May 7, 2009

Northumberland. North Tyne and Rede: Shops & businesses (1930-1960)

Clive Dalton. Don Clegg & Sylvia Clegg (nee Armstrong), Les Armstrong, Geoff Dagg, Bill Charlton, Nancy McLauchlan (nee Brown), Ken Prebble, Philip Easton. Paul Salisman, Noel Wanless.

When you think back, there were an enormous number of hard working business people up the North Tyne and Rede providing dedicated service to their local customers for generations. They were pillars of the community, and it’s hard to think of them without an anecdote coming to mind, and many of their names bringing back a smile. We contributors have searched our aging memory banks, and made a few notes below before it’s too late, and we all go to join them!

The most significant developments came after the war, when some of the local businesses didn’t just have their shop; they went mobile as vehicles and petrol became easier to obtain. So their service changed by taking business to their customers on foot carrying a basket. or by bicycle, then by horse and cart, and finally by van or delivery wagon. So customer service advanced from 2 mph to a break-neck speed, to at least 40 miles per hour (flat out down hill) in just a few years.

Noble Street
Dewar Burrell
During the war there was Dewar Burell. He lived in Percy Terrace with his sister Isa, (next to W.J. Cairns the Council School master) and she used to visit us to promote 'The Independent Order of Rechabites' that promoted ‘abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as beverages to protect the British people, and the whole human family’. Whew! What made her message worthwhile for me (Clive) was that if you signed up, you got a free unsharpened yellow-painted pencil with a rubber on the top. What a luxury that was, as wartime pencils were not painted and were made from wood not even fit for kindling sticks.

Nancy McLauchlan remembers Cissie Little visiting them promoting the Rechabites and wanting her Dad to enroll her in the Order. Nancy said - “I have a Rechabite mug - still somewhere in the loft packed away. Dad refused to sign for me to be abstinent - he said that what I did after I was 18 had nowt to do with him! I never saw any of the yellow pencils - you lot up in Noble Street must have got the lot!”

Dewar Burrell worked for Don Mason and started Don’s mobile delivery service with a large heavy shop bike, with a frame on the front to hold a massive basket. He pushed the bike up from the little wooden shop in the village and parked it at the end of Noble street. He then carried the large basket to each door on his shoulder - his main offering I remember being kippers! Dewar actually stank of kippers!

Stanley Telfer the butcher
Stanley and his wife were the Bellingham butchers for decades. Stanley drove around in a little green Morris van from which he serviced his customers - chewing gum most of the time. He drove up to Noble street where at Bensons No 1, he switched off the engine, opened the back doors, assembled and hung up his scales (which were of the balance bar kind with two pans), and chopped your order on a solid slab of wood across the back of the van. His wee van smelled wonderfully of fresh meat.

With your order wrapped in greaseproof paper, and your money in his leather bag (covered in fat) hanging around his shoulder, he didn’t start the engine to move to the next house – he just let the brake off and pushed the van slowly along the back lane to save petrol.

Stanley also provided another service – with his shotgun. He used to be asked to go to the station at weddings when the bride and groom were leaving on the train for their honeymoon, where he would let off a couple of barrels into the air to wish them good luck. It always brought screams from the unsuspecting well-wishers and ordinary passengers. These were not shot-gun weddings by the way incase you thought he only serviced these!

Billy Butcher
On another day of the week, Billy Forster (Billy Butcher) came from Lanehead to service other folk in the street. Billy had a little blue van and performed his service similar to Stanley’s. Many folk reckoned Billy Butcher’s meat was better, and Nancy McLauchlan remembers her mother getting meat sent down on the train, which Billy must have taken to Tarset station for her.

Nichol’s of Wark
Tommy Nichol’s immaculate red vans came twice a week and covered a wide area of the North Tyne and parts of the Rede. They operated the business from their shop and bakery in Wark, which employed many local folk, especially the lasses from up the valley. They could “ride te Wark te work’ on the regular bus service and not have to “waalk te work at Wark”.  These words were a test of your command of the local dialect!

Nichols had four vans and many of their drivers worked for them for years and became much loved and respected members of the community.

On the vans - Nellie Pigg, Dorothy Stevenson, Tommy Dodd, Cyril Cooper.
Baker - Norman Prentice - the bakery was up church lane. Ena Wood, Margie Wood, Ellie Moore
Shop Manager - Jimmy Proudlock
Office girls - Lucy Nixon, Annie Tait and Mavis Jackson.

McVeigh’s ice cream
After the war, the first luxury to arrive up the Tyne was ice cream in Roly McVeigh’s tiny little yellow-coloured Morris van, all the way from Wylam. It had a side cut out so Roly could turn around from the driver’s seat to dispense the ice cream. He was a large man so there was not much room. There was no mobile refrigerator unit roaring or Greensleeves music blasting the air – just a big insulated drum of crushed ice and one of cream. Mixing the two made rather crunchy ice cream put into a penny cornet or a sandwich, or he'd fill a cup for you.

Rington’s tea
About once a month, the Rington’s tea man arrived in a van from Newcastle, beautifully painted in the company’s dark green with gold writing corporate colours. On the side of the van was the logo of the Rington’s horse and cart, which was the means of delivery before vehicles. Most of us in Noble street were regular customers, and everyone had at least one Rington’s tea caddy on the mantelpiece, nice and handy for when the kettle boiled on the open range.

Chaffey’s laundry
Nancy McLauchlan remembers Chaffey’s laundry from Hexham with a van that used to come along Reedsmouth Road, but few folk used the service which was seen as a luxury by most working class folk and you'd have to be on your death bed before sending 'dorty claes' to the laundry man. Your neighbours would have done your 'wesh' before that anyway.

Hareshaw pit: About once a month ‘the coal wagon’ from Hareshaw pit called on a regular run, driven by a number of great characters over the years, such as Albert Dodd, Jim Bell and "Lasher"(Eddie Stephenson?). I don't remember the owner Barty Armstong every appearing among his clients though his son David did.

The drivers had to be ‘characters’ to put up with all the leg pulling, complaints and cheek from their many customers (inevitably the wives) . It was standard practice to give the deliveryman an earful about the dust and stone in the bottom of the last delivery that wouldn't burn. They had heard it all before of course!

Negotiating the 'coal hooses' had to be a tricky job. We had our coal house under the stairs in the back kitchen which they had to tip the coal in to – without making a mess or creating dust or else they'd get a 'gobul' from mother and maybe even a friendly clout for their cheek.

Plashetts pit: In the 1920s this was a thriving colliery with a siding at Plashetts station from which coal wagons arrived down a steep slope from the pit high up on a hill. There was a row of pit cottages, a shop and a school.

Pitmen and pit lads riding on the tramway in front of the cottages at Plashetts.

"Sutty Row" pit
: There was also a coal pit at "Sutty Row", Birtley where John Robson of Wark used to drive the wagon and deliver their coal.

Hesleyside pit. (by Bill Charlton): This was a small pit owned by Ned Jacobson who was an icon in Bellingham in the old days. I would often come across Ned sleeping in the hedge pretty drunk on my way home to the Croft from the local Friday/Saturday night Dances.

All you would hear when passing by was a whistle from the Hedge which was Ned with his big army overcoat on sound asleep. He'd just sleep it off there till morning, then wander back up to his house behind the pit. He used to have an old alarm clock hanging on a 6 inch nail on his gate with a sign saying "No Tick".

Hawkhope Hill Colliery
This was a small drift mine in Falstone which in 1910 employed around 20 men and provided local needs in the early 1900s.

The French onion man
This was my (Clive’s) Dad’s favourite caller, not because he’d fought and survived the 1914-18 war to rescue the French, but because he loved the onions. Monsieur in black beret pushed his bike up the hill from the village, festooned with straps of onions on the handle bars and cross bar.

He'd then take a pole that he carried on his crossbar to call at each door with a few straps on each end. Where he came from we never asked, and how he got his onions all the way from France to end up in Bellingham on a bike was another mystery that never concerned us. He must have come by train at some stage. Whereas Dewar Burrell smelled of kippers, this homme carried with him the more pleasant pong of les oignons.

Collin's Eyemouth fish
This service started soon after the war when motor transport allowed fish to be brought from Eyemouth to villages up the North Tyne and Rede and no doubt all points on the way. It sure was fresh. Prior to motor transport, I remember our parents talking of the 'Fisher lasses' who carried and sold their fish from baskets. How on earth they got from the coastal fishing villages is a marvel - the train would be the only possibility.

The rag and bone man
About twice year we’d hear the call ('ragbones') and get a visit from the rag and bone man with his pony and trap. We never knew where he was from, but he was in the business of collecting anything he could get for next to nowt.

His main currency was ‘sandy stone’ which is what our mothers used to decorate around the edge of the backdoor and front door steps, after they had been scrubbed with soap and water. When doing this they always wore a Hessian apron and not their normal ‘pinny’.

The knife sharpener
This bloke came on his bike and we Noble Street kids were fascinated to see him operating. He had a stone grindstone on the back of his bike which was driven from the back wheel when lifted off the ground on a stand. He then sat backwards on the bike pedaling in the normal direction, and held the knife or shears on the rotating stone wheel to grind an edge. Normally we sharpened our knives on the back door stone step which over the years ended up with a nice hollow curve in it.

Drapers (Davison and Forster) from the Holm
With Norman Waugh's drapers shop in Bellingham few of village families used their service. They were more providers of families who lived on farms, and especially the 'oot bye' folk nearer the border and Newcastleton (The Holm).

They each used to arrive in old enormous Ford cars, cigarettes permanently stuck in the middle of their mouths smouldering their mustaches. They went into their client’s house with enormous brown suitcases in each hand, extended to bursting point. They would measure men for suits and have them made in Scotland, and bring back the finished job some weeks later.

They were very good at their job and very efficient. Once for a joke I chall

Fenwick Newton of Mount Pleasant, Falstone in 1890 who was a travelling draper before the motor era. Photographer unknown. Source: Bellingham Parish Council. Photographer unknown.

Peggy Johnston’s shop

Peggy's shop 2009. The cow byre joined the shop to the left.

Peggy’s shop played a great part in the lives of those of us who lived in Noble Street, Percy Street and the better off folk in Percy Terrace. During the war she was our main source of sweets, after handing over our saved-up coupons from the buff coloured ration books. On rare occasions it was even possible with coupons to buy an orange from her shop. I (Clive) can still hear the tinkle of the bell on a spring on the shop door, which brought Peggy in her green overall out from the kitchen to stand behind the white scrubbed counter.

Her father Tommy Johnston had the few acres behind the shop on the way up to Noble Street, and also the fields below Percy Terrace and the railway. On this he grazed 2-3 Shorthorn cows and made hay for their winter fodder. So if you ran out of milk – a knock on their back door would always get your can filled, and an invite in to sit on the ‘langsettle’ in front of the window, to be interrogated about what you were up to, and what was going on along your street.

We kids loved Peggy, and everyone was delighted when she married Jim Bell who was a builder and a constant help for Peggy’s aging parents with the farm work.

Don Mason – Shop 1

The little wooden shop fitted in the corner where the road sign in this picture.

Not all shopkeepers had vans immediately after the war. Don Mason and his wife Maggie started in a little creosoted wooden shed that seemed to be stuck to the wall of the Demesne farm byre.

Maggie was a little red-faced woman with large Gypsy like earrings, and most of the year looked permanently chilled and wearing gloves with no finger ends. Those gloved fingers handled everything from the black bullets into a bag made of twisted paper, to bacon that she cut off on the slicer. You could tell the temperature by the drip on the end of her permanently red nose.

Don Mason – Shop 2

Don Mason's second shop - entrance now built up again. 2009

But things really started to move ahead when Don and Maggie moved up market from the wooden hut, and purchased the Miss Crowe’s Waverley house on the corner of Station Road and Woodburn road, and made a shop out of the corner front parlour. Soon after this Don got a van which he ran for many years around Bellingham, up the Tyne and over to Woodburn.

We all used to laugh (and sometimes fume) and were warned to watch Don’s arithmetic. Thinking back, he was probably ahead of his time in adapting metrics to pounds, shillings and pence.

So whatever the total was in pence, Don would just put a backslash through it, and that was your answer in shillings and pence. So for example if the sum came to 35 pence, Don would call it 3/5d when in fact it was 2/11d!

Sid Allen’s van
The Allen family bought Don’s business and they carried on the mobile service till the old brown van dropped to bits and the Allen's came to New Zealand.

Bill Charlton remembers Broughs from Hexham coming to Bellingham once a month with groceries, a week after the traveler had been collecting the orders which were all made up.

Arthur Bell
Arthur Bell's shop was in the middle of this block,
as well as Norman Waugh's.

Arthur Bell in his brown dust coat and pipe permanently clenched between his teeth was the main grocer in Parkside Place in Bellingham. He serviced the North Tyne from the shop with Baden Thompson as his traveller who took the orders on is motorbike, dressed in his leather coat, leather helmet and goggles .

Baden Thompson.
In this picture (taken from a film) he obviously had found a new cap.
Normally his old cap was covered in flour from carrying bags.

Baden’s arrival at an outbye farm was an occasion to be savoured, as he was a walking news bulletin. He knew everything that went on in the village, as he when not in his meal store having a sleep on his bed of meal bags, or in Gertie Elliot’s warm kitchen cadging newly baked scones, he was propping up the archway into the back lane behind the shop where his meal store was, and watching everything that went on. The archway was called “Baden’s Arch” and sheltered many courting couples from winter chills after the dances. Baden’s ghost will still be there on frosty nights.

After the orders were made up, Trot Thompson (Baden's brother) then delivered them in his red Ford wagon. Bill Charlton remembers getting the job of doing the deliveries driving a wagon hired from Hugh Thompson when Trot’s wagon eventually died. It was in terminal sickness for years. Bill thinks the truck’s final end must have come when Trot lost the brick he had tied on a rope to the door, which he hoyed through the cab’s back window to stop the door flapping when traveling.

The West Wylam and Prudhoe Co-operative Wholesale Society – (CWS) “The store”

The Co-op 2009
The Co-op was a pillar of the community and if you shopped there you became a member and got discount, though it was not called that in those days. For example I (Clive) took the red notebook filled in at home with ‘the order’. It was always – butter, bacon, margarine, lard, sugar, bacon, tobacco, matches, tea.

Adam Smith (manager), Mick Bell or Hilary Armstrong would get each item, ticking it off in the book and marking in the price. After adding the pounds, shillings and pence up in their heads, they then gave you a ‘check” – not a cheque! You took this home and stuck it on a large sheet with all the others you had saved.

When the sheet was full, you proudly took it to the store and it would be added up and a grand total calculated. Now what happened then I’m not sure, but this clearly was a discount you had earned. Did they give you the money? You could also get the services of the Society’s undertaking services so you coul be buried by the store too.

Before the Co-op's days, the shop was run by Michael John Young.

Steve Bullock’s Fish and Chip van
Steve Bullock had a small fish and chip business operated from a large black Morris van. Bill Charlton used to drive it on Thursday nights over to Woodburn and then up to Redesdale. Annie Batey was the chef. This was quite an innovation at the time - fish and chips to your door!

Florrie Scott’s shop at Reedsmouth
Florrie ran her shop in a little wooden hut beside the station at Reedsmouth. She was a dumpy lady and just fitted in behind the counter in her wee shop, where only a couple of folk could stand inside at any one time.

Her brother Ernie Scott had the shop in High street from which Florrie sourced her supplies. Ernie had a van so stocking up Florrie was no problem. The folk of Reedsmouth (especially the kids) loved Florrie. Her service to the little community for many decades deserved a medal. She went down to Reedsmouth on the 11am train and returned on the 6pm train. I used to go and help on Jimmy and Helen Wood’s farm at Dove Cottage, and spent many happy journeys travelling the five miles on the train with Florrie. She always had large bags coming and going.

Matt Reay (from Ken Prebble)
Holidays during the war in 1942-43 were spent with Uncle Matt and Auntie Nena at West Woodburn. Mother and I would catch a train in Lanark to take us to the station at the western end of Princes St in Edinburgh. Then we would walk the length of Princes St to the station at the eastern end (Waverley?). That train would take us to Morpeth where we would transfer to the local train for Rothbury. Uncle Matt would pick us up at the West Woodburn station, and cart us off down to the township where he ran the local grocery store.

The 'shop' was attached to the house where the Reay family lived. Immediately behind the shop was a store, outside of which there was a drum of 'paraffin' with a tap so that Matt could fill the one gallon tins for customers. He would place a large tin jug with a big spout under the tap then pour the liquid into the gallon container. The ground around the tap was soaked in kerosene and could be smelt from all over the property. I don't ever recall seeing any fire extinguisher in the vicinity.

The store itself held the bulk items such as flour. All orders were weighed on a massive set of scales and carefully bagged in brown paper bags. Entry to the shop was via a door which was attached to a loud bell which activated once the door opened. That bell could be heard throughout the house so that, in a sense, the shop was always manned. Passing the time of day always seemed to be as important as finalising a transaction. While Nena was able to act as shop assistant, Matt was in charge and preferred to meet the customers himself.

To this day, I remember the unique smells of the grocery shop, the big piles of paper bags, the ladder to get to the top shelves, the huge till which took some effort to work the keys, the big square tins of biscuits, the absence of any plastic containers, wrapping or bags. There was also Matt's stained 'white' apron, the single naked bulb in the centre of the store, the broom, shovel and brush in the corner ensuring that the linoleum floor was regularly kept clean. The shop would probably not pass any health and safety tests these days.

Connected by a covered way to the house was a further bulk storage area containing non perishable goods. Few folk at that time 'had the phone in'' which included Matt. His main business was to take their pencil-written orders one week for delivery the next.

His territory was north as far as Rochester, South to Ridsdale, and then east to East Woodburn. I never experienced any trip west other than to Hindhaugh (which Hugh Snaith farmed) which was accessible by a private road running off opposite the Fox and Hounds, 500m or so south of the township itself.

Matt was a highly respected member of the West Woodburn community. Chances are that if you didn't know Matt then (a) you weren't a local and (b) you had no inside information and therefore no access to the various 'deals' that were available.

The Reays were loyal members of the Methodist church where Matt was an elder. Their children all attended the local primary school. Nena (Hannah) had three siblings, Annie (my mother) who grew up at Blakehope near the Elishaw junction, Hugh, who farmed at Hindhaugh for many years, and George, who emigrated to Alberta after the First World War. His innate generosity possibly never did him many favours and even as a boy, I recall that he had many bad debts. While it was common to put purchases on tick, Matt was probably too kindhearted to apply the pressure to get paid.

Matt owned a Bedford van, maybe 1935 or 1936. It was a vital part of the business in the day when few people had their own means of transport. On many an occasion I would be a passenger while Matt did the deliveries. Either because he had few mechanical skills or because the van was aging, breakdowns were common and it must have been frustrating for him as it was a vital part of the business.

Punctures were not uncommon then, and every tyre that had to be changed on the roadside, and later repaired, must have eaten into his scant profit margin. But his stress never showed. At every house he would greet folk with a smile, maybe have a cuppa, and catch up with the latest gossip.

A man with a great sense of humour, affable and likeable, Matt liked to play practical jokes. He would turn off the ignition on the van on a downhill stretch so that the mixture would accumulate, unburnt, in the cylinders, then, switching on again, there would be a loud backfire, scaring mobs of sheep or any other living creature within earshot. The damage to the exhaust system never crossed his mind.

Matt and Nena had four children. Hugh joined the airforce and had an illustrious career in Bomber Command. Hugh and his wife Doreen now live in Hexham. Marjorie, who married George Glenwright, is now widowed and also lives in Hexham. George was a noted Hexham chorister and was much in demand to sing local songs.

Doreen and her husband Bill both succumbed to cancer early in their lives. George married Mary Batey and they spent many years together in Bellingham before George died of heart failure in his sixties. George was a proud Northumbrian, highly respected and much loved in the Bellingham community.

The development of the supermarket and personal transport has spelled doom for places like the West Woodburn grocery shop. Yet during its peak it was an vital part of rural life.

“Fletcher’s stores brought to your doors” ( by Geoff Dagg)
My association with travelling shops up the North Tyne started at an early age, because of living next door to Andy and Meta Fletcher at Stannersburn.

At the age of seven or eight about 1950, on occasions during school holidays, I would hear Andy whistling along the road, followed by a knock on the door, and “Are you cumin lad”? Then off we would go, some times with Andy’s dog. The dog would get a run alongside the van when we were “gannin ootbye” and often on these journeys there would be gates to open and close, so I did have my uses!

Andy was a great salesman and was renowned for being able to get any “requirement”. His standard line was - “Are you sure you have plenty of this and plenty of that, and I’ll have those darning needles out to you with the post”. Little did I know that this early training would stand me in good stead some years later?

It was 1962 when I started on the van. There were three vans at this time. I drove one, an old Austin with Mary Mewse on board, to show me the ropes. John Robinson drove another and John always did the “Reed Watter” round. Ray Layton who Andy sold the business to eventually drove the third van.

I remember, one day, blasting through snowdrifts going past Otterstonelea. How we stayed on the road I’ll never know but Mary didn’t bat an eyelid! Mary made price lists etc for me and she soon had me “trained up” and doing the rounds on my own.

When returning to the shop in the evenings for repacking, dear Mary always made sure that “our” van was well stocked, sometimes so much so, that I could hardly get into the driving seat!

Some of my rounds took us to “ootbye” places such as Scaup, East Kielder, Akenshaw Burn and Willowbog as well as “inbye” such as Kielder. Being a young lad I had to take a lot of teasing and leg pulling from the ladies.

I tried to emulate Andy’s early training to get each customer any “requirement”, but I’m not sure that I came anywhere close to the master. I recall once we had a special offer on garden chairs as I think they were attached to some washing powder or other. I sold all mine and when I got back to the shop, I said to Andy that I needed another twenty. You should have seen his face!.

Of course the “ootbye” places always wanted the news and “what’s been gannin on”. There was one particular call where I was invited in to sit down with the family almost surrounding me, firing questions about this and that, almost like being interrogated!

One member of the family, about seventy years old at the time, was quite secretive about his treats, and used to get me to hide his Lucozade, Chocolate and Jesmona Black Bullets down beside a certain gateposts on my exit from the farm.

Tuesdays and Fridays were long rounds for me, and I regularly had tea with a certain household where there was sea trout often on the menu, depending on time of year, or maybe not. And then there was Christmas and New year, trying to limit the amount of cake and glasses of “tonic” generously offered. Mind you that was before the law changed and there was little risk of being breathalysed ootbye.

This was a job I enjoyed for three years, meeting lots of great people, before leaving for the big smoke of London in 1965, but that’s another story.

Builders ( by Bill Charlton)
My grandfather (Anthony William Charlton 1856-1933) was the Building Contractor in Bellingham and District and after he retired George Batey took over. George’s sons George, Arthur and Tommy joined the business. I also remember Willie and Tommy Aynsley as joiners who made panel and glass doors and built-in cupboards as well as being painters. Bob and Jim Milburn laid floors, roof trusses and staircases, etc. All these folk as well as Balfour the plumber all worked for Grandad.

Grandad used to live at the Reenes in early years and had two quarries up there quarrying his own stone to build houses. Front street was all given extra stories above Willie and Andrew Murray’s along the full length. He built many more houses in the village and Martins bank. He also built the church at the croft and the cemetery.

The Croft was built in five stages. Numbers 4 and 5 used to be one big house which he built because he had to leave the Reenes. So he built a place for himself. People liked what they saw and he added to the Croft. In the 1910 Floods he rebuilt the entire storm damaged places along the burn side from the police station bridge to Fallow Green.

My father Bob Charlton didn't want to carry on in the building trade as he was more into engineering and did his time with Herdmans of Wall. Then after he got married he changed his job to Hesleyside Estate and lived at the Croft with his parents until the house was split into numbers 4 and 5.

Other Bellingham shops and businesses
  • Dentist – Thoburns (Percy Terrace). His main job was extracting all teeth to provide dentures. He did little business in filling teeth.
Percy Terrace 2009. Houses built by George Batey (snr). Thoburns was
at the far end, as was the bungalow of Police Sgt Geordie Fell.

  • Doctor – Dr White, Dr Clements, Dr Kirk (Greenfield house).
  • Doctor – Dr Kirk, Dr Middlemiss (moved to Reedsmouth Road)

Dr Clements is third from the left, standing in back row. Dr Kirk is seated in front of him
  • District nurse – Nurse Armstrong. She brought most of us into the world traveling on her bike with a basket on the handle bars and a carrier on the back for her black bag.
  • Plumber – Balfour. (Station Road). A very dour Scotsman who lived with his sister. During the war Nancy McLauchlan remembers they had two coloured evacuees but hey didn’t stay long, as they must have found it hard in the village.
  • Plumber – Jack Nixon (High Street).
  • Tailor – Tommy Tailor Hedley (Parkside Place). Noted for his shoes without laces that were worn on the outside by sitting cross-legged. His grey mustache was stained yellow with nicotine.
  • Tailor - Fred (?) Warwick (Station Road).
  • Dressmaking - ?? (Roseneath house)
  • Electrician –Denis Allen (Station Road in Balfour’s old shop). Denys’s father Syd Allen worked in the bank and was a pillar of the community.
  • Joiners - Milburns (Fountain Terrace).
  • Joiners and undertakers – John and Ted Weightman (Lanehead).
  • Old post office – (Fountain Terrace).
  • Post office and telephone exchange – Mrs Beattie (High Street). Post men: Billy Beattie, Adam Dodd.
The Post Office, Betty Cowan, Willie and Andrew
Murray's shops were in this row
  • Barber – George Bell (Fountain Terrace). Having a male barber in the village brought about great change, as prior to that men got a friend or family member to cut their hair – no way in those days would a man have dreamed of going to Betty Cowan’s for a haircut. Tommy Little (Clive’s neighbour) used to let his whiskers grow all week when down Hareshaw pit, and then get a cut-throat shave from Geordie on a Friday night.
  • Hair dresser – Betty Cowan, Peggy Warwick (High Street).
  • Watchmaker – Andrew Murray (High Street). Clive’s father was a railway guard so having an accurate watch was essential. LNER didn’t provide them or pay for repairs. So Clive spent many hours calling at Andrew’s shop with the question – ‘ Mr Murray - is me Dad’s watch ready yet”? Inevitably the reply was “Am sorry but Aa hevn’t got it rreddy yet”. No wonder his output was slow because Andrew would talk the hind legs off a Blackface tup. He was an authority on local history, so that was one subject you kept right off.
  • Watchmaker, jeweler and tobacconist – Jack Telfer (King Street).
Telfer's shop was on the end nearest camera
  • Transport - carters. Joe and Kit Maughan. General carters with two horses and they also provided a hearse (flat cart with black cloth cover).
  • Transport and haulage – See separate blog. Google Tommy Thompson. Picture below shows Hugh Thompson's fleet of wagons and drivers lined up at Charlton.

  • Garage for petrol and motor repairs – The founder was called ‘Tackitty Thompson”, Edgar (son). (King Street). This was the home of Roddy, Baden and Trot Thompson. Edgar was the engineer and could fix anything – and serve petrol at the same time. He was always running and many of the village lads (Johnny Irvine, Tommy Elliott) served their time with Edgar. He also had a shed for vehicles in the Foundry yard, and it was here where he was found dead under a car that had fallen off the jack on top of him. The village lost an icon.
  • Garage for petrol and motor repairs – Northern Farmers. Manager Tom Pyle, staff Hugh Forster and Jock Hall. (Woodburn Road).
  • Farm supplies – “ The Northern farmers”. Sold animal feeds and farm tools such as forks and rakes. Jim Mason, Kit Maughan was in charge and the “office girls” (Nancy Brown, Violet Reed and Mildred Pigg) were under the eagle eye of Miss Armstrong. The office was managed by Noah (Noey) Nichol. Billy Lawrence was the traveler to take orders which were later delivered by wagon driven by Willie Wright, Mick Richardson and Jim Forster.
The Northern 2009. In its day provided petrol, motor repairs, farm supplies

  • Grocer - Ernie Scott (Front Street). Also had a van to service a limited area driven by Annie Batey with Cliff Charlton as assistant.
  • Grocer – Broughs traveller and delivery van.
  • General store - Mary Anne Pigg, Manchester place.
Pigg's shop with owner Mary Anne and friends posing for a Collier photograph.
Also in the photo is Joe Maughan, general carter.
Hopefully he used a different cart to the one he used to empty ashpits and netties!
  • Draper – Piggs then Robbs of Hexham. Shop Assistant Walter Dodd.
  • Draper/Tailor – Norman Waugh (Parkside Place). Shop assistant Elsie Jackson. Also expanded into some hardware and paint. His permanent reason (excuse) for not having anything, was that "it was at the station" and had not been delivered yet!
  • Draper - (1920s) Front Street, Miss Smith and Miss Forster (the Harrods of Bellingham) prior to the shop being becoming Ernie Scott's grocery business.
  • Confectionary – Batey (High Street).
  • Confectionary and general dealer. Mr A. Crester Wilson (Manchester Square). Referred to as Mamma Wilson and Dadda Wilson.
  • General dealer – Hindmarsh (High Street).
  • General dealer ??? – Billy Miller (Manchester Square).
  • Pharmacist (1914). Alec T. Low's shop on the corner of Parkside Place, later owned by Ted Dobbin.
  • Pharmacist and veterinary supplies – George and Mrs Cordiner (on Woodburn Road) then in Parkside Place. Shop assistants: Lily Hetherington??
Tommy Hedley the tailor' shop before George Cordiner moved in about 1960 (?)
Still a pharmacy in 2009
  • Newsagent – Ted and Mrs Dobbin (Parkside Place). Shop assistant Isobel Hetherington. In the 1920s it was owned by Miss E.M. Smith.
Dobbin's corner 2009. Baden's Archway (now gated) is on the left of picture opposite the car
  • Newspapers on Sundays. Brought to Bellingham by car by Croziers stopping on the way and ending up for their main sales in the cow byre at the Fox and Hounds.
  • Painting and paperhanging - Jimmy "Tishie" Armstrong, George Reay.
  • Food. Bakers – Maud and Ethel Bell (Parkside Place). Shop assistant Chrissie Armstrong. The bakery window was down the lane on the right of the picture. On the way from school we used to go and shout "Any crusts Ethel please". Some ginger bread crusts would appear at the window and a big smile from Ethel. Maud was always in the shop serving.
Maud and Ethel Bell's old shop in 2009.

  • Food. Fish and Chips then Snack Bar – Roddy and Mrs Thompson (Lock up Lane).
  • Food. Gertie Elliott, Temperence Hotel. Meals and accommodation. Gertie got a new sign-written board put up above her front door and was not very happy when Canon Flower pointed out that "accommodation" had been sign written with only one 'm"! In 1920 it was called the 'Royal Temperance Hotel owned by Sutherlands.
  • Photography - A.W. Collier (Lock Up Lane). See separate blog.
Collier's shop was half way along on the left. Tommy "tailor" Hedley was first house on the right - upstairs. Cobbler Bob Mole could be found midway along on the right.
  • Fresh milk – George Breckons (Foundry farm), Archie Wright (Eales farm), Jack Hume (Boat Farm), Peggy Johnson (Percy Terrace), Bill Hogg (Riding farm).
  • Blacksmith – Bellingham. Robert Burns (Bottle Bank).
  • Blacksmith and engineer - Greenhaugh. Stan Anderson.
  • Blacksmith - Stanners Burn. Arthur Grimwood.
  • Saddler – Frank Coulson (High Street). Frank had lost a leg in the first world war and he was always a fascination to the kids from the Reed’s School going past and seeing him working with a horse collar across his lap and only one leg sticking out below it.
This Collier photo in the 1920s will be Frank Coulson's father outside the shop
where Frank carried on the trade into the 1940s. By the goods posed for the photo,
it was certainly the horse era.

Saddler's shop in middle of row and Hindmarsh's shop (nearest camera) in 2009
  • Bus services. Moffit's of Acomb (blue livery). Drivers were ???. Mechanics were Billy Davidson. Norman Fox's bus from Bellingham to Kielder was part of Moffit's service.
  • Norman Fox drove the Forsters Bellingham to Kielder bus via Falstone and his last trip up the Tyne on a Saturday night after the dance was legend. It was a small bus but he got everyone home - many times with them hanging out the door.
  • Taxis - Harry Glass (Railway Hotel).
  • Taxis - Edgar Thompson. Bill Charlton remembers driving Edgars Hillman Minx taxi, with Matty Biggs from Chirdon one of his regular customers after a few drinks in the village.
  • Ambulance drivers and nurses – Alan Waite and Cissie Little. For many years, ambulance drivers were all voluntary. Lilly Charlton was one of the early volunteer nurses. Syd Allan and his son Dennis were drivers. After WW2, the ambulance was an ex-US military ambulance.
  • Entertainment - Bellingham Dramatic Society. Many people were involved over the years. Syd Allen, Joe Lumbley, Rob Allen.
  • Bank. Lloyd’s – Manager: Mr Johnson then Thompson. Cashier: Jack Maughan. Clerk: Mary Forster.
Lloyd's bank 2009

  • Bank. Martins – Manager: Horace Chilman then Bill Young. Cashier: Sid Allan. Clerk: Margaret Batey.
Martin's Bank - now Barclays
  • Black Bull – Publican: Mary Mitchell and then family Harry and Peggy. Post-war George and Jenny Milburn.
  • Rose and Crown –Publican: Mrs Philipson, then Robsons.
This Collier photo in the 1920s shows four buses (charabangs) waiting outside the pub. Turnbull's shop is on the corner of the next block - which became Stanley Telfer's butcher's shop.
Rose and Crown 2009
  • Fox and Hounds – Publican: Mrs Potts and then her son Jackie.
  • Railway Hotel – Publicans: 1900 Walter Easton. Harry Glass.
The Railway hotel, then the Cheviot. 2009

The Mechanic's InstituteThis was a shed on the way from the main Woodburn Road along to the Foundry yard. It was built of corrugated iron, and stood just beside the bridge that carried the railway over the Hareshaw burn.

Sadly its history is not documented, regarding who built it, and who owned and administered it. Bill Charlton remembers there being two snooker tables and a table tennis table when he used to go, once a week for the cost of six pence to be coached in billiard by Tommy Hedley. Nancy McLauchlan (nee Brown) remembers her father Harry Brown winning competitions there.
I have some faint memory that there may have been a library of sorts there too.

Bellingham Churches

  • Church of England – Canon W.J. Flower. RN
  • Catholic – Father Delaney
  • Methodist –Local preachers, W.J. Cairns.
  • Presbyterian - Rev Horace Johnston, Rev ?? Bunn, Rev Alan Willis.
Music - North Tyne Melody Makers
  • Piano – Tommy Hedley (Also organist at St Cuthbert's Church of England).
  • Drums- Walter Dodd
  • Accordion – William Bullock
  • Fiddle – Athol Bullock
  • Saxophone – Benson Tomlinson
  • Guitar (occasional) – Harry Mitchell
  • MC Billy Richardson
Bellingham village characters

Geordie Dagg

Geordie Dagg was a village icon. He was always busy going somewhere, very often to his selected pubs in the village. Asking those who remember the old times, they cannot ever remember Geordie having a real job - other than walking his Dalmation dog (called Spot!) around. In this picture, taken from a film of village life, this spaniel is not Spot! Geordie always had a short stick with him and that looks like a watch on his lapel. It may have been a medal for long service to doing nowt!

Redesdale shops and businesses (Don Clegg)
  • The “Scotch Baker” (Dodd from Jedburgh)
  • Butcher – George Ashford (Elsdon)
  • Grocer – Tommy Nichol (Wark)
  • Fresh milk – Dixon, Stobbs
  • Grocer – Brown (Rochester)
  • General Store – Jack Wallace (Rochester)
  • Post office, taxi and school car – Leighton family (Rochester)
  • Joiner – (Robinson)
  • Cobbler – Tommy ????
  • Garage and taxi – Fred Anderson.
  • Bus services. Forsters (amber livery).

Wark shops and businesses (Philip Easton)

Quoits on Wark green about 1910

  • Garage and taxi – (1940s) Fred Anderson.
  • Transport depot – Jamiesons with red wagons. Drivers: Tucker and Eddie Jamieson, Jimmy Elliott.
  • Tom Charlton – Petrol pump (pool petrol) and pump shop
  • Sewing and knitting supplies, etc. - Peg White.
  • Clothing and fabric lengths, etc. - Mr Franklin
  • Shoemaker and cobbler (made wood soled cloggs, etc. Mr. Redpath.
  • Houxty Gardens, veggies and flowers, famous for tomatoes which he also sold to Nichols,
    Cooperative Society Shop – Groceries, etc. - W.J. Stables .
  • Sewing machine repairer. - ??
  • Wark school – Headmaster - Mr. Houston (sp?) also taught older class, name of other teacher not known. In those pre dam days, the playground would flood up to the schools foundations when there was a heavy rain leading to a Tyne flood; The North Type could produce a flood bore if the conditions were right.
  • Blacksmith shop + recharging of wet cell batteries for radios, etc., name not known.
  • Prisoner of war camp (for farm labour), later used for displaced persons for war ravaged areas of Europe. Was on the Bellingham Road, on the opposite side from Nichols bakery.
  • Bakery and mobile shop vans: Nichols.
  • Grocer - Walter Wilson from either Newcastle or Hexham.
  • Grocer - Billy Civil of 'Civil Supply Stores' until 1951 and then taken over by the West Wylam and Prudhoe Cooperative Society.
  • Newspaper and magazine delivery (Sundays only). Don’t have a name, but they came in a van.
  • Church - St. Michael (C of E). Vicar ??????
  • Houxty House – Owners the Major and Mrs. Chapman and their son Paul. The Major was the nephew of Abel Chapman, reknowned hunter, preservationist and naturalist and founder of what is now known as Kruger National Park.
  • District Nurse – ?? Anderson. She zipped around on an autocycle ( like a moped with 98 cc motor.
  • Doctor – Dr Coker “the Black Doctor”, in Wark at least by 1944. He was well accepted, and might well have been the only Black person that most of his patients had ever seen. He was very popular with everyone.
  • Rabbit catcher - Jack Wanlass.
  • Hotel. The Grey Bull. Landlord Tommy Shanks. Norman Walton (1950s).
  • Hotel. Battlesteads. Landladies Misses Turner and Creese.
  • Blacksmith - Nicholas Pattison

Memories from Paul Salisman
Grandson of Dr Coker (the Wark ‘Black Doctor’), Paul now lives in the Caribbean.

Paul (0n the left) with squash team mates,
dressed for the Carribean and not for Wark!

As for memories of Wark, they will always remain the best years. With me being a cockney having been born within ear shot of the Bow Bell's in London, I just could'nt wait until we got summer holidays. For the first couple of years it was by train from Kings Cross station to Newcastle, and then by bus from Newcastle to Wark where we stayed with our Eeddie - Ms. Edith Story at East View.

I'd wake early in the morning so as to walk the cows from the village farm, then run by the Johnsons, up to pasture and on my way down, it would be collecting eggs from the hen houses. Then it would be another breakfast and the occasional sprint running away the odd fox that would venture in and around the hen houses.

When that was done we would spend some time fishing under the stanners of the Wark bridge until it was time to bale hay which took most of the afternoon. Dinner and tea would later follow - after which it would be time to round up and fetch the cows and bring them down for milking. When this was done it was time to feed the ducks dropping bread scraps from the village bridge gotten from Tommy Nichol's bakery.

Then a nice game of football on either the village green or school playfield until we were called for supper, bath and then bed. Only to do the same again the following day- totally enjoyable. When the six week's summer holiday sadly came to an end, it was all about looking forward to the next year and what we would plan. I rode my first horse at the tender age of 5+ long before I could ride a bicycle - but that'sanother story. Speaking of which the late Ms. Story - affectionately our Aunt Eadie, I will always love you, you were my second mum.

My mum graduated from Skerry's College in Newcastle, she went to work for Grindleys
Bank in London as shorthand typist/accountant, after which she held numerous
positions in that same field one of her favourites was at John Laing Construction again as shorthand typist/accountant.

My Dad at that time worked as a technician with Lyons Ice Cream I remember Choc Ice's for
dessert on the weekends. After leaving the U.K and settling in the sunny Caribbean island of Jamaica, again y mum worked as a full accountant with Life Of Jamaica Insurance company until her passing in 1996, while my dad worked with various shipping companies until his passing in 1990.

I'm a supervisor with a locally based French owned shipping company CMA CGM as an agent for container vessels. Shipping has become my life I've always loved to be near water that's why Wark was so special especially the river that passed by the village.

Memories from Noel Wanless
Noel's father Jack was the rabbit catcher for the valley farms, and noted grower of prize vegetables - especially leeks.

Lil Walton, Wark Black Bull. 
Noel remembers that the owner of the Black Bull was Lil Walton who had run it from time immemorial, and although town folk find it hard to believe, Lil approaching her 8oth Birthday had never been further than Hexham, and had never been to the big City of Newcastle!

Her Grandson was in the RAF  and came home for her Birthday and arranged to take her to Newcastle Airport and for a 30 minute flight in a light aircraft. All the old guys in the Pub knew at 1pm precisely the aircraft would fly over the Black Bull, and they would all be outside with pints to greet Lil and she would wave back.

Come the big day, all was arranged outside the pub with pints/fags and pipes at the ready. Sod's law kicked in and at precisely 1pm an RAF Jet on a low level exercise screamed over the village and one old blokes shouted 'The stupid bugger'-  she'll see nowt gannin that bloody fast! Imagining the distorted face of  80-year-old Lil traveling at Mach 3 was too much for them!

Then a few minutes later, the 'put put' light aircraft arrived on scene with Lil safe to save the day.

Church of England vicar - Mr McLean. 
His two sons were called Donald and Kenneth.  He was one of the first in the village to have a TV and if you attended Sunday School you were allowed to visit the manse to see Robin Hood starring Richard Greene.  Mr McLean became noted for winning the football pools.

Cobbler - Jack Redpath.

General store - William Civil

We would be thrilled if you could add any anecdotes, and report errors and omissions. Email these to Clive at ( His postal address is 12 Maple Avenue, Dinsdale, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand. Phone him on +64 7 847-9367 but check the time differences!


  1. This is an excellent blog post, i think theres some excellent information here.

    Just a small piece of advice, if your looking for accommodation in the Hexham area, then Take a look at this website, it lists 100s of hotels and bed and breakfasts. I’ve used it lots of times and it always seems to deliver.

  2. Excellent blog with some fascinating info.

    Does anyone know anything regarding Jack Wallace Store Keeper at Rochester ? My grandfather used to have the Store/Cafe at Rochester he was called John Robert Wallace 1885 - 1965, i have fond memories of visiting the snack bar which still stands and is run as a cafe still.

  3. I was directed to this site by Philip Easton whom links into my own ancestry via the Easton surname.
    His Grandfather Walter who was the Publican of the Railway Inn at the beginning of the 1900's, was the sibling of my Great Grandfather Robert Smith Easton.
    I would like to congratulate you are the excellent information and photos which you have been able to record via this site.

    Well done

    Edith Appleby

  4. Hello Clive - Nichols used to come to our house which was Houxty. We moved there when the Chapmans sold it to my father, Frederick Jackson in 1947/8. I well remember the van. We used to wait eagerly for the back door to open and a voice would shout "Nichols". They sold wonderful pasties, very stodgy and spicy also cakes that you would not dream of eating nowadays!!!!! Their brown bread was fantastic and have never tasted anything like it since. The chap who drove the van that we knew the best was Cyril Cooper. Still alive and now 85/6. We lived there for 34 years, until my father died, for much the same reason as Abel Chapman did. The house when we first went there was full of animal heads, very frightening for children, I was nine at the time. It was the most wonderful place to live but sadly we had to sell it. My father donated many of the heads to the Hancock Museum. We kept one or two of the less scary ones.

    Just thought I would tell you this as you have written so much re the people then. The Philipsons were a big family who lived at Wark and worked on the land, etc. Craghill was the milkman.

    Shelagh W Mclean ps My brother, who has lived in Canada for many years, on visiting us in England will always come through our door shouting "Nichols". Life goes on.

  5. Dear Clive Ive just read your blog on old Bellingham shops & traders . Thank you for a million fabulous memory's Im Hugh Thompson 64 years old still trading in Bellingham as a butcher.Son of Harry and Lizzie Twin brother of Howard Brother of Hilda Maise Anne and the late Billy I trained with Harry Walton & worked with Les Armstrong & Sonny Ect Ive just had a wonderful. 20 mins back in my youth. Oh how i remember going to Maud Bells for our sweets with our sweet tokens. Please Stay in touch .many thanks HUGH THOMPSON.Email

  6. Hello my name is Paul Sailsman, Dr. Coker was my Grand-father on my mothers side, as for Nurse Anderson she spilit the beans and told my aunt Edith Story how I scalled the butcher shop wall after coming face to face with a cow for the first time at athe age of 4. I have a cousin Adi Coker who worked for the forrestry division but since I emigrated to Jamaica I lost contact with him and his sisters and many friends in the village Wark, Anthony Johnson whose parents ran the village farm, Peter and Trevor Dixon, Tony and Gordon Menzies, Billy Telfer, John Proudlock and our summer football team queen - centre forward Christine Cooper, anyone who knows them or their wherabouts can contact me at my email:

  7. My name is Lavina Scott,cyril Scott's daughter,I was born in Noble street in 1950,then we moved to westlands in 1953,moving to Grimsby in 1965. I loved my life in Bellingham,and have found your blog very interesting ,lot's of things I never knew about life in the village my grandfather Billy Scott at the leek show in the 1930s,great!.I do find I have to go home at least once a year as I get very home sick I miss all my yesterdays in

  8. Hi - My name is Zita Payne - nee Hall. Am looking for any information regarding my late father's family. He was Fred Hall, son of Archie & I think Jane (nee Potts) I believe his mothers family had the Fox & Hounds. Am trying to compile my family tree so any help would be really appreciated. :)

  9. Hi my name is Chris Potter and Walter P Collier the Bellingham photographer was my great Grandfather. It's lovely seeing his pictures on here. Thank you

  10. My uncle was Dr Pat Clements (Patrick Ernest George - PEG) who arrived in Bellingham in 1938 to do a year as a trainee GP with Drs Kirk and White? He was about to leave when war was declared. Dr White, if that was him, had been in the RAMC reserve and was called up immediately. Pat went to Hexhgam to enlist hilself but was directed back to Bellingham where he stayed throughout the war until leaving to take over his father's practice in East Yorkshire in 1947/8.

    The practice employed their own dispenser, a Miss Maureen Morgan. It didn't take long before the two fell in love and were married. I have a few photographs from that time and will be happy to provide if they would be of interest.