Tag Archives: William Armstrong

Dreams of Nature: William Armstrong and Jesmond Dene

William Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside (1810–1900) is best known as a practical engineer and scientist – the inventor of modern artillery and creator of the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity – but he had an intensely romantic side that revealed itself in his shaping of the landscape around him. ‘I am a greater lover of nature than most people give me credit for,’ wrote Armstrong in 1855, by which time he had started to transform his garden and grounds in Jesmond Dene to reflect his dream of living in the mountains.

Early 20C postcard of Jesmond Dene, published by Alexander Denholm Brash of 92 Heaton Road

Early 20C postcard of Jesmond Dene, published by Alexander Denholm Brash of 92 Heaton Road

Armstrong’s attachment to Jesmond Dene, which began in childhood, remained strong throughout his long life. As his prosperity increased, he was more and more inclined to share the pleasures of the place with others. For example, in the early 1860s, he built a Banqueting Hall in the dene – not for lavish feasting, but for entertaining his workers at tea parties. In 1884 he handed over the dene and the hall to the citizens of Newcastle in perpetuity, with clear instructions about their preservation and use.

Another early 20C card of Jesmond Dene by Alexander Denholm Brash

Another early 20C card of Jesmond Dene by Alexander Denholm Brash

AT our talk on Wednesday 25 March 2015, Henrietta Heald, author of ‘William Armstrong, Magician of the North’, will talk about the long association between Armstrong and Jesmond Dene, the dene’s status as a public park, and the future of the Banqueting Hall, which is now the subject of a restoration campaign. The talk will take place 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). Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org /07443 594154.

Please note: this replaces the originally advertised talk by Andrew McLean.

Back Close to Craigmore

Craigmore is a large red brick house on the east side of Heaton Road, number 252. It’s in the same block as Heaton Methodist Church. The current owners, Kelly and Ian Atkinson, have documents going back to the original purchase of the building plot from William Watson Armstrong, Lord Armstrong’s heir. From these deeds, mortgage applications and letters, together with trade directories, census returns and other archival material, we’ve been able to compile a short, albeit incomplete, history of the house and some of the people who’ve called it ‘home‘.

Craigmore today

Craigmore , Heaton Road today

Field on the farm

The house stands on what was, until the 1880s, Heaton Town Farm. We can even see, from estate plans held by Northumberland Archives, to what use the land which lies below the house was once put. In 1865, when William (later, Lord) Armstrong auctioned some of his estate, it was a field with the unassuming name of ‘Back Close’, used for pasture. An even older map in Newcastle City Library, the original of which can be dated to between 1756 and 1763 (the library has a copy made by John Bell in 1800), also shows Back Close. Thank you to Tyne and Wear Archives for the transcription below. It looks as though animals grazed on this patch of Heaton for far longer than, to date, people have lived there.

Fields of Heaton in the 18C

Fields of Heaton in the 18C.

Speculative build

But in 1901, the land was sold to a local man, Frederick Burn White. Frederick had been born in Blyth in 1871 but by this time was living with his widowed mother, Jane, at 28 Rothbury Terrace. His father, a joiner, had died while Frederick was a boy. In the 1891 census, Jane describes herself as a ‘builder’ and so presumably was managing the family business. If you walk down the back lane, you can still see the substantial outhouse in which they must have stored materials at that time. Eventually Frederick seems to have taken charge of the firm. He later married and moved to 309 Chillingham Road, and eventually died, aged 92, in Morpeth.

There were strict conditions attached to the sale of the land and the quality of the houses to be built on Heaton Road, including on Back Close: roofs were to be of ‘Bangor or Westmorland slate or roofing tiles from Ruabon or Staffordshire of uniform tint’; every home was to be ‘self-contained, that is should never be let or occupied in separate parts but… by one family only’.

Crystal balls?

In 1902, Frederick sold the newly built house to the well-to-do Robert Keith Imeary. The Imeary family had many business interests. Robert’s father was best known for his chemical works in Heworth, which manufactured ‘alkali, soda ash, crystals and bleaching powder’. At one point, it employed 77 men and 13 boys. He also manufactured lamps, owned ships and farmed 35 acres. Robert himself was born in Co Durham and lived as a young boy in Westoe with his parents, maternal grandmother (also described as a ship owner), an aunt, sister, brothers and a servant. By 1881, now 20 years old, he was living in Hexham with Sarah, an aunt on his father’s side, helping her to farm over 100 acres. When she died in 1889, it’s possible that Robert inherited a substantial sum, as Sarah died a spinster and with no children. By 1901 Robert himself was married and living in Jesmond with his wife, Margaret, her mother, their baby son, also called Robert Keith and two servants. Robert at this time described himself as a ‘gentleman (medical student)’ and was soon to buy Craigmore. The Imeary family’s stay was short, however. By 1909, the family had moved to Lancashire.

Three balls

The next occupier was the family of Frederick Charles Davison, who rented the property. Davison was the eldest son of an auctioneer and had followed in his father’s footsteps. In 1891, 23 year old Frederick was an auctioneer’s cashier, living with his parents and seven brothers and sisters in Jesmond. But a year later he married Jane Ann Slater, daughter of a pawnbroker, and, by 1901, Frederick described himself as both a pawnbroker and an employer. By 1911, he called himself ‘Master Pawnbroker’ and was living at Craigmore with his wife, and three young sons. The family business, called Slater and Davison, had several shops, including in Bamborough Street in Byker. Frederick died in Jesmond in 1939, with his address given as 18-20 and 22 Bamborough Street Byker. He had evidently done well though, leaving over £9000 in his will.

Wherries and lighters

In 1912, Robert Imeary finally sold the house to Constantine Charleton Brown. Constantine was born in 1865, the sixth and youngest child of wherry owner, Allen Brown and his wife. Allen Brown had started his working life in Howard Street, near Byker Bar, as a waterman (someone who transfers passengers or cargo across and along city rivers and estuaries – an occupation going back to medieval times). He moved to Richmond Street by his early 20s and married Isabella Stead. In the 1869-70 trade directory, Allen is described as a lighterman; a lighter being a cargo-carrying river craft. Later, perhaps a sign that the business was thriving, the growing family moved to Ridley Villas, on what is now New Bridge Street, where his neighbours were mainly manufacturers, engineers, clergymen and managers.

In 1889, Constantine married Annie Hill Gray, daughter of another steam boat owner, Edgar Gray, and they moved to Clarence Street. By 1901 they were living at 61 Heaton Park Road with their five children, Nora, Constance, Charleton, Stanley and Lesley plus a servant. By this time, Constantine described himself a steam wherry owner. The business was still called Allen Brown.

Ad for Allen Brown wherry owners

This advert appeared in the trade directories for many years

The company was still going strong well into the 1930s. Constantine died in 1933 and three years later, his daughter Constance sold the house. (Look out for our talk by Mike Greatbatch ‘Wherrymen and Chain-horse Lads‘ on our 2015-16 programme. It’s scheduled for January 2016.)

Dark ages

The new owner was Mary Hall of York, who two years later married Arthur Mason. They didn’t live at the property but rented it to a Mrs Constance E Crawford, who lived there for almost 15 years. The owners and occupiers for the next 50 years or so remain something of a mystery. We know their names: after Mrs Crawford, in 1953, came Dorothy Corbett nee Ritson; then in the 1960s, it changed hands three times, first of all to John Irving Hurst, ‘licensed victualler, formerly of the Queens Head , Cullercoats’ and his wife, Edith, and then to Mary Winifred Johnson of Pooley Bridge in Cumbria, then finally to Thomas and June Conway, formerly of Longbenton, who stayed for 20 years before selling to Alan and Elizabeth Hynd. Hopefully, we’ll add some of their stories as time goes by.

Sole trader

The current owners are Ian and Kelly Atkinson and, if we mention Ian’s middle name, generations of Geordies will know it. It’s ‘Amos’, a name which has been handed down through generations of Atkinsons, with Kelly and Ian’s son, Evan, continuing the tradition. Kelly told us that the Atkinson’s family tree goes back to Tudor times: ‘All were cobblers or tanners’, including Ian’s father, Glyn.

The first Amos Atkinson we have found in the local trade directories was born in Morpeth in 1768 and, by 1804, he was already a boot and shoemaker. His first son (1833-1902), pictured below, naturally also called Amos, gradually expanded the family business. He was running a boot and shoe manufacturers on Percy Street by 1859.

Amos Atkinson (18XX-1901)

Amos Atkinson (1832-1902)

It’s interesting to look at Amos’s immediate neighbours at that time. There were rope and hemp manufacturers, a gilder, a basket manufacturer, a saddler, a cartwright, a chimney sweeper (sic), a hay dealer and a farmer, as well as at least four other boot makers, none of whose Newcastle city centre businesses, we can be fairly sure, lasted into the late twentieth century. By 1861, Amos employed 7 men, 1 woman and a boy. Ten years later, 11 men and two boys and, by 1881, 13 men and 3 boys. He operated from a number of Newcastle addresses before opening the shop which many people will remember on Northumberland Street.

Amos Atkinson's, Northumberland Street in the 1970s

Amos Atkinson’s, Northumberland Street in the 1970s

Incidentally the ornate plaster work isn’t as old as many people imagine. It was added in 1953 to commemorate the queen’s coronation. Eventually, the company had five branches, with the Newcastle branch a familiar sight in one of Northumberland Street’s best loved buildings until the early 1990s. The Morpeth shop was the last to close, following the floods which devastated the town in 2008.

Amos Atkinson's c1900

Amos Atkinson’s, Northumberland Street c1900

The above photograph was taken around 1900 at just about the time William Watson Armstrong was selling a small parcel of his Heaton estate to Frederick Burn Wright, but the local farm hands, dairy maids and shepherd boys, who previously strolled through the field formerly known as Back Close, may, if they were lucky enough to have been shod at all, have been wearing Amos Atkinson boots decades before that.

Can you help?

If you know any more about the house or its owners and occupiers down the years, please get in touch. You can leave a comment by clicking on the link underneath the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Your house history

Also, don’t hesitate to get in touch if, like Kelly and Ian, you’d like to find out more about the history of YOUR Heaton house.

The Heaton Road Millionaires’ Row That Never Was

In 1868, while Lord Armstrong was enthusiastically buying Ridley land in Heaton, he acquired a plot north of Heaton Hall as far as Benton Bank: it included areas then known as Bulman’s Wood and Low Heaton Farm (the farmhouse was by the junction of Benton Bank and the Ouseburn Road: see map) plus three abandoned coal mine sites – the Thistle, the Knob and the infamous Chance Pit up by the windmill. This entire plot was bordered along its western edge by the Ouseburn Road, its southern boundary by Jesmond Vale Lane and the eastern side by Heaton Lane (now Road). After giving Armstrong Park to the people of Heaton, two new roads were planned through the remainder of the land which had been divided up and offered for sale as thirteen residential plots of between two and four acres each. This extravagant development would be named The Heaton Park Villa Estate: millionaire mansions by the baker’s dozen. There goes the neighbourhood!

HeatonRoadvillasmap

The following illustration shows the plots in relation to today’s developments.

Heaton Road lost estate 3

This last illustration indicates how little more than half of the estate was ever developed (more on this is to follow) while the remainder was given over to an allotment complex of two halves: the small northern section called St Gabriel’s Allotments and the larger southern portion known as the Armstrong Allotments.

Heaton Road lost estate outline

Back at the ranch

A letter dated 1884 to Sir William from his Newcastle architect Frank W. Rich of Eldon Square (who was later to design St Gabriel’s Church) explains how the original 13 large plots have been abandoned in favour of 41 plots of between one-third and one acre-and-a-half. He indicates that these smaller sizes are what buyers are looking for and that anyone needing more may simply buy multiple plots. One such gentleman for example – Mr Thomas H. Henderson of Framlington Place (behind the Dental Hospital) – asks for a particular 1.5 acre plot at an offered rate of £500 per acre when Sir William is looking for £600. This tells us what a four acre plot would have actually cost and why there were obviously no takers for such sizes, especially when you consider that the largest residential plots anywhere in Newcastle were an acre and a half.

The layout for the forty-one plots was never lodged with the planning department and it seems likely that the outlined houses shown on the original thirteen plot plan were simply random or figurative, and that each house would have been designed (hopefully by Mr Rich) to the specifications of the buyer. There were certainly no house designs lodged with the planning department for either the thirteen plot estate or the forty-one plot version.

Mr Rich further explains to Sir William that the roads were run by necessity according to the gradient of the land. Looking at the terrain today indicates that the largest sites – those bordering the park – would have been on relatively flat ground down at low level, but with no prospect beyond their own boundaries; while the smaller Heaton Road sites would have occupied the high ground looking out across the park. I don’t think anyone buying a four acre plot down below would have been greatly enamoured of their neighbours in the cheap seats lording it over them; would you?

However, thirteen or forty-one soon became immaterial because it didn’t take long for surveys to reveal that much of this land was actually one giant sand-hill and totally unsuitable for house building purposes, unless it was to mix with cement. Mr Rich does inform Sir William at a later date that they now have sand, stone and brick immediately to hand on their land in Heaton (where was the stone quarry?) and that builders could buy it all directly on site. Oh, how the rich get richer! But…

Ever the benefactor to us hoi-polloi, Lord Armstrong’s will said that the entire area be reserved as allotments for those tenants of his Heaton development lacking gardens of their own – which was a lot of them. Sir William’s heir was forced to apply for an act of Parliament in order to overturn the will and develop such areas deemed suitable for construction – but not until the nineteen-twenties when housing shortages had become a government issue.

Keith Fisher, Heaton History Group

House Histories

If you own a house in Heaton and have the deeds and other documents and would like to know more about its history, get in touch via chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org and we’ll try to help. If enough people are interested, we might be able to arrange a course in researching your house – and could even help with the research depending on demand.

Craigielea – history of a Heaton house

‘Craigielea’ (276 Heaton Road) is an imposing early Edwardian brick villa situated on the corner of Heaton Road and Cartington Terrace opposite both St Gabriel’s church and the Heaton Medicals cricket and rugby ground. We were thrilled when just before recent owner Jimmy McAdam moved out, he invited us to look through the house’s deeds and other documents. What would they reveal? We suspected that some interesting people would have crossed its threshold and we weren’t disappointed.

Craigielea 2014

Craigielea exterior

The first question the documents answered was the age of the house. The first conveyance is dated 3 June 1902. It shows that William Watson Armstrong, who had inherited Lord Armstrong’s estate only eighteen months earlier, sold three adjoining plots of land, on what was termed the Heaton Park Villa Estate, to builder William Thompson of Simonside Terrace. The contract came with a myriad of strict provisos concerning the quality of the properties to be built on the site: only high quality materials were to be used; the roof and back offices were to be covered with Bangor or Duke of Westmoreland slate, yard fences were to be wire railings of approved design and four feet high; the front was to comprise a garden only; no trades were to be pursued from the properties etc. The high standard of design and workmanship is still evident today.

Living rooom interior

The architect’s family

William Thompson was the first owner of Craigielea but not its first resident. That honour seems to have gone to the Lish family. At least they are the first to be named in the annual trade directories. Joseph James Lish was born in Beamish, County Durham in 1841. By the time he moved to Heaton, he had been married for over 35 years to his wife, Nancy, a Londoner, and they had 5 children, the rather exotically named John Robertson, Kirkwood Hewat, Catherine Hozier Robertson, Bentley Beavons and Florence Meek. Sadly John, a Second Lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment, was to die during the First World War. He is cited in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour which, in addition to giving details of his military service and heroic death, records that he was a shipbroker, coal exporter and all round sportsman.

His father, Joseph Lish, was an architect but he didn’t design the house or its two neighbouring properties. The original plans in Tyne and Wear Archive show that they were the work of the well-known Tyneside architects, William Hope and Joseph Charlton Maxwell.

Craigielea is shown on the left of this original design

Craigielea is shown on the left of this original design

Hope and Maxwell are remembered for their design of theatres, not only locally in Blyth and Newcastle, but as far afield as Glasgow, Margate and Southampton. Sadly the Hope and Maxwell theatres have all been demolished or been destroyed by fire. Another of their buildings does still stand, however, just up the road from Craigielea. It’s Heaton Methodist Church.

But back to Craigielea‘s first resident. There are a number of known Lish buildings around Tyneside, the most well known of which is the 1908 Dove Marine Laboratory, which still stands at Cullercoats. There is a book in Newcastle City Library in which Lish describes the design and build of the laboratory. He was an early advocate of reinforced concrete, using it in the Dove laboratory. What’s more, over a quarter of a century earlier, in 1874, he had exhibited his own invention, ‘Tilo-Concrete’. Lish was prominent in his profession both regionally and nationally. At one stage he was the President of the Society of Architects, whose Gold Medal he was awarded. He died in 1922 at the age of 80.

If you know more about Joseph Lish or any member of his family or have any photographs you are willing to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch either via the ‘Reply’ link just below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

The marine engineer’s family

By 1911, the Lish family had left Heaton and marine engineer Robert Bales Armstrong and his wife, Margaret Emma, had moved in with their eight children and Robert’s sister, Sarah. Robert, from West Herrington in County Durham, was the son of a cartman/sheep farmer. His wife, from the same county, had worked as a Post Office assistant before she was married. By 1911, the two older boys, Frank Bales and Robert Hunter, were both apprentices in engineering and ship building respectively. The older girls, Sarah Jane and Daisy Bales ‘assisted with housework’; John, David Bales and Reginald Hugh were at school and Doris Hunter and Gladys May were under school age. The family also had a live-in servant, Annie Elizabeth Robinson. You can see why they needed a substantial house!

Robert and Margaret Armstrong with some of their family

Robert and Margaret are in the centre of this family group

We are indebted to researchers of the Armstrong family tree who have posted on the Ancestry website for the above photo and additional information about Robert who had begun his career as a draughtsman at Hawthorn Leslie, worked for a while at Day, Summers and Co in Southampton and returned to the North East and Hawthorn Leslie in 1905. While living in Heaton, he was Chief Assistant to the Engineering Director and then General Manager. The family left Craigielea just before the end of the First World War. Robert was awarded the OBE in 1918 for his part in keeping the shipyards open during the war. Later he invented a steam powered boiler, the ‘Hawthorn-Armstrong’. Robert died in 1931 only weeks after becoming Managing Director of R & W Hawthorn, Leslie and Co Ltd.

The draper’s family

Next to move in to Craigielea was Herbert Pledger and his family. Herbert Pledger was born in Cambridgeshire, the son of a ‘bootmaker and publican’. By 1891, at the age of 22, he was a draper’s assistant in Saffron Walden, Essex and lodging with his employer. Within a few years, he had moved North and entered into a business partnership on Shields Road (See below). Soon he was to have his own firm.

Herbert Pledger's shop seen here in 1923 on the occasion of the Prince of Wales visit (Taken by Heaton butcher, Edgar Couzens

Herbert Pledger’s shop seen here in 1923 on the occasion of the Prince of Wales’ visit (Taken by Heaton butcher, Edgar Couzens)

We can track Herbert’s success by his various Heaton addresses. In 1895, he lodged at 29 Kingsley Place. By 1900 he was married, with a young son, and was householder at 105 Cardigan Terrace. In 1911, he, his Gateshead born wife, Annie and their children, Herbert Junior, William Cowley and Marjorie plus servant Isabella Caisley lived at 20 Simonside Terrace and for a couple of years from 1918, they lived at Craigielea before moving just up Heaton Road to Graceville.

Pledgerboys

Herbert Junior and William Cowley Pledger, c 1901 (Thank you to Simon Bainbridge for permission to publish on this website)

Herbert Pledger Senior died in 1929 with an estate worth over £80,000, a significant fortune then.

Owner-occupiers

After the Pledgers moved out, the house was owned and occupied briefly by William Thompson, builder. This was the first time it had been owner-occupied and at present, we can only surmise that this is the same William Thompson who had built the house 20 years or so earlier. He seems also to have had a house in Coquet Terrace (number 39). Sadly he died soon after. Isabella , his widow, sold Craigielea in 1931 to William Thompson Hall, a doctor who also had a surgery at 12 Heaton Road. There is a document in which the freeholder’s lawyers say that (despite the original clause forbidding trades being practised from the house) they had no objection to Dr Hall’s medical practice and, subject to the approval of Lord Armstrong’s architects, a side entrance could be made for the convenience of Dr Hall. The plans are held by Tyne and Wear Archive.

Plans of Craigielea 1930s

The original dining room and drawing room were converted into a waiting room and consulting room

Dr Hall died in 1934 at which point the house passed into the ownership of his widow, Edith, and an Isabel Dorothy Reed. From this point on, biographical information about the householders becomes a little harder to find but we do have the bare bones. From just before World War 2 until the late fifties, a Maurice Edward Robinson, manager, was in residence but didn’t own the property. In 1958 Vincent and Margaret Richards Fleet moved from 14 Coquet Terrace, paying Hall and ‘another’ £1,900. When Vincent Fleet died in 1977 the house was passed firstly to ‘Thomas and Spencer’ and then to the Taz Leisure group, which applied for, but was refused, permission to convert the house into the HQ of the Northumbrian branch of the Red Cross Society. It was then sold to Ronald and Philippa Oliver in 1985 (They had moved, as so many of the more recent owners had, from a nearby Heaton residence – in this case 18 Westwood Avenue.) The Olivers in turn sought planning permission, this time to use part of the ground floor for a tea room but this too was refused and the Olivers also soon sold the house. There were to be two further owners, ‘Maill and Grant’ and then Carol Simpson before Jimmy and Lesley McAdam of Tosson Terrace bought it in 1994 and lived there for over 20 years. Jimmy is a photographer and has a wealth of stories of his own to tell – but they’ll wait for another day!

Can you help?

If you know more about the history of Craigielea or any of the people mentioned, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch either via the ‘Reply’ link just below the title of this article or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Royal Opening of Heaton’s Parks

20th August 1884 lived long in the memory of Victorian Heatonians. It was the day that royal visitors to the city processed down Shields Road, North View and Heaton Park Road before driving through Heaton Park, across Benton Bridge and Armstrong Bridge into Jesmond Dene. Once there, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) officially opened Armstrong Park and Jesmond Dene, the fine public spaces which, along with Heaton Park (opened a few years earlier in 1879), had been created on land presented to the people of Newcastle by Sir William Armstrong. Almost all of Heaton came out to see the first royal visit to Newcastle in thirty years and the first by the then Prince of Wales. The event was covered extensively in newspapers, not only locally but across the country.

Old Mill, Jesmond Dene

This postcard was written less than two years after Lord Armstrong’s death


Triumphal Arch

In the days before the event, there was speculation (and disappointment) about the route the royal procession would take:

The changing of the route has effected the subscription list considerably but as to make the alteration would lengthen the route, the suggestion of allowing the procession to pass along Heaton Road was not entertained. Newcastle Courant, Friday 1 August 1884

A ‘Decorative Executive Committee’ of the council was formed with a chairman and three vice chairmen and separate committees set up for individual streets down which the royal party would pass on route to Heaton. There would be triumphal arches in Barras Bridge, Northumberland Street, New Bridge Street, Grainger Street and Grey Street (two). The representative of the Byker district:

presented a plan for a triumphal arch to be placed at the old toll gate at the east end of Byker Bridge. The plan is for an imitation of Temple Bar and it will be called ‘Byker Bar’.

With huge crowds expected, there was understandable concern about the arrangements for spectators:

The road from the west end of Benton Bridge to Jesmond Grove is very narrow and barricades will be erected along it, a limited number of people being admitted behind the barricades by tickets…. the distribution of which will be made by Newcastle Town council.
Newcastle Courant, 15 August 1884

Close shave

The day itself almost started disastrously.

As the procession was passing up Grey Street, the horse ridden by Colonel Young of the Newcastle Artillery Volunteers, suddenly grew restive and became entangled with the wheels of the royal carriage and, in the struggle to liberate itself, swung round, bringing the sword of the rider into dangerous proximity to the head of the Prince of Wales, who had to bend down to escape a blow thereof. Nottingham Evening Post, Wednesday 20 August

After this narrow escape, which might have changed the course of history, the royal party headed east:

At Byker, the prince obtained a view of many artisans’ dwellings, in the improvement of which His Highness has evinced a strong practical interest. Newcastle Courant Friday 22 August

Impassable in its beauty

But early near miss aside, the day seems to have gone well, at least if the flowery language of the reporters of the day are to believed:

It was within the grounds of [Heaton] Park that one of the most pleasant sites of the whole day came into unexpected view. On a verdant slope, some thousands of children connected with the various educational schools in the city were congregated. The young faces were all eagerness with the prospect of seeing the royal personages. The majority of them were dressed in gay summer costumes and appeared veritably on the green sward like a ‘bed of daisies’… When the Prince and Princess of Wales came in view of the children, the sweet and fresh voices rose in swelling notes with ‘God bless the Prince of Wales’, the strains of this splendid anthem ringing through the woods and dales of Jesmond with a most charming effect..

Armstrong Park

Carriage drive the royal procession would have taken through Armstrong Park

From there the royal carriage ‘wended its way at a brisk trot to the elegant bridge which spans Jesmond Dene, and which is a magnificent and useful gift of Sir William Armstrong.’

After the prince had planted a commemorative oak tree using a silver spade, the party sat down to a sumptuous meal in the newly renovated and lavishly decorated Banqueting Hall. The parks were praised fulsomely in press reports all over the country, such as this in The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligence, Thursday 21 August:

… one of the handsomest public grounds in the north of England. The natural scenery is almost impassable in its beauty and where nature has rested and left a spot whereon the eye could not rest with pleasure, art has stepped in to finish off the work.

…the brawling stream, the roaring waterfalls, the song of thrush and blackbird, the winding walks, the precipitous banks and the abundance of trees and shrubs, coupled with the ancient mill house and the ruined water wheel makes that portion of the Dene one of the most charming and attractive spots in the two northern counties.

There are several wells in the Dene and around some of them quaint old legends cluster. From what ‘Ye Old Well of King John’ derives its name, there is no exact information. There is a tradition that there stood a palace in the immediate vicinity which King John for some time inhabited.

King John's Well

The drinking vessels at King John’s Well were still in place within living memory

Legacy

It brings a lump to your throat! We’re lucky enough to still be able to access Heaton and Armstrong Parks and Jesmond Dene today, of course, 130 years after their official opening. Get out and enjoy them but also find a few moments to post your memories of the parks here or email them to chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

The Coachman of Heaton Hall

The man in the middle of this photograph is Richard Shannon, coachman at Heaton Hall for more than twenty years around the turn of the last century.

Richard Shannon centre with 2 footmen

His great great granddaughter, Yvonne, and great grandson, Arthur, have researched Richard’s fascinating life and hope that publishing their findings on the Heaton History Group website will lead to more information about life at Heaton Hall and some of Richard’s colleagues. Maybe someone reading this knows the identity of the other men in the photo? Yvonne takes up the story:

According to family oral history, this photo was taken while Richard was working as head coachman for Mary Potter at Heaton Hall. All three men are in livery which shows they work for a wealthy employer, as indeed the Potters of Heaton Hall were. Lord William Armstrong’s own mother was Annie Potter, a member of the same family. The fact that there are three men also indicates wealth, as there was a tax on male servants right up to 1937 so more male servants implies more wealth in the family.

They are wearing box coats and these are fastened right up to the neck. Richard as coachman is wearing a bearskin cape usually about 18 inches long and these superceded the multi ‘caped coats’ which used to be worn. The clothing and the fact that there seem to be leaves on the ground indicate that the time of year may be autumn/winter.

A coachman was expected not to leave the driving seat once the journey had started, his priority was ‘driving and looking to the horses’; hence there were the footmen or groom to assist ladies to alight and carry parcels etc when shopping.

Live in

Richard worked for the Potter family for over 20 years so I think it must have been a mutually happy working relationship. Coachmen were regarded as ‘senior’ servants in the Victorian servant hierarchy and would be given orders only by the butler or the master or mistress. Coachmen were also one of the few servants allowed to live on the premises with their family and indeed this is the case as they lived in the coachman’s house shown so well in Keith Fisher’s book.

The 1901 census gives a small insight into the lives of those people living at Heaton Hall and demonstrates a substantial household. Mary Potter, a widow is 72 years old and is head of the household. Living with her are her son, Charles, and daughter, Hannah. Also listed as living in the Hall, are Hannah Beckworth, the cook, and kitchen maid, Jane Mathewson. Then there is the upper house maid, Frances Clement, and two further housemaids, Mary Coates and Martha Wood. Living in Heaton Hall grounds at the Butler’s House were Francis and Sarah Harrison, the butler and his wife. At the laundry were Agnes Lee, the laundress, and her 85 year old father, Thomas Currie, and finally at the Coachman’s House was my great great granddad, Richard, then aged 61, with his wife Margaret also 61, and their sons Ernest, 25, (my great granddad) and Walter, aged 19. Ernest is working for a dye works and Walter as a gardener. There is no mention of the names of the footmen in the photograph so they may have lived ‘out’.

Greek island

Before ending up at Heaton Hall, Richard appears to have lived an active life. He was born in Argostoli, Cephalonia, one of the Greek Islands, in 1839 (only two years after Queen Victoria came to the throne) and christened there in the parish church by Brother Lawrence Cappucini, who was parson of the parish. The church is still standing to this day. He was in Greece because his father, Thomas Shannon, was a soldier in the 1st Battalion of the 53rd Shropshire Regiment of the Foot and was stationed there with the battalion possibly during the Ionian wars. Richard’s mother, Mary Shannon nee Reed, was born in Sculcoates near Hull.

The battalion and Shannon family returned to England by sailing ship to Plymouth and landed on 9th June 1840. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later on 23rd July, Thomas was sentenced to six months hard labour and incarcerated in Exeter Gaol for stealing goods from a certain Robert Vickers, a victualler and pub landlord. He is said to have stolen a pewter pot valued at 12 pence, a half pint measure valued at 12 pence and a glass tumbler valued at six pence. On his release, Thomas rejoined his battalion in 1841 and was living at Marine Barracks, Mill Bay, Plymouth. In the meantime his wife and child were staying at what appears to be a type of tenement building at Boundary Place, St Andrews also in Plymouth. We know that by 1843 Thomas and his family had moved to Edinburgh with the 53rd who were stationed at Edinburgh Castle. It was whilst here that Thomas died by accidental drowning in the River Forth at Leith. He was only 36 and is buried in Cannongate Churchyard, Edinburgh. His widow Mary, with Richard then a small boy aged 3 or 4 returned to her home at Hull. Little is known about Richard at this point but his mother married again and the family lived in Hartlepool.

Cavalryman

Richard’s eventual position as coachman to Heaton Hall may have begun on the 7th November 1861 when he enlisted in the 12th Lancers, a cavalry regiment which would be where he would gain learning and expertise in horse handling skills over a period of 12 years service. When he was discharged on 15th November 1873, the army records state ‘character very good’ (one might conclude that he did not take after his father) and it might be that this reference helped him to his next immediate job, also in 1873, when he was employed as a groom in Hartlepool. The photograph below shows his pocket watch engraved with his name and regiment, unfortunately this is the only tangible object we have left.

Richard Shannon's watch

Richard Shannon's watch

His career seems to have progressed smoothly and by 1881 he was engaged at Hutton Rudby as a coachman to Thomas English Pyman, a wealthy ship-owner. In 1891 at Layton Hall, Yorkshire, he was coachman to John Proud, a solicitor, but by the next census in 1901, he was at Heaton Hall and coachman to Mary Potter. Richard lived in the coachman’s house with his family and worked until his final illness which lasted just seven days. He died from cerebral thrombosis or a stroke in 1921 at the age of 82.

His widow Margaret moved out soon after to 40 Chillingham Road but died a year later. She is buried in the same plot as her husband. The grave is marked by a small headstone shaped like an open book and one side gives Richard’s details whilst the other side remains blank. I recall my granddad saying that the blank side was to write an inscription to Margaret but the family couldn’t afford it at the time.

Souvenir

The three men with their glasses of beer look happy in the photograph and it would be wonderful if we knew what they were talking about. It may be that the younger ones were conscripted during the First World War and left the service of the Potter family. Richard would be far too old to enlist. Some of the literature on the lives of servants describes how ‘older’ coachmen might be kept on by the family to drive the more mature family members who preferred a sedate pace of travel – this may be what happened in Richard’s case but, we don’t really know. Perhaps by the 1920’s the Potters were using motor vehicles and carriages were becoming a thing of the past. My granddad did mention once that his sister had been ‘in service’ at the Hall and when it was closed she was allowed to take a majolica plant stand as a remembrance. I know that the plant stand which was about 3ft high tan coloured with black tracery in a diamond pattern was left in the backyard of a house in Greystoke Avenue, Sandyford after he died – I’ve often wondered if it was still there.

Arthur Shannon (great grandson)
Yvonne Shannon (great great granddaughter)

Can you help?

If you have any more information or photographs of anyone who lived or worked at Heaton Hall, we’d love to see them. Or maybe you can add to what Yvonne and Arthur already know about other areas of Richard Shannon’s life? You can either leave a comment here (click on the link immediately below the title of the article to leave a comment or to read those of other people) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Lords to the Oval via Heaton

Overseas cricket teams’ tours of England are a much loved part of our sporting summer but bet you didn’t know that Newcastle once appeared on the tourists’ itinerary and that Heaton was a venue alongside the likes of Lords, the Oval, Maidstone and Hove. Admittedly we have to go back to 1884 – but it’s not just the local links that’ll surprise you but the identity of the tourists too.

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884

The tourists of 1884

Armstrong’s field

But first of all, when and how did Heaton acquire a cricket ground? For over 40 years, Northumberland Cricket Club had played its home matches at Bath Road (now Northumberland Road), an important sporting centre in the late nineteenth century – you may remember that George Waller competed in cycling events there. However, projected development meant that the club had to find another ground and was delighted when William (Later, Lord) Armstrong offered a six acre field at a nominal rent with a ten year lease. A cricket ground was prepared and a pavilion constructed on the site on the corner of what is now Heaton Road and Cartington Terrace.

Detail from 1890 Ordnance Survey map showing cricket ground

Detail from 1890 Ordnance Survey map

Heaton Medicals Cricket Ground 2014

Cricket (and rugby) are still played there today. The cricket club’s home didn’t meet with everyone’s approval, however. It was considered remote and ill-served by public transport. Remember, there were no buses or trams at this time – and Heaton Station was a fair walk away, through mainly open countryside.

Worldwide appeal

Although, then as now, most matches at the Heaton ground brought together local teams, cricket had long been a worldwide game. Its popularity was spread by English colonists from the 17th century onwards but what is generally considered the inaugural test match between Australia and England didn’t take place until 1877. The Ashes themselves didn’t start until 1882 when the Australians beat England at the Oval.

However, perhaps surprisingly the first international cricket match had taken place decades before when the USA hosted Canada in New York. In fact, America had been an early adopter of cricket. It’s said it had been introduced by English colonists even before it had reached the north of England. It’s in this context that we need to consider the tour of 1884.

Philadelphian pioneers

There’s an engraving of 1800 entitled Back of the State House Philadelphia which depicts a small boy with a curved cricket bat in his hand. Later the first cricket club entirely comprising native-born Americans was said to have been founded at Haverford College in the same state. By 1870, cricket was spoken of in Philadelphia as ‘the national game’. In 1854 Philadelphia Cricket Club was founded and in 1859, 13 Philadelphians were in the 22 to play the visiting All England XI.

The American Civil War stalled the development of the sport as many Philadelphian men responded to Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 call for 75,000 volunteers. Those too young to enlist continued to play the game, however, and when the war was over the Philadelphians were keen to play more overseas opposition. In 1878 its representative team played and beat the Australian tourists and plans were soon hatched to test further their skills against the inventors of the game.

The sum of $8,200 was raised from five local clubs and the help of the MCC was sought in compiling a fixture list. Finally on 17 May 1884, fourteen players set sail from New York on the steamer, The City of Rome. Thousands turned out to wave off the tourists, the docks were ’black with thousands of spectators’ and The City of Romegay with flags and decorations’. Eight days later the ship docked in Liverpool.

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, 1884 as depicted in The Illustrated London News

From there, the team, known as Gentlemen of Philadelphia to indicate its amateur, and therefore respectable, status, travelled to Dublin where they played 2 matches, and Edinburgh where they played The Gentlemen of Scotland. From there they toured English county grounds including MCC at Lords and WG Grace’s Gloucestershire (with Mrs Grace, W G’s mother, in attendance).

Gentlemen of Northumberland

The match in Heaton took place on 11 and 12 July 1884. One of the tourists kept a diary in which he describes some of the matches, venues and off-field hospitality in detail. For example, about 4,000 people attended the Lords match over the two days, the Aigburth ground in Liverpool was ‘the prettiest ground we saw in England’ and, in an interval between matches some of the players went to Wimbledon to watch the tennis. However, frustratingly little information was recorded about their trip to Northumberland.

However, there were lengthy reports in local newspapers in which the fixture was described as ‘the most important match that will be played in this district during the present season’ and the Northumberland team as ‘a thoroughly representative team, having been carefully selected by the County Committee’.

A clue to the conditions can be found in the weekly Newcastle Courant for Friday 11 July, day one of the match. The newspaper reports the heavy thunderstorms of the previous day in which a house in nearby Jesmond was damaged by lightning.

The Journal had more to say about both the attendance and the weather:

Though the weather was tempting enough at the outset, the attendance was small… It appears to us that no matter what exertions are put forth by the many ardent cricketers in the north – and their name is legion – they fail to command the patronage of the general public… there should be a free gate or a smaller amount charged for admission. If this plan were adopted, the working classes could obtain a fair idea of the game and we have no doubt that cricket would be more appreciated in the north than it is at present time… about 5 o’clock a thunderstorm visited the district and necessitated an adjournment for a half an hour after which the wicket was so soft that it was determined to postpone the game for another quarter of an hour and a recommencement wasn’t made until 6 o’clock.

The following day:

In glorious summer weather, this important match was concluded… the wicket wasn’t nearly so treacherous as on the first day. There was considerable improvement in the attendance but still the number present was small when the importance of the match was taken into consideration.

Defeat

Cricket was still evolving at this time. It was less than 3 months earlier that the number of players in a team had been standardised at 11 and there were still only 4 balls in an over. Come what may, the local team was no match for the tourists. One American bowler, W C Lowry took 5 wickets in each innings and another, W C Morgan, was top scorer with 38. The Northumberland team failed to make 100 in either innings with only C F Cumberlege scoring over 30 and, although E B Brutton took five wickets in the second innings, the Philadelphians won comfortably by 96 runs.

It may be that the ground only recently used for pasture on Heaton Town Farm wasn’t of the highest standard and that, together with the weather and the modest opposition, accounts for both the tour diarist’s silence and the low scores. The tourists’ final record that summer read: Played 18 Won 8 Drawn 5 Lost 5.

The players

We don’t know too much about the Philadelphians outside of cricket except that one of their players, J B Thayer, later became the only first class cricketer to die on board The Titanic.

We know a little more about the Gentlemen of Northumberland. The team comprised:

Shallett John Crawford (1858-1922), a shipbroker who was born and lived in North Shields;
Ralph Spencer (1861-1928), Harrow and Cambridge educated, who became chairman of John Spencer and Sons steel works, founded in Newburn by his grandfather;
Charles Farrington Cumberlege (1851-1929), born in India and worked for the Bank of England;
John William Dawson (1861-1921), a railway clerk;
Ernest Bartholomew Brutton (1864-1922), also Cambridge educated, who became a clergyman, latterly in Devon;
Charles Edward Lownds (1863-1922), another Cambridge graduate, born in Walker, who became a surgeon;
William Henry Farmer (1862-1934), a railway inspector, who later emigrated to Vancouver;
Stephenson Dale (1859-1985), an engine fitter who joined the merchant navy and who died at sea less than one year after the match;
James Finlay Ogilvie (1848-1926), a solicitor;
Tom Raine (1859-1929);
Alfred Stephen Reed (1860-1939), born in Newbiggin, a boarder in Northallerton at aged 10, and who , in 1881, was living at The Priors, Church Street, Storrington, Sussex and described as a member of the ‘Northumberland militia’;

There were further tours over the next 3 decades but other sports gained popularity in the USA and the final nail in cricket’s coffin across the Atlantic seemed to be the decision to set up the Imperial Cricket Conference, which specifically excluded countries from outside the British Empire. Nevertheless cricket is still played in the United States and Philadelphia Cricket Club is still going strong, although cricket gave way to other sports, such as golf and tennis, between 1924 and its revival in 1998.

And although it hasn’t featured on an MCC-organised tour for a while, the sport is thriving in Heaton too – the Cartington Terrace Ground (known as the Medicals Ground) is now owned and used by Newcastle University: it would be great to hear from or about anyone who’s played there or who can add to what we know.

Medicals who fell in World War 2 are commemorated by cherry trees around the ground

Medicals who fell in World War 2 are commemorated by this plaque and cherry trees around the ground

Leave a comment here (See the link below the article title) or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Main sources
The Tour of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia in Great Britain, 1884 by One of the Committee; published by Red Rose Books, 2002;
Heaton: from farms to foundries by Alan Morgan; Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2012
Cricket Archive (to which we owe most of the biographical information)
Resources of Newcastle City Library including The Journal on microfilm
Ancestry UK

Heaton’s parks remembered

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

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

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

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

Opening

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

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

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

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

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

Changes

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

Heaton Park Lake

Heaton Park Lake

Old temple - Heaton Park

Old temple

Bowling green, Heaton Park

Bowling green, Heaton Park

Heaton Park in literature

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

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

and

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

Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you remember?

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

Heaton Town Farm

The photograph below is the only photograph we are aware of taken outside the farmhouses which once stood just North of Simonside Terrace and East of Heaton Road, from where Heaton Methodist Church stands now up towards Lesbury Road and Coquet Terrace. It portrays members of the last family to manage was one of a number of farms in Heaton in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

9 men outside Heaton Town Farm including members of the Edgar Family

From the 1870s to the 1890s, Heaton Town Farm, as it was then known, was farmed by the Edgar family and the photograph above seems to date from towards the end of that period. Can you help us date it more precisely?

But before we get to the Edgars, we’ve used old estate plans and census returns to give an outline of the farm’s history going back back to before 1800:

18th century

Newcastle City Library holds a map which was copied in 1800 by John Bell. The original can be dated to between 1756 and 1763. We can see what each field looked like, how big it was and what it was called. Heaton was at this time divided into two halves with East Heaton owned by Sir Mattthew White and West Heaton by Matthew Ridley. The land which became Heaton Town Farm was on the border but mainly in East Heaton ‘Grounds’. The Heaton estates were brought together first of all when Richard Ridley married Margaret White and then when, in 1742, Matthew Ridley married Elizabeth White. Field names at this time included Rye Hill, Benton Nook, East Hartley Tacks, East Huney Tacks and Whites Close.

1840s

In the 1841 census, 9 houses, recorded under the heading ‘Heaton’, seems to belong to the farmstead: one resident, George Cairns (or Carins, the spelling varies), is described as a farmer and an Edward Akenside at this time was an agricultural labourer. Other occupations to be found at the small settlement included: a gardener, a clerk, a tailor, a manufacturer (this was Joseph Sewell, who owned a successful pottery business), an agent, a grocer, a joiner, a millwright, a policeman (this was early days in the history of modern police forces following Robert Peel’s establishment of the Metropolitan Police so John Allan’s name is worthy of a special mention – he may well have been Heaton’s first ‘bobby’), 2 colliers, a 14 year old ‘shoe app[rentice?] and servants, mainly female. So not all the residents were engaged in agriculture.

1850s

In 1851, there were still 9 houses in the Heaton Farm complex. As ten years earlier, George Cairns lived in one. He farmed the majority of the land, 125 acres, employing 5 labourers. Edward Akenhead, a labourer 10 years earlier, farmed another 18, employing one labourer of his own.

George was a tenant farmer ie he leased land from the Ridleys and later William Armstrong rather than owned it but, nevertheless, his was a privileged position, demonstrated by the fact that he was entitled to vote.

List of only 17 voters in Heaton in 1851-2

George Carins (or Cairns) one of only 17 voters in Heaton in 1851-2

Poll books have even survived to show which way he voted in general elections – perhaps not surprisingly for the landowner, Matthew Ridley – no secret ballot back then!

The other houses were mainly occupied by the labourers and gardeners. Daughters and widows were employed as laundresses and dressmakers. One resident, Matthew Robinson was described as a ‘corver’ ie he wove ‘corves’, baskets used in coalmining: Heaton Colliery had closed by this time but there were plenty of other pits in the locality. There were also 2 engine fitters ie skilled mechanics, 2 blacksmiths and a joiner.

1860s

Ten years later in 1861, George Cairns was listed as the farmer of slightly more land – 145 acres and the employer of ‘4 men, a boy and women labourers’. He shared his house with four servants, described respectively as housekeeper, ploughman, dairymaid and cow keeper, evidence that Heaton Town Farm was a mixed farm. The cow keeper was a 14 year old boy called John Mains and the dairymaid a 19 year old woman from Ireland, called Martha Dalziel.

The second house was occupied by John Clark, a farm labourer, his wife, Sarah, and their young son. And the third by Jane Akenhead, Edward’s widow, described as farmer of 14 acres, perhaps what we would today term a smallholding. She lived with her 1 year old daughter, Isabella, along with her mother, her father, who was now managing the farm, and a gardener.

Jane had been born in Whitburn, County Durham in 1829 and by the age of 22 was employed as a servant to George Stabler, William Armstrong’s solicitor, who lived at Heaton Dean. Two years later, she married Edward Akenhead, the blacksmith son of an agricultural labourer, who had by this time acquired some land of his own. Sadly Edward died young, leaving Jane as head of household and the small farm. Her parents came from Co Durham to help her.

We know from records held by Northumberland Archives that in 1865 the land on which George Cairns and Jane Akenhead and later the Edgars farmed as tenants was put up for sale by its owners, the Ridley family. We don’t have evidence of an immediate sale but we know that just a few years later William Armstrong was the owner. The documents show how the configuration of the various farms in Heaton had changed over the years. Many of the fields are similar to those on the 18th century map but some have been further divided or their boundaries or names changed. The sales records show the name and size of each field, plus this time brief information about land use. There were pastures such as West and East Great Broom, Little Broom, Little Close and Long Pasture and arable fields with evocative names like Uncle’s Close, Well Hill, Seaman’s Close and East Honey Tacks. By this time, the farm was called Heaton Town Farm. You can see it marked on the plan below.

Map of Heaton
1870s

In 1871, Edward Edgar, who was born in Warkworth in c 1830 managed 27 acres of the land at Heaton. We have found records of just three houses on the farm at that time. One was the home of George Cairns, now retired.

Another house was occupied by John Brewis, his wife Margaret, their baby daughter, Mary, and Margaret’s mother, Sarah Atkinson. John was a plough engine driver. A steam driven ploughing machine was state of the art equipment in the early 1870s and operating one a skilled job.

The Edgars and their seven children along with Edward’s father and two nephews lived in the third and presumably largest house on the farm. In 1875, Elizabeth Edgar, Edward’s daughter, married Thomas Bell Kirsop, the son of a grocer from Heaton Bank.

Elizabeth Kirsop nee Edgar

Elizabeth Kirsop nee Edgar

Joan Cuthbertson, who has researched her family history, says that on the front row of the group outside Heaton Town farm, along with Thomas Kirsop (on the left), are William (b 1862), Edward (b 1860) and Robert Edgar (b 1864).

1880s

In 1881, Edward Edgar, now a widower, continued to live, with his sons, in one of the houses on Heaton Farm, with a house-servant and a dairy maid. He was now described as a contractor and dairy farmer of 27 acres.

Thomas and Elizabeth Kirsop and their children lived in a neighbouring house. Thomas was now a coal fitter ie an intermediary agent between a coal owner and shipowner or merchant – a responsible and respectable job. Next door to them lived David Kennedy, a dairyman, and his family.

There were 3 further houses with a Heaton Farm address, one occupied by a market gardener, a 24 year old widow, called Catherine Laws, along with her baby son and a servant; another by Robert Richardson, who farmed 28 acres and the last one by William Redpath, an agricultural labourer and his family.

By this time the terraced streets, most of which which still stand today, were encroaching ever closer to the farmhouse as William Armstrong sold more and more of his estate, encouraged by the huge demand for housing near the factories and railways of East Newcastle which drove up the price of land.

1890s

We don’t know the precise circumstances but by 1891 houses and other buildings were being built all around and on the former farm and the Edgars had moved out to Longbenton where Robert was still farming 10 years later.

However, John, another member of the extended Edgar family stayed in Heaton. In 1871 he had been living on Heaton Town Farm with his aunt, uncle and cousins. By 1891, he was living at 45 Seventh Avenue with his wife and children. His occupation was a foreman land drainer. His fifteen year old son was an assistant cricket groundsman, perhaps employed at Heaton’s cricket ground, for which William Armstrong had quite recently donated a field at the corner of what is now Cartington Terrace and Heaton Road and on which cricket is still played. The Kirsops were also living in the Avenues (36 Ninth Avenue) in Heaton when Thomas died aged only 43. His occupational status was given as ‘gentleman’. So Heaton Town Farm didn’t survive into the twentieth century. (By the way, watch out for our World War 1 project, Heaton Avenues in Wartime – and contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org if you’d like to get involved)

In future articles, we’ll explore the history of Heaton’s other farms and see what became of more of the agricultural land and the people who worked it.

Can you help?

Thank you to Joan Cuthbertson for giving us a copy of the historic photographs and details of her family’s history. If you know more about Heaton Town Farm or any of Heaton’s farms or have any information or photographs relating to Heaton’s past, please get in touch.