Tag Archives: Jack Common

Heaton’s parks remembered

Heaton and Armstrong Parks and Jesmond Dene, now known collectively as Ouseburn Parks, are amongst the finest green spaces in the city, or indeed any city, and much loved by locals and visitors alike. But have they changed much over time? We’ve been digging around in the archives and listening to the reminiscences of some older residents.

In the 1870s the population of the East End of Newcastle was growing rapidly and a need for additional recreational space was recognised but, in a comment that resonates today, on 16 May 1879, the Journal wrote:

Owing to the difficulty in obtaining land… and owing also to the jealousies amongst the representatives of the different wards of the town in the Corporation and also to the general unwillingness to expend the funds of the Corporation upon such an object, the movement for a long time made no progress Journal , 16 May 1879

However in 1878, when Addison Potter of Heaton Hall put some land up for sale, the Corporation bought 22.5 acres at a cost of £12,562 and William Armstrong gave a similar amount to enable a 46 acre park to be created.

Opening

Just a year later, the southernmost portion of the new park, that purchased by the corporation, had been landscaped with new ‘walks and drives’ and in a scheme which:

has afforded most acceptable employment to many men who had been thrown out of employment during the very severe winter

a new road was built to allow access to the park from Byker. This still to be named ‘new road’ later became Heaton Park Road.

The new ‘Armstrong or East End Park’ was officially opened on 12 June 1879 on a day locally observed as a holiday. The mayor assured the assembled school children that:

one object which the Parks Committee had in view was to give them as much play-ground as possible, so that they could romp free from the interference of the police or anyone else.

Changes

There have been many alterations to the park over the subsequent 135 years or so, some of which we can see from looking at old photographs like those below: the bear set free from (or more likely died in) its pit by the lake, the lake filled in, the croquet lawn converted to a bowling green (which itself is now no more), the ‘temple’ claimed by its original owners, the Ridley family, and removed to Blagdon, the park-keeper’s cottage demolished, the large pavilion burnt down and a replica subsequently constructed and famously the old bowls pavilion burnt down by suffragettes.

Heaton Park Lake

Heaton Park Lake

Old temple - Heaton Park

Old temple

Bowling green, Heaton Park

Bowling green, Heaton Park

Heaton Park in literature

We can also learn from the writings of Jack Common, a frequent visitor to the park. In his autobiographical novel ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, he wrote about the first and second decade of the twentieth century:

The far side of Heaton Road for a stretch broke into the great rookery of Heaton Hall; and behind Heaton Hall grounds, along one side of the Ouseburn Valley, lay two parks, both public and continuous, except for the slight interruption of a leafy stone-walled lane.

and

The parade wound by two bowling greens, mathematical swards scribbled on by tree-shadows, and watched by a terrace on which stood a huge aviary holding up the dial of a southward facing clock, flower beds of painfully formal calceolaria, scarlet geranium, lobelia, or a sort of clay boil bursting through turf to shatter into certified bush roses.

Memories

But there is much that has never been officially recorded and this is where the recollections of park users are invaluable. We have been interviewing local people to fill in some of these gaps and Heaton Park is almost always a topic which prompts a host of early memories.

Norman Pretswell, who lived at 9 Cardigan Terrace from 1928, recalled the 1930s:

The pavilion, of course, with the pigeons in one side, the old men on the other side. The old fellahs used to sit and play dominos or whatever. It used to stink of tobacco, especially pipes. I don’t remember any exotic birds. I only remember the pigeons. It used to be full of pigeons, roosting and nesting. They could fly in and out whenever they wanted…

We’d play in the bushes where you weren’t supposed to go. There was a park-keeper in those days. He had a whistle and a stick and he’d wave the stick and blow his whistle if he saw you in the bushes. Of course we used to go in the bushes for hide and seek…

In Armstrong Park, we’d play near the windmill and the cannons that were near where the tennis courts are now. We’d play on them…

And when you went through Armstrong Park, there was a little cafe, not far from the entrance where you left Heaton Park and went into Armstrong park, there was a little cafe there. Very dark and dismal. The fellah who served was quite short… he could hardly see over the counter. We’d go in. It was a bit of a thrill. It was just so dark and gloomy. I never seemed to go there when there was a light on. We’d go in for lemonade, sasparilla. Dandelion and burdock was my favourite.

John Dixon who lived at 155 Heaton Park Road in the 1950s and 60s also remembered the park-keepers:

As you go through the Heaton Park Road gates on the left, there was a wooden stand and they used to ring the bell. There were other bells in the park. They used to ring it half an hour before the park closed because they used to lock all the gates…

The park keepers wore a sort of uniform, which was a military style cap, blue serge two-piece suit, a collar and tie, a gabardine coat when it was wet and they had a whistle and a stick and if you transgressed, which it was very easy to upset them, they used to blow their whistle at you.

There were swings, a slide, wooden swings which were lethal. The seats were like inch thick planks… the swing would come back and hit you on the back of head. My mate, we had to take him to the RVI to get his head stitched. It really burst it. Lucky he didn’t fracture his skull.

What do you remember?

We are hoping to collect more memories of Heaton’s parks. If you can add to our knowledge, have any photographs which illustrate the changes or would just like to share your stories, please leave them here (Click on the link just below the article title) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

John Grundy is back

A year ago Heaton History Group launched with a packed to the rafters talk by TV historian John Grundy. It set the tone for a great first year. We’re, therefore, delighted that John will be launching our 2014-5 programme too.

His topic will be ‘The North East in Literature’. The talk will take place on Wednesday 30 April at The Corner House in Heaton BUT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED. Contact maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656 to be added to the reserve list.

John Grundy

Having worked for English Heritage in the 1980s John is probably most well known for the TV shows Grundy’s Wonders and Grundy’s Northern Pride. John also contributed to the 2nd edition of Nikolaus Pevsner’s Northumberland and has been extolling the virtues of the North’s heritage for many years.

The North East in literature

The content of John’s talk remains a closely-guarded secret but it’s an excuse to mention a couple of Heaton’s literary claims to fame:

Writer Jack Common was born on 15 August 1903 at 44 Third Avenue and attended Chillingham Road School. He is perhaps best remembered for his autobiographical novel, Kiddar’s Luck, which describes growing up in Edwardian Tyneside.

Jackcommoncover1

More recently, author David Almond, perhaps best known for his children’s book ‘Skellig‘, used to live on Westwood Avenue and Heaton features in a number of his works.

Tell us about other literary connections you know of (You can click on the ‘Leave a reply’ link just below the title of this article or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org)

Will Ye Buy Ma Fresh Fish?

On Wednesday 11 December, Hazel Graham and Hilary East will give a visual talk on the life of the Cullercoats fishwife with traditional live music, a demonstration of Northumberland and Durham clog dancing and a display of traditional costumes and creels. If you’re wondering whether this is relevant to Heaton, here’s an extract from Jack Common’s Kiddar’s Luck:

Though milk and bread were front door deliveries, greengrocery and fish and coal came to the back door. Sometimes for days on end, the children would spend all their time in the back lane, in and out of each other’s yards, sitting on the steps or swinging on the lamp posts. 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 the biscuit tan of arm and face, the salt-white hair, and they were like caryatids walking under the great baskets they carried on the heads.

And this postcard was published by Alexander Denholm Brash, who between 1905 and 1910 kept a bookshop, stationer’s and circulating library at 92 Heaton Road. It was posted in October 1913. Jack Common was born in 1903 in nearby Third Avenue. Kiddar’s Luck covers the period from his birth until he left Chillingham Road School in 1917.

Postcard of Cullercoats fishergirls, published by Alexander Brash

The event will take place at the Corner House Hotel on Heaton Road. As usual, please book for the talk to ensure you’re not disappointed. We’ll restrict numbers so that we have room for tables to contribute to a social atmosphere – as befits the time of year! But as usual, please be in your seat by 7.15 so that we can offer any unclaimed places to anyone on the waiting list or who comes on spec. To book, contact Maria Graham: maria@heatonhistorygroup.org/ 0191 2150821 / 07763 985656

Jack Common

Writer Jack Common was born on 15 August 1903 at 44 Third Avenue, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne. He attended Chillingham Road School. He is best remembered for his autobiographical novel, Kiddar’s Luck, which describes growing up in Edwardian Tyneside, and for the fact that his likeness was used by sculptor, Lawrence Bradshaw, for the bust on Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery, London. Jack Common died on 20 January 1968. He is commemorated by a plaque on the house where he was born.

Jack Common's birthplace

Jack Common’s birthplace

Jack Common plaque

Jack Common plaque

Chillingham Road School (1966)

Chillingham Road School (1966)

Karl Marx headstone

Karl Marx headstone

Reources on Jack Common

Jack Common archives
John Mapplebeck’s film Common’s Luck (1974)
Bloodaxe Books page
Wikipedia page

Talk about Jack Common

On 23 October 2013, Heaton History Group presented a talk on Jack Common by Keith Armstrong at Jack’s old school, Chillingham Road, to commemorate the 110th anniversary of his birth and the 120th anniversary of the school.

From 16 February – mid April 2015 there will be an exhibition about Jack Common in the Chillingham pub, as part of our Heritage Lottery Fund project ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’

Thank you to Newcastle City Library for the photograph of Chillingham Road School.

Freedom of the Streets: the life and work of Jack Common

On Wednesday 23 October, Dr Keith Armstrong will give an account of the life and work of Jack Common, who was born at 44 Third Avenue. He will dwell on Common’s Heaton upbringing and how it influenced his life and writing. He will read extracts from Common’s autobiographical novels ‘Kiddar’s Luck’ and ‘The Ampersand’ and go on to discuss Jack’s unique friendship with George Orwell.

Jackcommoncover1

Keith will also talk about his own Heaton background and will read his poetry inspired by his roots, including a new piece on Heaton, specially written for this talk. He will be joined by local folk group ‘Kiddar’s Luck’ with whom he has regularly appeared over the years, especially at events to celebrate Jack Common. The group’s extensive repertoire is largely based on traditional Tyneside songs, past and present.

This event will take place at Chillingham Road School as it forms part of the school’s 120th anniversary celebrations. Jack Common was a pupil at the school and 2013 is also the 110th anniversary of his birth.

Keith Armstrong

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Armstrong now lives in Whitley Bay. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise and was founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Poets and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series.

He recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham, the market town of Hexham and the heritage of North Tyneside. He has been a self employed writer since 1986 and he was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Jack Common. His biography of Jack Common was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009.

jack commoncover2

Common Words and the Wandering Star, Dr Armstrong’s book about Jack Common will be available at the talk.

Booking

Free to members. Non-members £2. Booking essential. Contact Maria Graham – maria@heatonhistorygroup.org
/ 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656).

Heaton’s Favourite Buildings

Our vote for Heaton’s favourite caused quite a storm, with coverage in the Evening Chronicle and lots of interest at and after John Grundy’s talk. The shortlist, all of which were nominated by Heaton History Group members or Twitter followers, was;

Heaton Windmill We have to kick off with this one. Iconic is an oversused word but this feature of Armstrong Park is certainly a familiar and much-loved landmark and the one we chose to be Heaton History Group’s logo and feature on our home page. The windmill dates from the early eighteenth century and was already a ruin by 1844. Constructed from coursed squared sandstone, it’s been partially restored since then and is grade 2 listed. Has to be a contender.

Heaton windmill

People’s Theatre  It’s the art deco detailing together with, for many people, happy memories of time spent inside which makes The People’s such a favourite. The building was designed by Marshall and Tweedy and opened in 1936 as the Lyric cinema. During its first week, the two films shown were ‘Little Colonel’ with Shirley Temple and ‘Sweet Music’ with Rudy Vallee and Ann Dvorak. (Thanks to Tomorrow’s History for that information). Conversion into a theatre toook place in 1962. The first play performed there was George Bernard Shaw’s ‘ Man and Superman’. (Thanks to People’s Theatre). The photos below were taken in this week’s snow and shortly after the cinema opened in 1936. (Thanks to Newcastle Libraries for this one.) Does it get your vote?

Entrance to the Peoples 2013

Lyric cinema 1936

Shakespeare House  Although it’s in a pleasant, secluded, green corner  and, when we checked it out on a snowy day in March, the birds were in full voice, from the front 47 South View West doesn’t look too different from many other houses in Heaton.  It’s the gable end that makes it one of many people’s favourite local landmarks. William Shakespeare’s face (based on Martin Droeshout’s famous engraving of 1623) looks down on streets named in his memory.

The surrounding terraces – Stratford Grove, Warwick Street, Malcom Street, Bolingbroke Street, Mowbray Street, Hotspur Street etc –  were built before the end of the 19th century but when some houses were demolished 100 or so years later to make way for Hotspur School, the decorative brickwork was put in place.

The People’s has been putting on Shakespeare plays in Heaton regularly since the 1960s. The RSC’s been coming to Newcastle since 1977, with members of the company often lodging locally as well as intermittently appearing  at the People’s. The South View West gable end seems fitting somehow and it makes us smile.

Shakespeare

Wills Building

The Wills factory was retro even when it opened in 1950. Its foundation stone had been laid four years earlier but it was built to a pre-war art deco design by Cecil Hockin, an Imperial Tobacco Company in-house architect.  (WD and HO Wills was actually part of Imperial Tobacco as early as 1901, so even the buidling’s name was retro from the outset.)  Apparently at its peak, 6 million Woodbine cigarettes a day were manufactured at the plant. The complex included a theatre and other leisure facilities for staff as well as the factory itself.

Production ceased in 1986. Its last days were documented by photographer Isabella Jedrzejczyk  and can be seen on the Amber Online website with text by Ellin Hare.

The disused building was given Grade 2 listed status to prevent demolition.  It stood empty for 10 years until Wimpey Homes converted the former front wing into 114 apartments. The building is still a nationally important example of art deco architecture and its elegance and clean lines, together with its prominent position on the Coast Road,  makes  it a local favourite too. Luckily it just sneaks into Heaton – the adjacent railway line marks the boundary with Wallsend.

Wills Building

If you or anyone you know used to work at the factory, please get in touch. We’d love to find out more about what it was like to work there.

King John’s Palace Built before 1267 and so the oldest still (partly!) standing building in Heaton by some distance, King John’s Palace is a constant reminder of Heaton’s rich history. Despite its name though, it almost certainly doesn’t date from the reign of King John, which ended in 1216. Best estimates date it around 1255. There are traditions, however, that both King John and King Edward I stayed in Heaton which may have caused confusion. The building’s alternative names of The House of Adam of Jesmond or Adam’s Camera (‘camera’ here means ‘chamber’ or a usually round ‘building’), give better clues to its history. Adam was a knight and staunch supporter of King Henry III. Records show that he became unpopular for embezzlement and extortion and that he applied to Henry for a licence to enclose, fortify and crenellate his house. Adam went to the crusades from which he didn’t return and his house was allowed to fall into disrepair.

Thanks to the Jesmond Dene History Trail for the above.

King John's Palace

Beavan’s Beavans had been trading since the 19th century –  an 1879 directory lists ‘Fred Beavan, draper’ on the North side of Shields Road, where Parrishes later traded – but the lovely building on the corner of Heaton Park Road and Shields Road is Edwardian and contains many features, such as the round and stained glass windows, which are typical of the period.  A railway line used to pass under the building which apparently meant that permission wasn’t granted to build upper floors on the west side. The new store was opened in 1910 and traded until (we think) the early 1990s. You can still see original name plates ‘F Beavan Ltd, Ironmongers and Furnishers’ as well as a sign which reads ‘Beavans – the great cash drapers’. the building now contains apartments.

If you or anyone you know used to work at Beavan’s or know more about its history, please get in touch. We’d love to find out more.

Beavans

Ringtons The former head office of the  Ringtons tea and cofee business is the first 1920s building on our short list. Its distinctive white stone, green and yellow tiling and the elegance, especially of the slightly older southern half, along with its association with a long-established, local company make it a favourite with many people. It’s now the auction house of  Thomas N Miller,  with Ringtons operating from more modern premises next door.

Ringtons was established in Heaton by Sam Smith and his business partner, William Titterington, in 1907, at first delivering tea from small premises in the avenues.  Thank you to Ringtons for the older photograph which shows a busy scene from when the firm was using the horse drawn carts which helped make it famous – and notice the long-demolished houses in the background. Can anyone help us date it?

Sam Smith and his family later lived Warton Terrace. To find out more about Ringtons and its long association with Heaton, go to the small museum housed in the company’s current Algernon Road HQ which tells the fascinating story of the firm’s history.

The original Ringtons building.

Ringtons building detail

Ringtons

St Gabriel’s Church The tower of the parish church of St Gabriel is one the tallest structures in Heaton and so the church can be seen from some distance. It’s built in a free Gothic style of snecked sandstone, with a roof of graduated lakeland slate (Thanks to English Heritage for that information). Th e style and materials help it give quite a villagey feel to this part of Heaton and mean that it’s much loved not only by its congregation.

The church was designed by FW Rich (also responsible for Ouseburn School and Bolbec Hall)  and built in 1899 on land donated by Lord Armstrong. The south transept and chapel were added in 1931. It is now Grade 2 listed. This photograph held by Newcastle City Libraries was taken in 1957/8.

St Gabriels 50s

Heaton Road Co-operative Building One of several former Co-ops in Heaton, this fine three storey brick building adds character to the southern end of Heaton Road. It was built in 1892 and, as well as the date, carries the inscription ‘Newcastle upon Tyne Cooperative Society Limited, Heaton Road branch, Registered Office 117 Newgate Street’ on decorative white stonework between the first and second floors. Over recent years, many different businesses have operated from the ground floor but currently the owners of cafe ‘The Wild Trapeze’. florist ‘Hazy Daisy’, ‘Gold Star Gym’ etc are ensuring it’s looking better cared for than for some years.

Coop Heaton Road

If you could help us find out more about the history of the Co-operative movement in Heaton or have photos or memories of any of the stores, we’d love to hear from you.

Chillingham Road School Chillingham Road Primary School (as it now is – there used to be a secondary school on the site too) holds a special place in Heaton’s, and indeed Newcastle’s, history  and in the heart of many Heatonians. It’s the oldest still functioning school in Newcastle, with its 120th anniversary celebrations taking place later this year.

A sum of £15,130 15s was sanctioned by the Newcastle School Board to build the school which, when it opened in 1893, was considered to offer the most sanitory environment of any educational establishment in the city, with a state of the art ventilation system comparable with the best in Leicester,Liverpool, Glasgow, Nottingham and other cities. The first head was Mr R H Gilhespy, formerly of Arthur’s Hill School.

It’s also the school one of our best known historical figures, Jack Common, attended – and we can still read about life in Heaton and at the school just before World War 1 in his autobiographical novel ‘Kiddar’s Luck’.

There’ll be a chance to learn more about the history of Chillingham Road Primary School later this year when a programme of events is planned to celebrate its 120th birthday. On Wednesday 23 October Heaton History Group and the school will jointly present a talk about Jack Common by Dr Keith Armstrong. More details to follow.

Chillingham Road School

The photograph above dates from 1966 and is held by Local Studies at Newcastle Central Library.

Heaton Park Pavilion The original pavilion was erected in 1884 as an aviary housing exotic birds and animals. It looked out over a croquet lawn and, beyond that, a bowling green.  You can read what Jack Common said about the pavilion in a previous blog. It was later extended to accommodate a cafe and other facilities.  A lot of people think the original building   still stands but it was badly damaged by fire in 1979.

The surviving ironwork was restored at Beamish Museum and, painted in typically Victorian shades of dark red, black, cream and olive, used in a new building, which was made from handmade yellowed bricks. The reconstruction won a Civic Trust award. It is currently occupied by Sambuca, an Italian restaurant.

Its history, Victorian elegance and association with carefree summer days in the park combine to make it one of Heaton’s favourite building.

Pavilion old

Pavilion detail

Thanks to Heaton History Group Honorary President, Alan Morgan, for the above information. You can read more and see photographs in his book ‘Heaton: from farms to foundries’ or better still come to his illustrated talk on 22 May. Contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org to reserve a place.

And thanks to Newcastle Libraries for the image of the old postcard, which is undated.

High Heaton Library The most modern building on the shortlist and the third library to have been built the site. It was designed by Ryder Architecture Limited (who were also responsible for the City Library) and was commended in the 2009 Public Library Building Awards. its curving façade and intimate scale seem to contributes to its welcoming feel. Click on the third link below to see it looking beautiful by night. Sadly it’s due to close in June this year.

Here are links to images of the three libraries:

Wooden building taken in 1966 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

Circular library taken in 1967 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

Third library taken in 2009 (Thank you to Paul J White)

Corner House When you see the the Corner House, you know you’re nearly home to Heaton, standing prominently as it does at the corner of Heaton Road and the Coast Road. The Corner House was built at the same time as the Lyric cinema (now People’s Theatre). It’s changed quite a bit over the years but, empty roads aside, is still immediately recognisable in this photo taken in 1936 soon after it opened.

Corner House 1936

We especially like the Corner House because it’s where our 2013/4 programme of talks will kick off on April 17th with John Grundy’s Buildings of Heaton.

Hadrian’s Wall Ok, this last nomination is a bit contentious. Is it in Heaton? We think so. It forms the southern boundary of our catchment area and would definitely have been considered part of Heaton, when it was an independent township until the early 20th Century. We’re historians. It’s in. Is it a building? Debatable. The accepted definition usually involves some sort of shelter and human occupancy, but there were turrets every 500 metres or so and so we reckon the whole structure was, therefore, one very long building. And a lot of the foundations are still down there – somewhere. At nearly 2000 years old, it’s by far the oldest structure in Heaton, the most popular tourist destination in Northern England and the only World Heritage Site on our list so it’s got to be in the running.  You can follow the line of it marked out by studs on the south side of Shields Road. And also we wanted an excuse to mention that we’ve just booked Paul Bidwell OBE, Head of Archaeology at Tyne and Wear Museums and expert on  Roman archaeology, to give a talk later in our 2013/4 programme. Watch this space!

We had to stop there, although we realise that there were other contenders, many of which we’ll feature on this website over the coming months.

Top Seven

The top seven, announced on 17 April 2013, and listed here in reverse order were:

7th – Ringtons HQ

6th – People’s Theatre

=4th –  Beavans and Heaton Park Pavilion

3rd – the old Heaton Road Co-op

2nd – Wills Building

and the winner: Saint Gabriels Church

Thank you to everyone who voted and congratulations to FW Rich, architect, and everyone associated with the church!

Inflammatory Incident in Heaton Park

That afternoon’s local derby at Roker Park, and how it would be affected by the gales which had disrupted shipping all week, were no doubt among the big topics of conversation in Heaton on Saturday 8 March 1913. But by the next day all that had changed. It was an incident in Heaton Park itself which was on everyone’s lips and was front page news across the country and even beyond.

According to the newspaper reports, at half past midnight Constable John Smith, who lived with his wife and two young children in Trewhitt Road, had noticed smoke while on his beat along Jesmond Vale Road, which separates Heaton from Armstrong Park. He alerted the park superintendent who lived on site and together they investigated. A large shelter and ‘bowls house’ was ablaze, the flames fanned by the strong winds. Although Red Barns Fire Brigade was quickly on the scene, the shelter was soon a charred ruin. (A photograph of the building taken when it was new can be seen in Alan Morgan’s book: Heaton: from farms to foundries.)

News reports

What made the incident so newsworthy was the policeman’s apparent discovery between the railings around the bowling green of a piece of card which bore words along the lines of ‘No peace until votes for women’. Women’s footprints were also said to be visible in the soft ground. Newspaper accounts of the wording, the  size of the card and even the names of the park superintendent, Robert or Richard Brown, and the name of the bowling club, variously Heaton and Armstrong, vary so historians need to treat the detail with some scepticism but it seems to have been agreed that hundreds of pounds worth of damage was done. Besides the building, highly prized bowls valued at two to five guineas a pair, many won in competitions, along with canvas shoes and ‘goloshes’ (as they were spelt in 1913) were reportedly destroyed. Many people were said to have visited the site of the ‘outrage’ later that day.

Context

Women had campaigned for the vote since the mid 19th century but the term ‘suffragette’ was apparently first used in the Daily Mail in 1908 to describe militant ‘suffragists’. The suffragettes, under the leadership of the Pankhursts and others, had increasingly resorted to violence, at first mainly stone throwing, to get their message across. In November 1912, they began to target post boxes, apparently burning 2,000 letters in Newcastle alone.

In January 1913, after a proposal to give women the right to vote was defeated in parliament for the 20th time, the suffragettes further upped the ante. Some women went on hunger strike and they also began to target sporting clubs and venues. The Heaton Park incident was one of the first arson attacks in a campaign which culminated in Emily Davison being killed by the King’s horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby. The suffragettes’ activity was only suspended on the outbreak of WW1. Following the war, in July 1918, women over 30 were given the vote; the same September they were allowed to stand for parliament and finally in 1928 women over the age of 21 were, like men, eligible to vote.

Possible witnesses

From a local history perspective, it’s interesting to speculate about who might have been among the large crowd that gathered in the park that Sunday:

Jack Common, the writer, was nine years old and lived at 44 Third Avenue. In his autobiographical novel, Kiddar’s Luck, he wrote about his solitary Sunday walks through the park to Jesmond Dene: ‘two bowling greenswatched by a terrace on which stood a huge aviary holding up the dial of a southward facing clock, flower beds of painfully formal calceolaria, scarlet geranium, lobelia’ The excitement must surely have drawn a crowd of street-wise boys there that day.

John Thomas Gilroy was 14 years old and lived with his mother, father and seven brothers and sisters at 25 Kingsley Place, only yards from the park. He had already won a scholarship to study at Armstrong College Art School and by the following year was a cartoonist for the Evening Chronicle. He went on to a hugely successful career as a commercial artists and was most famous for the ‘Guinness is good for you’ advertising campaign. Did he or his father, also an artist, sketch the scene?

Newcastle United footballer, Colin Veitch lived on the other side of the park at 1 Stratford Villas. He had played in the 0-0 cup draw at Sunderland and, according to the local press, the next day the players visited North Shields for ‘brine baths’. He may well have walked through the park to catch a bus or tram and, as both a political activist and sportsman, he will surely have expressed his views about both women’s suffrage and the plight of the bowlers.

Finally what role, if any, did the evocatively-named Florence Nightingale Harrison-Bell play? She was the first woman member of the Independent Labour party’s national administrative council (replaced in 1898 by Emmeline Pankhurst). In the early 1900s she was a key member of Newcastle and District Women’s Suffrage Society. In January 1911 at the Women’s Labour league Conference at which she was the delegate for Newcastle, she moved a resolution in favour of adult suffrage. She lived at 6 Hotspur Street, with her husband, Joseph Bell, later to be elected MP for Newcastle East. If she wasn’t involved, who was? We will probably never know.

Further Research

Heaton History group has been invited by Beamish Museum and Northumberland Archives -Woodhorn to take part in a project on the suffragette movement. If you’d like to help us find out more about the incident or about the suffragettes of the area and disseminate the information to a wider audience, please get in touch. chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org