Murray Engine Works
The Round School
The DLI & Chester
Gt. North Road
The Great Flood
CAN YOU HELP?
Shrove Tuesday Football
Donald O Clarke
A Brief History
Murder at Mill
Vincent "Bush" Parker
The Cestrian Club
A Dastardly Deed
The Lumley Warriors
CLS Cricket Club
Meet the Members
WOOLWORTHS - End of an Era
NEWS & EVENTS
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
100 Years Ago
Links for Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
Would you like to see a Heritage Centre in Chester-le-Street
In the 1940`s after the war I remember the regatta’s on the Wear at Chester-le-Street. It was an afternoon out for the whole family as my brother Stan Shepherd, who worked at South Pelaw Colliery was in the Rowing Club and raced in the single sculls. I know that Jimmy Aitcheson was rowing as well. It seemed as if the whole town turned out. I can recall that there was an ice cream van which may have been “Tot” Anderson's and somebody selling fruit from a horse and cart, who I think was from Mordues? There were a lot of clubs racing, some from Durham University and some from the Police Force.
Stan also went to regattas on the Tyne and once won a cup at Cambois. He was following in the footsteps of our father Robert, who in his younger days won the Jacob Hall Cup, but I don’t know when this was. However, the photograph suggests that he was in his 20`s. I didn't join the rowing club. To be quite honest I can’t understand how some of these men worked a full shift down the pit and then went out to row!
The Lion, Tiger & the Wolf Cubs
|Strictly speaking there are no Wolf Cubs in this narrative. They had all grown older and emerged as senior scouts of the 2nd Chester le Street Scout Troop. One evening in the mid 1950s the Troop went to visit Jimmy Walton, a local butcher who had achieved fame through his ownership of wild animals. This visit was arranged by the Leader of the Troop, Bryan Scott. The Troop at the time consisted of Patrol Leaders Derek Shepherd (Shep), Jon Lubbock (Be bop a lub lub), Fred Richards, Peter Kellett, Clive Kellett, Charles Shaw (Chas) and Ron Hall who, for the first and perhaps the only time in his life, was late.
The Troop, minus Ron Hall, arrived at Jimmy Walton’s house in Picktree. The evening started with the introduction of a very large lion cub to everyone and then a film show about Jimmy’s lions. While the sitting room was in darkness to view the film show, Ron Hall arrived and bumped into what he thought was a large Labrador dog! The ‘dog’ moved away and sat down on Shep’s feet. When the lights were switched on, there was the ‘Labrador’ which turned out to be the lion cub leaning comfortably against Shep. When he realised it was a lion and not a dog he had bumped into, Ron’s eyebrows went up in surprise!
After the film tea was served. The lion cub, looking to be more comfortable, leaned heavily against Shep’s knees. This jostled his hand as he was about to take a drink and a few drops of the hot tea fell on the lion cub’s rump! There was a loud roar from the cub and it leaped up. The scouts scattered in all directions – except for Shep who sat immobile!
The lion cub did not go berserk as you would imagine. It sat down in front of Shep, giving him a quizzical look and then sat on his feet! Order was quickly restored and the scouts resumed their seats. Jimmy’s son said, ‘I am pleased to see that he (i.e. the lion cub) has taken that so well.’ So am I, thought Shep!
At the end of the evening when the scouts were leaving, Jimmy Walton pulled back the cover from a large cage. In it was a huge tiger with a beautiful coat and luminous yellow eyes. ‘This is the only animal that I do not handle,’ he said. ‘It is so strong and unpredictable.’ The silence of the scouts showed that they were obviously impressed. All in all a memorable evening - and Ron Hall’s eyebrows have never come down!!
Reminiscence by Ron Hall and Derek Shepherd May 2010.
School Days & Childhood
|Do you remember when Schooldays and Childhood were a wonderful part of life?
We lived in rows and rows of terrace houses with Front Streets and Back Lanes – and the Back Lanes were our playground. We knew everyone in the Back Lane and everyone knew us. To a certain extent this guaranteed behaviour throughout Teenage because your misdemeanours could be reported by unknown witnesses who knew other members of your family whilst being unknown to you.
The kids in your area all went to the same school. I was a Top-ender (living near the Top End of the town as opposed to the Bottom End). Our school was The Red Rose School. No parent making demands for the best school – all the schools were good. The teachers knew you, your brothers and sisters and possibly your mother. Father was always at work and parents never interfered with school life - teachers were in charge and their discipline was law.
The back lanes were a hive of activity. Do you remember Hitchy Dabbers, Bally Bays, Tiggy…? For Cricket we used an upturned metal bucket as a wicket, some form of wooden bat and the cry of ‘Six and out!’ when a ball flew over a yard wall!
Seasons came and went. Who decided? Or did it just happen? Skipping, Tops and Whips. Did you make kites with brown paper, some old canes scrounged from the allotments, paste made from flour and water and any bits of string that came your way? Did you have races on stilts which were made from old treacle tins and string or did you race up and down the lanes bowling an old tyre with a stick?
It seems that life was perpetual motion. Sports fields for schools had not been heard of, but we did have two big school yards where we did our physical exercises, our drills, played various ball games and actually had Sports Days which included all the customary races – egg and spoon, three legged, sack and relay races. Losers and winners, fun and enjoyment! No Health and Safety intimidation. In Winter the concrete yards, iced and frosted over, were our skating rinks. The soles of our Winter shoes were always well covered with iron studs to conserve the leather and these made wonderful skates. The whole yard was criss-crossed with icy tracks – slides! The teachers inched their way around the edges of the yard to gain entrance to the school.
We also had lessons – we could all read and write and do ‘sums’ – some better than others, but we all did ‘Tests’ all the time and these were just another part of the routine. No panic…No STRESS…..Of course some pupils passed more tests than others, but at the end of the day we all continued to become independent citizens contributing to life in our town of Chester le Street.
Reminiscence by Audrey Watson August 2010.
Jimmy Walton and his animals.
Quite a number of our older readers will recall Jimmy Walton and his lion.
James Walton was well known in Chester-le-Street during the 1940’s and 50’s, being a family butcher with a shop at Bridge End at the bottom of Front Street. He lived at Rickleton House near Picktree.
Since childhood he had loved all animals and eventually bought a monkey. His interest grew throughout his life and he progressed with badgers, foxes, otters, lions, tigers and a leopard. The various animals that he obtained came to his home and were housed in purpose built cages at the rear of his property.
Jimmy had access to Lambton Park and would often exercise his lion by letting it run free in the Park area. At times he took a lioness, Sheba, on visits to schools for the education of the pupils. A colleague recollects being a pupil at the Grammar School when Jimmy arrived with the lioness in a box in the back of his Ford van.
The animal was released from its box in the Lecture Theatre and it squeezed between the rows of seated pupils to be tickled and petted. At the end of his talk he crawled into the box on his back and Sheba crawled on top of him and licked his face. My friend recalls Jimmy saying that the tongue felt like sandpaper.
His lion became a common sight around Chester-le-Street, near his shop and travelling around in his car or van. On one occasion he was given firm advice by Inspector Gargate of the local Constabulary, who had seen Jimmy driving down Front Street with his leopard draped around his shoulders.
Jimmy eventually wrote a book about his animals entitled ‘My Wild Friends’.
Reminiscence by Malcolm Smith - March 2010.
DO YOU REMEMBER ?
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Cinema visits in the late 1950s.
Chester-le-Street in the 50s had four cinemas, The Queens, Essoldo (Empire), The Savoy and The Palace. The Queens, in the Market place. As far as we can remember this was the largest cinema. and was very ornate. Anne can remember walking home with friends, re-enacting what they had seen on the screen, especially ‘Singing in the Rain’. The Queens became a Bingo Hall and burnt down in the 1990s.
The Empire – or Essoldo cinema. It was very ornate, with red velvet seats and stage curtains. The Amateur Operatic Society used to have their shows on there, and both the Grammar and Secondary Modern Schools held their speech days there. No trip to the Empire was complete without a visit to Harry Frances’ shop for sweets (Anne liked cinder toffee). The Empire was situated between Osborne Road and the Front Street and the Empire Ballroom was attached. The wallpaper shop Decorflair is now where the Kings Head public house was and the site of the cinema and ballroom is now a car park. Anne remembers seeing ‘The King and I’ there and when ‘Jailhouse Rock’ with Elvis was shown, you couldn’t hear the soundtrack for screaming by the audience of girls!
The Savoy was a smaller venue, and at each side of the hall there were ramps up by the side of the screen that led to the toilets. And as you walked up to the ramp, the crowd sang ‘we know where you are going’. And on your way back you were met with the chorus, ‘we know where you’ve been’. It was situated on the Front Street, near the Cestrian Club is. It was quite dark and dismal, and you went down into the cinema off the street.
The Palace, in Low Chare, also a small venue, had a reputation for being a ’flea pit’. Quite literally, because you could be bitten. They used to show a lot of cartoons on Saturday mornings for the kids. The Palace was opposite the Bethel Chapel, and is now a car showroom.
How things have changed since we went to ‘the pictures’! We were born in 1944 and didn’t get TV until the 50s, so going to the cinema was a regular occurrence. All patrons at picture houses would be smartly dressed, not Sunday best, but men would wear suits, or sports jackets and trousers, and always with a shirt and tie. Many ladies wore hats, and smart coats. Extra large hats blocked the view of the people behind, so sometimes it was necessary to move from the seat that the usherette had shown you to, possibly several times. Of course smoking was allowed, and sweets and fruit were consumed. There were usually two films, an A and B plus Pathe News reels and a cartoon. It didn’t matter what time you arrived, because you could stay until the part you’d missed came around again. After the film we often went to the Silver Grid, which was along from the Co-op department store (where Longs newsagents and the betting shop are) for chips. When Anne’s husband Jim was little, one evening during the cartoons, the projectionist went off to have a quick smoke, and the cartoon went off and a Swedish naturist film came on. Alerted by the stunned silence that ensued, the fault was swiftly rectified. Happy Days!!!
Reminiscence by Anne Blenkiron and Jenny Lancaster October 2010.
We used to visit Emily’s café above Aspects on Front Street, Chester le Street, with friends twice a week to enjoy a coffee and some toast or a bacon sandwich. Margaret used to like trying all the varieties of scone on offer, and there were also lovely cakes for sale. The owners of Aspects and Emily’s Cafe, Lesley and Keith, were always very welcoming. Lesley who was friendly and outgoing, ran the café with her friend Jane who helped with the baking. Apart from the regular weekly visits with friends for a chat over coffee, Jean sometimes called in on her way to Church and Margaret occasionally had a coffee there on her own. They always felt welcome as there was such a friendly atmosphere in the Café. Jean and Margaret and their friends feel it is a real shame that the shop and Emily’s Café have recently closed down.
Lesley told customers stories about ‘Emily’s ghost’, who the café was named after. ‘Emily’s ghost’ was a friendly presence not an evil apparition. Sometimes when Lesley and Keith opened up in the morning they noticed that things had been moved in the shop and Café – more so in the case of the upstairs Café. The owners of the Computer Shop next door to Aspects also said that articles were moved mysteriously in their shop. Lesley used to say that at times the lights in the shop and Café went on at night when no-one was there – and Emily’s ghost got the blame! It was as though the lights going on were a sign that ‘Emily’s time’ was starting. In one corner of Emily’s Café, Lesley said she often felt there was a ‘presence’. Lesley firmly believed that this ‘presence in the corner’ was Emily’s ghost.
Aspects shop was probably the nicest gift shop in Chester le Street - somewhere where you could guarantee a warm friendly welcome both in the downstairs shop and the upstairs café. According to Jean, Lesley made a very good Latte coffee in a proper Latte glass. She used a special machine. The coffee went in the glass first, followed by the steam and then the milk. A lovely glass of Latte coffee! Jean has never seen anyone else make a Latte in that way.
So where does ‘Emily’s ghost’ come from? Before Aspects, there were quite a few shops occupying the building, but you probably remember it best as the chemists Timothy White’s. Previous to that, ‘Dalkin’s the Saddlers’ had their shop there. The footballs used in the annual Shrove Tuesday match were made at the Dalkin’s shop and the first floor window of the shop was the one that the football was thrown out to start the match. Emily Dalkin is thought to have been a daughter of the owners. When the Dalkin family ran the shop, they probably lived in rooms above, which may be why the presence of ‘Emily’s ghost’ was felt more in the upstairs Café than downstairs in the shop.
Reminiscence by Audrey, Jean and Margaret November 2010.
CHESTER MODERN SCHOOL DINNERS
In approximately 1952/53 the new school dining hall had just opened, this was built separately from the main school building. The room was laid out with tables for eight people with a form down each side. The teachers sat on a raised platform at the left hand side. We queued outside, boys in one queue and girls in the other, then we filed in. The first four girls sat one side of the first table and the first four boys on the other side, the room filled up in order down the hall. This meant that you didn’t always get to sit with your friends. If you wanted to swap places, another girl on the next table had to be willing to swap with you. If she didn’t like the boys on your table then she wouldn’t swap and you had to stay where you were. As the pupils were usually of a mixed age group, you sometimes didn’t know anyone else at your table.
One girl from each table had to volunteer to go to the serving hatch and collect the dinners two at a time, to serve her table. If no one was willing to go the prefects chose some one. Of course there was only one choice of meal and everyone gave you their orders “don’t get any cabbage on mine”, or “I don’t want any turnip” etc. and you stood in the queue trying to remember what everyone wanted, it also meant that you were last to get your meal, and everyone had to wait until you were finished. The boys had to clear away the dirty dishes and take them back to the serving hatch at the end of the meal.
I was 14 years old before food came off the ration, and of course we didn’t have any fruit. Occasionally the “good people of Australia” would send the “poor starving children of Britain” boxes of apples. As we filed out of the dining hall we were each given an apple. These were red and tasted foisty no one liked them, however it did mean that we had apple crumble the following day instead of semolina with a spoonful of jam in or “frog spawn” (tapioca).Sometimes we had Manchester Tart.(pastry spread with jam and solid custard on the top, which was then cut into squares,) this was very popular.
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