I was born in Etherly Dene (1911),behind the little Chapel there,before the Estate was built.
I always remember this, it has always lived with me for years,about Mother getting us up one night and putting us under the table because a Zeppelin was coming over.I have got an idea that it was heading to Fishburn Coke Ovens, probable attracted by the lights.I know there was one shot down,I was very young,but I can remember that
We moved from Etherly Dene to Bridge Row(Escomb).This has always confused a me a bit,I always thought we lived in the 4th house up from you, or would it be the 6th one up (Talking to his friend Mrs Gladys Roe). We lived there for a while and then we moved into Parkins Yard, now that was a place to move-lets face it Bridge Row was a king to this down here but of course we had more room. It was just before you get to the bottom of the bank, you used to go up a little rise turn right through an archway(where Raisbecks lived, turn to the left and the earth closets were there, and just at this side was our house
During the time we lived in Parkins Yard there was four of us in the family, my sister, she has died since-she was about two years old, then me then there was my other sister and then my younger brother-he was all right but three of us got Scarlet Fever and we had to stay in one bedroom for three weeks, we were isolated in there, if you looked out of the window all you saw was the toilets.There was a fever hospital at Tindale Crescent but they thought the three of us were better at home It was strange that 4 or 5 years later my brother got it and they took him to Tindale Crescent Hospital
The main work for the men in the village at that time-my father worked at the Slag Works,but when I was a lad just before I left school, just over the bridge towards Witton Park on the left hand side you will see quite a heap there, My father and an uncle and someone else,I sometimes took their teas up,and go down the drift mine And watch them working.Nothing came of it very much because I dont think it was completed.You remember The Slag Works they used the waste from the the old Iron Works And produced tarmacadam and all sorts of things.
When I first started work it was across where the old coke and brick ovens were.We used to dig bricks-seconds,clean them then put them in to the trucks,there was a siding down there. I was there for about18 months,then it fizzled out, it was owned by the same people as the Slag Works, we were transfered to Witton Park .When I first started work after leaving school, I always remember ,I brought home 10s 9p.
When I left the Slag Works,I was about 20, I applied to join the Police Force.Mind I put some work in before that, I used to go to evening classes twice a week.I used to cycle to Bp. Auckland Grammer School and I had about four subjects-Shorthand, Typing, Economics... The shorthand came in very useful later on, I did a bit of office work later on and you could be an authorised shorthand writer and get paid for it, but I said no You could get called out anytime
to meetings and they were not very pleasent so as long as I wasnt authorised, I could please myself.
Mrs Gladys Roe,
Ilived in the last house in Bridge Row going down the hill-number 19.My father was a miner at Toronto and we used to go over the old rope bridge, We had relatives in Toronto and we used to go over there regularly.
There were two chapels in the village, and there was a butchers shop, Pattersons next to the Wesleyan Chapel. Further down was the Chapel we attended. The old Primitive Methodist which the Salvation Army took over,it was beforI went away when I was 15 or 16,must have been 1920? We did go to quite few Socials at the Wesleyan Chapel.(Mr Scales-when she went to the Salvation Army she had to go there-not the Chapel)The Salvation Army had a great following because all the people at the bottom of the village, Bowmans Yard and places like that,all went there because it was nearer and they all had large families.During the General Strike(1926)at the time the Salvation Army fed a lot of people for free, although there were farthing breakfasts all the kids came, and at night they had pies and peas and everything.We had a great following the Hall was always packed,getting all this food free
Do you remember a family called Grey (?)Jackie about the same age as me,we used to go to school together, They made the first reclamation-for a pair of boots for a free meal. It was a pit heap, very dirty, it was here we had what we called the tattie gardens. They were allotments really, they gradually dwindled and between time my father and Mr Dixon took it over and they had hens and hen houses, it was like that when I went away, I dont remember them moving them.
There used to be tennis courts over here, that was before the the first recreation ground, it was lovley. They had Reading Rooms, before the railway line where the community Centre is now, there was billiards and reading room,they played cards, not much gambling because people did not have the money.They played quoits, they had a football team as well,they played in that field the other side of the railway, that was where we had the shows, and roundabouts.
Was there a brass band in Escomb? a friend of mine
has a photograph of it-a relative of Lena Dowsons. They did have a brass band because my grandfather was in that-Evans.(Mr Scales)I can"t remember it might have been before I came or after I went away in 1931. Do you know anyone who played?
My Grandfather, Mike used to play the piccolo, what about Norman Inman he played the piano accordion and the concertina.
Round the bottom of the hill was a Chapel on the right hand side and round there was the Stack yard which led up to Vicarage Farm, my uncle had that farm, Uncle Will. Thats where I spent a lot of my time even when I was working. The one thing I am upset about is that the council took away the trough from the front of the old Saxon Church, where the horses used to drink, that was a landmark and now it"s gone, It was a natural spring.
My uncle used to supply sand to Joe Pye the builder, He led it in a coup cart, I used to go down to the river and help him load the cart from the Gravel Works. He had two horses, one in the shaft and one in the tracer, to get it up the bank, they were two heavy horses mind you-the old draught horses. We had one who used to jump all over the place and he used to do the tracing. We used to take him right up to the three lane ends and would loosen him, fasten his traces up ,turn him round and he used to walk back to the farm. the kids would shout at him as he went past he took not one bit of notice and would trudge away back into his stable. Fancy, going all the way down there with just a coup cart with maybe a ton, or a ton and a half in, they weren"t that big and lets face it, sand is heavy you know. Even the colliery carts, the one they put the coals in for the miners were only 15cwt.
We were married in St John"s Church (the Victorian Church). I think it was a shame that was taken down,it was very nice.They used to have the Sunday services in the summer down at the Saxon Church, but all the other services up there. It had a lovely church hall, it was the centre of the village then. Concerts, dancing, everything in there. The Salvation Army was doing well, then there was the Chapel and the Church. I think there was more children then ,people had big families, there was no television or radio like there is now. There were about 1300 in population in Escomb in 1911 (now there about 800 to 900). Families were much bigger, my grandparents had about 12 children. It has changed a lot now. Games we used to play ,All the bath tins used to hang outside Bridge Row and as kids we used to start at the top and come right down and bang every one, we were little horrors. The Vicarage had these apple trees, wouldn!t dare go over the wall, but we used to shake the branches with a stick to get the apples.
There were some sad occasions as well, I always remember being in bed one night it was in the middle of the night, we were all in bed and there was a voice outside shouting "Charlie", that was my fathers name, he says what!s the matter? Georgie Douthwaite"s been killed in the pit. Do you remember at school one day when Keith Owen said "Is there anyone here related to John Brown? and do you remember in a coup cart from Newton Cap bank?. (What"s a coup cart?) They"ve got two large wheels, and they are like a box with a door at the back and it could be tipped up. That's what they used to clean out the middens with, Isn't it? How many lavatories were there for each house?.
We weren't too bad, There were about six toilet's there-Mrs Duffin, we were next, Mrs Hewitt,who was it who lived in that just round the arch-Mrs Hewitt,then there was my grandmother in the house we took over,then the Raisbeck's they had one there. Over the road there was a big sink, quit enormous, and four of us shared it and every fourth week we had to swill out the sink. There was only cold water in houses.
In this yard-Parkins Yard-I dont know why they they called it Parkin's Yard I think it was after some pit. owner. They had a communal wash house, one person used it one day then another the next. They had those down Bowmans Yard as well.they took turns to use it.
What did they call the streets, closes etc?
One was Parkin's Yard, Then there was Bowman's Yard, Wear Terrace down towards the river.New Row right at the edge of the field and then there was Cross Row, the one at the top Bridge Row,and there was Wesley Terrace just two houses
How many houses were there behind the Church?
You know where the houses start now, just before you get there, was the old Post Office, then there was the Angel Pub, Dixons fruit shop was at the other end. Wasn't there a Farley's Yard? That was at Etherley Moor. After the Pub there would be about four or five houses then the Fuit Shop. There was a gap until you got to William Blades farm, so it wasn't really built up right round. Two houses had been knocked down. Going down the river opposite Wear terrace was the old Hall it was in a dilapidated state I was once told they destroyed a marvellous fireplace in there, Who lived in the Hall was it May......'s sister?. When I was at School they told us there was a tunnel from the Hall that led to the old Church ,and to Binchester Roman Fort, We used to go down the step's at the Chuch to see the bricked up doorway.
Going down to the river past the Hall near the plaground was a big house with a swing in the garden, not many people had a swing and we all used to congregate in there. Fruit tree's were all round this house. Blades'cottage had plum trees which were coverd every year,and an orchard which went right down to the river.Another big orchard belonged to Harry Hamlin next door to orchard House.
Remember Dabbleduck-Who was that women who used to live there? Polly on the sands. She was a ..... women. There were two cottages there.Dabbleduck was like a triangle behind Blades' farm . It was frozen over in the winter time and we used to go skating there. River over flowed and it froze as well. We were playing football there and Bill Blades prosecuted us. It was reported in the Gazette, headline was Escomb Youths Again!"- just for playing football.
There were two houses were Lincolns live, but there but there was also a little street with four or five houses. I can remember Stainbrown(my uncle)Matthens, then there was Widdes's, they were the gentry, He was a sidesman at the Church.
There was a public footpath through there. (Jack talking to Gladys?)Do you remember when we went to Witton Park on the bus and we would walk back along the fields? we got down Nab Hill all right and then we came to that little beck, we couldn't get across so we went down to the corner and scrambled under the barb wire then the cows started to chase us.You can walk all the way down to the river. Just by the river you came to a wood, we used to call it little wood. There was a lot of ariam lilies, bluebells, primroses, but they tell me there isn't any now.
What do you think of Escomb village now compared with 50 or 60 years ago?.
Very different, but a great improvement. I think it's a pretty village now.Bridge Row looks lovly, they got those houses for next to nothing, those that bought them, got them for £150
Down the village the river used to flood right up to the houses, I remember my Grandfather having to move upstairs. There was a sewage works and all the fish used to be dead in the river we didn't swim then. We called part of the river further along the backwater were we swam, in the summer.