My Early Years in East Herrington

I was born in 1929 in the middle cottage of the houses earlier known as the ‘Five Sisters’ but then the address was Brown’s cottages because the single storey cottages were the property of Joseph and Thomas Brown who had the farm about 1910 / 1920.

This photograph is of the road towards Silksworth with Windsor Terrace at the back. Brown’s Cottages are the three white cottages at the right. The tree at the back of the picture is near the farm track where the stables were burned.

The cottage had one room downstairs and a flight of stairs to an attic bedroom. At the back of the house was a yard containing a coalhouse, a tap and a lavatory building, which had a wooden seat with a circular hole in it. The back was open to a ‘midden’ for all the ashes and household rubbish. The whole lot was cleaned weekly by men with shovels who came with a horse and cart and sprinkled with pink, strong smelling powder disinfectant. We had candles and oil lamps for lighting, then gas was laid on and later electricity with a penny slot meter. The front door opened on to a small garden and a short path to the main Silksworth road. This was used by the infrequent bus or car. I remember mostly the farm carts, large flat carts that carried hay with people sitting on top and others walking alongside, and deep sturdy carts filled with turnips all pulled by horses. When the carts passed by we would find a few turnips in the garden after they went by.

There must have been generosity among the farm folk for I also remember running to the door after someone knocked one dark and stormy night to have a tall figure holding out two dead hares – my screams brought everyone running. There were no street lights outside the house. I remember the road being tarmacced with the old-fashioned steam rollers. As a little girl I was terrified by them and had nightmares that they were coming in to the house, just like dragons. On hot Summer days we used to burst tar bubbles that came up in the road. One dark night there was a barn or stable went on fire up the farm track by the tree and I remember the place being lit up and sparks flying around outside. The brightest I ever saw it because there was no street lighting.

On the right of this photo is the Blacksmith’s white cottage with the Blacksmith’s forge next to it. These traffic lights were worked by pressing on rubber mats in the road.

When I was very small I went with my Mother to buy fresh eggs at the Blacksmith’s shop owned by Mr Mason and being astonished at the glowing red fire, the noise of shoes being hammered into shape and the smoke coming from huge horses hooves as they were shod. There also seemed to be lots and lots of hens roaming free over the yard.

This photograph shows the village towards East Herrington crossroads with the Blacksmith’s shop centre at the end of the road. On the left is the butcher’s shop with the Post Office and telephone box. The lady with the pram (Baby Mary is in the pram) is my Mother (Mrs McDermott) with my Brother (Harry) and I (Kathleen) walking beside her. The houses with the porches are where the Tate family and the Smith family lived and the white house is Stewart’s the butcher’s house. This house and the butcher’s shop were demolished and a new house with shop attached was built probably quite soon after this photograph was taken.

The house next door to us was lived in by Mr and Mrs Joe Hutchinson. This house also had one room and an attic and also had an extra room built on the side (where the entrance to Longmeadows is now). This was next to the opening used by farm carts to go into the farmyard. We went in by this entrance past cow byres on the right and pigsties down the centre of the yard to the dairy to buy milk at Greenshields farm – a cold, always wet stone-floored dairy. After getting the milk in a jug we went to pay at the farmhouse. I didn’t like this bit as I was afraid of the big dogs and as soon as the door opened they came out barking.

There was Hutchinson’s farm on one corner and Greenshield’s farm on the other. On one side of Hutchinson’s farm were two cottages lived in by the Callaghans and the Miller families. Then on down towards the crossroads were the end of the byres and Garden Place (the houses with the archway). Then was the Stewarts’ house and Post Office Row.

This was the house next to Hutchinson’s Farm where the Callaghan family lived. The photograph shows (in centre) Mrs Callaghan on her Wedding Day with her friends. That day they moved into the house and she had to start cleaning it.

The first house by the archway in Garden Place was lived in by a family called ‘Tate’. One washing day, very hot water was put in a container and their little boy accidentally fell into it. He was taken to hospital but he died. I remember watching his funeral in a horse-drawn glass-sided hearse. Some dogs were around the horses feet and caused them to be jumpy. The undertaker took his whip and chased them. Not long afterwards the father died and it seems that quite soon afterwards the family moved away from East Herrington.

The middle house on the front was lived in by Mr and Mrs Smith and their two sons. Mr Smith was the postman in East Herrington for many years.

Ivy House Farm (Greenshield’s)

Outside of Greenshields house was a small village green with an entrance to Greenshields farm where hay was stacked. The butchers shop was next, the Post Office, the Postmaster’s house and Roseburn House and at the end was Smiths the newsagent.


The main shop was the Post Office owned by Mrs Angus and I remember Vera and Alice who served there. The Post Office grill was directly facing the door – the main counter with the cash register was to the right and to the left was a counter containing large bags of sprouts, potatoes and onions. There were also boxes of turnips and leeks. Paraffin for lamps was brought through from the back room to the left and the door to Mrs Angus’s sitting room was at the back right. I remember being lifted over the counter and taken into the sitting room. I was afraid of her dog too.

The shop was crowded with goods hanging in every available space, biscuit tins with the top lids of glass were stacked in front of the counters, sugar was sold in blue bags and butter was cut from a huge slab. There was also a glass case which contained cream cakes. I had to be lifted up to see all these as I couldn’t reach the counter. I also vaguely remember getting sweets for a farthing with a coupon from Sunlight Soap. Mr and Mrs Angus also kept hens in a compound beside the shop.

There was a butchers shop belonging to Mr and Mrs Matt Stewart where the hairdressers is now. We went in the door, counter to the left and hanging all around were pigs and huge pieces of meat. We could get pies and sausages made by Mrs Stewart or her Daughter Maggie Spensley.

This building was pulled down about 1934 as also was Stewarts house opposite, and a new butchers shop and house were built across the road (opposite side to Post Office).

At the crossroads was the newsagents run by Mrs Smith – on going into this shop there was a step down and it was hard to remember it was there and not fall down into the shop. When it rained heavily water ran into the shop.

On the Sunderland side of the road was Bells Grocery Shop. On Monday nights the upstairs of this shop was used as a library for two hours,

I also remember that a baker came around in a motor van on Friday afternoons and Johnson the greengrocer came round with a horse-drawn cart loaded with fruit and vegetables. Occasionally a cart would come round with fish and I also remember the French Onion man and woman with a huge basket of muffins to sell. On Sunday mornings we would see the ‘Walls’ “stop me and buy one” ice cream tricycles with the ices in a box. I enjoyed the triangular ice cubes, lime was my favourite.

Early memories

I think my earliest memory is of looking out of the window and seeing long grass blowing in the wind where Sandringham Crescent is now. When the houses were built there, a family and one boy moved in, he was my age and we played together. They had a car and I remember going to the seaside with them in the car and when I was five I was taken to the village school at Old Silksworth with the boy in his father’s car. The teachers were Miss Mawson (Head) and Miss Pattison. It was a high two-roomed building. Toilets were outside and we had playtime in an area of trees outside the school. There were some cottages alongside the play area and there was a shop in the front room of one of these cottages. A family called Gallagher lived in one of these who had a little boy called Tommy who died after falling from and under a horse-drawn roller his father was using in a field. Tommy was nine years old.

I remember going on nature walks along Burdon Lane on hot Summer afternoons and especially listening to wood pigeons in the shady trees. I wasn’t at that school very long before I went to St Leonard’s School at Silksworth.

The second car that I ever rode in was one owned by Miss Hutchinson who took over the farm after the Browns. She sometimes would take me to Mass at Silksworth and I remember waiting in her kitchen and her maid Maggie would be making Yorkshire Puddings for the Sunday dinner.

On Sunday Summer afternoons the road outside was the busiest of the week with lots of people out walking. People who lived on the ‘line’ at Silksworth would walk out and possibly call in at the Board Inn. In my memory the road was never empty of people on Sunday afternoons.

Board Inn

We would go for walks too. Up by Hutchinson Farm, along Balmoral, along by a field on the left that was boggy and had a pond with water cress growing in it. Over a low stile which was replaced by a high one along a narrow path to Lees Pond to which children were attracted on hot Summer days. The path then went to the right to where the bridge of the mineral line crossed the road. Then the walk would take us along the woodside where the main road turned left and along what is now Clinton Place down to the Waterworks (now Anchor Housing).

Careen Crescent, Middle Herrington

Another walk was up the white rails at Parkside along Park Wall round to where Careen Crescent began. There was a house there with a garden full of carved painted wooden models round Careen Crescent out at Batey’s garage down to the Board Inn and back home. We would stop at the crossroads to jump on the rubber mats in the road and change the colour of the traffic lights.

Batey’s garage and the entrance to Careen Crescent are middle back in this picture.

My father worked for Cairns the Builders. When the houses at Parkside were being built he was employed there and came home for midday dinner. He knew when it was 12.00 o’clock because we put a white towel over the wall and it could easily be seen as there weren’t any houses in between. I remember also taking up a bottle of cold tea for him in afternoons. He also cycled to other places where he worked and I remember him using carbide lamps on his bike.

Parkside, 1935. The railings on Parkside were painted white and were where we started the walk around the outside of the park.

On the occasion of George V and Queen Mary’s Jubilee we went to the Park and there was a huge bonfire. I also remember a bonfire and dancing in the Park for the 1937 Coronation and a tea in St Chad’s Hall. The girls were given a sunshade as a present. Mine was green and my Sister’s was pink. To commemorate the Coronation a clock was fixed to a pole at the Board Inn, also three seats, one at Houghton bus stop side, one outside the public toilets which were next to the Board Inn and one at the top of Parkside at the opposite side to the Park.

St. Chad’s Church and hall where we had tea and party for the Jubilee and Coronation.

When I was seven years old I got diphtheria and was taken to the isolation hospital at Junction Row. I was in there for six weeks. My younger Sister had diphtheria also and it took her thirteen weeks to recover. The Baby who was only three weeks old at that time died of diphtheria. My Mother was in hospital with the Baby but we weren’t allowed to see her. When my Father visited on Sunday afternoons he was only allowed to stand outside the window and talk through the closed glass.

Shortly after coming out of hospital we learned that the cottages were to be pulled down and we were moved to the new council housing at Woodside Terrace.

By Kathleen Potts (née McDermott)