Personal Memories Before And After 1955 - a Memory of Prudhoe.
Prudhoe Castle has always been a part of my life since I was born in 1938. My mother moved to Prudhoe Castle, where she was employed as a maid, to be nearer to my father who lived in Castle Dene. They eventually married and produced my brother Don in 1934, then me in 1938.
After the war ended in 1945, various residents came to the Castle, one of them being Senor Hosea Paniego, who was the Spanish Consul in Newcastle. My brother at this time was probably about 14 and he, with others, was 'caught' playing in the grounds. Don had piped up - 'My Mam used to work here' - and the Consul, as he was always called, came to our house and persuaded Mam to do some housekeeping and cooking. He adored the traditional meals which Mam cooked for him and his small staff and was extremely kind to all the family. He moved to New York perhaps two years later and we ended up with his beautiful old red-setter dog Rex to look after. The Consul used to send us food parcels and I can remember Mam knitting him grey cable knit socks because he was complaining about the cold weather. This was the restarting of a relationship with Prudhoe Castle which lasted until 1975.
The residents after that usually had a military connection, the first ones being Colonel Alistair Neilson, who was based at Fenham Barracks, with his family of three. These families were very socially oriented and there used to be many visitors over the next 15 years or so. Mam looked after the families in the main house and Dad by this time had started taking care of the gardens. They were always considered more as family friends, and many of the children were cared for by Mam from being babies. Young Alexander Neilson, when he was about 5 years old, went to a party at Fenham Barracks dressed as a traditional 'pitman', which my Dad was. He was dressed up in 'work clothes' and wore his own pit helmet and knee pads which Dad had sorted out for him. He won 1st prize - of course!
Towards the end of 1960s, the castle was turned over to the Department of the Environment by the Duke of Northumberland and a new period started. Mam and Dad moved into the castle as Custodians and lived in a lovely first floor flat overlooking the grounds and the Old Chapel until 1975, when they retired. During their time there they had many famous visitors, who all enjoyed the home-made scones and cakes.
Mam never went back after they retired - I think she just wanted to remember things they way they had been. Excavations were just starting before they left and I suspect neither of them wanted to see anything change.
I was visiting my cousin Margaret yesterday and we wandered around for a walk with Meg the dog. As always, it was very beautiful, peaceful and immaculate, but we could still remember things the way they were and maybe all of the changes were not really necessary. A sign of old age maybe!
Marion Smailes (nee McIver)
A memory shared byon Apr 6th, 2009.
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