No. 94 Autumn 2022
Editor: Mark Benjamin
Welcome to the Autumn newsletter. We might have had a false start returning to Trinity in March but it was great to welcome so many of our members back to the hall for our September talk. Now, I have enjoyed the Zoom talks, especially getting a better look at the presentations on my screen rather than peering from the back row, but it was great to get back to ‘normal’ as it were and I’m looking forward to the remaining talk of our 2022 programme. In recognition of the dark nights and possibly inclement weather, the first two talks of 2023 will however be on Zoom. The link will be circulated by email nearer the time.
This summer, while some were off sunning themselves (myself included), some of our members have been hard at work. They’ve been supporting the recent Market 800 anniversary commemoration event, continuing the society’s involvement in the catchily-named HSHAZ and putting the finishing touches to a book set to be on all members’ Christmas list. Personally, a highlight was to tag along to our final outing of the year and enjoy a Walk in the Park led by Nick Owen sharing his insight.
You will soon discover when reviewing the AGM papers which accompany the newsletter that I am standing down as Chair and from the Committee. Since initially joining the Publications Committee back in 2015 it has been wonderful experience and to end it with a short spell as Chair, all before turning 35, has capped it all off but I need to step away due to family and work commitments. I am relieved and delighted that Mark Benjamin has agreed to be proposed to the AGM as our new Chair. Mark requires no introduction and has long done sterling work for the Society as you will all be well aware and I’m sure he will be glad to no longer have to chase me for my Thoughts. Not that he or you will be truly free from me just yet as I have agreed to stay on and manage the HLHS Facebook page and help record the talks at Trinity when I can.
With the 31st issue of Hexham Historian, those of us who keep our back-files in the rather fine binders needed to start a new volume and with HH32’s arrival, the problem has become pressing! Happily, binders can be purchased from Terry Eccles for £2.50 plus postage at firstname.lastname@example.org or post free from Terry at our monthly meetings.
New members may of course wish to purchase back copies of Hexham Historian to create an impressive display on their shelves featuring all thirty two issues in three binders – Terry will be happy to oblige!
Dates for your diary
Tues Nov 8th AGM and Edwardian explorations: discovering Roman Coria. Talk by Dr Frances McIntosh. Trinity Methodist Church, 7.30pm
Tues Jan 10th The Durham River Wear Assemblage. Talk by Gary Bankhead. 7.30pm via Zoom
Tues Feb 14th The Noodles: Northumberland’s Yeomany Cavalry in The Great War. 7.30pm via Zoom
New to the Members’ Library on our website
Hexham: being a survey conducted by the Hexham and District Business & Professional Women’s Club. Published in 1947, this pamphlet provides a fascinating portrait of the town in the immediate Post-War period. Sections cover Social Aspects, Education, Economic Aspects including Distributive Trades and Professions, and Future Prospects.
Mount Royal, Hexham, Northumberland. An illustrated brochure dating from the 1940s, when the house was operating as a luxury hotel. In 1948 it was purchased by Barnardo’s Children’s Charity, first for girls and then, from 1953 also for boys. The home was closed in 1982, after which the building was used as a residential home for the elderly.
The HLHS Photo Archive Catalogue Pete Lee
The HLHS Photo Archive on the HLHS website (https://www.hexhamhistorian.org/historic-hexham/photograph-archive/) comprises over 6000 old and historic photos of Hexham and the surrounding areas. Hopefully, many of you have browsed through some of the collection.
Rather than just have a collection of photos in no especial order, the archive has been categorised into a number of Choices pages, which lead to other Choice pages or the Gallery pages displaying a set of related photos. For example, clicking on the Hexham Choices thumbnail will take your browser to a set of further choices or galleries for you to choose from (Fig 1 – visit the website to see the full detail). Please note that the screenshots shown in this article were taken from a PC using the Chrome browser, and will appear slightly differently on other browsers and devices.
All of the photos in the archive have been categorised and appear in one or two galleries of related photos. For instance, if you want to see photos of the Market Place through time, the Market Place gallery contains all of the relevant photos. However, it is impossible to provide galleries for every possible topic. This is where the newly released Photo Archive Catalogue on the website comes in.
The Catalogue lists the complete set of photos in the archive. An example of the catalogue entry for the first photo in the archive is shown in Fig 2.
The first column is the photo’s catalogue number (PC001) and has a clickable link to view the image. The Caption column describes the image including its date. Postcards have an entry in the Manufacturer column. The Source column indicates where the image came from, together with any additional copyright information. The Tags column lists other words that have been associated with the photo but which didn’t appear in the caption (none for PC001). Finally there are two Gallery columns that have a clickable link to the one (in this case) or two galleries that the photo is associated with.
Above the catalogue list, the webpage displays two other boxes for the user to use, as shown in Fig 3.
The Show box has a drop-down menu to allows you to select how many catalogue entries are displayed at a time on your web page, while the Search box allows you to help you find photos of particular interest.
Say you were conducting some historical research into bollards. There isn’t a bollards gallery in the archive, and manually looking through all 6000+ images might you take a while. The search box allows you to identify images that have the word “bollards” in the catalogue, and will return (currently) a list of 5 images (Fig 4).
The Search box is a simple, text-based case-insensitive (bollards returns the same results as BOLLARDS) search. You can type words, or part words, into the search box. If you are interested in a particular date, just type the year into the box. Did you know that searching for 1922 returns a list of 2 images. However, it’s a simple search mechanism, so one of those images has a date of 1994 but the catalogue number CD1922! As another example, 228 images contain the letter z somewhere in their entry. Not a lot of people know that (a few more do now!).
If you find an error with a photo or its catalogue entry, please send an explanatory email to me at email@example.com or use the Photo Archive Forum that is available via a link on the Photo Archive top-level web page. Happy searching.
The Making of the Hexhamshire Landscape, the Society’s latest Occasional Publication, No.16, is intended for publication in November. Greg Finch’s new account of the ‘Shire’s’ landscape is the product of extensive research and charts the broad sweep of its history from the last ice age to the present day and is illustrated with over 100 maps and photographs. The cover price will be £15, but the book will be available to members for £12 (cash/cheques) when bought directly from the Society. The book is currently with the printers. If it arrives in time it will be on sale at our last meeting of the year, on November 8th in Trinity Methodist Church Hall – if not, order from firstname.lastname@example.org mentioning that you’re a member. Otherwise available through our website (logon to get the member’s price) or from your local bookshop!
Historic England is one of the partner organisations behind the High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative. It maintains the Listing of buildings of historic significance, of which Hexham has many. The official listing contains a basic description of each property; Enrich the List is designed to enable people to build a fuller picture of the history of individual sites. All Listed buildings and sites in Hexham can be found at https://historicengland.org.uk/sitesearch?searchType=site&search=Hexham
Do you have any interesting photos or personal memories of any sites on this list that you would be prepared to contribute? If so, please email them to Mark at email@example.com or post them to 9 Hencotes, Hexham NE46 2EQ. (If you would like them back, please include a SAE.) Naturally, there are already many images of the more notable sites but both Historic England and we are particularly interested in the lesser known, often private, buildings.
We are also wanting to build up the Historic Buildings & Areas section of our own website and any contributions submitted may also be added to this. Incidentally, if any member would like to take on the task of developing this section, we would love to hear from you!
Richard Lynn Studham, Emeritus Professor at McGill University, is exhibiting his recent body of work “Viking Chronicles’’ at Hexham Abbey until 4th November.
Following his exhibition “A Paragon of Chivalry” at Durham Cathedral, in conjunction with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in 2015, Professor Studham has ventured into the historical implications of the arrival of the Vikings in the north east of England. Being originally from this area himself combined with his studies in Denmark instilled the need to apply contemporary visual interpretations to these historical events. This body of work undertakes an investigation into selected Viking incursions and activities in Britain 865 – 1016, predominately in Northumberland and East Anglia.
This period in Viking history is well documented in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles along with research conducted by reputed historians. Hexham and the Abbey have had a very strong historical association with the Viking presence during this period. By bringing this contemporary visual interpretation to the attention of the viewers will allow them to partake in a journey of events that illustrates the presence and influence the Danes have had in this area to this present day.
The recent clearing of the vegetation surrounding the historic relic on Haugh Lane popularly known as “The Watchtower” has prompted much speculation on various pages on Facebook as to its history. Although the late Dr John Chapman posited it as part of the town’s defensive wall (see HH19), this continues to be disputed. However, it could well have been a standalone watchtower, having excellent views to the north and west – the most likely directions of threat. As can be seen from this photo, it was once considerably higher, although now capped off with flagstones, with another floor accessed by the stone staircase. Interestingly, the arches (definitely not lime kilns!) would appear to be of later construction to the main building; witnessed by the brick arch ring and the dressed stone piers. I would argue that this supports the idea that the tower’s primary purpose was a lookout; only later being converted to a storage facility of some sort.
On a perfect evening in high summer, with blue skies above, eighteen members gathered at the Slype door to enjoy a tour looking at the Abbey windows, escorted by Chris Britton, author of Hexham Abbey’s booklet no. 2 on the stained glass.
After a welcome Chris proceeded to take us round to each window, explaining that, while no early glass survives owing to the depredations of reformers, there is still a fine collection of glass from the mid-nineteenth through to the twentieth century by known and lesser-known artists. The loss of Abbey records for many of the windows’ histories has meant that much research has had to be undertaken of late.
Space allows only to give a flavour of a few of the windows. Imagine the visitor to the Abbey entering the south transept from the Slype and seeing for the first time the vibrant colours of the six windows of the north transept, showing the Apostle figures of the New Testament, by William Wailes of Bath Lane Newcastle, in his preferred style of the Thirteenth Century. These windows were given in memory of Bentham and Eleanor Hall in 1873 by their sons.
Turning to look at the South Transept at the modern window of 2012 by Alan Davies of Lythe, near Whitby, winner of a competition enabled by the bequest of Geoffrey and Marjorie Tyrrell on the theme of hospitality. In the evening light it was more impressive and moving than a mere description would suggest. The then rector’s daughter, Olivia Usher, sat for one figure continuing a tradition of over 100 years earlier, as seen in the Baptistry window.
At the west end of the Nave is the 1908 Baptistry window by Henry Bosdet, given in memory of James and Sarah Fairless. The centre light shows the story of Pope Gregory seeing the Anglian slaves in the Roman market place. A child dressed in green is modelled on Canon Sidney Savage’s daughter Awdrey.
The evening came to a close when Hugh Dixon gave an appreciation of Chris’s background research, photographic expertise and enthusiasm which added much to our pleasure in the circuit round the Abbey. The visit was enabled by our organiser Jennifer Britton with her usual efficiency.
Note: The Treasures of Hexham Abbey leaflet no. 2 ‘The Stained Glass’, which is a comprehensive guide all the Abbey windows, is available at the Welcome Desk at the Abbey or from the Abbey Shop, price £2.00
Sixteen members and one dog met to be led on a ‘Walk in the Park’ by historic landscape surveyor Nick Owen, who in 2000 wrote a history and management plan for the Hexham Parks, which led to the improvements to the layout and planting of the Abbey Grounds and Hexham House carried out in the following years.
Hexham is fortunate to have such a lovely open space right at its heart, with the ancient Abbey Church as a backdrop. Originally there was apparently only one tree in the Abbey Grounds. Early in the 19th century, during the ownership of Colonel Thomas Beaumont, the area was ‘landscaped’. A mound at the southern end was planted with trees. This was so that the new approach drive, leaving Battle Hill near what is now the Benson Memorial, would snake round that mound only revealing the view of the Abbey (house) half way down the drive. We spent some time trying to work out why the old Abbey buildings never seemed to have been given an imposing entrance, despite two rebuilds following fires.
The west range of the Abbey House was demolished to enable views westwards across the parkland, possibly even affording a view of the windmill on what is now Windmill Hill. The burn crossing the park was culverted, as it still is. Eventually the land was given in stages to the local council as a public park. The bandstand was built and paths diverted to focus on this and very many more trees planted, but no conifers. The recent hot weather revealed parch marks of abandoned paths in the grass, one of which headed for the playpark on the Sele, but we had trouble locating where it might have gone through the wall.
Jennifer nearly lost her record for arranging nice weather for outings today! It was galling after two days of excessive heat but, as we were under the trees, we were able to shelter from the occasional drizzle.
An altogether interesting ‘walk in the park’!
Note from Jennifer:
The first walk was over-subscribed so a second one was held on 7th September and was attended by 14 members. One thing that surprised most of us was that there had apparently been a paddling pool behind St Aidan’s church. This was closed in 1974.
Nick Owen didn’t ask a fee for these two walks and talks, but instead asked for donations to be made to support Hexham Spaces for Nature. I’m pleased to say that as a result of this we have been able to donate £123 to that organization.
Tynedale Ward Savings Bank
Later absorbed into the Trustees Savings Bank, this was housed in the rather fine building on Cattle Market now housing S&S Men’s Attire following its occupation by Coral Betting. When clearing out the premises, the new owners came across a couple of pass books from its days as a bank that had, somehow, escaped destruction. They have now framed a few pages which can be seen on the rear wall of the shop.
The Abbey welcomes well over 100,000 visitors annually, and they are welcomed and their questions answered by a small army of volunteers. We are in need of new recruits. You can do as much or as little as you wish, and training will be given. There are also some perks to this rewarding job!
If you have an interest in history and are happy talking to visitors from all over the world, please contact Kirsty Wills on (01434) 611907 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Paul Parkes asks:
My mother (deceased) had a younger brother, John Richard Brightman, born 13 June 1906. The family were Congregationalists and I understand John trained to be a Minister at the Northern Congregational College, Whalley Range, Manchester ( the family lived in the Manchester area).
John married Marjorie Reid, and sometime thereafter moved to Hexham. Whether John was Minister at the building now known, according to the internet, as St Aidan’s URC, I know not. Obviously his service pre-dated the creation of the URC.
The only other information which has been passed down to me is that John and Marjorie had two sons, Graham (“who had 4 daughters”) and Keith. With Brightman not being a common name I wonder whether there are any indications of it appearing in church records or elsewhere.
If you can help Paul, please email email@example.com or via the Editor.
Paul White asks (via Facebook) … :
… whether anyone knows anything about his grandfather, Alexander Burgess (1886-1968) “Alexander lived in the town but was a Scot originally. All I know is that he was in the Royal Navy but was kicked out in 1905; he became a chimney sweep in Hexham but was a bare knuckle fighter fighting the farm hands at the mart. He then joined the army in the First World War, was wounded and awarded a medal for his actions, survived the war but disappeared back to Scotland. I am interested if there would be any record of his boxing, legal or otherwise.
Replies via the Editor, please.
Kathleen Harrison asks:
I am looking for some history on Allerwash Farm and Hall and any information about Allerwash in the Borough of Newborough. My Grandson’s 3 x Gt Grandfather was born at Allerwash Farm and we are interested in his life in the area.
As Ian Hancock points out: Allerwash was part of the Greenwich Hospital estate until the 1870s, so there are copious records at Northumberland Archives and Dukesfield Documents, as well as The National Archives, but if anyone has any personal memories of Allerwash, Kathleen would love to hear from you, via the Editor.
Battle of Britain: The People’s Project is the brainchild of Dilip Sarkar MBE, the UK’s leading historian on the Battle of Britain who has written over 50 books on aviation history. The concept for the project began while Dilip was researching for one of his books and while visiting the family of Squadron Leader Tom Gleave, a Hurricane Pilot with No 253 squadron. Although he knew the outline of Tom Gleave’s life, Dilip was shocked at the sheer quantity of completely unpublished material and photographs held by his family leading him to wonder; if a pilot as noteworthy as Tom Gleave could have so much information about him that was unknown and undiscovered, what other information was out there, tucked away in cupboards and attics across the country? How many untold stories are there about less well-known aircrew, ground crew and civilians who found themselves caught up in the most important battle in British History?
This is what Battle of Britain: The People’s Project is all about, finding anecdotes and family stories from people across the country about how they or someone they knew was involved in or effected by The Battle of Britain, especially highlighting those who while they may not have flown a Hurricane, or a Spitfire nevertheless played an integral role in this hugely important historical event. Those with information they think is relevant to the project should head to the Project’s website at http://battleofbritainpeoplesproject.com
Grundy, John John Grundy’s History of Northumberland (Tyne Bridge, 2022) ISBN 9781838280970 £30.00
John Grundy has an infectious enthusiasm for the North East that covers both his television and radio work and his many books. This meaty volume, nicely illustrated with drawings and photographs, is no exception.
He has an easy conversational style that draws the reader into the stories and tales, and he effortlessly combines historical fact and anecdote with personal asides and musings. He ferrets out morsels of information that are useful to throw into the conversation. Did you know for example that a curlew is also known as a laverock? And knowledge of local dialect may come in handy at times- ‘netty lowping’ is a new one on me!
John Grundy’s History of Northumberland does not set out to be a definitive history of Northumberland but, as made clear by the title, is John Grundy’s history of Northumberland. It has an ambitious historical sweep from the first chapter which is a canter through the pre-history of the region from the Mesolithic period until the arrival of the Romans (covered in chapter 2). The Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans then get a chapter each. There is then an examination of the 13th century followed by chapters on the border wars, the 1500s and the 17th century.
The book then changes tack slightly and has themed chapters considering three 17th century women: Katherine Babington- a ‘bold beauty’ who wasn’t allowed to sit in pie shop windows in Durham because she caused the traffic to stop outside; Grizelda Cochrane, a ‘Highway bandit’, and Elizabeth, Baroness Percy who seems to have been distinguished because of her many marriages. It is all good stuff.
Chapter 11 looks at 18th Century Homes and Gardens, a must read before venturing out for a visit to a Northumberland Stately home such as Wallington, or Alnwick Castle. This is followed by chapters on the built environment, reflecting Grundy’s interest in architecture, and a chapter devoted to the Tyne
The final chapter, “Keeping the County Nice”, links to Grundy’s work as a fieldworker for the re-survey of listed buildings. He considers the planning regime and the role of listing in preserving and enhancing the unique attributes of our beautiful county, both natural and man-made.
Grundy is a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. This book is a pleasurable read, and a great present for the coming season for anyone who lives in, or loves, the North East.H
Fenwick, T Hugh. The world’s first locomotive factory (The Robert Stephenson Trust, 2022) 64pp ISBN 978 095 3516 209 £8
Published by The Robert Stephenson Trust to coincide with and commemorate the bicentenary of the founding of Robert Stephenson & Co in 1823, this book provides a concise history of Robert Stephenson & Company (RS&Co), presented in two parts. The first covers the period 1823 to 1902, when the works were in the Forth Banks industrial area of Newcastle upon Tyne. The business outgrew the space in this area. To remain viable, it relocated to a new factory at Darlington, opened in October 1902. The second part relates to the Darlington business until the last locomotive left the works in 1964.
The narrative starts with how the company came to be; how Rocket and the Rainhill Trials developed locomotives suitable for high speed passenger transport, and how their further improvements set the principles of locomotive design for more than a century. Under Robert Stephenson’s guidance as Managing Partner the company became the pride of Newcastle. Change was inevitable as competition increased from other manufacturers both at home and abroad during the 1850s. In 1859 Robert Stephenson died a few days before his 56th birthday. His cousin George Robert took on leadership of the firm for 40 years. They were difficult times for the business due to fluctuating demand for locomotives, keen cost competition and limited space at Forth Banks to improve production methods. From the 1850s the firm diversified into building marine engines as well as locomotives.
This well illustrated little book outlines the activities and products of the works that carried the Stephenson name for 140 years, from the founding of Robert Stephenson & Co in 1823 to closure of English Electric Co. Ltd, Stephenson Works, Darlington in 1964.
Frodsham, Paul & Sharpe, Kate – eds. Abstractions Based on Circles: Papers on prehistoric rock art presented to Stan Beckensall on his 90th birthday (Archaeopress, 2020) ISBN 9781803273167 £38.00
A long-time resident of Hexham, former member of the HLHS Committee, and the author of many books on cup and ring marks, Hexham itself, and many aspects of Northumberland’s history, Stan Beckensall is an internationally renowned expert on prehistoric rock art. This festschrift is a well-deserved tribute to his life’s work on the subject. Unfortunately, as is often the case with academic titles, the cost means it may well be one to borrow from the library!