Tag Archives: Tynemouth Road

Heaton United 1909-10: the players’ stories

When this rather battered photograph of Heaton United’s 1909-10 squad was taken Newcastle United were the League Champions (and had been in three of the previous five seasons) and were about to win the FA Cup for the first time in their history. You can understand why these Heaton young men would have chosen what appear to be black and white stripes for their own kit.

The photo was found by Jennie McGregor in the Norfolk antique shop where she works. It landed on the Heaton History Group doormat the day that the takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian government led consortium was announced and Newcastle fans began to dream of the sort of success the club had enjoyed over a century earlier under the captaincy of Heaton’s Colin Veitch, who would have been a familiar figure to many of the players as he walked about their neighbourhood. Perhaps he sometimes paused to watch Heaton United play. Is the team posing for the photographer in Heaton Park just a stone’s throw from Veitch’s Stratford Villas home ? The fence looks very like that which borders Jesmond Vale Lane now.

The fortunate discovery led us to wonder about the lives of the young men in the picture and how different they were to ours today, let alone to the highly paid global superstars the media were now linking with the Magpies. You could be forgiven for assuming that most of those photographed were Geordies born and bred, that they mainly worked with their hands and that many would have gone to war a few years later, some never to return.

Luckily someone has neatly written the players’ names on the bottom of the photograph, so we could have a go at testing out these theories. There’s some educated guesswork involved as we don’t know anything apart from surnames and initials but, based on the assumption that they would have lived in or around Heaton, this is who we think they might be.

Back row, left to right:

B. HOIT Hoit isn’t a common name in the north east and there’s only one person in the 1911 census who fits the bill: Albert (probably known to his football pals as Bert) James Julian, who in 1911 lived with his father, also called Albert, who worked as an electrical overseer for the admiralty, his mother, Jessie and three siblings at 22 Tenth Avenue. Young Albert was born on 17 July 1891 and so would have been 18 years old when the photo was taken. He was an apprentice electrical fitter at a firm of electrical engineers.

The family weren’t local. They all came from Portsmouth.  Bert was born on Portsea Island, very close to the historic dockyards. They hadn’t been in Newcastle long: even Bert’s youngest brother was Portsmouth-born. And we know that Bert returned to his home town eventually and, in 1938, married a local woman, Constance Day. He died in 1949, aged 58.

R STOBIE We reckon this has to be Henry Robert Stobie.  He was just a few months older than Bert, having been born in Newcastle on 24 April 1891. In 1911, he was living with his widowed mother Margaret and two younger brothers at 89 Seventh Avenue and working as a plumber. By 1924, he had married and was living with his wife at 26 Amble Grove, Sandyford. Eleven years later, at the start of the second world war, the couple were still at the same address and Henry was still a plumber.  When he died, aged 71, in 1963, they were living at 70 Guelder Road, High Heaton.

A HUXHAM Arthur Reeby Huxham was also 18 and, like Bert Hoit, a southerner with a father who worked for the admiralty. He was born in Stonehouse, Devon and had moved to Newcastle with his parents, Samuel and Selina, older brother, Henry, and younger sister, Mabel. His father was described as an ‘admiralty overseer (blacksmith)’.  In 1911, the family was living at 28 Cheltenham Terrace. Arthur was an insurance agent. During the war, he bowled for Heaton Victoria but he died in 1926, aged only 34 years old.

A TURNER Unlike Bert Hoit and Arthur Huxham, Arthur William Turner was born in Newcastle but he wasn’t destined to stay here. Like the other Heaton United players mentioned so far, he was eighteen years old when the photo was taken, having been born on 10 March 1891. His father was from Yorkshire and his mother from Gateshead. In 1911, Arthur was an engineer’s apprentice and living with his parents, at 39 Cardigan Terrace.

Arthur married Cicie, an Essex girl, and in 1926 they had a young child, Audrey, who, was born in Tongshan, Hebei, China, where documents show that the family had been living. This may seem surprising but Cicie’s father, Henry Franklin, was a railway worker who, in 1899, had travelled to China, where he worked as a brake inspector and later, consultant, for the Imperial Railway of North China.  British managers and workers played a major role in the building of this railway, although they endured some turbulent times including the Boxer Rebellion, just as Henry joined, and the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

Cicie herself was born in England in 1901 but soon travelled with her mother to join her father in Tongshan. Both her younger brother, Philip, in 1903 and sister, Winifred, in 1908, were born in China. We can assume, therefore, that Arthur was helped find a job on the railway by his father in law. He certainly described himself at this time as a ‘railway engineer’. We don’t know precisely how long Arthur and Cicie spent in China but in 1927 they travelled to Canada, first of all as tourists, and then later that same year with the stated intention of emigrating. 

Sometime before 1939, however, the family had returned to England. Arthur became the proprietor of a filling station in Clacton on Sea. They were still in Clacton when Cicie died, aged 47, in 1948. Arthur outlived her but we haven’t yet found out any more about his later years.

T RODGER Thomas Rodger came from good footballing pedigree.

His father was one of many Scots who came south to play for East End United and Newcastle United. Thomas Rodger senior, a left back, made his debut against Liverpool on 25 November 1893 and played 24 games for the Magpies before concentrating on his career working as a print compositor for the ‘Journal’, where he was to stay for over 40 years.

Thomas’s mother, Martha, was born in Kamptee, India while her father was serving in the army. By 1911,  the veteran was living with his daughter’s family at 20 Edwin Street, Heaton.

Young Thomas was born in Perth, his father’s home town. He was the eldest of ten children, eight of whom were still alive in 1911. He was employed as an accountant’s clerk and would have been 17 when the team photo was taken. He married Olive M Hart in 1919. At this time, he was living at 71 Malcolm Street.

Thomas went on to have a successful career as an accountant, eventually running his own firm on Ellison Place. By 1939, he, Olive and son, Glen, were living in Monkseaton, where Thomas died in 1958, aged c 66. Glen followed his father into accountancy and the practice he established is still going strong, based at Cragside House on Heaton Road. 

P WHITE

This could be Peter White, eldest son of George, a joiner, and his wife, Margaret, who in 1911, was living with parents and his younger siblings, Jane and Joseph, at 83 Seventh Avenue and employed as a shipyard clerk.  The family had moved from North Northumberland sometime between about 1897 and 1901. Peter was born in Amble in c1894 and so would have been about 16 in the photograph.  But we haven’t been able to find out any more about him.

Middle row, left to right:

D SMART

There was a 16 year old Donald Smart living at 27 Coquet Terrace  in 1911,  with his mother, Amy Lavinia and his step-father, James Gray, a furniture salesman from Killochan, Ayrshire and two older sisters, Norah and Carmen. Donald was, at this time, an apprentice wholesale draper.

Donald and both of the sisters still at home had been born in ‘San Domingo in the West Indies’, which we now know as the Dominican Republic. Amy, his mother, who was born in Birmingham, had married John Smart in Derby in 1886. On their marriage certificate, John described himself simply as a ‘traveller’. We don’t know what took the couple to the Caribbean but it may have been the sugar industry.

By 1901, John had died and Amy and her five children had returned to England, to Moseley in Worcestershire. Amy was described as ‘living on her own means’. A major source of income appears to have been her lodgers. On census night, there were three boarders, one of whom was James Gray, soon to become her second husband.

In World War One, Donald served firstly a private then a sergeant with the Royal Fusiliers, which was known as the City of London or Stockbrokers’ regiment, as it recruited mainly from city workers. We don’t know whether Donald had moved to London, only that he died of wounds on 11 March 1917, aged 22, in Southampton War Hospital. He left his worldly goods amounting to £14 to be divided equally between his mother, two sisters and his brother, Herbert.

A GAULD

This name is difficult to make out but we think it must be that of Alexander Gauld. Alex was born in Gateshead on 6 March 1892 so would have been 17 years old when the photograph was taken.

By 1901, he was living at 12 Balmoral Terrace his mother, Elizabeth, and father, also called Alexander, who was a travelling salesman for a firm of stationers and a talented amateur artist, his older brother, John, and his aunt.

By 1911, with the family still at the same address,  Alexander Junior was employed as a clerk. His older brother, John Richardson Gauld, was now studying at the Royal College of Art in London and he went on to attend the London County School of Lithography. He went on to teach, served as President of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited widely. One of his watercolour landscapes is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and there are portraits by him in the Laing, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery and elsewhere.

Unlike his brother, Alexander stayed at home. In 1939, he was still living with his now widowed mother in the same house on Balmoral Terrace. His occupation was now given as a ‘Solicitor’s Managing Clerk.’

When he died in 1966, aged 73, he was, somewhat confusingly, living at 7 Balmoral Avenue in South Gosforth. 

R TROTTER 

This seems to be Richard Trotter, who in 1911, was living with his widowed mother, Jane, and two younger sisters at 12 Addycombe Terrace. He was working as an engineer’s apprentice at ‘Parsons Turbine.’

Richard was born in Bedlington on 11 April 1891. His father, James, a Scot, was a ‘Physician and Surgeon’ who came from  a long line of doctors.  ‘Burke’s Family Records’ traces the medical lineage back to Dr Robert Trotter of Edinburgh, who was one of the founders of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and its second president in 1689. Another notable ancestor was Robert Trotter (1736-1818), an associate of Robert Burns who, like the poet, planned to emigrate to the West Indies but ‘missed his ship’. Robert’s successful treatment of his patients in Galloway made him famous far beyond the area and he treated patients from all over Scotland.

James and Jane had 14 children, 12 of whom survived beyond infancy.  The two oldest boys trained as doctors, as family tradition suggested they would, but Richard was only 8 years old when his father died. The bereaved family returned to Scotland for a while before Jane and the three youngest children came to Heaton, where Richard completed an apprenticeship at Parsons. 

In 1912, however, Richard was on board SS Waipara when it set sail from London to Brisbane, one of many British people who went to Australia under government assisted immigration schemes. He found work in the Australian government’s railway workshops. On 17 April 1913, aged 22, he married an Australian, Lucinda Sinclair, in Queensland. War broke out the following year.

By the time Richard  joined the Australian armed forces, the couple had two children. The British had asked the Australians to aid the war effort by recruiting battalions of railwaymen to move men and supplies on the Western Front. Now working for Westinghouse as a brake fitter, Richard joined the 4th Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company on 10 February 1917.

From his war records, we know a little more about what Richard looked like. He was 5 foot 10 inches tall, weighed 10 stone 2 lb, had grey eyes and brown hair. He described himself as Presbyterian. He travelled back to England for training and then onto France.

Richard survived the war and returned to Australia to resume his life with Lucy and their children. Lucy died in 1943 and Richard in 1973, aged 82.

W SIMM William Simm would have been 15 when the photo was taken. A year later, he was living with his father, also called William, a manager in a leather and rubber factory, and his mother, Eliza, at 35 Simonside Terrace. William junior was a clerk in a tannery.

By 1939, William was living in Whitley Bay with his mother and brother. His occupation was recorded as a commercial traveller. It was noted that he was incapacitated. He died in Newcastle in 1966.

J TAYLOR There are a couple of possibilities for the identity of this player but the most likely seems to be James Lloyd Taylor, born 30 September 1893,  who, in 1911, was living at 54 Second Avenue with his Birtley-born mother, Ann, and his father, a railway passenger guard. Seventeen year old James was a railway booking clerk.

James stayed on Tyneside. In 1939, he was living in Jesmond with his wife, Frances, and still working as a railway clerk. 

He died in 1968 in Seaton Sluice.

N SKELDON In 1911, Norman (full name, John Norman), an apprentice pattern maker, was living with his father, John, a clerk from Berwickshire, his mother, Emily, and three younger siblings at 27 Ebor Street. Norman had been born in Tyne Dock on 5 October 1891 so he was about 19 years old in the photograph. 

He married Elizabeth in 1914. In 1939, he was still working as a pattern maker and living with Elizabeth and 22 year old daughter, Betty, in Warwick.

He died in 1947, aged 55.

Front row, left to right:

C BILLETOP This name was difficult to make out at first but we eventually realised  that the player on the left of the front row was Torben Christian Billetop who, in 1911, was living at 40 Lesbury Road with his mother, Helen Bell Dixon, a Glaswegian, his father, also called Torben Christian, a younger sister, Gladys and a servant, Annie Sanderson. There was also an older brother, Adolph, who was no longer living at home. Ten years earlier, the family had been at 3 Guildford Place.

Torben Christian Billetop senior, a Dane, had come to Newcastle via Robert Napier, a shipbuilding firm in Glasgow, and Vickers of Barrow to work for Henry Watson and Sons, an old established Newcastle company, which during the 19th century made hydraulic cranes and machines designed by William Armstrong. Billetop joined the company in 1896 and became managing director. During his thirty years there, he patented many improved designs for machinery. By this time, the company was based at Walkergate.

Torben Christian junior (known as Christian) was born in Glasgow on 1 July 1892 and so would have been 17 years old when the team photo was taken. In 1910, he passed exams at Rutherford College in machine construction, drawing and applied mechanics.  In 1911, he was an apprentice engineer and, in 1914, he graduated with a B Sc in Engineering from Durham University. 

When the world war one broke out, we know that there was a great deal of suspicion of foreigners so it is no surprise to discover that in 1916, Torben senior took steps to become a British citizen.

In 1918, Christian married Mary Dixon and the couple lived at 15 Norwood Avenue, where their eldest son, also Torben Christian, was born. They relocated to Leicestershire, where Mary came from and in 1939, the family home was in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, where Christian was described as an engineering works director. He died on 18 May 1980, aged 87.

G JOHNSTON George Collin Johnston, who appears to be the Heaton United goalkeeper,  was born on 6 January 1892. In 1911, he was working as a ship chandler’s apprentice and living with his Scottish parents, Robert and Janet, six siblings and a lodger at 125 Tynemouth Road. On census night, the house was even fuller, as they had a visitor, Harold Battle, a marine engineer, staying with them.

By 1939, George was a dealer manager of a ships’ stores and living at 27 Swaledale Gardens, High Heaton with his wife, Alice, whom he had married in 1928. He died on 10 November 1968, aged 76. 

J BUCK Finally, John Robert Buck, born on 21 February 1893 and so 16 or 17 when the team photo was taken. In 1911, he was living with his mother, five of his siblings, his maternal grandmother, a brother in law and a nephew and a niece,11 people in total, at 19 Spencer Street, where the family had lived for at least 10 years. His father a railwayman from Thranderston in Suffolk, was absent on census night. He was serving a seven year prison sentence at Portland in Dorset. John was working as a butcher’s assistant at this time.

By 1914, John married Sarah Kennon in Willington Quay. Their daughter, Elsie, was born a year later. 

John is one of only three of the footballers for whom we have found war records. On enlistment, he described himself as a ‘horseman’. He served with the Army Cyclist Corps in Egypt and was wounded in action on 19 April 1917. In April 1918, Sarah wrote to his regiment to find out the whereabouts of her husband, from whom she had heard no news since February when he was ill with fever at a convalescent camp in Alexandria. By this time, he had also been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness or ‘monomania’. John’s employers, the Cooperative Society of 10 Newgate Street, had also written to the army. They applied for his discharge so that he ‘could resume his duties’ after being informed by the army that his condition would necessitate his doing outdoor work.

Immediately after the war ended, John  was discharged as ‘no longer fit for active service’. In 1939, he was driving a light lorry and his nineteen year old son, Walter, had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working as a butcher’s assistant, possibly also at the Co-op.

John died in October 1979, aged 86.

What next?

So, although some of our footballers were born in Newcastle and at least one, Robert Stobie, stayed here all his life, many of our footballers experienced places far beyond Heaton, whether that was because they were born in the Caribbean like Donald Smart, worked and brought their families up in China or Australia like Richard Trotter or Arthur Turner or served their country in Egypt like John Buck. Others, like Christian Billetop and Thomas Rodger had parents who were born overseas, Denmark and India respectively.

Their jobs were equally varied: there were engineers, shipyard workers and railway clerks, as you might expect, but also an insurance agent, an accountant, a solicitor’s clerk, a tanner and a butcher’s assistant.

Many moved away from Newcastle permanently to other parts of England like Portsmouth, Essex, Warwickshire and Leicestershire as well as further afield.

We don’t know how many of them served in World War One as many records have been destroyed but at least one, Donald Smart, died on active service and another, John Buck, was incapacitated as a result of the war. Arthur Huxham lived only to the age of 34. But others, like Christian Billetop, lived well into their eighties. 

Colin Veitch is holding the 1910 FA Cup in the centre of this newspaper page.

Heaton United was probably short lived – we haven’t yet found a reference to it in the local press – but I wonder how many of the young men continued to play and watch football. Were some at Goodison Park to see Colin Veitch lift the cup at the end of that season or in the huge crowd that welcomed the team home? And what would the Heaton United players have to say about Newcastle United winning only one more league title since they posed for their own 1909/10 team photo, let alone the way the club is financed today?

Can You Help?

If you know more about Heaton United or any of the players in the photo or have photographs of your own to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements 

Researched and written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group. Thank you very much to Jennie McGregor, for taking the trouble to send us the photograph.

Sources

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archive

‘Newcastle United: the ultimate who’s who 1881-2014’ / by Paul Joannou; N Publishing, 2014

Newcastle United’s Colin Veitch: the man who was superman‘ / by Keith Colvin Smith; AFV Modeller, 2020

Forgotten Music Makers of Heaton

If you were asked about Heaton’s most important exports, you might well mention great feats of engineering, such as Sir Charles Parsons’ ground-breaking steam turbines, or Grubb Parsons’ telescopes, both of which are still to be found throughout the world. Or perhaps you’d suggest music, with local boy Chas Chandler, inducted into Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame with ‘The Animals’ in 1994 – the band’s 60s’ songs still played and performed all over the world half a century after they were written. We rightly commemorate such achievements with plaques, books and museum displays.

But hands up if you’ve ever stopped on Grafton Street and given even a passing thought to the local men who married both of the great Heaton industries of engineering and music?  In truth, you might never have had cause to go to Grafton Street at all: since redevelopment of the area, it’s perhaps the shortest street in Heaton (or is it Byker?) comprising little more than four parking bays (usually full) facing Shields Road and a single yellow line. There’s a pawnbroker’s shop on one corner and a council customer service centre on the other.

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Grafton Street

But there’s also a nearby bench on which you can sit and listen. There may still be music in the air.

So let’s rewind.

Apprentice

Charles William Howden was born in All Saints parish, of which Heaton was a part, in 1865 and baptised in St Nicholas’s Cathedral on 28 May of that year. He was the eldest child of Ryton born, Margaret Isabella, and John Howden, a shipping clerk from Wakefield in Yorkshire.

By 1881 at the age of 16 and still living with his parents and now four younger siblings in the west end of Newcastle, Charles was described as an ‘organ builder’s apprentice’. Ten years later, still living in the parental home, he is described on the census as an ’employer’ and ‘organ builder’.

We don’t yet know to whom young Charles Howden was apprenticed but we can trace the development of the organ building firm that bears his name from its foundation c1893  via Forth Street  and Snowdon Street in Newcastle to 65 Grafton Street, Heaton. Howden had joined forces with one William Charlton Blackett, the Bensham-born son of a coal agent, to set up the firm of Blackett and Howden Ltd.

Inventors

Like other more famous engineers operating around Heaton at this time, Blackett and Howden weren’t content to copy what had gone before. They wanted their organs to be better than everyone else’s. We can trace several patent applications: for ‘pallets‘ (1891). ‘pneumatic action’ (1895) and ‘blowing‘ (1904).

According to organ historian, James Ingall Wedgewood, they may have invented what is known as a ‘diaphone‘, the noise-making device best known for its use as a foghorn. While the invention of the diaphone is commonly attributed to Robert Hope-Jones,  it was apparently Blackett and Howden who first experimented with it as early as 1888:

‘It frequently happens in organ building, when the requisite conditions are fortuitously complied with, that a pallet will commence to vibrate rapidly, and it is often within the province of an organist’s or organ builder’s observation that such a “fluttering pallet,” or a Tremulant in a state of rapid vibration, when provided with a resonator in the form of a soundboard or wind trunk, generates tones of considerable power. The safety valves of steamboats constantly act similarly. … The idea must doubtless have occurred to many builders … that such phenomena might systematically be adapted to tonal use.

An experimental attempt at such adaptation was made in 1888 by Messrs. Blackett & Howden, of Newcastle [England]. The bulk of the apparatus employed was enclosed in a box (15 ins. square for the 16 ft. note). Wind passed into a chamber containing a vibrator in the form of a circular disc fixed on to the loose end of a spring, and so arranged as to beat against a hole in the under side of the resonator, being regulated in pitch and intensity by a sliding bridge and set-screw.’

Whether because they were louder or simply because they were of superb quality, Blackett and Howden organs were sold not only across the north east but soon throughout the UK and even overseas.

Some of the earliest church organs for which records exist are in Scotland; the one in the Braid Church in Edinburgh was built in 1898 and there were other early instruments in Glasgow, West Kilbride and Montrose. At one point the firm did so much business in Scotland that it ran a second workshop in Glasgow. Another one followed in Cardiff.

Close to home

According to the British Pipe Organ Register, locally, the firm built the organ for St Gabriel’s (date unknown), Heaton Methodist Church (1910) and Heaton Congregational Church (1920).

The transport costs to Heaton Congregational Church must have been among the lowest for any Blackett and Howden organ: the church (now Heaton Bingo) was only a few hundred yards from the factory. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to this organ: it doesn’t appear on the current National Pipe Organ Register.

HeatonRoadCongregationalChurchresized

Heaton Congregational Church’s Blackett and Howden organ was installed in 1920

 

There is some confusion regarding the St Gabriel’s organ. According to the British Pipe Organ Register, organ N04082 was surveyed in St Gabriel’s in 1944 and described as ‘built by Blackett and Howden (date unknown)’. According to the opening sentence of a report written in 1994 by Paul Ritchie: ‘The builders of St Gabriel’s organ would appear to be modest as there is no name plate on the console, nor do the bellow weights carry their initial letters’. Ritchie goes on to say: ‘Somewhere in the back of my memory is a little voice saying Abbott and Smith’. And indeed there is another entry in the register for St Gabriel’s: organ N12464 ‘built by Abbott and Smith in 1905; surveyed in 1980′. Another unsigned and undated report states that Blackett and Howden installed an exhaust-pneumatic action around 1920 and that, at the same time, tuba and pedal trombone were added ‘and the Great Organ gained a large Open Diapason with leathered upper lips. This latter stop was placed on a separate unit chest and was reported to be rather poor; it was removed by Willis in 1963′.

But there are no such doubts about the instrument in Heaton Methodist Church. It was inaugurated on Wednesday 4 May 1910: ‘there were recitals from 2.30pm, followed by a public tea. Special services took place on the next three Sundays and a concert took place on Monday 23rd May.’ And it’s is still going strong.

BlackettandHowdenHeatonMethChurchIMGP1538a

Heaton Methodist Church organ

A celebratory concert was held in 2010 to celebrate the centenary of its installation and the programme included a short history of both the organ and of Blackett and Howden itself.

Organ Centenary Concert - Programme

Heaton Methodist Church organ centenary programme

 

Military march

But perhaps the most famous Blackett and Howden organ still played today is in the Royal Memorial Chapel of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which was built in 1924. The instrument is described in the history of the organ as ‘for its time, fairly cutting edge technology’ with ‘pioneering use of tubular pneumatic action’. After the war, the architect Sir Hugh Casson designed a new organ case for the instrument above the chapel’s main war memorial. At this point the organ was rebuilt and enlarged but using a lot of the original pipework.

 Rescue

Sadly many Blackett and Howden organs have been destroyed over the years but that originally built for the Prince’s Theatre in North Shields was fortuitously rescued by an Australian enthusiast. Apparently this was the only unit theatre organ ever built by the firm (in 1929) and its console was displayed at the North East Trade Fair Exhibition.

Records show that the flue pipes were ‘voiced’ by Syd Goldsmith and the reeds and strings by Frank ‘Hubbert‘ (although we believe this to be Frank Hubbard who in 1911 was living on Tosson Terrace, Heaton). The skill of manipulating an organ pipe to make it sound is known as voicing: ‘Each pipe must be made to play with the proper onset of sound (known as speech), sustained tone, and volume. When the voicing process is complete, each individual pipe in the organ forms a beautiful musical instrument.’

According to locals, the Prince’s Theatre organ had ‘a beautiful tone with sweet voicing and ample power for the large house.’ Although its console was destroyed in 1969, its chamber contents were bought for £75 by the Organ Society of Australia.  They even obtained the original receipt!

BlackettandHowdenReceiptPrince'sTheatre

Blackett and Howden document

In 1975, it was installed in Cinema North in Reservoir, Victoria. In 1999, it was moved to Coburg Town Hall, also in Victoria. You can read the full story of  this wonderful instrument here:

Eastward ho

We have found a record showing that, on 16 January 1917, William Blackett sailed from London to Hong Kong on the Japanese ship, SS Fushimi Maru. It was a dangerous time to be at sea: over 200 allied ships were lost during January 1917 alone. But it shows that Blackett and Howden’s reputation was worldwide. As you can see below, most of Blackett’s fellow British passengers were missionaries or nurses.

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Fushima Maru passenger list including William Blackett

The organ of St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong was built by William Blackett ‘an elderly, bearded gentleman’ who ‘had come to the colony to install one of their organs in a church in the colony. Finding the climate congenial, he decided to stay and set up a small organ factory in the city. He recruited a group of Chinese and taught them the trade’.

Full renewal of the existing organ was priced at $14,000 but fundraising was suspended because of what was called ‘troublous times’ in 1925: a strike and anti-British boycott ignited by a deadly shooting during a strike in Shanghai, fuelled to fever pitch by British and French guards killing demonstrators in Canton. Nevetheless the organ was complete by 1927 and services, in which the organ could be heard, broadcast on the radio the same year.

Sale

Meanwhile back home, Blackett and Howden was sold to the London firm of Hill, Norman and Beard in 1924. At this time, John Christie of Glyndebourne became the major shareholder and Charles Howden became general manager with Ralph Walton Blackett, William’s son, sub-manager.

But on 25 September 1927, with William Blackett still in Hong Kong, Charles Howden died at the age of 62 at his home, 35 Rothbury Terrace. He left £1873 3s 3d in his will, a modest sum considering the success of the company he had co-founded more than thirty years earlier.

Blackett and Howden’s name continued to be used, however. It traded from its Grafton Street premises for another half century. The Heaton factory finally closed in 1974, when the remaining part of the business was purchased by N Church & Co.

Team effort

William Blackett and Charles Howden did not, of course, build their organs alone.

Hopefully this article will enable us to trace people employed in the factory in later years. In the meantime, it seems appropriate to pay tribute here to some of the workers listed in the 1911 census whose reputation and, in some cases, expertly crafted musical instruments live on more than a hundred years after they were made.

One of these was Terrot G Myles who, in 1911, was 30 years old. He lived at 149 Molyneux Street.

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Terrot G Myles

Terrot is described in the census as an ‘organ builder‘. Thanks to his granddaughter, Grace, we have  photographs of him and know quite a lot about his life. Terrot was born in Glasgow but moved to Edinburgh as a young boy. After leaving school, he was apprenticed to Ingram & Co, a firm of organ builders, in their Edinburgh factory and progressed to become a journeyman. The firm described him as ‘smart, willing and punctual’ and recommended him to future employers. In 1908, Scovell and Company called him ‘a most conscientious and painstaking worker, perfectly steady and reliable and a good all round man’. His reference made it clear that he was leaving the company only due to ‘depression of trade’ and they expressed a hope that he would return at some future date.

By this time though Terrot had already married Isabella Younger, a bookbinder from Sunderland. Their elder son, Richard, was born in Hampshire in 1908 but by 1911, they were in Newcastle, where, a year later, their younger son, John was born. We can only guess that while in Heaton and working as an organ builder, Terrot was employed by Blackett and Howden but it seems a fair assumption to make.

However, in 1923, the family set sail from Liverpool to New York in search of a better life. Terrot spent the next eight years working for Henry Pilcher’s Sons, an organ builder, in Louisville, Kentucky. He became a naturalised American the following year and spent his career building and installing organs all over the USA. He received and treasured many glowing references, which Grace still has. Terrot and Isabella eventually moved to White Lake, Michigan, where Isabella died in 1954 and Terrot a year later, aged 73 years.

Others listed in the 1911 census include:

William Blackett, aged 52, 13 Brough Street, Heaton Joiner in Organ Factory (We don’t know whether he was related in any way to the firm’s co-founder, William Blackett, who lived in Whitley Bay at this time)

Charles Brassington, aged 31, 26 Heaton Park Road, organ builder

John Wastle Craig, aged 14, 15 Tynemouth Rd, organ builder assistance

William Gill, aged 54, 13 Addison Street, organ builder, voicer, tuner

Thomas Miller Hendry, aged 23, 39 Langhorn St, organ builder

Frank Hubbard, 83 Tosson Terrace, organ voicer (*Almost certainly the Frank ‘Hubbert’ who voiced the North Shields organ. See above.)

James William Jobson, aged 50, 10 North View, organ builder

John Jobson, aged 16, 10 North View, apprentice organ builder

John George Millington, aged 34, 188 Warton Terrace, organ builder (Later lived in King John Terrace until his death in 1962)

John Matthew Mitchell, aged 63, 72 Addycombe Terrace, organ builder

John Henry Reed, aged 22, 80 Eighth Avenue, organ builder

Ernest Routledge, aged 22, 57 Malcolm Street,  organ pipe maker (Ernest died in 1918 aged 29 as did his 2 year old son, Roland)

Whenever you listen to organ music this Christmas, spare a thought for these Heaton master-craftsmen and the lasting joy they have brought to the world.

Can you help?

If you know more about any of the people or organs mentioned in this article or of anyone who worked at Blackett and Howden’s, we’d love to hear from you. We’d also be interested to hear and see photographs of any other Blackett and Howden organs you see on your travels. Please either leave a reply on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email   chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Chris Jackson, Heaton History Group. Thank you to HHG member, Joyce Lovell, and to George Cottrell for information about Heaton Methodist Church organ; to Pauline Giles for information about St Gabriel’s organ;  to Grace Myles for photos and information on Terrot Myles.

Sources

Biographical Dictionary of the Organ

Laurence Elvin ‘Family Enterprise: the story of some north country organ builders‘ 1986

Norman F Moore and W Kirby Robinson ‘From Byker to Heaton: the origins and history of Heaton Methodist Church’ Pattinson, 2000

 National Pipe Organ Register list of Blackett and Howden organs 

James Ingall Wedgwood ‘A Comprehensive Dictionary of Organ Stops English and Foreign, Ancient and Modern’ The Vincent Music company, 1905 (via Wikipedia entry for Diaphone)

Stuart Wolfendale ‘Imperial to International: a history of St John’s Cathedral Hong Kong’ Hong Kong University Press, 2013

and online sources eg Ancestry

Heaton Olivers

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

 

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North View School Choir, 1948

 

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

Three Andrews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Longevity

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

 

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Chillingham Road School, c 1908

 

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

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

 

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Denmark Street, 1945

 

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

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

Lord Mayor

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

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

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

 

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Cartington Terrace

 

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

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

 

olivergilbertdeputymayor1935

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

 

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

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

Canadian correspondents

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

Acknowledgements

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

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

Can you help?

If you know more about anyone or anything mentioned in this article or can identify anyone in the photographs, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

 

Bowlers in bowlers?

This fantastic photograph, showing a group of men in front of the pavilion in Heaton Park, was taken by Edward G Brewis or at least his firm.

Edward lived from about 1895 to 1900 in ‘the photographer’s house’, the double-fronted house just a few doors up from the park, 190 Heaton Park Road. He ran his own photography studio in New Bridge Street, as well as from his Heaton home and he took the last ever photograph of Heaton Park Road champion cyclist, George W Waller.

By 1900, Edward Brewis had moved to Broomley near Bywell but he later returned to Jesmond Park East, High Heaton for a while. He died aged only 44 in 1908. (You can read more about him and the house by clicking on the link in the first line of this paragraph.)

Bowlers

Early 20th Century Heaton Park bowlers?

 

We are hoping that someone will be able to tell us more about the photograph. Who were the men? They are posing with bowls on the bowling green so that could be a clue? Is the man standing at the back and the one sitting on the grass to the left of the bowls a park keeper? They both have badges on their distinctive caps and one has what might be a money bag over his shoulder.

When might it have been taken? Do the array of bowlers, boaters, flat caps, even a top hat (held by the bare-headed man second from the right in the second row from the back) and what looks like a tam o’shanter (three to the left of the man with the top hat) enable anyone to date it with a degree of confidence? Perhaps the collars and neck ties can help us pin it down.

Or does the pavilion itself hold the answer? How long was the large fountain in place? And does the photo pre-date a later clock? When was this part of the park a bowling green? We know it was a croquet lawn at one point. We are sure that readers of this article will have at least some of the answers.

John Whyte

Ian Sanderson recently wrote from Sussex, telling us that he believes the man in the boater on the left of the above photograph to be his grandfather, John Arthur Whyte.

John, born in 1885, lived in Byker and Heaton all his life and in 1911 was presented with two medals by his bowling club, Heaton Victoria. John spent a long career with Newcastle Corporation, rising to the position of town clerk. He continued to bowl in Heaton Park and for the Portland Club into the 1950s. He also represented Northumberland.

Below is a detail from the above photograph and also photos, supplied by Ian, which show his grandfather in 1916 and the medals he won. Ian believes that the above photograph may show members of the Heaton Victoria Club in around 1911.

 

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Detail of photograph of bowlers in Heaton Park

 

 

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John Arthur Whyte, 1916

 

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

 

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Heaton Victoria Bowling Club medal

 

Thank you

Thank you very much to Ian and to Gary Walsh of Whickham, who kindly sent us a copy of the photograph.

Can you help?

If you can give us any leads or have any other information or photos of bowling in Heaton that you’re happy to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please either leave a message on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org We’d love to hear from you!

S in Ringtons, Tea in Heaton

The imposing white brick Ringtons building on Algernon Road bears the date ‘1924’, indicating that the famous tea company has Heaton connections going back at least 90 years.

Simon Smith, son of Sam, and staff outside Algernon Road HQ, 1932

Ringtons staff outside the company’s Algernon Road HQ, 1932

In fact the story starts much earlier than that.

Samuel Smith was born on 22 June 1872 in Leeds and christened on 22 December of that year along with his older brother, George. His parents were both local. William, his father, earned his living as a fettler, someone who cleaned the machinery in a woollen mill.

According to Sam’s great granddaughter, Fiona Harrison, young Sam started work, aged eight, as a ‘butcher’s boy’ on Friday nights and Saturdays. Aged ten, he joined the staff of one of the country’s biggest tea-dealers, as a ‘half-timer’. He gradually worked his way up and was sent to various of the firm’s offices across Yorkshire to learn all aspects of the business.

By the time he married Ada Emmerson, daughter of a Leeds milk dealer, at the age of 25, he was a travelling salesman for the company and was based in Sheffield. The couple’s two oldest children, John and Douglas, were born in Sheffield but the next two, Elizabeth and Vera, started life in Bradford and by time the youngest, Samuel and Harriet, came along, the family were back in Leeds but preparing for a new life in Newcastle.

We are extremely lucky in that, not only did Sam keep letters, diaries, notes, photographs and mementos, but that his family have treasured them and Fiona has painstakingly combed through the family archive to help us piece together the story of the birth of Ringtons and its relevance to our ‘Heaton’s Avenues in Wartime’ Heritage Lottery Fund project.

The records show that Sam had become increasingly disillusioned with the firm he worked for in Leeds. He felt its staff weren’t treated well and he believed that he could both run a successful company and live true to his values. His friend and colleague, Irishman William ‘Will’ Titterington, was of the same mind and they decided to set up in business together under the name of ‘Ringtons’, which combined the last part of Will’s surname with the first letter of Sam’s.

Sam Smith, founder of Ringtons

Sam Smith, founder of Ringtons

Tea to Newcastle

As was common at the time, there was a clause in their contracts stipulating that if they left their current employer, they couldn’t set up within 50 miles of its Leeds headquarters. The two men weighed up their options and were initially tempted by Scarborough, but in the end they couldn’t ignore the excellent opportunities offered by industrial Tyneside, where, although there were already a number of tea dealers including Brooke Bond and Pumphrey’s, none of them delivered door to door, which Sam and Will planned to make their unique selling point, one which has stood the company in good stead right up to the present day.

Fiona has found a letter from William Titterington to Sam Smith, dated 17 July 1907, and written from 2 Fourth Avenue, Heaton, where William is lodging in what is clearly a tiny room that the two men planned to share:

‘I have arrived at the combined room… This bed will only hold me, and I am afraid by the look of it, my feet will be hanging over the foot of it.’

On the other hand:

‘I am on the spot to assist at the shop and see that the workmen are getting on with the cleaning. This house is at the other end of the same terrace as the shop.’

Extract from letter from Will Titterington Fourth Avenue, Heaton to Sam Smith 1917

Extract from letter from Will Titterington, Fourth Avenue, Heaton to Sam Smith 1917

So it was in Heaton’s Avenues in 1907 that Ringtons was born. By 1908, the partners had two vans and four assistants and they were blending twice as much tea as a year earlier.

The first mention of the firm in the trade directories is in 1909-10 (which was probably surveyed in 1907-8). Ringtons was based at number 23 Third Avenue with Sam Smith, manager, living at 25. By 1911, the Smiths had moved to 129 Warton Terrace. Will Titterington and his wife Mary were living at 109 Tynemouth Road with their sons, William jnr and Francis, aged six and four.

By 1910 Sam Smith had bought Will Titterington’s share of the company and the firm itself had moved to more spacious premises on an abandoned rifle range at 392 Shields Road (where the Byker retail park is now).

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Ringtons, Shields Rd c1912

Ringtons, Shields Rd c1912 with extension to the 1910 building in the first picture

Here, their neighbours included a coach builder, cart proprietor, horse keeper and horse shoer, all vital to the Ringtons’ enterprise. Sam had worked hard to make the business a success and it had gone from strength to strength. By this time, there were 11 vans and 11 assistants.

Struggle for survival

But then World War One broke out. It changed everything, as Sam recalled later:

‘Of my staff of 17, some of whom were married, 15 were called to the colours and I promised to do certain things for them so their families should not suffer too much while they were fighting. Of course, I agreed to keep their jobs open for them.’

What Sam hadn’t reckoned with were the severe food shortages and the resulting rationing and restrictions. There was a sugar shortage so people were only allowed to buy it where they bought their tea. Ringtons didn’t sell sugar and couldn’t get hold of it, so business plummeted.

To compensate, the firm started to sell any foodstuff it could lay its hands on: tinned and evaporated milk, dried eggs, canned meat and fish, saccharine, pickles etc. However, often as soon as Sam had bought a consignment, the price of the commodity would be fixed by government at less than he’d paid for it.

‘ Somehow I managed to keep my promises to my soldier staff’ remembered Sam. ‘And somehow managed to relieve a little the distress of the widows of the three who never came back. But it was a fight to be able to pay my own rent and the wolf came nearer and nearer my door’.

At the end of the war, the 12 surviving members of staff returned, ‘three of them wearing the Military Medal’ and, as promised, Sam took them back although the outlook for the company seemed bleak. But gradually, once people and retailers were free to buy and sell what and where they liked, customers returned.

When the ex-servicemen received their gratuities, they clubbed together to buy Sam a watch, which from then on he always wore. It was inscribed: ‘Presented to Mr Samuel Smith, as a mark of gratitude and esteem, from the staff of Ringtons Ltd, on their return from military service. December 1920′

Loyal servant

One of the returning servicemen was Robert Ernest Sturdy, who, in 1911 was living with his wife, Minnie, and their three year old son, Norman Leslie at 57 Spencer Street, Heaton. Robert described himself as a ‘superintendent, tea trade’ . By 1916, the couple had two more very young children, May and Ernest. Robert volunteered to join the army, aged 32, in December 1915, just before conscription was introduced early in 1916. He described himself as a ‘manager (drivers)’ .

On enlistment it was noted that Robert’s heart ‘seemed weak’. His letter of enlistment stated that he was invited to join the Army Service Corps(Mechanical Transport), ‘provided he has not attained the age of 46 and is found medically fit for Service‘ Despite his heart condition, Ernest was accepted and he served on the home front for just over a month before being sent to France in October 1916.

Throughout 1918, he was in and out of military hospitals with conditions variously described as ‘mild debility’, ‘TB‘ and ‘Bronchial catarrh’ before being transferred back to the UK in October 1919, at which time he signed a disclaimer to the effect that he wasn’t suffering from any disability which was due to military service.

Robert returned to Ringtons where, as Sam Smith had promised, his old job was waiting for him. He was still there in the position of sales manager in 1934 by which time he was 50 years old. On completion of 25 years service, he was presented with tea and coffee services. Robert died in 1956, aged 73. By this time his son, Norman, was himself described as a tea dealer, presumably (though we can’t be sure) also with Ringtons. Robert’s younger son, Ernest ,was sadly ‘lost at sea’ during WW2.

The Somme

In total there were 14 people in Heaton in 1911 whose occupation, as recorded in the census, included the word ‘tea’. One was Sam Smith, of course, by now living at 129 Warton Terrace, with Ada and their six children. We can’t be sure which of the others worked at Ringtons, as employer names aren’t usually recorded, but Robert Clapperton Mair, aged 15, who lived with his parents, two brothers and a sister, at 13 Charles Street, described himself as a ‘tea merchant’s assistant’. He joined the 10th battalion Northumberland Fusiliers and was posted to France. Robert was one of those who didn’t return, having been killed in action on the Somme on 25 September 1916, aged 20. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial and also on that of Heaton United Methodist Church on Heaton Road.

Bravery award

Bothers Patrick and Thomas Sullivan were both ‘van salesmen (tea)‘. The family had moved from Dundee while the boys and their sister, Lizzie, were young and the family lived at 16 Fourth Avenue, just a few doors down from Will Titterington’s lodgings in 1907. When war broke out their father, Patrick, a tram conductor, was active in recruiting volunteers for the ‘Pals‘ regiments and we know that Tom enlisted very early on, in September 1914, at the age of 22.

Two years later, by now a sergeant, he was awarded the Military Medal and a Card of Honour for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. A full report of his actions appeared in the Newcastle Journal, reproduced below. (Despite what it says in the article, the family appears to have lived on Fourth Avenue, rather than Sixth, throughout the war).

Newcastle Journal 18 November 1916

Newcastle Journal 18 November 1916

 So Tom was one of the three recipients of the Military Medal who returned to Ringtons after 1918 and was remembered by Sam Smith almost twenty years later. This was confirmed for us by Tom’s great great niece, Helen Wells, who told us:

‘My mam remembers talk of Uncle Tommy. We knew he’d been awarded the Military Medal but we didn’t know why. Tommy worked for Ringtons tea. He moved to Thornaby near Stockton to work for Ringtons there. He died in the 1940s and had no children. Patrick was exempt from military service because he was colour-blind’.

Post-war

A hundred years later, the personal stories give us a tiny insight into the suffering of Heaton and its people during World War One. But within just a few years, the firm, its staff and customers showed their resilience. Ringtons’ business picked up to such an extent that in 1924 a magnificent, modern building was commissioned on Algernon Road.

Ringtons, Algernon Road c1930

Ringtons, Algernon Road c1930

Work began in 1926 and it was finished in 1928. It still stands, of course, and is much loved, although the firm has since moved again. Not far though. Ringtons’, first managed from a cramped single bedroom on Fourth Avenue, is still very much associated with Heaton. Its headquarters remain on Algernon Road, next door to its impressive 1920s HQ.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

This article was researched and written by Chris Jackson, with considerable help from Fiona Harrison, for Heaton History Group’s ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project, which has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund. An exhibition, ‘’Tea in Heaton’, will be on display at the Chillingham pub from October to December 2015.

Find out more

This article and the exhibition at the Chilli concentrates on the early days in the Avenues and the impact of World War One but it’s just one chapter of the Ringtons’ story. To find out more, pay a visit to Ringtons’ museum in their Algernon Road headquarters and look out for a talk by Fiona  in our 2016-17 programme.

Can you help?

if you have worked at Ringtons, know more about any of the people mentioned in the article and/or have memories or photos to share, 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

Castles of Heaton

Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews, has been researching his family tree. Luckily for us, although Arthur lives in Whitley Bay, a number of his family members lived in Heaton, including during World War One, the period we’re researching for our ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project. Here is Arthur’s poignant account of the life of William Castle and his family.

‘My great-grandfather, William Castle was born in London on 24 July 1858.  He was the third of the six children of John and Susan Castle. Susan came from Southborough in Kent and John from Letcombe in Berkshire. We know that by 1861, when William was two, his father was a domestic servant/valet and the family were living in Lillington Place, London. Ten years later, with William still a schoolboy, they were in Paddington.

William Castle

William Castle

Country estate

‘However by 1878, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered, 19 year old William had moved to the other end of the country. He had followed his father into domestic service and was, at the age of 19, employed as a footman to a wealthy Northumberland couple, Watson Askew Esquire and the Honourable Sarah Askew. His new home was what can only be described as a stately home, Pallinsburn, near the Scottish border. A bit different from Paddington!

Pallinsburn, Northumberland

Pallinsburn, Northumberland

‘I managed to find records relating to William’s time at Pallinsburn in the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn and so know that his starting wage was £26 a year but that within a year, he’d been promoted to the role of First Footman and earned an extra £2pa. The Askew family’s expenditure books show that he received an advance on his wages occasionally.

‘While at Pallinsburn, William was presented with a small, personally inscribed, leather bound bible, which I still have. The bible has gilt edging on all the pages and a decorative metal clasp and ornate metal corner protectors, which make it quite special. Expenditure records suggest it cost £3 to purchase, quite a lot of money at that time. The inscription says “William Castle, from honourable Sarah Askew March 10th 1880“. We can only speculate as to what prompted the gift.

Bible presented to William Castle

Bible presented to William Castle

Inscription in William Castle's Bible

The 1881 census shows that William was still living and working at Pallinsburn but the final reference to him in the family expenditure records is in May of that year, when his annual pay of £30 is recorded.

Heaton home

‘The next I know of William, he was working as a tobacconist on Shields Road and living above the shop at number 145. On 31 July 1884, he married 22 year old Elizabeth Stanners, a shepherd’s daughter from the small hamlet of New Etal in North Northumberland. The wedding took place in a Primitive Methodist chapel in Milfield, a few miles north of Wooler, which is still used for worship today. The newly-weds seem to have immediately come to live in Heaton, which must have been as big a shock for Elizabeth as the move from London to rural North Northumberland had been for William.

‘Between 1886 and 1900, Elizabeth and William had four children, John, Eleanor Susan (known as Nellie), Winifred (‘Winnie’) and Ruth. During this period, the family lived at various addresses not too far from the Shields Road shop, including 172 Tynemouth Road and 5 Charles Street, before moving, by 1900, to 47 Tenth Avenue. William kept his tobacconist’s shop until  September 1915, when he retired, receiving a silver fruit bowl from his staff. I still have the bowl.

William Castle's fruit bowl

Just before then we have found a reference to him in the local newspaper: On 25 March 1915, his gift of cigarettes to the sick and wounded of Armstrong College Hospital was publicly acknowledged.

John

‘The Castle children all attended Chillingham Road School, newly opened in 1893 to accommodate the growing number of children in the rapidly expanding suburbs of Heaton and Byker. Eldest boy John was among its first cohort. He was registered as pupil number 91 on 17 November 1893. He went on to the secondary school, which he left on 21 July 1899 to join his father’s business as a ‘tobacconist’s assistant’. I have at home, a lovely memento of John. In 1904, he was given a fine wooden smoking cabinet, with a small engraved plaque, which reads “Presented to J Castle for meritorious work, by the proprietors of The British Advertiser, Dec 1904″.

John Castle's smoking cabinet

Sadly, less than two years later, John died at home in Tenth Avenue, aged only 20, of appendicitis, not a disease we normally think of as fatal today.

Nellie

‘Nellie also went to work in her father’s shop until, in 1912, she married a young Irishman, Arthur James Andrews, in St Mark’s Byker.

Nellie and Arthur Andrews on their wedding day

Nellie and Arthur on their wedding day

Her husband was a dentist who, at the time of their marriage, worked and lodged in Wallsend. They went on to have five children: Dorothy, Ronald William, Marjorie, Nellie and another Arthur, Arthur James. In 1931, however, seven year old Dorothy and her father died of meningitis within days of each other. Nellie, widowed with four children at the age of 31, left the family home at 137 Heaton Park Road to live in Whitley Bay. Youngest son, Arthur, who you might have guessed was my father, was brought up by his grandparents to ease the burden on his mother.

Winnie

‘Winnie married Frederick Justus Hurdle, a Canadian engine fitter, on 18 October 1916. Within three months, they left for Canada, perhaps to get away from the war, which was causing such distress and hardship at home. Perhaps Winnie found it hard to settle or maybe because the war was over, she and Frederick returned in June 1919 but, in yet another tragedy to hit the family, Winnie died of meningitis just three months later.

Winnie Castle

Winnie Castle outside her Toronto home

Her widowed husband returned to Canada. As I write this, we’re reminded that meningitis is still a killer, with a new vaccine for all babies having just been authorised.

Ruth

‘Youngest daughter, Ruth, is pictured here outside the family home at 47 Tenth Avenue,  in the earliest photograph Heaton History Group has seen of the avenues.

Ruth Castle outside 47 Tenth Avenue

Young Ruth Castle outside 47 Tenth Avenue

Ruth married Leslie Daykin Jeffcoat of 34 Third Avenue in 1925, if not quite the boy next door, then not far off. But theirs is a ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ story which I’ll tell on another occasion.

 Heaton resting place

‘After William’s retirement and with two of their four children having died prematurely, he and Elizabeth continued living on Tenth Avenue for another ten years, before moving in 1920 with youngest daughter, Ruth, to a much larger house in Shotley Bridge. Elizabeth died on 28 February 1929, aged 69 years and William a little over a year later on 5 May 1930, aged 72. William’s estate amounted to almost £10,000, showing how far the footman and the shepherd’s daughter had come.They returned to the area in which they’d spent most of their married life to be buried together in the family grave in Heaton and Byker Cemetery with John, the son, and Winifred, the daughter, who had pre-deceased them.  It was to be less than a year before a son-in-law and granddaughter were to join them.’

Can you help?

This article was researched by Arthur Andrews.

Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews

Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews

It forms part of our HLF-funded, Heaton Avenues in Wartime project. If you have a story to tell about your family or would like to help us research the history of Heaton, please contact: chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org Arthur would especially like to hear from anyone who has a photograph of William Castle’s tobacconist shop on Shields Road or has any information about the British Advertiser.

The Lumleys of Sixth Avenue

The 1911 census has four members of the Lumley family living at number 37 Sixth Avenue. Joseph Smith Lumley, aged 55 was born in Gateshead and was an industrial insurance agent. He married Margaret Rudd from Shiny Row in 1883 in Newcastle and the couple lived in Tanfield and Elswick, before moving to Heaton some time after 1901. The couple had three children, one of whom did not survive infancy. In 1911, their two unmarried children: a daughter, Rosanna, aged 23, working as a telegraphist, and a son William, aged 20, working as a clerk/book-keeper with an electrical manufacturer, lived with them. The family were Methodists and members of the congregation at the Bainbridge Memorial Wesleyan Methodist Church, which formerly stood on the site of Southfields House sheltered accommodation on the corner of Heaton Road and Tynemouth Road.

Cuthbert Bainbridge Memorial Chapel

Cuthbert Bainbridge Memorial Methodist Chapel, c1905

Following their move to Heaton, William completed his education at Chillingham Road School. It is likely that Rosanna had already left school before the family relocated.

Will’s story

At the start of the war, William, known to friends as Will, joined the 1st/6th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, which was a Territorial Force formed at St George’s Drill Hall Newcastle in August 1914 and stationed on Northumberland Road, opposite the City Hall. Along with the 1st/4th stationed at Hexham and the 1st/5th stationed in Walker, the Battalion were engaged in Tyne defences over the autumn and winter of 1914 and were mobilised for war in April 1915, landing in France to become part of the 149th Brigade of the 50th Division, which were engaged in action on the Western Front.

Will’s army career was, like many others, tragically short lived as he died on 26th April 1915 aged 23 during the Battle of St Julien, part of the second Battle of Ypres. This was an important point in the war as it was the first time that the German Army had successfully used poison gas, to devastating effect, although they failed to fully exploit this as German troops had been re-deployed to the Eastern Front, leaving too few men to fill the gaps that opened in allied lines. Chlorine gas was first deployed in the Battle of Gravenstafel at around 5pm on 22 April near the hamlet of Gravenstafel in Belgium. German troops carried 5,730 gas cylinders weighing 90lb each to the front. These were then opened and lit by hand, relying on the prevailing wind to carry the gas towards allied trenches. The aerial photograph below shows the eerie spectacle.

Gas attack in WW1 Ypres

Yellow-green clouds drifted towards the Allied trenches. The gas had a distinctive smell, like pineapple and pepper. At first the French officers assumed that the German infantry were advancing behind a smoke screen and the troops were alerted. When the gas arrived at the Allied front trenches soldiers began to complain about pains in the chest and a burning sensation in their throats. The French troops in the path of the gas cloud suffered 6,000 casualties, with many dying within 10 minutes and others being left blind or with permanent lung damage. Many more ran for their lives. A four mile gap opened up in the front, which the German troops advanced upon, but the effect of the gas on their own troops and the lack of men meant that advance was contained by Canadian troops.

Dusk was falling when from the German trenches in front of the French line rose that strange green cloud of death. The light north-easterly breeze wafted it toward them, and in a moment death had them by the throat. One cannot blame them that they broke and fled. In the gathering dark of that awful night they fought with the terror, running blindly in the gas-cloud, and dropping with breasts heaving in agony and the slow poison of suffocation mantling their dark faces. Hundreds of them fell and died; others lay helpless, froth upon their agonized lips and their racked bodies powerfully sick, with tearing nausea at short intervals. They too would die later – a slow and lingering death of agony unspeakable. The whole air was tainted with the acrid smell of chlorine that caught at the back of men’s throats and filled their mouths with its metallic taste. The village of St Julien, where Will was posted, had been comfortably behind the Canadian defences until the poison gas attack of 22 April, when it became the front line.

On the morning of 24 April the Germans released another cloud of chlorine, towards the re-formed Canadian line just west of St. Julien. Word was passed among the Canadian troops to urinate on their handkerchiefs and place these over their noses and mouths. The countermeasures were insufficient and German troops took the village. However, the use of urine soaked pads continued to be the only counter-measure against the gas until respirators were provided in July 1915. The ammonia in the urine partly neutralised the chlorine. The picture shows British troops wearing the primitive protection.

WW1 Protection against gas attack St Julien

Next day the York and Durham Brigade units of the Northumberland Division counter-attacked, failed to secure their objectives but established a new line closer to the village. On 26 April the Northumberland Brigade attacked again and gained a foothold in the village but were forced back with the loss of more than 1,940 casualties, among them Sergeant William Lumley, who died in heavy shelling. Field Marshall Sir John French, Commander in Chief of the British Army, reports in his 8th Despatch that ‘the Northumberland Infantry Brigade advanced against St Julien and actually succeeded in entering, and for a time occupying, the southern portion of that village.’ They were, however, eventually driven back, largely owing to gas, and finally occupied a line a short way to the south. Will was reported missing in the ‘Journal’ on 15 May 1915 and his death was confirmed on 18 June in the ‘Evening Chronicle’, where a letter from a friend who had witnessed it praised his heroic actions:

Heroism in an Attack
Sergeant W. Lumley of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action on April 26, and his father, Mr J. Lumley of 37 Sixth Avenue, Heaton, has received from a fellow sergeant the following letter:

I have had a letter from my chum in which he states you are very anxious for any detail of poor Will of whose sad end you have received official intimation from the War Office, I understand. Being an office colleague of mine, we chummed in together out here and went into action together on that fated Monday afternoon, April 26. Unfortunately we were separated in the final rush, but another chum of his was near him when he fell. This is his story. When we were making the final attack on St Julien, he was wounded in the arm and, after having had it bound up hurriedly, insisted on going on. Had he been but that brave fellow he proved himself to be, he would have gone back to dressing station there and then, as nearly every man would have done. He insisted on going on however and shortly afterwards was killed outright by the bursting of a shell. He would be buried where he fell, either by the Seaforths or the Warwicks, who were in the trenches at the time and would send burial parties out after the affair. I have lost many chums in this ***** affair, but I have felt Will’s loss more than any, as he had been associated with me so closely. At any rate you have consolation, however small, that your son died a hero. Had he been any other, he would have probably been alive today.
Transcript of article from Evening Chronicle 18 June 1915

Will’s death is marked on plaques on the Menin Gate in Ypres, his body having been hastily buried and never recovered due to the retreat of the allied forces from St Julien.

Will Lumley's name on the Menin Gate

He is also remembered on war memorials in Chillingham Road School and in the former Bainbridge Memorial Methodist Church where stained glass windows were commissioned to commemorate the loss of members of the congregation. William was awarded three medals: The British War Medal; the Victory Medal; and the 1914-15 star. The three medals were almost always awarded together and were known as Pip (the 1914-15 Star), Squeak (the British War Medal) and Wilfred (the Victory Medal). Entries in the register of soldiers effects show that a War Gratuity of £6 and the sum of £2 7s 7d, cash in his possession when he died were paid to Will’s sister, Miss Rosanna Lumley, on 7 July 1919.

Margaret’s story

On Wednesday 22 March 1916, Will’s bereaved mother, Margaret Lumley, is noted in ‘The Newcastle Daily Journal’ amongst a list of other donors as having donated a muffler, games, two pairs of socks, bedsocks, magazines and stationery to the Northumberland War Hospital on behalf of the North Heaton Branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association.

In the Victorian period, alcohol consumption was massive. It was a way of life. Beer was cheaper than bread; spirits were deemed to have ‘medicinal’ benefits. It was one of the few pastimes that transcended the class structure. Nor was it just men who drank. To many, alcohol offered a temporary escape from their hard lives. Others thrived on the sensory pleasure it seemed to afford. However, it was the women who usually had to suffer and manage the consequences of excessive drinking by their menfolk. It was the women who struggled to keep enough money back from their husbands’ pay to feed the family before it was spent at the pub. It was they who had to shelter the children from aggressive drunken fathers, often taking a beating themselves in the process. And it was they who had to watch as sons grew up to regard beer as the staple drink.

It was against this background that the temperance movement started to grow, almost inevitably led by men, until the BWTA came along. Margaret Bright Lucas was a member of a well known Quaker family and in 1872 joined the Independent Order of the Good Templars, rising by 1875 to the level of ‘grand worthy vice templar, the highest position afforded to a British woman. The IOGT afforded much greater equality for its women members, encouraging them to speak in public.

Margaret Bright Lucas

Margaret Parker BWTA

Along with Margaret Parker from Dundee, she had visited America and been heavily influenced by the thinking of the US women’s temperance leader Eliza Stewart. On their return, they issued a call to arms, bringing together over 150 women from across the country to a meeting as part of a conference of the International Order of Good Templars in April 1876. The British Women’s Temperance Association was born, with Margaret Parker becoming the first president. Margaret Bright Lucas took over the presidency in 1878 until her death in 1890 and oversaw a massive growth of the association. Many organisations with similar goals became affiliated to the movement and in 1884, an organising agent was appointed to add 100 additional branches. It produced its own journal and a non-alcoholic cookery Book. Margaret Bright Lucas also recognised that women’s voice for reform would be stronger if women had the vote and advocated means of influencing men to use their votes in support of women’s issues, thus tying temperance and women’s suffrage issues together very strongly. A tie that would ultimately in 1893 split the organisation into the National British Women’s Temperance Association, then led by Lady Henry Somerset, with a mandate for a full reforming agenda and the Women’s Total Abstinence Union, with a much narrower remit.

The newly reformed NBWTA involved itself in a much wider social reform agenda, including child protection, suffrage and prison and court work. It is this organisation that Margaret Lumley would have been active in. The newspaper article identifies her address as the address for the North Heaton Branch of the association, so she must have played a leading role in the local organisation, possibly branch secretary, which was obviously big enough to warrant its own North Heaton branch. As a member, Margaret would have had to sign a membership pledge and would have worn the organisations white ribbon brooch.

BWTA Pledge Card

What is significant is what Margaret’s role as branch secretary tells us about the changing role of women in society at the time. The early leaders of the BWTA were very much from the upper class philanthropist mould. Ladies who could play no official role in the society of the day, but were able to use their status and connections to exert a growing influence on matters of concern to society, like temperance. But during World War One, Margaret Lumley a lower middle class wife and mother, was leading a local branch of a national organisation with some significant influence nationally.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the 1915-16 programme of the Ladies Literary Society at the Bainbridge Memorial Church, which the family attended, as well as having needlework and cookery competitions and considering a paper on the ‘potentialities of a handkerchief’ also held debates and had a talk from Mrs Florence Nightingale Harrison-Bell, a leading local figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

Bainbridge Chapel Programme

An article in 14 August 1914’s edition of ‘The Newcastle Daily Journal’ reports that the BWTA was one of a number of local women’s organisations that had met with the Lord Mayor of Newcastle to discuss how they could help the war effort by organising women volunteers. The article notes that a committee had been established under the Lord Mayor’s direction, which would allow the various organisations to coordinate women volunteers to meet various needs as and when they were identified. The article goes on to note that the only immediate requirements were for women qualified to investigate cases of distress and help with sewing. It is possible that a continuation of this work that led to the donations to the Northumberland War Hospital noted in the original article. Nationally, the association funded reading, writing and refreshment rooms for the troops as well as funding the provision of mobile canteens to feed the troops at the front and the North Heaton branch would have been active in raising money for the national effort as well as supporting local initiatives.

Heaton Avenues in Wartime

This article was researched and written by Michael Proctor, with additional input by Caroline Stringer, 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

194 Heaton Road

In October 2013, builders renovating premises at 194 Heaton Road uncovered this old sign.

Pretswell's signage being uncovered in 2013.

Pretswell’s signage being uncovered in 2013.

The ‘ghost sign’ prompted us to try to find out who the father and son were, what their shop sold and when they were in business. The story went back even further than we thought, 160 years.

Edmund Forbes Pretswell was born near Edinburgh in 1853, the son of a shepherd. In 1861, he was aged 8 and living with his parents, two older brothers and sister at Broomhill Farm, Liberton in Midlothian. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have much information about Edmund’s early years but we do know that by 1876, at the age of 23, he had moved south and married a young woman from Chester-le-Street. Their first child, also named Edmund Forbes, was born in her home town a year later.

Growing prosperity

By 1881, Edmund senior and his new family had moved to Newcastle, where the growing population meant excellent prospects for someone with enterprise. Edmund’s occupation is described in directories as ‘grocer and provisions merchant’. According to the census of that year, the family of the Scottish shepherd’s son were doing well enough to be occupying three properties in Byker (32 and 34 Byker Bank and 1 Quality Row) and employing a servant. One of the properties seems to have been Edmund’s first shop – possibly even the one pictured here, which was apparently just north of Leighton Street on the west side of Byker Bank. The photograph was given by Edmund senior’s grandson, Norman, to local historian, Mike Greatbatch, who has kindly shared it with us.

Edmund Forbes Pretswell senior's Byker Bank shop. possibly with Edmund hismself standing in the doorway.

Edmund Forbes Pretswell senior’s Byker Bank shop. possibly with Edmund hismself standing in the doorway.

Over the next 30 years, we can track Edmund’s growing family and expanding business. He had various shops in Byker Bank, added others in Shields Road (115 and 179) and Tynemouth Road. By 1891 Edmund and Jane, his wife, had 7 children and were living at 17 Heaton Road in a house quite recently demolished and replaced with a modern building housing a medical practice. The Pretswells soon moved to a brand new home on Wandsworth Road from where they continued to run the Tynemouth Road shop. But soon after the turn of the century, though still in business in Heaton, perhaps as a further sign of their growing prosperity, the family moved out of Newcastle, first to Cullercoats and then to Willington Quay. This photograph of their Willington Quay shop was sent to us by David Pretswell, the younger Edmund Pretswell’s great nephew.

The first  Edmund Forbes Pretswell with members of his family outside his Willington Quay shop

The first Edmund Forbes Pretswell with members of his family outside his Willington Quay shop

Home to Heaton

Meanwhile, Edmund junior was following in his father’s footsteps. The first records we’ve traced where he is listed as a grocer are shipping log books. In September 1905, aged 28, he set sale in steerage class from Southampton to Algoa Bay in South Africa. However he returned just two months later. He seems to have already been married by this time: maybe he’d gone to check out the possibility of taking his young family to make a new life there? But whatever the reason, he was soon back and by the following year, 1906, he had taken over the family shop on Tynemouth Road.

By 1911, he and his wife, Thomasina, had three children and were living in Wandsworth Road, just across the road from his parents’ former home. By the following year, his father, by this time approaching 60, seems to have retired while young Edmund was running shops in both Tynemouth Road and Chillingham Road (number 186). And by the outbreak of World War 1, Edmund Forbes Pretswell junior had opened a new shop at 194 Heaton Road under the name: EF Pretswell & Son. The shop was a fixture on Heaton Road for over 40 years – until about 1956. So the recently uncovered lettering is between 100 and 57 years old.

Local chain

In 1956, the Heaton Road shop was acquired by a growing local grocery chain called Hadrian Supply Company. By 1968, this company had 30 branches in Newcastle alone, including at 258/262 Chillingham Road, 176 Newton Road and 175/181 Shields Road. However, by 1973 only one shop remained on Stamfordham Road. It seems as though the business had been sold to a supermarket chain. We would like information about it and also the businesses which occupied the Heaton Road premises between then and the recent kitchen shops, Kitchens Plus and Wren’s – as well as what will come next!

Can you help?

Lots of people must remember shopping or even working at 194 Heaton Road. If you can supply any further information or photos or just have memories to share, please add your comments by clicking on ‘Leave a Reply’ at the top of this article or contact: chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org