Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Felling Park's Journey Thro' Time

Love Parks Week

14-23 July 2017

Holly Hill..a grassy area shown on this map

became this, when it was discovered that stone lay beneath

When the quarry was exhausted the hole was filled in and it became a pocket of land which could not be built on. There was a number of exhausted quarries in Felling and they became a cricket pitch, a cemetery, a nature park or in this case, a recreation park. A park was an obvious choice anyway when Felling Council built their Council Offices on the land next door. This was a great showpiece place for the Council's Parks Dept, sloping as it does towards the then main road linking Newcastle with Sunderland.
And what a showpiece it was..

To the left, on this picture, the land flattens out and at one time there was a bandstand there.

When life was simpler, when houses were not centrally heated and there were no TVs or computers a park was used more than it can be expected to be used now. Kids certainly use swings, slides and roundabouts but they do not use, but do abuse, a showpiece park as this was and will be again soon

The Felling Heritage Group , in 2014, did some work in the Park to bring it some way towards what it was

as it was the venue for the culmination of a march to recognise the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I

This pic was taken today, 18 July 2017.
The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre Group are now working to bring new life to the park, again.  It's a big job and they need more volunteers. If interested, click this Friends link

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Something's Smelling in The Felling

A Felling circular of 1838 called upon farmers to meet at the Mulberry Inn to discuss steps to protect their property from the injurious effects of the chemical fumes from the neighbouring works.

So, where were the chemical works?

Hugh Lee Pattinson and his partners had set up their chemical plant at the bottom of Bath Lane in Low Felling 4 years earlier in 1834. (It wasn't called Bath Lane at the time..it was called that much later in recognition that Hugh Lee had provided baths at the factory not just for the workers but for their families as well)

It is unknown whether any canny farmers turned up for the Mulberry Inn meeting. Given that cows chew the cud for the whole of their waking hours, the farmers probably considered cow gas masks to be an impractical solution

In 1827, a decade earlier, Friar's Goose Chemical Works had been established by Anthony Clapham, who had been harassed out of a number of works in the North-East after complaints of pollution caused by his factories. Technically, Friars Goose is outside of The Felling's boundary but noxious fumes tend not to respect borders.

"Soap making was conducted at the site until 1829 and by 1831 the works had been altered to become a caustic works operating the Leblanc process, mainly producing bicarbonate of soda and Epsom Salts. In an overblown gesture to alleviate pollution, Clapham built a chimney in 1833 that was 263 feet high and the highest on Tyneside at the time. 

Holzapfels didn't get to The Felling until 1904 but they've been here ever since. They always were also known as International Paints and their Felling premises for the past 60 years or so have said so..

Holzapfels is a difficult spelling for the folk of Felling..fortunately the current owners have the much easier name of AkzoNobel.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Public Art in The Felling

The Pant, Felling Square

The Pant is long gone (broken up and used as landfill) and Felling Square is currently nondescript, in need of demolition and a fresh start. The creation of a piece of public art as a centre piece seems to be the general view. Not only would it be a homage to the well loved and missed Pant but it would be in keeping with many of our neighbouring towns which have in their town centres an item of public art...see examples below.
We have a couple of examples, currently in The Felling. The sculptured shop front

Neil Talbot's relief sculpture of a Victorian Baker's Shop, at the junction Carlisle Street/Sunderland Road.
has been around for a long time but since 2010 we've had this (albeit, moved slightly)

‘Water Wheel’, by artist Jim Roberts, at the entrance of the High Lanes estate since 2010

This circular shape is attractive and it is said to be based on a water wheel, which is not particularly associated with The Felling (altho' one did exist at Heworth). A pit wheel would perhaps be more fitting, but no matter. Attached to the wheel there's a football, which is fair enough and a pitman's helmet..just seen on the right of the wheel. There's a train..good...and a tunnel that's reflects, I suppose, that the train does at one point run below the motor traffic. The spider could at a stretch represent industry and the ship represents both ship building and, more particularly, that coal and grindstones were shipped out of the town to London and, grindstones in particular, all around the World (Wherever in the World you are you'll always find a rat, a Scot and a Newcastle grindstone (Newcastle? damned cheek). Notable by its absence is any reference to the Chemical/Paint industry, which was a large industry in The Felling area, competing with mining and quarrying for the work force and while it did not employ as many then, it has probably employed more than those given that, half a century later, paint production is still in full flow
The one mooted for Felling Square is based on human figures, which appears to be in fashion judging by other recent monuments in the North East


Washington Town Centre

There are exceptions to figures at Sacriston and this one at Watergate Forest Park
Here's a sketch, commissioned by The Felling Heritage Group, of a possible art feature. It's similar to the Washington one but has a pitman, a soldier and a child standing on two grindstones. The book carries an inscription but could represent not just a) locally created education by Church & Industry a hundred years earlier than the eventual education operated by Government but b) the Felling-on-Tyne based Walter Scott Publishing Company, which published masses of books, worldwide. Personally,  I'd also like to see something like a pestle & mortar to represent the paint/chemical industry, as mentioned earlier
Views from the canny folk of Felling will be sought and you could express your own view here, should you be so inclined.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Joseph Hopper of Windy Nook

Another member of my Famous Felling Fellas Club

(Born: 2nd May 1856, Died: 17th Apr 1909...just short of his 53rd birthday)

Joseph Hopper
is famous for having taken a prominent part in social and political movements amongst the miners in Durham county for many years.
In early life he displayed an active interest in social and religious questions, taking a part in some of the political contests in North Durham, and being a local preacher in Gateshead circuit of the Methodist New Connection. He was also for some years a member of Felling Local Board and the Heworth School Board.
The provision of homes for aged miners in Durham was largely due to his initiative, and for some years he had occupied the post of secretary for the association who had in hand the provision and maintenance of the homes. He was also a member of the Durham County Council. He remained unmarried.

The early homes carry his name...like this at Birtley, built 1924...subsequent ones don't.

From DAMHA website

Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association grew from the vision of Joseph Hopper, a miner and lay preacher. Hopper believed that a man who had served in the coal mines all his life deserved better than to be evicted from his tied colliery home when he retired.
A small weekly levy voluntarily donated from miners’ wages, plus donations of land and materials from mine owners and others, allowed the homes to be constructed and let free of charge.
Although the Durham coalfield is no more, the Association has survived and prospered and continues to offer high quality homes for older people. Whilst you no longer need to have a mining background to have a DAMHA home, we have never forgotten our roots and are proud to have helped so many former miners find homes in or near to the communities where they grew up.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Why Has Windy Nook Turned Its Back on Paradise?

Croduce Square, The Stead, Howard Street, Union Street, Albion Street Back, Paradise Place are the Windy Nook's lost streets, at one time serviced, not just by a big Co-operative Store but by the Bay Horse, the Club (now Sutherland's) and the now long gone Hare and Hounds pub.
Don't get me wrong. I love the pond and wooded area behind the Methodist Church and Sutherland's but some of it could be retained and still have houses. Let's face it, next to it there'd still be a massive and magnificent green space that was once a very deep quarry and until we learn how to build on former quarries that great big dog walking area will remain.

If you a house builder, I suggest you take a butchers and I'm sure you'd not only be inspired to rebuild Paradise, but see the opportunity to make a bob or two, as well. Please price in 10% for yours truly for the heads up.
Here's a bigger view of the map to get you started

I have found a teeny weeny obstacle in the small print. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers could scupper my fund swelling ruse

Friday, 16 June 2017

At the Cutting Edge of Education for the Masses

It was almost a Century before Government involved itself in creating schools for the masses that The Felling, along with many other places, had places of education
The idea of ragged schools was developed by John Pounds, a Portsmouth shoemaker. In 1818 Pounds began teaching poor children without charging
 fees. In Low Fell 
Thomas Wilson, after working down the pits as a boy, started teaching in 1792.

John Hodgson created his Heworth School in 1813. The Felling was therefore among those towns at the cutting edge of providing free/affordable education for its youth.
In Windy Nook there was Henderson's Academy in the late 1820's
Heworth Council School didn't open until 1904

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Felling Theatre That Never Was

Right in the centre of this map of 1894 is the Paragon Theatre, which, it seems, never existed. I've been told that it was planned to be built but was initially rejected by the planners for technical reasons.  If true, it may be presumed that the developer lost heart and shelved the scheme.
The drawer of the first OS map must have included it, on the assumption that the development would go ahead. It was not on the next OS map of ...(date) but it has remained on reprints of the 1894 OS map by the Ordnance Survey Office. It is also there on the Alan Godfrey Maps, though it is likely that Alan Godfrey himself, a local historian, knows or suspects that the theatre was never built. He may feel compelled to honestly reproduce the 1894 OS Map, right or wrong.
I decided to try to correct this and wrote to Gateshead Council, who will have inherited papers from the former Felling Urban District Council. The response from the Council is that they do not have any papers on the subject but have suggested that Tyne & Wear Archives might be of assistance. Now awaiting a response from the Archivists

If it turns out to be true that the project didn't proceed, then it will presumably be corrected by the OS Office.
A 120 + year error..or not..deserves correction..or clarification.
Watch this space