading as a fish and chip shop today.
1861   James Noble 34 South Railway Street, became the BLANDFORD in 1893.
1873   Mary Ann Lewis (Mrs) Caroline St.
1879   Henry Smith Blandford Place.
1889   John Bell 18 North Railway St. possibly incorporated into the Canterbury Arms (16 N R St) 1893/4 licensee Margaret Bell
1889   Henry Deacon 28 Frances St, a confectioner by 1925.
1889   Isabella Hawkey (Mrs) Back Henry St.
1900   Isaac Simpson Howson 6 Back North Terrace, an unnamed shop by 1910.
1900   Wm Wood 32 Back North Terrace. no mention after this date.

Lists compiled by David Angus, July 2008.

Dawdon Colliery

Dawdon Colliery

The decision to create a new pit at Dawdon was taken by the Marquess of Londonderry in the late 19th century, due to problems at his collieries in nearby Seaham. As Seaham Colliery’s workings pushed out to the south-east, it became increasing expensive to mine the reserves from the old pit’s shafts.

It was therefore decided to sink new shafts in the rocky coastal area of Noses Point, close to the ancient settlement of Dawdon. Sinking work began in March 1900, but soon ran into problems. Water-bearing rocks proved difficult to excavate, which meant freezing techniques had to be used. The colliery finally opened for production in October 1907. Dawdon reached the peak of its employment in 1925, when 3862 men and boys helped to produce over one million tonnes of coal annually.

The men of Dawdon Colliery were forced into several industrial disputes with those who wanted to maintain their profits, but escaped the major tragedies suffered by pits at Seaham and Easington. Many of Dawdon’s men did die within its depths, but usually from individual accidents.

Dawdon was a major coal producer for the Londonderry family throughout their ownership, and was later a jewel in the crown for the National Coal Board too. Under nationalisation, the government claimed that the mines belonged to the miners. This proved to be a nonsense as later industrial disputes proved. However, as the mining industry went into decline in the 1980s, Dawdon suffered too. The colliery was eventually closed in July 1991.

Home to a rich industrial past relating closely with its near neighbour Seaham, Dawdon was home to the Seaham Harbour Blast Furnace, in Dawdon Field Dene. The original Seaham Bottle Works was situated here in 1855. The blast furnaces closed in 1865 but were soon replaced by the Chemical Works.

In 1920 the new colliery, Dawdon, employed 3,300 workers and produced over 1 million tons of coal per year outstripping its local competitors. The ironworks and colliery sites have recently been reclaimed and a modern industrial estate launching Dawdon into the 21st century.


1900 March – started sinking of shafts.

1907 October – completed sinking of shafts. 5 October – colliery opened.

1910 Welfare Hall opened. Twenty streets of colliery houses built.

1912 Church of St Hild and St Helen, known as “The Pitmen’s Cathedral” erected by the Londonderry family.

1914 Low Main and Hutton seams being worked.

1921 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1921 8 August – Triple Alliance of Miners, Railwaymen and Transport Workers started. 30 June – strike called off plunging Durham into a trade depression that left 20% of miners and over 100 collieries idle.

1925 Employment peaks at 3862

1926 May – General Strike started. November – Durham Miners returned to work having held out for 7 months.

1927 12 Aged Miners’ cottages built in Dawdon.

1929 2 March – Dawdon Miners locked out in dispute over piece work rates. 4 November – Dawdon Miners reluctantly return to work.

1930 1000 Dawdon miners laid off. Seaham Colliery closed for 2 years to ensure production at Londonderry’s new Vane Tempest Colliery.

1930’s Dawdon Welfare Park completed.

1935 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1940 15 August – Dawdon bombed by Luftwaffe. 12 dead, 119 people homeless, 5 houses destroyed, Dawdon Church, Vicarage and 230 houses damaged.

1947 Nationalisation of Coal Industry. 2556 miners employed at Dawdon. 647,555 tonnes of coal produced.

1950 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

1950’s Steam winders replaced by electric Koepe winders.

1960 2348 miners employed. Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton, Main Coal and High Main (Dawdon’s highest producing seam) seams being worked.

1969 13 October – Dawdon on strike for 3 days in support of Yorkshire Miners demanding shorter shifts for surface workers.

1972 High Main and Yard Seams being worked. 8 January – National Strike begins demanding substantial wage rise. 28 February – successful conclusion to National Strike.

1974 9 February – 6-week strike began. Again for improved wages and conditions.

1975 High Main and Yard seams being worked.

1980 2106 miners employed. High Main, Yard and Main coal seams being worked.

1984 14 March – All Durham collieries on strike against the threat of pit closures by the Thatcher Government and it’s planned and premeditated attack on the miners

1985 3 March – National Strike over without agreement. Dawdon Miners returned to work behind their banner and promptly marched back out as a gesture of defiance. Only 133 men had returned to work early. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked. 2186 miners employed.

1986 E90 Face lost to water.

1988 1700 miners employed. One million tons of coal abandoned for safety reasons in the “G” seam.

1990 1592 miners employed. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked.

1991 27 July – Dawdon Colliery closed.



In July 1878 a poorly educated master cobbler, William Marwood, closed his shop (which still exists) in Church Lane, Horncastle, in the county of Lincolnshire and packing a small bag and saying goodbye to his wife Ellen left his home nearby at 149 Foundry Street, to keep an appointment in Durham. Although it was unusual for a poor artisan to undertake such journeys in those days, Ellen was used to such occasions which he undertook on a regular basis. William had an appointment with Robert Vest a cook on the sailing ship William Leckie in Durham for he was the Crown Executioner.

The 26 of June 1878 was one of the hottest days of the year and the Port of Sunderland lay idle as the ships awaited a breeze to fill their sails. The crew of the sailing ship William Leckie lay exhausted in the heat awaiting a wind that would drive their ship to Montivideo in South America.

When ship’s Master, Captain Lumley Fletcher, who had been on shore on business returned to the ship he was dismayed at the conditions he found on the deck. The ships new cook, a stocky man with a badly scarred face whose duty it was to feed the 20 crew, was slumped on the deck waving his arms and mumbling incoherently. The captain, a strict disciplinarian, assuming Vest was drunk told him he would not allow drunkenness on his ship and that he should pack his kit and leave. As his torrent lessened the ship’s Pilot John Wallace a 62 year old well respected man, jokingly shouted to the crew,” Lay aft boys and put him in Irons” and as the Captain and Pilot left, Robert Vest stumbled to his galley.

By evening the temperature was still over 90 degrees and as the pilot passed the galley Robert’s mind snapped, he grabbed a 10 inch knife and ran after the pilot slashing his throat and stabbing him in the stomach. As the pilot tried desperately to remove the knife he screamed “Boys I’ve been stabbed”. In an attempt to save him the captain ordered a crew member to fetch rum and bandages but within seconds the pilot was dead.

As the crew covered him with the ships ensign the captain ran up a distress signal for assistance to which Inspector James Larkin of the River Police in Low Row responded an hour later.

As the crew apprehended Robert Vest who put up no resistance, he became more incoherent and mumbling but in a statement later, the apprentice Thomas Talbot who had been charged with guarding him, said, he mumbled “I hope the poor man’s soul is in heaven” and that he explained for a long period he had suffered horror dreams of hanging and murder.

Two days later, the jury, after visiting the home of the victim John Wallace in Peel Street and seeing his body, retired to Salem House in Salem Street, Hendon, the home of Mr Hugh McAllister to hold an inquest and on the 12  of July Robert Vest was taken to Durham Assizes where he pleaded not guilty to murder, as his wife and five daughters, who had travelled from their home in Seaham looked on from the public gallery.

Reports in the local press said Robert Vest had five terrible scars on his forehead and a deep depression on the side of his head none of which he could account for but only that they gave him constant pain.

However in his defence a relative cast light upon the scars and gave evidence that Robert had received them in the army.

At the age of 17 years he had joined the 16 th Regiment of Infantry and was later in the Horse Artillery serving in India where he had suffered badly from sunstroke.

In 1854 whilst serving in the Crimea serving a gun, he had been severely injured when a shell exploded near him and during an attack he had been stabbed in the forehead with a bayonet. This was confirmed in a letter sent to the court from the War Office.

In his defence his brother said, prior to his army service Robert had been a steady young man and told of the agony and depression he had suffered since his return from the war.

Dr Mathew Francis gave evidence as to the extent in which Roberts injuries had affected his sanity and that the injuries from which he had suffered from for 24 years were severe enough to cause loss of sanity in the hot conditions that had been experienced on the fateful day, the temperature having been in the nineties.

The prosecution however disputed this and said it was due to alcohol despite the fact no one had observed him drinking and that all the bottles were still sealed.

 On Friday 12 July 1878 the jury found Robert guilty but recommended mercy and the hope that he would be sent to Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane but their hopes were misplaced.

Donning his black cap, Judge Justice Baggley told Robert “The law imposes upon me the duty of passing sentence of death upon every person convicted before me of the crime of wilful murder. The jury have recommended a strong recommendation for mercy. It will be my duty to forward the recommendation to the appropriate authority where it will receive its fullest consideration. However I implore you not to rely on that recommendation to mercy leading to your sentence being commuted but to endeavour from this moment to make your peace with God. It remains with me only to pass the sentence on you in the terms of law and that is, you shall be taken to the place from whence you came and from thence to a place of execution and shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And your body shall then be buried in the prison in which you shall be last confined after this your conviction. And may the Lord have mercy on your Soul”

Such was public feeling that a petition was raised and names collected from as far dispersed as Sunderland, Seaham, Durham and Chester le Street in an attempt to have his sentence commuted and money was collected for his wife and daughters who, lived in Seaham who were to be left destitute.

The Grim Walls of Durham Prison where Robert Vest spent his last days Dr Smith of Sedgefield and The Reverend Blunt of Chester le Street mounted a campaign for an in depth inquiry as to his mental condition but to no avail. The newspapers gave detailed descriptions on the 30 of July 1878, how Robert not having slept the night before and with tears running down his cheeks walked to meet his fate. As the hangman went to tie his arms and legs together he begged him to be allowed to shake the hand of everyone present. He turned to the Chaplain as the hood was placed over his head and said. “I’ll pray for you in Heaven”.The trapdoor opened and William Marwood kept his appointment with Robert. He collected his £10 fee and set off to return to his cobblers shop in Hornchurch, travelling to 177 such appointments throughout the country in his nine years in the post.

Colin Clifford

November 2010

Robert Vest had arrived in Seaham sometime after 1871 (probably from Spennymoor) and at the time of the murder lived in Gunn’s Buildings, by 1881, his wife lived at 32 William Street with her three daughters Martha 17, Isabella 14 and Margaret 10.   DA



By John Hall, F.R.I.B.A.

church (1 of 1)-2There is, at St. Mary’s Church, Seaham (though it is not genera lly known), a large stone slab with somewhat unusual markings depicted upon its upper surface. In dimensions it is 6 feet by 8 feet 1 inch by 7.5 inches thick. It is of local limestone, and at present forms one of the pavement slabs within the altar-rail, being placed at the north-east comer of the chancel, one of its long sides against the north wall.
This stone was thoroughly examined and measured during the renovations and excavations carried out within the Church in 1908, when evidence of Saxon foundations and Saxon windows were opened to view. Upon the surrounding earth being purposely removed from the slab it was found that two of its edges and probably a third are moulded, whilst that of the long side, facing south, was plainly chiselled. From this evidence alone we are almost certain that this slab was originally the altar-stone used in the Church during pre-Reformation days.
In attempting to decipher the symbols, I believed, at the outset, that they had the appearance of cup-markings of pre-historic times; but owing to their neatness of execution, and the unlikelihood of Christian authorities sanctioning and adopting an altar-stone showing pagan symbols, I abandoned the idea. It is well-known, of course, that pagan stones have been frequently used as walling- stones in Christian buildings, but is there anywhere an example of pagan symbolism appearing upon a Christian altar ?

A Probable Solution.

Feeling certain that the markings are of an astronomical nature, I then attempted another method of arriving at a solution, namely, by using the theory discovered by the late Sir J. N, Lockyear, at the same time deriving sympathetic support from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, I finally arrived at a probable solution of this difficult problem. A long line seen on the stone is a representation of the Easter  n horizon. A large circle below it , the sun before dawn, and small circles, some upon and others above the line, are the risings and settings of the herald stars at the times of the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes, respectively.
I considered that this diagram of the Equinoxes, particularly that of spring time, might have been engraved upon the altar as a permanent reminder to the clergy with regard to the canonical ti me of holding the Easter festival. This festival, as we know, is of the greatest importance in the calendar of the Church, and since Easter 669, Easter Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday after the full, or Paschal, moon following the Vernal Equinox. It was about this time, we are also informed by Bede, that Archbishop Theodore, the parish maker, taught the arts of poetry, astronomy and arithmetic in England. I concluded that three circles arranged triangle wise, as seen on the diagram, were a lithic representation of the Trinity, and were so placed upon the slab as to permanently remind the brethren of this great doctrine of the Christian’s faith.

Authorities Views

Having completed the article briefly summarised here, 1 submitted it to several authorities for their consideration. Some of them in their reply, I gathered, were sceptical,while others, more sympathetic, declared that there may be something in my conclusions.
All agreed in stating, however, that markings of this nature they had never seen before, particularly upon a Christian stone altar. Finally, through the assistance of Mr Reginald A. Smith, of the British Museum, a rubbing and drawing of this stone was submitted to Mr Ludovic MacLellan Mann, of Glasgow, an acknowledged authority upon cup-marked stones, who is about to publish a book upon this interesting subject.
This author now informs me that these markings are of an astronomical character, and are undoubtedly pre-historic. “They represent in the most exact manner certain events which have happened within one lunar year of 354.36 days.” He also states that similar markings have been found all over the globe. Mr Mann has further stated that he hopes to include a full account of the Seaham stone in his forthcoming book on the subject of cup-marked stones. As the method of deciphering these prehistoric characters is at present a secret known only to Mr Mann it is impossible to give further detail regarding this unique stone at Old Seaham Church, probably ranking, in the County of Durham, second only inimportance to that of the date stone of Jarrow Church, In conclusion. I would like to make a suggestion. This stone is now lying on the damp earth, and is thereby liable to be trodden on by pedestrians, thus causing the markings to be obliterated. In fact, a portion of the line and one group of the small dots have already suffered injury from this cause. I, therefore, venture to suggest that the slab should be removed from its present position in the chancel, and be re-fixed upon suitable stone supports in altar fashion, placed at the west end of the Church, where this unique relic of combined pagan and Christian craftsmanship may be readily inspected by all visitors to this interesting Saxon Church at Seaham
Newspaper article, date and source not known
The stone described can still be seen in St Mary’s.



Article from the Daily Mail by Robert Hardman, March 29th 2014 

Sections in blue refer to the Halifax bomber which crashed at Ryhope on its return, killing the pilot Cyril Barton.

EVEN the old pros had never seen carnage like this. Whole squadrons were being decimated before their eyes. Some aircraft simply exploded in mid-air, each one a monstrous firework packed with three tons of bombs, 1,500 gallons of aviation fuel  and seven brave men.

One dumbstruck gunner, surveying the German countryside from the tail end of a Lancaster that night in March 1944, would describe his comrades’ funeral pyres stretching 60 miles into the distance.

Pilots not only had to dodge anti-aircraft guns, searchlights and enemy night fighters equipped with a new and lethally effective secret weapon  but also the parachutes of chums who managed to bale out. For those who made it down in one piece, there were fresh dangers. That same week, 50 captured Allied airmen were shot, on Hitler’s orders, for their part in the Great Escape.

There was astonishing heroism amid the horror. His controls shot to pieces, Tom Fogaty ordered his crew to grab parachutes and bale out. But the flight engineer’s backpack had become jammed out of reach. Fogaty handed him his own parachute and went down with the plane (miraculously, he survived).

Enemy fighters had strafed Cyril Barton’s Halifax bomber, destroying all his communications plus one of his engines while half his crew had baled out in the confusion. Yet the 22-year-old pilot officer refused to give up and pressed on to his target. Cyril would win the Victoria Cross for his valour that night. If only he had lived to pick it up.

Flight Sergeant Bob Gill was a ‘tail-end Charlie’, the rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber from 35 Squadron, a Pathfinder unit whose job was to lead the way. Now 90, and with the Distinguished Flying Medal to his name, the retired Surrey accountant sums it up succinctly: ‘It was just a disaster.’

He is not exaggerating. This was, in fact, the worst night in the entire history of the Royal Air Force. It remains etched in many minds to this day. As we approach tomorrow night’s 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Raid, we can expect to see many new wreaths and heartbreaking little messages laid before the magnificent new Bomber Command memorial at London’s Hyde Park Corner.

Cyril Barton’s family still cherish every memory of a ‘wonderful man’ revered by all his crew to their dying days.

‘Everyone adored him,’ his sisters tell me. ‘He had something special.’ They’ll be in Tyne & Wear on Monday to reopen a wing of the hospital where Cyril died from his injuries. It is still called the Barton Centre.

In North Yorkshire, Harold Panton and his family will gather tomorrow night in the disused control tower of RAF Skipton-on-Swale. At 21:49, they will hold a private service in memory of Chris Panton, Harold’s big brother and playmate on the family’s Lincolnshire farm. It was at this precise time that Chris’s Halifax took off from here for the last time, bound for Nuremberg. Sadly, neither the Ministry of Defence nor the Royal Air Force has seen fit to mark the anniversary in any way. But for families as far afield as North America and Australia, the events of March 30-31 are anything but ‘history’.

This was the night when more than 100 Allied bombers — all on the same mission — were lost. Come dawn, more than 700 men were missing, as many as 545 of them dead. More than 160 would end up as prisoners of war. In one night alone, the RAF had lost more men than in the entire Battle of Britain.

So what went wrong? And why is this bloody anniversary going unmarked?

It had already been a perilous few months for the bomber boys. Hundreds of aircraft and thousands of men had been lost during sustained attacks on Germany’s industrial heartlands.

For decades afterwards, historians and politicians would debate the rights and wrongs of dropping thousands of tons of high explosives on German cities night after night.

But, with the war in its fifth year and victory anything but certain, the Allies had yet to gain a foothold on the Continent. The boys of Bomber Command were still the only ones taking the war to the enemy. So their value to British morale was incalculable, quite apart from their crucial strategic importance.

Their commander-in-chief, Arthur Harris, was convinced that the only path to victory was to hammer Germany’s infrastructure, choke its supply lines and drain the will of its people. But it came at a tremendous cost. By the end of the war, 55,573 of the 125,000 men who had served under Harris were dead.

Yet, it was only two years ago that they were finally honoured with that stunning memorial in London (and the trustees are still desperately raising funds to meet the final bills).

No other arm of the Services had such a pitiful life expectancy. This was a world where a new crew, embarking on a tour of duty (30 operations over enemy territory), would have been safer pointing a gun at their heads and playing Russian roulette.

As Harris (later knighted but never given the peerage granted to the other wartime chiefs) would write afterwards: ‘In Bomber Command, we had to lay on at least one major battle every 24 hours. Navies fight two or three major battles per war. Armies maybe a dozen. We had to lay on, during my three and a half years, well over a thousand.’

Old soldiers and sailors will, of course, dispute his sums, but this was vintage Harris. And it helps explain why none of his senior staff queried his judgment on the morning of March 30, 1944, as he outlined his plans for the night ahead. He wanted a huge force — well over 700 bombers — to drop 2,600 tonnes of explosives on Nuremberg.

The historic city had plenty of major industrial targets, including tank and engine factories, but it was also of huge symbolic importance to the Nazis. Hitler had staged his rallies there and regarded it as the ‘most German’ of German cities. And it had not been touched for months.

That afternoon, as pilots and navigators gathered in their briefing rooms, there was some relief that they were spared yet another run through Europe’s deadliest air defences to Berlin. Everyone had lost friends in raids on the German capital in recent months.

But relief soon gave way to grave doubts. First, there was a disturbingly straight red line stretching right across the map. They were to take a direct route over Germany for 265 miles (common sense dictated a zigzag route to confuse the enemy but that would have required more fuel and, thus, fewer bombs). Second, the moon was almost full. If there was no cloud, they would be easy prey for the Luftwaffe’s night fighters there was little sign of cloud cover. ‘We were expecting the raid to be called off. But it wasn’t,’ Sir Michael Beetham tells me from his Norfolk home.

The future Chief of the Air Staff (he commanded the skies during the Falklands War) was a young Flight Lieutenant flying a Lancaster from 50 Squadron that evening. ‘The weather was better than expected,’ he sighs. ‘Deary me…..

Arthur Harris, however, was working on the basis that he had one last crack at hitting deep inside Germany before shorter nights reduced the nocturnal range of his bombers and before the impending invasion of Normandy forced him to turn his attention to France.

He had ordered four diversionary raids involving 162 bombers to fool the Germans into thinking that the target was Hamburg, perhaps, or Berlin once more.

But the main force was so large it emptied every British bomber base from Yorkshire to Cambridge. Once assembled, this airborne armada stretched almost 70 miles from end to end.

The Germans were not going to be fooled for long, especially if all this hardware was flying in a straight line; even more so if the sky turned out to be clear and full of RAF vapour trails. And it was.

As John Nichol explains in a pulsating new account of the raid, The Red Line, the massacre was soon under way. More than 200 night-fighters based around the Ruhr and the Rhine took to the skies. ‘We were ducks lined up at a fairground stall,’ says Jeff Gray DFM, as we stand next to the Bomber Command Memorial. On that night 70 years ago, he was a Flight Sergeant at the helm of a Lancaster from 61 Squadron.

Unbeknown to the RAF, many enemy fighters were equipped with new guns which pointed upwards. Instead of attacking in the conventional way from above, they would hide below and shoot up at the bomber’s exposed underbelly.

‘You could see up at night but it was very hard to see down,’ recalls Bob Gill. ‘It was just pot luck if you got through.’

One German ace, Martin Becker, notched up six ‘kills’ in half an hour. It was all the more shocking for the RAF crews because the weather offered such a good view of friends exploding far and wide.

Sir Michael Beetham’s wireless operator, Reg Payne, would later recall: ‘I saw the smoke and shower of flames as an aircraft died in front of my eyes. Seven people in it; gone in an instant.’

To add to the confusion, the wind was much stronger than expected, pushing the armada north of its red line and even closer to the dense German defences along the Ruhr. ‘I could see we were being blown off course and I told the navigator to compensate. That probably saved us,’ Sir Michael reflects.

Jeff Gray admits that he and his crew missed the target by miles. ‘When we got to what was supposed to be Nuremberg, we couldn’t see anything,’ recalls the 91-year-old retired BOAC pilot. ‘Then this searchlight opened up on us so I just said “right, bomb doors open” and we let him have the lot. That light soon went out.’

To cap it all, the damage to Nuremberg itself was slight — 256 buildings destroyed and 75 enemy dead (a fraction of the losses endured by the RAF). While 60 bombers were destroyed on the way out, another 35 were lost on the return. A further 11 aircraft would crash on British soil.

Cyril Barton, minus his radio, one engine and half his crew, had persisted in dropping his bombs. Now, he and his remaining men had to cross Germany, Belgium and the North Sea with only the stars to guide them.

Unable to make radio contact with anyone, they crossed the British coast only to endure the horror of being shot at by their own side. A trigger-happy antiaircraft battery mistook them for Germans. Cyril was forced to fly back out over the North Sea and find a fresh approach. Coming in again over the pit village of Ryhope near Sunderland, he finally ran out of fuel.

He did his best to steer the plane away from the pithead gear and the miners’ cottages as he hit the ground. His men survived but Cyril did not. ‘My parents never wanted him to fly but he was determined,’ recalls his sister, Joyce Voysey, 79, at home in New Maiden, Surrey. ‘My mother never really got over it.’

Joyce remembers a despatch rider at the door soon afterwards. ‘Dad opened this big brown envelope and said: “Cyril’s been awarded the Victoria Cross.” All Mum said was: “It won’t bring him back.” But she carried that letter with her until the day she died.’

On Monday, Joyce and her sister, Cynthia Maidment, will enjoy a warm welcome in Ryhope. The villagers still proudly embrace the boy from Surrey as one of their own on their war memorial.

Even by the standards of the day, there was shock at RAF bases up and down the land as the BBC’s Alvar Liddell declared: ‘Ninety-six of our aircraft failed to return…’ That did not include those, like Cyril, who went down at home.

‘We were aghast,’ says Bob Gill, who went on to complete 47 operations before being shot down and captured on number 48. Jeff Gray was expecting a roasting at base for missing his target. ‘Instead, they just seemed very pleased to see us no matter what we’d done,’ he says.

But there was little time to dwell on the death toll. ‘You had a job to do and you just got on with it,’ says Sir Michael Beetham.

The survivors hold no grudge. Ask these veterans and they just shrug and say: ‘It was war.’ It remains a salutary lesson for our blame-addicted culture.

But it is a pity the RAF is not commemorating this anniversary in any way. True, there were many other costly raids that winter. This, though, was the night which, more than any other, symbolises the gallantry of those young men, all volunteers, who climbed in to their flying coffins night after night — and then had to wait almost 70 years before being allowed to build (and pay for) their own memorial.

They still need our help.




LORD CASTLEREAGH 1902-1923A souvenir booklet produced in 1923 describing the Londonderry family and their home Seaham Hall


Edward Charles Stewart Robert, Viscount Castlereagh, whose majority is “being celebrated in December, was born on November 18th, 1902, at London, and at his christening King Edward VII acted as sponsor. The ceremony took place in the Chapel Royal, St. James’, the baptismal rite being performed by the Rev. Angus Bethune, the late Vicar of Seaham. He was educated at Eton and Oxford, and succeeded to the title in 1915, when his father, the present Lord Londonderry, took the higher title, on the lamented death of the late Marquess.

The coming of age celebrations will coincide with the cutting of the sod of the new coal winning to the North of the town, in connection with which preparations have been in progress for some months.
History is repeating itself in a remarkable way, for when the present Lord Londonderry came of age, the first sods of Dawdon Colliery were cut by his lordship, and by his mother, the late Dowager Marchioness, while the foundation stone of the new South Dock and the coping stone of the new North Pier were laid the same day by the present Lord Londonderry and Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Chancellor of the Exchequer, afterwards Lord St. Aldwyn. The date was Saturday, August 26th, 1899.

Lord Castlereagh is truly the scion of a noble house—one of the noblest undoubtedly in the United Kingdom—and a historic sketch of the family to which he belongs will probably be read with special interest at the present time. Such a sketch must necessarily be a history of two families, the Tempests and the Stewarts, for from both, the house of Londonderry traces its descent, and it may be remembered that the late marquess in 1885 was granted permission by Royal license for himself and his issue to resume the family surname of Stewart in addition to and after the surnames of Vane-Tempest, and to quarter the arms of Vane-Tempest with the family arms of Stewart.

The Tempests are a very ancient family, and it is pointed out in Burke’s “Peerage and Baronetage,” that a pedigree of full twenty-four descents, a great territorial inheritance, and a name interwoven with the historic events of the counties of York and Durham combine to entitle them to a very high place in the roll of the nobility of England. At an early period the Tempests separated into several distinct branches, of which the chief were those of Bracewell, Tong, and Broughton, in the County of York, and of Holmside, Stella, and Wynyard, in the County of Durham. The head of the family in the time of Henry V. was Sir Piers Tempest, of Bracewell, who served under that monarch at the battle of Agincourt. Rowland Tempest, of Newcastle, third son of Thomas Tempest, of Stanley, and brother of Sir Nicholas Tempest, the first baronet of Stella, married Barbara, daughter of Thomas Calverley, and sister of Sir John Calverley, of Littlebourne, County Palatine of Durham. His eldest son was Sir Thomas Tempest, of The Isle, County Palatine of Durham, a barrister-at-law, who was in 1640 appointed Attorney-General for Ireland.

 He married another member of the Tempest family, Eleanor, daughter of William Tempest, fourth son of Thomas Tempest, of Holmside, Yorkshire, and by her had a son, John, who was nominated a Knight of the Royal Oak in 1661, and was M.P. for the County of Durham from 1675 to 1678. His wife was Elizabeth, only daughter and heir of John Heath, of Old Durham, and his eldest son was William Tempest, who was M.P. for the City of Durham 1678-80-89, and is called “Colonel” Tempest in 1694.

He married Elizabeth, sister of Sir John Sudbury, Bart., of Eldon, Durham, and niece of the Very Rev. John Sudbury, D.D., Dean of Durham, and was blessed with a family of six sons and six daughters. The eldest son, John, became, like his father before him, the parliamentary representative of the City of Durham, and married Jane, daughter and sole heir of Richard Wharton, of Durham. His son and successor, John, described as of Sherborne, County Durham, was M.P. for the city of Durham, 1741-47-54, and again in 1761, and his wife was Frances, a daughter of one of the Shuttleworths, of Forcer, in Yorkshire, and of Gawthorpe, in Lincolnshire—an ancient family, from which is descended Sir Ughtred James Kay Shuttleworth, Bart., M.P., of Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire.

 The daughter of this John Tempest, Frances, married in 1768 Rev. Sir Henry Vane, Bart., of Long Newton, Durham, prebendary of Durham Cathedral. Her brother John, described as of Wynyard and Brancepeth Castle, in due time succeeded his father, both in the possession of the family estates and in the representation of the City of Durham, for which he was M.P. in 1763-74-80-84 and in 1790.

He married Annie, daughter of Joseph Townsend, of Honnington Hall, Warwickshire, by whom he had an only son, John Wharton, who died unmarried in his father’s lifetime. In August, 1794, John Tempest died, leaving no surviving issue, and having devised his great estates to his heir-at-law and nephew, Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, Bart., of Long Newton (only son and heir of Rev. Sir Henry Vane, Bart., already mentioned), who was born in January, 1771, and who assumed the name and arms of Tempest in accordance with the will of John Tempest, whom he succeeded.

He married in April, 1799, Lady Anne Katherine MacDonnell, eldest daughter of Randal William, first Marquess and sixth Earl of Antrim, who became on her father’s death Countess of Antrim in her own right. She died in June, 1834, when the title passed to her sister, Lady Charlotte Kerr, in accordance with the limitations contained in the patent creating the dignity, dated 2nd May, 1785. Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, who was M.P. for Durham, died on the 1st August, 1831, leaving by the Countess an only daughter and heiress, Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane-Tempest, who married in 1819, as second wife, Charles William, third Marquess of Londonderry, K.G., who thereupon assumed the name and arms of Vane, and was created by patent, dated 28th March, 1823, Viscount Seaham, of Seaham, County Durham, and Earl Vane, with special remainder to the male issue of his second marriage. Their son and heir was the fifth Marquess of Londonderry.

But before proceeding further it will be well to glance at the history of the Stewart family from which the house of Londonderry also traces its descent. The Stewarts of Wigtownshire occupy an honoured position in Scottish history. Several members of the family held the rank of High Stewards of Scotland; one of them ascended the Scottish throne in 1371. Sir Alexander Stewart was raised to the Peerage by James the First, with the titles of Baron of Garlies and Earl of Galloway. John Stewart descended from Sir Thomas Stewart, of Minto (ancestor of the Lord Blantyre), settled in Ireland in the reign of James the First, who granted to his kinsman, the Duke of Lennox, and to his relations that large tract of land in County Donegal, lying between Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly, which had been forfeited.

The territory was divided into eight manors, two of which were given to the Duke, and a third, named Stewart’s Court, otherwise Ballylawn, with the territory and precincts of Bally reach, to John Stewart, a relative of the Duke, which manor and lands annexed descended in regular succession to Robert, first Marquess of Londonderry. On this manor the said John Stewart erected the castle Ballylawn. A descendant of his was Alexander Stewart, of Mount Stewart, County Down, who was born in 1699, and became M.P. for Londonderry. He married, in June, 1737, Mary only surviving daughter of Alderman John Cowan, of Londonderry, and sister and heiress of Sir Robert Cowan, Governor of Bombay. His eldest son, Robert—described as of Ballylawn Castle, County Donegal, and of Mount Stewart, County Down—became M.P. for the latter county, and in September, 1789, was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Londonderry. In October, 1795, his Lordship was created Viscount Castlereagh; in the following August he was made Earl of Londonderry, and in January, 1816, he became the first Marquess of Londonderry. He married in 1766, Sarah Frances, daughter of Francis, Marquess of Hertford, by whom he had a son, Robert, who succeeded him in the marquisate; and in 1775 he married as second wife Frances, daughter of Charles, first Earl Camden, by whom, amongst other children, he had one son, Charles William, afterwards third Marquess of Londonderry.

On the death of the first marquess, on the 8th April, 1821, he was succeeded by the son of his first marriage, Robert, who was born on the 18th July, 1769, and who was better known as Viscount Castlereagh. He was a statesman of consummate ability. The part he played in connection with the securing of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland is a matter of history, and he filled many high Ministerial offices with great distinction, especially when Secretary for Foreign Affairs during the latter years of the French war and at the Congress of Vienna. He married in 1794, Emily Anne, youngest daughter and co-heir of John, second Earl of Buckinghamshire, but had no issue. On his death at North Cray, on the 12th August, 1822, he was succeeded by his half brother, Charles William, who was born on the 18th May, 1778, and who had been elevated to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Stewart, of Stewarts’ Court and Ballylawn, in July 1814.

His Lordship married, first, in August, 1804, Catherine, youngest daughter of John, third Earl of Darnley, and by her Ladyship (who was a descendant of the illustrious Scottish house of Stewart, of Darnley and Lennox) had a son, Frederick William Robert, afterwards fourth marquess; and, secondly, in April, 1819, Frances Anne, only daughter and heiress of Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, Bart., of Wynyard and Long Newton. County Durham, by whom he had, among other children, George Henry Robert Charles William, who became the fifth marquess. The third marquess was a distinguished soldier and diplomatist, was one of the ablest companions in-arms of the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, and was no less efficient when attached to the armies of the Allies in 1813 and 1814, and as Ambassador at Vienna.

He was a general officer in the army, colonel of the 2nd Life Guards, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Durham, and Custos Rotulorum of the Counties of Londonderry and Down. In July, 1823, he was created Earl Vane, with remainder to the male issue of his second marriage. He died on the 6th March, 1854, and the earldom of Vane and the Viscountcy of Seaham thereupon passe 1 to his second son (afterwards fifth marquess), while the Irish honours and the Barony of Stewart came to his eldest son, Frederick William Robert, the fourth marquess. This peer was born on the 7th July, 1805, and became a Knight of St. Patrick, a Privy Councillor, colonel of the Down Militia, and Lord Lieutenant of the County Down, which county he at one time represented in Parliament. He married, in April, 1846,

Elizabeth Frances Charlotte, daughter of Robert, third   Earl of Roden, K.P., and widow of Richard, sixth Viscount Powers court, but died sine prole in November. 1872, and was succeeded by his half-brother, George Henry Robert Charles William, who, as already stated, had previously succeeded his father in the Earldom of Vane. The fifth marquess, who was born on the 25th April, 1821, assumed by Royal license in 1851 the additional name of Tempest. In July, 1867, he went on a special mission to St. Petersburg to invest the Emperor of Russia with the Order of the Garter, and on that occasion the Czar conferred on him the Grand Cross of the Russian Order of St. Alexander Newski. He was also a Knight of St. Patrick, and he was Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of County Durham, colonel of the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, and Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the Seaham Artillery Volunteer Brigade. He married in August, 1846, Mary Cornelia, only daughter and heiress of Sir John Edwards, Bart., of Garth, County Montgomery, and had three sons and three daughters. On his death, on the 6th November, 1884, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles Stewart Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the sixth marquess, who was born on the 16th July, 1852.


The late Lord Londonderry, who died in 1915, was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, and in 1887 he was made an hon. L.L.D. of Dublin University. He married in October, 1875, Lady Theresa Susey Helen Chetwynd-Talbot, eldest daughter of the 19th Earl of Shrewsbury, and had two sons and one daughter. He was M.P. for County Down. From 1886 to 1889 he was Viceroy of Ireland. Chairman of the London School Board from 1895 to 1898. He became a Privy Councillor in 1886, and a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1892. Chosen as an Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1897, and in 1888 he was installed a Knight of the Garter. He was a J.P., and D.L. of the County of Durham, and a D.L. for Montgomeryshire. He was Colonel Commandant of the 2nd Durham (Seaham) Volunteer Artillery, and Hon. Colonel of the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. On his death in 1915, he was succeeded by his eldest son Charles William, the seventh and present Marquess, who was born on May 17th, 1878.


He was educated at the Rev.T. Cameron’s School at Mortimer, and Eton College. From Eton he passed into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, being gazetted into the Royal Horse Guards (Blue) in 1897.

In his enthusiasm for the profession of arms Lord Londonderry resembles his great-grandfather, the third Marquess, who fought with the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula, and who retired from the Army as Colonel of the 10th Hussars. Previous to going to Sandhurst he was Commandant of the Londonderry Schools Battalion and second lieutenant in the 2nd Durham (Seaham) Volunteer Artillery. When at Sandhurst he won the riding prize and the military cup.

His lordship was elected M.P. for Maidstone in 1906 and sat until he went to the House of Lords in 1915. When the war broke out he proceeded to France in 1914 and up to 1915 was on the staff of General Pulteney as A.D.C., and was mentioned in despatches. From 1915 to 1917 he served with his regiment, of which he was Major and Brevet Lieut.-Colonel.

Lord Londonderry is Hon. Colonel R.F.A., T.F., a battalion of Irish Rifles, and a battalion of the Durham Light Infantry; Lieutenant of County Down, President of Chelsea Hospital for women, and patron of seven livings. He was made M.V.O. in 1903.

His lordship, like his forefathers, has always been keenly interested in the affairs of state, both in Great Britain and Ireland. He was Finance Member of the Air Council, 1919, and Under-Secretary of State for Air and Vice-President of the Air Council from April, 1920, to July, 1921. He was appointed First Minister of Education in the Ulster Parliament, and a member of the Senate of North Ireland in June, 1921; P.C. (Ireland), 1918; K.G., 1919; and P.C. (North Ireland), 1922. He married in 1899 the Hon. Dame Edith Helen Chaplin, D.B.E., daughter of the late Viscount Chaplin. Besides their only son, Lord Castlereagh, Lord and Lady Londonderry have four daughters, namely, Lady Maureen, who married the Hon. Oliver Stanley, M.C., son of the Earl of Derby; Lady Margaret Frances Anne, Lady Helen Maglona and Lady Mary Elizabeth. His Lordship’s only sister is the wife of the Earl of Ilchester.

Lord Londonderry has always taken the greatest interest in his industrial undertakings in the Seaham district, and in this he is worthily following in the footsteps of his father. The late Lord Londonderry’s greatest commercial undertaking was the sinking of Dawdon Colliery. The present Lord Londonderry, in deciding to sink the new pit on the north side of the town is showing the same spirit of enterprise as has always characterised the Londonderry family since the foundation of the town and port, and the venture is sure to bring great prosperity to Seaham.

The following is a description of the armorial bearings of the Londonderry family:—Arms.—Quarterly: first and fourth, or a bend compony, argent and azure, between two lions rampant, gules, for Stewart; second, argent, a bend engrailed, between six martlets, three and three, sable, for Tempest; third, azure, three sinister gauntlets, or, for Vane. Crests.—First (Tempest), a griffin’s head erased, per pale, argent and sable, beaked gules; second (Stewart), a dragon statant, or ; third (Vane), an arm in armour, holding a sword proper, hilt and pommel or. Supporters.—Dexter, a Moor, wreathed about the temples argent and azure, holding in the exterior hand a shield of the last, garnished or charged with the sun in splendour, gold; sinister, a lion or, gorged with a collar, sable, charged with three mullets argent. The motto is “Metuenda corolla draconis”—”Fear the dragon’s crest.”

The titles held by the head of the family are: Marquess of Londonderry, Earl of Londonderry, Viscount Castlereagh and Baron Londonderry, in the peerage of Ireland; Earl Vane (by which title he sits in the House of Lords), Viscount Seaham of Seaham and Wynyard (Co. Durham), and Baron Stewart of Stewart’s Court and Ballylawn, in the peerage of the United Kingdom. The various creations date as follows:—Irish titles—Baron, 20th September, 1789; viscount, 1st October, 1795; earl, 8th August, 1796; and marquess, 13th January, 1816. United Kingdom—Baron, 1st July, 1814; Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham, 8th July, 1823.


Seaham Hall is now closed, but the grounds are still open to the public. The mansion stands on the north slope of a small but exquisitely beautiful dene, within a few hundred yards of the sea. It was formerly the seat of the Milbankes, of Halnaby, and was purchased by the third Marquess of Londonderry shortly after bis marriage with the heiress of Sir Harry Vane-Tempest. The Marquess’ object was primarily to secure a suitable outlet for the produce of his collieries in this county, which came to him by this marriage, and it is said to have been the advice of the famous engineer, John Buddie, which influenced his lordship in fixing upon Seaham Harbour for the purpose.

The founding of this town and port took place on November 28th, 1828, when the foundation stone of the harbour was laid by the third Marquess of Londonderry in the presence of a large concourse of spectators. On the same day Viscount Seaham laid the foundation stone of the first house of Seaham. The undertaking was one of unusual difficulty, but his lordship was not one to be lightly turned from the task he had undertaken, and the fact that in the month of July, 1831, the first cargo of coals was shipped at this port, goes to prove with how much energy and skill the work had been carried out. The ship—a brig named the Lord Seaham— was towed out amidst the cheering of the inhabitants and the firing of cannon. Throughout the remainder of his life Lord Londonderry lost no chance of developing the town and its resources, and one of his last projects was the construction of a passenger line, which he did not live to see completed.

The associations of Seaham Hall are interesting, in so far as they are connected with the courtship and marriage of the great poet, Lord Byron. Anna Isabella, who became Lady Byron, was the daughter of Sir Ralph Milbanke, of Halnaby and Seaham. The marriage was solemnized at Seaham on January 2nd, 1815, and the register of the marriage is still preserved, signed by the bride and bridegroom, the then Vicar of Seaham, the Rev. Richard Wallis, and by J. C. Hobhouse, the friend of the poet. A pretty retired walk in the dene is still known as ” Lord Byron’s Walk.”

Royalty has at various times visited Seaham as the guests of the Londonderry family. So long ago as 1842 the Duke of Cambridge visited this town as the guest of the third Lord Londonderry, on the occasion of the birthday festivities of Lord Seaham, afterwards fifth Marquess of Londonderry. His Royal Highness was conducted over the docks and harbour works, and the visit created much stir in the neighbourhood. In the year 1859 the Duc d’Aumale, one of the Orleanist Princes of France, visited Seaham Harbour, and in 1862 the Comte de Paris and the Duc de Chartres, members of the same Royal house, visited the town, accompanied by Prince Michael Gortchakoff and other distinguished personages. On this occasion a parade of volunteers took place, and the volunteer drill hall (Vane Hall), which had just been completed, was inspected.

On January 15th, 1868, the town was gaily decorated, and there was considerable rejoicing on the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Teck, who were accompanied by many other notabilities. Two years later the town was visited by Prince and Princess Christian. The Duke of Edinburgh, in his capacity of Inspector of Coastguard, paid an official visit to Seaham on November 17th, 1880, and on the 1st of February, 1884, his Royal Highness, the late Duke of Albany, visited the town, and was received at the railway station by a guard of honour composed of men of the 2nd D.A. Volunteers. The visit of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales, on November 1st, 1890, was an historic event in the annals of the town. Later, in 1896, the Duke of Cambridge visited Seaham Harbour as a guest of Lord Londonderry, and inspected his lordship’s fine regiment—the 2nd Durham—and also the ” Londonderry ” Schools Battalion. In 1898 His Royal Highness was again a visitor at Seaham Hall, and was present with the late Marchioness of Londonderry at the Inspection of the 2nd Durham (Seaham) Volunteer Artillery.

Up the Ladder 2

Adeline Hodges, (nee Corkhill).
These are the memoirs of a lady whose life covered the years 1899-1980.

She always told us that she was born in the era of the pony and trap but lived through the innovation of the aeroplane,- she experienced both types of transport.
These memoirs were written only for we four children, to show us our background. We hope you who read them find them interesting and like us will derive pleasure from her history.
She was an intelligent and elegant lady with a disciplined moral code which she instilled in her family. She was well loved and appreciated by all of us and together with my father Ben, brought magic to our childhood.
If more information is required or if you wish to use extracts, please contact us first via Brian Scollen through this website who was instrumental in persuading us to allow you this privilege of a glimpse into the past.
Joan Pace (nee Hodges)
Elder daughter of Adeline.
UP THE LADDER by Adeline Hodges
‘My Memories’
A fascinating snapshot of life in a Seaham mining community at the turn of the century.
Reproduced here with kind permission of her daughter Joan Pace.

Adeline Hodges and her husband Benjamin
My memories are varied, but the balance is more on the joys than the sorrows. I have had countless blessings showered upon me, and not least of these is a family of which I am inordinately proud. That is something Ben gave to me to have and to hold forever.
I shall begin with the rise of Dawdon. A new colliery had been sunk right near the coast. A great dirty railway was built right across the lovely fields where we always played. Rows of houses were built to house the men and their families who came to work there. A new school, surgery and church had all taken shape before our very eyes and before we knew it we were living in a much, much larger community.
These were a new breed of people. To us their ways were very strange. It was with great trepidation that we started our new school.
We soon began to realise how poor we were, for the new inhabitants seemed full and plenty. There were always fights with drunken men and slanging matches with the women. It awed yet amused us, and our parents thought we had really descended to the depths. But soon we had to leave. The years of traveling in bad weather had undermined my father’s health, so he asked for and was granted a transfer to Seaham Colliery. We were not as sorry as we would have been when it was just the Cottages. You see, the new colliery houses seemed like palaces compared to our little old cottages, and what had seemed like sheer comfort to us now seemed real slums. Our new home was bigger and much roomier and was the top door of a street of fifty-six houses; but children are strange creatures, the only thing about this house that pleased us was the stable styled back door, and the Elderberry tree growing high outside the front door. The boys could climb this tree and get into the upstairs bedroom.

We had only lived three years at Seaham Colliery when my father died. I loved him very dearly and this was a great blow to me. I remember when he was 51, I was 15 and his birthday was the day before mine, I bought him a quarter of chocolates for his birthday and I shall always remember the look on his face when I gave these to him as he said, “You shouldn’t have bothered hinny”. These few words spoken as only he could speak them were like a gentle caress.
We lived in the same street as the boy who was to become my great love. I did not know him very well for quite a few years. I was too busy with my studies to bother about boys, so I must leave him out of my scribbles for a little longer.

I remember Mother giving us a lecture on how to behave when we went to Seaham Colliery. We had been a quiet-spoken crowd at the Cottages. I often think now, as I look back and recall so many of our strange expressions; we were nearer the old Anglo-Saxon language than anybody. To talk like that now would be outlandish, but to us the dialect at Seaham Colliery seemed far worse. I can still hear Mother saying – “Mind when ye get to the Colliery nee thous and thines like them, and nee sittin’ outside on the paths; tark proper like ye’ve allus tarked.” Tark proper!!! We soon knew what she meant, for one couldn’t walk up or down the street for people sitting out on the paths in bunches, gossiping, or the boys tripping you up as you walked past. I knew I had always been a tall girl, but my goodness I never seemed to pass a boy but he shouted “lend ’s your lass to get the ball out of the spout,” or “Eeh, hinny is it cauld up there?” I was shocked and disgusted and branded them one and all an ignorant crowd. But my brothers soon settled down, and made many friends.

As I said before, my father died when I was 18. I had been appointed to the staff of new Seaham High Colliery Boys’ School, having served two years on the infant school staff. I was to take up my appointment on the 14th August but my father was buried that day, so I was granted leave of absence. There was nothing taken for granted in those days. I had to make formal application to the Headmaster to attend my father’s funeral and it was granted without sympathy and somewhat reluctantly, or so it seemed to me. My Mother was the caretaker of the schools, as my Father was bedridden nearly 3 years before he died. The Headmistress of the infants’ school where I did my training was a real snob and she didn’t like the idea of a caretaker’s daughter entering the profession. She made no secret of it and she made my life perfect hell. No job was too menial for me – like scrubbing cupboard shelves, slates, clay boards, with insults thrown in for good measure. After the two years I was transferred to the boys’ school which was just next door. The Headmaster had a terrible reputation as a terror, and I was scared stiff of him, but I must admit he was not vindictive or spiteful like the Mistress. I was far from happy and begged Mother to let me leave and go into service, but as I was then the eldest left at home with five more children younger, she persuaded me to stick it a little longer. You see, I had twenty-five shillings a week, and Mother was depending on this. If I had gone into service I would have had less than five shillings a week. But I am glad I persevered because we got a new Headmaster and I grew to love my job.

I was educated at the Girls’ Upper Standard School in Princess Road, Seaham, being amongst the first pupils to open that school. Our Headmistress was Miss Aird, whose family claimed to be amongst the oldest inhabitants of Seaham Harbour. She was a grand lady and was a great student of Shakespeare’s work. Her brother was an art master, and I attended his classes at the Sunderland ‘Old Lec’ for some seasons. I well remember when I was chosen from Dawdon School to sit the entrance examination for the Upper Standard. Mother said, “No, definitely not”. You see, my oldest sister had been chosen to study for teaching in the Londonderry School, but after a week of homework she would not stick it. Mother said I would probably be the same, so it was a waste of time. I got about four girls to call for me (all living at the Cottages) on the night of the examinations, so after quite a struggle Mother said yes, but with the added warning that if I was successful I must never grumble at the work, and I never did. Two of us were chosen from our class at Dawdon and that was how it all began. In the meantime we moved to Seaham Colliery so I had to travel on foot everyday as there were no forms of transport. I walked down the long ‘Farm Road’, crossed over the railway bridge onto the ‘Colliery Road’, crossed another bridge onto the ‘Black Road’ now called Strangford Road and on to Princess Road. I had seen Princess Road built from just a stony track, and both Dawdon and Princess Road schools brick by brick.

By this time the First World War had started and soldiers were billeted in the field beside our school – they were the Staffords. We watched them training and marching to the tune of ‘Away to our Mountains’ from Il Travatore. They went to the front and were almost wiped out to a man. What a sad waste of lovely manhood. Tempers were running high and a German Pork butcher’s place was the target for everybody when word got round about the Staffords and their destruction. The occupiers of the shop had to be taken into custody for their own safety and their property was badly damaged. I remember the submarine attack on Seaham when luckily only one person was killed and the Zeppelin was destroyed off the coast by Big Lizzie. It had bombed Sunderland and was moving south above the sea off Seaham Harbour. We had a gun squad stationed in a field at Yate’s Farrow. That was just past the school where I taught later on. The gun was called Big Lizzie and it was supposed to be a military secret. There were search lights too and it was a great event to see these playing across the sky at night. The crews were feted and spoiled by everybody. Came the night of the Zeppelin when sirens sounded and the search lights flashed and everybody en masse raced into the streets to watch. Men climbed up trees and lamp posts and onto roofs to get a grandstand view as Big Lizzie opened up with her shells. We could see the Zeppelin like a brilliant brooch in the search lights which followed its flight and at last a burst of gun fire broke it right in two and it fell into the sea. There was shouting and cheering and dancing in the street and of course we all claimed our Big Lizzie had done the trick. But there were other Big Lizzies stationed around the outlying districts so it was a controversy which lasted forever. Then the crowds became more sober for some poor mother would receive the same message as ours were receiving every hour of every day. “Missing presumed killed”. We thought they were dreadful lines with the telegram boys running day and night and all the fine young fellows we knew personally from the cricket and tennis clubs and the Mission boys all being slaughtered . I could weep now when I picture them – eighteen to twenty-ones. Your Dad’s own brother David was one of them. Ben took this very badly, although I did not know him at the time. Then he lost a half-brother called Norman and there were three more away at the time. I remember seeing this very young boy sitting on the end of a form at one of our threepenny hops at the mission room. He looked so very, very young and he was in uniform. I learned afterwards that it was Wilfie Arthur, half brother to Ben Hodges. Ben at that time was running all these social things to get money to make a big welcome home party for the boys when the war was over. We had a long, long wait and not many of the ‘Old Brigade’ lived to return. But we had a party and everyone received a hymn book. To you this might seem an odd thing, but I can assure you the poor fellows appreciated it.

My mother, poor soul, stood in queues for hours on end, sometimes her reward being a quarter pound of bacon. We grew our own onions and potatoes, and you should have seen the tin of panacelty this bacon made, as the old miner said, “We could make soup out of the dish cloth”. It was really four long weary years of make do, but those of us who survived were only too pleased to be alive. Ben’s brother was killed very near to his 21st birthday. My sister’s boyfriend was killed within one month of landing in France. I remember he was in the territorials and on the Bank Holiday Monday I went with my sister straight from the fairground to Seaham Harbour Railway Station to see him off. He had one leave for a week-end and we never saw him again.

Ben could not join the forces as he had a crippled arm. He was very put out about this but he worked very hard for those who had been called up. He worked in the office at Seaham Colliery and evenings were spent working to make parcels for the forces, and he was on call for the ambulance service. He had always attended night classes to further his office work and he attended ambulance classes to help in his work at the pit. He took the lady to the Infirmary when she was fatally hurt in the submarine attack. Although I knew him as one of the Mission boys at this time I had no further acquaintance with him until we discovered our birthdays were the same. We were twenty-one, a rather special birthday, and as we were often dancing partners and we discovered at a dance that night that we were celebrating our twenty-first, it made us take more notice of each other. He asked me if I would go with him to Sunderland Empire on the Saturday night which was the night following the dance. There was a play called ‘The Eternal City’. I would only consent if I could pay for myself and at last he agreed. That was the start of the happiest time of my whole life. We were both Church workers, young Conservatives and we both were in a glee party. We seemed to walk and talk and laugh and sing our way through life. Mother never liked him for some unknown reason. He was a strong character and so was she so they clashed. If Ben thought he was in the right no one could move him. He had a strong character, but a good one, and he was a most beautiful writer. He was always trying to improve himself.

I remember all the joys of his success which never changed his attitude to life. His motto was ‘do a good deed whenever you can’. When we first started married life we were just able to manage. We had no money between us as we had been in the same boat. Our mothers had depended on our wages. We had no money for a honeymoon. Anyway, the 1925 strike was impending but it was put off to the following year 1926. During that year Ben had to down the pit for so many days each week. However he always said he would not have missed the experience for all the money in the world. 1926 – It was one of the warmest summers I can ever remember. Nobody wanted to go back to work although many were suffering extreme poverty. Anything the miners have now has been hardly won over the years.
Families lived all the day on the cricket field or the beaches in that summer of 1926. They would sing ‘We have no money but we get great fun’.

The strike lasted a very long time and all of them were very heavily in debt by the time it was over, because many of them were in scheme houses, and could not pay the mortgages they owed to Londonderry Collieries. They were horrifying times and the strike didn’t seem to benefit them at all. Yet they made the best of everything, but I know how extremely worried they were for many years after the strike was over and other people had settled down to living. Yet they seemed to remain undaunted and were a happy brood. They had no money but the food they concocted for their picnics was a credit to their ingenuity. As families sat together and unfolded their ‘bait’, there were shrieks of laughter. Dripping and bread, beetroot sandwiches, pickled cabbage, lettuce, scallions all in sandwiches, rice puddings cold and cut in squares, cold Yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes spread on bread. Jam was a great treat. Soup and loaves of bread were provided in the soup kitchens. They looked a down and out lot by the time the strike ended, but they were undaunted.

The miners have always been a loyal bunch of men. Mind you, some of them were more loyal to each other than they were to their own wives. My father used to tell many stories of the loyalty a miner bore to his ‘marra’, but Mother questioned it many a time. For instance Dad told the tale, with great relish, of the miner who was hurt in the pit and was taken to the Infirmary. His three ‘marras’ decided to visit him. When they got there the man’s wife was also visiting. Her husband sent her out to the shop on some excuse and when she had gone he said to his ‘marra’, “Look in that locker and you’ll find five pounds. Take it before she comes back, and have a good night on me, because if she gets hold of it she’ll only waste it”. Mother was not amused. My father could always entertain company with a fund of stories like this. He was a splendid man. I can still hear Uncle Bob’s bellows of laughter sitting around our fire on a winter’s night. But that was in the far distant past, and I should not be talking of it now, for this part of my memoirs is supposed to deal with the years that followed.

Life is very varied and memories are both sweet and sad. Today is Sunday, and as it is such a lovely day I have been down to Joan’s for coffee. Isn’t it funny what little things can set one off in the realm of dreams? As I sat looking out on the village green I saw a lovely sight which sent me back into the past again. A bunch of men were playing at quoits, a game I have never witnessed since before the First World War. Even the village bobby was there. Such peaceful scenes restore ones hopes again. I pray night and day that there will be no more wars, as countless will beside me, but my faith is shattered when I hear the news. Men are growing so wise in so many ways, yet never wise enough to prevent wars. They will never learn.

The First World War was over, but we never really recovered. Food and clothing were short for many years. There came the depression again when all wages were cut. Women had to have jobs to make way for the men and things were not good. But at least we were at peace – or so we thought. Even so there were mumblings of a second war which made the peace so uneasy.
When the Second World War did come, housewives were better prepared, at least I know many that were – just as I was. We benefited from the experiences of our parents. I tried to stock as much imperishable goods as I could afford. Tea, sugar, soap, cereals, all had been so scarce in the First World War, so we got in as much as possible. Then when things were rationed we were not found wanting. Bread was rationed but that was a lesson learned. We got what stopped us from starving and had no room for waste. Mother, I remember, got in sacks of flour in the First World War, but often she could get no yeast. She made girdle cakes for us, which were quite nice when eaten warm, but it meant new batches at each meal, so you can imagine her work with a family. Cakes sold in shops were stodgy and unpalatable, but there were queues miles long for them. Many a time people joined queues and didn’t know what for. I know women who spent their days standing in queues and enjoyed it.
Also in the second war we had clothes coupons. This too was a much fairer way, but even so, we had to make do and mend. The poor had never been extravagant, we had always darned and patched and worn hand-me-downs, so we were very little worse off. We even had a little party for my sister’s birthday.
I remember it so well because one of her friends came with a pair of fancy garters on her legs. They were made of miched satin with fancy boots, and of course we thought we should have the same. They were only sixpence a pair said we. But mother was outraged. She had never heard of such waste. When all was said and done our stockings kept up just the same with our pieces of string or old laces and in any case they should be covered up. So no fancy garters. But it makes one realise how far advanced we are nowadays. To look back on the sad and poverty-stricken days of my grandmother makes one wonder in awe how my grandfather fought for his trade union ideals. He always said he would not benefit but “some day our offspring will know better times and so they should”. I long for the peace of my childhood days but never for the poverty.

But my married life was not one of poverty, far from it. We could not be lavish but we were comparatively well off and believe me we counted our blessings. Then my children came and after twelve years of married bliss I had three children. Oh the joy of those happy bygone days. I felt like a queen on a throne. The first one I thought was so beautiful I marveled at myself for producing her. Three years later the second one came, another girl, but just as welcome and seven years later the boy. The joy of the two girls was beyond description as was Ben’s, and so we lived happily together. Then a bomb wiped out my youngest brother’s family leaving just one survivor, our Gerald. We took him into our family. I remember Ben saying to me “we’ll take him and do our best. It might have happened to us” and so he has remained a part of the family. I took upon him as my own, a sacred trust, bestowed upon me for the rest of my days. I hope he thinks I have served him well, and loved him as the others.
Ben is always in my thoughts. I often think of the song ‘These foolish things remind me of you.’ Well, a Jaffa orange always takes me back to my son’s birth. He was born two days before Christmas. On Christmas Eve Ben brought me my supper, bread and butter and Jaffa orange in segments. With Ben and the two girls beside me on the bed we had our suppers before Santa Claus came. I never enjoyed any evening or supper so much. Ben was the kindest and most generous man. A loving husband and father, but he was taken too soon from us. Christina Rossetti says, “a man’s life is but a working day,” how true that seemed for him. He gave his life for his job.

He was a very happy fellow and could make friends so easily. I was the opposite because I was so reserved. He is never far from me and as is said, wishing makes it so. I recall a poem in which some kindred spirit somewhere sums up my thoughts.

Once a day and sometimes more
He knocks upon my day dream door
And I say warmly “come in my love
I’m glad you’re here again with me”
Then we sit and have a chat
Recalling this discussing that
Until some task that I must do
Forces me away from him
Reluctantly I say goodbye
Smiling with a little sigh
For though my day dreams bring him near
I wish that he was always here
But what I know I cannot change
My dreams and wishes can arrange
And through my wishing he can stay
Nearer to me every day.

But I often say my life is not all sad, oh no, not at all. My grandchildren have made life still worthwhile. Our Jim is so considerate. I could not wish for anything more. Then our Ben’s bairns are really lovely, a happy crowd always so pleased to see me. My other grandchildren, I am sorry to say have grown away from me. I suppose this was bound to happen, because they are so far away, but they are all good scholars yet never think of writing a little note even in acknowledgment of presents. I suppose most grandparents have the same complaints. As my brother often says to me, “youth is callous”. But then perhaps we were the same. We are so full of life when we are young, looking for joy and happiness and why not, the sorrows soon follow.

Yet, looking back, I often visited my grandparents who lived in the miner’s homes beside the Mill Inn. I loved to hear the stories my Grandfather could tell of his very young years in the Isle of Man, and how he stowed away on a boat which brought him to England. Evidently he was befriended by a mining family. How typical this was in those far off days. They would be poor as church mice, but one more added to their own would make no difference. As long as he could integrate he would be welcome. The miner got him a job down the pit at White Haven. He was what was called a trap door boy. Remember, he was only eight years old. He was self taught and spent his whole life fighting for the miners. I have told you of how he was banished to America for his work for the miners, but he was soon recalled by the Union. He was a most interesting man with a strong capacity to put his views across, and had a deep resounding and compelling voice. He had no use for politicians or chapel men. I am not endorsing this view, but it was his and he never wavered. He had five sons but none of them followed in his footsteps except as miners. Believe me they are the salt of the earth. To watch a local football match then go to a pub and discuss the game fully over their pints was, to them, a marvelous weekend. My father seemed to spend his life down the pit. He would go out at eight o’ clock in the evening and come home around seven the next morning. He would have a bath and his breakfast then he would sometimes go across the fields to the farm for the milk or go as a beachcomber to the Blast Sands. He brought home all kinds of things, sometimes useful and sometimes useless but always varied. Then he would have his dinner and go to bed until pit time again. Yet all he prayed for was strength to carry on. Alas! He died at the age of 53. Ben and I often used to talk of him and Ben always regretted his dying at so early an age, yet he himself was only 57 and thought he had had so much easier a life. One can never tell. I never thought I could live so long without him. My brother Herbie has been a constant comforter to me and has helped me in so many ways.

Life was never easy in those far off days, yet funnily enough, things seemed easier in the years that followed my father’s death. My brothers were growing up and one after another started work. Wages were very small but one with another made it easier for Mother. After the First World War things were very tight. Money slumped. Everybody’s’ wages took an enormous tumble. As the men returned from the war the women had to stand down to make room for them. We went back to the hard times and by the thirties we seemed to be worse off than ever. I am seventy-seven and I cannot count the number of crises I have passed through, known and unknown. Yet on looking back I was always extremely happy. People need not worry about youth. They can ride storms and still get pleasure out of life. Whether they are aware of it or not I cannot say but they are like Kelly Lamps. They cannot be knocked down. Miners were very badly off in those days. Those who lived beside us were buying what were called scheme houses and many times their wages would not cover this liability. They scrimped and schemed until life was one great toil for them. They sold their coals. 3/6 for a load of coal. Think of that and compare it with today. Whatever they have got now they have paid dearly for over many years. Yet they have always held their heads high. They truly are a great race of people.

Mind you, one could see the difference in the generations. The young ones coming on after the First World War were not the submissive lot like their fathers before them. Submissive respect for bosses was waning, and we hear today, “what is the world turning to?” It is progressing in many ways. I don’t begrudge the young one single thing. Life is to be lived and they are right to get what they can out of it as long as they hurt no one in the process.
Far too soon came the Second World War. The older ones were scared knowing what happened in the first war, but the young, poor bairns, thought at first, that it was a picnic. People are not unlike lemmings. They go to their destruction every few years. We’ll never learn.
Food was very scarce as I have said before, but we made some nice and some nasty concoctions from what we had. We had no imported fruit, and I remember going to night classes to learn how to make some of these weird dishes. No bananas? Then make some. When Parsnips were in season we boiled them and mashed them with sugar and a few drops of lemon essence and lo! Banana to spread on bread and believe it or not we kidded ourselves it was like the real thing. Recently I tried a little again with one parsnip and I could not look at it. We were brainwashed into thinking that eggs were unnecessary in cakes hence the eggless wonders. You could have stotted them from here to yonder and they would not break. Yet we queued for them at the baker’s shops. Tealeaves were never thrown out until the water poured on them was as clear as when it came from the kettle. And sugar! It was a crime to let your hand shake as you carried the spoon from sugar basin to tea cup. Yet people did not show their resentment or depression. They laughed over their various experiences and exchanged ideas with great hilarity.

Potatoes and turnips were scarce and I remember the men raiding the potato pits in the farmer’s field. Sometimes they kicked over the traces but by and large they were well conducted, “little does the poor good and little do they get,” was one of my Mother’s sayings but we all seemed poor together. But after the war things began to turn sour. The men came home with such high expectations from the promises made to them by Parliament. But they found only poverty and unemployment facing them. All they wanted was to settle down and have a few of the things they had missed in the trenches. They had been sick and lousy and unkempt, half starved and frozen all that miserable time and now they expected something different. Wives and mothers too had suffered tortures not knowing what had happened to loved ones. Missing. That was the dread message they had received. Some never heard any more, a few turned up as prisoners. When men came home on leave it was a terrible job getting rid of the lice and sores and the only reward for those poor women was the return to the front to suffer all over again. Very few men lived to see their twenty-first birthday. I can still picture some whom I knew from the tennis and cricket clubs and the bible class. We saw them once in uniform and then no more. We suffered too from the air raids. The sirens chilled your spine, and there was a mad scramble for the shelters. It wasn’t easy to lift children asleep from their beds and get into shelters. My youngest brother, his wife and family did not make it. A landmine was dropped nearby and all were killed save the oldest boy. He was buried in the debris for twenty-four hours and was badly injured but he survived. He has since been one of my family.
There was great rejoicing when the war ended, but peace was no picnic. Food and clothes remained on ration for a few years. We had made weird things for our children so that we could spend the coupons on shoes. I bought some dish cloths and made some vests for the children. I crocheted round the neck and sleeves in a pretty coloured wool and I thought them good. We pulled out and re-knit garments which even in our poorest days would have been given to the rag man.

I remember my mother cobbling our shoes in the First World War. Father had died, so Mother had to take over. She could rip off a sole and put a new one on as good as any cobbler in those days. I still have the last she used to use, but I am not so clever as she was. When I look back I wonder at their abilities and their ingenuity. She could read a letter but otherwise was no scholar, but we were all decent scholars and yet she had more wisdom than we had. Truly ‘knowledge comes but wisdom lingers’.
There go my beloved cows. They are being taken to milk. I often dream of donning a milk maid’s bonnet and a course apron and walking in front of the herd calling “kee-up kee-up” like old Sally did when I was young. But then the paper boy calls me ‘the add wife that lives in the bottom door’. He would likely call me the ‘mad add wife!’
The young are much more knowledgeable than we were. When I look back we were simplicity personified. We had to make our own enjoyment. Of course there were the cinemas but once a week was more than some of us could manage. The Church was the centre around which we were gathered. We lived at the High Colliery and the Church was at the Low Colliery. We had a building called the Mission Room and we from the High Colliery spent all our nights there. We had a library, and a games room and a dance hall. Every Wednesday night and Saturday night we had a ‘hop’. Threepence was the entrance fee, and once a month, on a Saturday night we provided refreshments – salmon sandwiches and home-made cakes and tea. We were working to buy a piano as we had only an organ to dance to. It was hard work pedaling to play ‘The Lancers’ and I have known the organ break down in the middle of it all. But the dancing went on until the big lads turned the organ upside down and put it to rights. What an innocent and naïve lot we were, but I wish it was like that today. We lived for Wednesday and Saturday. Then we all went to Church on Sunday night, boys and girls, then for a long walk afterwards.

How we walked in those days. Hail, rain or snow never stopped us. At holiday times such as Bank Holiday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve we had a dance called a late night. It took Mother a long time to concede, but eventually she did and we had some glorious times. There was terrible disappointment among the boys if they were on the wrong shift.
Changes are so gradual that customs have gone before you realise. I can remember the first big motor coal bunker bringing the coals for the miners, and before we realised there was no longer the clomp, clomp of the horses hooves. Those beautiful big animals vanished from our sight. No longer came the man to tell of the idle pits, “all the pits idle the morn, shifters, wastemen and mechanics”. Go out and listen for the caller my mother would say. No – a notice pinned to the board in the pit yard replaced these men. It was always a job for old men, too old to go down the pit. So it continues – men are constantly being made redundant. Of course it is progress, for now they have pensions much better and sooner than in my young days. We call the young ones now and say they are thoughtless and this and that, but you know, I was a serious minded person and yet I would visit my grandmother and grandfather at least once a week and never gave a thought as to how they were coping. I did not realise that they would be hard-pressed on five shillings a week. I did not know what was coming into our house for mother to manage. I wouldn’t have been told if I had asked.
Miners always addressed each other as ‘marra’. Their greeting would go something like this. “Watch yer marra. How’s tha keeping. “Oh champion”, was the reply, but if the answer was, “Oh, bloody awful,” it was greeted with shrieks of laughter. All miners swore, but we as children were never allowed to do so. We were never allowed to swear or to raise our fists against each other. Mother used to say she could do all the chastising that was necessary. And believe me she could.
I remember her saying to my Father, “It’s time you asserted yourself. You leave it all to me”. He turned to us and said, A’ll make the down stott off yer heeds”. We were puzzled for a very long time!

I have just come back from the shops. It is not very far, but far enough to make me realise how the years are overtaking me. My mind is still quite lively, but not my legs. I say me brain is lively but I am making so many mistakes as I write, sometimes starting upside down on the page but I know you will not mind. So you will have to do the juggling.
It is Halloween time and the children are knocking on the doors for coppers. They come with their turnips hollowed out with candles inside. It is more than seventy years since I did the same. If we could not get a turnip from old Sally at the farm, then we put a candle in a jam jar. Afterwards we would play a game with the jam jar called ‘Jack shine your Maggie’. Jack would hide somewhere amongst the houses and we as a pack would follow shouting “Jack shine your Maggie or the dogs canna follow”. We would see the light shine at the top of the street and we were at the bottom but by the time we followed the light would shine somewhere else and we were puzzled as to how it had got there. If he was a good Jack he could keep us on the run all night. You don’t see the children playing games now as we did. I loved to play marbles with my brothers. We had pot perkers, and iron vengers, and codlins and glass allies. We played shutty-hole for hours at the bottom of the street. Then we played leap frog but the boys could always beat us. I think it was because of our long petticoats.
“Mountie Kittee Mountie Kittee 1-2-3.
Fall off fall off fall off me”.

How many times we have shouted this, boys and girls together. Then the boys would help the girls out with their ring games. We liked certain boys to choose us in the games and give us a kiss. Some we were keen on and some we weren’t. But I have often found that the ones we despised grew to be the best in after years. I read in the Echo this week that our old village school which has served for many years as the Parish Hall is soon to be demolished. Ah well, I’ll disappear too when I am too old.
Today is Armistice Day and I’ve been watching the service on television. I feel so sad. I think we that are old should teach our families to respect these acts of remembrance and what they really stand for. People like myself who have lived through two devastating wars, and are old enough now to remember the miseries of both, dread the thought of another. When I look at my lovely grandchildren, watching them grow up and thinking of what might happen, it makes me worry and wonder. Truly, “the bairns little think what the auld folks are thinking”. But parents should talk to them or answer their questions when occasion arises. All our memorials are in foreign lands so our younger generations have no idea. It is an amazing and very sad sight to see the burial places in foreign lands, and one monument says: – ‘When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrows we gave our today’.
Oh dear God, those lovely lads I knew so well. At least we hope they are now enjoying the peace that passes understanding.

What a cold, miserable November day it is, and the wind is terrible. It reminds me of the November night years ago when the Seaham Harbour lifeboat overturned and her crew was drowned. My family had come to visit me, and while having tea, the rockets sounded. I knew instantly what was happening. I had lived too long beside the sea not to know. I think eight were drowned and the new lifeboat supposed to be unsinkable had not lived up to its name. Tonight is just such a night and as I lie sleepless in my bed my mind travels so far back that I don’t care to remember. But life goes on at a terrifying speed, and the same tragedies recur. I remember lying in bed as a little girl, listening to the roaring sea and the fog horns, but our only worry then was the pits might be idle. My father knew the sound of every boat’s signal as it came into dock. The pride of them all in those days was the Maureen.
Yes, life has changed so much I fail to understand things. For instance, yesterday I had a leaflet pushed through my door which said ‘Have an account with…” Amongst other information was the fact that you would have six months to pay off your ‘account’. What a swanky name for debt: In my young days it was called ‘tick’ or ‘on the slate’, and you were looked down on by everybody. My mother used to say “never ask for tick for if you cannot pay this week you will have no hope next week when your circumstances don’t change”. “She gets things on tick” was said by neighbours of neighbours to smear them. Now if you have no account at one at least, of the huge stores you are a nobody. People brag of their accounts as if it were a pools win. No six months to pay in my Mother’s day. Miss a week and your rations were cut off. I know that I am old fashioned. Nobody needs to remind me of that, but no matter where I go I love to return to my little humble home, and I think of the words of Charlotte Bronte. “Restore to me that tender spot with four grey walls encompassed round”. Home! Yet I like to recall my young days in the home of our family. What pleasures are missed when there is no family. I had three sisters and five brothers. We fought sometimes, perhaps often, but we also had great pleasure. I recall my brothers cleaning their teeth with soot before going to a dance. Yes! Soot. They would put a little clean cloth round their finger, stick it up the chimney and hey presto! Tooth paste: a little margarine on their hands then rubbed on their hair for hair cream, spit for polish on their shoes, and then a swap round with shirts and ties to match their suits. You can imagine the hilarity of all this, and mother used to sigh with relief when they had gone. The boys were all good mimics so we had another session of fun when they came home again. The boys got great pleasure in frightening the girls. When they knew mother was out somewhere they would get through the upstairs window and stamp hard around the bedroom floors then descend the stairs with heavy tread and in a booming voice shout “I am on the first step – stamp – I’m on the next step – stamp” until they reached the bottom, when they would spring out on us. Of course like all pranks after a time or two they wore thin.

I remember a neighbour’s son from Dawdon came to visit us one evening when home from France on leave in the First World War. He was drunk, and it happened that my sister and I were alone in the house. We didn’t know how to entertain him, and he could talk of nothing but death. Then he developed the theme of how he could murder us, and no-one would ever know, because he would be supposedly ‘at the front’. What a terrible time we spent. It seemed like hours and I cannot remember how it all ended but I know my sister and I talked of it for years. Poor lad! He was as quiet as a mouse in his early years. It must have been his war experiences that affected him.
I have just had visitors. Their only, or their greatest concern in life is their overseas holiday. Will they or won’t they be able to make it. My goodness! I remember when I was very young and Mother and Father were going to Stockton for a half day excursion trip on the Saturday. Would they or wouldn’t they make it? All kinds of things affected the outcome. Would Father have to work? Would the baby be fit to leave? Would there be sufficient money left? Happily they went. What a day! You talk about great expectations. And guess what they brought back for us. A big bag of horhound candy. What would the children of today say to that? But our joy was unbounded. We only got a half penny pocket money once a fortnight and yet we were never allowed to take money from anyone as payment for services rendered. But the love, the joy, the contentment of those bygone days is lovely to recall.
Mind you there was class distinction practiced in those days which astounded me as a young girl. We had moved from my beloved Cottages to Seaham Colliery and I remember going to Sunday night service at the parish church. I was astounded to find I could not sit where I chose. I was moved several times, but being an ignorant country cousin I did not realise why the pews had doors and the seats cushions. They were family pews paid for by the owners. I finally was conducted to one of these seats by a gentleman and it was in a position where I could see all who came into church. Eventually this lady, heavily dressed and veiled, walked in with six children following. They ranged in size from small to tall, I never see a swan with its cygnets on a lake but I remember her entrance. Majesty! But she was just an Official’s wife. You see, our old school served as church for us at the Cottages and we were all on a level, a low one but genuine.

Crises, crises. I wonder how many I have lived through in my life. I never heard the word when I was young. When very young the only crisis in our life was when Father was ill and couldn’t work. But then we left it all to Mother. But the First World War changed everything. They were serious years. Death and destruction, starvation and deprivation, with sharks around growing fat on the black market. We were so bamboozled by it all we couldn’t understand it. What a terrible time it must have been for our parents.
Isn’t this a real hotch potch. But you know tiny things act as triggers and away I fly into the realms of ‘I remember’. One thing is for sure, I am never bored. I am sitting now playing a fanciful game with my ball, because a little boy has just chased his ball down the gutter. I was always playing with a ball up against the backyard wall.

“Bounce ball, bounce ball 1-2-3
Underneath my right leg
Round about my knee
Underneath my left leg
Round my knee again
Bounce ball, bounce ball
Off we go again.”

Of course you had to keep the ball bouncing all the time. Then we threw the ball up and caught it with the right hand, threw again and caught it with the left, entwined your fingers and caught it again., threw it high and jumped astride over it as it bounced, then gave it a hard bounce to see how high it would go before you caught it. Playing with a partner you gave marks if you never missed the ball. My Father called me bally pate.
So I travel on in my memory to my spinning tops. We didn’t buy these, we gave two jam jars to the rag man for a squat fat top called a jenny spinner. Father made our whips out of a round stick, into which he punched a hole about one inch from the top through which he passed the string. You see, our pleasures cost us nothing. We would decorate the tops of the tops with coloured chalks or paper and see whose looked best when spinning.
How this has set me off about games. We had diabloes. These too we got from rag men. They were wooden tops made in the shape of an hour glass. We had a long piece of string held by two sticks which when stretched would be about a yard width. We spun the diablo on the string to get a rhythm and then threw it into the air and caught it on the string in its descent, went on spinning and repeated the process. I was a dab hand at this and my father again called me the diablo queen. He always prophesied a broken nose, but he was wrong. Then we had skipping ropes. Fast – slow – fast – slow – double dutch – skip and swing to the right, skip and swing to the left. We went on for hours. We had long ropes (if you had a long rope you were the boss) and with these we played for hours in groups, skipping follow the leader – high and low water. Oh! I wish I were a child again.

We used to draw squares on the ground with thick chalk taken from the pockets of the pit clothes we had to dash. The pitmen used the chalk to mark the tubs. These squares were called boys, and with a hitchy dabber, which we could get from any worker at the bottle works, was pushed around and into the boys with your foot whilst continually hopping. Of course the games were very complicated and the style of hopping was varied, and the marks received for accomplishments were varied so it was very competitive. We could also play a similar game with a ball. So we had hitchy boys and ball boys. We also played rounders and French rounders, and hand ball which was a very strenuous game. Men played this game but theirs was much more fierce than ours. We hit the ball up against a gable end with our hands. The men hit with their fists against a real ball alley which was a properly built very high wall for this purpose. Then we played hidey, but the boys always used to spoil this game. The boys would hide and spring out on us unawares, or sit behind the little yard walls with white sheets over them, swaying and moaning and we thought we had seen a ghost. Then there was Kitty-Kat. Father used to make the Kitty-Kats for my brothers. He would sit on his crocket and whittle away at a piece of wood about seven inches long. The middle part had to have four sides and about an inch or a little more at each end was pointed. The square sides had Roman figures painted on them. The Kitty-Kat was put on the ground and you hit one painted end with a stick and it jumped into the air. You had to catch it in its flight, whack it with the stick and when it fell, the figure on the side uppermost was your score. This too had many complications in the scoring. Nothing was too easy to make one lose interest. You must have noticed by now how little our games cost us.

Well, it is Sunday morning again. How time flies. It is a sunny calm quiet morning and I recall such mornings when I was very young. What quietness and peace. Not a hawker or caller dared come out on a Sunday. Whether people were religious or not they upheld this tradition, not even milk was delivered in those days; one had to go to the farm. We were dressed in our Sunday best and we were not allowed to play games. We could go for walks, but not to the docks Mother used to say. Alas we didn’t always obey her. The docks was such an interesting place to go to, and the dangers Mother pointed out to us seemed just in her imagination. Then we had to tell lies to cover up, and one of the younger children would let the cat out of the bag. We were punished in more ways than one so that curtailed our visits for quite some time. You see the errant young were with us then as well as now and always will be.
Perhaps the crisis over the petrol shortage will clear the roads and give this generation a taste of the bygone quiet days. I am afraid this will not be to their liking, because even in my little backwater spot nobody can work without their radios blaring out noisy music.
Officially it is summer now and our little village is very quiet. I think the majority must be on holidays. I am reminded of summer holidays when I was a child. We ran bare-footed in the fields. Mother did not like this as she said we might cut our feet on broken ‘boody’. This was the name used for broken cups, pots and dishes. They had been thrown into middens, then landed on the dump and eventually spread as manure. But again we did not obey. We tumbled and raced about from morning till night. We had to go home for dinner (this was an order never disobeyed) but after that we could please ourselves. If you weren’t in for the next meal then you missed it altogether. But Mother did allow us to help ourselves to bread, provided we left the pantry shelf as clean as we found it. We used to learn at school ‘bread is the staff of life’, and so it was for us. Water was our main drink, so we could play for hours without bothering anybody because the taps were in the streets.

Winter nights were a different matter. To start with bedtime was much earlier as lamps used up paraffin and that meant money. So as soon as father left for work between 8 and 8:30pm, mother was ready for bed. We children had been safely tucked in for more than an hour. Paraffin was sold from the store cart which came round specially every Friday. It was quite a ritual filling the lamps, cleaning the chimneys and trimming the wicks. We had a big one, ran on the pulley system, in the best room, a standing one on the kitchen table, and small Kelly lamps in the bedrooms. Mother used to check that they were all out by the time she was ready for bed. She never used candles, because she didn’t trust them. We were never allowed to light the fire. Father did that when he came in from work, unless it was very stormy weather when mother would keep it burning all night. This entailed Mother getting up and down all night long, and as we always had a young baby in the house, Father would only allow it in special circumstances. We seemed to stand the cold much better than this generation. We relied on warm clothes and good nourishing food to keep us warm, and let’s face it, food was much better than it is today. Free range eggs, fresh warm milk, vegetables grown in our own gardens, fish from seas uncontaminated in any way. What more could anyone ask for. People cherished their gardens in those days. All miners’ homes had a big garden attached, but people who lived in rented property had allotments. The garden was their main interest. They worked in them together, and laughed and talked as they dug and planted. They swapped skills, and had flower and vegetable shows. Many kept pigeons as another hobby and summertime was lively and gay. Where I am living now we have only tiny gardens which are neglected by the majority.

It has been my grandson’s twenty-first birthday and the families gathered together to celebrate. I have returned home exhausted but happy, and now I am sitting again with my memories. There were 12 of us in our family when I was young, and each birthday was noted. We gave no presents, no cards, but good verbal wishes. The recipient was excused from any punishment for misdeeds (according to mother’s assessment) for that one day and we had stotty cake with strawberry jam (and a ‘scrat’ of margarine under the jam) which was a great concession. Mother also made currant scones. Jokes and guessing stories flew thick and fast, and there were always ‘made up ones’ which were complete nonsense, like the one my brother asked once “why does a cow look over a wall? Because it cannot look through it?” You know I can never remember the postman ever coming to the Cottages. Birthday cards, Christmas cards or letters were unheard of. There was a post office, which was a tiny dark little place but we never knew how it functioned. We could not tell the sense of a shop which had nothing to display in its windows. The daughter of the owner was the post girl but we couldn’t fathom what kind of a job she did. Fancy, Mother never received a Christmas card in her life. But when we moved to Seaham Colliery, and the First World War was upon us, we soon found out what the postman did. He worked night and day, delivering letters and telegrams. The post office I spoke of in my young days was not at the Cottages, but in the main street at Seaham Harbour, where we had to do our main shopping.

Even Seaham Harbour was just a small place then but it had three pawn shops. The very poor could not survive without these pawn shops. People pawned all kinds of things during the baff weekend, then redeemed them during the pay weekend if they could. Many lost several possessions in this way. I knew one family that never possessed anything but their table and beds. They sat on upturned boxes, and slept in beds in their day clothes to keep warm. Yet Mother used to say there was more money going in to keep a smaller family than ours, and Mother had a clean, comfortable well run home, so you see, the world can never be equal.
There is a local fair being held today on the village green, 22nd July 1979 and I am taken back over more than seventy years to similar fetes when I was young. Dressed as today in our Sunday best to see the Bicycle Parade, or the Procession of Witness, or the Sunday School Treat. Or the Volunteer Parade, or the Great Flower Show. You see, life was still good even in those days. There was always something of interest, at intervals throughout the year, and believe me we all enjoyed them.
Yesterday was the Durham Miners’ Gala. We never heard of this until Dawdon was built. No doubt it would be held but Durham City was a long way off to the Cottages people, and money was scarce. But when Dawdon was developed it was an unknown thing to miss the Gala. The celebrations started on the Friday night with dancing in the street, and at six o’clock on the Saturday morning the exodus began marching behind the bands waving banners and determined to have a jolly good day. We had never witnessed the like before and our sleepy little village never slept anymore. The band wakened me yesterday about eight o’clock but here was a pitiful little trickle of people following it. Well, Empires come and go and so do lesser things.

I hope the weather holds good for our village fete, as the money goes to charity. That has set me thinking. I can never remember anybody even mentioning anything about the proceeds when I was young. I am wondering now who or what benefited. I have no cause to grumble as I benefited with my happy memories, so I am content.
It’s a lovely morning and a piece of poetry I learned when very young comes to my mind:-

When swallows dart from cottage eaves
And farmers dream of barley sheaves
When apples peep amid the leaves
And woodbine scents the air
We love to fly from daily care
To breathe the buxom country air
To laugh and sing and dance and play
Among the new mown hay.

It must be more than seventy years since I learned that and yet it came unbidden to my mind when I saw all the house martins fly around from their nesting places in the village farmyard. Alas! I never see the swallows now. They were so lovely when I was young and played in the fields begging a ride on the hay carts. Oh to go back to those carefree happy days. Sometimes my Grandmother (Ganny to us) or my Father’s sister would pay us a visit when it was a fine day. The kettle was put on and the white table cloth brought out. We would have bread and butter with jam (fancy both butter and jam!), teacakes and ginger bread. It was a red letter day. I can picture Ganny now as clear as on those days. A stout old lady with very white hair and a bright pink parting down the centre of her head, a black silk dress and a silk cape all covered in black jet sequins and a tiny little bonnet, with long wide ribbons fastened under her chin. I must show you her photo some day. She was a quiet, sedate little body, the perfect foil to Granda who was a talker of the first degree. “Are you listening Janie?” he would say to her. “Aye so Betty was saying,” was always her answer. I never understood it anymore than you will. She was a dainty clean-looking woman, but my Granda was big with a hairy moustache, long beard and thick long white hair. His body grew too heavy for his legs, but Ganny could trot around until the end.

I am very fortunate in that I live in the end house of a small street with a streetlight shining through the glass of my front door so that my home is never in total darkness. But last night there was no light, and as I often trot around upstairs through the night to ease my aching legs (old age you know) I got to thinking of my life during the First World War. No lights were allowed and the total darkness was terribly frightening. No vehicles carried lights and our homes were completely blacked out. Special wardens patrolled the streets and if the tiniest chink of light was seen, that particular warden would knock on your door shouting “put your lights out”. Some were like jumped up field marshals and nearly bashed the door in to emphasize their authority. I remember Mother shouting through the door, “carry on mister I’ll be in a bigger pickle if the door falls in”. After the submarine raid on Seaham Colliery we all put strips of paper on our windows to stop splintering. We bought coils of brown paper about one inch wide with adhesive on one side and criss crossed them on our windows. Here again people showed their ingenuity with the patterns they invented, and we all bought blackout curtains. I remember that submarine raid so clearly. Our neighbour was washing, but like everyone else she left her tub and ran into the garden to lie flat on the grass. We all did this. The raid did not last long and when she returned to her washing she was shouting in rhythm to her possing “Bloody Kaiser. I wish I had him in here”, meaning the poss tub. I bet those clothes were whiter than white when she was finished. I shudder to think what the Kaiser would look like after such a beating. There were always little things like this to ease the tension. Fortunately there was only one woman killed in the raid and she was a visitor to the district. You know it was very surprising how suspicion spread amongst the neighbours about those little streaks of light in the blackout. For no reason at all they were looked upon as spies and the stories grew more and more alarming. Everybody was looking with suspicion at each other and delving into backgrounds to find the smallest trace of connection with the Germans.
I recall one very dark night during the war when my Father was having a particularly bad night with his breathing. Mother had to open the window and the front door to get plenty of air. All lights were out both inside and outside when a loud terrible voice shouted “Somebody help – ah’s Jimmy Grant and ah’s lost.” Poor man he didn’t know which way to turn to find his home. He had just finished a shift down pit and had taken a wrong turning. It was funny afterwards, but not at the time. Mother walked into the corner of the wall at the end of our street and split her face from brow to chin in the blackout, and I got stranded in the middle of a field on my way to a dance which was held in the soldiers’ huts. A sergeant rescued me and took me into the dance hall. Poor fellow! I wonder what ran through his mind when he got into the light inside. These dances were held to help in the running of the Mission House which had been converted into a convalescent place for wounded soldiers. It was a common sight to see them in their light blue uniforms and with bandaged heads, arms or legs. There was one consolation. They were feted and spoilt by everybody in the community. They were terrible times, yet they were all repeated in the second war. We have only a few graves of soldiers, sailors and airmen in our local cemetery, but to visit them overseas is a heart breaking experience, lines and lines of them and nearly all in their twenties. I often think the great division between the generations is growing wider and wider. Young children are very shy with old people. They often scuttle away like little frightened rabbits. Yet I recall how happy I was to visit my Grandmother. I must have been very small when I can first remember her house. It was called the round house as it had been converted from a disused mill. It stood a little behind where the Mill Inn stands still, and as the mill had a wide base then narrowed towards its summit so the house was. I remember Ganny could not hang pictures on the wall because of this. Fields surrounded the old house, and there was a row of stone built cottages just adjacent which have long disappeared. These cottages had stable doors and a very narrow footpath, but when one passed up the little street these cottages looked the essence of comfort. The fields had stiles and crossing these fields into Seaton village stood Seaton Hall, the home of the Colliery Agents. I can recall many of these, Mr. Corbett, Mr. Brough, Mr. Wallow, Mr. Ford and Mr. Charlton are some of them. Seaton Hall was a beautiful home in those days. It was surrounded by farms but now it is in the midst of houses – private and council.

Seaham Colliery itself was begun in 1846 by the Third Marquis of Londonderry. The Parish was founded in 1857. The population in 1891 was 5,000 and it covered 500 acres. It is situated about 6 miles south of Sunderland and one mile west of Seaham Harbour.
A big explosion occurred in1871 and there was a loss of 26 men and boys. This was followed by another in 1880 with a loss of 164 men and boys. Some of the widows and parents still lived at the cottages, as did some of the injured. I remember one fine old man living in the next row to ours and his face was all black from the heat of the explosion.
But Dawdon pit was sunk when I was a little girl. It was always called the new pit, and then Dawdon itself replaced our little village.
‘Oh that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me’
Tennyson said this in his poem ‘The Brook’ so if he thought himself inadequate who am I to grumble? So I shall just continue in my simple way. It is a lovely sunny Sunday morning and as I look out on the village I see groups of men winding their way to the village green to have a game of quoits and then a free discussion afterwards in the village pub. Well, my Father spent many summer Sunday mornings in the same way more than a hundred years ago and continued long after I was born. I can see them now in the ‘Cow’s Field’ laughing and shouting and enjoying a day of work. But we had no village pub. They had to walk down to Seaham Harbour where there were plenty. ‘The Rose and Crown’, ‘The Duke of Wellington’, ‘The Station Hotel, ‘The Kicking Buddy’, ‘The Parrot’ just to name a few.
Oh no our village had only the four streets of houses. We didn’t call them streets. We called them ‘rars’ meaning rows. The middle ‘rar’ was also called ‘The Garden Walk’. We had a school, a fever hospital and the cemetery. But our homes were not slums. They were built of stone, and had three bedrooms, a sitting room and a living room, and a spacious pantry. We had a big garden at the front and a big back yard with coal house and toilet. We had no footpaths in the streets but every house had a cemented yard at both back and front, about forty inches wide with steps up to the door, a boot scraper at one side and a rain barrel at the other, and a wooden fence and gutters outside of this. It was a great achievement when you were promoted from scrubbing the netty seats to scrubbing the little yard and gutters. The big back yard was scrubbed after every washing day, the wash tub emptied and half filled with clean water to prevent it warping. A cooper used to come round to attend to wash tubs and rain tubs, and with the hoops around his shoulders he used to shout “jobs for the cooper”. The gardens at the front were never neglected. All families provided their own vegetables. They varied in degrees of quality but they served the purpose. There was no shop near to provide vegetables so everybody did their own garden. But if a miner was ill or injured, neighbours would help out. A young man living at the top of our street had a gun, and he used to go out shooting rabbits, of which there were hundreds, in the surrounding fields. Sixpence for one, if you bought two you got them for ninepence, but you had to skin them yourselves. Mother could skin a rabbit as easily as she could tear off the sole of a boot. We used to fight for our turn for the rabbit’s tail. Tie a piece of string to it and you could play endless games with it. We loved the feel of the soft fur, but the ragman bought the skins for a penny, so you will see what a cheap dinner a couple of rabbits made for us. Some people would kill a couple of pigeons if they had no money, but father loved pigeons so that practice was taboo in our family. When I look back our homes at the cottages were really very posh. I did not realise this for some years, not until the Upper Standard School was built, and I mixed with other people than the Cottages. The houses at Seaham Harbour were mostly privately owned. Most had just one or two rooms let off to tenants. Some had cheap little cottages built in the yards, and all had communal toilets and wash houses. Rents were very low. Some were only 1/6d per week, while others reached 2/6d. I then realised how lucky we were with our homes, but to be a miner was sufficient to be held up to scorn, yet they were a kind race of men and real socialists. I am glad they are coming into their own, for they are the salt of the earth. I hope the spirit of the past never forsakes them.

This is the time for the flower and vegetable shows and it reminds me of my very young days, when shows were held in nearly all the public houses or marquees built for the purpose. Some men, my uncle included, won prizes years after year. It was my Aunt’s proud boast that she never had to buy any linen or bed clothes. They were all won at the shows. It caused a lot of jealousy, for the same people won year after year, but then they had the expertise after years and years of hard work. Chrysanthemums and dahlias were also shown then. The big flower show in Seaham Hall grounds had already been held in the August. What a weekend that was. The grounds were packed with amusements of all kinds, shuggie motors, swing boats, horses, penny on the mat, you name it, it was there. There were tea marquees, and coconut shies, roll your pennies, and shoot the clowns, racing, skipping, dancing, and a glorious time was had by all. It was Lord Londonderry’s ground and there was no vandalism, hence the same festivities year after year.
Now times have changed. Nothing seems to be the same. Have you ever noticed how few well-known characters visit in a village now? Ours was a remote village with four rows of houses, a school, and nothing else. No real shops, no post office, no pubs or clubs, but plenty of fields. Yet we had characters who supplied us with our fun. A young man whose laughter was like that record of the laughing policeman. When he laughed the whole village laughed. There were men who got too drunk and threw their wives out of their homes, then smashed everything they could lay their hands on. Oh yes! These amused us. There was the old woman who was known as ‘List tha knaas’ because she prefaced everything she said with this phrase. There was a poacher, and two queers. There were holy Joes and ‘theats’ these were young folks who fancied the stage as a career and there were chapel, protestant and catholic families all living in peace together. Scots, Welsh, Irish and English were all represented and they were all pitmen.

Looking back we had more pleasures than the young have today. Now I know you won’t believe that, but our pleasures were not expensive and that is the great difference. But our year was divided up so that there was always something to look forward to and what is more, parents and whole families took part. To begin with, Christmas was a long period of anticipation for the children and hard work for the parents. All houses were cleaned and new mats made in readiness. That was how we spent winter nights, going from one neighbour to another to help with the mats. We were in warm houses and when there are a few of you together there is always much fun. We saved up all our guessing stories and tales to entertain each other. Then came the New Year which was always a great time for celebration. Oh the ginger wine we consumed was nobody’s business. Then came Pancake Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. We had holidays always for this, and the holiday in itself was a great thing. Then the pancakes – flour and water and salt mixed together and fried in the frying pan. The secret was to put a very thin layer in each pan, but my sister and I did not know this secret when we surreptitiously made some pancakes one Saturday night. We filled the pan at the first go and the thing never cooked. As it was nearing time for Mother to return from shopping we had to dispose of the lot by throwing a cupful into each midden up the street. If we had put it all into our own mother would have seen it next day when emptying the ashes.

Then came Easter which was a whole week from school. Easter Sunday saw the distribution of dyed eggs amongst neighbours and the dancing and skipping in ‘the Dene’ on Easter Monday. This was for all the family and while mothers and children returned home tired and happy, fathers finished off in the pubs. Incidentally, Easter Monday was the only day off that my father had in the year. No wonder he died young, broken down and ill.
Next came Whit which was a shorter holiday but spent in the same way as Easter Monday. Then came the long summer holidays for the children and in August the Big Flower Show held in the Hall grounds. What a time we had. When the Hall grounds were closed at the end of the week the shows moved to the Bottle House Field, and so the jollification continued.
Next came the Volunteer Parade from the Drill Hall up to the field where the Grammar School now stands. Of course there was no Princess Road or any houses there then. After the Parade there was a big ball held in the Drill Hall. Only the ‘elite’ attended, the ladies in velvet, silks and satins and dripping with jewelry, and the men resplendent in their scarlet or navy blue uniforms. We hung around the doors content to watch and hope that some day we would take part. But alas –
I forgot to mention the cycle parade held on the Whit Monday.
After the Parade came Gunpowder Plot when all the rubbish was burned. The big boys had saved up to buy Catherine Wheels, crackers, Jumping Jacks etc. but we young ones were content with boxes of London Lights. No doubt our parents would be glad when it was all over, especially after a little child was burned to death in its push chair, which I witnessed and shall never forget. And so we came to Christmas again. In all of this money was never abundant, and our family like the majority, enjoyed it all at no expense at all. The bottle house people seemed to be the ones with most money although even they were very limited. Oh those happy peaceful days. Money was scarce but our wants were few, and we always had plenty of food although of little variety. But we were used to it. If we had no tea there was plenty of water free, and if we had no meat we could make gravy with gravy salt. We grew our own vegetables and we ate margarine. I have never tasted some of the foods my grandchildren love and which are so expensive, but here I am turned eighty and still going strong.

Some boys have just passed my window, eating ice cream. Do you know I was in my teens before I tasted ice cream, and it was years after that when I tasted coffee. But we survived on our plain wholesome food because our mothers gave thought and preparation to all our meals. We were lucky for we wanted nothing that was not essential.
And we were extra lucky being families of miners. Our homes were free, we had a sufficient allowance of coal to keep us warm and although wages dropped drastically in the winter when pits were forced to be idle, our wise efficient parents provided for this eventuality. What people they were! I feel very small and incompetent when I compare myself with my mother yet she was no scholar at all but she had abundant wisdom. We also had large gardens and a man could order a load of manure any time as long as he awaited his turn and paid for the leading. These gardens were all important for our vegetables. No neglected gardens then, because if a man was ill his neighbours would help out if necessary. How’s that for socialism? Nobody knows the true meaning of the word these days, and we had never heard of it, but it was practiced.

Oh! For the sound of the rag man, the pot man, the pikelet man, the cooper, the oil and vinegar man. “What do you feed your donkey on – paraffin, vinegar?” The boys got a great kick out of this. Then we had the prop wife, the yeast man in his little trap, the duck egg man from Kinley Hill, the peg woman, a gypsy if ever you saw one, with her red handkerchief round her head and her very large hoped ear rings; the second-hand wife with her basket on her head, besides all the beggars and tradesmen, not forgetting the hurdy gurdy man with his little scabby bottomed monkey. The streets were always alive, but without cars and lorries dashing around.
Then came the New Year. Christmas was for the children but New Year was for adults. Mother had to plan well ahead because after midnight on New Year’s Eve she refused to do anything until the parties were over. There were about eight couples who used to celebrate together. Mother’s party started things off and lasted all New Year’s Day, but some just provided drinks and cake so they would visit a few houses in one day. I said mother had to plan. Well she would bake bread, tea cakes, common spice, and she would boil a pig’s head, press it and make a big dish of potted meat with it. She would boil a shank and a piece of beef. This provided plenty for sandwiches and my eldest sister was in charge. Then with the stock from all this mother would make broth in the big furnace pot. Father had washed and chopped all the vegetables in readiness, all grown in his own garden. The broth was put into a big dish and put into the oven to heat as required, so that no one would be scalded using pans on the fire. And so mother was free to enjoy a few days on her own.
There is a terrible frost this morning. 1980 seems to be coming in with a vengeance. I remember when I was a little girl and the place was hard with frost we used to put old woolen socks over our boots to avoid slipping. It’s amazing how effective this could be. Mind you, they were pure woolen socks. The feet had been renewed countless times, then when the sock was beyond renewal the feet were removed, the slit stitched and we had overshoes or mittens whichever were needed. Oh there was no waste in those days. The wages sound now so inadequate, but people managed and we still had fun.

First footing! Now there was fun for you. I have been my own first foot for years now. I could not wait for someone to come. But I can sit and recall the first foot of yesteryears. It had to be a dark man, carrying a piece of coal. He was given cake and wine and his hand was crossed with silver. Some men went from one neighbour to another, and were provided with money enough to see them comfortably over the holidays. It was the same with the women who came round Christmas Eve with a little doll in a shoe box and sang “God bless the master of this house”. They would make quite a few coppers from this to help them over the holidays. Then we had the guysers. These were masked men in fancy dress, who came in small gangs, knocked on the door and said “Let the guysers in Mrs”. It was considered unlucky to turn them away. They would dance and sing and crack jokes perhaps for fifteen minutes, then they would get a few coppers and be on their way. They would be content with just a penny, but often got more.

Melodeons were the musical instruments in those days and we must not forget the tin whistle and the mouth organ. Men would get together in twos or threes, and play cards in the streets. Father would say they didn’t play for their supper they played for a set in (that meant in the pubs). Nowadays the enjoyment is confined to discos and dinners in pubs. Personally I would go back to those days because there was more humanity and peace than there is today, but I know you will not agree although I have experienced both kinds of living.
The luxurious living of the young people now astounds me. I do not begrudge them anything they have. All parents are pleased to see their children prosper, but the change is so enormous one wonders if it can continue. You will laugh when I tell you of one of our greatest luxuries when I was very young. It was to sit on the toilet after mother had emptied the hot ashes. It was delicious to sit and feel the warmth for believe me the closets were the coldest, draughty places you could imagine. What a luxury! Believe me we fought in queues to be the first to go. Just to recall these things makes me very happy, and I often have a jolly good laugh all by myself.
There was a special ritual getting ready for bed. Hair was combed and plaited and shoes cleaned. All this was done in the back yard. Then we undressed and folded our clothes and put them in our special place, had a jolly good wash and were ready for our last slice of bread and a drink of water. Our stockings had to be looped inside of our garters and hung on the drawer knobs. It was a great mishap to lose a garter or a collar stud in those far-off days.
These were the little things that worried us in those days.


Info required

If anyone has any info on the pics in this section please inform us



Do you know where this photograph was taken?

Do you know where this photograph was taken?

Location/date not known. Not Seaham. Can anyone place this photograph?

Location/date not known. Not Seaham.
Can anyone place this photograph?

Supposedly Carr House farm 1920's but I do not think is, can anyone place this farm?

Supposedly Carr House farm 1920’s but I do not think is, can anyone place this farm?

Location/date not known? It was once suggested to me that it could be Horden, any ideas?

Location/date not known?
It was once suggested to me that it could be Horden, any ideas?

Not Hawthorn, not Seaton, is it local?

Not Hawthorn, not Seaton, is it local?

This came with a batch of Victorian lantern slides which were of local subjects. Can't place it, can you help?

This came with a batch of Victorian lantern slides which were of local subjects.
Can’t place it, can you help?

I know that no-one will be old enough to remember this band but have you seen the picture with a title?

I know that no-one will be old enough to remember this band but have you seen the picture with a title?

Initially this looks like Dalton le Dale but isn't. Six foot high wall to right. Do you recognise it?

Initially this looks like Dalton le Dale but isn’t. Six foot high wall to right.
Do you recognise it?

The railway enthusiasts out there must recognise this one. It comes from an album of mainly local subjects.

The railway enthusiasts out there must recognise this one. It comes from an album of mainly local subjects.

Another unplaced railway photograph. Original photograph had Seaham handwritten on back but it almost certainly is not. Gateshead is the most popular suggestion.

Another unplaced railway photograph. Original photograph had Seaham handwritten on back but it almost certainly is not.
Gateshead is the most popular suggestion.

Unknown farm, single track railway line running diagonally across righr corner of photograph. Do you know it?

Unknown farm, single track railway line running diagonally across righr corner of photograph. Do you know it?

Steam wagon, outside pub or club, almost certainly in Sunderland. name above door William John(son) or (ston). Plate on wagon reads" By Royal Letters Patent, No. 122, Steam Wagon Co. Ltd., Engineers, Basingstoke, England-1902. Do you know this pub?

Steam wagon, outside pub or club, almost certainly in Sunderland. name above door William John(son) or (ston).
Plate on wagon reads” By Royal Letters Patent, No. 122, Steam Wagon Co. Ltd., Engineers, Basingstoke, England-1902.
Do you know this pub?

Looks like a colliery photograph, do you know which one, very distinctive doors, have you seen them on another picture? The guy at the right of picture is huge! does he help?

Looks like a colliery photograph, do you know which one, very distinctive doors, have you seen them on another picture?
The guy at the right of picture is huge! does he help?

This picture came with a Seaham tag, do you know anything about it or even recognize where it was taken?

This picture came with a Seaham tag, do you know anything about it or even recognize where it was taken?

Looks like a chapel to right of frame, do you recognize it?

Looks like a chapel to right of frame, do you recognize it?

I keep coming across this photograph, do you know where it was taken or the occasion?

I keep coming across this photograph, do you know where it was taken or the occasion?

Steam driven Thresher at Bulmer's Stotfold Farm in the 1930's. Herbert Bulmer 2nd from right.

Steam driven Thresher at Bulmer’s Stotfold Farm in the 1930’s. Herbert Bulmer 2nd from right.

Coal and Allied Industries Oil Plant on the north side of Dene House Road, its aim to produce coke, petrol and other  derivatives from coal was a commercial failure. Opened 1935 closed 1940

Coal and Allied Industries Oil Plant on the north side of Dene House Road, its aim to produce coke, petrol and other
derivatives from coal was a commercial failure. Opened 1935 closed 1940