A Glimpse of Twentieth Century Life along the Turnpike Road from Streetgate to Byermoor.
The first in a series of illustrated leaflets depicting life in the 20th century in the old Whickham Urban District, this leaflet covers Streetgate, Sunniside, Marley Hill and Byermoor and is available free from all Gateshead Metropolitan Borough libraries. Leaflets covering Dunston, Swalwell and Whickham will be available in 2010.
Streetgate - Farming
East Farm is in the process of being developed by John Moody as an Executive Housing Estate.
Streetgate Farm. The farm covered 110 acres but 7 acres were lost to industry when Watergate Colliery was built. It seems that prior to the First World War there was a clause in the farm tenancy agreement that a certain amount of corn had to be grown to provide pheasants from the estate woodlands with food and shelter.
Errington Swan (1893-1967) regularly took battens of straw by horse and cart to the Teams Glassworks in the 1920s, the straw being used for packing. During hay making time, he set off about 6 in the morning to take refreshment to his father James Errington Swan, (he was the farmer at Ouselaw in the 1890s), working in an outlying field cutting hay (with a scythe) since early dawn. Errington then returned to the farmhouse for his own breakfast before making his way to school. The farm produced 8-10 ricks of oats and wheat and in the 1940s Thompson of Lanchester and Parky Bates of Iveston, came with their machines to thresh the corn. About 9 people were needed for the operation and local farmers helped each other out. In the late 1940s the farm had 15 dairy cows and Bobby Swan was one of the last of the local farmers to go around with a horse drawn milk float.
The float, which carried the drum, had a step up at the rear. Customers came out with a jug and Bobby filled it by pouring from a measure. The farmhouse was renovated in 1991 and the byres, stables and poultry houses removed to make way for residential development (Streetgate Park).
Taking home the hay
at Swan's farm.
Streetgate Nursery. The nursery at Cheviot View was started by Alf Douglas, in 1940, who formerly had worked at Marley Hill Colliery but was brought up at the Lingyfine Garden. Ivy Cottages stood where the glasshouses are now. There were 4 cottages in the short row in 1858 but by the late 1930's only 2 were left. In the 1920's the Chambers family lived here and kept a few goats. Mr Chambers was almost blind and carried a basket round the neighbourhood selling tea, biscuits and yeast in connection with the Braille Association. His brother was a piano tuner. Mrs Evelyn Hall has run Cheviot Nurseries since.
On Pennyfine Road, Streetgate there is a small factory "Sermac" which has been supplying and installing garage doors since 1969.
A Boy on the Railway
At the age of 15 I worked for British Railways as a Messenger Boy reporting to the main office, next to the Staiths at Dunston. I picked up all the mail and used to deliver to all signal boxes from Dunston to Blaydon, bringing mail back to Dunston, then picking up the mail for delivery up the line to Marley Hill. I used to hitch a lift on the coal trucks cable set up to Lobley Hill top.
I sometimes sat on the front with the Onsetter, the man responsible for detaching the cable. We jumped off as the set ran on to bump into the other empties. The empties ran up from Dunston to Lobley Hill, an engine took them along to Watergate where the cable took them up to Pennyfine. If my luck was in I hitched a lift all the way up on the empty sets and all the way back down on the full sets. An engine from Marley Hill pit brought the coal trucks down to the bank top at Pennyfine and took the empties back to the pit. The engine drivers often let me drive the engine up, through Pennyfine gates and into the pit. I used to enjoy blowing the hooter and if I helped the fireman throw coal onto the fire he sometimes made me a bacon sandwich, cooking the bacon on a shovel held above the coals.
I was sometimes out of luck and had to walk all the way up from Dunston to Marley Hill and back again. On route I used to help the railway workers fill the signal lamps with oil and climb up to replace them. I became quite an
expert hammering nails into the sleepers to keep the rails in.
It was a great job in good weather but horrendous in bad weather. We often trudged miles during the blizzards, fighting our way through giant snow drifts. We had to deliver and collect the mail regardless of the elements. Because of my route I knew every worker on the line, the Brakes-man who slowed the sets down with a huge wheel in his box, the Gate-keepers who opened and shut the road gates, the Signalmen , the Linesmen, the Guards. I have happy memories of the way they all treat me as a young lad, with great friendliness, good
humoured banter, and sharing their food with me. I must have been the best fed lad in Sunniside in the 1950`s, such a kind hearted lot of men.
In later years when I worked at Marley Hill pit on the screens filling the trucks with stone free coal I used to watch the trucks coming and going with a different perspective. I think I was the only one who knew exactly how the coal
reached the Staiths and onto the ships at Dunston. For a month or two I had worked as a switch lad on top of the Staiths guiding the trucks to the bays where the coal dropped into the chutes sliding down into the ship`s hold.
Again, when I think of the On/Off Setters sitting on the front of the sets moving at about 60m.p.h. with a hammer in their hand ready to knock the washer off the hawser at the top/bottom of the banks, I shudder to think that they wore no safety harness and could have met an instant but horrific death. Even when they detached the hawser they had to climb on the truck side and jump clear, often falling down, especially in icy weather.
Will Harrison's reflection of a job on the railway
Will Harrison-Reflections of a job on the Railway
I was born on the 28th. March 1904 in a pit house at High Row, Marley Hill. When the houses were being altered we were offered a house in the "hole" but my mother wouldn't go because her sister had lived there in one which had been washed away, so an exchange was made with Mr. Prinn and we moved into a house in Thirlaway Terrace, through the chapel opening. There were 6 of us :- mother father grandmother and 3 children all in a one -bedroomed house. (My sister used to say "how did we all get in? Where did we all sleep Will?" I said "I don't know, but we managed" )
I had a dangerous job on the incline. When I got the job my father was a pitman earning 38s.0d per week and my mother was having hard pickings. I was earning a lot less. When the job on the incline came up the boss came to me one day and asked why I had not sent in the application form. I said I had been applying but I hadn't heard anything. He said, I want your letter on the Monday morning. So I sent my application in and he came back at the weekend and told me I had the job. My wages went from 35s.0d. per week to £3.15s 0d. My mother was over the moon. I had that job from 1923 and I closed the line on the 7th. September 1962, I was the last brakesman, and Norman Christer was the Bank-rider.. They closed the old railway and that was the oldest railway in the world.
We used to get visits from the Ravensworths at the castle, the Lord and Lady Ravensworth. Lord Ravensworth often used to come over and have a ride up on the incline. He was a single lad, just a bit older than me and he often used to come across regular to ride on the incline and then at about half eleven you would hear the bell at the castle and that was his time to get away. He set away off home, there was no colliery there then, no Watergate there was just the wood at each side.
loved my job and I made a friend there, a little robin, I used to come in in the morning and open my lunch bag and feed him right away, I used to shout Dick! Dick! and he would come straight out of the trees in the wood on to my seat in the cabin and he would have his lunch and he would have his feed and he would just sit there,. He came regular for two years and then the next time he came he sat on the hard floor and he only had a stump as it had been frozen in the winter and I christened him Peg Leg.
An interesting story. I was a boy of 15 year old and you can imagine at 15 what size you were. And the tool vans, there was three engines and a large crane and the big van and the long fat wagon and they would go up to Tanfield and it took three engines to get them up the incline.
So one time they got them up the incline and I was a switch lad at the bottom of the bank and everybody went home and left me, a little lad, to look after this runaway switch which was supposed to run them into a field . They came down the incline and took the outside lane passed my Cabin where I was and passed my runaway switch onto the flat on towards the top of Lobley Hill . The switch was in the cabin, and I closed it down and fastened it down and went along and put chocks in the blades so that they kept shut. I was there till two lads come down from Sunniside to keep me company. The two lads liked the idea of being on the railway and I had already sanded the road and we were just waiting when the chap who minded the gates and signal box at Lobley Hill, come along and he said they were a long time coming. He said "have you heard anything?"
I said "no I have been phoning but I cannot get no word where they are" And it was about half past eight or nine o'clock at night . There was a lamp coming down the incline and some men walking. You could see where they were. When he came back he said, "ring the bell son, give them four rings on the bell." This was an electric bell in the cabin which rang at the top of the incline and when I rang, the driver, who was sitting on the step outside the cabin at the top, heard the bell ring, so he knew then that we were ready for him.
They set away to go down the incline. They got to about the Marquis. The Driver was Jenny Jackson's father and he reversed his engine and the lever flew back and hit him in the jaw and he fractured his jaw. The fireman got on the step to jump off but he dare not jump off because it was going that fast. So they were worried about what I was going to do with it a runaway train , But it went straight on passed the runaway switch so I was pleased when it went passed, I had saved the runaway train.
That railway was important to Sunniside and Street Gate it gave people a lot of jobs. Everybody had an interest in the railway. Holmeside Terrace was built by the Inspector. There was a cottage at the top of Alexandra Terrace The name of the cottage was Bracken House, and I can remember the two old people who lived in it. They had a family of two boys and they both were railway guards and a sister May Dobson. She was in the first world war as a Police Woman. I can remember the old man sitting outside the door of Bracken House when I used to come home from the Chapel.
There is no sign of the railway there now only the Tanfield Railway.
Will Harrison on his 90th birthday in 1994
Sadly Will Harrison died in 1998 aged 94 after what he described as a "marvellous life".
Tanfield Railway (The Bowes Incline)
Click On Map to View
Can you imagine the serenity of the countryside between Bowes Bridge and Lobley Hill being shattered by the noise of trucks clattering their way down through the fields, carrying their load of coal from the local mines of Marley Hill, Byermoor, Hobson, Dipton and Tanfield, on their way to the Staiths at
Dunston? A distance of some 7 miles.
This was the Bowes Incline, part of the Tanfield Railway which is the oldest railway in the world. Originally, in the 17th Century, coal was carried by horse-drawn wagons on wooden rails but by the 1950s a loco-hauled railway was in operation. From Bakers Head Bank, near Sunniside, the wagons were lowered down a self-acting incline with a gradient of 1:11. At the top were two kips, one on each side of a central track. The loaded wagons, with a Bank-rider on the back, travelled down the central track whilst coming up, the empty trucks with a Bank-rider riding on the front, were led alternatively to the left and right kips. There was a passing place near Frugal Bridge and then a single line to Watergate Colliery. The Brakes-man controlled the journeys from the Bank Cabin. Locomotives took over at the bottom of the incline and hauled the wagons to Lobley Hill where they were marshalled ready for the next incline.
.Brakesman Will Harrison
The line eventually closed on the 7th September 1962. The Bank-rider that day was Mr. Norman Christer and the Brakes-man was Mr. Will Harrison. Mr. Harrison had spent all his working life on the railway and he recorded some of his memories in 1997.
Priestman Collieries Ltd took over the leases of Axwell Park, Bagnall's and Whickham Bank collieries in 1902 and as part of their expansionist policy sank Watergate Pit in 1924.
Stephen Varty came from Billy Row, Crook, to help sink the shafts during which time he lodged at the "Bridle Path" public house. Later he brought his family to live on the Watergate estate.
The Haswell shaft (upcast) was mainly for man riding and the Garth shaft (downcast) was for bringing up coal. The shafts were 13 feet in diameter and the double decker cages were drawn up by electricity supplied by Durham County Electrical Power Distribution Company. Electric powered rope haulers brought the sets of steel tubs, each tub containing 12 cwt of coal, to the shaft bottom. Ponies were used for a while in the early years. Number One fan ventilated the seams connected to the shafts while Number Two fan was for the drift working the Brass Thill beneath Ravensworth Hill Head.
Underground at watergate colliery
The mine was placed beside the Tanfield Railway and there were two saddle tank locos for shunting wagons from the screens (built by Shields Brother of Swalwell) to the railway, one of which was kept as a spare.
Priestmans the colliery owners also bought farmland in the area. In 1917 they bought 46 acres at Whickham Grange from Cuthbert and Alice Hunter; 47 acres at High Glebe, Whickham; 192 acres at Marshall Lands, 33acres at Washingwell Wood, 5 acres at Bucks Hill plantation, the orchard at Fuger, and 58 acres at Green's farm from Lord Ravensworth in 1924; 90 acres at Washingwell Farm from A.W.Reichwald and Alfred Graden in 1924; 113 acres at Ravensworth Park Farm and 100 acres at Banesley lane from Harriet Gray in1938; and 108 acres at Old Ravensworth from William Wilson in 1938.
Watergate Colliery was vested in the National Coal Board in 1947 and it closed on August 20th 1964.
Coal mining and heavy industry played a major part in the development of Whickham and the surrounding area, but agriculture also played its part. Much of the land above ground was given over to farming and market gardening. On the Ordnance Survey Map of 1897 there are many farms to be found. Today there are very few working farms and market gardens. There are still allotments to be found in the area.
Most of the farms in the area were owned by the Ravensworth or the Carr-Ellison Estates.
Reports from Dr. Andrew Smith, Medical Officer of Health.
1900 Sanitary Requirements
1. All slaughter houses to be registered.
2. An isolation hospital should be erected as soon as possible.
1908 The main drainage scheme has been completed by the inclusion of Whaggs Lane, Cornmoor Road, Millfield Road, Sunniside and part of Marley Hill. It has now been decided to connect up the remainder of Marley Hill. Byermoor is still drained by open ditches.
Slaughter houses still remain unregistered but are subject to regular inspections.
The White Elephant School
This curiously named school opened in 1923 and closed in 1963. The reason for its name has been lost in the mists of time. The building was erected in 1914 and was burnt down in a mysterious fire in 1975. A bungalow called "High Trees" is now on the site. It was named after the high trees in its grounds which were in the school yard. The caretaker lived in a cottage where the police houses are now. Lottie Brabban was the caretaker at one time and there is a wood named after her (Lottie's Wood) on the opposite side of the road at the entrance to the Whinney Fields.
There was just one big room for the classes - they were open plan before their time! There were just 3 headteachers in the lifetime of the school.
In the early 1920s, Mrs Margaret Robinson kept a shop in her back room of Napier House. She made toffee apples and sold them to day trippers at Washingwell.
John and Bella Lister
In 1914 John and Bella Lister retired from Grange farm, Whickham to Grange House, Streetgate.
1920 Two shafts were sunk in Watergate Woods to form the Watergate Colliery. A housing estate was built for colliery workers on Broom Lane, Whickham.
1941 There was a very heavy fall of snow and the army was given the task to clear the track from the top of Baker's Bank to the bottom of the Lobley Hill incline.
1953 December- a new underground railway was completed at Watergate Colliery at a cost of £40,000. It was nearly 2 miles long from the shaft bottom to the coalface and a pair of trains carried the men inbye.
1954 Pithead baths and a canteen were built at Watergate Colliery.
1957 Watergate colliery was sending 700 tons of coal each day down the railway to Dunston.
1958 Newcastle and District Motor Club held motor cycle trials in Washingwell Woods
1963 "White Elephant" School closed.
1964 August 20th - Watergate Colliery closed due to it losing money.
1966 Watergate Colliery - the shafts were filled in and the screens demolished.
1974 Fire totally destroyed the old "White Elephant" School building.
1977 Gateshead M.B.C. bought Washingwell Woods from the National Coal Board.
William Anthony Hopper
William Anthony Hopper, resident of Steetgate, was the grandson of Andrew Hopper of Baldwin Flatts Farm, Dunston. He served in the Royal navy during the First World War and as a special constable during the Second World War.
He was an all round sportsman, playing in his younger days for Ashington F.C. when the club was a member of League Division III (North) and then was associated with Whickham Park A.F.C.
He served as a governor for both, Whickham Cottage Hospital and the R.V.I., Newcastle.
Will Fenwick lived at Westview and in 1910 was a travelling draper though earlier in his life he worked with his father at Marley Hill Pit. He was born at Streetgate in 1872 the son of Luke Fenwick, toll collector at Fuger Bar in 1871. Will was one of the stalwarts of Sunniside Methodist Chapel being a lay preacher, superintendent, class leader and society steward over many years. In 1937 he was serving on the management committee of Whickham Cottage Memorial Hospital.
Mr and Mrs Edward Reed
Mr and Mrs Edward Reed, parents of Reed Brothers, Motor Bus Proprietors lived at Haydon House which was built for them. Edward, an engineman at Marley Hill pit, died at Streetgate in 1915.
Joseph Harrison (1876-1954) lived at Seaton and worked on the Tanfield Railway. In 1891 he was the switch lad at the bottom of Baker's Bank and lived as a boarder with Ed Shotton, platelayer, at the railway cottage, Fugar Bar. Joe was a prominent member of Sunniside Methodist Chapel and could spin a good yarn, especially to the young folk. His wife Betty (nee Wallace), baked tasty teacakes and sold them in her sweet shop at Seaton in the 1930s.
The Rose - Streetgate
About 1856, Robert Stott, tailor and publican, moved from the public house at Low Streetgate to open up the "Union Inn" which he renamed "The Rose and Thistle" in 1868. His sons George and Billy were both butchers and had premises for their trade beside the pub. Billy took over the pub in 1880 and renamed it "The Rose, Shamrock and Thistle", (known by some as the middle house or halfway house). It was while Billy was in charge that Tommy (the poet) Armstrong wrote "Hedgehog Pie".
Billy's wife Lizzie had the license in 1902 and she retired to Fuger Bar tollhouse. Tom Storey was the publican in 1910.
The house was considerably enlarged in the early 1960s and in 1987 was renamed "The Rose".
The Marquis of Granby - Streetgate
The Marquis of Granby Public house is situated on Streetgate, Sunniside in the county of Tyne and Wear. The building is on the route of one of the first wagon-ways built around 1710 and may have been used for resting and watering of the horses.
The first tenant of the public house, The Marquis of Granby, we have been able to trace was Mrs. Margaret Pyle in 1861. In the year 1865 we know that the landlord was one William Laidman, locally known as 'Bill of the Bank'. The next tenants we are able to trace are Thomas Gray Thirlaway of Union Cottage, Sunniside and his brother Robert. The two brothers were left the property in a will but we are unable to be certain of the date or the benefactor.
The pub was purchased in April 1902 by Newcastle Breweries Ltd., and was rebuilt between 1903 and 1905 at a cost of £1908. The tenants since that date have been:-
Thomas Routledge May 1906
James Hearne Feb 1910
Chas Wm Esson April 1915
Jas Wm Redhead Feb 1934
Harold Burn Hall May 1936
Arthur Dixon Scorer Feb 1938
William Joseph Hocking Sep 1955
William Montgomerie Aug 1956
Malcolm Henry Frederick O'Shea Aug 1966
John Bingham Patterson June 1969
Mary Barton Aug 1970
Cecil A Bell July 1977
Ola Bell (his wife) Oct 1979
John Gray April 1981
Peter Weatherby Dec 1982
It was during the tenancy of the Scorer family that the first known sighting of the ghost occurred. It was young Arthur and his elder brother who witnessed the event one night in their bedroom. Since that time each succeeding tenant has experienced possible sightings and strange occurrences. It is believed to be the image of an elderly woman and whether or not there is any connection with the murder that took place in 1865, we are unable to say.
Streetgate - Rose Villa
Rose Villa is a modernised stone cottage, which was part of a row of three cottages in the mid 19th century. The cottage was partly rebuilt about 1870 on the end of a row of four cottages. In the early 1920s Lily Place lived here. Her family worked on the railway.
Streetgate - East Sunniside Farm
When Gateshead Council sold East Sunniside Farm forty-five acres of the land were sold to the Woodlands Trust, who have planted numerous trees of various sorts. The name of the wood is Lotties Wood named after the caretaker of the White Elephant School, who was a well-known character in the village. Lottie lived in the cottage next to the school, the site of which is now occupied by two former police houses.
Streetgate - Introduction
Streetgate is situated on the A692 adjoining the larger village of Sunniside. The land originally belonged to the Ravensworth estate. The name, Streetgate, is thought to be derived from the location of the waggonway (now a walkway) running down from Marley Hill Colliery to the staiths at Dunston. It ran straight through the gates at Pennyfine and down Bakers bank, combining 'straight and gate', and eventually becoming Streetgate.
From 1908 to 1914 Shepton Cottages, Bewley Cottages and a number of substantial houses were built which gave a new lease of life to the village. Over the past 25 years a number of houses have been erected, some at the entrance to the village at Lobley Hill and a new estate at the bottom of Pennyfine Lane on land which belonged to Douglas's Market Garden.
When Gateshead Council sold East Sunniside Farm forty-five acres of land were sold to the Woodlands Trust, who have planted numerous trees of various sorts. The name of the wood is Lotties Wood named after the caretaker of the White Elephant school, who wa a well known character in the village. Lottie lived in the cottage next door to the school, the site of which now has two ex-police houses built upon it.
Rose Villa is a modernised stone cottage, which was part of a row of three cottages in the mid-nineteenth century. The cottage was partly rebuilt about 1870 on the end of a row of four cottages. In the early 1920's Lily Place lived here. Her family worked on the railway.