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Growing Up

A Memory of Blackhill

I was born in the former Mechanics Institute in Derwent Street, Blackhill in 1946 where my grandfather was the caretaker. My name was Ann Wall and my grandparents' name was Redshaw. My mother lived with my grandparents in the upstairs part of the Institute. As I grew up I remember watching the steam trains on the railway line below going along the back of our home to Blackhill Station. We had a dog called Buster who used to go with my grandfather to the Rose & Crown corner to collect the 'bets' from the workmen who used to gather at the Rose & Crown corner on their way up to the steel works up the Tin Mill Road. My grandfather put the rolled up 'bets'into Buster's mouth and he took them down to the betting shop next to the Olympia Picture House further down Derwent Street. The workman from Consett Iron Company called into the 'Tute' to play billiards or read the papers. I remember the billiard tables and 'spittoons' and the strong smell of polish and disinfectant as my mother and Nana cleaned the tables in the 'reading room', mopped the floors and cleaned the spittoons each morning. My grandparents looked after me in the evenings while my mother went to work in the nearby fish & chip shop (Browells). My grandfather had lost one of his legs in the First World War and I remember feeling afraid one day on seeing his false leg hanging up in the wardrobe whilst he was in bed sleeping! My grandfather died in 1950 therefore we had to move out of the 'Tute' so my Nana rented a house in Elteringham Street, Blackhill and my mother and I went to live with her. I started school at the Tin Mill School in 1951, my teachers were Miss Maud, Miss Murphy, and Miss Ferguson. I remember stories of Muffin the Mule, huge blackboards on legs with castors, the blackboards were on a swivel so they could be turned over, and the outside toilets which were emptied by a man with a lorry every week. For the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 we went to Mrs Arkless's house in St Aidan's Place, Blackhill to watch the ceremony on the television as no one else had a TV. One of slag heaps was at the top of Elteringham Street where I lived and I remember getting many a clip around the ear for sliding down the 'heap' after school. We played out in the streets safely, ghames like 'Tops & Whips', 'Two Balls', and Cricket and spent hours having adventures over the allotments at the back of Mortimer Street and Ridley Street. There was a good selection of shops and public houses at the top end of Derwent Street, Blackhill in those days. I remember Thompson Stamp Stores, Manager Mr Tom Coates, Welsh's sweet shop, the Rose & Crown, Wallpaper Shop, Barbers Shop, Parisi's Ice Cream Shop, Mr Wilson the Grocer, Parkers the Grocers and Pet Shop, Off Licence (The Long Pull) with Mr Chambers, Mr Wilson the Fruiters and sweet shop, Mr Dixon the Tailor, we used to collect rosehips and take them to Mr Dixon, he gave us 1 old penny a pound for them. The Scotch Arms (still there today). On the other side of Derwent Street was the 'Tute' then McCroy's sweet shop, Billy Scott the upholster, Browells Fish & Chip Shop, Grahams the Butchers, Post Office, Sportsmans Arms (Spen Hornsby's) public house, Zetland Arms public house, Eva Olivers Drapery & Wool shop. Then the woodwork centre where the local boys were sent from school to have lessons in woodwork. Around the corner from Eva Oliver's shop was a few houses and Aytons Builders Yard, Mr Horace Brown the undertaker lived in the end house in Hawthorne Terrace.
I attended Benfieldside Junior and Secondary Modern School and went to work as a junior shop assistant in the hardware & shoe department of the Cooperative Society in Derwent Street, Blackhill when I left school in 1962. Since then I have lived in Northumberland and North Yorkshire although always kept in touch with my family and friends at Blackhill. I returned to live in Blackhill in 1984, remarried and lived in Bridgehill, Leadgate and Delves Lane.
My life has done a full circle now as we have just moved into an 'older persons' bunglow which has been built on the former site beside where the Olympia Picture House was and next to the Tin Mill School which is now Blackhill Community Centre. I can hear St Mary's clock chiming every 15 minutes just as it chimed throughout my infants' days at the Tin Mill School. At 63 years of age I have come home at last and couldn't be happier.

A memory shared by Ann Westgarth , on Jan 15th, 2010.

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