Tag Archives: Jack Common

Our home in Eighth Avenue (Heaton in the 40s and 50s Part 1)

We love to hear the memories of older Heatonians, past and present, so were delighted to receive an email from Eric Dale. Eric was born in 1937 and in about 1939 moved with his family from Corbridge Street, Byker to Eighth Avenue in Heaton. He had a career in typography and copywriting in both Newcastle and Edinburgh before becoming graphic design manager for Northumberland National Park in Hexham. He now lives near Kelso in the Scottish Borders but has vivid memories of growing up in Heaton.

We will publish Eric’s memories in a series of articles over the coming months. The first one concerns his childhood home in Eighth Avenue during and immediately following the Second World War. It is interesting to compare Eric’s recollections, not only with our experiences today, but also with those of Jack Common, born just around the corner in Third Avenue 34 years before Eric, and who, in ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, wrote about growing up in the years leading to and during the First World War:

Our house

We lived in a rented downstairs flat on Eighth Avenue.

 

eighthavenue70-rlced

Postcard of Eighth Avenue (looking towards Second Avenue) from the collection of Hilary Bray (nee Bates)

 

From the front door there was a small lobby to a glass door then a short passage to the living room. On the right of the corridor was the front bedroom. In the living room on the left was the ‘gas cupboard’ which was under the stairs leading up to next door’s flat. A door on the right of the living room led to the back bedroom. Continuing straight through the living room led to the scullery with a door on the right giving access to the backyard which housed the toilet (torn up strips of newspaper for ‘toilet paper’) and coal house.

When I was very young, lighting was provided by gas mantles. There was no heating except that provided by the fire in the living-room. Both bedrooms had fireplaces but fires were rarely lit. For many years we took baths in a galvanised metal bath placed in front of the living room fire which was set in the then commonplace black iron surround with a built-in oven and a hob for the kettle. As far as I can remember hot water was provided by means of a back boiler. ‘Mod cons’ that we all take for granted now; central heating, double glazing, fridge, freezer, microwave oven, dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, television, telephone and fitted carpets were, in several cases, decades away.

Front and back

The front street and back lane were cobbled. Wheeled traffic at the front was in the main generated by traders such as the milkman and his horse-drawn float and the Ringtons tea salesman or, less often, the knife sharpener with his half-barrow, half-cycle. Occasionally we were visited by the fisher ladies from Cullercoats offering ‘Caller-herrin’ and travelling people selling clothes pegs. I can also clearly remember that a man, presumably from the council or gas company, used to visit each gas lamp in the street at dusk, reach up with a long pole and set them aglow.

Back lane traffic consisted of the coal man’s cart (and later lorry), the dustbin men and rag and bone merchants with their carts who would offer balloons or a goldfish for ‘any old rags or woollens’. The coal man repeatedly mistimed his deliveries by arriving on a Monday, much to the annoyance of the housewives who were obliged to gather in their washing strung out across the width of the lane.

We also had a regular cycle of tramps, one of whom always wore a green-with-mould claw hammer coat and a filthy bowler hat (or was it a topper?). Anyway, it looked posh from a distance. He was fairly local as he rarely carried anything other than a small bag. We followed him a few times to see where he lived but he always shook us off somewhere near Byker tip. We named him Greasy Dutt. The other regular who may well have been a WW2 ex-serviceman carried a large kit bag, from the depths of which he would produce a wind-up gramophone and records for our entertainment. He was very polite and cheerful and, as far as I can remember, only ever asked for hot water for his tea.

In addition to the usual dustbins there were also food waste bins distributed in the back-lanes which were regularly collected and transported to pig farms to aid food production. We just called them ‘pig bins’. Whilst an essential waste reduction measure they were unfortunately also a highly productive breeding ground for flies of all kinds. My friend Brian higher up the street was enthusiastic about catching the back lane pigeons which were also numerous and attracted to food scraps of all kinds. The method was to form a noose with string, scatter breadcrumbs inside it, lead the string to the back door which he then hid behind, leaving it open a crack for observation. Then a quick yank on the string and….! I only saw it work on a couple of occasions. Once caught it was possible to sell the better specimens on at the regular Saturday pigeon fanciers gathering near the Green Market in Newcastle (I believe the asking price was 1/6d.); any others were simply released.

Mealtimes

Meals in the early years were basic and frugal and from ’42 for about ten years were constrained by the limitations imposed by rationing. I don’t remember a great deal about the war years except for spam, dried egg, dried milk, concentrated orange juice and generous gifts of apples from Canada, but once dad had returned and a wage was coming in again things began to look up in food terms.

Main meals were taken at ‘dinner time’ (midday) and dad who worked on Raby Street, Byker would always cycle home for his. Monday was ‘cad warmed up’ as, being washing day, mam had only the time to fry up the leftovers from Sunday which was the most eagerly anticipated meal of the week. Not lavish mind you, but we did stretch to a bottle of Tizer or even ice cream soda if we felt flush!

Even Sunday breakfast was different, with fried bread and black puddin’ being regularly on the menu. Feeling hungry whilst playing out was commonplace and kids would call for a bit of jam and bread to help boost energy levels until the next meal. We also came up with some self-concocted treats such as the following white bread sandwiches: how about condensed milk, sugar and margarine, or brown sauce? Yum!

Many will remember that the most luxurious food item in the early fifties was ‘The Tin Of Salmon’ which wasn’t eaten until we had ‘Company‘ and then it was brought out of hiding to make sandwiches just as if we had them every weekday and twice on Sundays! Just as a footnote: I don’t remember previously having seen a banana when, just after the war, one of the kids in the seniors at Chillingham Road brought a half-ripe one to school; ‘imported‘ by his uncle in the Navy.

 

eighth-avenue-view-east-1984

Eighth Avenue looking towards Chillingham Road (1984) by Eric Dale

 

eighthavenuefrom-google-maps2016

Eighth Avenue looking towards Chillingham Road (Google Maps 2016)

Acknowledgements
Thank you, Eric, for taking the time to write and share your memories and photos (many more of which will be published in the future) and also to Hilary Bray (nee Bates) who gave us permission to digitise and use photographs of Heaton from her collection. It’s fascinating to compare the three photographs. What does anyone remember about the brick structure at the end of the road in Eric’s photo?
Can you help?

If you remember Eric or have any photographs or memories of Eighth Avenue or Heaton more generally that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

 

Heaton’s Back Lane Mysteries and Memories

Jack Common wrote of the many traders who called at Third Avenue:

‘Greengrocery and fish and coal came to the back door… Down here came the Cullercoats fishwives crying ‘Caller herrin’ in that season and otherwise “Fresh fish, hinny, straight from the sea”…

Everybody’s washing hung across the lane so that the appearance of a tradesman’s cart meant a rush to tuck sheets and things round the rope and to raise the diminished bunting high over the horse’s head with a prop.’

'Co-al' by Mark James

‘Co-al’ by Mark James

 

Jean Walker of Cardigan Terrace recalled playing out:

‘We called for people at the back door. At first, it was cobblestones. We played races and hide and seek… But then they concreted the lane so we could skate and ride bicycles as well. We played tennis. The concrete was in sections. We used the middle section as the net.’

Olive Renwick told us 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’.

Joan Sweeney remembered ‘a container for ashes attached to the back wall with an aperture so that the ashes could be tipped into the bath which was brought around the back streets’.

Young Joan in her back yard c 19932

Ash box in the wall behind young Joan c 1932

So much of Heaton’s history must have been made out back – and, although admittedly some are more attractive than others these days, back lanes are still very much a part of Heaton life, whether as a short cut to the shops or a place we chat to a neighbour while putting out the bins.

Heaton History Group member Michael Johnston is fascinated by them and wonders what unusual features others have noticed.  To start the ball rolling he’s sent us some photos and asks whether anyone knows the history of these doors.

 

 

The green one is in the lane behind the shops on Chillingham Road and the brown one
leads into the yard of a house in Alexandra Road.

image

And we’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, taken in Back Molyneux Street. Who were these men? And what were they up to?

Over to you

What can you tell us about the doors? What do you think was going on in the Molyneux Street back lane? What other interesting historic features intrigue you as you walk through Heaton? Send us your photos and comment either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing: chris.Jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

 

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

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

Cardigan Terrace: the memories live on

Jean Walker (nee Pretswell) was born in 1925 and lived at number nine Cardigan Terrace from the age of about four until she got married. Her father Norman’s removal business operated from there for over 80 years and her uncle, Edmund Forbes Pretswell, ran the shop on Heaton Road that now bears his name again.

Pretswell’s signage being uncovered in 2013.

Jean’s vivid memories of growing up on Cardigan Terrace have helped create a portrait of a Heaton street in the years preceding World War Two.

Early days

But the story began some forty years before Jean’s birth. The street appeared for the first time in ‘Ward’s Directory’ of 1888. At that time, it comprised just 12 occupied houses between Heaton Park Road and Heaton Road, with just an ‘Infant’s Home’ (sic), with Mrs M Harvey the matron, on the other side of Heaton Road. The first residents of Cardigan Terrace included Edwin Bowman, an architect who built mainly in the villages around Gateshead, and J Sinclair jun, a ‘tobacconist’. Could he have been a member of the Sinclair family who manufactured cigarettes in Newcastle?

By 1900, the terrace had expanded to almost 150 houses, the occupations of its inhabitants reflecting a broad, though predominantly middle class, social mix as well as the local economy of the time. They included: J Piercy, a blacksmith; W H Robinson, a bookseller; D W Patterson, a surgeon; E Tait, a professor of music; S Lyne, a salvationist; R Jordan, a cart proprietor; J Lowrie, an egg merchant; W Murray, a butler; R Donaldson, a caulker; J Wallace, a ship chandler; and T Richardson, a miller.

In the news

We searched online newspaper archives to see what else we could discover about Cardigan Terrace’s pre-war history.

The first major news story we found dates from 1893 when the terrace became the focal point of a notorious bigamy case. William Breakwell, a commercial traveller from Birmingham, had married Catherine ‘Rachael’ Minto in 1886 but Breakwell later married another woman in Birmingham. He also threatened to kill his first wife’s father, Andrew Storm Minto, a retired ship’s captain, who lived in Cardigan Terrace. The case was reported extensively at the time and must have created quite a stir locally.

Some twenty years later, a Cardigan Terrace boy, Alfred Adamson, was in the news. He and a friend were ‘examining a firearm in Heaton Park‘, when the weapon was accidentally fired, inflicting injuries on young Alfred and necessitating his ‘removal to the Infirmary‘. This was in the early months of World War One, when soldiers in training were billeted nearby.

But not everyone was so lucky in those pre-NHS days. Later the same year, Joseph Metcalfe, aged 80, a retired school attendance officer, who lodged in Cardigan Terrace, was struck by a tramcar near Cheltenham Terrace. He was injured in the head and shoulder and merely ‘removed to his lodgings, where he died the same day’.

At this time, number 27 was occupied by the White family. Alexander Henry White was a schoolmaster but, in the late 1880s and early 1890s, he’d been one of the city’s best known and respected footballers. Alec White had played for and captained Newcastle East End, the Chillingham Road based club. On one occasion he had scored 7, or maybe 9, goals (reports differ) in a 19-0 victory. He also captained East End at cricket.

Article by Paul Joannou in the Newcastle United programme

Article by Paul Joannou in the Newcastle United programme (Thanks also to Chris Goulding who drew our attention to the article.)

At war

We found quite a lot of mentions of Cardigan Terrace in relation to World War One: in 1915, when the shortage of volunteers for the armed forces was becoming acute, there were reports of a number of outdoor recruitment meetings at the corner of Cardigan Terrace and Heaton Road (where St Cuthbert’s Church and Wild Trapeze are now).

Heaton Road Co-op

For example, the band of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers played at a meeting there on Tuesday 27 April at 7.15pm, having marched ‘by way of Northumberland Road, Camden Street, Shield Street, Copland terrace, Clarence Street, New Bridge Street, Byker Bridge, Shields Road and Heaton Road.’

A few months later, we find a Mrs Dennison of 23 Cardigan Terrace and described as President of the National British Women’s Temperance Association (NBWTA), donating gifts of ‘slippers, towels and magazines’ to the Northumbrian Field Ambulance Hospital. We’ve seen before, in our research into Heaton’s Avenues, that civilian donations and voluntary work to help the war effort were commonplace. The people of Cardigan Terrace, like others in Heaton, wanted to do their bit.

But inevitably there were casualties: on November 14 1916, Corporal Edwin Thirlwell Adamson, aged 19, of 44 Cardigan Terrace, Who served with the Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed in action in France. He was the older brother of Alfred who, two years earlier, had been injured while playing with a gun in the park.

And, in May 1918, Second Lieutenant Arthur Hudspeth of the Durham Light Infantry, who lived at 11 Cardigan Terrace, was presumed dead. He had been missing since the previous September. In the 1911 census, he was a student teacher, living on the terrace with his parents and younger sister, Emma, and brothers, Frank and Henry. He went on to teach at Westgate Hill School. He is commemorated on a number of local war memorials: the Cuthbert Bainbridge Wesleyan Methodist memorial, now held in storage at St Cuthbert’s,

CuthbertBainbridgeWarMem

and its commemorative stained glass windows, still intact in the former Ark building, next to Southfields House on Heaton Road, and also on Heaton Harriers’ 1914-18 Shield, which is still competed for every Remembrance Sunday. Arthur was the Harriers’ Honorary Secretary.

HeatonHarriersShield

Jean Pretswell’s terrace

It was only seven years later that Jean Pretswell was born on Heaton Park Road. A few years later her family had moved around the corner onto Cardigan Terrace. Jean’s memories of her childhood were undimmed when, at the age of 89, she spoke to Heaton History Group’s Jeanie Molyneux. Like Jack Common in ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, Jean had particularly fond memories of the back lane. She told Jeanie about some of the many tradespeople who visited regularly:

‘Up and down the lane came the milkman from Stainthorpe’s Dairy, on a pony and trap with churns on. And there was El Dorado (I’m sure it was called ‘El Dorado’)’s ice cream man, on a bicycle with a cool box. Then there was Bobby, the fish boy. There was no fish shop on Heaton Park Road. After the war, Bobby came back and he couldn’t get round because everyone came out. They said, “Now we KNOW the war is over.” ‘

And Jean recalled playing outside:

‘We played in the street. There was no traffic, no buses on Cardigan Terrace back then. But mostly we played in the back lane. We called for people at the back door. At first, it was cobble stones. We played races and hide and seek… But then they concreted the lane so we could skate and ride bicycles as well. We played tennis. The concrete was in sections. We used the middle section as the net.

‘We never got into any trouble but I remember the policeman who used to come on the beat. There was one gentleman, they called him Mr Tweedie. He must have been a plain-clothed policeman. When he came as well, we all took notice. It was lovely. It was very nice then. We didn’t fight.’

Neighbours

And Jean had very clear memories of her neighbours:

‘The lady at number seven, Miss Birkett, made hats and she also made little leather purses and put them in the window. She would dress the window up a little bit and have a hat stand with perhaps two hats on because she had made them by hand. Lots of people ran little businesses there then.

‘The lady at number five worked at Beavan’s and her husband was a house-husband – very unusual in those days. Opposite was Shepherd’s Commercial College. Mr Shepherd was a cripple in a chair. He taught shorthand and typing and Esperanto. I went to him to learn shorthand typing. This was in the late 30s and early 40s.

‘On the left side, at number 11, was Henner Hudspeth. He had a dance band and used to practise in the house – noise pollution! It wouldn’t be allowed nowadays’

Henner Hudspeth must have been Henry, the younger brother of Arthur, who had died in World War One. Young Jean probably wouldn’t have known about Arthur. But his memory lives on.

Henry and Arthur Hudspeth, Miss Birkett, Bobby the fish boy, Alfred and Edwin Thirwell Adamson, Captain and Rachael Minto, Joseph Metcalfe, Mrs Dennison, Mr Tweedie, Mr Shepherd, the Pretswells, Alec White and the other residents of Cardigan Terrace are part of the rich history of Heaton. Thank you to Jean for helping us bring them back to life.

Can you help?

Can you add to our story of Cardigan Terrace? Can you tell us more about the people and places mentioned? Or add to the story? Not many people will remember back as far as Jean, but we’d like to collect more recent stories too. You can comment here by clicking on the link just below the article title or you can email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Jack Common’s Avenues in Wartime

Jack Common was born at 44 Third Avenue on 15 August 1903. In his autobiographical novels, ‘Kiddar’s Luck’ and ‘The Ampersand’, he wrote about growing up in Heaton. Although ostensibly fiction, Jack’s writing is clearly based on his own experience and his vivid memories. It tells us about aspects of life in the avenues, before and during World War One, that often we’d have no other way of knowing. Jack describes his milieu, life as a ‘corner boy,’ and gives us a rare (pupil’s) insight into life at Chillingham Road School. He writes with feeling, humour and from the perspective of the socialist he became. While we have to remember the fictional element and the personal viewpoint, Jack Common’s work is an important source for our Heaton Avenues in Wartime research.

The avenues

Some of the places Jack describes have changed, of course, but to anyone familiar with Heaton, the streets (or avenues) of terraced houses and Tyneside flats are instantly recognisable over a hundred years later:

…’ the south side started with a grocer’s shop on the corner, ran straight past some eighty front doors arranged in twos, one for the upstairs flat, one for the down, and each pair separated from the next by the downstairs garden.’

…’when you could crawl and totter, you always made for the street whenever the door was open. Over the rough cement path, down the step onto the wonderfully smooth pavement, perhaps on again to the cobblestones in the middle of the road.’

So far, we’ve traced only one photograph of the Avenues taken during this period. it shows Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews’ great aunt, Ruth Castle, outside her home at 47 Tenth Avenue and it chimes with Jack Common’s description of his ‘territory’.

Ruth Castle outside 47 Tenth Avenue

Ruth Castle outside 47 Tenth Avenue, early 1900s


‘These gardens were just narrow fenders of soil laid around the buttress of the bay window but they were magnificently defended from depredation by low brick walls, coped with granite slabs, each sprouting a complicated fence of spiked railings… Between them lay cement aprons in front of the doors.’

Regular visitors

Some of the most evocative descriptions of the avenues are the lively street scenes; the traders and entertainers who passed through: the rag and bone man with his bugle, barrow and paper windmills, ‘made of rough sticks and coloured wallpaper or an umbrella of the same or a fan or a piece of pineapple rock’ which he’d exchange for the jam jars or rags the children brought him.

‘… such a procession of horse-drawn vans, man-pushed barrows, milk chariots, coal-carts and steam wagons… Practically any moment of the day, one or other of these strange craft, ark or pinnacle, was bound to come upon our horizon. The hooves of the faster traffic, doctor’s trap or post office van, shot sparks from our cobbles…’

‘… the slower moving door-to-door tradesmen announced their presence: the milkman with a hand-bell and a high-pitched cry, the firewood seller with a long wail ‘d’ye wa-a-nt any sticks’, the coal-man bluff, solid and low, ‘coal ter wagon, coal ter wagon’, and the hardware merchant, standing on his high cart, with a rapid ringing of plate against plate, produced an insistent tintinabulation which rang across several streets. Very often several of these were around at the same time, plus one or other of varieties of street musician, the tin whistler, the barrel organist or German band….’


‘And that was only the front street…. Though milk and bread were front door deliveries, greengrocery and fish and coal came to the back door…..

'Coo-al' by Mark James

‘Co-al’ by Mark James, Heaton History Group

Down here came the Cullercoats fishwives crying ‘Caller herrin’ in that season and otherwise ‘Fresh fish, hinny, straight from the sea’. They wore their traditional dress of dark blue which so well set off their biscuit tan of arm and face, the salt-white hair and they were like caryatids walking under the great baskets they carried on their heads.’

‘Everbody’s washing hung across the lane so that the appearance of a tradesman’s cart meant a rush to tuck sheets and things round the rope and to raise the diminished bunting high over the horse’s head with a prop.’

Close friends

Common’s descriptions of childhood are equally wonderful and will resonate with many older readers, in particular:

‘… the many games that made their immutable processions across our year. Marbles, tops, hoops and girds, bays, monty-kitty, kick-the-block, up-for-Monday, they came and went in their due seasons.’

‘The marble millionaire gambled untold wealth at the Big Ring, increasing the stakes as the evening wore on until there was a fortune out there on the cement; whole constellations of fat Millies and coloured glass alleys with twinkling spirals down their centres and clear sea-green or whipwater-white pop-alleys winked in the shaky gaslight, nothing less than these high counters allowed in the big game, stonies and chalkies definitely barred. Then in came the bullocker shot from the ringside. The constellation shook and was scrambled; single stars fled or rolled towards the chalk ring. All that went over belonged to the lad that made the shot. Sometimes none did. Right, next player. The winners dropped their captured beauties with a happy plonk into the poke they nearly all carried; losers might fish for a last treasure, a broken pen knife or a watch-compass, to barter for another stake.’

And bonfire night:

‘At the bottom end, on Ninth back lane a mattress in the bonfire had just caught alight, the dervishes around it jumped and yelled from fiery-smudged faces; Eighth were entrenched within their narrow gardens, hurling Chinese crackers and jumping-jacks at all who passed by; Seventh were engaged in a slanging match because the great pyramid of their fire, crowned with a guy sitting in an armchair, had toppled over and was burning against somebody’s back door…. You could even see the near-toddlers solemnly lighting each other’s sparklers from the hot end of the last one to burn out, and there were little girls running wild as they tried to throw London Lights into the air.’

He also describes life in what he refers to as the ‘corner-gangs’. That the camaraderie and solidarity of his gang ‘Sons of the Battle-axe’ meant a lot to Jack can be deduced from his writing and the politics he espoused but also in the fact that, all through his life, he held onto treasured mementos of his Heaton childhood.

The Jack Common Archive is now in the Robinson Library at Newcastle University. Amongst the novel manuscripts, correspondence with publishers and friends, family photographs and cuttings of reviews are the rules, oaths and codes relating to the Sons of the Battle-axe. Examples are displayed here with the permission of the Common family and the university.

Jack Common's 'corner-gang' codes

Jack Common’s ‘corner-gang’ codes

Sons of the Battle-axe oath of allegiance

Sons of the Battle-axe oath of allegiance

Many of Jack Common’s boyhood friends, such as the Ord brothers, appear in ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, with their names unchanged, even if, writing thirty or forty years later, Common appears to have fictionalised some of their back stories.

School

The Chillingham Road School Jack Common attended still stands proudly today, of course. Jack didn’t look back on his schooldays with much affection, believing that working class children like him were being ‘trained for boredom’ as he put it. He conveys his negative feelings in ‘Kiddar’s Luck’:

‘There was a school bell which tolled for some five minutes in the mornings, a peculiarly flat despondent sound, not urgent, not very loud, though it carried over all the Avenues, and it always seemed as if it meant to go on forever.’

although he did have some fond memories:

‘… a class of some fifty children, more than half of them girls, I was disgusted to note. It was a very pleasant classroom though. The morning sun shone in through the wide windows over blue glass vases and painted pottery jugs holding flowers on to the yellow desks.’

But Jack’s daughter, Sally, wrote in a letter to Heaton History Group:

‘I have just looked at their website, and it comes across as such an amazing, vibrant establishment. It makes me want to be a child again and go there! So different from the place my father described that trained children in boredom – in preparation for the boring jobs they would have later’

and Jack would surely have been amazed that today’s pupils learn about and are rightly proud of their somewhat reluctant predecessor.

Winner

For all his later cynicism, Jack (or John as he was known there) Common had some notable successes while at school. He won prizes for at least two of his essays – one a citywide competition on the war-inspired theme of ‘Thrift‘. The essay itself doesn’t survive but he was proud enough of the letter inviting him to collect his prize of Government War Bonds and the newspaper coverage to keep them. They survive in the Jack Common Archive and copies will be displayed at the Chillingham pub from mid-February to mid-April 2015.

The same goes for two compositions about Jesmond Dene for which he also won prizes. Jack later referred to the florid writing style he had adopted in his teenage years and you can judge for yourself from the extracts to be displayed at the Chilli or by visiting the Jack Common Archive.

Jack Common is known for his working class Newcastle upbringing, his strong socialist beliefs and his friendship with George Orwell rather than his love of nature but a lot of his writing and especially the personal diaries in the archive show how much he cared about and knew about the natural world. He may not have acknowledged the influence of his Heaton boyhood or his education at Chillingham Road School but it’s a deep love which began in childhood and which the school log books show was shared by his head teacher, even if neither teacher nor pupil recognised it at the time.

War

Jack was ten years old at the start of the first world war. He refers to it only briefly in ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, writing through a child’s eyes:

‘One Saturday morning a rumour came round that the schools were to be commandeered as temporary barracks; a second report said that the soldiers were already in. Some of us tore round to have a look. Chillingham Road School stood bare and empty, a maw gaping for Monday. We back-pedalled round a corner so as to put it out of sight again, wishing we hadn’t come. But somebody passing on a bike said that North Heaton was taken. We moved off into the territory presided over by that semi-cissy academy, hunching together in case we got raided on the way.

It was true. North Heaton School echoed to the bawls of a couple of sergeants drilling their awkward squads in the boys’ yard….’

But the descriptions of the attitudes of the adults around him are enlightening as well as entertaining. Jack Common is typically unafraid to go against the grain or to offend. He refuses to romanticise and so adds to our understanding of a particular place and an important time:

‘But I had a feeling deep down that war wouldn’t apply to my father. I couldn’t see him waving a flag and leaping over a parapet, as the wild bugles blew, straight into the enemies’ fire; I could see him sitting firmly as ever in his own chair, pointing out that the war was a lot of fat-headedness started by old grannies and bosses-on-the-make and carried on by young fools who believed what they said in the newspapers.’

‘After the customary visit to the boozer, argument waged hot and strong. Uncle George, Boer War veteran, would join up at once – only there was no one to run his greengrocery business if he did. True-blue Uncle Will was hot against the Germans; he would throw in a couple of sons against them right away – the sons, though, did not endorse this generous patriotism. Red Uncle Robin, bachelor, vegetarian and crank, saw the conflict as a power-struggle between rival groups of bosses to be boycotted by all intelligent working men. Sad Uncle Andrew thought it was one of those madnesses good men have to go into because they couldn’t stand being with the crooks and sharpers who’d stayed out. Burly, gentle Uncle Bill knew no rights or wrongs in it, he had the countryman’s view, that it was a super-thunderstorm or tremendously bad weather – ‘Thor’s ne help for it, we’ll hae t’last it oot’. ‘

His presentation of dissident voices is another reason, if we need one, to read, reread, remember and appreciate Heaton’s Jack Common.

Postscript

‘Kiddars Luck’ is currently out of print but can be obtained in a Kindle version and from second-hand bookshops, online and in libraries.

More about Jack Common

This article was written by Chris Jackson, as part of Heaton History Group’s ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We would like to hear your views on anything relating to the article. You can leave them on the website by clicking on the link immediately below the title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

A related exhibition will be in the lounge bar of the Chillingham pub from 16 February to mid April 2015. It contains digital copies of documents from the Jack Common Archive at Newcastle University and Tyne & Wear Archives as well as illustrations by local artists.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

We’re delighted to announce that Heaton History Group has been awarded £8,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project, Heaton Avenues in Wartime. Awarded through HLF’s First World War: then and now programme, the project will focus on life on ten terraced streets off Chillingham Road, Heaton during World War One.

To mark the centenary of the First World War, the project will enable local people in Heaton to come together to learn more about the lives of the people who lived in First to Tenth Avenue a hundred years ago. Writer, Jack Common, was growing up on Third Avenue and attending Chillingham Road School at that time and he later wrote about his experiences in his autobiographical novel ‘Kiddars Luck’. Local people of all ages, including pupils at Chillingham Road, Jack’s old school, will be able to find out more about him and take his account as a starting point for discovering more about life of ordinary people in the Avenues and Heaton at that time. The money will fund visits to local collections, talks and workshops but also an opportunity for artists to get involved by illustrating some of the stories that are uncovered to bring them to life for a wider audience.

The aim of the project is to learn, not only about the lives of those who fought but also the impact of war on some of those who stayed behind.

Commenting on the award, Heaton History Group chair, Alan Giles, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This project will enable Heaton History Group and the people of Heaton to come together to learn and so enrich our community in the present as well as commemorate a momentous event from the past”.

The group is very keen to hear from anyone interested in getting involved – especially anyone who lives or has lived in the Avenues themselves or knows of any family member who lived or worked there between 1914 and 1918. We’re also interested to hear from anyone locally who has WW1 memorabilia or family stories they’d like to share – they don’t have to relate to the Avenues.

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, the Head of the HLF in the North East, Ivor Crowther, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching every corner of the UK. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £52 million in projects – large and small – that are marking this global centenary; and with our small grants programme, we are enabling even more communities like those involved in Heaton Avenues in Wartime to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

If you would like to get involved or think you can help, contact Chris Jackson, Secretary: chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org