Category Archives: Sport

Heaton Football Memorabilia Uncovered

Heaton, of course, has a long and rich football history.

East End, the club, which went on to incorporate West End and form Newcastle United in 1892, played on Chillingham Road from 1884.

Perhaps its greatest player, captain and later director, Alec White (1860-1940, lived in Heaton, including 27 Cardigan Terrace and 48 Mowbray Street – he once scored seven or maybe nine goals (reports vary – there was no ‘dubious goals panel’ then) in a 19-0 victory. Local football historian, John Allan, recently found a rare photograph of him, which was published in a Newcastle United programme.

Article by Paul Joannou in the Newcastle United programme

Article by Paul Joannou in the Newcastle United programme

The Magpies’ most successful captain, the charismatic polymath, Colin Veitch (1881-1938), was also , of course, born locally and lived at 1 Stratford Villas:

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

Colin Veith's commemorative plaque

The plaque was made possible by the support of Newcastle City Council, the PFA, Chris Goulding and Keith and Sam Smith.

One of Sunderland’s best loved players and winner of four championship medals (including three Scottish titles with Glasgow Rangers), Billy Hogg (1879-1937), grew up on Spencer Street; not even Colin Veitch could match that!

Billy Hogg

Billy Hogg

And there are footballers, fondly remembered by supporters of other more distant clubs, who were buried in Heaton Cemetery, including John ‘Jock’ Smith (1865-1911), who played for Liverpool in their inaugural season in the Football League (1892-3), who tragically committed suicide aged 45, while living in Byker – he is buried in an unmarked grave.

Also buried in an unmarked grave is Bob Roberts (1863-1929) who won the cup with West Brom in 1888 and played not only in West Bromwich Albion’s first Football League game in 1888 but also the first ever recorded game of West Bromwich Strollers ten years earlier. (They changed their name to Albion in 1880.) Bob started as an outfield player for Strollers but was a distinguished goalkeeper for the Baggies. He also played for Sunderland Albion and, like Jock Smith, lived in Byker on his retirement.

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Bob Roberts of WBA and Sunderland Albion, buried in Heaton Cemetery (Thank you to Paul Bridges for this photograph)

And, of course, there’s Heaton Stannington and other local teams, still making history.

1936 Ardath cigarette card - Heaton Stannington

1936 Ardath cigarette card

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Heaton Stannington team, post WW1?

Christine Liddell sent us the photograph above, which she believes to be of Heaton Stan post WW1. She says her father, Tom Liddell (front row, far right) played in goal. Can anybody tell us any more about the photo?

Alan in Goals

And this photograph shows Alan Sidney-Wilmot in goal for the Stan v Crook in 1951. Alan still lives in High Heaton. (Thank you to Heaton Stan historian, Kevin Mochrie, for the photo).

And it’s fantastic to unearth new football teams and stories and so thank you to Heaton History Group member, Ian Clough, for unearthing medals belonging to yet another goalkeeper Henner Hudspeth , more famous locally as a dance band leader. Henner’s son, Michael, remembers his father pointing at what we now call Grounsell Park and telling him that he used to play football there. However, no record of him playing for Heaton Stannington has been found.  Recently rediscovered medals shows that he, in fact, played for another Heaton team, North Heaton in 1924-5.

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Perhaps they also played at the old High Heaton quarry ground.

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North Heaton c 1930? with Henner Hudspeth (back row, centre)

And, although it’s just outside our patch, we couldn’t resist publishing this photograph of the Maling Pottery football team, taken in the 1911-12 season, shown to us by Heaton History Group member, Paul Riding. His grandfather, Jimmy Gardner, was captain. We’re pretty sure that some of their players will have come from Heaton. Can you help us identify any? And how many will have fought – and died – in World War 1?

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Can you help?

Ruth Baldasera, who works for Siemens, would like to make contact people who played for any Parsons football team. If you can help, please get in touch with Chris at Heaton History Group. See below.

And we’d love to find out more about the football history of Heaton. If you can help us identify players with a Heaton connection, tell us more about the history or share photographs of local teams or  if you recognise anyone in or can add to what we know of the above photos, please get in touch either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

We are always interested to receive information, memories and photos relevant to the history of Heaton.

Acknowledgements

Written by Chris Jackson, with lots of help as mentioned in the text.

Swimming for Heaton

Who remembers Heaton Pool aka Chilli Road Baths?

Heaton Pool

Heaton Pool, 1995 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

It was situated on Biddlestone Road, where the doctors’ surgery is now. Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews, has fond memories of the pool and of Heaton Amateur Swimming Club (ASC), which was based there. Arthur takes up the story:

‘After learning to swim at a very cold open air pool at Hawkey’s Lane in North Shields, it was suggested by our swimming teacher, Mrs Richardson, that my brother Michael, sister Moira and I give competitive swimming a try. So every Thursday evening. we all began to catch the Number 11 yellow ‘custard’ bus to Heaton ASC at Chilli Road Baths.  Moira, although a competent swimmer, eventually decided that being competitive was not for her. But Michael and I stuck with it.

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Heaton Amateur Swimming Club membership cards

Bleached blondes

Dave Smith was our coach and taskmaster. His bark was worse than his bite, although it did not seem like it at the time. Training was hard work (as it should be!). No one had swimming goggles in those days so, after a long session, the chlorine really stung our eyes. On dark evenings the street lights seemed to have blurred haloes of light around them. Any contact with cigarette smoke on the bus made our eyes water. Those of us with fair hair ended up ‘bleached blondes’. The highlight of club night was tucking into fish and chips from Wallace’s on the corner of Benton Road and the Coast Road on the way home.

Andrews

The Andrews brothers and their trophies (‘mainly Mike’s!’), 1967

There were many swimming galas throughout Northumberland and Durham and not many people had cars to transport the swimmers. Dave Smith, our coach, ferried us round in a small, green Standard 8 and a handful of parents helped too.

Incidentally, the trophy that every club wanted to win was the Samuel Smith Perpetual Memorial Trophy, donated after the death in 1949 of Sam Smith Senior, founder of Ringtons in Heaton. The Smith family were staunch supporters of swimming locally: there was also a trophy in memory of his son Sam Smith Junior, who had tragically died in a plane crash and Malcolm Smith was Heaton ASC president.

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Samuel Smith Perpetual Memorial Trophy (Copyright: John Moreels, Ward Philipson Collection)

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National Championships

In 1966 and 1967, Michael and I, and a few others from Heaton, achieved the qualifying times to enter the National Swimming Championships at Derby Street (salt water baths) in Blackpool. This pool was 55 yards long, 30 yards longer than Heaton Baths. The length was daunting as was the competition! In my 110 yard freestyle heat I found myself on the starting block between English Champion, Bobby Lord, and international, A A Jarvis. Once the starting gun was fired I followed in their wake, finishing over six seconds behind them. It was all to get competition experience rather than have any chance of winning. Staying in a Blackpool B&B with four in a room was quite an experience as well.

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Arthur  with 100 yards Freestyle trophy, 1964 Arthur & Colin Feltoe competing in Germany, 1966

Chillier than Chilli Road

I once came in second in the Durham Long Course Championship, which was known as the Durham Mile. In 1967, Michael and I, along with several others from Heaton ASC, took part in this event on Elvet waterside along with approximately 90 other foolhardy souls. We changed in Durham City Baths across the road.There were no wetsuits, though the water temperature was a bracing 14 to16 degrees. We gingerly descended the steep, slippery riverbank and lined up in two rows across the river, our feet sinking into the squelchy, muddy riverbed. It seemed to take an age to for the starting pistol to be fired.

The course was up to the old bandstand and back with no goggles (we would not have been able to see anything any way!) Apart from the cold water and a mass of flailing arms and legs we had to contend with swimming through floating twigs, teasel and other debris hitting our bodies. Swimming too close to the riverbank meant scooping up handfuls of mud, which would slow you down as well as being unpleasant. The turn at the rope across the river near the bandstand was hazardous as the leading group just swam straight into the stragglers, so a black eye or other bruising was a distinct possibility. The hot shower and baths were most welcome after between thirty and sixty minutes in the Wear.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the event ceased in the early 1970s as the Wear was deemed too polluted.

Trophies

In the early 1970s a proposal was made to replace some of Heaton ASC’s older swimming club cups and plaques. Members and parents were asked if any would be willing to donate new trophies and good friends, Bill Allan of Plessey Terrace and Richard Jacobs of Jesmond and myself clubbed together to purchase a cup. We called it the Andrews, Allan and Jacobs Cup to be presented to the winner of the Senior Mens 200 yards Freestyle event. The first time it was competed for, although not at my peak, I entered the event to see if I could win my own trophy. I believe I was ahead for the first six lengths, but in the final two, I was overtaken by several fitter swimmers. I can’t remember who won the event or who presented the trophy. It may only have been swum for once.

Demise

Around this time it was proposed that a City of Newcastle Swimming Club should be set up to comprise the best swimmers from the other clubs in the city. The idea was that, rather than the local clubs only occasionally winning a national event, a centralised club would make a name for itself winning events and producing international swimmers. It would have a full time professional coach to improve standards. The new club was based at Northumberland Road Baths in town. So, in 1973, Heaton ASC ceased to exist. (But what happened to Heaton’s historic club trophies? I’d love to know.)

City of Newcastle Swimming Club’s first annual swimming gala took place on Saturday 15 December 1973. ‘Incorporating Heaton ASC’ is written in parentheses after the name of the new club. This suggests that the other city clubs had not yet relinquished their identities. Certainly Northumberland ASC, with its long tradition and history, continued for many years.

Chilli Road

There were many good times at Heaton ASC and Chilli Road Pool was always popular with competitive swimmers, as it was thought to be a fast pool. (Although the cockroaches in the changing rooms in the 60s seemed to spook a few!)

The pool itself had opened in April 1925, designed by prominent London architect, Alfred William Stephens Cross (1858-1932), who specialised in the design of public baths and wrote a book on the subject. Cross was vice president of RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) and president of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors. Heaton Pool must have been one of his final designs.

It cost £42,000. Originally there were ‘slipper baths’ for individual bathing; they were practically covered and shaped like a – yes, you guessed! Remember, few people would have had a bath at home in those days. The communal swimming pool measured 75 feet by 35 feet and contained 65,000 gallons of water. Changing cubicles around the edge of the pool were removed in the 1960s.

The pool remained open to the end of the millennium. Generations of Heaton children learnt to swim there and many locals still remember the family sessions with inflatable toys.

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Heaton Pool, 1990

But in 2000, a ‘modern leisure facility’, East End Pool, was opened in Byker by Sir Bobby Robson, and that spelled the end for Chilli Road. Between 1990 and 2000, my sister Moira was a duty manager and adult swimming teacher there, continuing the family association until the very end.’

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Arthur, Brenda Falcus and Dave Smith in token effort to Save Our Swimming pool

Can you help?

If you know more about Heaton Pool or Heaton ASC or have memories or photographs to share, please either post a message direct to this website, by clicking on the link immediately below this article title, or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

We are always pleased to receive information, memories and photos relevant to Heaton’s history.

 Acknowledgements

Written and researched by Arthur Andrews, with additional research by Chris Jackson.

Sources

Heaton: from farms to foundries / Alan Morgan; Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2012

Public baths and wash houses: a treatise on their planning, design, arrangement and fitting: having special regard to the acts arranging for their provision: with chapters on Turkish, Russian and other special baths, public laundries, engineering, heating, water supply etc / W S Cross; Batsford, 1906

Bowlers in bowlers?

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

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

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

Bowlers

Early 20th Century Heaton Park bowlers?

 

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

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

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

John Whyte

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

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

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

 

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Detail of photograph of bowlers in Heaton Park

 

 

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John Arthur Whyte, 1916

 

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

Thank you

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

Can you help?

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

Billy Hogg

Heaton’s four times champion

In Heaton, we rightly celebrate the footballing achievements of local polymath, Colin Campbell McKechnie Veitch, who won three championship medals with Newcastle United. But how many people know that Heaton was home to a contemporary, who also played for Newcastle (albeit briefly), was also capped by England, but who won FOUR championships. Some quiz question!

William (‘Billy’) Hogg was born in Hendon, Sunderland on 29 May 1879 to Catherine Hogg, of Sherburn Co Durham and her husband, John, of South Church near Bishop Auckland, a fitter. But while William was still a young boy, the family moved to Newcastle and by 1887 were living in a newly built house on Spencer Street in Heaton.  By 1891 the family  comprised mother, Catherine, father John Father, still a fitter, 15 year old sister Elizabeth a ‘pupil school teacher’ , with William, aged 11,  younger brother, John, aged nine and younger sister, Ann, eight, at school. The house was directly opposite the ground where Newcastle East End still played: they merged with Newcastle West End in 1892 and moved to St James Park. I wonder did young William see Alec White score seven goals in the club’s record 19-0 win in 1888? In any case, it was in Heaton that he received his football education.

First championship medal

We know that William was soon playing organised football, first with nearby Walkergate Rangers, then Rosehill and later with Willington Athletic up the road in Howden. He was also a notable cricketer, once capturing a prize for taking seven wickets for no runs. His heart lay with football, however, and although he later revealed that his boyhood ambition was to play for United, he was soon spotted by football scouts from the town of his birth.

Billy Hogg

He signed professional in October 1899 and marked his debut with a goal in a 5-0 victory over Notts County. He went on to score six goals from outside right in his first season, in which Sunderland finished third.

Billy married Martha Jane Smith in Newcastle in 1900 and, by 1901, was still working as a fitter (while also playing football) and living in Sunderland with his wife and young son. Robert.

He was an ever-present in the 1900-01 season with nine goals, as Sunderland finished runners up (denied the title by failing to win at St James’ Park in their final game) and ten the following year when they were crowned champions, a year in which Colin Veitch’s Newcastle United were third and Middlesbrough promoted. Heady days for north east football!

Hogg capped a brilliant year by being capped three times for England in the Home International Championships of that year. His second match v Scotland at Ibrox was marred by one of the biggest disasters in British football. 25 supporters were killed when, 51 minutes into the match, a newly-built stand collapsed following heavy rain. Remarkably the game was played to the finish but later declared void and the gate receipts of the replay at Villa Park, in which Billy also played, went to the disaster fund.

Hogg also played for the Football League three times, in two of which he scored a hat-trick and he played for the North v the South.

Hat-trick v Newcastle

Billy was, as you might expect, a great favourite at Sunderland. We know a little about his physique. He was apparently around 5’9″ and in 1902 weighed about 11 stone 11 lbs but he was heavier later in his career, when he was often described as ‘burly’. He was considered particularly good looking, with it once said of him:

‘When they cease to play Willie for his football, they may do worse than play him for his appearance!’

A career highlight came in 1908-9, when he scored two hat-tricks in a fortnight, the first to Woolwich Arsenal on 21 November and the second on 5 December in a 9-1 victory against Newcastle United at St James Park, a team that had only conceded 13 in its previous 15 games. The score was 1-1 at half time but Sunderland scored again early in the second half, when:

‘Newcastle became first dispirited and then disorganised’ (Sound familiar?)

It was maybe some consolation to his erstwhile neighbours that Colin Veitch’s Newcastle soon beat Sunderland at home, then knocked them out of the cup and finished the season champions (with Sunderland third) but might also explain why Billy Hogg’s Heaton connection has been largely forgotten in these parts.

Three Scottish titles

At the end of the 1908-9 season, with his career record at Sunderland reading Played 303 Scored 84 (mainly from outside right), the Wearsiders’ captain for the previous three years was transferred to Glasgow Rangers for a fee of £100. The signing was greeted with great excitement in Scotland:

‘This is undoubtedly the greatest capture made for a very long time.’

And with equal regret in the north east:

‘Billy Hogg… is to be honoured by his north of England friends tomorrow night at the Heaton Social Club, Newcastle. The gathering, which promises to be a memorable one, will be presided over by Councillor F Taylor, chairman of Sunderland FC, and the opportunity will be taken of presenting Hogg with a valuable presentation. It is seldom indeed that we hear of the leaving of any footballer from any team arousing such feelings of regret. He is at once one of the most popular players in the north of England. Possessed of a wonderful personality, he is also possessed of the necessary football skill which is essential to those who would reach the hearts of the people. Sunderland’s loss will be Rangers’ gain ‘

Billy Hogg

In his first season, Rangers finished third with Hogg scoring six goals from 29 appearances but in each of his next three seasons they were Scottish champions. In 1911-12, he scored 20 goals from 30 appearances. Injuries began to limit his appearances, however, and, although his popularity was undimmed:

‘His personality, unique mannerisms and happy-go-lucky disposition has endeared him to Ibrox supporters… Billy’s antics always gave real and unbounded pleasure’

in 1913 he moved to Dundee and the following year, he became player-manager at Raith Rovers.

Return home

Billy’s mother and father continued to live on Spencer Street and by 1911 his brother John (‘Jack’) was living next door with his wife, Florence and sons, William and Victor. (Jack had also been a professional footballer, first with Sunderland and then Southampton, but without Billy’s success.)

During WW1, it was reported that Billy Hogg had announced that he had returned to Heaton to work as a fitter and for the duration of the war, he would not play professional football only charity games.

We know that in November 1915 and May 1918 he guested for Newcastle United and that, after the war, he returned to Scotland to play for Dundee, Hibs and Montrose before returning to Sunderland as a publican and then in 1927 a coach, a position he held for eight years.

Billy died in Sunderland sadly prematurely on 30 January 1937, aged 57.  Like Colin Veitch and Alec White, he deserves to be remembered in Heaton and beyond.

Can you help?

If you can add to the story of Billy Hogg or of any other prominent footballer who was born, has lived or played in Heaton, we’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on this site (see the link just below the article title) or email, Chris Jackson, Secretary of Heaton History Group.

Sources

Ancestry UK

British Newspaper Archive

England Footballers Online

‘Hotbed of Soccer’ by Arthur Appleton, Sportsman’s Book Club, 1960

Personal correspondence with ‘Football John’ via Kevin Mochrie

Wikipedia

Heaton Stannington, 1934 team photo

Heaton’s Favourite Football Team

Who are we? We play on Tyneside in black and white striped shirts. Easy! We played an national side in 2012. Mmmm? We won the treble in 2012-13 and have already won a trophy in 2014-15. It has to be… ‘The Stan’. We asked the Heaton club’s official historian (and programme editor… and press officer) Kevin Mochrie to tell us about the club’s long history. Over to Kevin:

The beginning

Although officially founded in 1910, recent research has discovered that Heaton Stannington were in existence by 1903 (and so no more than 10 years after the other local team that wears black and white) and playing at Miller’s Lane on the site of the current Fossway. The club name originates from its links with the Stannington Avenue area of Heaton. In 1903-04 they finished fifth in Division 2 of the Newcastle and District Amateur League. In December 1904 they resigned from the league and there is no further record of the team until 1910 which suggests that they might have folded.

The next match played by the Stan appears to have been on 24 September 1910 when they were beaten 4-1 by Sandyford. From at least 1913, home games were taking place at Paddy Freeman’s Park. The club played friendly matches until joining the Tyneside Minor League in 1913 and Northern Amateur League (NAL) Division Two in 1914. The club were elected to membership of the Northumberland FA on 10 September 1914, just over a month after the start of the First World War. The Stan stopped playing until 1919 as at a NFA emergency meeting on 24 November 1914 it was announced that the club were unable to take part in a cup replay ‘on account of not being able to raise a team as so many of their members had joined the army.’

Cup winners

The club spent the next 19 years in NAL Division One and gained their first trophies in 1934 and 1936 when they won the Tynemouth Infirmary Minor Cup and NAL Challenge Cup respectively. The first glory season came in 1936-37 when the club won NAL Division One, were Northumberland Amateur Cup winners and NAL Challenge Cup runners up. The reserves were also NAL Division Two runners up. For one season, 1938-39, the Stan participated in the Tyneside League and were runners up. By the 1930s the team were playing at the Coast Road ground which is now the site of Ravenswood School.

Heaton Stannington, 1934 team photo

Heaton Stannington, 1934

In October 1935, they started playing at Newton Park in High Heaton on the site of a recently filled in quarry. In 2007, the ground was renamed Grounsell Park in honour of the service given, both on and off the pitch, by Bob Grounsell.

High court ruling

The club were elected to the Northern League in 1939. They only managed one season before the league was suspended for the duration of the Second World War. It restarted in 1945 but Heaton Stannington were elected, until 1946, as a non-playing member as their ground was being used by the military. After 5 consecutive bottom three finishes, the club resigned at the end of the 1951-52 season and joined the Northern Alliance until 1956.

Action from a Heaton Stannington game in 1951

Action from a Heaton Stannington game in 1951

The next 16 seasons included involvement in the NAL, North Eastern League and the Northern Combination. In 1972 the club stepped up to the Wearside League and remained there for ten years. They were forced to resign in 1982 for financial reasons due to the club trustees, who had formed a limited company in 1968, putting the annual rent up from £400 to £1500. The company then tried to build a supermarket on the ground but the planning application was defeated. In 1983 the High Court ruled that the ground belonged to the football club and the company had to relinquish ownership.

Champions again

The team were not members of a league during 1982-83 but then joined the Tyneside Amateur League (TAL) for one season and achieved only their second league title up to this point. The next two seasons were spent back in the NAL where they were champions in 1985-86 as well as wining the Northumberland Minor Cup. For the next 27 years the club were in the Northern Alliance, which became a three tier league in 1988 and saw the Stan placed in the Premier Division. After two relegations to Division One, the Stan achieved stability by spending nine seasons in the Premier Division.

Olympics

The club won their highest level league trophy when they became Champions in 2012. Another highlight of the club’s recent past came just a couple of months later when the Gabon national team, who were about to play in the London 2012 Olympic tournament, sought an opponent for a warm-up game. Newcastle United old boy Nobby Solano was asked to help and, with just a couple of days notice during the close season, he approached Heaton Stan, who, despite a number of players (and the club historian, programme editor and press officer!) being away, they raised a team which gave an international side that included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, then of St Etienne and now (2014) a star of the very successful Borussia Dortmund team, a good run out. The match drew a large crowd to Grounsell Park and the Stan’s very respectable performance seemed to inspire them because in 2012-13, they achieved a historic treble by not only retaining the title but by wining the Northern Alliance League Cup and the Northumberland Senior Benevolent Bowl.

Today

For season 2013-14, after a gap of 61 years, the Stan returned to the Northern League. They were in the promotion race throughout the season and finished a healthy fifth. Grounsell Park now boasts new floodlights and a stand to complement the other facilities, including a bar serving real ale. The first trophy of 2014-15, the Shunde Worldwide Friendship Association Cup, was won in July when the Stan beat Shunde of China 17-2. Another highlight this season was the visit of Peter Beardsley and his Newcastle United Under 18s team, which attracted a crowd of several hundred to Grounsell Park.

Heaton Stannington 2014

Heaton Stannington 2014

There’s no team in black and white that’ll bring you more pleasure this season. Support your local club: ‘Follow The Stan’! You’ll find their fixtures and other information here

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884

Lords to the Oval via Heaton

Overseas cricket teams’ tours of England are a much loved part of our sporting summer but bet you didn’t know that Newcastle once appeared on the tourists’ itinerary and that Heaton was a venue alongside the likes of Lords, the Oval, Maidstone and Hove. Admittedly we have to go back to 1884 – but it’s not just the local links that’ll surprise you but the identity of the tourists too.

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884

The tourists of 1884

Armstrong’s field

But first of all, when and how did Heaton acquire a cricket ground? For over 40 years, Northumberland Cricket Club had played its home matches at Bath Road (now Northumberland Road), an important sporting centre in the late nineteenth century – you may remember that George Waller competed in cycling events there. However, projected development meant that the club had to find another ground and was delighted when William (Later, Lord) Armstrong offered a six acre field at a nominal rent with a ten year lease. A cricket ground was prepared and a pavilion constructed on the site on the corner of what is now Heaton Road and Cartington Terrace.

Detail from 1890 Ordnance Survey map showing cricket ground

Detail from 1890 Ordnance Survey map

Heaton Medicals Cricket Ground 2014

Cricket (and rugby) are still played there today. The cricket club’s home didn’t meet with everyone’s approval, however. It was considered remote and ill-served by public transport. Remember, there were no buses or trams at this time – and Heaton Station was a fair walk away, through mainly open countryside.

Worldwide appeal

Although, then as now, most matches at the Heaton ground brought together local teams, cricket had long been a worldwide game. Its popularity was spread by English colonists from the 17th century onwards but what is generally considered the inaugural test match between Australia and England didn’t take place until 1877. The Ashes themselves didn’t start until 1882 when the Australians beat England at the Oval.

However, perhaps surprisingly the first international cricket match had taken place decades before when the USA hosted Canada in New York. In fact, America had been an early adopter of cricket. It’s said it had been introduced by English colonists even before it had reached the north of England. It’s in this context that we need to consider the tour of 1884.

Philadelphian pioneers

There’s an engraving of 1800 entitled Back of the State House Philadelphia which depicts a small boy with a curved cricket bat in his hand. Later the first cricket club entirely comprising native-born Americans was said to have been founded at Haverford College in the same state. By 1870, cricket was spoken of in Philadelphia as ‘the national game’. In 1854 Philadelphia Cricket Club was founded and in 1859, 13 Philadelphians were in the 22 to play the visiting All England XI.

The American Civil War stalled the development of the sport as many Philadelphian men responded to Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 call for 75,000 volunteers. Those too young to enlist continued to play the game, however, and when the war was over the Philadelphians were keen to play more overseas opposition. In 1878 its representative team played and beat the Australian tourists and plans were soon hatched to test further their skills against the inventors of the game.

The sum of $8,200 was raised from five local clubs and the help of the MCC was sought in compiling a fixture list. Finally on 17 May 1884, fourteen players set sail from New York on the steamer, The City of Rome. Thousands turned out to wave off the tourists, the docks were ’black with thousands of spectators’ and The City of Romegay with flags and decorations’. Eight days later the ship docked in Liverpool.

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884 as depicted in The Illustrated London News

From there, the team, known as Gentlemen of Philadelphia to indicate its amateur, and therefore respectable, status, travelled to Dublin where they played 2 matches, and Edinburgh where they played The Gentlemen of Scotland. From there they toured English county grounds including MCC at Lords and WG Grace’s Gloucestershire (with Mrs Grace, W G’s mother, in attendance).

Gentlemen of Northumberland

The match in Heaton took place on 11 and 12 July 1884. One of the tourists kept a diary in which he describes some of the matches, venues and off-field hospitality in detail. For example, about 4,000 people attended the Lords match over the two days, the Aigburth ground in Liverpool was ‘the prettiest ground we saw in England’ and, in an interval between matches some of the players went to Wimbledon to watch the tennis. However, frustratingly little information was recorded about their trip to Northumberland.

However, there were lengthy reports in local newspapers in which the fixture was described as ‘the most important match that will be played in this district during the present season’ and the Northumberland team as ‘a thoroughly representative team, having been carefully selected by the County Committee’.

A clue to the conditions can be found in the weekly Newcastle Courant for Friday 11 July, day one of the match. The newspaper reports the heavy thunderstorms of the previous day in which a house in nearby Jesmond was damaged by lightning.

The Journal had more to say about both the attendance and the weather:

Though the weather was tempting enough at the outset, the attendance was small… It appears to us that no matter what exertions are put forth by the many ardent cricketers in the north – and their name is legion – they fail to command the patronage of the general public… there should be a free gate or a smaller amount charged for admission. If this plan were adopted, the working classes could obtain a fair idea of the game and we have no doubt that cricket would be more appreciated in the north than it is at present time… about 5 o’clock a thunderstorm visited the district and necessitated an adjournment for a half an hour after which the wicket was so soft that it was determined to postpone the game for another quarter of an hour and a recommencement wasn’t made until 6 o’clock.

The following day:

In glorious summer weather, this important match was concluded… the wicket wasn’t nearly so treacherous as on the first day. There was considerable improvement in the attendance but still the number present was small when the importance of the match was taken into consideration.

Defeat

Cricket was still evolving at this time. It was less than 3 months earlier that the number of players in a team had been standardised at 11 and there were still only 4 balls in an over. Come what may, the local team was no match for the tourists. One American bowler, W C Lowry took 5 wickets in each innings and another, W C Morgan, was top scorer with 38. The Northumberland team failed to make 100 in either innings with only C F Cumberlege scoring over 30 and, although E B Brutton took five wickets in the second innings, the Philadelphians won comfortably by 96 runs.

It may be that the ground only recently used for pasture on Heaton Town Farm wasn’t of the highest standard and that, together with the weather and the modest opposition, accounts for both the tour diarist’s silence and the low scores. The tourists’ final record that summer read: Played 18 Won 8 Drawn 5 Lost 5.

The players

We don’t know too much about the Philadelphians outside of cricket except that one of their players, J B Thayer, later became the only first class cricketer to die on board The Titanic.

We know a little more about the Gentlemen of Northumberland. The team comprised:

Shallett John Crawford (1858-1922), a shipbroker who was born and lived in North Shields;
Ralph Spencer (1861-1928), Harrow and Cambridge educated, who became chairman of John Spencer and Sons steel works, founded in Newburn by his grandfather;
Charles Farrington Cumberlege (1851-1929), born in India and worked for the Bank of England;
John William Dawson (1861-1921), a railway clerk;
Ernest Bartholomew Brutton (1864-1922), also Cambridge educated, who became a clergyman, latterly in Devon;
Charles Edward Lownds (1863-1922), another Cambridge graduate, born in Walker, who became a surgeon;
William Henry Farmer (1862-1934), a railway inspector, who later emigrated to Vancouver;
Stephenson Dale (1859-1985), an engine fitter who joined the merchant navy and who died at sea less than one year after the match;
James Finlay Ogilvie (1848-1926), a solicitor;
Tom Raine (1859-1929);
Alfred Stephen Reed (1860-1939), born in Newbiggin, a boarder in Northallerton at aged 10, and who , in 1881, was living at The Priors, Church Street, Storrington, Sussex and described as a member of the ‘Northumberland militia’;

There were further tours over the next 3 decades but other sports gained popularity in the USA and the final nail in cricket’s coffin across the Atlantic seemed to be the decision to set up the Imperial Cricket Conference, which specifically excluded countries from outside the British Empire. Nevertheless cricket is still played in the United States and Philadelphia Cricket Club is still going strong, although cricket gave way to other sports, such as golf and tennis, between 1924 and its revival in 1998.

And although it hasn’t featured on an MCC-organised tour for a while, the sport is thriving in Heaton too – the Cartington Terrace Ground (known as the Medicals Ground) is now owned and used by Newcastle University: it would be great to hear from or about anyone who’s played there or who can add to what we know.

Medicals who fell in World War 2 are commemorated by cherry trees around the ground

Medicals who fell in World War 2 are commemorated by this plaque and cherry trees around the ground

Leave a comment here (See the link below the article title) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Main sources
The Tour of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia in Great Britain, 1884 by One of the Committee; published by Red Rose Books, 2002;
Heaton: from farms to foundries by Alan Morgan; Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2012
Cricket Archive (to which we owe most of the biographical information)
Resources of Newcastle City Library including The Journal on microfilm
Ancestry UK

George Waller – life as a champion

The first part of George Waller’s story can be found here.

Having retained (and so won outright) the 6-day Cycling World Championship belt, George William Waller was in great demand. The report below of an appearance later the same month at Burradon, Northumberland describes him entering the arena on the bike on which he had won the championship:

He received a warm greeting which was not lessened when he mounted his machine. Accompanied by a number of bicyclists, he twice made the circuit of the field and while doing so, he was much admired but he very nearly had a serious accident, as, owing to the roughness of the track, he got what is known as a cropper, which might have done him a serious injury.

George Waller on Penny farthing

George Waller

Fortunately he wasn’t badly hurt and appearances on the track came thick and fast. Waller rode mainly in the North but further afield too. For example, on 4 October 1879, he won a 25 mile race in Coventry ‘ on a 15 inch DHF Premier’. His ‘massive championship belt ‘ and the ‘machine’ on which he won it were exhibited at the ground. On 10 November, he competed in a 100 mile race in Birmingham but retired after 82. And on Saturday 13 December, he competed, riding a ‘Dan Rudge’ bicycle , at the same distance in Nottingham.  Closer to home, there were races in places like Sunderland, South Shields, Darlington, Middlesbough and  York.

The champion was also honoured by local fans and patrons.  On 24 March 1880, a ‘testimonial’ was held in his honour  at ‘Mr W Gilroy’s Three Crown’s Inn, Buxton Street, Newcastle’. Waller  was presented with a purse of gold containing upwards of £70, which had been collected by ‘his numerous admirers in the North’.

However, he didn’t join his rivals in March 1880 on the starting line for the following year’s 6 day Championship but instead appeared later the same month in a six-dayer, which he himself had organised, in his home city of Newcastle. It’s interesting to see where the races took place.  An early favourite in Newcastle was Northumberland Cricket Ground on Bath Road.

And increasingly Waller began to make public challenges to other riders. His offer in 1880 to compete in a six day contest ‘ against any man in the world ‘ … ‘for any sum over £200 a side’ was reported at least as far afield as Cornwall. And riders challenged him to take part in shorter distance races, where they had a better chance of winning. There were always considerable sums of money at stake and Waller won more than his fair share. Often in shorter events, he negotiated a start for himself and he’d grant his opponent one over the longer distances.

Waller was clearly aware of his own value to the events he promoted. While he did compete on many occasions, even when he wasn’t fully fit, he would ride a number of exhibition laps or show his bikes and medals. And he usually announced he’d be riding, even when he didn’t in the end appear. Throughout and beyond his career, he was referred to as ‘world champion’ never ‘ former champion’ or ‘one-time champion’ even though he didn’t attempt to to defend his 1879 title. Thus from the outset, he showed a commercial acumen of which today’s agents would be proud. Later, there were many announcements of his ‘farewell ride’ in this town or that. Again, this wouldn’t have done the gate money any harm.

Celebrity

At the Newcastle Race Week six dayer on 25th June 1880, Waller broke his collar bone. This was reported in newspapers throughout the country much as an injury to Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish  or Chris Froome might be ahead of this year’s Tour de France or Wayne Rooney or Luis Suarez in the build-up to football’s World Cup:

 ‘Waller was at once driven to the Infirmary, where he received the necessary treatment, and afterwards he was taken to his own residence. Latest reports last night were that he was doing well. Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette 26 June

After his removal from the Newcastle Infirmary to his home, Waller passed a bad night, and as the collar bone again slipped, it had to be reset on Saturday morning. This having been accomplished satisfactorily, Waller suffered less pain and he expects to be in the saddle again in a short time. York Herald, 30 June

The six days’ bicycle champion, G W Waller, has so far recovered from the injuries he received from the injuries he sustained in the accident which befell him in the latter part of June last as to be able to mount his machine. However, as his arm has not yet become quite strong again, his spins will for a time be of only a gentle character. Edinburgh Evening News, 12 August

He did recover though – and the races, challenges and public appearances continued apace. As with celebrities today, Waller was sometimes the centre of attention even when he wasn’t present at all:

Yesterday, the champion bicyclist Mr G W Waller, accompanied by five friends and a boy, engaged a coble at Tynemouth Haven… when the squall suddenly burst on them, the coble was upset and its occupants thrown into the water. …All the party were picked up… Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 25 July 1881

There followed an almost passing reference to an actual victim of the tragedy:

With regard to the boat accident [on Sunday] it appears that it was not Mr G W Waller, the champion cyclist, but his brother T Waller who was in the boat. The body of one of the drowned men, named R Cowl, was recovered last night. Edinburgh Evening News, 26 July 1881

Promoter

Increasingly though, Waller turned his attention to the promotion of cycling. He continued to ride but also arranged races at a variety of venues, mainly in the North East but also the North West, Scotland and  the Midlands. On 23 July 1881 Waller’s own ‘Bicycle and Recreation Ground’ at Dalton Street, Byker, was opened ‘under the most favourable auspices’ . The Journal  on 10 April 1882 referred to  ‘Waller’s Bicycle and Recreation Grounds, Byker’ (Incidentally the same day’ s newspaper carried a report of events at  Heaton Bicycle and Recreation Grounds ‘these popular grounds’). An advert a few months later  for a race between Waller and his rival John Keen ‘of London’ gave the entry fee as 6d or 1 shilling and made play of the fact ‘ Byker tram passes the grounds’.  They would have been horse-drawn trams, a service which had begun in Newcastle just three years earlier. The popularity of the events were indicated by the fact the gates were to open an hour and a half before the race ‘to avoid any unnecessary crush’.

Innovator

Waller’s adverts often stressed technological innovation. While earlier events were lit by candles in the evening, soon there was a:

mammoth tent, illuminated by gas’

Although, on occasion, not everything went according to plan:

A gale of unusual violence broke over South Durham yesterday. At Bishop Auckland last night, a large covered marquee, extensively fitted up with gas mains and pipes for night illuminations and erected for a bicycle riding exhibition promoted by Mr G Waller, came to the ground a complete wreck. The professional bicyclists engaged, along with the crowd inside, made all possible haste outside, and, with the exception of some injury to a woman, no casualty occurred. Damage was also sustained to a refreshment bar and stalls inside the marquee, the canvass of which was to a large extent also reduced to shreds. Shields Daily Gazette, 11 August 1881

The following month, at an event before which, not for the only time, Waller’s farewell appearance was announced, an alternative source of lighting was introduced:

The grounds were illuminated with the electric light, which was under the charge of Mr Spark, electrician, George Street and worked remarkably well. Aberdeen Journal, 12 September 1881

There are rumours to the effect that at night the tent will be illuminated by the electric light. Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 15 September 1881 – amazing given that Swan had invented his lightbulb and William Armstrong’s Cragside had become the first house in the world to be lit by electricity only 3 years before. It must have been an amazing site to the average spectator.

But electricity wasn’t without problems of its own. A 26 hour race in September 1882 had to be postponed, ‘the machine which was to have supplied the electric light not having come to hand’

Entertainer

It wasn’t all about the cycling. At the annual gathering of the Ancient Order of Foresters at Crystal Palace in August 1882, the programme, in addition to the cycling in which Waller competed,  included  ‘acrobatic, musical and comical entertainment’, cricket, processions, ‘aquatic fun’ , dancing, and a balloon ascent which ended in near disaster.

Adverts were placed by Waller :

‘Wanted – good brass band’.

And there was an application in July 1881 for a licenceto serve alcohol in booths owned by him ’in a tent to be used for bicycle contests’ opposite the Royal Agricultural showground in Derby.

Novelty races included one in Gateshead between Waller on a bicycle and ‘Blue Peter, a roan trotting horse, driven in a sulky by Mr Rymer of Manchester.’ On this occasion the horse was the victor.

Charitable

However, Waller wasn’t only concerned with making money for himself: proceeds from one event  were donated to Sunderland Infirmary and in South Shields in December 1880

‘The proceeds were for the benefit of orphans and widows left destitute through the loss of the steam trawlers: Wonga (sic), Nation’s Hope and Flying Huntsman in the October gale.’

International

It’s possible that Waller, like a number of his contemporaries, also competed overseas. In November, 1881 a  farewell  ride  in Sunderland ‘before leaving for America’ was reported by Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. So far, we haven’t found any documentary evidence that Waller rode outside Britain and, if anyone has further information, it would be great to find out more.

Waller with belt

Waller with his 1879 World Championship belt

Retired

In September 1884, Waller was present at the opening of Byker and Heaton Conservative Working Men’s Club and the same November he ‘admirably ‘ replied to the toast of ‘Professional Cyclists’ at Jesmond Amateur Cycling Club’s fourth annual dinner. By this time, he seems to have retired from participation in the sport but continued to officiate.

But when, on April 1889, the new Bull Park bicycle track was completed at what is now Exhibition Park, George did a test run and declared it one of the finest in the kingdom.

Builder

Waller had started his working life as a mason and his prize money had enabled him to start a construction business in Albion Row, Byker, with his brother Henry. It seems to have been extremely successful. Newcastle was expanding rapidly and in July 1896, he advertised far and wide from an 87 Raby Street , Byker address for bricklayers to be paid 10d an hour.

Ironically, however,  the first real evidence we have of Waller’s success in this field came with tragedy. On March 6 1897, the North East Daily Gazette reported that four men had been killed and nine others injured when a public house, called the Green Tree,  on Sandgate ‘ one of the most antique of houses…said to date from the time of Queen Elizabeth’ , which Waller had bought to renovate, collapsed while eighteen of  his men were working on it. By this time, Waller is described in the newspaper not as a cyclist but ‘a well-known builder in the city’. A few months later, the same paper reported a court case in which Mrs Jane Brogden, wife of one of the men killed, sued Waller for damages. She was awarded £225 compensation.

In the late 1880s, the champion  was living in Waller Street. (Did he name it himself or was it an honour bestowed by someone else?) But by 1890, he had moved to Heaton. It was common for builders to move in one of the new houses they had recently completed and so there is circumstantial evidence that Waller’s firm was responsible for building locally. He lived first of all at 78 Heaton Park Road and then at  number 92, a house next door to the photographer, Edward George Brewis. Heaton Park Road has since been  renumbered. Waller’s  old house is now number 188.

But, ever the entrepreneur, Waller continued to diversify. In August 1898 he applied for a licence to sell alcohol at houses in Raby Street (167 and 179), Byker.

Untimely end

On  9 July 1900, aged 45 George Waller was driving in a pony and trap from Jesmond Dene Hall, where he was supervising alteration work, towards his home in Heaton Park Road. Apparently, as the horse approached Jesmond Road, it  reared and turned towards the Armstrong Bridge, throwing Waller from his seat.

A near contemporary view of Armstrong Bridge near the spot where Waller was thrown from his trap

A near contemporary view of Armstrong Bridge near the spot where Waller was thrown from his trap

He was removed to Jesmond Dene House where he died from head injuries the following morning.

Waller had been accompanied by a boy called Joseph Cranston of Byker, who, giving evidence at an inquest the following day in Heaton’s Addison Hotel, said he had looked after the pony since Waller had bought it and that it had no history of bolting.

George Waller left a wife, Isabella, three sons, James, Herbert (who was to die in France during World War 1) and William. His daughter, Georgina, was born just weeks after her father’s death.

The very same day, his death was reported in newspapers right across the country. It was just over 20 years since his most famous sporting triumph. The sport had changed – the reports refer to his success on ‘the old high bicycle’ as if from another age – but he had certainly not been forgotten.

Memorial

And a final indicator of Waller’s ongoing fame and commercial value came just a week after his death and packed funeral service when the equally enterprising businessman, photographer Edward Brewis, rushed, seemingly for the only time in his life, to register copyright on two photographs he’d taken of his next-door neighbour. One of the photos is reproduced below. (The other can be seen in the article about Brewis himself.)

Waller by Brewis

One of the photos of George Waller by Edward Brewis

Wallercopyrightform It was while researching Brewis’ story, interesting in its own right,  that the document and the photographs came to light in the National Archive – and led to the even more fascinating character of George William Waller.

Waller’s grave can still be seen in All Saints Cemetery

George Waller's grave

but appears to be the only memorial to him. It would be fitting, during the year the Tour de France comes to the North of England where Waller did so much to promote cycling, to see his championship belt displayed at The Discovery Museum and perhaps a commemorative plaque at  his Heaton home .

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to to Alex Boyd of Tyne and Wear Museums for information, photographs and arranging access to George Waller’s championship belt, to Brian MacElvogue for information and the loan of material and to Carlton Reid for pointing the author towards Brian. Also this website is a mine of information – http://www.sixday.org.uk/html/the_beginnings.html

If you can add to the story of George William Waller or if you’d like to see his achievements celebrated, we’d love to hear from you (See ‘Leave a reply’ just below the title of the article) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Waller with belt

George Waller – world champion cyclist

Nine of the riders at the starting line of the World Cycling Championships in London on 28 April 1879 knew each other well. They had competed against each other just 5 months before when the winner, Sheffield’s William Cann, had ridden over 1,060 miles in 6 days. Naturally Cann started as favourite again with French champion, Charles Terront, considered to be his closest rival for the fabulous prizes on offer – £105 in cash and a belt said to be worth another £100 (worth many thousands of pounds in today’s money). The contestants could be forgiven for not giving more than a sideways glance to the one newcomer among them, George Waller, a young rider from Newcastle, who had previously won prizes only in minor contests in the north and midlands.

Who was Waller?

George William Waller was born on 12 April 1855 at 11 Back Lane, Gallowgate in Newcastle upon Tyne. His father, James, was a mason from Yorkshire and his mother, Catherine, a local woman. She was 12 years older than her husband and died, aged 58, when George was just 15.

The family lived in Elswick when George was a young boy but the 1871 census shows George and his father both working as masons and living at 13 Miller’s Hill, Byker.

We know that George worked for a time in York on the building of the Foss Islands Railway, which eventually opened in 1880. Apparently it was here that he first had the idea of long distance cycling. It was said that, wishing to visit home at weekends, he bought a ‘boneshaker’. His colleagues reportedly thought it a great joke at first but it was reported that he commuted between York and Newcastle with some ease after a hard week of physical labour and was back at work on time on Mondays. Whether this story is true we can’t be sure but it was certainly told during his lifetime and fits in with what we know about Waller: that he was extremely tough, although a modest 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing only around 8 stones 11 pounds, a ‘compactly framed well set man with no extraordinary muscular development’.

‘of medium height and fair complexion and has a wiry and hardy appearance.’

Some reports mention that he was also a diver.

George Waller on Penny farthing

George Waller

Racing pedigree

The first reference to Waller racing we have found so far dates from 1871 when, as a 16 year old, he came third and won 10 shillings in a handicap event promoted by Mr T Sutton at Fenham Park Grounds in a ‘poor race’ in a sport ‘only recently introduced to the North.’

In 1874 he finished third in his heat in the Great All-England one mile handicap held in Sheffield. The following year he won a heat in Wolverhampton but it was again described as a very poor race. In 1876, he won a heat again in a one mile race in the same city.

Test of endurance

The six day race at the Agricultural Halls in Islington was covered in detail in newspapers across the country. It lasted from Monday to Saturday with riders permitted to spend up to eighteen hours on the track. The reports describe brief rests during the day to ‘shampoo‘, change and eat and just six hours compulsory rest at night. With Cann, the champion and favourite, having crashed on the first day in a collision with Terront, Waller took an early lead, closely followed by the French rider. The crowd of spectators grew as the week went on, with 8,000 cheering on the riders by Wednesday by which time the leaders were taking few rests. By midnight, when the race adjourned for the night, Waller had ridden 878 miles and Terront just over 840.

Contemporary illustration

Contemporary illustrations

Wallerillus2rev

By five pm on Friday, the fifth day, Waller had ridden 1,020 miles on his Hillman and Herbert DHF Premier and so became the first rider to win the prize of £20 offered to any rider who achieved 1,000 miles over six days. He was attended by his brother Tom, along with a Charley Smith and the one hundred miles champion, Walter Phillips.

On the final evening, the crowd had swelled to around 10,000 and was allowed into the centre of the tight circuit ‘on extra payment, of course‘. The leaders ‘shaking hands, sped away merrily to the inspiring strains of the Marseillaise’. Waller’s final distance was 1,172 miles, 44 miles more then Terrront.

Waller with belt

Waller with his 1879 World Championship belt

Thank you to Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives for permission to reproduce these photographs.

Celebrity

Waller was instantly a sporting hero. He returned to Newcastle via York where ‘admirers gathered round the cab in which he was being conveyed to the station, took out the horse and dragged the vehicle, amid cheers, to the booking office’.

One newspaper expressed wonder at the distances travelled: ‘The bicycle is thus once again shown to be a much speedier means of locomotion than a horse and there is little doubt that an ordinary traveller accustomed to the vehicle could with ease compass 100 miles a day. It seems strange that it cannot be turned to greater practical advantage as a mode of travelling.’

Rematch

The event was clearly considered a success as only a few months later on 1 September, most of the same cyclists took to the track again. There was even more media interest and bigger crowds. Performers, including Terront’s brother, again performed ‘circus tricks of bicycle riding’ in the centre of the track, helping to create a carnival atmosphere.

And this time, after his exploits the previous spring, Waller was hot favourite. There were colourful descriptions of him in the newspapers:

‘He wore a little round straw hat, with a fluttering green ribbon, and beneath it such a crop of bright, crisp yellow hair as his Saxon ancestors must have bequeathed him centuries ago, before the invention of either brush, comb or pomatum pot’ (Freeman’s Journal, Dublin).

The story of an incident in Morpeth while Waller was training for the race was recounted: apparently, a policeman caught the champion cycling on the footpath and, when Waller failed to stop, threw his truncheon at the bike. It caught in the spokes and brought down the rider, knocking him unconscious. The policeman helped Waller at the scene and nothing further was said about the crime.

Waller, as expected, took an early lead but Terront was never far behind. Again there were spills. On the first day, Waller’s ‘machine gave way and he fell heavily though fortunately without hurting himself’. By the second day ‘ this race has assumed an importance far in advance of anything previously known in the bicycle world’ as Waller and Terront had both smashed their previous records.

‘Waller combines speed and endurance in a really wonderful measure and the style in which he rode past opponents was really surprising’.

Again the race came down to a head to head between Terront and Waller, with no quarter given. On day three, it was Terront’s turn to fall, grazing his elbow but almost immediately returning to the saddle. On day four, Terront arrived at the track nine minutes late (at 6.09am!) saying that his attendants had failed to wake him on time. The competition between the two men was described as ‘severe’. Waller was reported to have rested only 4 minutes all day and Terront just 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

‘The Englishman remained cool and dry, betraying his exhaustion only by gradually bending his figure, which he had hitherto maintained stiff and upright, lower and lower towards the saddle’

On 7.45am on day five, Waller passed the 1,000 mile mark, with Terront achieving the same distance at 8.54am. By 9.43pm, Waller had passed his previous record. It was reported that neither man dismounted from his bicycle all day. The Frenchman was gaining on Waller, who was unable even to take food from the hands of his attendants. Each time he attempted to, it was said Terront put on a superhuman spurt and was heard to exclaim: I will prevent him from eating and try to starve him!

There was controversy too. Waller was accused of cutting corners and cautioned that he would forfeit a lap if he repeated the offence. The alleged misdemeanour was covered in many papers but a letter in ‘The Sportsman’ reprinted in the ‘Northern Evening Mail’ (9 September) denied that he had cheated. It said that all the riders were forced to cut corners at the bottom of the course but rode many yards extra elsewhere.

The two men continued their battle on day six and again neither ride stepped from his bike. Finally though, Terront had to admit defeat. In the final session, in front of a crowd of 12-13,000, the two men rode hand in hand, having ridden the incredible distance of 1,404 miles (Waller) and 1,390 (Terront) on penny farthings.

Homecoming

George Waller’s victory was celebrated not only in Newcastle but across the country, especially in places with which he had a connection:

‘His victory was celebrated at the dock extension in Hartlepools where his father and brother are engaged, by a show of flags from the new engine house at Middleton; and it is expected he will make a public appearance in this town shortly’

At Darlington the station was crowded and the carriage which the northern party occupied was quite besieged by an enthusiastic multitude’.

But in Newcastle, where news of Waller’s expected arrival time had been announced in that morning’s newspapers, thousands turned out at Newcastle Central Station. The scenes were amazing: ‘a reception as has never been surpassed even by the enthusiastic Tynesiders’.

‘Lamps were scaled and every accessible elevated point was occupied by people anxious to get the first glimpse of an athlete who has jumped so suddenly into prominence.’

Ringing cheers greeted the champion as he stepped from the carriage and he was at once surrounded by a dense crowd who carried him bodily away. The progress from the platform to the portico was painfully slow. The crowd surged about with such force that the lines of policeman were overpowered and driven away’.

Eventually a distressed Waller was helped into a cab and driven to his home in Gibson Street, Byker, where thousands more awaited him and demanded that he speak. Eventually a representative came to an upstairs window and thanked the crowd but said the world champion was too exhausted and bashful to talk to them and so he ‘had the pleasure of expressing [Waller’s] feeling of pleasure and pride at the noble reception which his townsmen had given him.

Life changing

Immediately Hillman and Herbert, the manufacturers of his bicycle, capitalised on the triumph, placing adverts quoting from a letter said to have been written by Waller, expressing gratitude to the company, and using photographs of him on its posters.

Waller used in advert for bike

Waller’s championship belt is held at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum but is not currently on display. The year the Tour de France is due to come to the north of England would seem like an appropriate time to find a way of celebrating the pioneering achievements of Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froomes’ illustrious predecessor.

To be continued: Waller’s life following his 1879 triumphs – cycling, promotion of the sport, his building company, move to Heaton Park Road and an untimely death can now be found here

Many thanks to to Alex Boyd of Tyne and Wear Museums for information, photographs and arranging access to George Waller’s championship belt, to Brian MacElvogue for information and the loan of material and to Carlton Reid for pointing the author towards Brian. Also this website is a mine of information – http://www.sixday.org.uk/html/the_beginnings.html

Colin Veith's commemorative plaque

Colin Veitch plaque unveiled

On 25 September 2013, after a campaign by Heaton History Group, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at former Newcastle United captain and People’s Theatre co-founder Colin Veitch’s former home in Heaton by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle. Below are some photographs of the event, links to media coverage and other sources of information about this Renaissance man:

Colin Veith's commemorative plaque

The plaque was made possible by the support of Newcastle City Council, the PFA, Chris Goulding and Keith and Sam Smith.

Bob Moncur, Lord Mayor and party

Bob Moncur, the last Newcastle captain to lift silverware, spoke about Colin’s achievements

Colin Veitch's great great great niece

Members of Colin Veitch’s family were present. This is his great, great, great niece

Veitch family photo

A photograph of Colin (fourth from left) and other family members given to Heaton History Group by Janet Keighley, his great niece

Members of Heaton History group, the Veitch family, the Smith family with the Lord Mayor and councillors.

Members of Heaton History Group, the Veitch family, the Smith family with the Lord Mayor and councillors.

Media coverage
The Journal
Evening Chronicle
Sky Tyne and Wear
NUFC.com On the home page at the time of writing but hopefully will be archived later.
Evening Chronicle

Colin Veitch resources

Colin Veitch website

Colin Veitch on Wikipedia

Colin Veitch on Spartacus Educational

Poem for Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch’s Twelve Days of Christmas

The People’s Shakespeare

 

 

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch’s Twelve Days of Christmas

The days immediately following Christmas 1906 were bleak across much of Britain, with heavy falls of snow, icy temperatures, strong winds, even thunder and lightning. Much to the disappointment of North East football fans, the Tyne-Wear derby due to be played at Roker Park on Saturday 29th December, was postponed.

Holiday fixtures

Newcastle United’s Colin Veitch could be forgiven for secretly welcoming the enforced rest. Footballers in those days faced a punishing schedule over the festive period that would make today’s superstars blanch. In the previous week Newcastle had already played three matches. The derby was due to be their fourth in eight days, all away from home, at a time before luxury travel, pristine pitches or squad rotation.

The previous Saturday, 22nd December. Newcastle had played and beaten Manchester United at United’s Bank Street ground. Colin had scored a penalty in a 3-1 victory. Veitch’s defensive performance in shackling United’s best player, Menzies, was singled out for particular praise in the press.

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

Perhaps the game took a lot out of the Tynesiders because three days later, on Christmas Day, Newcastle travelled to Blackburn where an almost unchanged team (just one of the full backs being replaced) suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, 4-0 in front of a big holiday crowd of 35,000.

And the unrelenting schedule continued the following day, Boxing Day. Snow was already carpeting much of the country but players and fans, not to mention train companies, were clearly made of stern stuff back then and United fulfilled their fixture at Stoke City. There were just two further team changes and Colin played his third game of the week in a 2-1 United victory. The win left the Magpies just two points behind Everton at the top of the league.

New home

Newcastle will have had a long and difficult journey home and, had it not been for the weather, would have played their fourth away game in eight days the next Saturday. Colin Veitch and his wife, Minnie, had recently moved into a new house at 1 Stratford Villas, Heaton, where on September 25th Colin’s achievements as a footballer, an actor and a politician will be recognised when the Lord Mayor of Newcastle unveils a commemorative plaque.

We’ve chosen to highlight this period of Colin’s football career because, when carrying out work on their home, the current owners of the Veitches’ former house, found a copy of the Evening Chronicle dated 29th December 1906 under the floor boards. It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess that instead of sitting with his feet up on his unexpected rest day, Colin had instead found himself crouched under the floor mending a burst pipe. His day would get even worse, championship rivals Everton beat Middlesbrough 5-1.

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

But Colin and the team soon got back to work. Just two days later on New Years Day 1907, they at last played a home game. A football-starved Newcastle crowd of 30,000 cheered the team to a 2-0 win on an what was by all accounts a quagmire of a pitch. Colin and most of the Newcastle team played their fourth match in eleven days but, luckily for them, it was their opponents Derby County’s fifth! Not to be outdone though, Newcastle played a friendly the following day against Corinthians and won 3-0.

Champions again

United lost to Everton later in the month but showed much greater resilience than their rivals over the second half of the season. They won three matches in four days over Easter and on 7 April, when Blackburn beat Everton, the Geordies were confirmed as champions for the second time in three years.

This was undoubtedly the Magpies’ golden era: in the eight years between 1904 and 1912, they won the league three times and played in five FA Cup Finals, albeit winning only once.

Not only did Colin Veitch play a leading role in the football team’s success, he was also, in 1907, a founder member of the players’ union and in 1911, a co-founder and leading actor (and composer) of the People’s Theatre. In his spare time, he also wrote for the Evening Chronicle!

Special day

Come to our talk at the Corner House, Heaton on Wednesday 25 September to find out more about Colin Veitch, his part in the history of Newcastle United, the PFA and the People’s Theatre – and what his story tells us about the Edwardian era and life in Newcastle and Heaton at that time. Booking is essential as a capacity crowd is expected! Contact maria@heatonhistorygroup.org/ 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656 to book a place.

The plaque, which will be unveiled earlier in the day, has been made possible by Newcaste City Council, the PFA and private individuals. We’re delighted that we’ll be joined at both events by members of Colin’s family, who are delighted that his achievements are being recognised by the city.