Friday, December 8, 2023
HomeWhereBack Molyneux StreetHeaton's Back Lane Mysteries and Memories

Heaton’s Back Lane Mysteries and Memories

Jack Common wrote of the many traders who called at Third Avenue:

‘Greengrocery and fish and coal came to the back door… Down here came the Cullercoats fishwives crying ‘Caller herrin’ in that season and otherwise “Fresh fish, hinny, straight from the sea”…

Everybody’s washing hung across the lane so that the appearance of a tradesman’s cart meant a rush to tuck sheets and things round the rope and to raise the diminished bunting high over the horse’s head with a prop.’

'Co-al' by Mark James
‘Co-al’ by Mark James


Jean Walker of Cardigan Terrace recalled playing out:

‘We called for people at the back door. At first, it was cobblestones. We played races and hide and seek… But then they concreted the lane so we could skate and ride bicycles as well. We played tennis. The concrete was in sections. We used the middle section as the net.’

Olive Renwick told us that her mother ‘walked to Meldon Terrace everyday with a jug to collect milk from a woman who kept a goat in her back yard’.

Joan Sweeney remembered ‘a container for ashes attached to the back wall with an aperture so that the ashes could be tipped into the bath which was brought around the back streets’.

Young Joan in her back yard c 19932
Ash box in the wall behind young Joan c 1932

So much of Heaton’s history must have been made out back – and, although admittedly some are more attractive than others these days, back lanes are still very much a part of Heaton life, whether as a short cut to the shops or a place we chat to a neighbour while putting out the bins.

Heaton History Group member Michael Johnston is fascinated by them and wonders what unusual features others have noticed.  To start the ball rolling he’s sent us some photos and asks whether anyone knows the history of these doors.



The green one is in the lane behind the shops on Chillingham Road and the brown one
leads into the yard of a house in Alexandra Road.


And we’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, taken in Back Molyneux Street. Who were these men? And what were they up to?

Over to you

What can you tell us about the doors? What do you think was going on in the Molyneux Street back lane? What other interesting historic features intrigue you as you walk through Heaton? Send us your photos and comment either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing:




  1. In the article, we asked under what circumstances you thought the atmospheric photograph on Back Molyneux Street was taken.

    There may be a clue in an article in the Newcastle Daily Journal on 23 January 1914:

    The Postmaster General appealed against a refusal of Newcastle City Council to allow telegraphs to be placed there. The council said they would occupy more than a third of the pavement and there would be a likelihood of a nuisance. The council withdrew its objection upon the Postmaster General’s arrangement to pay a rent of five shillings a year per pole.

  2. Chris Boylan has written to us:

    My Great Grand Mother on my mother’s side was Elizabeth Morgan who lived at
    No.26 Morley Street Heaton.

    I saw her many times until she passed away circa 1950. No 26 was an upstairs flat with a flight of stairs leading down to the yard. That was where you found the outside W.C. My job when visiting was to tear the newspapers into squares and hang them on a nail.

    The other side of the yard was where a zinc poss tub and stick and next to it was a mangle. I used to take my turn on both the poss tub and also the mangle.Sometimes a blanket was “possed” and then mangled. By the time the blanket had been through the mangle a couple of times it was, practically dry. No need for a modern spin dryer.

    One thing I remember was that Monday was wash day and all the washing was hung out in the back lane and heaven help the coal man if he came which meant a mad dash to lift the washing lines up high to let him through from one end of the back lane to the other.

    Ah happy days indeed


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