Tag Archives: Chillingham Road School

Chilli Road School: a fascinating new history

ChilliRoadschoolhistorybook

Whether or not you have ever been a pupil at Chillingham Road School, if you’re interested in Heaton or social history more generally, this new book is a fascinating read.

Ann and Heather have not only scoured the school’s extensive archive but they’ve also carried out background research into the early teachers and the lessons they taught; considered what the school punishment book and sickness records tell us about life in late Victorian Newcastle; collected the memories of more recent former pupils and unearthed some famous people who once sat at the school’s desks. There are some fabulous photographs too. A hundred and seven wonderful pages!

You can buy the book (£6.50) from the Chillingham Road School office during term time or, if you can’t wait six weeks or don’t live locally, contact: anndenton@hotmail.com

 

 

 

The Gilhomes of Heaton

Gwen Usher of Gosforth has kindly shared with us the history of her family, who lived, worked and went to school in Heaton. And she told us about the parts various members played during the First World War.

Isaac

Isaac, the third of four children of  William and Sarah Elliott Gilhome, was born in 1860 in Embleton, where his father had a butcher’s shop. After leaving school, Isaac went on to become a butcher himself and the 1881 census records him, aged 20, working in his father’s shop. By 1891, the family’s circumstances had changed completely. Sarah Gilhome had died, leaving William as a widower, aged 64. He had moved to Jesmond, where he was living in a toll-house and working as toll collector. By this time, Isaac had met and married Mary Isabella Porter, which is when the family’s connection with Heaton began.

Isaac Gilhome

Isaac Gilhome

To Heaton

Mary Isabella Gilhome nee Porter was born in Newcastle on 29 November 1857, daughter of a mariner, but she grew up with her paternal grandmother, Mary A Porter, in Cley, Norfolk. But by 1881, aged 23, she had returned to Newcastle and was living in Jesmond as nursemaid to the children of the Sopwith family.

Mary Isabella Gilhome in later life

Mary Isabella Gilhome in later life

Isaac and Mary Isabella married in 1887 and lived in Bensham before, some time around 1891, moving to 35 Tenth Avenue, with their two eldest children Dorothy and Sarah Elizabeth.

Sisters Dora, Lizzie and Mary Gilhome

Sisters Dora, Lizzie and Mary Gilhome

The family continued to grow, with John Porter, Mary Isabella and William born in the 1890s. At some point before 1911, the expanding family moved to a bigger house at 31 Cheltenham Terrace. Isaac eventually opened his own shop. By the time of the First World War, he had three shops in Dalton Street, Gibson Street and Shields Road. Isaac died in 1924 and Mary Isabella in 1930. This is the story of their children, all of whom grew up in Heaton.

Dora

Dorothy, known as Dora, the oldest of the Gilhome children, was born in 1888 and in 1894 was in the first intake of children to the new Chillingham Road School. When she left school, aged 14, Dora stayed at home to help her mother with the family home and care for the younger children. She married Jack Denmead in 1923 and the couple eventually settled in Romford, Essex. Dora died of cancer tragically young in 1942.

Lizzie

Sarah Elizabeth, known as Lizzie, was born in 1890. When Lizzie left school in 1904, she trained as an upholstress, working for Robson’s furniture store, on Northumberland Street, where she was joined, four years later, by her younger sister Mary. Lizzie married Robert Davidson from Berwick, a plumber who worked for the gas company, before opening a sweetshop next to one of Isaac’s butcher’s shops. Their only daughter, Mary Isabella, was born in July 1918. Gwen clearly remembers being allowed to play in the sweet shop when it was closed. Lizzie died in 1976.

John

John Porter was born on 7th January 1892. Like his father before him he worked in the family butcher’s shops in the evenings and weekends from the age of 8. At the outbreak of war, John joined the Navy and in May 1916 was involved in the Battle of Jutland, the only major naval battle of World War One. It’s not clear whether John Porter’s ship was one of those lost in the Battle of Jutland. We do know, however, that in 1917, he joined HMS Caledon, when it was commissioned on 6 March 1917. The Caledon saw action in the second battle of the Heligoland Bight. It was struck by a 12” shell, but fortunately not seriously damaged.

John Porter Gilhome (front right)

John Porter Gilhome (front right)

After the war, John married Edith Wilkinson. He died in June 1947 in Hexham of TB.

Mary

Mary Isabella was born in 1894, leaving school in 1908 to work as an upholstress with her sister. At the start of the war, when John signed up for the Navy, Mary was also keen to do something to help the war effort. There was a particular call for young women to train as nurses and Mary responded, starting her two year probation period at Lemington Infectious diseases hospital.

Mary Gilhome

Mary Gilhome

Whilst at the hospital Mary set up the Newburn Isolation Hospital War Savings Association. The War Savings Movement was established in March 1916 as a way to bring in much needed revenue to fund the war effort. The National Savings Committee was supplemented by volunteer local committees and paid civil servants. Posters encouraged workers to invest in the National Savings Scheme and would buy stamps for 6d, with a promise that each 15/6 saved would be repaid as £1 in six years time. Interestingly, the movement used the swastika as its logo, although this was subsequently abandoned by the government.

War Savings Association membership card

War Savings Association membership card

The National Savings Movement continued to thrive after the war and was instrumental in providing funds in World War 2. It continued until 1978, before becoming National Savings and Investments, which still operates today and runs, amongst other things the Premium Bond scheme. Mary’s role as Honorary Secretary of the association was recognised in a letter from Lloyd George after the war.

Letter from Lloyd George to Mary Gilhome

Letter from Lloyd George to Mary Gilhome

After the war, Mary briefly gave up her nursing career to nurse her father. She then studied midwifery, qualifying in 1928, and she continued her career as a nurse, moving to the West Riding of Yorkshire, where she worked as a district nurse, until she retired in 1959 (some five years later than she should have) when she returned to Newcastle to live. Because of the isolated nature of her caseload, Mary replaced the district nurse’s bike for a motorbike. Mary died in November 1992.

William

William, the youngest child of the family, was born on 29 June 1898 and like all of his siblings went to Chillingham Road School. Unlike his siblings, he was in the first cohort not to have to make a contribution to the school board, receiving free education. At the age of 8, William had a severe bout of diphtheria and was nursed at home, in part by Mary, which may have helped spark her interest in both nursing and working with infectious diseases.

Like his brother, William helped out in the shop and was keen to join the war effort. The family legend is that he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers at the age of 16 and was sent straight to fight in Italy, along with a battalion of the Royal Muster Fusiliers from Ireland. However this story raises some questions. Firstly, the army only recruited young men aged 18 or over and didn’t send them to the front until they were 19.

Secondly, Italy was not a major focus for fighting in World War 1. The 10th and 11th service battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers were deployed to Northern Italy to strengthen local resistance, but not until November 1917, when the first garrison battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers were also deployed to the area to defend lines of communication. It seems likely that this was when William was deployed, although he never spoke to the family about his wartime experiences. There is a photo of him in Italy with his Lance Corporal and his medal records show him as having fought in both the Northumberland and Royal Muster Fusiliers, which supports this position.

William Gilhome

William Gilhome

William would have been involved in the battle of Vittorio Veneto, which was instrumental in the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the end of the war.

After the war, John and William completed their training as butchers and after their father’s death in 1924, jointly took over the family shops. This proved not to be a successful arrangement and John subsequently bought William out of his share. William then went on to manage a shop in Gateshead before opening his own store in Low Fell. He married Ann Armstrong at St Silas’ Church, Byker in 1928 and the couple settled in Gateshead. Their daughter Gwen was born in Gateshead in June 1936. During World War 2, William served in the Home Guard as a Private in E Company of the 8th Cumberland Battalion. William died on of a heart attack in 1964, having suffered from heart disease since 1945, thought to be as a result of his childhood diphtheria.

Thank you

Thank you to Gwen Usher for sharing the Gilhomes’story with Heaton History Group member, Michael Proctor, who carried out additional research. If you have information, memories or photographs of Heaton to share, please contact Chris Jackson

An exile remembers: Part 2 – the old walk

Heaton History Group is often contacted by people who used to live in the neighbourhood and have vivid and usually fond recollections. We love to hear their memories.  ‘RS’  still returns to Heaton from time to time. Here is the second instalment of his thoughts, which will be serialised over the next few months.

So here I go, from the old house to Armstrong and Heaton parks, retracing the walk – and back again – that I made so many times in the ’60s, and an equivalent walk that many of you may have made yourselves, from the Heaton homes of your own childhoods.

Crossing Simonside Terrace diagonally, from the north side to the south, I soon reach the back lane cut-through which connects it with Rothbury Terrace.

Back lane between Simonside and Rothbury Terrace, November 2015

Back lane between Simonside and Rothbury Terrace, November 2015

(You know the one – straight across from the end of Coquet Terrace.) In fact, as I quickly recall, this particular journey was made on numerous occasions, independently of any visits to the parks, as just along here was the local corner shop, where much of my mid-’60s, one shilling a week pocket money had a tendency to end up, and where my father frequently sent me to buy his packs of (ten) Gold Leaf cigarettes.

(Note: for the benefit of younger readers, one shilling is the modern equivalent of five pence of that new money which was forced upon us 1971, but which nevertheless now seems to have caught on quite well.)

 The name of the corner shop was ‘Tulip’s’, as I hope a few others of you may also remember. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t exactly a ‘corner’ shop, not being positioned on a street corner, but let’s not quibb … oh, it’s gone! Standing directly outside where it once was, I am faced with only the ghostly brick-based outline of its former existence; a seemingly Turin Shroud-like impression of small-scale retailing has been indelibly stamped into the wall, leaving – quite literally – only a trace of what once was.

And as I’m about to turn right into Rothbury Terrace, another memory returns. Back in the ’60s the two main Heaton primary school options were Chillingham Road and Ravenswood. There were also St. Teresa’s for the Catholics, which I can recall being built – and very futuristic it seemed at the time – and Cragside, but which was more for the children of High Heaton.

 Many years later someone told me that the back lane between Rothbury and Meldon Terraces – at least on this west side of Chillingham Road – was the dividing line for the catchment areas of Chillingham Road and Ravenswood primary schools. Put simply, if a child lived on Meldon Terrace and all streets south, then s/he went to Chillingham Road; however, living on Rothbury Terrace and all streets north, then s/he went to Ravenswood. Therefore, in my own case, living on Simonside Terrace meant I went to Ravenswood, even though Chillingham Road was actually nearer to my home.

 I’m rather glad that I did. Meaning absolutely no offence to any readers who may have gone to Chillingham Road primary school, and casting no aspersions on the quality of education which they received there, I always felt that Ravenswood was the better deal. Having opened in 1893, Chillingham Road was already an institutional pensioner when I started at Ravenswood in early 1961, whereas the latter – having opened in 1953 – was still in short trousers, and was still only going through institutional puberty when I left in 1966.

But there was more to it than age. Chillingham Road School seemed to me, in those days, to be a tall, dark, brooding presence, positioned almost menacingly right on … well, right on Chillingham Road, naturally enough … and displaying a stern, grassless, late Victorian asceticism. On the other hand, Ravenswood was lighter and more low-rise, exhibiting the modernity and optimism appropriate to the reign of a new, young queen, with its several acres of school field symbolic of the openness and boundless opportunities that might lie ahead for its pupils. (I can recall how we lost about ten yards from the bottom of the school field in 1965 or so, as a consequence of the Coast Road widening scheme – but we had so much it would have seemed churlish to complain.)

And so I turn right into Rothbury Terrace. Oh! And what’s this? There is still a shop here, after all. Occupying the same space as the former Tulip’s, it seems that the decision has been made to have the door and shop front here rather than around the corner on the side street, where it used to be when I knew it. Fair enough.  It’s no longer ‘Tulip’s’ of course. Now the owner’s name is Kohli.

Tulip's now Kohli's

Tulip’s now Kohli’s

So I now look towards Heaton Road. I’ll be soon be crossing it and entering Armstrong Park. But as I begin to walk in that direction, another set of memories comes flooding back. In the early to mid 1960s Heaton wasn’t a very diverse and vibrant place, in the ethnic sense. If one’s mother was daring enough to ever serve up a Vesta beef curry, then that tended to be about as diverse as life ever got. Until things began to change. In the mid-60’s. And right here. Yes here. On Rothbury Terrace.

 What do you remember?

We’d love to hear memories and see the photos of anyone who has lived, studied, worked or played in Heaton. Either leave your comments below the heading of this article or mail Chris Jackson, Secretary, Heaton History Group.

 

 

The signalman and his daughter

Little did we think, when we published ‘Dead Man’s Handle’, the story of a railway accident that took place almost ninety years ago, that we’d be put in touch with someone who clearly remembered that night – and so much more besides. Olive Renwick was born in September 1916, so she is now approaching her 99th birthday – and she has lived in Heaton all her life.

Olive as a young child

Olive as a young child

The signalman

Olive is the daughter of Isabella and Francis Walter (Frank) Topping. Frank was the signalman who, on 8 August 1926, saw a passenger train coming towards his box at full speed seconds before it crashed into a goods train near Manors Station. Olive was nine years old at the time and reminded us that nobody had phones back then and so when her father didn’t return from work, the family could only sit and wait. ‘My mother didn’t send my sister and me to bed’ she remembered ‘I think she was worried and wanted company’.

The train hit the box in which her father worked, damaging one of its supporting ‘legs‘ but luckily Frank Topping escaped unscathed. He alerted the emergency services and helped rescue passengers before eventually arriving home to his anxious family. ‘But he thought he was a goner’ said Olive. You can read the full story here: Dead Man’s Handle

Olive told us more about her father: he was Heaton born and bred, growing up on Simonside Terrace.

NorthViewSchool? incFrank Topping

North View School, 1890s?

On this school photo, he is second from the left on the back row. ‘I think it might be North View School but I’m not sure’. (Does anybody know?) Frank had started his career on the railways in 1900, aged 16, as a learner signal lad.  ‘I was always very proud of him. He was trusted with one of the biggest signal boxes, with four lines to look after.’

But he didn’t remain a signalman. Frank became branch secretary of Newcastle Number 2 NUR branch, senior trustee for the Passenger Signalmen’s Provident Society and was, for almost 20 years from 1931, Secretary of the NER Cottage Homes and Benefit Fund. Locally, in 1911 he was ordained an Elder of Heaton Presbyterian Church, then a session clerk from 1946 until shortly before he died. In WW2, he served in the Home Guard.

Frank Topping, Home Guard, 1942

Frank Topping, Home Guard, 1942

Olive showed us photographs and newspaper cuttings relating to her father including an account, with photographs, of him opening railway cottages in Hartlepool on a street named after him.

Frank Topping officially opening railway cottage in Topping Close, Hartlepool

Frank Topping officially opening a railway cottage in Topping Close, Hartlepool

She had also kept a tribute, published in a railway magazine after his death, in which her father was praised for:

‘ his inimitable character, his understanding and judgement, his forthright speaking, his general cheerfulness and his desire to help his fellow man’

Francis Topping died in 1957.

Olive’s childhood

It was fantastic to find out more about Frank Topping and to hear Olive’s memories of her father but we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to hear more from someone who has lived in Heaton for almost a century. Imagine the changes she has seen.

Olive was born on Warton Terrace but spent most of her childhood on Ebor Street and then Spencer Street, ‘The railway terraces. In those days, you had to be on the railways to live there’.

Olive with her brother, Rob, outside their house in Ebor Street.

Olive with her brother, Rob, outside their house in Ebor Street.

Olive (right) with her sister Sybil, Ebor St c1923

Olive (right) with her sister Sybil, Ebor St c1923

She remember the street traders, who sold all manner of things on the front street and back lanes. And, like Jack Common, a few years earlier, she recalls itinerant musicians: ‘women, they were usually women, in shawls, women who were poorer than us, who came round door to door, singing and collecting money.’

As a child, Olive was allergic to cow’s milk. She remembers that her mother walked to Meldon Terrace everyday with a jug to collect milk from a woman who kept a goat in her back yard.

One of her earliest memories was climbing on the cannons that used to stand in Heaton Park. She cut her leg badly and, because she feared her parents would be annoyed with her, dashed straight to the outside toilet in the hope of stemming the flow of blood. Naturally though she couldn’t hide the injury for long. ‘I was carried off to hospital for stitches. And my father wrote to the council to complain the cannons were dangerous’ Olive told us, ‘And soon after they were removed!’

Olive on the cannon in Heaton Park

Olive on the cannon in Heaton Park

‘And I remember my mother taking me to the Scala for a treat to see “Tarzan” but I ran up and down the aisle, shouting “Tarzan!” and had to be taken home in disgrace’. (This must have been an older version than the famous Johnny Weismuller films of the 1930s and ’40s, perhaps ‘The Adventures of Tarzan‘ (1921), the silent movie version which starred Elmo Lincoln.)

Scala cinema Chillingham Road

Olive attended Chillingham Road School and later Heaton High:

Olive (middle) & friends in Heaton High uniform, late 1920s

Olive (middle) & friends in Heaton High uniform, late 1920s

The original buildings of what became Heaton Manor School

The original buildings of what became Heaton Manor School

‘I was in my first year when the King and Queen came to officially open the school.

King and Queen open Heaton Secondary Schools, 1928

King and Queen open Heaton Secondary Schools, 1928

We were all gathered in the hall and Miss Cooper, the head teacher, told us that the queen would be presented with a “bookie”. What on earth’s a bookie, I wondered. Only later did I realise she meant a bouquet!’

And she remembers, without much fondness, the many rail journeys of her childhood. ‘With my father’s job, the whole family enjoyed subsidised travel.. I say “enjoyed” but I hated it. We went all over, to places like Edinburgh, but trains made me sick: it was the smell. So I wasn’t allowed to sit in the carriage. I was banished to the guard’s van – with a bucket. I can still smell that smell now – and it still makes me feel sick!’

Coincidence

It was as we were leaving that Olive mentioned, in passing, her maternal grandparents: that they were called Wood, came originally from Ayton in Berwickshire, lived in Seventh Avenue and that her mother’s uncle Bob (Walker) grew potatoes on a field near Red Hall Drive. Could they be the same Woods that we’d researched and written about as part of our ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project. Surely they must? And indeed they were.

Isabella and David Wood

Isabella and David Wood

On a return visit, Olive told us more about her grandparents, David and Isabella Wood. She confirmed that they had an allotment on railway land. She told us about visits to her great aunts in Ayton and she recounted family stories about a visit to her Uncle Robert in hospital, where he was to die from wounds received on the battlefield. Best of all, she was able to show us photographs of both grandparents, more of which we will add to the article ‘The Woods of Seventh Avenue’.

It’s been a pleasure to meet Olive,  pictured here with daughters, Julia and Margaret, in 1953:

Olive with daughters, Julia and Margaret in 1953

Olive with daughters, Julia and Margaret in 1953

And here in 2015:

Margaret, Olive and Julia, 2015

Margaret, Olive and Julia, 2015

We hope that we’ll meet again soon and that she’ll be able to add even more to our knowledge of Heaton’s history.

Can you help?

If you have knowledge, memories or photographs of Heaton you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Either contact us via the website by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or email chris.Jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Pupils and teacher reunited

Heaton History Group is entering its third year and one of its great successes has been the number of old friendships renewed and new ones forged. But sometimes old friends and acquaintances are hidden in plain sight. Keith Fisher explains:

Since returning to this country and to Newcastle, I have often pondered upon the possibility that I might meet my Chillingham Road Junior-School teacher, Winifred Findlay; little did I realise that she has been present at many of the HHG lectures over this last year. However, while she hasn’t changed a bit, I have changed considerably in the last fifty years – and because I am unable to recognise faces, we never made the connection.

I have maintained, or revived, association with a handful of alumni, and they all said the same thing: “Wish we could get to meet her again – but I don’t know where she is.” Win had taught us during our final two years in junior school before many of us went our separate ways; yet her influence was one thing we all agreed upon in later years: that it had been the finest ingredient in our young education.

Chillingham Road School prefects, 1964

Chillingham Road School prefects, 1964

Then, earlier this year, HHG secretary, Chris Jackson, was reading some autobiographical writings of mine and came across my mention of Miss Findlay, and how profoundly positive her influence had been on my young self. Chris said that there was an HHG member called Win Findlay – could this be her? So, lo and behold, the connection was made and a reunion with said alumni and our Miss Findlay was arranged over afternoon tea at the Wild Trapeze café in Heaton this April past; considering all of us kids lived within spitting distance of the Co-op, it seemed perfectly apposite.

Finally, we got to meet her and to let her know just how profoundly she had affected us, and how much we had always appreciated her teachings during the subsequent course of our lives.
I sent a copy of the reunion photo to a close friend and fellow pupil who now lives in Jersey, and he responded by telling me that if he had known of the reunion he would have come up for it. So I’m going to track down a few more alumni and organise a second get-together, because I am quite certain they will all be of a similar cast of mind where Miss Findlay is concerned.

Chillingham Road pupils and teacher reunion

Reunion at Wild Trapeze

Here are comments from the folk at the reunion:

Margot Branson (nee. Riddell): “It was unexpected and delightful to meet Win – Miss Findlay – and my peers again. Surprising also to see, apart from some grey hairs, how little we have changed in 50 years.”

Clive Rook: “I hope that everyone is lucky enough to have at least one truly inspirational teacher. Winifred Findlay was that and more to me and very many others.”

Keith Fisher: “A remarkable occasion; I never thought it would be possible to thank Win Findlay for her inimitable contribution to my early education.”

Lynda Taylor: “Miss Findlay gave me the values that I live by; she was a truly inspirational influence and I am so grateful to her.”

Win Findlay: “Thank-you Heaton History Group for your role in our reunion. It was a delight to meet up with treasured “old friends” and be reminded that we are all part of each others’ rich history. Their generosity and, undeserved, comments are most humbling, but gratefully received. I shall place the memory of our reunion and all we learn together at the top of my affectionate memories of “these I have loved”.

Were you in the class of ’64?

Keith would love to hear from anyone else who was in his year group at Chillingham Road School. Either leave a reply on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email keithfisher@blueyonder.co.uk

Membership list

The group now hopes, with the permission of individuals, to circulate amongst members (only) a list of names (without addresses etc) that would allow anyone who spotted someone with whom they might like to meet up with again, to make contact via the secretary. Watch this space.

Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat, a son and great uncle at war

Our HLF-funded ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project has uncovered many poignant stories. That of Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat of 34 Third Avenue was especially moving for Heaton History Group member Arthur Andrews, not only because Leslie was Arthur’s great-uncle but also because, in the course of his research, he found a letter from the young soldier’s worried father preserved in the National Archives. Arthur takes up the story:

At the time of the 1911 Census, the Jeffcoat family lived at 8 Bolingbroke Street, Heaton. Leslie Daykin (his mother’s maiden name) was the youngest child of Arthur Jeffcoat, a chemist’s assistant, and his wife, Mary. Leslie’s older siblings were Eleanor Lilly (26), Henrietta (24), William Arthur (21) and Florence May (16). Leslie had been born on 2 June 1898 and so was just 12 year’s old at the time of the census. By 1916 the family were living at 34 Third Avenue, just a few doors from Jack Common and his family.

Serving soldier

From family records, it is known that Leslie enlisted in the army aged 18 years, on 3 June 1916. His enlistment papers described him as being 5ft 7 1/4ins, with fair complexion, fair hair and grey eyes. His chest measurement was 35 inches. He is pictured below in his military uniform.

Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat

Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat

Leslie’s occupation is given as an engineer’s clerk, working at the Armstrong Whitworth Naval Yard, Newcastle. He had been employed there for 2 years. Several pages of information exist on the British Army WWI Service Records about Leslie’s service as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. His military history sheet says that he spent from 3 June 1916 to 12 September 1917 in the UK, before spending from 13 September 1917 to 4 March 1918 with the British Expeditionary Force in France. While Leslie was away in France, like many thousands of other parents and loved ones, his father and mother were concerned to know their son’s whereabouts and how he was. His father, Arthur Jeffcoat, wrote two letters to his regiment. The first was written on 13 December 1917 and the second, below, was written on 23 December 1917.

Arthur Jeffcoat's letter  about his son

Arthur Jeffcoat’s letter

The transcription is as follows:-

‘Sir,
Further to your Army Form B104, Ref no FJ of the 15th inst. We should be glad if you could tell us if our Son Gnr L.D. Jeffcoat 232642, D Battery, 240 Brigade RFA,
BEF France has been moved to another front or have you any other information, as we are really anxious.
When we last heard from him he was at the 48th Divisional Signal School.

Yours respectfully
A Jeffcoat’

The two letters are logged in the service records and stamped as having been received. The Action Taken column has comments made but they are not readable. There is no record in the family archives of any reply.

Honourable discharge

Leslie returned to the UK on 5 March 1918 and spent time at Fusehill Military Hospital, Carlisle and Auxiliary Military (Primary) Hospital, Penrith until he was discharged as ‘Being no longer fit for war service’. The reason for no longer being fit was given as a ‘paraspinal haematoma’. This could have been caused by a fracture to his spine. Leslie was honourably discharged at the age of 19 years and 11 months. On discharge, he received a certificate

Leslie Jeffcoat's WW1 discharge certificate

Leslie Jeffcoat’s discharge certificate

Leslie also received the WWI British War Medal and the WWI Victory Medal.

Leslie Jeffcoat's medals

Leslie Jeffcoat’s medals

After the war

Leslie must have been known to tobacconist William Castle’s family from 47 Tenth Avenue as, on 2 June 1925, he married William and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Ruth. On the wedding certificate, his occupation was given as ‘solicitor’s clerk’. The couple went on to have a daughter, Alison, born on 10 January 1929. During WW2, Leslie served as an honorary lieutenant in the Home Guard in Tynemouth, his adopted home town. At some time he left his job as a solicitor’s clerk and became an insurance agent until his retirement. He died on 24 January 1972.

It was when Leslie’s daughter, Alison died in 2014, that I found Leslie’s medals and more unusually, his spurs (as worn in the above photograph) and leather identity tag with his name and army service number impressed upon it:

Leslie Jeffocat's ID bracelet

Leslie Jeffocat’s ID bracelet

Jeffcoat's spurs

Leslie Jeffcoat’s spurs

These items were previously unknown to me and are very precious. They formed a key part of my continuing family history research. Once I knew Leslie’s army service number, I looked it up on the WW1 Army Service Database. This is by no means complete as a lot of paper records were destroyed by fire during WW2. However, much to my surprise, I found there were 17 pages relating to Leslie. I printed them off and used them as the basis for this contribution to Heaton History Group’s ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ HLF-funded project

Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat: 2 June1898 – 24 January 1972. Regiment No. 232642, Rank:- Gunner R.F.A (Royal Field Artillery) 240 Brigade, D Battery, 48 Division

Arthur Andrews

Can you help?

if you know more about Leslie Jeffcoat or anyone who lived in First to Tenth Avenue during World War One, please either leave a comment on this website (by clicking on the link immediately below this article’s title) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Fred Blenkinsop Robinson: teenage soldier who died of flu

Frederick Blenkinsop Robinson was born on 19 March 1900 and lived his entire life on Sixth Avenue, Heaton. He was the third of four children born to Joseph and Margaret Robinson. Joseph was a commercial traveller, born in York. He married Margaret Jane Blenkinsop of Newcastle in 1895 and the couple lived at no 13 Sixth Avenue. The 1911 census shows Joseph, aged 39 and Margaret, aged 41, living with their four children: Margaret May, aged 15; Joseph, aged 13; Frederick Blenkinsop, aged 11; and Thomas, aged 9. The family also had a lodger, William Blenkinsop, a 26 year old railway porter, who must have been a relative of Margaret.

Young life

Fred would have been only 14 at the start of the war and, like his siblings, was a pupil at Chillingham Road School. After leaving school, he became an apprentice fitter at Henry Watson and Sons Engineering Works in High Bridge, Walkergate. The company made cylinder blocks for commercial and marine engines as well as specialist pumps. An article in Commercial Motor on 5 September 1912, notes that the London General Omnibus Company were using cylinder blocks and pistons from Henry Watson and Sons exclusively for their B-type buses. The article particularly praises the quality of the work produced at the Walkergate factory in a new foundry specially built to produce commercial vehicle engines components.

Fred was almost too young to have been involved in the war and certainly too young to have fought at the front (young men could join up at 18, but weren’t posted to the front until they reached 19). Yet he died on 1 March 1919, 18 days short of his 19th birthday, some four months after the end of the war and is listed as a casualty of war, buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at Byker and Heaton Cemetery. 

Fred Robinson's gravestone

Fred Robinson’s gravestone


His is a particularly sad story among many such stories from the war.

Military service

It is likely that Fred’s older brother, Joseph, had joined the forces when he was 18, two years before although no record of his military service survives. We know that he survived the war and is mentioned in a list of family in Fred’s military record. Fred was obviously keen to sign up to do his military service, as he attended his initial medical assessment on 26 March 1918, one week after his 18th birthday. He passed this and was enlisted on 19 April. On 19 August, 102540, Private Frederick Robinson of the 5th Reserve Battalion of The Durham Light Infantry was called up and posted to Sutton on Hull in East Yorkshire for his initial training.

Fred was in hospital – the St John’s VAD Hospital in Hull – when the armistice was signed, having fallen ill with diarrhoea on 10 October, which he took 35 days to recover from. He might reasonably have expected that his time in the army would either be short or would at least involve less risk of death or serious injury. In Fred’s case, his discharge was rather shorter than he might have expected. By December, a process of discharge on the grounds of disability had started. On 13 December in a personal statement, Fred records that he has chronic discharge from both ears and resultant deafness. This had started about a month before he had joined up, but had got worse since.

When he examined Fred on 30 January, Lieutenant JD Evans of the Royal Army Medical Corps recorded that ‘there is a high degree of deafness and discharge from both ears. He says that this is worse since joining the army and he has certainly become more deaf since joining the unit. He is utterly unable to hear any commands unless they are shouted close to his ears and he is quite unfit for camp life.’ He recommended discharge on the grounds that he was permanently unfit. Today, we would think little of an ear infection which would be quickly and effectively treated with a course of antibiotics, but in 1918 it could be a permanent disability, leaving lasting damage even if and when the infection cleared up.

On 2 February, Fred was transferred to the OC Discharge Centre at Ripon to prepare for discharge. Six days later, he was admitted to the Military hospital at Ripon with influenza. The medical record notes that he was admitted unconscious, before going on to develop bronchopneumonia and late emphysema. On 26 February, an attempt was made to relieve the emphysema surgically, but to no avail. Fred died on 1st March, with his family with next of kin with him.

Pandemic

The 1918 flu pandemic ran from January 1918 to December 1920 and was unusually deadly It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them: three to five per cent of the world’s population. Two factors made it particularly deadly. Firstly, the unique conditions of the war. While the location of the first cases is disputed, the crowded and unsanitary conditions at the front made an ideal breeding ground. What is more, cases of flu are often limited by having sufferers stay at home. During the war, the opposite happened, with those affected transferred away from the front to hospitals both locally and in the soldiers’ home country, spreading the disease around the world. Secondly, flu most often affects the weakest, killing the young and old and those with existing medical conditions. The 1918 pandemic killed mainly healthy adults. Modern research has concluded that the virus killed through a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body’s immune system). The strong immune reactions of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults resulted in fewer deaths among those groups.

To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States; but papers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII), creating a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thus the pandemic’s nickname Spanish flu.

 Commemoration

In his report of Fred’s death, Major PW Hampton noted that ‘in my opinion death was attributable to service during the present war, viz exposure and infection on Home Service’. By doing so, he ensured that Fred could be buried in a Commonwealth War Grave and that his family would be entitled to a memorial scroll and plaque as well as service medals. This must have been of some comfort to his grieving family. Fred’s service record includes a copy of the slip that accompanied the memorial scroll to confirm receipt. This notes that the plaque will be issued directly from the Government plaque factory.

After the end of the war in 1918, Britain began the long process of commemorating the service of those who had lost their lives during its course. As part of this, the government issued to their next-of-kin (in addition to any of the standard campaign medals an individual might have been entitled to had they lived) what was known as the Memorial Plaque and the Memorial Scroll. The plaque was a bronze disc, about 5 inches in diameter, and depicted Britannia holding a trident whilst standing with a lion, holding an oak wreath above a rectangular tablet bearing the deceased’s name cast in raised letters. Rank and regiment was not included, since there was to be no distinction between sacrifices made by different individuals.

WW1 memorial plaque

WW1 memorial plaque

This was complimented by the Memorial Scroll, which provided additional information as to rank, branch of service or any decorations awarded.The scroll itself was a little smaller than a modern A4 sheet of paper, printed on thick card, and came in three main varieties. Those to the Army had a large blue H in the main text, with the rank/name/regiment hand-written at the bottom in red ink. Those to the Navy had a large red H, with the hand-written naming at the bottom in blue ink. Finally, those to the RAF had a large black H in the main text, with the hand-written naming at the bottom in both red and blue ink.

WW1 memorial scroll

WW1 memorial scroll

Clearly there was some delay in the issuing of plaques as a letter from Fred’s mother, Margaret, dated 13 November 1921 enquires about a memorial plaque and medals.

Margaret Robinson's letter requesting a plaque and Victory Medal for her son

Margaret Robinson’s letter requesting a plaque and Victory Medal for her son

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Fred was also commemorated on war memorials at Chillingham Road School and St Gabriel’s Church in Heaton.

Chillingham Road School War Memorial

Chillingham Road School War Memorial

St Gabriel's Church War Memorial

St Gabriel’s Church War Memorial

Postscript

Fred wasn’t the only young person from the Avenues or from Heaton known to have died of flu (or as the result an unnamed disease thought likely to be influenza) during the 1918-19 pandemic. They include:

Able Seaman John James Hedley of 12 Eighth Avenue, husband of Corrie Hedley and formerly a boot salesman, who died on 16 October 1918 and is buried at Saint Andrew and Jesmond Cemetery.

This list will be updated as our ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ research progresses.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

This article was researched and written by Michael Proctor, with additional input by members of our ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ research team. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. If you have further information about anything relating to the article, please get in touch either via this website (by clicking on the link immediately below the article title) or by emailing: chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org