Memories of Swalwell


Over a number of years I have had many Swalwell people relate some of their memories to me. Others I have received from members of Swalwell Local History Society, some from our Facebook page, and some have been reproduced courtesy of Whickham Web Wanderers  Some of the memories are just one-liners, others several paragraphs. If you would like to see your memories here, please email to me at

If you have a Facebook account you are welcome to visit our Swalwell page at the address below and post your memories or images there.


Billy Arnott


 I lived in Jubilee Terrace until the early 50's. My uncle was John Halfpenny, the Bookies runner. He used to stand at the top of Napier / Clavering Road. If he saw a policeman he would disappear into one of the backyards of Park Terrace.

Percy Crozier had to have the school gate open at a certain time every morning so he could drive his shiny black Vauxhall straight in. It was as shiny as the brylcreem on his hair.

I remember the three wheeled railway lorries with a trailer on the back? One of the lads was sledging from North View down to Swalwell. When he got to Clavering Road he went straight under the trailer and out the other side. What the driver said was unprintable.

If ashes were spread in Ruskin Road to stop the sledging we just poured water on top to freeze them. Not many sledges would survive the night.


At the finish of Axwell Park pit I was one of the team of 8 that did the closing down.I worked with two brothers called Napper and Tommy Halliday. We had to extract arch girders where we could. As you can imagine it was a bit on the dangerous side, and we did have to move away fast on more than one occasion. It was all done with a piece of equipment called a ''silvester'' used by hand power. One thing that really stands out was bringing one of the pit ponies to the surface. It hadn't seen daylight for a couple of years. We came out of the drift at Swalwell and its nostrils started flaring as it got excited at the smell of fresh air. In the end I had to put my coat over its head to calm it a bit. Going through the pit yard people kept well out of its way as it was up on its hind legs by then. When I left Axwell Park I went to Mary Pit at Winlaton. From there to Winlaton Mill which was attached to Marley Hill pit. From there I went into the Navy.


Val McSkimmings

"My grandfather, a pitman sitting on his back doorstep in Lonnen Drive, Swalwell cleaning his boots with Dubbin."


"When I was six years old, sitting on our back doorstep with my brothers and sisters waiting for our grandfather to call on his way home from his shift at Blaydon Burn pit. He always saved some of the jam sandwiches from his bait to give to his grandchildren. We waited and waited but he didn't come that day. Later we were told that he was dead, killed by a roof fall at the pit."


"My mother telling me about her and auntie Elsie walking to Swalwell Bridge to catch the Venture bus (because it was cheaper) to travel to Robertsons in Newcastle, where they both worked as dressmakers. They did this to save a p a journey, 1 old penny a day. The money they saved was used to pay for a weeks holiday at Whitley Bay!"


Alma Willis (Now Deceased) remembers from  around 1930

I lived in Church View. My dad was a miner and he used to come home in his pit clothes as they had no baths in the pits then. I used to clean and dry his pit boots, hoggers etc. My mam used to make new mats for Christmas and also Christmas trees made from Holly.  I remember going on the club trips and shouting "hoy out" at weddings. The whole village seemed to be related and I could visit anyone's house for help. I used to stand on the stairs of the Cosy (cinema) with my Penny. They used to let adults in first so if you were with an adult you got in. I remember the start of the war. I had a wonderful childhood in Swalwell.


Betty Coleman (now deceased) remembers from around 1928;

Watching the farmers pass through the village with their sheep on a Monday morning.

The village shops where you could buy shoes for 1s 6d a pair.

Going on the Club Trip every year on the train.

Swalwell Hoppings and playing with toy shops.

Playing up the Dam Head in Summer time.


Dave Best remembers from around 1956;


My mother would send me down to the Co-op for a few messages and I forgot to bring our store check back. Our store number was 8876 and it was very important to bring back that very important piece of paper which was kept in my mother's purse until the dividend was due. You NEVER lost your divi check!


Georgina Booth remembers from around 1950;

Helping my grandmother on washing day when I used to help with the possing and boiling of her dad's pit clothes. I used to get up early and before going to school I would fill the bowl from the set-pot. I also used to fill up the boiler with water and light the gas tap under the boiler. Then after having breakfast and going to school, I would return at lunch time in time to hang out the clothes on the line. When I returned home from school in the evening I would clean the back kitchen. When the towels and sheets were dry, I helped my grandmother to fold them and put them through the mangle to press them.


Hazel Bushby remembers;

Life in Swalwell being one BIG happy memory, especially her childhood. "My memories of life in Swalwell as a child were all happy ones and too numerous to record here" says Hazel.


Irene Royal remembers;

I went to Railway Street Chapel (Primitive Methodist) and in 1939 I was selected to recite a poem to celebrate their anniversary. I especially remember the new dress which I wore for the occasion. It was Green with smocking on the bodice. Charlie Harbottle was the organiser.


J. Halliday remembers;

As a youngster going to the Cosy Cinema with my grandmother, then going to Tinnions for a packet of chips. I was a member of the local Methodist chapel and have great memories of the annual anniversary. On the anniversary day morning we would go around the streets singing hymns. I hated Mondays as it was washing day and my aunt used to have the drying frames out, making mats and we always had Pot Pie for dinner. At night time I loved sitting around the roaring fire listening to the wireless.


Jack Aspery remembers;

The death of Robin Oliver aged 7 who was run over by a bus outside the Seven Stars Public House.

Setting fire to other people's bonfires before Guy Fawkes Night.


Les Coxon remembers;

I was born in Ramsays Cottages (known as the poor hoose yard) in 1922.  These houses were demolished in the early 1930's but as I remember, these are the families that lived there:  Coming through the arch from the Waterside, the first house on the left was No. 9, Mrs Palmer.  We lived at No. 10, Roberts No. 11, Anne Braddock No. 12, Gills No. 13, Alpins No. 14, Downeys No. 15, Rolfs No. 16, Halls No. 17, Collingwoods (my grandparents) No. 19, Ileys No. 20, Armstrongs No. 21, Owens No. 22, Turners No. 23 and Gainsfords No. 24.

Is there anyone who knows anything about  these families and what happened to them?

My Aunt Madge (nee Collingwood) and is in her nineties, was married from the Cottages and now lives in Winlaton.  My brother Ken lives in Whickham.

I remember the names of all the lads and lasses about my age (85) and often wonder about them.


Madge Brown remembers;

My most memorable event of life in Swalwell was when I was only a few years old. I remember quite vividly being taken up to the Dam Head with my brother and a few more people. The reason was that my sister Mary (who was 19) had died and it was the day of her funeral.

Also, 'Coffee Johnny' was my Great Grandfather. His daughter Marjorie was my Grandmother and lived with us at Rose Villa. She was a very pretty woman and sat near The Wherry Inn and was famous for knitting 'pit stockings' for all the men-folk of our family worked in the local coal mines.


Margaret Wardle remembers;

Living in Northumberland House which used to be located where Swalwell Gardens (allotments) used to be. My grand parents lived at 8 Hood Street and my father, Jack Foster, was born above The Seven Stars public house. He used to play in goal for the Swalwell football team and got the nickname of 'Jumper Foster'. He died aged 95 in 1982 and my mother died aged 90 in 1980.

I started school at Swalwell but moved to Whickham School when I was 6 or 7 years old.


Marjorie Brown remembers;

As a small child starting Sunday School (Presbyterian) and enjoying the excitement of their anniversary. Learning poetry and songs etc. Going to the Ebenezer Chapel youth club during the week the club trip and picnics.  The snowy winters of the 1940s and starting school. School dinners were brought in a big wagon and the meals were eaten at your desk. When I was about 3-4 going up to the Bagnalls to visit my Great Gran Noble and running through the fields chasing cows.


Michael Makepeace remembers the 1950s;

Every year we had 6 weeks holiday from school when we could forget lessons and teachers and do what we liked - parents permitting!!!

On fine days we would go fishing for sticklebacks up The Forge, play various games, marbles and dig holes in the ground which we would cover with corrugated iron sheets and sit in to talk and scheme. We would go for walks up the lonnen, down the 12 score and along to Dunston pond near the current Federation Brewery site, and up to Whickham to play in the park.

On rainy days we would sit in someone's garden shed and talk or maybe just stay at home and play with toys or read books. Swapping comics was another pastime I enjoyed, especially visiting other kid's homes and taking home piles of comics to read. Captain Marvel or the Knockout were my favourites.

In the evenings we'd go to the pictures twice a week, usually Blaydon Plaza or Pavilion. You couldn't possibly see all the films that were released in those days, you had neither the time or money. I try and catch up with old films I missed when they come on TV - thought some never seem to be shown.

We'd walk home from Blaydon and visit either the top or the bottom fish and chips shop if we had money left. Fish and chips wrapped up the proper way in old newspapers - The Sunday Sun or The Weekly News maybe.  Saturday meant a visit to Newcastle or elsewhere - maybe visiting relatives in Shields or Amble. It was always nice to get back home though.

Sundays were not so good - everything was closed  and you couldn't wear your everyday clothes. If you played football or played in the street there might be objections from religious neighbours. Television and radio programs were not so good on Sundays. Sunday's TV was often boring in the 1950s apart from the odd show for children and maybe 'What's My Line" for want of something better to watch, only one channel in those days of course.

I remember the week before school re-started in September. That last week wasn't such fun because school kept coming into your thoughts - a new class with a new teacher. Everything you wanted to do during the holidays but hadn't done had to be squeezed into the last week.

By October the nights had drawn in and it was much darker and colder in the evenings. That still left Saturdays to play out of course but that meant that things had to be done in darkness - building bonfires for example.

Yes, there was Christmas and two weeks holiday at Easter but the Summer holidays were by far the best.


Ray Spoors  remembers in 1950;

Finding a thrush's nest in a hedge near the old forge. The nest had five speckled eggs in it - magic to a child.


Valerie Atkinson remembers from around 1949;

Being at my Grandmother's house at 37 Clavering Road. I was a would-be ballerina and went to Mrs. Scott's dancing class in a wooden hut at the top of the hopping field (British Legion?). One Saturday I came out of the house clutching my Half Crown class fee and dropped it down the back of the step. As far as I know, it is still there.







Copyright 2001-2013 David Newton