Monthly Archives: January 2019

Class Act? A history of Newcastle schools

School education in Newcastle has gone through many changes since the mid nineteenth century. Using research undertaken while writing a history of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in the northeast, in April Peter Sagar will guide us through 170 years of history and show how the lives of Newcastle schoolchildren, of which Peter was himself one, were affected by when, as well as where, they were educated.  This will be a fascinating talk, of interest to anybody who went to school, whether in Newcastle or not.

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Chillingham Road pupils, c 1908

Our speaker

Heaton History Group member, Peter Sagar is a well respected local historian who has many published articles to his name and has taught history and geography for over 30 years.

Peter has an M Phil in the regional identity of north east England from the University of Northumbria and is a founder and company secretary of A Living Tradition, which seeks to help people in our region to learn more about our great traditions of human rights and community cohesion and to be inspired to help continue them.

High Heaton Infants School Pupils, 1935

High Heaton Infants School pupils, 1935

Book now

Our talk will take place on Wednesday 24 April 2019 at The Corner House, Heaton NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.

Chillingham Road School prefects

Chillingham Road School prefects,1962

Matron Lily Atkinson Royal Red Cross

When Heaton History Group’s Ian Clough was researching the names on Heaton’s many WW1 church war memorials, one name stood out, that of Matron L Atkinson RRC. Few females are listed on first world war memorials but it now appeared that we had another Heaton woman to commemorate alongside that of Kate Ogg, who had grown up on Bolingbroke Street and given up her life in the war effort when she caught influenza from the servicemen she was nursing. But who was Matron L Atkinson and what did RRC stand for?

Matron L Atkinson’s name appears on two WWI memorials associated with Leighton Primitive Methodist Church which then stood on Heaton Road.

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Leighton Primitive Methodist Church war memorial

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Leighton Primitive Methodist Church war memorial (detail)

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Leighton Primitive Methodist Church

A broad search of census information did not bring up any L Atkinson living in the Heaton area and without any idea of her birthdate, there wasn’t much more to go on and Ian had hundreds of names to research so he called on Heaton History Group’s research team for assistance and Arthur Andrews helped unravel the mystery. After some time researching variant spellings of both first name and surname, Arthur managed to get to the nub of the problem: it turned out that although she was always known as Lily, our WW1 hero was officially an Elizabeth.  It helps to be psychic to be a local history researcher!

Nurse

It could now be established that Lily (ie Elizabeth) was born in 1874. For many years the family lived at 24 North View, a terraced house with 7 rooms, in Heaton, overlooking the railway cutting, where the Newcastle to Edinburgh steam trains would rush by. Lily’s father, Ralph, was a butcher, and later an insurance agent. Her mother was called Catherine. The 1911 census tells us that there were ten Atkinson children, two of whom had already died. There were,  at this time, at least five living daughters and three sons.

Nothing more is known of Lily’s childhood or whether she had any other jobs after leaving school but by 1901, aged 26, she was working at Carlisle Infirmary as a probationer nurse. By 1909, the Nursing Register indicates that Lily had become a certified nurse, working at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and by 1911 she had been promoted to hospital sister and moved to Liverpool Infirmary to take up the post of assistant matron. By 1915 she had moved again to take up the post of matron at the historic Northampton General Hospital. Here she became responsible for the nursing of many badly-wounded soldiers and she also had links with the nearby Duston War Hospital.

Royal Warrant

It was for her outstanding WWI nursing work at Northampton that Lily was awarded the Royal Red Cross (RRC). The award, established by Queen Victoria in 1883 and awarded by Royal Warrant, is still made to ‘a fully trained nurse of an officially recognised nursing service, military or civilian, who has shown exceptional devotion and competence in the performance of nursing duties, over a continuous and long period, or who has performed an exceptional act of bravery and devotion at her or his post of duty.‘ The first recipient was Florence Nightingale and the award was so prestigious that it was often presented by the monarch at Buckingham Palace. Sadly, this was not to be the case for Lily.

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Royal Red Cross award

Lily’s Royal Red Cross Register entry, pictured below, does not give the date the award was registered and Lily’s name appeared in The London Gazette only on 9 April 1919, almost 5 months after she died. In the register it is noted that she was ‘deceased 22.11.18’ and that the medal was sent to her mother on 3 March 1920. (In fact, Lily’s mother, Catherine, had died in 1914).

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Royal Red Cross Register

Lily herself passed away in her prime on Friday 22 November 1918, during her tenure as Matron of Northampton General Hospital. She was only 44 years old and the cause of death was registered as breast cancer with other complications. Three of her siblings were with her at the time: Miss Annie Atkinson, Mrs Mary Smallwood and Mrs Margaret Shuler.

Moving scenes

A short obituary appeared in the Northampton Daily Echo on 22 November 1918. Another, more informative, obituary appeared in the Northampton Mercury a week later.

It was reported that as war work increased, Lily’s nursing and organizing abilities and devotion to work not only maintained the efficiency of the hospital but she was ‘rapidly establishing its reputation as one of the leading, provincial institutions in the country’.

It was also reported that ‘deeply moving scenes’ were witnessed when her body was removed to the railway station, for cremation at Leicester. A brief devotional service was performed by the hospital chaplain. Nurses lined the corridor singing ‘On the Resurrection Morning’, as the coffin was carried by Hospital staff. From the main entrance to the gates, an avenue was formed of 24 wounded soldiers and many other staff, who then followed the cortege to the station and lined the platform until the train left with Lily’s coffin and many wreaths.

Other members of her family met the train at Leicester. After the cremation, Lily’s ashes were taken back to Newcastle. They were buried in the family grave at All Saints Cemetery in Jesmond, after another well attended ceremony. This was reported in another obituary in the Newcastle Daily Journal on 29 November 1918.

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We join Lily Atkinson’s contemporaries in celebrating the short life of a highly respected matron from Heaton, whose professionalism and devotion to duty made a great impact during hard times.

Can you help?

If you know more about Lily Atkinson or her family or have photographs or anecdotes you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Written and researched by Arthur Andrews, with additional research by Ian Clough, both of Heaton History Group. Thank you also to Sue Longworth and Julia Corps, Northampton Hospital archivists.

Sources

National Archives, Kew

FindMyPast

Ancestry

National Newspaper Archive

 

 

Tyneside’s Home Front in WW2

To commemorate 80 years since the start of the second world war, local author Andrew Clark will evoke the days of evacuation, gas masks, the black-out, air raid shelters, identity cards, the Home Guard and VE Day as well as campaigns such as ‘Dig For Victory’ and ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’. Food rationing did not end until the 1950s so a few members of our audience may have tried bananas made out of parsnips or even chocolate potato cake. Andrew’s talk will bring back memories for some and be entertaining and informative for the rest of us.

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Denmark Street victory street party, 1945

Andrew is an author and publisher of North East local history books. He has written over 20 books and, through his company Summerhill Books, has edited and published over 150 books on communities throughout Tyneside, Northumberland and County Durham. Andrew has also worked on heritage projects in school and youth centres.

Book now

Our talk will take place on Wednesday 27 March 2019 at The Corner House, Heaton NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.