Tag Archives: Balmoral Terrace

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

Elsie Tu: Geordie champion of the poor

She was awarded the prestigious pan-Asian honour, the Ramon Magsaysay Award,  for ‘Outstanding Contribution in Government Service’  in 1976, one of the very few non-Asians to have been honoured in this way; in 1977, she received a CBE in Britain for her work against corruption; she was voted the most popular politician in Hong Kong in 1994 and, in 1997, was presented with Hong Kong’s highest honour, the Grand Bauhinia Medal in the first year it was awarded.

Elsie Tu née Hume

She campaigned tirelessly against corruption wherever she encountered it and worked with and for the under-privileged for more than five decades. Hong Kong’s three most senior politicians were pall bearers at her funeral and yet, in Newcastle, the city of her birth, and even in Heaton and High Heaton, where she lived and went to school within living memory, hardly anyone recognises her name or her face.

Early years

Elsie Hume was the second child of John and Florence Hume. In 1911, John and Florence, both aged 25 and married for just over a year, were living with John’s two brothers and two sisters at 12 Sutton Street, Walkergate (across Shields Road from where Lidl is now). John had been orphaned aged 11 and his older sister, Janet, brought up her siblings. At this time, John described himself as a grocer’s assistant and he and his young wife already had a young baby girl, Ethel. 

Elsie was born in the house just over two years later on 2 June 1913 but said she had no memory of it because very shortly afterwards, ‘Auntie Janet’ and the extended family moved to 29 Chillingham Road. ‘All my earliest memories centre on that gloomy flat, where for about seven years we occupied the front room.’ Janet Hume lived in the flat until it was demolished in 1975.

Elsie Hume (right) with older sister, Ethel

By the time Elsie was born, her father was working as a tram conductor but the following year, he, like so many of his generation, joined the army. Elsie said that, until she was five years old, she knew nothing of him except his name. But John Hume’s experiences during this period, during which he was gassed, had a profound effect upon him and indirectly upon Elsie. He developed an intense dislike of war and a compassion for all humans.  Elsie said that, in turn, her left-leaning world-view was influenced by him. She recalled much later that when her father was encouraging her to make the most of her opportunities at school, it was not for the advantages that would give her in terms of her own career but rather he emphasised the many more ways to serve the poor that would be open to her. She enjoyed discussing and arguing about politics with her father and brother from an early age and said that her father’s ambition for her was to become an MP and fight for workers’ rights.

Schooldays

The family moved many times when Elsie was young and she attended several different schools including North View School in Heaton, Walkergate and Welbeck Road and, less happily, West Jesmond. Here she felt she was looked down on by both teachers and other pupils because she lived in the poor neighbourhood of Shieldfield at the time. In future years, she remembered how she had felt and said this influenced her behaviour towards others.

On the whole though, Elsie loved learning and was offered a place at Benwell Secondary School, where she spent three years, before her family became the first tenants of 8 Holystone Crescent on the newly built High Heaton council estate and she transferred to the recently opened Heaton Secondary Schools.

King and Queen open Heaton Secondary Schools, 1928
The King and Queen at Heaton Secondary Schools just after they opened in 1928

Elsie was able to shine there and was in the first cohort to matriculate, obtaining the best results in the school, along with a special history prize. This was a prize fittingly donated by Heaton social campaigner, Florence Nightingale Harrison Bell.

The programme for the school opening ceremony had announced that ‘Mrs Harrison Bell has very kindly endowed a history prize in memory of her husband, the late Mr J N Bell, who was elected in 1922 Member of Parliament for the east division of the city. The prize will be awarded in the boys’ and the girls’ school in alternate years.’

Elsie also loved sport. She won ‘school colours in gymnastics, sports, lacrosse, rounders and netball’ and wrote in her autobiography about how her father, brother and herself were ‘mad about football’, and how all her life she was a passionate supporter of Newcastle United. 

Trial 

In January 1930, however, a shocking event took place in the family home, which was witnessed by 16 year old Elsie.  Elsie’s brother in law, Leslie Aynsley, who had been living with the Humes since he married her older sister, Ethel, just a couple of months previously, attacked his young wife with a hammer one breakfast time and when John, her father, tried to intervene, he too was struck. It was Elsie who was next on the scene and summoned help. Aynsley said that he didn’t know what had come over him. Ten days later both Ethel and her father were still in hospital with severe head injuries.

 At Aynsley’s trial, much was made in the press of the fact that the trial judge was Mrs Helena Normanton. She was the first women to take advantage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 and join an institution of the legal profession and the second woman to be called to the bar. As such, even in the circumstances in which they came face to face, she might have been another inspiration to young Elsie, who gave evidence to the court that Aynsley looked ‘old and grey’.

Ethel Hume refused to testify against her husband and, under Normanton’s guidance, the jury sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment with the proviso that if he became insane during his time in jail, he could be removed to a lunatic asylum. Most of the press coverage, however, centred upon the judge’s appearance and novelty value, something that is alluded to in a recent biography of her.

The Humes continued to live at 8 Holystone Crescent for at least three years after this traumatic event but then moved to various other addresses in Heaton, including, from 1935-37, 64 Balmoral Terrace; 1938, 20 Cheltenham Terrace and, from 1939, 26 Balmoral Terrace.

University

But Elsie was now ready to spread her wings,

She left school with a treasured testimonial from Miss Cooper, headmistress of Heaton Secondary Schools’ girls’ school, which read:

Elsie Hume was always an exceptionally high-principled and conscientious student and was also a very keen athlete. She was Captain of the First Lacrosse and First Rounders Teams, and School Sports Captain in 1932. Elsie was always most public-spirited and energetic.’

Elsie (top left), Armstrong College netball team

Elsie* wrote later that she was inclined to join the civil service so that she could immediately start to earn money and to repay her family for the sacrifices they had made. Miss Cooper had other ideas and had not only decided she was university material but had persuaded Elsie’s parents too. Elsie went to Durham University’s Armstrong College (later Newcastle University), which she walked to every day from Heaton. She studied English and history and trained to be a teacher not, she later said, because she had a burning ambition to work in education but because she believed it was the only profession open to a girl from a poor background like hers, without the means to pay for further study.

It was at university that Elsie, to the surprise and even disappointment of her family, became a ‘born again Christian’ and then joined the Plymouth Brethren. She became clear about her future: she would teach for a few years to pay back her parents and those who had given her an education, then she would become a missionary and ‘spread my new-found happiness to others’.

Despite having to take a year off her studies when she nearly died following an operation for a gynaecological condition which eventually meant that she couldn’t have children, Elsie graduated in 1937 (and was in 1976 to be awarded an honorary doctorate in Civil Law jointly by the universities of Durham and Newcastle).

She had to look beyond Newcastle for a job teaching English and history and found one in an elementary school in Halifax, taking her away from home for the first time. She returned to Newcastle when war broke out.

Wartime

Back home in Heaton, Elsie found a job teaching in Prudhoe and, when not working, she volunteered in civil defence. Her autobiography contains an emotional account of 25-26 April 1941 when 46 people were killed when high explosive devices and a parachute bomb exploded in the area of Heaton around Guildford Place and Cheltenham Terrace. The house (20 Cheltenham Terrace) where the Humes had lived only a couple of years before was badly damaged by the first bomb and two people who lived there were seriously injured.

Less than two weeks before, it had been announced in the newspapers that Elsie had successfully completed a certificate in home nursing and on this night, her newly acquired skills were used to the full. She helped a man who has been hurt by flying debris ‘His head had been split open on one side and his eyes were filled with pieces of glass’ and was about to walk him home.

Elsie spoke of meeting two brothers, fellow air raid wardens. They warned her and the injured man to return to an underground shelter as they believed more bombs would fall. The lenses had been blown out of the glasses of one of the brothers and they told her that their home had been hit. She later discovered that both of them were killed by a second bomb. They were almost certainly the Shaw brothers, Thomas and William, whose story has already been written about on this website by Ian Clough. Elsie also recalled the panic at a nearby dance hall (the one above the Co-op?) where her sister was caught in a stampede down the stairs, after the lights had gone out and the premises had been filled with soot and dust. 

Elsie said that the impact of that night would never leave her and she spoke scathingly about politicians who approved the bombing of foreign parts and the killing of innocent people when they ‘have never known what it’s like to be on the receiving end’.

Later in the war, Elsie took up a post at Todd’s Nook School and then accompanied Newcastle schoolchildren who had been evacuated to Great Corby in Cumberland, a period of her early life which she remembered with great affection. 

Marriage

During this time, Elsie received a surprise marriage proposal from Bill Elliott, one of the Plymouth Brethren she had known in Halifax. He told her that he intended to go to China as a missionary, something he knew she was interested in. Elsie had grave doubts about his fundamentalist religious beliefs and rejected his offer. Two years later, he repeated it, telling her that he would become more liberal and, this time, Elsie, despite knowing that she was not in love with him, accepted his proposal. The couple were married in 1945, after which they lived and worked in Hull.

She soon realised that she had made a mistake. She found that, simply because she was a woman, she wasn’t allowed to take part in decision making or have an independent life outside work and she was restricted to friendships with those of the same faith and attitudes. 

Nevertheless, in December 1947, the couple set off by boat to Shanghai and then travelled on to Nanchang in Jiangxi province where they were to stay for three years.  Elsie soon became disillusioned with the racist and colonialist attitudes she believed the Christian groups in China exhibited but she enjoyed learning Mandarin and became interested in the country and its people.

However, when war broke out in Korea, the political situation in China became tense and missionaries were advised to leave. Elsie and Bill travelled to Hong Kong with the intention of moving on to Borneo. They found temporary accommodation in a small village near the airport called Kai Tek New Village, where their closest neighbours were refugees from Swatow (Shantou, China) living in a squatter village. She saw the many privations suffered by the people there, with skilled women working twelve hours a day doing embroidery for a pittance and their sick, ill-fed children packing matches or biscuits to enable their families to survive. 

She and Bill set up a home clinic, using Elsie’s smattering of Chinese and the basic first aid she’d learnt as an air raid warden in Heaton. She, Bill and a Chinese colleague, Andrew Tu, also set up a school but Elsie was becoming unhappier still in her marriage and disillusioned with missionary life, which she now described as ‘arrogant racism’. She left the church and, when she returned to Hong Kong after a short break in Britain, her husband did not go back with her. 

Elsie rented rooms in another squatter area while running a school for deprived children. At this time, she lived a extremely frugal lifestyle, taking on private teaching to subsidise the school while living in a small hut on the school site, spending and even eating as little as possible to enable the school to survive. It was during this time that she began to encounter corruption among the British police force and government and noted how British residents were treated much more favourably than the Chinese, particularly poor Chinese, and she began to help them in their dealings with the authorities. 

Politics

In 1963, by which time Elsie and Andrew Tu had opened another three non-profit making schools at a time when there was still no universal free education in Hong Kong, Elsie was approached by the Reform Club, a quasi-political party loosely aligned with the British Liberal party, to stand for election to the Urban Council. It campaigned for a more democratic and just system of colonial government, causes close to her heart. This was a time when only rate-payers, property owners and certain professionals had the right to vote and, even then, they had a vote only for the Urban Council, which had comparatively few powers. The Legislative Council, the law-making body ‘offered no elected seats and was dominated by British officials and rich businessmen’. Elsie was elected to the council, fulfilling at the age of 51 her father’s ambition for her to become a politician. 

Although the position on the council did not come with a salary, Elsie gave up her paid teaching. She continued to work at the school she ran with Andrew Tu by organising her timetable around the demands of the council and accepting only the bare minimum salary she needed to survive. It was only in the 1970s when councillors started to receive an allowance and government-subsidised free education was made available to all, that Elsie began to live more comfortably.

 After her first term representing the Reform Club, Elsie successfully stood as an independent for 32 years. She fought the widespread corruption by pointing it out wherever she encountered it, to the departments concerned, the governor, the British government or the press. She later recalled how she wrote her first letter to a newspaper on the subject of free trade while still at school in Heaton. Her first letter to the ‘Guardian’, during her early days in Hong Kong, was about the long hours worked by Chinese people in Hong Kong. It was referred to by a British MP in the House of Commons, although he named the writer as Mr Elliott, and led to new employment legislation on the island. Elsie’s campaigning is also credited with the eventual establishment in Hong Kong of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1976.

Elsie held regular surgeries where she tried to help people with their battles against injustice and with all kinds of personal problems. Her brave (particularly because there were close connections between the police and organised crime, the triads) and tireless work on behalf of ordinary people made her increasingly popular. She fought against the exploitation of workers, child labour and for universal suffrage, gay rights, better housing and public transport, along with many other improvements in poor people’s lives.

One of the most famous cases associated with Elsie involved opposition in 1965  to price rises on the Star Ferry on which many working people relied. Via the newspapers, she canvassed public opinion, which was overwhelmingly against the increase both because it broke an agreement between the ferry company and the government and because it came at a time when people were facing particular economic hardship. Protests followed, illegal in Hong Kong at the time, which became known as the ‘Elsie Riots’. A number of young people were arrested for violence and it was alleged that they were acting under Elsie’s instructions,  something she vehemently denied. It emerged later in court that the young people had been beaten up by the police and forced to sign statements saying that Elsie had paid them to throw stones. The following year, in the biggest ever turn out ever in the Urban Council elections, Elsie received over 80% of the vote. 

Love

Elsie worked with Andrew Tu from her earliest days in Hong Kong. He had arrived there fresh from university in Inner Mongolia, as a young, penniless migrant. They co-founded and ran schools for poor and refugee children and he ran her political campaigns, advised her and taught her Chinese. He also became a Samaritan and a campaigner on green issues and, like Elsie, became well known and respected in Hong Kong.

In 1963, when in London on business with the Samaritans, Andrew travelled to Newcastle to Elsie’s sister’s house to meet the Hume family. Despite the language barrier, they are said to have taken to him immediately and constantly asked why the couple weren’t married. Elsie always replied that they felt no need to but they finally did tie the knot on 13 June 1985, when Elsie was 72 years old.

In her autobiography, Elsie described how, after their marriage, the couple first visited Andrew’s family and friends in Inner Mongolia and then came to Newcastle to stay with her sister, Dorothy, and her husband. She describes visiting Whitley Bay in the fog, eating fish and chips on the prom, walking on the Roman Wall and going to Blanchland and Cragside.

Legislative Council

In 1988, aged 76, Elsie was elected by the Urban Council as its representative on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council or parliament. One of the successful battles she fought was for Chinese to be accepted as an official language of Hong Kong: she took on government departments which failed to provide Chinese translations and argued that court cases conducted in English disadvantaged local, Chinese speakers. She became increasingly accused by the establishment of being pro-Chinese and anti-British.  However, she always claimed not to be connected to any political party and not to be a communist or for or against any country, but to be pro-democracy, pro-justice and anti-corruption: ‘I’m not for China, I’m not for Britain. I’ve always been for the people of Hong Kong and for justice’.  

She wasn’t defeated in an election until 1995, aged 83. Even after the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, she continued to hold the government to account. In 2013, aged 99, she criticised the widening income disparity in Hong Kong, referring to ‘rich men who have no conscience’. 

Death 

Elsie Tu died on 8 December 2015, aged 102. All three men who had held Hong Kong’s highest office, that of Chief Executive, Tung Chee-Hwa (1997-2005), Donald Tsang (2005-2012) and Leung Chun-Ying ( 2012-2017) were pall-bearers at her funeral. The current incumbent, Carrie Lam, recalls taking part in actions led by Elsie from her university days. She described her as an exemplary champion of social justice, who commanded respect for her valiant words and deeds.

Perhaps the last word on Elsie should come from her obituary writer in the ‘Daily Telegraph’, not a paper known for its empathy with people who threaten the British establishment: ‘In truth, her politics were less coherent, and far less significant, than her burning concern for the poor and her fearlessness in challenging those she accused of exploiting them.’

Elsie Tu

Not only would her father, John, and old headteacher, Miss Cooper, have been proud, but so too would Helena Normanton, the ground-breaking judge before whom Elsie had given evidence as a teenager, and especially that other renowned Heaton campaigner and social reformer, Florence Nightingale Harrison Bell, whose history prize Elsie had been presented with over eighty years before. Like her, Elsie didn’t only study history, she made it.

*We have referred to Elsie by her first name throughout this article to avoid any confusion caused by the three surnames she used at different stages of her life.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Peter Sagar, Arthur Andrews and Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group. Thank you to Tracey Cross, Elsie’s first cousin once removed, for bringing the achievements of Elsie Tu and her connection with Heaton to our attention; to Heidi Schultz, Executive Office Team Leader, Newcastle University for supplying Elsie’s honorary degree citation; to Ruth Sutherland, Northumbria University, for supplying newspaper articles about her.

Sources

‘Colonial Hong Kong in the Eyes of Elsie Tu’ / Elsie Tu; Hong Kong Press, 2003

‘Crusade for Justice’ / Elsie Elliott; Henemann Asia, 1981

Elsie Elliot Tu, Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa’, the University of Hong Kong, 1988

‘Elsie Tu, activist – obituary; social campaigner in Hong Kong regarded as a potential troublemaker by the colonial authorities’ in ‘Daily Telegraph’, 15 December 2015

‘Elsie Tu Doctor in Civil Law honorary degree citation’ / Newcastle University, 1996

‘Helena Normanton and the Opening of the Bar to Women’ / Judith Bourne; Waterside Press, 2017

‘Shouting at the Mountain: a Hong Kong story of love and commitment’ / Andrew and Elsie Tu, 2004

Wikipedia

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archives

Other online sources

Can You Help?

If you know more about Elsie Tu, particularly her Heaton connections, or have photographs 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

Around Heaton’s Shops – with a Camera (Part One)

Eric Dale was born in 1937 and in about 1939 moved with his family from Corbridge Street, Byker to Eighth Avenue in Heaton. Like many of us, he clearly remembers many of the shops of his boyhood but, even better, from our point of view, he returned with his camera in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Here he takes us on a walking tour of some of the highlights, from  the Avenues where he grew up and along Chillingham Road and back, where he was sent on errands every Friday.  Inserted are photographs he took years later, alongside some taken this week.

The Avenues

On Second Avenue from Meldon Terrace going south: east side, on corner of Tenth Avenue I remember a small sweet shop and penny lending library at the no 1 bus stop. Opposite on Meldon corner was Thompson’s Red Stamp Stores. (Ed: This was a chain of grocery stores, which started in Blyth and spread throughout the north east.)

 

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Thompon’s Red Stamp Store, by 1994 a second hand furniture shop (Copyright: Eric Dale)

 

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Corner of Second and Meldon, 2017 – now a lettings agent (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

Next, a shop which recharged the glass-encased wet acid batteries (accumulators) which powered the household radio/wireless on the basis of take a spent one to the shop, pay your sixpence and get a freshly charged one in return. There was a chip-shop on King John Street corner. Opposite corner had a general dealer. (Ed: this corner is now residential properties.)

 

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Corner of Second Avenue and King John Street, 1994 (Copyright: Eric Dale)

 

On the corner of Balmoral Terrace and Second Avenue corner was an off-licence. If it still exists it must be the longest established retail outlet in Heaton. I lived in Eighth Avenue from the early 40s and remember as a very small child seeing deliveries being made to it by a steam-driven lorry or dray.

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Balmoral Wines, 1994 ( copyright Eric Dale)

(Ed: Well, yes, it does still exist! We’ll have to delve more into its history and see whether it rivals Clough’s for that title.)

 

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Balmoral Wines, still going strong, 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

Finally, on Second Avenue between First and Third, there was John Cook, gents’ hairdresser – and part-time bookies’ runner!

 

Chillingham Road

On west side of Chillingham Road going north was the Chillingham Hotel, then on the corner of Seventh a newsagent.

 

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Newsagent on the corner of Chillingham Road and Seventh Avenue in 1994 (Copyright: Eric Dale, 1994)

(Ed: This may have changed hands a few times but it’s still a newsagent’s)

 

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Newsagent on the corner of Chilli and Seventh, 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

On the opposite corner was Miss Welch’s, which sold sweets. Higher up Seventh on south side, McGee’s Bakery.

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McGee’s bakery, empty by 1984 (Copyright: Eric Dale)

(Ed: Again, like many of the former shops in the Avenues, it’s been converted into a residential property.)

Back to Chillingham Road: Harrison’s Bakery (‘Harrison’s Pies are full of flies, it’s a puzzle to find the meat!’) was where mam always specified a ‘high-baked’ wholemeal small loaf which cost sixpence farthing. Wedgewood’s general dealers was on Eighth corner.

On the opposite corner was the Grace Fairless second-hand shop, where on rainy days I used to swap comics such as the ‘Beano’, ‘Dandy’, ‘Knockout’ and ‘Film Fun’ for older editions that I’d take along. As I grew older myself the favourites became the boys’ story papers ‘The Adventure’, ‘Hotspur’, ‘Wizard’ and ‘Rover‘; featuring ‘The Tough of the Track’ and ‘Smith of the Lower Third’).

Elliot’s general dealers (a small refund when returning pop bottles) was next in the row, later taken on by John and Mary from Chester-le-Street, then came Laidler’s fish and chips (‘a fish and threepen’orth’ was the usual order, but when new potatoes were in season chips went up to fourpence) and thenTurnbull’s newsagents.

Still on west side of Chillingham Road, after the school and on Meldon Terrace corner Fong Wah Laundry, then The Pie Shop (without doubt the least savoury chips in Heaton: greasy, limp and soggy), The Clock and Model Shop, Dennison and Graham chemist, the garage and filling station.  (Ed:Note the 1984 prices in the photo. If our maths can be trusted that’s £1.85 for 4.55 litres or 40.66p a litre. About £1.15 today? But maybe that’s not too bad compared with the rise in cost of, say, going to St James’ Park?)

 

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Chillingham Road filling station, 1984 (Copyright: Eric Dale)

 

 

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The old Chillingham Road filling station site, about to be redeveloped, 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

Grosvenor Ballroom, The Scala Cinema, The Co-op, a newsagent and Post Office on the corner of Cartington Terrace. Finally Riddells Photography, another very long-established business.

On east side from the south: on Spencer Street corner L.C. Garage, then Oakley fireplaces/plumbers.

 

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Oakley’s the plumber, 1994 (Copyright: Eric Dale)

 

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Oakley’s the plumbers boarded up for many years, 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

Hedley’s the greengrocer was on the corner of Rothbury Terrace (there was a sloping wooden ramp down into the shop) and then Trutime Watch Co, which many older residents will remember well.

 

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The Trutime Watch Co, 1984 (Copyright: Eric Dale)

 

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Trutime Watch Co ( the fascia uncovered a couple of years ago) to let, 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

Nearby was London and Newcastle Tea Company and, just before Watson’s Paint and Wallpaper, Clough’s sweet shop. Yes, younger readers might not know there used to be more than one Clough’s – they must have bulk bought all the blue paint in Heaton!

 

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Clough’s Chillingham Road shop’s golden anniversary, 1984 (copyright: Eric Dale)

 

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Formerly Clough’s Chilli Road, Bijou Hairdressing in 2017 (Copyright: Chris Jackson)

 

My Weekly Shop at the Co-op

Each Friday tea-time it was my job to walk along to the Co-op on Chillingham Road with my little shopping list and bring back the bacon (literally). Shopping there was a nightmare as each product was allocated a different counter. Sugar had to be weighed up and neatly packed in blue bags, lumps of the desired weight were hacked from barrel-shaped slabs of butter, cheese was similarly cut from large rounds and bacon thinly sliced on a hand-operated machine. Nothing perishable was pre-wrapped. And there was the additional tedium waiting whilst the relevant coupons were clipped from ration books. Jam, when it was available (and during the war it was always Damson) at least came in jars! Because there was no queueing system in place it was a struggle to maintain position in the mass of adult customers clamouring to be served….and I was only a kid less than half their size. I hated it, and it’s no surprise that I can remember our Co-op dividend number to this day. Just for reference, ration allocations per person per week in 1945 were 2 ounces butter and cheese, 4 ounces bacon and margarine, 8 ounces sugar. All rationing ended in 1954.

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to Eric Dale for his photos and memories. We’ll be featuring more in the near future.

Can you help?

We hope that you will add to what we know about the shops on Chillingham Road and in the Avenues. Either post your comments direct to this site by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org. It would be fantastic to find some more old photos.

Or if you are able to volunteer to take photos in Heaton today, again please get in touch. Think how interesting they will be in a few years time.

Heaton Olivers

This photograph of Heaton’s North View School choir with their teacher, Miss Brown, taken outside Newcastle’s City Hall in 1948 was sent to us from Canada by Alan Oliver.

 

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North View School Choir, 1948

 

The children had just won the title of Best Infant School Choir in Newcastle. Alan is the boy third in from the post in the middle, right hand side. He told us that his family’s connections with Newcastle and Heaton, in particular, go back much further and we wanted to know more:

Three Andrews

We have used census records and trade directories to trace the Oliver family back to 1841 when Alan’s great great grandfather, Andrew Oliver, was a coalminer in Ford. He lived in the North Northumberland village with his wife, Ann, and their 11 year old son, also called Andrew, and their daughter, Isabella.

By 1851 son, Andrew, now 21, had moved to the nearby village of Branxton, where he was apprenticed to a shoe maker, Thomas Pringle and  lodged, along with two other apprentices (the younger of them just 12 years old) at the home of Thomas, a widow, and his  24 year old daughter, Euphemia, along with a servant. Andrew soon fell in love with and married Euphemia.

By 1861 the couple, now living in the nearby village of Crookham, had two young children, William, aged two and one year old (you guessed), Andrew. They had a servant and a boarder, who was also a shoemaker.

By 1871 the family had moved to the nearby town of Wooler, where Andrew senior (or middle) was still a shoemaker and all the children went to school. They were still in Wooler in 1881, by which time the youngest Andrew was aged 21 and also working as a shoemaker. By now he had younger siblings, Isabella, Gilbert and Hannah.

However by 1891, the whole family, 60 year old Andrew senior, his wife, Euphemia, sons Andrew junior, now aged 30, and Gilbert, aged 23, with sisters Isabella and Hannah, had moved to 101 Tynemouth Road in Heaton. We don’t know why the family relocated but, if it was for financial reasons, it seems to have been a sound decision. Heaton was rapidly expanding and becoming more prosperous so there was a growing demand for footwear.

The younger Andrew and his wife, Jessie and their family continued to live on Tynemouth Road and run a shoemaker’s shop, first at number 101 and, by 1911, at number 91, now with three sons, Thomas, aged 13, Sidney, 9, and Harold, 6.

Longevity

This Chillingham Road School class photograph shows Sidney, Alan’s father, aged about 7, so it must have been taken around 1908. Sidney is on the right hand end of the back row.We wonder whether anyone else had inherited a copy and could name anyone else in the class.

 

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Chillingham Road School, c 1908

 

By 1930 the family shop was in his mother Jessie’s name but the long standing business on Tynemouth Road was soon run by Sidney and his wife and their son,  Alan, and his brother (yes, Andrew!) grew up above the shop. .

And this one shows a VE street party on Denmark Street in 1945.

 

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Denmark Street, 1945

 

Alan’s brother, Andrew, is third boy from the left on the back row. We haven’t been able to find out exactly who Fearon and Hickford were and why they are named on the banner in the centre but Alan says that Mr Fearon is the man on the right holding a small child and he thinks that Mr Hickford is the man on the left, also holding a child. He remembers the Fearon family, with children John, Kenneth, Sandra and Dennis, living on Denmark Street. If you know more about the two men or recognise anyone else in the picture, please get in touch.

The family business eventually closed when Sidney retired. He eventually left Tynemouth Road for Killingworth in the mid 1970s when the street was demolished prior to redevelopment. He died on 10 September 1989, the day after his 88th birthday.  Three generations of Olivers had helped keep the people of Heaton shod for over 50 years.

Lord Mayor

But another Heaton Oliver made an important contribution to the life of the city. Gilbert, Alan’s great uncle, the brother of his father, Sidney’s father, you may remember, was a tailor when he moved to Heaton with his parents and siblings sometime before 1891, when he was 23 years old.

Gilbert went into partnership with a Thomas Walton in a business they operated from 1 Molyneux Street. Later he ran his own tailor’s shop at 39 Second Avenue, then 53 Balmoral Terrace and in Clayton Street in town.

By 1911, Gilbert had moved with his wife, Mary, and 15 year old son, Welsley Herbert, to 55 Cartington Terrace.

 

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Cartington Terrace

 

We don’t yet know when Gilbert became interested in politics or was first elected to serve as a councillor but if you read through the list of Lord Mayors, displayed in the current (November 2016) Newcastle City Library exhibition, you’ll find the name Gilbert Oliver, holder of that ancient and prestigious office in 1937.

The photograph below was taken at Heaton Assembly Rooms in 1935 when Gilbert was Sheriff and Deputy Lord Mayor.

 

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Deputy Mayor Gilbert Oliver of Heaton (second from the left)

 

Gilbert is second from the left. Also in the photograph are the Duke of Northumberland (extreme left), the Lord Mayor, Councillor Dalglish and the Duke of Kent. We haven’t identified the person on the extreme right.

Sadly Gilbert died of pneumonia in 1939 after being taken ill on a civic trip to York.

Canadian correspondents

Our correspondent Alan left Heaton and England in 1964. He joined the Norwegian merchant navy and in 1967 settled in Canada. His sons, Kevin and Ian, were born in Richmond, British Columbia. Kevin told us he has been to Heaton and Newcastle three times to visit family and see where his ancestors lived – and, of course, ‘to watch Newcastle United and Whitley Bay Warriors play’.

Acknowledgements

A big thanks to Alan for permission to publish his photographs and for adding a little more to our knowledge of Heaton’s history – and to Kevin for patiently acting as go-between!

Thank you too to Hilary Bray (nee Bates) who gave us permission to digitise and use the photograph of Cartington Terrace from her postcard collection.

Can you help?

If you know more about anyone or anything mentioned in this article or can identify anyone in the photographs, 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

 

VAD recruitment poster

VAD Nurses in Heaton’s Avenues

Following the end of the Boer War, the War Office was concerned that, in the event of another conflict, the medical and nursing services wouldn’t be able to cope sufficiently. The peacetime needs of a standing army, in relation to medical care, were very small and specific, and to find thousands of trained and experienced personnel at very short notice, without the expense of maintaining them in peacetime, was a difficult problem to overcome. On 16 August 1909 the War Office issued its ‘Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid in England and Wales’, which set up both male and female Voluntary Aid Detachments to fill certain gaps in the Territorial medical services. By early 1914, 1757 female detachments and 519 male detachments had been registered with the War Office.

VAD recruitment poster

VAD recruitment poster

When war came, the Red Cross and Auxiliary hospitals sprung up rapidly in church halls, public buildings and private houses, accommodating anything from ten patients to more than a hundred. The proportion of trained nurses in the units was small, and much of the basic work was the responsibility of the VADs – they cleaned, scrubbed and dusted, set trays, cooked breakfasts; they lit fires and boiled up coppers full of washing. They also helped to dress, undress and wash the men – which was of course a big step for young women who may never have been alone and unchaperoned with a member of the opposite sex before, other than their brothers.

There were about 50,000 women involved in the movement immediately before the war, and it’s thought that in total somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 women served as VADs at some time during the war, some for very short periods, some for up to five years.

As part of the commemoration of the centenary of World War 1, the Red Cross has been digitising its VAD records, which has allowed us to identify three VAD nurses living in the avenues as well as two male members of voluntary aid detachments, shedding some light on their lives and contributions as well as the role that they played during the war.

The English Family

The English family lived at 30 Third Avenue, Heaton. The 1911 census shows Robert English (55), a plumber, and his wife, Isabella (48), had four children living at home, twins Annie and Mary Jane (28), Isabella (20) and William 18.

In 1911, William was working as a stained glass designer. On 29 October 1915, aged 22, he enlisted in the army. His military record describes him as 5’ 8” in height and weighing 7st 8lbs. His physical development was described as ‘spare’, with a chest measurement of 33 1/2 inches. It was noted that his sight was defective, except when wearing spectacles. He also had slight varicose veins. These were deemed as slight defects that were not significant enough to cause rejection. Given his physical development, it is perhaps not surprising that he was placed into the Royal Army Service Corps rather than a combat roll.

Four days after enlisting, on 1 November 1915, William married Lillian Phillips at St Gabriel’s Church. The next day, he joined his regiment at Aldershot. What is interesting about William, is not his relatively unremarkable military career, but that both his sister, Mary Jane, and his new wife, Lillian, were to go on to become VAD nurses.

Mary Jane English and the Liverpool Merchants’ Hospital

Mary Jane saw service with the VAD from 2 October 1915 to 12 November 1917 and is listed as a sister, although it’s not clear whether this meant she was a qualified nurse. Interestingly, the 1911 census does not show any employment for Mary, although it is possible that she trained as a nurse between then and the start of the war. Mary was posted to the No 6 Hospital of the British Red Cross in Etaples, also known as the Liverpool Merchants Hospital. She was awarded the 1915 star for her service.

The Liverpool Merchants’ Hospital was constructed and equipped from funds raised by members of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, making it unique. The hospital opened at the end of July 1915 and treated over 20,000 people during the course of the war at a cost of some £90,000. s a Base Hospital, the hospital had 252 beds and formed part of the casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Casualty Clearing Stations. In the theatre of war in France and Flanders, the British hospitals were generally located near the coast. They needed to be close to a railway line, in order for casualties to arrive; they also needed to be near a port where men could be evacuated for longer term treatment in Britain.

Staff of the Liverpool Merchants' Hospital

Staff of the Liverpool Merchants’ Hospital where Mary Jane English served

A report from the ‘Liverpool Courier’ in January 1920 gives a description of the facilities: ‘There were eight pavilion wards, each to accommodate 27 patients, with their own nurses’ duty rooms, sink, stores and cupboards, also large linen store; and each ward had attached to it a two-bed ward for special cases. Each large ward had also its own bath and lavatory. The operation block and the kitchen block were situated in the centre of the hospital. The operation block contained also X-ray room with dark room attached, an anaesthetic room, preparation room, operating theatre, dispensary, laboratory, medical store room, splint room, quarter-master’s and matron’s store rooms and ambulance stores.’

The article closes by saying:

‘Let it be recorded to the everlasting glory of Liverpool that the Merchants’ Hospital, the only military hospital which has been “designed, built, equipped, staffed, managed, and financed” entirely by the citizens of a particular city, has never been prevented from the fullest performance of the duties for which it was devised by lack of funds.’

This last fact is particularly interesting, as all of the records show that the hospital was staffed exclusively by the people of Liverpool. It’s not clear what relationship the English family had with Liverpool, or indeed if the necessities of war meant that this particular point was overlooked in the interests of providing a service.

Lillian English and the Australian Hospital

Lillian English married William on 1 November 1915. She was the youngest daughter of Alfred and Sarah Phillips of West Jesmond. The 1911 census shows Alfred as a letterpress machine overseer in the printing industry, with 19 year old Lillian working as an assistant at a music dealer and her older step sister Mary Gregory (28) working as a booksewer in a bookbinder’s. After their marriage, Lillian continued to live at her parents’ home, 34 Mowbray Street, Heaton and William’s military record was amended to show this as his address. The couple continued to live with Lillian’s parents for several years after the war.

Perhaps inspired by the experiences and contribution of her sister-in-law, Mary, Lillian also joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment on 6 March 1918, some four months after Mary returned from Etaples. Lillian’s stay in the service was however somewhat shorter, as she was discharged one month later on 8 April 1918. This initially caused us much speculation. Typically, VAD nurses would have one month probation and it appeared at first that either she was considered unsuited for the work or could not herself cope with it. However, the answer to her hasty departure became apparent when we discovered that William and Lillian’s only daughter, Monica, was born 12 November 1918. Obviously conceived during William’s leave, Lillian must have been about four weeks pregnant when she took up her post, a fact that would have become apparent during her brief placement, leading to her premature return home. Lillian spent her brief assignment with the VAD posted to the Australian Hospital, Harefield.

Some of the buildings at Harefield Park

Some of the buildings at Harefield Park where Lillian English served

In November 1914 Mr and Mrs Charles Billyard-Leake, Australians resident in the UK, offered their home, Harefield Park House and its grounds, to the Minister of Defence in Melbourne for use as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers of the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). The property became the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital in December 1914. It was the only purely Australian hospital in England. The Hospital consisted of Harefield Park House, a 3-storey plain brick building, some out-buildings and grounds of some 250 acres. It was proposed that the Hospital would accommodate 60 patients in the winter and 150 in the summer. It would be a rest home for officers and other ranks, and also a depot for collecting invalided soldiers to be sent back to Australia. As Harefield Park House could only accommodate a quarter of the number expected, hutted wards were built on the front lawn, and a mess hall for 120 patients in the courtyard.

As the war progressed the hospital grew rapidly, becoming a general hospital. At the height of its use it accommodated over 1000 patients and the nursing staff had expanded to 74 members. Nearly 50 buildings were in use, including workshops, garages, stores, messes, canteens, a recreation hall (where concerts and film shows were held), a billiards rooms, writing rooms, a library, a cookhouse, a detention room and a mortuary. For entertainment, tours to London were arranged and paid for out of canteen funds, and the ladies of the district made their cars available for country trips, picnics and journeys to and from the railway station, both for patients and visitors. The hospital gradually closed down during January 1919 and the whole site was sold to Middlesex County Council who planned to build a tuberculosis sanatorium. The site is now the site of Harefield Hospital.

Irene Neylon

Mary Irene Neylon was born in 1881 in Ireland. Somewhere around the end of the 19th Century, Irene and her sister Susannah moved to Newcastle, possibly to join their Uncle James, a wine and spirit manager living in Jesmond. Irene lived at 60, Third Avenue, with her sister and her husband John William Carr and their family. She never married and remained at Third Avenue until her death on 16 March 1947, where probate records show that she left effects to the value of £164 3s.

Irene was working as a shop clerk at the time of the 1901 census, but by 1911 had trained as a nurse and was working at the Infirmary of the Newcastle upon Tyne Workhouse (later to become Newcastle General Hospital). Between 27 February 1917 and 20 January 1919 Irene is listed on the Red Cross Records as being a VAD Nurse. Unfortunately, Irene’s record only lists her placement as T.N. dept, so it’s not clear exactly where she was posted. However, we do know that part of the infirmary was taken over by the army to treat venereal diseases, with beds for 48 officers and 552 other ranks, so it is possible that she continued to work at the same location but with a different employer. What sets Irene apart from the other VAD members in the Avenues is that she was, as a qualified nurse, a paid employee, earning £1 1s per week when she joined, rising to £1 4s 10d when she was discharged.

Irene Neylon's VAD record card

Irene Neylon’s VAD record card

Life as a VAD Nurse

‘Do your duty loyally
Fear God
Honour the King

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame.
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of working, and each in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are.’

These were the final inspirational comments of a message from the Commander in Chief of the VAD, Katherine Furse. The message was handed to each VAD nurse before they embarked. The message was to be considered by each V.A.D. member as confidential and to be kept in her Pocket Book.

The nurses were subject to full military discipline and required to assist in any way they could, with only minimal training. Given that we know that Harefield, for example, only had 74 nurses for its 1000 beds, it’s safe to assume that VAD nurses would have been carrying out most of the care. They wore a distinctive blue uniform with a white apron and sleeves and a red cross on the apron to distinguish them from other nursing staff.

VAD uniform

VAD uniform

The rules they were expected to work to included detail around personal cleanliness and presentation, including gargling morning and evening, but especially in the evening with carbolic, 1 in 60; listerine, 1 teaspoonful to 5 oz. water; glyco-thymoline and water, ½ and ½. They also advised combing the hair with a fine toothed comb every day!

There are several contemporary accounts of the lives of VAD nurses, including this from Kathleen Marion Barrow, who worked at a base hospital in France, similar to that where Mary Jane English worked:

‘In France, when convoy after convoy poured in, and when one piteous wreck after another, whose bandages were stiff with mud and blood, had been deposited on a clean white bed; the extent of a VAD’s work was bound to be decided far more by the measure of her capacity than by rule of seniority, or red tape. Matron and sisters soon discovered those whose skill, quickness and level-headedness, justified trust. In every new venture there are few who have not to walk for a space some time or other in the Valley of Humiliation, the military hospitals in France were a magnificent school, not only for actual nursing, but for self-control and nerve.’

She also talks of the comradeship and the humour amidst the pain and tragedy: ‘One recalls the dummy – carefully charted and hideously masked – which was tucked into bed for the benefit of the VAD and orderly when they came on night duty, and the stifled laughter under the bedclothes in adjoining beds. One recalls, too, the great occasions when some Royal or notable person came to visit the wards. Then we spent ourselves in table decorations, emptied the market of flowers, or ransacked the woods and meadows for willow or catkins, ox-eyed daisies or giant kingcups. Incidentally, we made the boys’ lives a burden to them by our meticulous care in smoothing out sheets, tucking in corners, and repairing the slightest disorder occasioned by every movement on their part, till the occasion was over. Sometimes the expected visitor did not turn up, and when another rumour of a projected visit was brought into the ward by a VAD, she was hardly surprised to find that her announcement was greeted on all sides by the somewhat blasphemous chorus of “Tell me the old, old story.” ‘

Male VAD members

Interestingly, our search for VAD nurses on the avenues identified two male members of Voluntary Aid Detachments: William Holmes and Richard Farr, both members of the St Peter’s Works Division, allocated to air raids, coast defences and convoys and employed as part of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade’s 6th division.

William Holmes, aged 51 at the start of the war, lived at 25, Eighth Avenue, with his wife Maria and five children, three of them, Harriet, William and Mary being adults.

Richard Farr, aged 32 at the start of the war, lived at 45, Second Avenue, with his wife Mary and nine year old daughter Madge.

Both were marine fitters and joined the detachment on 4 August 1914. William was too old to fight, but it’s not clear whether Richard was subsequently called up, although it is possible, given the nature of their work, that they would have been exempted. Although it was not a naval base as such, Tyneside played a huge role in World War One. A third of all the battleships and more than a quarter of the destroyers completed for the Admiralty were built here. Many other naval vessels were repaired on the Tyne particularly after the Battle of Jutland. There were no fewer than 19 shipyards on the Tyne at the outbreak of war, and five of them were big enough to build warships. Hawthorn Leslie alone built 25 royal navy vessels during the war.

Unlike the VAD nurses, the role that William and Richard would have played is much less clearly documented, although it is clear that they were expected to work on an as required basis, most likely dealing with emergencies and possibly manning coastal monitoring stations such as those at Blyth and Tynemouth.

That we have identified five Voluntary Aid Detachment members just from the ten Heaton Avenues* perhaps gives some indication of scale of the enterprise. What is even more startling is to recognise that the women in particular came from all walks of life and, with very few exceptions, worked, often for a number of years, on a purely voluntary basis, receiving no pay and little recognition for their huge commitment to the war effort.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

This article was researched and written by Michael Proctor, with additional input from Arthur Andrews, for Heaton History Group’s ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project, which has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

*Postscript

Since this article was written, the Red Cross has continued to post the names of VAD volunteers and so far we have found four more from Heaton’s avenues:

Annie Maud Monaghan, 90 Second Avenue

Lillian Rankin, 21 First Avenue

Annie Isabella Richardson, 55 Tenth Avenue

William Ernest Statton, 27 Ninth Avenue

Those from elsewhere in Heaton include:

Margaret Dora Burke, 146 Trewhitt Road (who served in France)

Mary Douthwaite, Woodlands, Alexandra Road, who served in France and was mentioned in dispatches (30/12/1918)

Mary Haswell, 7 Stratford Villas (who served in France)

Kate Ogg, originally of 21 Bolingbroke Street, who died of influenza on 23 February 1919 while on active duty

Mary Sharpley, 3 Jesmond Vale Terrace, who served in Egypt and was mentioned in dispatches (5/3/1917)

Plus:

Mollie Allen, 62 Chillingham Road

Thomas Atkinson, Street 150 Hotspur Street

Ralph Boyd 160 Warwick Street

Hannah Buttery, 28 Sefton Avenue

John D Cant, 19 Trewhitt Road

Margaret Clare Checkie, 88 Bolingbroke Street

Mary Cowell, 36 Wandsworth Road

Margaret Annie Douthwaite, 3 Alexandra Road

Ernest Edward England, 99 Rothbury Terrace

Mary P Field, Silverdale, Lesbury Road

Gertrude Fotherby, Silverdale, Lesbury Road

Florence Garvey, 9 Meldon Terrace

Alberta Louise Gerrie, 137 Addycombe Terrace

Robert G Horne, 64 Balmoral Terrace

Gladys Mary Miller, 16 Bolingbroke Street

Hilda Oliver, Bellegrove, Lesbury Road

Jane Ethel Park, Westville, Heaton Road

Mary Isabella Roberts, Heaton Hall

E D Scott, 21 King John Terrace

Eva May Stroud, Cresta, Heaton Road

W Theobold, 39 Cardigan Terrace

Matthew Tulip, 13 King John Street

Elizabeth H Turner, 22 Bolingbroke Street

Jennie Walton, 10 Falmouth Road

Laura Whitford, 17 Guildford Place

Irene Helena Whiting, Cresta, Heaton Road

J Wilson, 101 Warwick Street

Can you help?

If you know more about any of the people mentioned in this article, please get in touch either by posting directly to this site by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing Chris Jackson, Secretary of Heaton History Group at chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Heaton Ice Cream Parlour in the late 1980s

57 Heaton Road – the ice cream parlour

When you look at 57 Heaton Road now, it’s difficult to see any trace of the thriving ice cream parlour that operated here from the 1950s until at least the late 1980s. It is now a residential property, the upper bay window has gone, as well as all of the shopfront. Not a ghost remains of the huge ice-cream cone that once stood in the window!

First residents

But let’s rewind for a moment. The first occupants of number 57 in around 1893 were Thomas and Mary Jane Musgrave. Thomas was described in the trade directory of that year as a ‘gentleman’. He was a lawyer and land agent from Cumberland and his wife the daughter of a County Durham farmer. The fact that the house was occupied by a couple of such social standing illustrates how ‘respectable’ this part of Heaton Road was during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Musgraves were resident for over ten years.

Next, in around 1905, William Dawson and his family of seven children moved there from Balmoral Terrace. William, who originated from Whitby, was a draper but, although the family continued to live locally, their Heaton Road business was short-lived: by 1911, William was described as a travelling draper and they were living on Heaton Grove.

The occupants from 1910 were Fred and Ethel Bernard and family. Fred was at this time described as a herbalist and much later, in the mid thirties, as a botanist operating from premises in New Bridge Street. He died in 1941. It may be that his Heaton business was curtailed due to World War 1.

After the war, Ernest Gibbon briefly ran a dental practice from the premises and then the shop seems to have been unoccupied for a while until, in about 1935, another draper’s shop run by Mrs Anne Rosetta Chambers opened. By the end of the war, the shop was empty again but it wasn’t long before the start up of the most enduring of all the businesses to occupy 57 Heaton Road.

The iceman cometh

By 1945, new residents lived at number 57 – Andrew Calderwood, Mary S Calderwood and Annie H Karr. The following year just Andrew Calderwood and Annie H Karr were listed on the electors register. The first record of the Gazzilli family at this address is in 1947 with Mary Gazzilli, Christina Gazzilli and Andrew Calderwood all registered. Perhaps Andrew Calderwood’s wife had died and the Gazzillis were taken in as lodgers?

Maria Gazzilli, who opened the Heaton ice cream parlour

Maria Gazzilli senior, who opened the Heaton ice cream parlour

In 1949 occupants of 57 Heaton Road were Mary Gazzilli, Christina Gazzilli and Mary Gazzilli. In the 1950 edition they are referred to as Mary Gazzilli (Sen) and Mary Gazzilli (Jun).

Christina and Mary Gazzilli Junior as children

Christina and Mary Gazzilli Junior as children

Antonio ('Tony') Gazzilli , listed with Maria as the proprietor of 57, pictured with younger brother Thomas ('Tommy')

Antonio (‘Tony’) Gazzilli , listed with Maria as the proprietor of 57, pictured with younger brother Thomas (‘Tommy’)

In 1948-49 the Town and Country Directories listed only one ice cream manufacturer in Newcastle, Mark Tony (or Antonio Marcantonio) of Stepney Bank. The first record of Heaton Ice Cream Parlour is in Kelly’s Directory 1950, under the name of Mrs M Gazell (almost certainly a misprint for Gazzilli). In the photo below (reproduced here courtesy of Beamish Museum), taken on 30th June 1950, just after it opened, the ice cream parlour is the building with the rather splendid car in front of it. Peter Darling, gents’ hairdresser’s was next door and the Co-op Pharmacy was on the corner.

Heaton Ice Cream Parlour in 1950

Heaton Ice Cream Parlour in 1950

Maria and Frank Gazzilli's youngest daughter Theresa and youngest son, Franky, outside no 57.

Maria and Frank Gazzilli’s youngest daughter Theresa and youngest son, Franky, outside no 57.

By 1951 the business was M Gazzilli & Sons and also had premises in Gateshead. In the rest of the 1950s the business is sometimes listed as M Gazzilli & Sons and sometimes as Tony Gazzilli, ice cream maker and dealer. In 1972 it is referred to as Gazzilli Bros rather than M Gazzilli & Sons.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the Heaton Road Ice Cream Parlour closed. The 1994 telephone directory lists a T Gazzilli living in Gateshead and a C Gazzilli at 57 Heaton Road

Chrissie Gazzilli pictured in the shop when it closed in 1990

Chrissie Gazzilli pictured in the shop when it closed in 1990

although it is likely that the parlour had closed before then. The photographs below were taken in its final years by Davey Pearson, a local photographer, whose archive is held by the Ouseburn Trust.

Heaton Ice Cream Parlour in the late 1980s

Heaton Ice Cream Parlour in the late 1980s

The famous cone

The famous cone

A gravestone in Garden House Cemetery, Swalwell commemorates two brothers: Thomas Gazzilli b1920 d 2003 and Anthony (Tony) Gazzilli b1915 d2010. The fact that there was a Gateshead business makes it seem very likely that these were our “Gazzilli Bros” and that they both lived to a ripe old age.

Meanwhile, the wheel has turned full circle. Number 57 has returned to residential usage. It is the (ice?) cream coloured building in the photo below, now minus its bay windows and looking quite different from when it was the local landmark that’s still remembered with such affection.

Ice Cream Parlour, 2013

Ice Cream Parlour, 2013

What do you remember?

Did you enjoy Gazzilli’s ice cream, do you know any more about the family or recall what came next? More information, photos or memories would be very welcome. A few older readers may even remember the draper’s shop that preceded it. Please comment above this article. Click on Leave a Reply below the title or email Chris Jackson (chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org).

By Heaton History Group member, Ann Denton, with additional research by Chris Jackson.

Postscript

Terri, a  granddaughter of the late Maria and Frank Gazzilli, has been in touch from Sydney, Australia. She has kindly sent photos of the family and the shop, some of which have been inserted into this article. A precis of the information she provided has been added to the Comments section of this article (See below or click on the link immediately below the article heading). It clears up our confusion about the identity of and relationship between the various Gazzillis.