Tag Archives: mining

Heaton Colliery in Numbers

Earlier this year, out of the blue, a stamp-collector from Wales made contact with Heaton History group to say that he had spotted being sold on Ebay an item that might interest Heaton History Group. A seller in Australia was advertising a four page set of accounts from Heaton Colliery dated April 1842 and sealed with a Penny Red stamp. Naturally, we snapped it up, waited impatiently for it to travel halfway across the world and then showed it to our local mining expert, Les Turnbull, not knowing whether it told him anything new and whether he could interpret it for us.

Production

Happily for us, Les was enthusiastic. He started by saying that there were very few accounts of Heaton Colliery surviving from this period. He was, however, able to draw on his knowledge of other sources, including Heaton Colliery’s then viewer, George Johnson’s submission to the Children’s Employment Commission, published the very same year, to help him interpret the figures.

Les commented on the low production of coal during the fortnight (11 working days) covered by the accounts. Johnson had reported that there were 108 hewers at Heaton, who would normally be expected to extract ‘a score a day’ each or about 1,188 scores. (A ‘score’ was a unit of measurement used in the coal mining industry.) In fact, page one of the accounts shows that just over 800 was extracted.

HeatonColliery1842page1

There could be many reasons for the low production, including the timing. Early April was the time that miners signed their bonds for the following year and this could have caused some disruption. Technical, environmental or other labour issues could also have been responsible. The first page of the accounts appears to show a loss in that particular fortnight but, of course, it’s dangerous to make assumptions for the whole year based on one possibly unrepresentative fortnight.

Heaton Waggonway

What is interesting to a transport historian is that the newly opened Newcastle and North Shields Railway already played a major role in Heaton Colliery’s distribution system. Page one of the accounts shows that the colliery paid over £60 to the railway company during the fortnight.

HeatonCollieryBellsMapedited

Bell’s map of 1843 shows the Heaton Waggonway from the Engine Pit to Carville Gate where it joined the Coxlodge line which served the Spinney (Heaton E), Longbenton and Bigges Main. There is a junction with the Newcastle and North Shields line to the west of Wallsend Station.

The accounts on page 1 are signed by William Loraine or Lovaine and the initials of what could be, though we aren’t sure, George Johnson, the viewer. Perhaps someone can help?

Horses

The second page of the accounts lists totals mined for the whole month of March in the three different pits that made up Heaton Colliery at the time: Longbenton (Howard), Heaton (Spinney Pit / E Pit) and Wallsend (Bigges Main), all mining the Low Main Seam.

Heatoncolliery1842IMG_0002_edited-1

The total value of the coals sold during March was £1778-10s-5d, compared to £518-6s-2d for the second fortnight, suggesting that, as Les said, there may have been been a blip then.

Les was also interested in what page three of the accounts tells us about the use of horses at Heaton Colliery:

Heatoncolliery1842IMG_0003_edited-1

‘The memorandum relating to the horses shows that they were mainly used for underground transport (49 out of 71 horses owned). Only seven waggon horses are recorded which would be used to marshall the coal from the Spinney to the Longbenton Pit and then to the head of the inclined plane at the junction of Coach Lane and the Kenton Coxlodge Waggonway. They would have travelled by gravity down to Bigges Main village. The coal for the Seacole trade would have been drawn by horses for the final mile down to the staiths.’

 Watsons of High Bridge

Heatoncolliery1842IMG_0004_edited-2

Interestingly the back of the accounts (page four) was addressed to Robert Watson Esquire of High Bridge, Newcastle and folded to create what looks like an envelope. A Penny Red (actually a reddish brown stamp, introduced in 1841 to replace the Penny Black) is affixed. The stamp isn’t perforated (Perforations weren’t introduced until the 1850s.) There are also letters (E and C) on the bottom corners which indicate the individual stamp’s position on the sheet. The postmark shows the accounts to have been posted in Newcastle on 9 April 1842. But who was Robert Watson and why was he a recipient of the accounts?

The Watson family of Newcastle were involved in many many business activities, The family’s metal-working factory in High Bridge was established in 1767 by William Watson. In 1806 Robert Watson took over the business. We know that he made a miner’s safety lamp for George Stephenson and later gave evidence via his clerk to an enquiry concerning Stephenson’s successful claim that his lamp predated Humphrey Davy’s. By 1827, he was described as plumber, coppersmith, brass founder, patent lead pipe maker and mathematical instrument maker.

In 1838 Henry Watson, Robert’s nephew and long time friend of William Armstrong, built Armstrong’s first water-powered rotary engine.  In 2010, the bicentenary of Lord Armstrong’s birth, a plaque was installed at nos 41-51 High Bridge to commemorate this.   In 1842 Robert was quoted in ‘The Farmer’s Magazine’ as having invented a pumping system for raising water.

In 1847 the firm did more work for William Armstrong, making his newly-designed hydraulic cranes before Armstrong moved to his new site in Elswick.  In the same year Robert loaned £5,000 at 5% per annum to Thomas Henry Liddell, Baron Ravensworth of Ravensworth Castle, the Honourable Henry Thomas Liddell of Eslington and John Bowes of Streatlam Castle.  In the event of default there was a penal requirement for the payment of £10,000; Robert was clearly now a wealthy man.

Mining was another significant interest of the Watson family. Indeed it predated their metal-working activities. They were owners, consultants and viewers in a very extensive range of collieries right across the north but it isn’t always possible to know what connection they had with each mine. We do know though that the family held shares in Heaton Colliery: John Watson, who died in 1832, owned 5 shares. It is probably then as an owner that Watson was sent the fortnightly accounts. Incidentally, the Mining Institute has an extensive Watson archive which is considered to be of significant historical value.  The records were deposited in 1863 by William Watson.

Robert died on 24 August 1850 in Harrogate. He has a brass memorial plaque in the Newcastle Cathedral on the family memorial stone but is buried in Jesmond cemetery.

Acknowledgements

Written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group using research material provided by Les Turnbull, including notes about the Watson family written by Jonathan Peacock.

Can you help?

 If you know more about Heaton Colliery or have documents to share and especially if you can help us with information about the signatures, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

The People of Heaton High Pit

Heaton High Pit (also known as the Far Pit or E Pit) was part of Heaton Main Colliery and was in High Heaton, opposite where Heaton Manor School is now. The mine lay just to the east of the Thistle Fault where the valuable, thick seam of coal known as the ‘Main Seam’ lay much further underground than in neighbouring areas to the west. Consequently, it was only towards the end of the 18th century that engineers had developed the technology to mine there.

Heaton Main

Heaton Main Colliery was technically one of the most advanced collieries in the world, attracting visitors from elsewhere in Britain and further afield, even America. Huge steam pumping engines drained the mine and a steam locomotive hauled coal along the colliery railway to the River Tyne. This was before George Stephenson built his locomotives for Killingworth Colliery.

We now remember Heaton Main Colliery for the 1815 disaster, in which  75 men and boys died. This took place about a mile from Heaton High Pit, approximately below the site of Saint Teresa’s Church. But there were problems  at Heaton High pit too; a fire in 1810; and in 1813 ‘creep’,  which caused the colliery floors to lift, meaning the pit was abandoned until 1816, one of the things that proves that this was not the site of the 1815 disaster.

What is particularly interesting about High Pit is that, unlike Heaton’s other pits, a small mining community, what we might call a ‘hamlet’, grew up around it. We’ve been researching the ten-yearly census records and newspaper reports relating to this community.

 

HighHeatonSpinneyCottageNCCPRT003_MFD-211_0889_001.jpg

Thank you to Newcastle City Library for permission to use this photograph.

 

The above photograph of cottages at Heaton High Pit was taken in 1922 just before the present High Heaton estate was developed around the wooded area immediately above the old pit head, which we now know as The Spinney. It gives an idea of what the hamlet might have looked like.

Mining village

In 1841, there were around 25 households. Almost all the men were coal miners and, although 70 year old William Fenwick was a horse-keeper and 15 year old John Hall an apprentice smith, they too would have worked at the pit. Theirs were important jobs in the mining industry.

The surrounding area was rural: 35 year old John Twizell and 30 year old Alexander Cairns earned their living as agricultural labourers. Only two young women are listed as having a job: 15 year old, Margery Anderson and Elizabeth were servants.

In 1851, a few of the families remained  from ten years earlier but many were recent migrants from other mining communities around Newcastle and the immediate area.  Most men were still colliers but 18 year old Septimus Widderington was an engineer,  26 year old William Gascoigne a gardener and 40 year old William Taylor an agricultural labourer. Several women and girls are recorded as working:  Elizabeth Clarke (18) as a dressmaker and  Ann Ayre (14), Sarah Bell (21) and Jane Stephenson (38) as household servants.

Whereas boys as young as seven were among those killed in the 1815 disaster, the Mines Act of 1842 had made it illegal to employ anyone under ten underground, so the youngest miner in 1851 was ten year old James Cross. Nevertheless,  siblings Anne, Mary and Christopher Roaby, aged four, five and seven, were the only children, among the many who lived in the hamlet, recorded as going to school .

Heaton High Pit was closed in 1852, the battle with floodwater having finally been lost,  but many men of the village continued to work at nearby Benton Colliery. This was situated on what is now Wych Elm Crescent by the tram track across Benton Road from the Newton Park pub. You can see how close they were and how rural the area was on the OS map below.

 

HighHeatonOS1stsurvey1858.jpg

Detail from 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, surveyed in 1858

In 1861, the village was still a mining community but some of the residents had come from further afield: for example, John Bowes, a cordwainer, had been born in Yorkshire; and Elizabeth Nichol in Cumberland.  The recent birth and expansion of railways was a possible factor.

A school is listed  in the census and 12 boys and girls, aged between 4 and 12 are recorded as attending. The youngest collier was 15 year old John Burdis. Ann Bell, a 50 year old married woman, recorded as the head of household, was a shopkeeper and her daughter, 24 year old Hannah Ramsay, earned her living as a dressmaker.  By this time though, there were also a number of uninhabited dwellings,  a sign perhaps that that the housing was now considered substandard and, with the local pit closed,  the village had become a less attractive place to live.

In  January 1862 miners, George Handy and Robert Minto, both  of Heaton High Pit village, were killed in an accident at Benton Colliery.

In April 1864, the auction of the materials of 21 cottages at Heaton High Pit was announced in the local press, although the 1894 Ordnance Survey map below shows a couple of cottages just to the north of the present Spinney. By this time, trees had been planted as was customary over disused pitheads. You can also see that, although Jesmond to the west was beginning to be developed, as was Heaton to the south, High Heaton was still very rural, the sight of Byker and Heaton Cemetery being the most obvious change from 36 years earlier.

 

highheatonos2view_-northumberland-lxxxviii-se-includes_-gosforth-longbenton-newcastle-upon-tyne

Detail from 2nd edition Ordnance Survey Map, 1894

And just before WW1, when the map below was published, not that much seemed to have altered. But after the war, things moved quickly and by the late 1920s, many of the houses we are now familiar with had been built and the Heaton Secondary Schools had opened. But more of them another time!

 

high-heatonos1913view_-northumberland-nxcv-nw-includes_-longbenton-newcastle-upon-tyne-walker-walls

Detail from 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map, 1913

 

Can you help?

If you know more about anyone who may have lived or worked at Heaton High Pit, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

This article was researched and written by Chris Jackson with Les Turnbull and Michael Proctor as part of Heaton History Group’s HLF-funded ‘Heaton Beneath Our Streets’ project.

Heaton Beneath Our Feet

Heaton History Group was fortunate enough to receive a grant last year from Heritage Lottery Fund to research and publicise Heaton’s mining heritage.

During the project, we visited fantastic collections such as, The Mining Institute, Woodhorn, Durham Record Office and Tyne and Wear Archives, where members of the group were able to handle original documents, including maps, plans, account books, letters and the notebook of the mining viewer, John Buddle. As you can imagine, we learnt a great deal about mining in Heaton – and a lot more besides.

We’ve also funded talks by local historian, Les Turnbull, not only at our usual Heaton Corner House venue but also at the Mining Institute and St James in Fenham. We didn’t only want the people of Heaton to know about the area’s rich industrial heritage – we wanted the news to be spread far and wide.

Red plaques

Distinctive red commemorative plaques, like the one below, have been placed (or are being placed) at strategic positions throughout Heaton, drawing the attention of passers- by to places associated with coal mining across the centuries.  How many can you find?

OuseburnCentrePlaque

Hopefully soon everyone will know not only about the 1815 disaster (including where it actually took place) but also about the great concentration of steam power in Jesmond Vale, the surface mines near the Ouseburn which were the first to be exploited, the remains that can still be seen in Heaton Park (if you know where to look), the route of Heaton’s waggonways (forerunners of the railways) and the associated industries, such as flint, glass and pottery.

Heritage wallk

Les Turnbull has led two guided walks so far but the idea is that Ouseburn Parks guides can add the walk to their repertoire and also that we can follow the trail ourselves. A printed guide is available at various places locally including in libraries, Milburn House in Jesmond Dene and at Heaton History Group talks and events (while stocks last!).

If you’d prefer an electronic copy and have problems downloading and/or printing the images below (which fold into a leaflet), email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

HBOF 1-4

HBOF 5-8

And, finally, seventy five schools, libraries and youth and community groups will benefit from ‘Heaton Beneath Our Feet’ information packs, which include copies of Les’s books and the printed guide.

Heaton now

We hope that our project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the 1815 disaster has led to a better understanding of coal mining in Heaton and its spin-off industries, including how they influenced the growth of Heaton from a medieval hall, a few scattered farms and a tiny village to the large, thriving suburb we live, study and work in today.

 

Heaton History Film Night

On 25 May, it will be our great pleasure to present the world premiere of Under Heaton Fields, a film made as part of the commemorations of the Heaton mining disaster of 1815. It will be shown along with two other films about the accident and its 2015/6 commemorations and another recent local history film, The Great Tyneside Fire 1854.

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Under Heaton Fields documents some of the activities that have taken place in Heaton during the bicentennial commemoration of the Heaton pit disaster of 1815. This includes work done in schools, concerts, the memorial service and the choral work ‘The Heaton Suite’ especially written for the occasion and performed by local choirs and musicians.

And through this prism the film will also look back to 1815 and, through the experiences of the characters of John Buddle and the Thew family, dramatise the events that morning in May and nine months later on the discovery of the bodies. The film has been made with the help of undergraduates, members of staff, and graduates of the Film/TV course at Northumbria University. Director, Peter Dillon, a member of Heaton History Group, will introduce the film and answer questions.

200 years is an audio visual work made by year 6 children at St Teresa’s School as part of the Under the Fields of Heaton programme. The class worked with visual artist and Heaton History Group member Tessa Green and sound artist and writer Ellen Phethean in summer 2015.

Looking at life in 1815, 1915 and 2015, the children made a soundscape based on the colliery disaster as well as collages, drawings, creative writing, singing and  interviews all of which were edited together to make the final piece which even speculates on what life might be like in 2115! Tessa and Ellen will introduce the film and answer questions.

Shafts of Light Kyle Donnelly and Sarah Hibbert, graduates of the Film/TV Production course who worked with Peter Dillon on Under Heaton Fields have shot and edited a short film about lantern making under the tutelage of Louise Bradley at the Woodlands Community Centre and their subsequent use during the commemorations at the Spinney and King John’s Palace in February. Tessa Green also shot footage at St Teresa’s School with Year Six pupils.

spinneylanterns5

All three films will stand as a record of what happened in 2015, while recollecting 1815.

The Great Tyneside Fire, 1854 commemorates a mighty explosion almost half a century later. Fire tore through communities, homes and workplaces on both sides of the river. Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides were almost totally destroyed, 53 people died and many hundreds were injured.

The film was made by Mark Thorburn of Lonely Tower Film and Media with the help of historians, Anthea Lang, Freda Thompson and Graeme Turnbull. Anthea Lang will introduce the film and answer questions.

To book

The event will take place at The Corner House, Heaton Road, NE6 5RP on Wednesday 25 May 2016 at 7.30pm and is FREE to Heaton History Group members. Non-members pay £2. The doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154. Booking is open to Heaton History Group members only until Wednesday 9 March.

Heaton Mining Disaster Film – call for volunteers

A film is in production to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Heaton Mining Disaster of 3 May 1815. The film will feature some of the commemorations, such as the concert in St Teresa’s Church Hall on 2 May and the ecumenical service the following day – the anniversary itself. Within that contemporary framework or structure using dramatic re-enactments we also hope to give an impression of what happened in 1815.

There is a call from Heaton History Group member, Peter Dillon, for volunteers to take part in several scenes to be filmed in Heaton Park on Sunday 19 July from 9.00am – (approx) 10.30am. In the first instance males aged from 12 to 82 are needed to represent the 75 miners who died. These representatives will be filmed emerging from the trees in the park. Several 7 year olds from St Teresa’s Primary School will represent the boys who died. ‘Miners’ please meet at the children’s playground by 9.00am.

And secondly – from approximately 9.30am – men, women and children of all ages are welcome to represent contemporary Heaton and will be filmed walking together in the footsteps of the miners – indeed across the ground below which they died – down the grassy incline towards the adventure playground. The walk is intended both as a mark of respect for those from this place that came before and a celebration of the vital and vibrant community Heaton is today. The meeting place is again the children’s playground in Heaton Park. Please come dressed in your everyday clothes (or whatever is comfortable). The aim is for the shoot to be complete by about 10.30am.

Celebration of our Mining History cover

The plan is to complete the film by the 201st anniversary in 2016 and then show it in church halls and community centres.

Heaton Mining Disaster – 200 years on

3 May 2015 was the 200th anniversary of one of Newcastle’s worst ever disasters; an accident, caused by flooding, at Heaton Main Colliery, which killed 75 men and boys. Heaton is marking the bicentenary and also taking the opportunity to celebrate Heaton’s important place not only in coal mining but more widely in the industrial development which mining made possible. Did you know that, in the mid eighteenth century, the greatest concentration of steam power in the world was centred in Heaton and Jesmond Vale at Heaton Banks Colliery? The year-long commemorations have been made possible by two community projects:

Heaton Beneath Our feet

Heaton History Group’s Heritage Lottery Fund project through which there will be:

– several lectures by mining history expert, Les Turnbull, who lives in High Heaton;
– community research into mining in Heaton and the disaster itself;
– the distribution of a resource pack, including Les Turnbull’s book, ‘A Celebration of Our Mining Heritage’ to 75 schools and youth and community groups;
– a Heaton Beneath Our Feet heritage trail to be in place by spring 2016

Front cover of Les Turnbull's Heaton history

Cover of A Celebration of Our Mining Heritage

Under the Fields of Heaton

Four Corners Music Network’s project, funded by the Arts Council, Sir James Knott Foundation, Newcastle City Council through which there will be:

– artists in residence in schools in an around Heaton;
– a year long community arts festival;
– the distribution of Les Turnbull’s children’s book, ‘Exploring Beneath the Earth’, to primary school children in and around Heaton;
– snowdrop planting across Heaton.

Under the Fields of Heaton CD Cover

Under the Fields of Heaton CD Cover

What’s Coming Up

Friday 2nd October ‘A Bit Crack Story-tellers’ Night: Stories from Underground’ at Chillingham, 91 Chillingham Road NE6 5XN Tickets £8 / £5

Wednesday 10 February 2016 Lantern Procession through Jesmond Dene and Armstrong Park from the Spinney to King John’s Palace, Heaton Park. Refreshments at St Teresa’s FREE

Keep up to date with everything that’s going on throughout 2015-16 – and add your own event: www.underthefieldsofheaton.com

The Heaton Main Colliery Disaster 1815

This year is the 200th anniversary of Newcastle’s worst ever peacetime catastrophe, often known locally as ‘The Spinney disaster’. In the first of a series of events to take place in and around Heaton over the coming year, Les Turnbull will give the fascinating historical background, tell us what happened at Heaton Main Colliery on 3rd May 1815 and in the months that followed – and he might surprise you when he explains WHERE the events unfolded.

Celebration of our Mining History cover

Les, who is a member of Heaton History Group and an acknowledged expert on the history of mining, especially in the North East, was born near the Middle Pit in 1941, educated at Tosson Terrace Primary, Chillingham Road Secondary and Heaton Grammar and now lives near the ‘C’ Pit.

The talk will take place on 29 April 2015 at The Corner House, Heaton Road, NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm as we are expecting a full house). It’s essential to book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org /07443 594154. This event has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our ‘Heaton Beneath Our Feet’ project.

Celebration of our Mining Heritage

Les Turnbull’s book has been written to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the major disaster at Heaton Main Colliery in which 75 men and boys died. However, it covers much more than the terrible events of 1815. As the title indicates, it celebrates the importance of mining in the North East, Newcastle and Heaton, in particular, to the industrial revolution, mining safety, the development of railways and indeed to world history. It also looks at the lives of the colliers, engineers, mine owners and their families that contributed to Heaton’s mining heritage and the development of Heaton as a centre of population.

Celebration of our Mining History cover

The fully illustrated 92 page book contains many rarely seen maps and plans of Heaton. It was published by Chapman Research (ISBN 978-0-9561248-2-1) with the support of over 70 subscribers and is available, priced £15 (plus postage where required), from:

Heaton History Group – in person at our regular events

The Literary and Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil)

Newcastle City Library

Newsbox, 297 Chillingham Road, Heaton

The Back Page

North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (Mining Institute)

The book’s publication is the first of over a year of commemorative events, supported by the Arts Council and Newcastle City Council, to take place under the banner of the Shafts of Light Festival. Check out the programme so far – and arrange events of your own which can be added to it.

In addition, a programme of talks, community research and the development of a heritage trail called ‘Heaton Beneath Our Feet’ is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. If you are not already on our mailing list and are interested in finding out more, please contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Heaton’s Mining Heritage – and your chance to help commemorate it

2015 sees the two hundredth anniversary of Newcastle’s worst disaster of modern times. On 3 May 1815, floodwaters from a neighbouring, disused mine overwhelmed workers at Heaton Main Colliery resulting in the death of 75 men and boys. It was a tragic event, which will be appropriately commemorated. But it was just one incident in a largely forgotten, long mining history, one which encompassed much hardship, not infrequent injuries and deaths, controversy and conflict but also comparative affluence, great camaraderie and incredible resourcefulness.

Heaton was nationally and internationally important. Yet it’s fair to say that most people living in the area today, yet alone the wider world, are unaware of its rich heritage. It is hoped that by the end of next year that will have changed. A series of commemorations and celebrations are planned of which details will soon be publicised.

The year will begin with the publication of a comprehensive history of Heaton. ‘A Celebration of Our Mining Heritage’ has been written by leading authority on mining history and Heaton History Group member, Les Turnbull. We are inviting anyone who is interested in the history of Heaton to be permanently associated with its story and at the same time support the publication of the book by becoming a pre-publication subscriber.

The 100 page A4 full colour illustrated book will retail at £15. Subscribe before 10 December 2014 and for the same price, your name will appear in the book itself on a List of Subscribers and you will be invited to a special launch event at the Mining Institute on 22nd January 2015.

Front cover of Les Turnbull's Heaton history

To be part of this local initiative, send your name, address, telephone number / email address plus a cheque for £15 made payable to Heaton History Group to: The Secretary, Heaton History Group, 64 Redcar Road, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5UE. There will also be an opportunity to sign up in person at Heaton History Group’s talks on 22 October and 26 November 2014.

60 Heaton Road

This photograph was taken in front of 60 Heaton Road, the last shop north of the railway line as you walk towards Shields Road, the shop that is now Heaton General Store. We don’t yet know the identity of anyone in the photograph but it was taken in or after April 1923, when the Heaton Road branch of the already well-established Brough’s grocery chain opened.

Staff outside Brough's 60 Heaton Road post 1923

The photograph is published here by kind permission of Newcastle City Library.

Pioneer

The first Brough to enter the grocery business seeems to have been Edward Brough, who was born on 11 May 1846 in what is now Canada. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Brough, who both came from County Durham. Thomas was an engine wright in the mining industry who, in 1839, was recruited by the famous overseer John Buddle to work for the General Mining Association which, at that time, was beginning to explore the coal reserves in Sydney Mines, Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Mining and engineering expertise from the north east was in great demand at this time and Thomas was just one of the many mining engineers who travelled to far-flung parts of the world.

Letters are held by Durham Record Office which give details of Thomas’s contract (He was to have a house and a fire and ‘pit flannels’ on top of his salary) and also reveal the arrangements for the Brough family’s arduous journey to Canada. There was consternation that there would be no ships from Newcastle for several months and so it was decided that the family should travel by rail to Carlisle (Bear in mind that the railway had only opened the previous year so even this leg of the journey would have been quite an adventure), continue by steamer to Liverpool and then make the long journey across the Atlantic by ship to Nova Scotia.

It was noted by Buddle that Thomas and Mary had three young children aged 7, 5, 3 and 4 months who would also have to make the journey, one which many parents would approach with trepidation even now. A further letter confirmed their arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It appears that the family spent about 10 years in North America. This was in the days of British rule, before the formation of Canada or indeed the American Civil War. The 1851 UK census, however, shows them back in the north east, with two younger children, Mary Ann, 7, and Edward, 4, having been born at Sydney Mines.

Expanding business

At the age of 20, Edward entered the service of a provisions dealer, Edward R Hume and Co. By 1871, he was married to Newcastle girl, Mary Dent and in 1876 he set up a wholesale business, with a friend, John Richardson Frazer. The firm, Frazer and Brough, mainly imported eggs and butter from Denmark. Edward spoke Danish fluently. In 1888, Edward set up independently and introduced his 17 year old son Joseph to the wholesale business.

It was Joseph, however, who first made the move into retail. He left his father’s firm in 1894 and at the turn of the century, Edward sold his own wholesaling business to join his son’s rapidly expanding company. Joseph Brough’s business model was to lower the price of goods to customers by getting them to buying in bulk and enable him to cut out the middleman. Brough’s ‘didn’t deal in pennyworths but sold the customers whole hams, rolled shoulders of bacon and flour, sugar, rice, oatmeal, split peas, lentils in stones or half stones, jams in 7lb jars and so on, recalled Herbert Ellis, a former employee. The shops didn’t have inviting window displays and the interiors were functional rather than attractive places to shop but many of the branches were in colliery towns where the customers placed greater value on the lower prices.

The first Heaton shop opened in 1908, not on Heaton Road but round the corner in North View and was bought as a going concern from another Edward Brough, Edward Hudson Brough, a cousin of Joseph.

‘The building was a long wooden shed, standing alone on the railway embankment, with only the words ‘Groceries and Provisions at Wholesale Prices’ to indicate what went on inside’. (Herbert Ellis)

In c1917, by which time it had 500 employees in branches as far afield as South Yorkshire, Joseph sold the firm to Meadow Dairy Company, which, although it had originated in Newcastle, was by now a national chain. The Brough name was retained, however, and it contained to expand even trying its business model, spectacularly unsuccessfully, in London. A number of changes were introduced: there was less emphasis on buying in bulk and more on deliveries at a time and in quantities to suit the customer. The Meadow Dairy Company later became associated with the Home and Colonial Stores, which some readers may remember.

The 60 Heaton Road shop opened in 1923, under the management of a Mr McKinnon, with the wooden shop on North View closing the following year. Although it was in a better position, there were a number of problems as Herbert Ellis, later to become managing director, recalled:

‘As we couldn’t get possession of the upstairs rooms, we couldn’t hope to do much more trade. There was only the shop and a cellar… it meant keeping light stocks and frequent carting of supplies from Oxford Street, two miles away.’

The firm continued employing ‘travellers’ to call on households and take orders for delivery later. Heaton History Group Honorary President, Alan Morgan, still has a receipt kept by his mother in 1960. Amongst other things, she had bought half a pound of Danish butter (1s 6d), a quarter pound of Typhoo tea (1s 7d) and two pounds of caster sugar (1s 9d). In ‘new’ money that comes to about 24p!

In the 1950s, the company was a pioneer of the self-service model, with the New Bridge Street store apparently being the first in Newcastle. A Sandyford resident who worked there recalls ‘I started as a Saturday girl handing out the baskets.’ [For which she was paid 4s (20p) a Saturday]. ‘I think they had just opened. I started full time the day after I left school, that must have been in 1955. I was also their first floor walker after I saw a woman stealing’ (The woman was caught and the brand new assistant instantly promoted). She could also remember the amazement of new customers seeing this new way of shopping for the first time, many of whom just stopped and stared.

Edward lived a long life. He had wide business interests in addition to grocery. He was chairman of the General Bill Posting Co Ltd, Dunford Steamship Co Ltd and James Scott and Son (1926) Ltd and a trustee and board member of Newcastle Savings Bank. He was also a magistrate and a noted philanthropist, who was especially involved in the Poor Children’s Holiday Association. He died in 1933 well into his nineties.

Edward Brough

Edward Brough

Joseph died in 1958. He too was a philanthropist. He presented the Poor Children’s Holiday Association with a house in Whickham which became the Edith Brough Children’s Home and in 1940 he set aside £25,000 to provide for employees in the case of illness or hardship. The charitable trust still exists with an expanded remit.

Joseph Brough

Joseph Brough

The Heaton shop was still trading in 1973, after around 48 years.

Dynasty

But what preceded Brough’s? This part of Heaton Road was built in the late 1890s and number 60 seems to have been a shop from the very beginning. The trade directories of the time refer to it as ‘Crofton’s Stores – Grocery, Italian Warehousemen and Wine and Spirits Merchants’. The term ‘Italian Warehousemen’ isn’t one we use today but in the nineteenth century, it was a common term for a specialist grocery shop that stocked items such as: oils, pickles, fruits and pasta. We’d probably call it a ‘posh deli’!

Crofton’s was by this time a small chain. The first shop in Blackett Street was opened by Zechariah Crofton, a Morpeth man. Crofton died in 1866 but the business he created continued to expand. By 1898, it was owned by Robert Owen Blayney, the son of Arthur Blayney, a Welsh grocer who as early as 1841 had himself employed 9 men.

Robert died in 1921 by which time the business had passed to his son, Robert Geoffrey Blayney but before then 60 Heaton Road has been sold to another local chain the London and Newcastle Supply Stores, the head office of which was in Grainger Street and which had a number of branches in the north east. The first of a succession of managers, from 1900 – 1901, was Henry Richard Jones, later described as ‘swimming instructor and tea dealer’ who was born in Bellary, India and went on to own the grocer’s shop at 101 Addycombe Terrace.

Still a grocery

We’re not sure who owned the shop between 1973 and 2003 when Heaton Village Store, the latest business to operate from 60 Heaton Road, opened its doors. The business, while not yet quite as long-lasting as Brough’s, is already a very respectable eleven years old, a worthy successor to 60 Heaton Road’s long line of groceries going back some 115 years.

We’d love to hear any memories of Brough’s and find out what came between Brough’s closing around 1973 and Heaton Village Store opening some 30 years later. And can anyone remember 60 Heaton Road before it was self-service?

Caroline Stringer with additional research by Chris Jackson.

Resources consulted include: Dictionary of Business Biography, Brough’s Limited: the story of a business by H G Ellis, 1952 Ward’s and other trades directories, Newcastle Roll of Citizens (all held by Newcastle City Library).