Martin’s Memories – Winlaton Wanderings 1 – From The Avenues To The Congers

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The Martin’s Memories series has been reproduced with the very kind permission of Tony Martin from his posts on the Old Blaydon and Old Winlaton Facebook group.

OLD Blaydon and OLD Winlaton | MARTIN’S MEMORIES 24 | Facebook

I have not visited WInlaton in my memories since the start of this series…parts 5 and 6. Yet I am more a product of Winlaton, than of Blaydon in that my Winlaton roots go much further back. However where one lives and goes to school and does the shopping influence one more than one thinks. I was first introduced to Winlaton by my parents and my father’s sisters, Aunt Mary and Aunt Grace. As I grew older, my father and Uncle Stephen introduced me to the broader village scene, but when I read the posts and see photos of Winlaton on this site, I can see that much has changed and the past is indeed “a foreign country”.
We always walked to Winlaton from the Avenues. The route was via the Dene Cut and the path which led to the top of Blaydon Bank at the cricket field. This path was skirted by the well kept gardens at the back of Laburnum and Cedar Road and the well attended allotments on the other side. I have walked this path in all weathers and all times of the day. Sometimes we would meet people my parents knew, but I knew very few by name. Frankie Turner who lived in Laburnum Road stands out because I had visited his allotment which he could see from his backdoor and I was intrigued by the air raid shelter in his back garden which he used as a tool shed. His next door neighbour were the Brooms, the maternal grandparents of George Askew, who was in my class from the beginnings at Blaydon West until we left the Grammar School together in 1960. I was told that his uncle had gone down with HMS Hood during the war and this leads me to another impression I have of my childhood.
This was the impact of war on local families. I remember seeing men with missing limbs, with permanent shaking (due to shell shock) and with breathing problems (due to the effect of gas in the trenches) and remember being told that they had been in the last or Great War (WW1) as people called it in the first years after 1945. WW2 was still very much in people’s memories and I can repeatedly told as we passed a house or a person on the street, that they had lost a loved one or had been badly injured in the war.
The allotments ended at the bottom of Hawthorn Road and gave way to the cricket field where I was later to become a junior member. The path came out beside the big house which was the home and surgery of Dr Familton. Later, I understand, this became the home of Ray Hornsby, who I remember, not as a driving instructor, but as a driver for Primrose Coaches at Winlaton Mill.
One came out at what we called “the other Park Avenue” There was often confusion between this and “our Park Avenue” On the left was Marley’s bakery and shop and straight ahead a short row with Graham’s general store and Peart’s fish and chip shop. The door at the Zion Terrace end led to an upstairs ladies hairdresser used by my mother when she needed a perm or a Marcel, as she called it. The journey continued up Tynevale Avenue, with the house of Miss L.C.Ford, my French teacher on the corner on the left and my former teacher at Blaydon West, “Piff” Renwick on the right. At the top of the street, there was Brown’s garage which I often visited with Uncle Stephen, either to get petrol from the hand operated petrol pump or because he wished to speak to Norman Mason, the person who ran the place.
The walk continued by crossing the road and taking a path through the allotments, where my grandfather and father had shared a garden. At the top of the path, one turned right so we could follow a path into California. This was the original part, because Winlaton at this time did not have any houses on the Parkhead Estate or the Windy Fields—in fact the “steel houses” at the far end of Cromwell Avenue were under construction.
I was often taken to visit Aunt Bella in California. She was my paternal grandfather’s sister – there were 13 in the family. She was unmarried and looked after an older brother, Uncle Robert who I cannot remember. She lived a very frugal life and in old age became a little eccentric. When she died a number of gold sovereigns were found sewn into a proggy mat for safe keeping !! When she passed away, I inherited a set of Oliver Goldsmith’s Animated Nature. When I look back, it often surprises me the type of books the older generations kept, considering the fact that they were mainly miners or nailmakers with the odd tradesman thrown in for good measure. It was self education by a generation that read and obviously more aware of their immediate surroundings than perhaps we are today. I do not have a photo of Aunt Bella but she was the double of her mother Jane Parker whose photo I have.
Leaving Aunt Bella’s house one emerged onto Half Fields Road which I remember as a narrow road with a high stone wall on either side and shaded by trees. Turning right at the top of California, one passed a small shop on the left and Sisterton’s joiners shop before emerging onto Commercial Square. I recall this as an area of rough ground which was one of major sites for the Hoppings. Before the pub there were a number of houses. Taking the road on the top side of the square, one passed the villa lived in by Nurse Swales, the local midwife and emerged onto Front Street near Dowson’s shop. Turning left up Front Street, one passed a number of gap sites used by Hopping people in May, but the building that stands out in my memory is the Chain Factory owned by Nixon and Whitfield. At the top of the street, we came to the “Congers” chapel as my father always called it. He had attended Sunday School here as a lad and I have still a few attendance prizes he won as a result. This was the beginning of Winlaton Main Street as far as I was concerned and we shall continue our Winlaton Wanderings from here in the next memory.

The Martin Family. Grandmother Mary Ann Carson and grandfather Isaac Miles Martin at the back. My grandmother’s mother with Aunt Mary (born 1903) on her knee and my grandfather’s mother Jane Parker on the right. Aunt Bella was her double.
Half Fields Road at the top of California.
Commercial and Sisteron’s workshop
The View up Front Street with Nurse Swales’ house on the left.
A Dennis Shaw then and now of Commercial.
Nixon and Whitfield’s chain making factory
The view towards the Commercial from near the Highlander.
The Congregational Chapel….the “Congers”