Recollections of Village Life

By Antoinette Wailes-Wilson

Home & Family

Mary Sturrock ©The Sturrock Family

Mary Sturrock

'There were a number of houses and thatched cottages in all of the villages (Bardon Mill, Henshaw, Thorngrafton and Beltingham) although rather fewer in Redburn than elsewhere. Springfield Terrace, Laburnum Terrace and the other houses in that vicinity were built in the early 1900's. At Riverdale, the four redbrick houses were built in the late 1930's.
Cooking at home was done on the black range, the oven on one side of it and the boiler for heating hot water on the other. The whole range needed to be "black-leaded" regularly to keep it clean and shining. Many women made their own bread, cakes, jams and bottled fruits in those days. Women also quilted bedspreads and cut rags to make into 'hooky' and 'proggy' mats for the floor.
In large families, small children often slept 'heads to tails' in the same bed if there were only a couple of bedrooms in the house. Many families had eight, nine or ten children. Desk beds, camp beds and large drawers were also used as sleeping quarters.
Many clothes were home-made - knitted stockings and jumpers - or the three or four local dressmakers were employed. There was a tailor who made men's suits. He had sample materials to choose from and a three piece suit cost thirty shillings. A pair of trousers was 7/6d.
Clothes were also bought from a draper in Haltwhistle. There were six ladies and Gents outfitters in Haltwhistle. Four of the shops also sold carpets, lino and curtains. Three of the drapers' shops had Reps who went "outbye" seeking orders every six - eight weeks.'



Folk Dancers - Bardon Mill ©Fred Batey

Folk Dancers

'Quite honestly, people had neither the money or the transport to seek entertainment elsewhere, so this revolved around things in the village.
There were dances and the cinema - although the latter's projector was notorious for breaking down before the end of the film. Whist Drives were popular and there was an excellent cricket pitch and pavilion just south of Haugh Cottage Gardens. Haugh Cottage was the market garden which employed up to six people and which sent show leeks country wide.
The tennis ream was very popular; prewar there were excellent hard and grass courts at Hunter Crook farm. In those days there was also an excellent drama group, a quoits team and a Ramblers Association.
During the 1960's there was a group of handbell ringers. These were six ladies in a uniform of white blouses and long, black skirts, red bow neckties and red waistcoats, who performed all over the north east and were at the Albert Hall twice. Mrs.Bell of the Fox and Hounds in Bardon Mill (now Tavern House) was the instigator of the hand bellringing.
Before the war, Bardon Mill also had a Silver Band which was formed and run by the five Lowden brothers.'


Bardon Mill Cricket Team (photo © Clive Dixon)

Bardon Mill Cricket Team


For the men there were the farms, coalmines and Errington Reay's Pipeworks. William Johnson, the joiner at Tow House employed four or five men. The women were mostly employed in domestic service until 1939. The war brought a complete change in the way of life for everyone.


'Some people had horses and traps, others had bicycles and people often simply walked to Haltwhistle. There was also the train and the railways offered a much superior service from Bardon Mill Station than they do now.
Buses ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays - market day in Hexham and Haltwhistle respectively. For a while, the bus had a great deal of difficulty in negotiating Haltwhistle bank, so passengers alighted and walked into the town. I know about this because I used to hear one of my aunts talk of it; I think this may have been around about 1918, but can't be certain of the date'.

Health and Welfare.

'Very late in the 1920's a District Nurse was appointed, who stayed in Redburn. A doctor came out from Haltwhistle and used the same house for an afternoon surgery once per week. People only visited the doctor as a last resort because of the expense of paying for consultation and medicines.
Old-fashioned remedies were more frequently used and I remember 'Mother Segal Syrup' as a "pick-me-up"; blackcurrant tea or lemon and honey tea were given for colds. There was one old lady who lived to be 98 years old who would place half an onion in the heel of her stocking when she took them off at bedtime. The stocking was then put around her neck, with the onion lying on her throat which, along with her chest, had been rubbed with goose grease. Since she only had a cold every other winter, this was seen as a successful remedy.
Doans back and kidney pills sold at twelve for a penny (they turned your water blue) and castor oil or syrup of figs were given to "cleanse the blood" - these were frequently administered to children each Spring, presumably to rid the system of impurities - rather like the detoxification process advised by alternative therapists nowadays, I suppose. Angers Emulsion was taken to "lubricate the chest". Camphorated oil (now recognised as a Vick rub) was rubbed on the chest to help breathing during a cold; and Sloans Liniment was massaged into aching limbs.
Few houses built before WWII had mod cons and even up to 1967/68 we had septic ranks with their aroma (free perfume!). A general sewerage scheme for the district was completed in 1967/68. I campaigned for this for four years and, in the end, appealed to the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and won!'

Annette leads a "nettie" protest in 1967 (photo © Annette Wailes-Wilson)


Annette leads a protest

Other memories

'A special treat for children when I was young was a "sugar shagg" - slices of buttered bread, sprinkled with sugar!
The war years were sad and difficult since so many of the young people were away. One couple in the village had five sons, all of whom were away. Some did not return. A German plane crashed near Steel Rigg.
In the Winter of 1947 we saw no grass for eight weeks, so deep was the snow. Outbye was even worse affected. The trains and buses struggled, but they managed to get people to work and home again, despite the difficulties. The greatest problem was in reaching the A69, and this was the same in the Winter of 1962-63'.