Category Archives: Research

Neil Bartlett: the noble chemist

‘NEWCASTLE DOCTOR ROCKS CHEMICAL WORLD WITH YELLOW POWDER’ screamed ‘The Journal’ headline. It went on to say that the doctor had ‘done something which was thought to be impossible…. As a result, chemical books will have to be rewritten.’  But who was the ‘doctor’ and why have most of us never heard of him?

Beginnings

Neil Bartlett was born on 15 September 1932 at The Gables, Elswick Road, formerly a branch of the Princess Mary but by then an independent maternity hospital. His childhood home, however, was in in the east end of Newcastle.

Norman, Neil’s father, was born in Walker in 1898 of Scottish parents. In his younger days, he worked as a shipwright. He fought and was apparently gassed in the first world war and suffered from ill health for the rest of his comparatively short life. Norman’s military records don’t survive but what does is a shipping record showing that, in September 1922, describing himself as a ‘shipwright’, he set sail for the USA, giving his final destination as Philadelphia. We don’t know how long he stayed but by 1928, he was back in Newcastle and marrying Ann Willins Voak.

Ann was born in Byker in 1901. Her original surname was Vock. The place of birth of her father, William, is recorded on the 1901 census as ‘Heligoland’ and his status ‘British subject’. Between 1807 and 1890, this small island off the coast of Germany, was British owned. It had been captured from Denmark during the Napoloeonic wars and only ceded to Germany as part of a treaty in which Britain secured strategic territory in East Africa. The fact that, despite William being a British subject settled in Newcastle and married to a local woman, life became uncomfortable around the time of World War 1 is evidenced by the fact that Ann changed her surname to Voak, thought to sound less German.

With work as a shipwright on Tyneside difficult for Norman to find during the recession, the Bartletts acquired and ran a grocery and confectioner’s shop, now demolished, in Brinkburn Street. Apart from a brief period during the second world war when Neil and his brother were evacuated, the Bartletts lived in Byker throughout Neil’s childhood.

After her husband died in 1944, aged only 46, Ann continued to run the shop in order to support the family. According to Neil, she was a very determined woman with an excellent head for business who ensured that the family was never in financial difficulties and she encouraged her children also to work hard and be ambitious.

Young chemist

Neil, a bright boy, passed his eleven plus to secure a place at Heaton Secondary School for Boys (renamed Heaton Grammar after the war), which he later described as ‘the most fortunate event in my life’.  He remembered that there was a heavy emphasis on the sciences and that, from the outset, he was drawn to chemistry. One of his formative memories was of an experiment conducted in class when he was 12 years old in which he mixed a solution of colourless aqueous ammonia with blue copper sulphate in water  to produce ‘beautiful well-formed crystals’. ‘From that moment I was hooked’ he wrote later, and he longed to know why the transformation took place. His future career direction had already been determined.

Neil also recalled that he and his brother made extra pocket money by selling ice cream. With the encouragement of his mother, he spent his share of the proceeds equipping a makeshift laboratory at home. It is interesting to note that fluorine, which is used in refrigeration, was to become the focus of Neil’s research a decade or more later.

His original plan was to become a biochemist and so he obtained a scholarship to study natural products chemistry at Kings College in Newcastle, then part of the University of Durham. While he was there, his mother bought a newly built house at 1 Winchcombe Place in High Heaton, which Neil called home for six years.

He graduated in 1954 but by this time, he had realised that his strengths lay with inorganic chemistry  and it was in this field that he obtained his PhD at the same institution in 1958. By the time he obtained his doctorate, he was married to Christina Cross of Guisborough. Neil then spent a brief period teaching at The Duke’s School in Alnwick before accepting a research position in fluorine chemistry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver.

Not so inert

Scientists had always believed that the so-called noble or inert elements: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon, all gases at room temperature, were unable to react with any other substances. Their inertness had become a basic tenet of chemistry, published in textbooks and taught in classrooms and lecture halls throughout the world.

A few had questioned this scientific orthodoxy. They included German physicist, Walter Kossel, and the American Nobel-prize winning chemist, Linus Pauling, who had both predicted that highly reactive atoms such as those of fluorine might form compounds with xenon, the heaviest of the noble elements.

During his early days at UBC, while experimenting with fluorine and platinum, Bartlett had accidentally produced a deep-red solid, the exact chemical composition of which was, at first, a mystery. Eventually, he and his research student, Derek Lohmann, realise that the fluorine and platinum had reacted with oxygen. What was unusual was that the compound contained oxygen in the form of positively charged ions, although usually oxygen has a net negative charge. Bartlett realised that the platinum and fluorine component was a more powerful oxidising agent even than oxygen and theorised that it might also be able to oxidise xenon and so show that this so called inert gas wasn’t necessarily always so.

By March 1962, Bartlett had designed a simple experiment. He set up a glass apparatus containing the platinum fluorine compound, a red gas, in one container and xenon, a colourless gas, in an adjoining container separated by a seal. This is what happened next in his own words:

‘Because my co-workers at that time (23 March 1962) were still not sufficiently experienced to help me with the glass blowing and the preparation and purification of platinum hexafluoride necessary for the experiment, I was not ready to carry it out until about 7.00pm on that Friday. When I broke the seal between the red platinum hexafluoride gas and the colourless xenon gas, there was an immediate interaction, causing an orange-yellow solid to precipitate. At once I tried to find someone with whom to share the exciting finding but it appeared that everyone had left for dinner!’

The reaction took place at room temperature ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ and was, according to Bartlett, ‘extraordinarily exhilarating’. Neil Bartlett was only 29 years old.

Neil Bartlett Copyright: University of British Columbia

It was then that the really hard work began. Bartlett was sure that he had disproved what was then considered to be a fundamental law of nature but the scientific community was sceptical. Nevertheless, the compound was soon formally identified as xenon hexafluoroplatinate, the world’s first noble gas compound. With one simple experiment, an entirely new field, noble gas chemistry, had been launched.

Now, there are many known compounds, for which applications have been found in medicine, including eye-surgery and cancer treatments; mining; space travel and manufacturing.

Accident

Early the following year, Neil Bartlett was in the news again. He and his graduate student were injured following a laboratory explosion. According to Bartlett, as they both took off their glasses to get a better look at what they thought might be the first crystals of xenon difluoride, the compound exploded. Both men spent around four weeks in hospital. Bartlett was left with damaged vision and glass was still being removed from his eye 27 years later.

Later career

Despite the momentous discovery he made so early in his career, Bartlett’s career certainly didn’t tail off. 

He stayed at the UBC for another four years before becoming professor of chemistry at Princeton University, alongside a position as a scientist at Bell Telephone Laboratories. He later said that, in retrospect, the move to the east coast of America was a mistake. He much preferred the lifestyle and climate of the west and, in 1969, he joined the University of California, Berkeley, where he stayed until his retirement. In the UK, he also served as Brotherton professor at the University of Leeds.

Bartlett is also known in the world of chemistry for his work on the stabilisation of unusually high oxidisation states of elements; his contributions towards understanding thermodynamic, structural and bonding considerations of chemical reactions; he developed novel synthetic approaches; and he discovered and characterised many new fluorine compounds and produced many new metallic graphite compounds.

Beyond the Lab

Neil and Christine had three sons and one daughter and they continued to live in California after Neil’s retirement in 1993. Neil became a naturalised US citizen in 2000. His outside interests included water colour painting, gardening and ‘walking in high country’. He died on 5 August 2008.

Recognition 

Professor Neil Bartlett’s contribution to science was recognised all over the world by honorary degrees and prizes. There are too many to list here but they include:

1962 The Corday-Morgan Medal and Prize awarded by the Chemical Society (now Royal Society of Chemistry) for that year’s most meritorious contribution to experimental chemistry;

1965 A Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement’s plaque and prize for his outstanding contribution to science;

1976 The Welch Award in Chemistry, given to encourage and reward chemical research for the benefit of mankind and one of the largest and most prestigious in chemistry;

1981 Honorary Doctor of Science, Newcastle University;

1989 The American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry;

1989 Linus Pauling Award Medal of the American Chemical Society ‘A nominee shall have made outstanding contributions to chemistry that have merited national and international recognition’;

2002 The Davy Medal awarded by the Royal Society ‘for an outstandingly important recent discovery in any branch of chemistry;

2006 His laboratory at UBC in Vancouver was dedicated an International Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society.

Professor Neil Bartlett following the designation of his lab as an International Historic Chemical Landmark

Overlooked

In fact almost the only prize missing from Professor Bartlett’s impressive CV was a Nobel Prize. Many people are astounded by his omission.

In his obituary in ‘Nature’, he was described by fellow chemist, Karl O Christe as ‘one of the foremost chemists of the twentieth century’. His obituary writer continued ‘perhaps because of his modesty and lack of interest in lobbying for honours, he did not receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry – which, in my opinion, and those of many of his peers, was clearly deserved.’ 

Christe goes on to say ‘…perhaps his most memorable traits were his humbleness, friendliness, loyalty and concern for others: Neil Bartlett was not only a brilliant scholar but a true gentleman.’

Bartlett was nominated for the Nobel prize every year between 1963 and 1970: he received one nomination in 1963, four in 1964, nine in 1965, six in 1966, six in 1967, three in 1968, ten in 1969 and six in 1970, 45 in total.

István Hargittai in a chapter entitled ‘Who did not win?’ in his book ‘The Road to Stockholm’ wrote ‘Significantly, many chemists today assume that Bartlett has won a Nobel Prize.’ 

He cites ‘the most spectacular misconception’ on the first page of the first chapter of Primo Levi’s ‘The Periodic Table’ (named by the Royal Institution of Great Britain as ‘the best science book ever’ ). It reads as follows:

‘As late as 1962 a diligent chemist after long and ingenious efforts succeeded in forcing the Alien (xenon) to combine fleetingly with extremely avid and lively fluorine, and the feat seemed so extraordinary that he was given the Nobel Prize’.

But it isn’t just the Nobel Prize. The ‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ which is described as ‘the national record of over 60,000 men and women who shaped the history of the British Isles and of Britons worldwide, from the earliest times to the 21st century’ issued a print update including deaths up to December 2008. Professor Neil Bartlett does not appear. And, more mystifyingly still, he still doesn’t appear in the online index.

The Bartlett family home on Winchcombe Place, High Heaton from c1951

There is no commemorative plaque at his High Heaton home and he doesn’t appear on NewcastleGatehead’s Local Heroes trail, where physicist, Professor Peter Higgs, and geneticist, Professor John Burn, are the only scientists with a plaque on the Quayside.

But it’s not too late for Heaton History Group to finally give ex Heaton Grammar pupil and former High Heaton resident, Professor Neil Bartlett, a man with noble qualities, if not a Nobel prize, at least the local recognition he deserves.

Can You Help?

If you know more about Neil Bartlett or have photos or memories 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

Researched and written by Chris Jackson with additional material by Karl Cain, both of Heaton History Group.

Sources

50 Years of Xenon Chemistry 2012 Bartlett Symposium

‘Biography of Neil Bartlett’ / College of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

‘Neil Bartlett (1932-2008)’ / Karl O Christe, ‘Nature’ Issue 455, 182 (2008)

‘Neil Bartlett – chemist’ / Wikipedia

‘Neil Bartlett and the Reactive Nobel Gases: international historic chemical landmark’

‘Newcastle Journal’ 20 December 1962 via British Newspaper Archive

‘Nobel Prize Nominations Database’ 

 ‘The Road to Stockholm: Nobel prizes, science and scientists’ / by Istvan Hargittai; Oxford University Press; 2nd ed, 2003

Who’s Who 2007’ (Available at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil and via an online subscription)

Trewhitt to Woo

Trewhitt Road in Heaton first appears in trade directories in 1907-8 but only as far as number 188. Among the road’s first residents were Miss Maud Forman, ‘librarian in charge, Victoria Public Library, Heaton Park View’ at number 4; J Money, a ‘press reader’ at 45; A Gregory, a ‘missionary’, at 58; J Beaumont, a ‘musician’, at 60; J Shelton, a ‘mariner’, at 73. 

It appears that 212, the final residence before the Iris Brickfield allotments, wasn’t yet occupied. It is unusual in that it is a two bedroomed house whereas most of the properties in the area are Tyneside flats. It is the only property beyond Whitefield Terrace on the south side, adjoining what was originally a corner shop. The house is wide rather than deep with a garden along the front. There used to be a bed of mint which was freely used by the neighbours.

212 Trewhitt Road in March 2022

We know such a lot about this house because it was the home for many years of Pat and Jim Scott and their daughter, Heaton History Group member Kathryn, who Robin Long, our treasurer, married. Robin took advantage of access to the deeds when the property was being sold in 2004 to find out more about no 212 and its various owners and inhabitants.

Farmland

Plans dated around 1800 show that the house stands in what was then a field called ‘North Saugh Close’ (‘Saugh’ is a local word for willow which suggests the ground was damp, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who walks on the neighbouring Iris Brickfield Park today.) The farm was owned by the Ridley family but tenanted by Thomas Cairns.

The layout of the fields in Heaton had, not surprisingly, changed quite a bit by 4.00pm on Tuesday 7 November 1865 when the Heaton farms not already developed were put up for auction at the Queen’s Head in Newcastle. It’s not easy to map the sketch maps drawn for the auction against a modern street plan but North Saugh Close still existed and was described as arable land. It was part of ‘Heaton East Farm in the occupation of Mr William Lax.’ We have previously written a little bit about the Lax family.

We don’t know what happened at the auction but the land does not appear to have finally changed hands for several years when the deeds of 212 Trewhitt Road refer to ‘an Indenture dated 12 May 1868 and made between Sir Matthew White Ridley of the first part Matthew White Ridley of the second part and Sir William George Armstrong of the third part and a Deed dated the 11 October 1894 and made between William George Baron Armstrong of the one part and William Armstrong Watson Armstrong of the other part’ . Put more simply, Sir William, later Lord, Armstrong bought the land from Sir Matthew White Ridley and it remained in the family.

Building

It was sold again on 9 March 1908. By this time, Heaton had been growing fast for some twenty years and was a sought-after place to live. The purchaser was William Spence Lambert of Newcastle upon Tyne, a builder. He paid £145 19s 9d for the plot on which the house stands and also  bought a number of adjacent plots. 

The plot on which 212 stands is described as ‘extending from North to South on the East side thereof 43 feet 9 inches and on the West side thereof 44 feet 9 inches and from East to West on the North side thereof 70 feet and on the South side thereof 69 feet 11 inches and containing 343 1/2 sq. yards of thereabouts delineated in the plan (which is missing)…bounded on or towards the North by Trewhitt Road on or towards the South by the other hereditaments of the purchaser on or towards the East by a back street and on or towards the West by Whitefield Terrace together with the two dwelling houses and other building erected thereon. And together with the liberty of way and passage in any manner howsoever over the said streets (Except and reserved unto the person or persons entitled thereto all mines and seams of coal within and under the said hereditaments…)’

There is  a stipulation that ‘the purchaser is to maintain on each site sold a dwelling house to be built of good and substantial materials’.

‘The gardens (where gardens are shewn on the plan) are to be enclosed with a cast iron palisading of uniform height and pattern to be approved by the vendor’s architect.’ These were presumably removed for the war effort in 1942 but have since been replaced.

The last paragraph of the schedule reads: 

‘No part of the purchased ground or any building erected or to be erected thereon shall be used as an inn or alehouse or for the sale of wine spirits or malt liquors and no trade business or manufacture shall be carried on thereon or therein from which nuisance of annoyance can arise to the neighbourhood’. The penalty for breach of the covenant is set at £50 per month or part. 

The abstract then goes on to record an indenture on 10 March 1908 between William Spence Lambert (the builder and purchaser) and the Northern Counties Permanent Building Society for a mortgage of £936 0s 8d. This includes a page or more on the powers that the building society have in the event of default. Presumably the difference between the cost of the land and the amount of the mortgage was to cover the cost of building the house.

Owners and Occupiers

An advertisement in the ‘Evening Chronicle’ on 17 June 1910 described the house available for let as ‘Double fronted self-contained house… 4 rooms, bathroom. Immediate £22’.

One of the people to reply to the advert may have been W Beckett, a travelling draper. He appeared in a 1910 trade directory along with new neighbours including NH Burgess, a naval architect, next door at number 210; F A Charlton, a telegraphist at 186; W Hopper, a mariner at 160. 

But the 1911 census shows the residents of 212 to be Herbert Bond, a 35 year old clerk from Middlesbrough who was working for a wholesale chemist, his wife, Alice, and 12 year old son Charles Edmund. 

The deeds for 212 refer to an indenture dated 28 November 1911 between Northern Counties PBS and William Goode Davies and George Francis Bell,  solicitors. It mentions that monies still remained owing to the Society… suggesting that Lambert may have become bankrupt. This indenture refers to ‘all the said hereditaments at the price of £3,422 5s 8d’ so these solicitors seem to have bought the whole block. On the same day they obtained a mortgage for £3,400 from the Northern Counties. 

The Bonds were still in residence in 1914 and both father and son saw active service in World War One. Herbert enlisted at the age of 40 in December 1915. He served as a storeman and clerk and was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1917. Young Charles, still only 19 at the end of the war, suffered from ‘neurasthenia’ , for which he was awarded an army pension, and is a term which suggests he was affected by what was later known as ‘shell-shock’ and now ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’.

At this point, the Bonds’ neighbours included T P Browne, a bookseller at number 3; J H Weatherall, a groundsman, at no 67; W E Hurford, an assistant librarian at 89 and F W H Reed, a journalist, at 178; and Trewhitt Road was home to what seems like an extraordinary number of police officers –  A Pogue at 72;  T Nattress at 130; R Lambert at 138 and W Hall at 199;  with  J Wardell, a sergeant to keep them all in line, at 66.

This is a map of the area, dating from 1913. Note that there are already allotments around the edge of the brick works.

The next document that Robin examined was an abstract of title which referred to the will of William Goode Davies drawn up on 17 July 1918 in which he appointed his two daughters and son-in-law as his executors. Davies died just over a week later. 

On 18 March 1920, 212 Trewhitt Road was sold by the executors and George Francis Bell, solicitor,  with the permission of the Northern Counties to John Bartholomew of 141 Denmark Street for the sum of £450 with £400 being paid to the Society. John Bartholomew borrowed £344-17s-1d from Northern Counties. 

Bartholomew, a fish merchant, continued to live in Monkseaton and rented out his recently purchased property on Trewhitt Road to the existing tenant, Herbert Bond, now described as a manager.

It changed hands again on 16 February 1924, with Charles William Llanwarne of Whitley Bay, an Employment Officer,  buying it for £575. His mortgage of £400 was with the Crown Building Society. This was about the same time as the Bonds moved to 15 Tosson Terrace. Herbert became a director and secretary of a wine merchants. Charles went on to be a dentist and to live in Monkseaton.

Charles Llanwarne seems to have been the first owner occupier of 212 as this is the address that appeared for him on the conveyance dated 10 May 1927 when he sold the property to Charles Haw of 32 Corporation Street, a wagon driver, for £480. Haw does not seem to have needed a mortgage. 

Haw is listed as the occupier in the  directories of both 1933 and 1939. Somewhat unusually no occupation is given for him.

It was Charles Haw from whom Robin’s future parents in law first rented number 212. It seems that he moved out during the war when the house was used as accommodation for firemen.

By the time Haw sold the house on 11 December 1951, he was living at Daddry Shields, Westgate in Weardale and his signature was witnessed by Charles Bertram Emmerson of the same address, a quarry foreman. Did Haw’s wagon driving take him into quarry work? And had he previously been employed on the Iris Brickfield quarry and brickworks? Number 212 Trewhitt Road could scarcely have been closer. 

Family home

The purchaser was James Fairhurst Scott, who had been renting it with his wife, Pat, since 1944. The conveyance stated that the 1908 covenant between Baron Armstrong and William Spence Lambert still applied: ‘and no trade business or manufacture shall be carried on thereon or therein from which nuisance of annoyance can arise to the neighbourhood.’  Robin is quite sure that the Scotts would not have breached it.

Jim had previously lived at 144 Chillingham Road along with his mother, Elizabeth Scott (nee Fairhurst) and his sister Jane (Jean). Before the war he was working for Ringtons selling tea from a van (drawn by his much loved horse, Polly) with two ‘lads’ under him. (His sister, Jean, was secretary to Doug Smith at Ringtons).

Meanwhile Pat, his bride to be, was living in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. Her father, a builder with several employees, had been killed in an accident at work when she was about three years old. Her mother, having two more children at school, ran a seaside boarding house. Pat worked in a local photographer’s shop, colouring black and white photographs. Later she worked at Marks and Spencers in Grimsby. 

Butlin’s Holiday camp in Skegness, Lincolnshire opened in 1937 and it was there in 1939 that Pat and Jim met and romance blossomed. 

Jim was clearly smitten as it is said that he cycled to Cleethorpes to meet Pat’s family (and prepared the site for their Anderson shelter). 

They married at St Old Clee Church, Cleethorpes in January 1942 and came to live in Newcastle. Having had scarlet fever as a youngster, Jim was not allowed to join the forces and was sent to work for Newcastle Corporation Transport. His job involved looking after the wiring on trolley buses and he could be located whenever lights were seen flashing and sparks flying. After a short spell with his own fruit shop, he worked in George Wilkes’ furniture store. He was very successful at selling pianos despite being unable to play one. After Wilkes closed he worked for Callers furniture store on Northumberland Street. If you bought G-plan furniture in the 60s, he could well have sold it to you as he was regularly the top salesman. He was known there as Mr Fairhurst as there was already a Mr Scott.  

Many will remember the Callers window displays at Christmas and the serious fire just before Christmas 1969. Whilst the shop was being rebuilt, they continued to trade from Prudhoe Street and Saville Row until the rebuilt shop was opened in 1971. To thank their staff for their hard work during the rebuild, Roy and Ian Caller took the staff for a weekend in Paris. A visit to the Folies Bergère was included. Jim retired in September 1978 and died in April 1979. 

The Scotts on their silver wedding day in the front room of 212.
Kathryn with her pram outside 212, the allotments behind her
Kathryn outside the front door of 212 Trewhitt Road

Pat was responsible for running the home. She was a competent dressmaker, making dresses for Kathryn as well as outfits for dancing displays. She was an active member of Heaton Armstrong Townswomen’s Guild and part of the drama group. Because she didn’t have a Geordie accent she was often given the part of the lady of the manor! 

Inside

Robin, of course, visited number 212 many times while he was courting Kathryn and after they were married – here they are on one of their first dates.

Robin and Kathryn (centre), Seaton Sluice, Whit 1963

He remembers the interior well:

‘The front door is in the centre of the frontage and this led to a lobby with doors to both right and left and the staircase going up the middle. To the right was the front room with a square bay window and a tiled fireplace. This was usually used on high days and holidays but Jim also had a stereo radiogram there and enjoyed listening to his records several of which were ‘Readers Digest’ collections.

The door to the left led into the living room, which has a bay window. It contained a drop leaf dining table and chairs, three piece suite, sideboard and a writing desk – Jim’s 21st birthday present. There was a large cupboard off this room which stretched under the stairs so provided plenty of storage space.

A door led through to the kitchen containing cooker, fridge, sink-unit and twin tub as well as kitchen table and wall cupboards. The back door off the kitchen led into the yard where there was a coal house and toilet.

The main source of heating and hot water was a coal fire in the living room – Shilbottle coal was preferred. Later central heating was installed.

A garage had been built in the back yard by Jim. The door to it was in three sections, two of which were hinged together. This made access easier but a three point turn was still necessary to line up the car, an Austin A35 and later a Morris 1100. In later years the garage was demolished and the yard extended making a pleasant patio area for morning coffee.

Moving upstairs there are bedrooms to right and left at the top of the stairs both containing cupboards over the staircase and good size alcoves for wardrobes. The bedroom to the left led directly to the bathroom. Jim added a partition so that the bathroom could be accessed without disturbing the inhabitants of the bedroom. An inside toilet was added to the bathroom. Kathryn can recall sleeping in the bathroom when friends or family from Cleethorpes visited.

Jim’s war years working on trolley buses were not wasted as he was able to rewire the house. He also replaced the sash windows with casements as well as refitting the kitchen’

Pat continued to live at Trewhitt Road after Jim died, continuing as a member of the TWG and later the Women’s Fellowship at St Gabriel’s Church. She enjoyed looking after her granddaughter, Susan, and encouraged her to develop her mathematical skills by keeping the score whilst watching the snooker. (Susan is now a MEng working in Istanbul for Field Ready.) In 2004 Pat moved into Abbeyfield on Castles Farm Road at which time this happy family home was sold.

Pat died in the RVI on 26 December 2006.  

212 Trewitt Road is over 110 years old.

Can You Help?

If you know more about 212 Trewhitt Road or anybody mentioned in the article, 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

Acknowledgments

Researched and written by Robin Long, Heaton History Group, with additional material by Arthur Andrews and Chris Jackson.

Sources

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archives

Find My Past

Scott family papers

Electoral registers held by Newcastle City Library

Wallsend’s Roman Baths

22 June 2022 7.30pm at Heaton Baptist Church

Open for member bookings

In 2014, local residents taking part in WallQuest, a community archaeology project, discovered the long-lost Roman baths that lay outside the Roman fort of Wallsend (Segedunum), at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall.

Our June speaker, Nick Hodgson, will explain how his team of volunteers uncovered most of the Roman building. The remains, at a depth of 3 metres below the streets of modern Wallsend, were better preserved than anyone had dared hope.

Come to Nick’s talk to find out about the rediscovery of the baths, the finds made and what they tell us about Roman life at Wallsend. 

Excavating the Roman baths at Wallsend, 2014 (Copyright: Nick Hodgson)

Our Speaker

Nick Hodgson was an archaeologist for Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums for over 30 years.  He has has co-directed long-running programmes of excavation at the Roman sites of South Shields and Wallsend and published widely on these and other archaeological matters. 

His most recent books are Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeology and History at the limit of Rome’s empire (2017) and The Roman Baths at Wallsend (2020).  He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. 

Booking and Venue

The event will take place on Wednesday 22 June at Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5HN at 7.30pm.

We use the Mundella Terrace entrance. There is on street parking nearby and a car park about five minutes walk away off Jesmond Vale Lane in Heaton Park. If you have mobility needs which mean that you you would require access to the very limited parking by the door of the venue, please request this when you book.

The nearest bus stop is that of the number 1 on Second Avenue near the junction with Seventh Avenue. From there it’s a two minute walk to the church. It is about a twelve minute walk from the Coast Road bus stops near the Corner House.

The closest Metro station is Chillingham Road, about twelve minutes walk away.

The doors open at 7.00pm.  All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2.50 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154

Arrangements

There is ample room for social distancing at Heaton Baptist Church. The building has very high ceilings and  good ventilation. There is even a gallery in which anyone who would prefer to be further apart can sit. Tea and coffee is normally available for £1 per cup.

We look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new members and visitors.

This talk forms part of Heaton History Group’s contribution to Hadrian’s Wall 1900, a year long festival to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the building of Hadrian’s Wall.

History of Cresswell village from 1191

Wednesday 25 May 2022 7.30pm Heaton Baptist Church

Open for member bookings

Cresswell in Northumberland is a tiny village with a big history. In our May talk, you will find out about Cresswell’s Grace Darling, how Joe Baker Cresswell helped to shorten the war, the restoration of a 14th century pele tower, 7,000 year old footprints in the sand and much more.

Cresswell Hall (demolished in the 1930s)

Our speaker, Barry Mead, originally from Leighton Buzzard and a passionate Luton Town fan,  is an archaeologist, local historian and retired museum curator. He moved to the north-east in 1995 to manage Woodhorn Colliery Museum and church. Since ‘retirement’ in 2009, he has spent a lot of time fund raising to restore heritage sites in south-east Northumberland.

Booking and Venue

The event will take place on Wednesday 25 May at Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5HN at 7.30pm.

We use the Mundella Terrace entrance. There is on street parking nearby and a car park about five minutes walk away off Jesmond Vale Lane in Heaton Park. If you have mobility needs which mean that you you would require access to the very limited parking by the door of the venue, please request this when you book.

The nearest bus stop is that of the number 1 on Second Avenue near the junction with Seventh Avenue. From there it’s a two minute walk to the church. It is about a twelve minute walk from the Coast Road bus stops near the Corner House.

The closest Metro station is Chillingham Road, about twelve minutes walk away.

The doors open at 7.00pm.  All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2.50 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154

Arrangements

There is ample room for social distancing at Heaton Baptist Church. In line with government guidelines, masks are optional. The building has very high ceilings and  good ventilation. There is even a gallery in which anyone who would prefer to be further apart can sit. Tea and coffee is normally available for £1 per cup.

We look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new members and visitors.

Saint Ann’s Church and All Saints Parish c1750-1801

23 March 2022 7.30pm at Heaton Baptist Church

When built in 1767/68, Saint Ann’s was designed to be a symbol of Newcastle’s emerging role as the maritime capital of the north east coast. As a daughter church of All Saints, it served what was rapidly becoming Newcastle’s fastest growing parish. 

Our March speaker, Mike Greatbatch will illustrate the economic development of All Saints Parish in Newcastle and neighbouring Byker, identifying both the industries and the personalities which brought about this remarkable growth.

Our speaker

Mike has many years experience of researching and teaching the history of the Ouseburn and his local area of Fenham and Wingrove. He is an editor of the North East History Journal and secretary of the Friends of Saint Ann’s Church, a group dedicated to promoting greater understanding and appreciation of this historic church whose parish included the Battlefield and nearby Ouseburn and East Quayside. 

In 2016-18 Mike successfully delivered a Lottery funded heritage project in Fenham. He has recently published a history of Saint Ann’s and its parish, and will bring copies in case anyone wishes to purchase a copy.

Booking and Venue

The event will take place on Wednesday 23 March 2022 at Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5HN at 7.30pm.

We will be using the Mundella Terrace entrance. There is on street parking nearby and a car park about five minutes walk away off Jesmond Vale Lane in Heaton Park.

The nearest bus stop is the Number 1 on Second Avenue near the junction with Seventh Avenue. From there it’s a two minute walk to the church. It is about a twelve minute walk from the Coast Road bus stops at the Corner House.

The closest Metro station is Chillingham Road, about twelve minutes walk away.

The doors open at 7.00pm.  All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154

Arrangements

There is ample room for social distancing at Heaton Baptist Church. In line with government guidelines, masks are optional. The building has very high ceilings and  good ventilation. There is even a gallery in which anyone who would prefer to be further apart can sit. Tea and coffee will be available for £1 per cup.

We look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new members and visitors.

A Tale of Two Surtees?

On 28 April 1842, the first report  of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children’s Employment was presented to parliament. The commission had been established by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, an aristocratic social reformer who became known as the ‘Poor Man’s Earl’ after he campaigned for better working conditions, reform to lunacy laws and a limitation on child labour. 

The report was compiled by Richard Henry Horne, a poet, critic and friend of Charles Dickens. It concentrated on the lives of children who worked in mines. Hundreds of young workers (and some older people) were interviewed, including miners from Heaton Colliery. Their words and the rest of the report give an invaluable insight into the lives they led. 

The report was heavily illustrated to increase its impact

This report and a second one into conditions in factories and other workplaces shocked many in Victorian Britain and inspired writers and  campaigners for reform such as Dickens himself (for example in ‘A Christmas Carol’), Elizabeth Gaskell (‘Mary Barton’) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (‘The Cry of the Children’).

Heaton Voices

The 53 Heaton Colliery interviews had taken place at Bigges Main a year earlier on 1 May 1841. The youngest boys were eight or nine years old. Joshua Stephenson, thought to be about eight years old, said he had been down the pit for two years or more. He was entered in the colliery returns as seven years old and at the pit for two months but the heap-keeper corroborated the boy’s account. Joshua, who was 3 feet 8 3/4 inches tall and ‘far from robust and healthy’ told the interviewer that he got up at 3 o’clock in the morning, went down the pit at four o’clock and got home about five in the afternoon. He ate mainly bread and cheese for ‘bait’ and meat and potatoes for dinner. He had never been to any kind of school.

The oldest interviewee was Thomas Batty ’Aged 93 according to his own account and that of the agents’. He had gone down the pit at the age of six or seven and had worked in or around the mines of Northumberland until aged 85, although above ground, as an overman, from his 50s onwards. He talked about the hard times miners endured in the old days, which must have been from the mid 1750s.

Conditions

Many of the young miners spoke about their health and well-being. Nine year old Joseph Taylor said he was frightened of the dark when he started and that, when driving a rolley (the horse-drawn conveyance on which coal was transported underground), he fell off perhaps once a day. Once, he said, the rolley went over him ‘but luckily not the wheels’. He lay in between them and was unhurt. Robert Harrison was slightly burnt ‘by a shot being fired too near him’.

Boys driving rolley (illustration from the enquiry report)

Joseph Mackenzie thought ‘the smoke in the furnace in going down and up’ did not agree with him. He was often sick in the morning before leaving home but never stayed off work. 14 year old Joseph Beaney reported similar symptoms and blamed the air in the pit. He reported that he often felt drowsy and short of breath. Others had similar experiences and many spoke of leg, back and shoulder pain. Nevertheless, a number of the boys said that they didn’t want to leave the pit because, in winter, it was warmer down there than above ground. Parents also often wanted their children to work underground because the pay was relatively good (although perhaps only a fifth of the adult wage, which was, of course, a big attraction for employers) and many feared that they wouldn’t be able to feed their families without the extra, young breadwinners.

Hours

Many of the boys reported getting up at 3:00am for a 4:00am start. Twelve year old George Beresford rose at half past two every morning because, he said, he ‘lives a good way off at Ouseburn’. He arrived home about 5:30pm, had his dinner and a wash then went straight to bed at 7 or 8 o’clock. ‘Never has any time for play’.

Some occasionally worked double shifts and 15 year old George Foster said he once worked a treble shift, 36 hours underground with a couple of hours rest in total. Joseph Peel, aged 14, said that he he had often worked three shifts without coming to the surface and, on one occasion four – 48 consecutive hours underground.

Education

Most of the boys had never been to school but some attended Sunday school. Nine year old Joseph Taylor, for example, said that he went to the Methodist school on Sunday. ‘Learnt the Bible and ciphering. Can read (pretty well). Cannot write at all.’ 15 year old George Foster could ‘read an easy book, cannot write.’ Edward Wright, an 18 year old, said he taught at the Sunday school. In his class were 11 boys from the pits. ‘These 11 boys are the active boys but in general the pit boys are stupid and dull.’ 

Surtees

One of the fuller accounts was that of 17 year old Surtees Blackburn. He explained that he had been ‘down pits about 10 years’, starting with ‘two years down the middle pit at Heaton’. We know that the pithead of Middle Pit was approximately where Rokeby Terrace is now.

He described the various jobs he had done: ‘Kept a door for about two years. Next drove rolleys for four years. Hoisted the corves (hazel baskets in which coal was carried to the surface) by cranes for two years. Has been putting (moving corves of coal from the working area to the cranes to be lifted onto the rolley) and such-like the other two years… Is now putting the stones away from the sinking pit. This is not hard work.’ In fact he ‘Never found anything worse from his work than being tired sometimes’ and he was ‘Laid off work never more than a day now and then’.

Surtees might not have considered the work difficult but, in common with the majority of the boys he said that he: ‘Gets up at about 3 o’clock a.m. Goes down the pit about 4 o’clock,’ and he ‘Once worked 3 shifts, i.e. 36 hours, without coming up, 3 or 4 years since’. He made little of the fact ‘the overman hits the boys a few bats, not to hurt them much.’

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Surtees seemed to value education. The interviewer noted that he ‘Can read (well). Can write his name. Goes to a night-school in winter. Goes to Sunday-school regularly to teach and to chapel afterwards.

We wondered whether it was possible to find out more about Surtees. Who were his parents and brothers and sisters? Where did they call home? Did he marry and have children of his own? Did he spend his whole working life as a miner? And how for long did he live?

We chose Surtees, in part because we expected that identifying him in the records to be more straightforward than trying to track fellow colliers with more common names such as Joseph Taylor, Thomas Todd and Robert Harrison. Surely there would be only one Surtees Blackburn. 

Census

Luckily for us, the ten yearly census took place just a few weeks after the Children’s Employment Commission interviews at Heaton Colliery. A quick check there would reveal who Surtees was living with and hopefully reveal a lot about his family. Except that, in the 1841 census, there were no less than four Surtees Blackburns all living in this area. 

The first one can quickly be discounted. He was reported to be a 44 year old collier living at Killingworth Colliery with his wife, Jane, and eight year old daughter, Elizabeth. 

We can track his life from the day his mother, Dorothy Crow, and father, John Blackburn, had him baptised on 21 May 1797. His comparatively long but hard life is apparent from subsequent censuses in which he’s described as a ‘pauper / coal miner’ (1851) still with Jane and Elizabeth at West Cramlington Colliery; a coal miner again (1861) when Elizabeth’s two young children had joined the household; to 1871 when he is described as an inmate in Tynemouth Union Workhouse and finally his burial just 12 weeks later on 26 June 1871, aged 74.

Incidentally, this Surtees Blackburn was preceded in the baptismal records by two other Surtees, one the son of Ann Blackburn (father unknown) , baptised on 19 April 1789 in Longbenton and the other the son of Katharine and William Blackburn, baptised on 13 July 1754 in Lanchester, Co Durham.

Brothers

The second Surtees (or ‘Surtis’) Blackburn known to be alive in 1841 was aged 10 at the time of the census and living at Bigges Main, which was part of Heaton Colliery,  with his mother, Ann, and father, Luke; two brothers, 15 year old Matthew and five year old, Luke junior; and eight year old sister, Elizabeth.

This Surtees’ brother, Matthew, was interviewed by the commission and had concerns about his health and working conditions:

‘Has been down pits about 5 years. Has felt shortness of breath. Helps up sometimes but is bound to drive. Cannot help up sometimes for shortness of breath. His legs often work; his shoulders work sometimes. Has been working in a wet place at the lately for a fortnight.’ 

Later censuses show that Matthew did not stay down the pit. He became a labourer on the railways.

It seems likely that Matthew’s ten year old brother, Surtees, may have been the ‘Saunders’ Blackburn also interviewed by the commission. Saunders does not appear in any other records and Surtees is the right age. Perhaps he was known by this name to avoid confusion or alternatively there may have been a transcription error or perhaps the interviewer, John Roby Leifchild (a 26 year old Londoner who had been a pupil of William ‘Strata’ Smith and who later was to become notorious for his devastating, anonymous review of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ ) misunderstood the Geordie accent. 

The interview with ‘Saunders’ was reported thus:

Nearly 10. Has been down pits more than a year. Drives now. Was well in his breath before he went down the pit. Is now very short of breath and is bad about the breast. Never feels any other pain. The doctor puts a blister on. Has been off work 6 weeks. Is near the shaft in the pit. His work is not very hard. The air of the pit does not agree with him. Feels his breath short soon after he goes down the pit. Feels it nearly all day, not after he comes up. No one strikes him.’

Despite his health concerns and, unlike that of Matthew, who we think was his older brother, this ‘Saunders’ / Surtees remained a miner all his working life but died, aged only 45, in 1875.

Our Surtees?

On 6 June 1841 (census day), another Surtees, this one 17 years old, which is the age of the Surtees we wanted to track, was living at Bigges Main with his mother, Mary; father, John, a miner, older sister, Eleanor and three younger brothers, George, John and Robert. 

As we have heard, he had already been working for around 10 years. His position as the oldest boy and, therefore, first child to be able to contribute to the family income may well have been a factor in his mature, hard working disposition. He told Leifchild that he ‘Gives his money to his parents.’

In fact, there is some confusion surrounding Surtees’ parentage. Although he called John and Mary ‘father and mother’ and they were certainly the parents of his older sister and younger siblings, the records of the baptism which appears to be his on 12 February 1824 at Brunswick Place Chapel state that his mother and father were Elizabeth and James Blackburn, a pitman, of Byker Hill, All Saints Parish. Perhaps John and Mary were an aunt and uncle who adopted the young Surtees? (Either that or there was yet another Surtees Blackburn of the same age!)

Surtees took some finding in 1851,  as his name has been transcribed on ‘Ancestry’ as ‘Burtess’ but he was living with his mother Mary, his widowed older sister, Helen (who appears to be the Eleanor from 10 years earlier), brothers John and Robert and nephews John and Thomas at Low Row, Little Benton. All the brothers were described as ‘coal miners’.

In 1861, he was still living with his widowed mother, at Bigges Main along with brothers George, John and Robert plus two younger children, John and Mary. But on 4 August 1868, aged 43, he married Alexandria McLeod, a Scot.  But by the time of the next census in 1871, he and Alexandria were living at 11 Old Shops, which judging by the census enumerator’s round, was close to Gosforth Pit Cottages. He was still a miner. 

By 1881, however, aged 63, he was described as a ‘railway servant.’ He and Alexandria were living at 23 Byker Hill, which being so close to both Heaton Junction and Heaton Station, would have been very convenient for jobs in the growing railway industry which was transforming Heaton. Surtees Blackburn died on 3 January 1890, aged 66. Probate, dated 25 January 1890, describes him as a ‘railway wagon greaser’. The executor of his will was his brother, John, still a miner. 

Changes

The evidence of Surtees and the other Heaton miners played a small part in improving the lives of the children who grew up after them, although change was gradual. The Mines and Collieries Act, which prohibited all underground work for women and girls (There is no evidence for women or girls having been employed in mining in Heaton) and for boys under ten, was passed almost immediately on 14 July 1842. The Coal Mines Inspection Act of 1850 tried to reduce the number of accidents in mines by introducing inspectors under the supervision of the Home Office. And, in 1860, a Coal Mines Regulation Act raised the age limit further from ten to twelve.

By this time, there was very little coal mining in Heaton. Heaton Main Colliery closed in 1852 and the last mine, a small landsale colliery (that is a tenanted pit, which sold its coal locally, duty free) in Low Heaton, closed in the 1860s. It is commemorated by a Heaton History Group red plaque on the boundary wall of Heaton Park Court on Heaton Park Road.

Plaque outside Heaton Park Court, Heaton Park Road

During his life span of 65 years, Surtees Blackburn saw Heaton change from an agricultural area, the landscape of which was dotted with the evidence of the coal mining taking place beneath its fields, to a fast growing residential township supported by a wide range of businesses. We don’t know very much about Surtees Blackburn but he was one of many who adapted to Heaton’s evolving economy by changing career from mining to the railways. He might have been one of several Surtees Blackburns but his story is unique and he played a significant part not only in Heaton’s history but in that of Victorian Britain.

Can You Help?

If you know more about any of the Heaton Colliery miners interviewed, 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

Researched and written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group.

Sources

Ancestry UK

A Celebration of our Mining Heritage: a souvenir publication to commemorate the bicentenary of the disaster at Heaton Main Colliery in 1815‘ / Les Turnbull; Chapman Research in conjunction with the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers and Heaton History Group, 2015

Children’s Employment Commissioners Report on Heaton/ The Mining Institute (North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers)

‘Coals from Newcastle: an introduction to the Northumberland and Durham Coalfield’ / Les Turnbull; Chapman Research Publishing, 2009

Condition and Treatment of the Children Employed in the Mines and Collieries of the United Kingdom’; Parliamentary Report; London, 1842

Durham Mining Museum

Report on Child Labour / British Library Collections

The Northumbrians

Wednesday 27 April 7.30pm Heaton Baptist Church

Open for member and non-member bookings

For our April talk, Dan Jackson, author of the best-selling ‘The Northumbrians: north-east England and its people – a new history’ will explore the roots of the distinctive culture of the lands between the Tweed and the Tees, and how centuries of border warfare, heavy and dangerous industries, and the sociability and hedonism that so defined the communities of the North East has left an enduring cultural imprint.

Born in North Shields and brought up in Northumberland, Dr Dan Jackson is a graduate of the universities of Northumbria and Liverpool. His book ‘The Northumbrians‘ was published in 2019 to critical acclaim. Dan has also written for ‘History Today’ and ‘The New Statesman’ and has appeared on the BBC’s ‘Start the Week’, ‘Making History’ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Dan was a founding member of the Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project which received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2015.  After over a decade working in the public sector, he is now a director in the North East regional NHS. 

Booking and Venue

The event will take place on Wednesday 27 April at Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5HN at 7.30pm.

We use the Mundella Terrace entrance. There is on street parking nearby and a car park about five minutes walk away off Jesmond Vale Lane in Heaton Park. If you have mobility needs which mean that you you would require access to the very limited parking by the door of the venue, please request this when you book.

The nearest bus stop is the Number 1 on Second Avenue near the junction with Seventh Avenue. From there it’s a two minute walk to the church. It is about a twelve minute walk from the Coast Road bus stops at the Corner House.

The closest Metro station is Chillingham Road, about twelve minutes walk away.

The doors open at 7.00pm.  All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2.50 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154

Arrangements

There is ample room for social distancing at Heaton Baptist Church. In line with government guidelines, masks are optional. The building has very high ceilings and  good ventilation. There is even a gallery in which anyone who would prefer to be further apart can sit. Tea and coffee will be available for £1 per cup.

The church still asks everyone to wear masks as a precaution against Covid so we would ask everyone to respect that. 

We look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new members and visitors.

F R Barnes: Heaton head

We have written in the past about the opening of the school that was recently renamed Jesmond Park Academy. We mentioned that the first head teacher of Heaton Secondary School for Girls was a Miss W M Cooper and that of the neighbouring boys’ school a Mr F R Barnes. 

Frederic Richard Barnes didn’t retire until thirty years later and so Heaton History Group’s Arthur Andrews decided to find out what he could about a man who was an influence on a generation of local boys.

Family

Frederic Barnes was born in 1890, the first son of Richard, a carpenter, and Mary, who had both been born and brought up in Salford, Lancashire, where the family still lived. By 1911, Richard had become a ‘manual instructor’ for Salford Education Committee and Frederic, who had recently graduated from Manchester University with a First Class Honours Degree was a ‘student teacher’. His younger brother, James, was a ‘Civil Service student’.

In 1915, Barnes married Alice Gertrude Holt, an ‘elementary school teacher’, who grew up very close to Frederic’s childhood home in Salford. His first teaching job too was in Salford.

Barnes was a historian. His article on taxation on wool in the 14th century, published in 1918, can still be read on line. 

After the war, Barnes was appointed to a teaching post in Coventry before moving back to the north-west to take up the post of headmaster of Barrow in Furness Secondary School for Boys, Lancashire. 

To Heaton

Ten years later a prestigious opportunity arose in Newcastle with the building of the Heaton Secondary Schools, which, it has been said, had been designed to resemble an Oxbridge college. The state of the art schools were officially opened to a great fanfare on 18 September 1928 by Viscount Grey, the former foreign secretary, and, just three weeks later, the head teachers, F R Barnes and W M Cooper, were presented to King George V and Queen Mary when the royal couple visited the new school on the day that they opened the Tyne Bridge.

On becoming headmaster of Heaton Secondary School for Boys, Frederic Barnes and his wife and two children, Frederic Cyril and Gertrude, went to live at ‘Bowness’, 55 Jesmond Park West, a  newly built semi-detached house overlooking the school and its playing fields. At that time the entrance to the boys school was on Jesmond Park West so Barnes had a very short walk to work. A newspaper article at the time said that F R Barnes named the house ‘Bowness’ because his children had enjoyed excursions to the village on Lake Windermere, close to Barrow in Furness.

Sleepless

One of the concerns we know Barnes had in the early years of his headship was the inadequate amount of sleep that Heaton boys were enjoying.  At the school speech day in December 1934, he presented the results of a sleep census, commenting on the ‘alarmingly’ inadequate amount of sleep that many of his charges got each night. Some things don’t change! The research revealed that 74 boys aged 13 years old and younger went to bed at 9:30pm, 79 at 10:00pm and 28 at 10:30pm. 

Youth unemployment was another worry. The school’s opening in 1928 had coincided with the start of decline in the heavy industries so important to the north-east’s economy. By 1934, the situation had worsened. Barnes expressed a hope that ‘after negotiations’ more school leavers ‘would obtain a prompt start in industry’. He also appealed to parents not to restrict their sons’ choice of profession or rule out the ‘adventurous careers’. No examples of exactly what he meant by this have been recorded. The armed forces, perhaps?

Evacuee

On the date of the 1939 Register of England and Wales, a snapshot  of the civilian population which was used during the war to produce identity cards, issue ration books and administer conscription, Frederic and Alice Barnes were back in the north-west with their daughter, Gertrude. The family was staying with 35 year old ‘householder’ , Dorothy I Field in Whitehaven, Cumberland. Perhaps they were on holiday? But the register was taken on 29 September during school term. In fact, the whole of Heaton Secondary School for Boys, including many of the teachers, had been evacuated by train to Whitehaven in the very early days of the the second world war.

There are a number of vivid accounts of pupils’ experiences in the public domain, including that of Colin Kirkby, who some 56 years later, remembered being given a carrier bag containing a gas mask, an identity card, a tin of corned beef and a tin of condensed milk, then being taken to Newcastle’s cattle market and then the station to be put on a train to Cumberland. Once they were in Whitehaven, he had to sit in a school hall ‘with thousands of other children from Newcastle’ waiting to be chosen by a local host. ‘I and a few others were left till last, and I think it was because we were the scruffiest.’ Luckily, he went to live with ‘a kindly old couple’. ‘I moved from a house in Newcastle with no electricity and a toilet in the back yard to a house with everything. It even had a garden.’

In March 1940, the ‘Evening Chronicle’ ran an article, headlined ‘Boys’ Comic Opera – hosts entertained at Whitehaven’. It reported that, members of the Heaton Secondary Boys School Dramatic Society had given two performances of ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ to crowded audiences in the Whitehaven Secondary School premises, one for those who had been looking after the boys during their time in West Cumberland; the second for the remainder of the school and staff.

F R Barnes introduced the members of the society and gave details of the school’s achievements, including that the boys had won the Whitehaven and District Schools’ Association Football League Championship, with their captain, Cunnell, scoring an average of a goal a match. Like his successor, Harry Askew, Barnes was a very keen sportsman and in particular, a footballer.

 ‘The Heatonian’  

In his foreword to issue 32 (summer 1944) of the boys’ school magazine, Frederic lamented that a whole generation had had their education disrupted during the war years. He felt that the revival of the school magazine was one more sign of pre-war normality returning, writing that for five years the achievements of the school’s scholars and athletes had gone unsung.

The 20 page issue give us a feel for the time: the school notes section concentrates on the ‘Old Boys who gave their lives in the cause of freedom’, along with those reported missing and those in prisoner of war camps. The list takes up almost 2 pages.

There were also reports of Literary and Debating Society events (A Miss Mary Robson and a Mr Simpson from the People’s Theatre had given an informal lecture at one meeting); the activities of the Historical Society; achievements in cricket, football and athletics. There were poems and stories about war, the evacuation to Whitehaven and hiking in the Lake District. The editor regretted that, because of the paper shortage, caused by the war, not all contributions could be printed.

The final page has two additions to the killed and missing and also mentions eight former pupils, who had been decorated for bravery. On the copy we have, ticks have been pencilled against two of the names: Arthur Cowie DFM and Arthur Scott DFC. Perhaps they were known to William Hedley, the original owner of the magazine. Colin Kirkby left school that year and joined the Navy, perhaps one of the ‘adventurous careers’ that F R Barnes had urged parents not to rule out ten years earlier.

Retirement

Barnes retired in 1958, after a 30 year tenure as Headmaster of Heaton Secondary School for Boys which, by this time, was known as Heaton Grammar School.

It was reported in the ‘Newcastle Journal’ on Wednesday 12 March 1958 that the school’s Musical and Dramatic Society were going to perform ‘The Mikado’ by Gilbert and Sullivan as a tribute to him. The choice was Barnes’ as it was his favourite opera and it was the first work ever to be performed by the society ten years earlier.

The account stated that Barnes had been the inspiration and encouragement behind everything the society had ever done and that everyone – the 50 boys in the cast and chorus, as well as the masters producing and managing it, were determined to make this ‘Mikado’ a show Mr Barnes would long remember. A team of pupils under the supervision of Mr Waldron, the woodwork teacher, and Mr Loughton, the scenic artist, had built all the sets.

At his retirement at the end of the summer term, former pupils presented Barnes with a television set, a gramophone and a book. Alumnus, Newcastle solicitor Brian Cato, presented the gifts and spoke with gratitude of Mr Barnes who, he said, had inspired generations of school boys and shaped their future lives.

But Frederic Barnes wasn’t quite finished. In December 1958, it was reported that he was ‘coming out of retirement’ to put the case against comprehensive schools in Newcastle. He had accepted an invitation from Robert William Elliott, the Conservative MP for North Newcastle (later Baron Elliott of Morpeth), to speak at a public meeting at the Connaught Hall. It was emphasised that his speech would not be party political but ‘solely a headmaster’s view of the Newcastle Socialists’ plan’. Barnes had previously said that he was not opposed to experiment in education but he was utterly opposed to the scheme for comprehensive education proposed by Newcastle Education Committee.

Frederic Richard Barnes died at the age of 73, on 3 December 1963.

At the time he was living at 7 Swalwell Close, Prudhoe. His wife Alice outlived him by nine years. The family grave is in Jesmond Old cemetery.

Barnes family grave, Jesmond Old Cemetery

Postscript

It has been suggested by a number of nonagenarian alumni, that Raymond Barnes, the well known school outfitter of 92 Grey Street, was a brother of Frederic Barnes but our research has found no family relationship between the pair.

Acknowledgments

Researched and written by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group, with additional material by Chris Jackson. Thank you to William Brian Hedley of Heaton History Group for sharing the contents of his father, William’s, copy of ‘The Heatonian’; to Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery for help with locating the Barnes family grave and to Ralph Fleeting, a Heaton Grammar School ‘Old Boy’ for his memories.

Sources

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archive

Findmypast 

‘The Heatonian’ Issue 32 (summer 1944)

WW2 People’s War: an archive of World War Two memories – written by the public, gathered by the BBC

Heaton United 1909-10: the players’ stories

When this rather battered photograph of Heaton United’s 1909-10 squad was taken Newcastle United were the League Champions (and had been in three of the previous five seasons) and were about to win the FA Cup for the first time in their history. You can understand why these Heaton young men would have chosen what appear to be black and white stripes for their own kit.

The photo was found by Jennie McGregor in the Norfolk antique shop where she works. It landed on the Heaton History Group doormat the day that the takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian government led consortium was announced and Newcastle fans began to dream of the sort of success the club had enjoyed over a century earlier under the captaincy of Heaton’s Colin Veitch, who would have been a familiar figure to many of the players as he walked about their neighbourhood. Perhaps he sometimes paused to watch Heaton United play. Is the team posing for the photographer in Heaton Park just a stone’s throw from Veitch’s Stratford Villas home ? The fence looks very like that which borders Jesmond Vale Lane now.

The fortunate discovery led us to wonder about the lives of the young men in the picture and how different they were to ours today, let alone to the highly paid global superstars the media were now linking with the Magpies. You could be forgiven for assuming that most of those photographed were Geordies born and bred, that they mainly worked with their hands and that many would have gone to war a few years later, some never to return.

Luckily someone has neatly written the players’ names on the bottom of the photograph, so we could have a go at testing out these theories. There’s some educated guesswork involved as we don’t know anything apart from surnames and initials but, based on the assumption that they would have lived in or around Heaton, this is who we think they might be.

Back row, left to right:

B. HOIT Hoit isn’t a common name in the north east and there’s only one person in the 1911 census who fits the bill: Albert (probably known to his football pals as Bert) James Julian, who in 1911 lived with his father, also called Albert, who worked as an electrical overseer for the admiralty, his mother, Jessie and three siblings at 22 Tenth Avenue. Young Albert was born on 17 July 1891 and so would have been 18 years old when the photo was taken. He was an apprentice electrical fitter at a firm of electrical engineers.

The family weren’t local. They all came from Portsmouth.  Bert was born on Portsea Island, very close to the historic dockyards. They hadn’t been in Newcastle long: even Bert’s youngest brother was Portsmouth-born. And we know that Bert returned to his home town eventually and, in 1938, married a local woman, Constance Day. He died in 1949, aged 58.

R STOBIE We reckon this has to be Henry Robert Stobie.  He was just a few months older than Bert, having been born in Newcastle on 24 April 1891. In 1911, he was living with his widowed mother Margaret and two younger brothers at 89 Seventh Avenue and working as a plumber. By 1924, he had married and was living with his wife at 26 Amble Grove, Sandyford. Eleven years later, at the start of the second world war, the couple were still at the same address and Henry was still a plumber.  When he died, aged 71, in 1963, they were living at 70 Guelder Road, High Heaton.

A HUXHAM Arthur Reeby Huxham was also 18 and, like Bert Hoit, a southerner with a father who worked for the admiralty. He was born in Stonehouse, Devon and had moved to Newcastle with his parents, Samuel and Selina, older brother, Henry, and younger sister, Mabel. His father was described as an ‘admiralty overseer (blacksmith)’.  In 1911, the family was living at 28 Cheltenham Terrace. Arthur was an insurance agent. During the war, he bowled for Heaton Victoria but he died in 1926, aged only 34 years old.

A TURNER Unlike Bert Hoit and Arthur Huxham, Arthur William Turner was born in Newcastle but he wasn’t destined to stay here. Like the other Heaton United players mentioned so far, he was eighteen years old when the photo was taken, having been born on 10 March 1891. His father was from Yorkshire and his mother from Gateshead. In 1911, Arthur was an engineer’s apprentice and living with his parents, at 39 Cardigan Terrace.

Arthur married Cicie, an Essex girl, and in 1926 they had a young child, Audrey, who, was born in Tongshan, Hebei, China, where documents show that the family had been living. This may seem surprising but Cicie’s father, Henry Franklin, was a railway worker who, in 1899, had travelled to China, where he worked as a brake inspector and later, consultant, for the Imperial Railway of North China.  British managers and workers played a major role in the building of this railway, although they endured some turbulent times including the Boxer Rebellion, just as Henry joined, and the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

Cicie herself was born in England in 1901 but soon travelled with her mother to join her father in Tongshan. Both her younger brother, Philip, in 1903 and sister, Winifred, in 1908, were born in China. We can assume, therefore, that Arthur was helped find a job on the railway by his father in law. He certainly described himself at this time as a ‘railway engineer’. We don’t know precisely how long Arthur and Cicie spent in China but in 1927 they travelled to Canada, first of all as tourists, and then later that same year with the stated intention of emigrating. 

Sometime before 1939, however, the family had returned to England. Arthur became the proprietor of a filling station in Clacton on Sea. They were still in Clacton when Cicie died, aged 47, in 1948. Arthur outlived her but we haven’t yet found out any more about his later years.

T RODGER Thomas Rodger came from good footballing pedigree.

His father was one of many Scots who came south to play for East End United and Newcastle United. Thomas Rodger senior, a left back, made his debut against Liverpool on 25 November 1893 and played 24 games for the Magpies before concentrating on his career working as a print compositor for the ‘Journal’, where he was to stay for over 40 years.

Thomas’s mother, Martha, was born in Kamptee, India while her father was serving in the army. By 1911,  the veteran was living with his daughter’s family at 20 Edwin Street, Heaton.

Young Thomas was born in Perth, his father’s home town. He was the eldest of ten children, eight of whom were still alive in 1911. He was employed as an accountant’s clerk and would have been 17 when the team photo was taken. He married Olive M Hart in 1919. At this time, he was living at 71 Malcolm Street.

Thomas went on to have a successful career as an accountant, eventually running his own firm on Ellison Place. By 1939, he, Olive and son, Glen, were living in Monkseaton, where Thomas died in 1958, aged c 66. Glen followed his father into accountancy and the practice he established is still going strong, based at Cragside House on Heaton Road. 

P WHITE

This could be Peter White, eldest son of George, a joiner, and his wife, Margaret, who in 1911, was living with parents and his younger siblings, Jane and Joseph, at 83 Seventh Avenue and employed as a shipyard clerk.  The family had moved from North Northumberland sometime between about 1897 and 1901. Peter was born in Amble in c1894 and so would have been about 16 in the photograph.  But we haven’t been able to find out any more about him.

Middle row, left to right:

D SMART

There was a 16 year old Donald Smart living at 27 Coquet Terrace  in 1911,  with his mother, Amy Lavinia and his step-father, James Gray, a furniture salesman from Killochan, Ayrshire and two older sisters, Norah and Carmen. Donald was, at this time, an apprentice wholesale draper.

Donald and both of the sisters still at home had been born in ‘San Domingo in the West Indies’, which we now know as the Dominican Republic. Amy, his mother, who was born in Birmingham, had married John Smart in Derby in 1886. On their marriage certificate, John described himself simply as a ‘traveller’. We don’t know what took the couple to the Caribbean but it may have been the sugar industry.

By 1901, John had died and Amy and her five children had returned to England, to Moseley in Worcestershire. Amy was described as ‘living on her own means’. A major source of income appears to have been her lodgers. On census night, there were three boarders, one of whom was James Gray, soon to become her second husband.

In World War One, Donald served firstly a private then a sergeant with the Royal Fusiliers, which was known as the City of London or Stockbrokers’ regiment, as it recruited mainly from city workers. We don’t know whether Donald had moved to London, only that he died of wounds on 11 March 1917, aged 22, in Southampton War Hospital. He left his worldly goods amounting to £14 to be divided equally between his mother, two sisters and his brother, Herbert.

A GAULD

This name is difficult to make out but we think it must be that of Alexander Gauld. Alex was born in Gateshead on 6 March 1892 so would have been 17 years old when the photograph was taken.

By 1901, he was living at 12 Balmoral Terrace his mother, Elizabeth, and father, also called Alexander, who was a travelling salesman for a firm of stationers and a talented amateur artist, his older brother, John, and his aunt.

By 1911, with the family still at the same address,  Alexander Junior was employed as a clerk. His older brother, John Richardson Gauld, was now studying at the Royal College of Art in London and he went on to attend the London County School of Lithography. He went on to teach, served as President of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited widely. One of his watercolour landscapes is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and there are portraits by him in the Laing, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery and elsewhere.

Unlike his brother, Alexander stayed at home. In 1939, he was still living with his now widowed mother in the same house on Balmoral Terrace. His occupation was now given as a ‘Solicitor’s Managing Clerk.’

When he died in 1966, aged 73, he was, somewhat confusingly, living at 7 Balmoral Avenue in South Gosforth. 

R TROTTER 

This seems to be Richard Trotter, who in 1911, was living with his widowed mother, Jane, and two younger sisters at 12 Addycombe Terrace. He was working as an engineer’s apprentice at ‘Parsons Turbine.’

Richard was born in Bedlington on 11 April 1891. His father, James, a Scot, was a ‘Physician and Surgeon’ who came from  a long line of doctors.  ‘Burke’s Family Records’ traces the medical lineage back to Dr Robert Trotter of Edinburgh, who was one of the founders of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and its second president in 1689. Another notable ancestor was Robert Trotter (1736-1818), an associate of Robert Burns who, like the poet, planned to emigrate to the West Indies but ‘missed his ship’. Robert’s successful treatment of his patients in Galloway made him famous far beyond the area and he treated patients from all over Scotland.

James and Jane had 14 children, 12 of whom survived beyond infancy.  The two oldest boys trained as doctors, as family tradition suggested they would, but Richard was only 8 years old when his father died. The bereaved family returned to Scotland for a while before Jane and the three youngest children came to Heaton, where Richard completed an apprenticeship at Parsons. 

In 1912, however, Richard was on board SS Waipara when it set sail from London to Brisbane, one of many British people who went to Australia under government assisted immigration schemes. He found work in the Australian government’s railway workshops. On 17 April 1913, aged 22, he married an Australian, Lucinda Sinclair, in Queensland. War broke out the following year.

By the time Richard  joined the Australian armed forces, the couple had two children. The British had asked the Australians to aid the war effort by recruiting battalions of railwaymen to move men and supplies on the Western Front. Now working for Westinghouse as a brake fitter, Richard joined the 4th Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company on 10 February 1917.

From his war records, we know a little more about what Richard looked like. He was 5 foot 10 inches tall, weighed 10 stone 2 lb, had grey eyes and brown hair. He described himself as Presbyterian. He travelled back to England for training and then onto France.

Richard survived the war and returned to Australia to resume his life with Lucy and their children. Lucy died in 1943 and Richard in 1973, aged 82.

W SIMM William Simm would have been 15 when the photo was taken. A year later, he was living with his father, also called William, a manager in a leather and rubber factory, and his mother, Eliza, at 35 Simonside Terrace. William junior was a clerk in a tannery.

By 1939, William was living in Whitley Bay with his mother and brother. His occupation was recorded as a commercial traveller. It was noted that he was incapacitated. He died in Newcastle in 1966.

J TAYLOR There are a couple of possibilities for the identity of this player but the most likely seems to be James Lloyd Taylor, born 30 September 1893,  who, in 1911, was living at 54 Second Avenue with his Birtley-born mother, Ann, and his father, a railway passenger guard. Seventeen year old James was a railway booking clerk.

James stayed on Tyneside. In 1939, he was living in Jesmond with his wife, Frances, and still working as a railway clerk. 

He died in 1968 in Seaton Sluice.

N SKELDON In 1911, Norman (full name, John Norman), an apprentice pattern maker, was living with his father, John, a clerk from Berwickshire, his mother, Emily, and three younger siblings at 27 Ebor Street. Norman had been born in Tyne Dock on 5 October 1891 so he was about 19 years old in the photograph. 

He married Elizabeth in 1914. In 1939, he was still working as a pattern maker and living with Elizabeth and 22 year old daughter, Betty, in Warwick.

He died in 1947, aged 55.

Front row, left to right:

C BILLETOP This name was difficult to make out at first but we eventually realised  that the player on the left of the front row was Torben Christian Billetop who, in 1911, was living at 40 Lesbury Road with his mother, Helen Bell Dixon, a Glaswegian, his father, also called Torben Christian, a younger sister, Gladys and a servant, Annie Sanderson. There was also an older brother, Adolph, who was no longer living at home. Ten years earlier, the family had been at 3 Guildford Place.

Torben Christian Billetop senior, a Dane, had come to Newcastle via Robert Napier, a shipbuilding firm in Glasgow, and Vickers of Barrow to work for Henry Watson and Sons, an old established Newcastle company, which during the 19th century made hydraulic cranes and machines designed by William Armstrong. Billetop joined the company in 1896 and became managing director. During his thirty years there, he patented many improved designs for machinery. By this time, the company was based at Walkergate.

Torben Christian junior (known as Christian) was born in Glasgow on 1 July 1892 and so would have been 17 years old when the team photo was taken. In 1910, he passed exams at Rutherford College in machine construction, drawing and applied mechanics.  In 1911, he was an apprentice engineer and, in 1914, he graduated with a B Sc in Engineering from Durham University. 

When the world war one broke out, we know that there was a great deal of suspicion of foreigners so it is no surprise to discover that in 1916, Torben senior took steps to become a British citizen.

In 1918, Christian married Mary Dixon and the couple lived at 15 Norwood Avenue, where their eldest son, also Torben Christian, was born. They relocated to Leicestershire, where Mary came from and in 1939, the family home was in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, where Christian was described as an engineering works director. He died on 18 May 1980, aged 87.

G JOHNSTON George Collin Johnston, who appears to be the Heaton United goalkeeper,  was born on 6 January 1892. In 1911, he was working as a ship chandler’s apprentice and living with his Scottish parents, Robert and Janet, six siblings and a lodger at 125 Tynemouth Road. On census night, the house was even fuller, as they had a visitor, Harold Battle, a marine engineer, staying with them.

By 1939, George was a dealer manager of a ships’ stores and living at 27 Swaledale Gardens, High Heaton with his wife, Alice, whom he had married in 1928. He died on 10 November 1968, aged 76. 

J BUCK Finally, John Robert Buck, born on 21 February 1893 and so 16 or 17 when the team photo was taken. In 1911, he was living with his mother, five of his siblings, his maternal grandmother, a brother in law and a nephew and a niece,11 people in total, at 19 Spencer Street, where the family had lived for at least 10 years. His father a railwayman from Thranderston in Suffolk, was absent on census night. He was serving a seven year prison sentence at Portland in Dorset. John was working as a butcher’s assistant at this time.

By 1914, John married Sarah Kennon in Willington Quay. Their daughter, Elsie, was born a year later. 

John is one of only three of the footballers for whom we have found war records. On enlistment, he described himself as a ‘horseman’. He served with the Army Cyclist Corps in Egypt and was wounded in action on 19 April 1917. In April 1918, Sarah wrote to his regiment to find out the whereabouts of her husband, from whom she had heard no news since February when he was ill with fever at a convalescent camp in Alexandria. By this time, he had also been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness or ‘monomania’. John’s employers, the Cooperative Society of 10 Newgate Street, had also written to the army. They applied for his discharge so that he ‘could resume his duties’ after being informed by the army that his condition would necessitate his doing outdoor work.

Immediately after the war ended, John  was discharged as ‘no longer fit for active service’. In 1939, he was driving a light lorry and his nineteen year old son, Walter, had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working as a butcher’s assistant, possibly also at the Co-op.

John died in October 1979, aged 86.

What next?

So, although some of our footballers were born in Newcastle and at least one, Robert Stobie, stayed here all his life, many of our footballers experienced places far beyond Heaton, whether that was because they were born in the Caribbean like Donald Smart, worked and brought their families up in China or Australia like Richard Trotter or Arthur Turner or served their country in Egypt like John Buck. Others, like Christian Billetop and Thomas Rodger had parents who were born overseas, Denmark and India respectively.

Their jobs were equally varied: there were engineers, shipyard workers and railway clerks, as you might expect, but also an insurance agent, an accountant, a solicitor’s clerk, a tanner and a butcher’s assistant.

Many moved away from Newcastle permanently to other parts of England like Portsmouth, Essex, Warwickshire and Leicestershire as well as further afield.

We don’t know how many of them served in World War One as many records have been destroyed but at least one, Donald Smart, died on active service and another, John Buck, was incapacitated as a result of the war. Arthur Huxham lived only to the age of 34. But others, like Christian Billetop, lived well into their eighties. 

Colin Veitch is holding the 1910 FA Cup in the centre of this newspaper page.

Heaton United was probably short lived – we haven’t yet found a reference to it in the local press – but I wonder how many of the young men continued to play and watch football. Were some at Goodison Park to see Colin Veitch lift the cup at the end of that season or in the huge crowd that welcomed the team home? And what would the Heaton United players have to say about Newcastle United winning only one more league title since they posed for their own 1909/10 team photo, let alone the way the club is financed today?

Can You Help?

If you know more about Heaton United or any of the players in the photo or have photographs of your own 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 

Researched and written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group. Thank you very much to Jennie McGregor, for taking the trouble to send us the photograph.

Sources

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archive

‘Newcastle United: the ultimate who’s who 1881-2014’ / by Paul Joannou; N Publishing, 2014

Newcastle United’s Colin Veitch: the man who was superman‘ / by Keith Colvin Smith; AFV Modeller, 2020

The Real Dad’s Army

Wednesday 8 December 2021 7.30pm

Dad’s Army’ does contain a great deal of truth: the muddling amateurishness, chronic shortages of weapons and equipment, Heath Robinson hardware and wide divergence of personal backgrounds all strike a factual chord. But the Home Guard remains affectionately risible because it was never tested.

Those who fought alongside workers’ militias in Spain had witnessed a very different reality. In the event of an actual German invasion, the volunteers of 1940 would have been expected to fight and almost certainly they would. A memorable scene from the TV series features Mannering’s ill-assorted heroes manning a makeshift barricade, doling out their few shotgun cartridges and awaiting German tanks. Obviously, these never came; had they done so the results would have been swift, brutal and anything but comic.

Our December speaker, John Sadler, is a military historian who was educated locally at George Stephenson High School. His special interest is the Anglo-Scottish Border conflicts during the middle ages and you may remember his 2019 talk to Heaton History Group on the history of the border reivers. He is a regular contributor to military and historical journals and has also published a number of books as well as having a regular column in the ‘Journal’. He organises battlefield tours and is very involved in living history through the Time Bandits drama group. 

Booking and Venue 

The event will take place on Wednesday 8 December at Heaton Baptist Church, Heaton Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5HN at 7.30pm.

We will be using the Mundella Terrace entrance. There is on street parking nearby and a car park about five minutes walk away off Jesmond Vale Lane in Heaton Park.

The nearest bus stop is the Number 1 on Second Avenue near the junction with Seventh Avenue. From there it’s a two minute walk to the church. It is about a twelve minute walk from the Coast Road bus stops at the Corner House.

The closest Metro station is Chillingham Road, about twelve minutes walk away.

The doors open at 7.00pm.  All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154

Arrangements

There is ample room for social distancing at Heaton Baptist Church. The building has very high ceilings and  good ventilation. There is even a gallery in which anyone who would prefer to be further apart can sit. Tea and coffee will be available for £1 per cup.

The church still asks everyone to wear masks as a precaution against Covid so we would ask everyone to respect that. 

We look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new members and visitors.This entry was posted in Research on  by oldheaton.