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Memories Of Wrekenton A Mining Village In Gateshead - a Memory of Wrekenton.

Memories of Wrekenton a mining village in Gateshead, County Durham from my late mother and my memories from the 1950’s
My mother was born in Wakes Yard in a mining village called Wrekenton, a village close to the village of Springwell, Gateshead, County Durham, she lived at Eighton Terrace a cobbled street with 2 rows of sandstone built houses, darkly stained due to pollution from coal fired chimneys over the ages, she was an orphan with her 2 sisters, being brought up by there grandmother on there mothers side, a Hannah Watson. Mother’s grandfather was James Leslie Watson and he was a coalminer who worked down nearby Springwell Colliery.

In the war years, there were many shortages, people had to make do with want they had and economise, if you broke a cup, you had to make do with drinking out of a jam jar if there wasn’t a replacement, it was the same with the tea rations, often it was mixed with dried bramble leaves to stretch it out a bit. There were many tea substitutes. You had to make do with what you could lay your hands on.
Ginger Beer was a popular drink with mining families and they often made there own, there was many a house in the northeast that had a “Ginger Beer Plant” fermenting on the window sill.

The northeast had its fair share of the German bombers dropping there bombs at night like many other places in England.
The sound of the sirens to warn you the bombers are on the way, the frantic fear trying to gather your family together to find a safe place to shelter. The drone of the bombers, the whistle and explosions of the bombs and the fear if your house will take a direct hit must have been terrifying. If it wasn’t a bomb that hit your house, then it could be a small incendiary bomb and burn the house down.

One night, the German bombers flew over Wrekenton and Springwell and bombs were dropped, one hit the field that the Springwell Colliery Pit Ponies grazed in, the bomb killed them all. When the morning came, people came out of there houses to see what damage had been done and saw the dead pit ponies…the ponies didn’t go to waste, word soon got around, the field was busy with people and miners and there wives with there knives and cut up the ponies so there was fresh meat for the table.

Meat was a luxury, if there was meat in the house and you had a big family and if you were lucky to get your hands on some butchers bones then it all went into the pot with vegetables to make a big tasty stew for the family, mining families were poor, but very tough and adaptable people, there was no hot running water in them days where we lived, if you wanted hot water for a bath, out came the kettle and pots and pans to boil the water to fill a tin bath in front of the stove or Cast Iron Range as it was called and we all took it in turns sharing the same water before it got cold.

If you had a hole in the sole of your shoe and there was no money to buy new shoes, then you had to make do with a bit of kitchen lino if you were lucky, or cardboard if you were not so lucky (cardboard soaked up water) and made into a sole and slipped inside, so you don’t wear a hole in you sock, I should know, ive worn them shoes when I was a boy. If you had holes in your socks, they were never thrown away, they were darned instead.

We didn’t have an inside toilet in the house just an outside one, they were not very pleasant being cold and damp, squares of newspaper cut up and hanging from some string from a nail in the wall is what you used if there was no toilet roll, there was no electric or gas light in the outside toilet, it was usually a little paraffin lamp or candle we had for light as well as a mouse trap in the corner, just in case a little visitor crept in, we did have mice in the house, one day when I was looking for my shoes in the cupboard when I was about 6 years old, I got the fright of my life when I realized there was a rat in the cupboard and it leaped across the pile of shoes in front of me, thank goodness my family always had a cat to take care of that problem. Another item I always remember being kept on the top shelf of the cupboard was a jar of “Goose Grease” that was commonly used to rub in your chest and back if you had a cough or cold and it used to stink!.

The winters in the North East were freezing with a lot of snow in them days, cold enough to freeze to death the family cat at night if you forgot to let it in, one cold winter killed our family cat, I found it curled up frozen stiff on top of the snow capped wall dividing our house from next doors. I remember snow drifts 3 feet high against the outside doors, gloves were a luxury when I was a kid, we were a big family with 7 brothers and sisters and so if we had to go outside we had to make do with socks over our little hands. If a pullover was worn out, then the wool would be unpicked and another one knitted, not a lot went to waste in our family, my family were good recyclers, they had to be.

A memory shared by Ron Summerson on Feb 3rd, 2008. Send Ron Summerson a message

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