Monthly Archives: April 2016

Parish Church of St Gabriel Part 1: wood, iron & stone

A study of the 1895 Ordnance Survey map of Heaton reveals a building described as St Gabriel’s Church but it is not where you would expect it to be on Heaton Road. It is to the east of Chillingham Road on the north side of Rothbury Terrace. To the south is a cricket ground and the football ground where Newcastle East End, forerunners of Newcastle United, had played until three years earlier and to the north west just 121 years ago, you would have still seen Heaton Town Farm.

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Detail of 1895 Ordnance Survey Map of Heaton

Iron Church

There is a record that states that in 1890 ‘the wooden building was replaced with a structure of corrugated iron lined with wood, costing £500, with seats for 500’. It is not known whether the earlier wooden building was also a church. The building was known as St Gabriel’s Iron Mission Chapel and was a daughter church of St Michael’s, Byker.

Lord Armstrong’s gift

It was also in 1890 that Lord Armstrong gave a new site for a permanent church to be built on the west side of Heaton Road near to its northern end and opposite a row of large villas between Simonside and Cartington Terraces. The architect appointed was Mr Frank W Rich and the Archdeacon of Northumberland recommended  Mr Rich to prepare plans for a permanent church to be built in the Gothic design with a tower, a nave and one aisle, to hold 500 but capable of being enlarged to hold 600. Plans were submitted to Lord Armstrong for his approval.  

1891 saw proposals being put forward for a new conventional district in the Diocese of Newcastle to be formed. At this time the population of the Mother Parish Church of St Michael’s, Byker was 18,500. The new Parish of St Gabriel, Heaton would take over 7,000.

Towards the end of 1892, the Archdeacon of Northumberland wrote to the Vicar of Byker:

‘The rapid increase of the population of Heaton makes it the imperative duty of us all to provide a new parish church in that part of the City and Diocese in the manner in which the law provides’.  

The site of the new church on Heaton Road was found in 1896 to be too narrow to accommodate a large church built on a cruciform shape. Lord Armstrong generously gave another site directly north of the original site. On 1 December Bishop Edgar agreed that the architect Mr F W Rich should build a new stone church on the new site. The building contractor appointed was Mr Walter Baston, a member of St Gabriel’s congregation.

On 18 June 1898 the ‘East End Graphic’ published:

‘For some time the Anglicans in Newcastle have been anxious to see the growing district of Heaton supplied with some more substantial places of worship than the little iron structure in Rothbury Terrace, which has done duty for some years under the Charge of Reverend T H Atkinson. A site on Heaton Road in a field which commands a picturesque view of Jesmond Vale was given some time ago by Lord Armstrong, who also gave £800 to the Building Fund. Alderman Gibson donated £1,000.

A good deal of hard work on the part of the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Jacob, the curate in charge of the Iron Church and others has brought the total subscription up to £3,110 and the task of building a new St Gabriel’s has begun.

Plans were drawn up by the architect Mr F W Rich estimated to cost £10,000 to seat 1,000.’  

You’ll notice from the architect’s drawings below that Rich’s plans evolved. For example, the spires originally planned for the top of the tower were never built. And the south transept wasn’t built at first.

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Early architect’s drawings of St Gabriel’s Church

The foundation stone was laid by Mrs. Watson-Armstrong on 15 June 1898. Under the foundation stone was placed a description of the building, plans, local newspaper and coins. (The location of the foundation stone is unknown.) 

The Consecration of St. Gabriel’s Church by Bishop Jacob took place on Friday 29 September 1899. A licence for marriages was obtained in October and on 27 December 1899 Queen Victoria sanctioned the formation of the new Parish.  

There was no chancel, sanctuary or trancepts in the newly consecrated church. An altar was created just behind the present chancel steps and vestries were built where now stand the Lady Chapel and South Transept.

The fees (presumably from weddings and funerals) were reserved for by the Vicar of Byker.

Accounts

The church building account was published in March 1900 and read:

1. Mr Walter Baston, Builder £3499.00.00

2. Mr F W Rich, Architect £307.18.00

3. Clerk of Works £104.04.00

4. Messrs Kirk Dickenson, Slates £224.10.00

5. Mr Robert Heron, Plumber £204.06.00

6. Messrs W Ferguson & Sons, Plasterer £200.06.00

7. Mr John Grundy, Heating Installer £105.00.00

8. Messrs Milburn and Sons ,Chairs £81.14.00

9. Gateshead Stained Glass £44.10.00

10. Messrs Robertson & Sons Painters £26.18.00

11. Messrs John Taylor & Co, Bell £8.16.00

12. Church Society Depot Lectern, Pulpit, Bibles & Prayer Books £4.13.00

13. Newcastle Co-operative Cabinet Makers Vestry Table, Forms £4.06.00

14. Messrs Henry Walker & Sons, Umbrella Stand £1.19.00

15. Mr F Beavan, Donation £19.19.00

Total £4837.08.00

(Those of you that can still remember pounds, shillings and pence may like to check the addition. It should be £4,837.19.00 or £4,837.95 in ‘new‘ money.)

More to Follow

This article was written by Heaton History Group member, Robin Long, who will continue with his history of St Gabriel’s in future pieces.

Acknowledgements

Information taken from Chronological History of the Parish Church of St Gabriel, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne. Researched by Mrs Joan Brusey (1890 – 1992) and Denis Wardle (1992-1999). Typed by Mrs Jennifer Dobson and Miss Valerie Smith. Bound by Mr John Dobson

Can you add to the story?

If you have photos or memories of St Gabriel’s that you would like to share or can provide further information about anything mentioned in this piece, please contact us, either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

 

An exile remembers: Part 5 – Heaton Park 2015

Heaton History Group is often contacted by people who used to live in the neighbourhood and have vivid and usually fond recollections. We love to hear their memories. ‘RS’ still returns to Heaton from time to time. Here is the fifth instalments of his thoughts.

‘So, it’s time to leave Armstrong Park and make the brief walk to its nearby neighbour. At this point I know what you may be thinking: there’s rather more to Armstrong Park than that which I have described. Too true. There’s the large area behind the old windmill, for example, which I must have explored at some time or other back in the sixties, but of which no particular memory is retained today. Described in Part 4 were simply the features of Armstrong Park with which I was, and remain, most familiar – the bowling green, the tennis courts, the large grassy area in front of the windmill, the windmill itself.

I walk from the windmill’s information board towards King John’s Palace, crossing, on my way, the narrow winding path which leads down to the park exit – much more foliage in this area than there used to be – then carefully negotiate my way down the grassy bank before  walking across Jesmond Vale Lane.

King Johns Palace

King John’s Palace also known as The House (or ‘Camera’) of Adam of Jesmond

Now on the other side of that road, with the ‘palace’ in front of me, several changes are clearly visible. Nevertheless, while standing here, it is another set of images from another experience, existing as a vivid memory from fifty years ago, which briefly dominates my consciousness. It happened like this.

And it’s a bit of a boys’ thing. Back in those days, it was fairly normal for young lads to be carrying a knife when out and about. (Yes, please feel free to read that sentence again.) No harm was obviously intended in doing so, or certainly not among my circle of primary school-age friends, but … well, back then a lad just did. Trust me on this. We even took them to school, where admittedly it probably wouldn’t have been a wise move to brandish them in lessons, even when overcome with the excitement frequently experienced when ploughing through the latest adventures of ‘Janet and John’, but when otherwise I can’t recall there being any particular problem, say at playtime. It could be a small or large penknife. Perhaps it might be a Swiss Army-type knife, incorporating a clever little tool for removing stones from horses’ hooves, always handy in the – admittedly unlikely, but I lived in hope – event that I might eventually stumble across a suitably distressed horse limping somewhere around Heaton. (It’s always best to be prepared – just in case.)

Ah yes: ‘Be Prepared’, the motto of the Cub Scouts, the youthful members of which organisation seemed to be routinely issued with sheath knives as a standard feature of their equipment, and which were worn freely and openly, hanging from their belts, even when not in uniform, with plenty of non-Cubs owning and publicly displaying their own examples, too.

I’m digressing now but, come to think of it, youthful ‘firearms‘ were in plentiful supply, as well. How many lads in those days didn’t own a cowboy-type cap-gun revolver? Or rifle? Not many. Or if so, it was only because they were impatiently waiting for Santa to get his act together the next time Christmas came around. Secret agent-type pistols were very common as well, in the style of James Bond or The Man From Uncle. Best of all was the legendary ‘Johnny Seven – One Man Army’. (We’re talking serious weaponry here. No messing.)

Want to get an idea of the genuine Johnny Seven experience? I can only recommend you click on the following YouTube link:  http://youtu.be/w-tz-9c-g4A

That’s a bit what it was like for a lad on the mean streets of central Heaton, about fifty years ago, although more often in short trousers and, unsurprisingly, without a random unseen American shouting orders in the background. (Come to think of it, like that advert, we may even have played in black and white, but it was rather a long time ago so I can’t be certain on that point.)

Interested? Well come over to my place and have a turn with mine. No, really – I’ve still got my own Johnny Seven. Some bits have gone missing over the decades and some now malfunction – I’m currently having problems with the grenade launcher – so it’s probably more accurate to call it a ‘Johnny Four And A Half’, but it certainly still exists.

You’re going to want a photo to believe me on that one, so here you are:

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(And don’t get me started on the joys of the catapult.)

Anyway, so there we were, roaming around central Heaton, openly carrying our fearsome assortment of knives, revolvers, pistols, rifles and Johnny Sevens – veritable armed militias of 8-10 year olds – perhaps, on reflection, rather as if ‘Crackerjack’ had decided to broadcast a special one-off edition from Vietnam. Can you imagine children playing like that today? Some horrified onlooker would get out their mobile phone, and within five minutes you’d be deafened by the sound of approaching squad cars, before the whole of Heaton would be put in ‘lockdown’ for the rest of the day, while Social Services implemented the politically correct provisions of their latest ‘children at risk’ intervention strategy.

Which takes me back to where I was. No, not in Vietnam – back to standing on Jesmond Vale Lane, just by the ‘palace’, sometime in the mid-sixties.

Standing with a friend, as it happens, name now long forgotten. There I was, holding my pearl-handled, multi-function, Swiss Army knife, no doubt still optimistically on the lookout for that perpetually elusive limping horse. In the meantime, as we’d been walking up the lane, on the way home, I had been amusing myself by aimlessly hacking away at random twigs, overhanging leaves and the like, as I went – fair enough, not ideal behaviour, but essentially harmless. The trouble was, he’d obviously been watching and following us for the last few minutes. And ‘he’ was … the ‘parky’!

Or should that be the ‘parkie’? No matter – it was going to take more than correct spelling to get us out of this one. This was serious. Appearing from seemingly nowhere was the man more officially known as the Park Keeper, and who seemed to operate in both Armstrong and Heaton parks. A smallish, perhaps fortyish gentleman, he very much resembled a typical bus inspector of the day – remember them? – with dark gabardine overcoat  and black peaked cap, an impression reinforced by the fact that he carried some sort of silver-coloured ticket machine slung over his shoulder, and which dangled by his waist, in his case for the purpose of issuing tickets in exchange for the sixpence needed for the use of the tennis courts.

And he wasn’t happy. Curtly he demanded that I hand over my knife. On reflection, I could have simply refused. If matters then became difficult, I suppose I could have sent my anonymous friend to my house in Simonside Terrace to get some back-up firepower. I’m sure Mr Parky would have thought twice about the wisdom of his demands – or at least considered entering into negotiations – when confronted with a fully loaded Johnny Seven: the anti-tank rocket, in particular, is some serious piece of plastic.

But of course, I did none of those things. I might ‘talk the talk’ now, but back then I didn’t ‘walk the walk’. Or rather, I did. All the way back home, in fact. Somewhat sheepishly, if the truth be told. Without my knife. Which, of course, I had meekly handed over to the ‘parky’. In those days, to defy an adult was often not such an easy thing to do, but to defy an adult in a uniform was close to unthinkable. So I didn’t think it, and didn’t do it.

And would you believe this? Just as we turned into Rothbury Terrace, there it finally came, hobbling uncomfortably towards us … clipetty, clop (painful whinny) clipetty, clop … (No, I didn’t think you would, and you’d be right not to.)

But in any case, the welfare of the infrequently encountered limping horses of Heaton were from that day on someone else’s responsibility.

And yes, Mr Parky – that person was you.

 

Shields Road Landmarks and Legends

On Wednesday 27 July, Heaton History Group members are invited to join Mike Greatbatch for a walking tour of Shields Road in which old photos, maps and plans will be used to reveal the colourful history of this busy thoroughfare.
Beavans

The old Beavan’s shop on the corner of Shields Road and Heaton Park Road, (now the High Main pub)

Places are limited and so this walk is open to Heaton History Group members only in the first instance and booking is essential. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.
The walk will start outside St Silas Church at 7.30pm and  finish at the East End Library and Pool.
185 Shields Road

185 Shields Road

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Ringtons used to be on Shields Road (where the retail park is now) before it moved to Algernon Road

The People’s Shakespeare

On 20 June 2016 (with perfect, even poetic, symmetry, the very day on which this year’s midsummer solstice will fall), actors from the People’s Theatre, Heaton, will take to the stage at Stratford upon Avon for the first time, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company, in a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. They will perform an encore the following night.

The troupe has already played the parts of the ‘mechanicals’ (Nick Bottom, the weaver; Peter Quince, the carpenter; Snug, the joiner; Francis Flute, the bellows-mender; Tom Snout, the tinker and Robin Starveling, the tailor), the comic characters who perform a play within the play, to critical acclaim at our own Northern Stage. But The People’s connection with Shakespeare goes back almost 100 years and, although the theatre company wasn’t based on this side of the city then, Heaton was nevertheless already centre stage (if you can forgive the pun) and has remained deeply connected to both the theatre group and the bard.

Veitches of Heaton

The People’s was founded in 1911 by members of the Newcastle branch of the British Socialist Party to raise money to fund their political activities and enable them to pay the rent on their meeting rooms at the corner of Leazes Park Road and Percy Street. (Today you’ll find Tea Sutra Teahouse in what was to become the new company’s first home).

The first meeting of around half a dozen interested members was dominated by one family: 32 year old telephone engineer, Norman Kidd Veitch, and his wife, Edith, who lived at 19 Stratford Grove Terrace, Heaton and, Norman’s younger brother, Colin Campbell Mackenzie Veitch and his wife, Minnie, who lived just around the corner at 1 Stratford Villas. Fittingly both couples lived in what we now call Heaton’s ‘Shakespeare Streets’, a group of roads with connections to Shakespeare, the story of which goes back to the 1864 celebrations of the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

Colin was, of course, a professional footballer, still fondly remembered as Newcastle United’s most successful captain in the Edwardian era, during which the club won three Football League Championships and graced Wembley six times in seven years, at a time, of course, when FA Cup semi-finals weren’t played there, and the first League Cup was still fifty years away.

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

But there was much more to Colin Veitch than his football talent, immense though that was, as shown by his presence at that inaugural meeting of the Clarion Dramatic Society, as it was then called. Sometime between the initial meeting and the society’s first dramatic performance on 11 July 1911, Veitch captained Newcastle United, the holders, in the 1911 FA Cup Final (which they lost 1-0 to Bradford City after a replay at Old Trafford) but he was by now approaching 30 and in dispute with Newcastle United, and so although it was only the outbreak of WW1 which brought the final curtain down on his playing career, he was ready for new challenges.

Colin Veith's commemorative plaque

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The Veitches, as well as being keen socialists – Colin was a founder member and later chairman of the Association Football Players Union (now the PFA) and turned down the invitation to stand as a Labour MP – were all lovers of the arts. Minnie was a star of Newcastle Amateur Operatic Society, where Colin, Norman and Edith were members of the chorus; Colin wrote music and conducted; Edith and Norman both wrote plays, a number of which were performed by the Clarion and later The People’s, so what started as an income generator for the British Socialist Party soon took on a life of its own.

From the beginning, the Clarion were ambitious. They performed the works of George Bernard Shaw, the eminent contemporary – and socialist – playwright.  They also performed Ibsen, Galsworthy, Chekhov and other great playwrights. As Norman Veitch said: ‘ If we are going to murder plays, let us murder the best’.

In 1920, the company invited George Bernard Shaw to see them perform. Shaw replied ‘I wouldn’t travel so far overnight in a railway train to meet Shakespeare himself’ but come he did on 25 April 1921 to see the company perform his play ‘Man and Superman’, with Colin Veitch playing the part of Old Malone.

The People’s Shakespeare

The next and final play of the landmark 1920-21 season was ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’,the Clarion’s first Shakespearean production. Colin Veitch was Falstaff, Minnie and Edith merry wives. Norman Veitch later wrote that ‘it was a jolly and inspiring performance’.

That summer, the Clarion was renamed The People’s Theatre and Shakespeare became a staple: ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘Coriolanus’, ‘Cymbeline’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Henry IV Part 1’, ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘The Merchant of Venice’,  ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘Othello’, ‘Pericles’, ‘Richard II’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Troilus and Cressida’,  ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and T’he Winter’s Tale’, were all performed before the company moved to Heaton.

People’s in Heaton

The People’s Theatre was based in a disused chapel in Rye Hill from 1930 but by 1953 the company recognised it had outgrown the premises and they set their sights on their own arts centre. A public appeal was launched in 1955 at a luncheon attended by Sir John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft. Eventually by 1959 a suitable building was found and enough money was in the bank to start to convert it into a theatre.

Lyric cinema 1936

Entrance to the Peoples 2013

The soon to be refurbished People’s Theatre

 

The building was the recently closed Lyric Cinema, next to the Corner House on Stephenson Road (the Coast Road). It reopened as a theatre on 24 September 1962, with Shaw’s ‘Man and Superman’ (of course!) and the season appropriately ended with the People’s first Shakespeare performance in Heaton, a Christmas production of ‘Twelfth Night’. The official opening by Princess Alexandra followed on 20 October 1964.

The company continued to bring new Shakespeare plays to Heaton audiences eg Henry IV Part 2 (1965), Richard III (1967), Henry V (1981) but soon there was an even more exciting development, which cemented the east Newcastle relationship with Stratford which had begun with Frank Benson’s company in 1895.

RSC at the People’s

The RSC had made Newcastle its third home in 1977, bringing productions annually from Stratford to the Theatre Royal and the Gulbenkian, but in 1987 and 1988 they needed a third venue and so actors such as Jeremy Irons and Brian Cox trod the People’s boards.

The second season will always be remembered for a particularly gory production of ‘Titus Andronicus’, after which reports of fainting audience members even  made the pages of ‘The Sun’!

The RSC returned to Heaton in 2004 when the Newcastle Playhouse (now Northern Stage) was undergoing refurbishment. It’s an honour for both the People’s and Heaton for our own theatre company to be able to accept a return invitation to Stratford twelve years later in this most special of seasons for both theatres. There’ll be a few charabancs of Heatonians heading down to the midlands in June. It would be lovely to welcome members of the RSC back to our own soon to be even more fantastic theatre before too long.

Sources

The main sources used in researching this article were:

Chris Goulding ‘The Story of the People’s’

Norman Veitch ‘The Peoples’

http://www.ptag.org.uk/about-us/history.html

http://www.colinveitch.co.uk/

where you will be able to read much more about The People’s Theatre and Colin Veitch respectively

Can you help?

If you have memories of the People’s or any performances or readings of Shakespeare in Heaton or can provide further information about anything mentioned in this piece, please contact us, either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Shakespeare 400

This article was written and researched by Chris Jackson, as part of Heaton History Group’s project to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

We are interested in connections between Heaton and Shakespeare through its theatres, past and present; writers, actors – and of course, the famous brick Shakespeare on South View West. See:

A Road By Any Other Name

The Grand Opening

We are also researching and writing about some of the people who have lived in the ‘Shakespeare Streets’: initially, we are looking at Bolingbroke, Hotspur, Malcolm, Mowbray and Warwick Streets plus Heaton Park Road, Stratford Grove, Stratford Grove Terrace, Stratford Grove West, Stratford Road, and Stratford Villas. See:

Colin Veitch’s Twelve Days of Christmas

George Waller: world champion cyclist

George Waller: life as a champion

More to follow!

If you would like to join our small friendly research group or have information, photos or memories to share, please contact us, either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Bowlers in bowlers?

This fantastic photograph, showing a group of men in front of the pavilion in Heaton Park, was taken by Edward G Brewis or at least his firm.

Edward lived from about 1895 to 1900 in ‘the photographer’s house’, the double-fronted house just a few doors up from the park, 190 Heaton Park Road. He ran his own photography studio in New Bridge Street, as well as from his Heaton home and he took the last ever photograph of Heaton Park Road champion cyclist, George W Waller.

By 1900, Edward Brewis had moved to Broomley near Bywell but he later returned to Jesmond Park East, High Heaton for a while. He died aged only 44 in 1908. (You can read more about him and the house by clicking on the link in the first line of this paragraph.)

Bowlers

Early 20th Century Heaton Park bowlers?

 

We are hoping that someone will be able to tell us more about the photograph. Who were the men? They are posing with bowls on the bowling green so that could be a clue? Is the man standing at the back and the one sitting on the grass to the left of the bowls a park keeper? They both have badges on their distinctive caps and one has what might be a money bag over his shoulder.

When might it have been taken? Do the array of bowlers, boaters, flat caps, even a top hat (held by the bare-headed man second from the right in the second row from the back) and what looks like a tam o’shanter (three to the left of the man with the top hat) enable anyone to date it with a degree of confidence? Perhaps the collars and neck ties can help us pin it down.

Or does the pavilion itself hold the answer? How long was the large fountain in place? And does the photo pre-date a later clock? When was this part of the park a bowling green? We know it was a croquet lawn at one point. We are sure that readers of this article will have at least some of the answers.

John Whyte

Ian Sanderson recently wrote from Sussex, telling us that he believes the man in the boater on the left of the above photograph to be his grandfather, John Arthur Whyte.

John, born in 1885, lived in Byker and Heaton all his life and in 1911 was presented with two medals by his bowling club, Heaton Victoria. John spent a long career with Newcastle Corporation, rising to the position of town clerk. He continued to bowl in Heaton Park and for the Portland Club into the 1950s. He also represented Northumberland.

Below is a detail from the above photograph and also photos, supplied by Ian, which show his grandfather in 1916 and the medals he won. Ian believes that the above photograph may show members of the Heaton Victoria Club in around 1911.

 

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Detail of photograph of bowlers in Heaton Park

 

 

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John Arthur Whyte, 1916

 

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

Thank you

Thank you very much to Ian and to Gary Walsh of Whickham, who kindly sent us a copy of the photograph.

Can you help?

If you can give us any leads or have any other information or photos of bowling in Heaton that you’re happy to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please either leave a message on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org We’d love to hear from you!

Rex Hart, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Knowing that we’re always on the look out for stories of interesting Heatonians from times past, Allan Robinson of High Heaton has contacted us to tell us about Jack Arthur Elvidge, who some older readers may remember as Rex Hart, ‘The Man with the Monocle’ or ‘The Man with X-ray Eyes’. Allan, who himself has an alias ‘Clogs the Clown’ takes up the story:

‘Rex was born Jack Arthur Elvidge on 6 August 1906 in Byker . But he moved to Heaton at an early age. On census night 1911, he was aged 4 and living at 98 Spencer Street, Heaton with his widowed grandmother and her two sons and two daughters plus a boarder.

Jack was a passionate entertainer. He started his stage career in Whitley Bay at the age of 10. This was followed by a lifetime entertaining his North East audiences as magician, Rex Hart. Rex had excellent manipulative skills and wonderful humour. He was always in demand on the dinner circuit as many of his programmes, that I have show. In busy times he would go from one venue to another carrying his act in a briefcase.

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Rex was a founder member of the Newcastle Branch of the Institute of Magicians, an organisation founded in London in 1934. In the 1940s, the Newcastle branch held its meetings in the County Hotel.  He later became a member of the Northern and the Newcastle Magic Circle.

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Rex married his wife Hilda on the 6 November 1935. The reception was held at the County Hotel, where he used to meet his magical friends. While Hilda never performed herself, she had a very keen interest in magic and gave Rex every encouragement and ensured that his clothes were clean and pressed before every show. 

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Even during World War 2 as a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force, Rex was in demand, entertaining the airmen. Rex served time in West Africa and was demobbed from the force on 25 December 1945 having been awarded two medals.

Whilst Rex and Hilda never had any children, they had many friends with whom they enjoyed annual holidays camping at Coldingham Bay in the Scottish Borders. The locals also enjoyed their company as even on holiday Rex would give performances.

 I first met Rex in the 1980s and, whilst he had retired by then due to ill health, his passion for entertaining never left him and he would accompany me to my own magical shows. We would also meet weekly on a Saturday night at his home, 17 Ivymount Road, where in his front room with Hilda we would discuss and perform magic tricks. It was here that I would learn all about his magic life and hear tales like the time he lent Max Bygraves who was performing on the Empire Theatre in Newcastle, his ventriloquist doll. Amongst my collection of Rex’s items I have a signed photograph that Max gave him as a thank you.’

Rex died on 23 February 1992.

Thank you to Allan alias Clogs the Clown for telling us about Jack / Rex.

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Can you help?

If you have any more information or memories of Jack Elvidge / Rex Hart or would like to tell us about any other interesting Heatonian, please either leave a comment here by clicking on the link below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org