Wednesday 27 February 2013

Pubs and Jolly Good Ancestors in Crook, Durham

Today I felt like a change - I've been posting about my maternal 2x great grandfather for a while  (see the various William Satchell Hutton Master Mariners posts linked on my Family History Stories page) and I needed new inspiration.

I remembered that somewhere in the OH's old photo backup disks were pictures we had taken way back in 2003 on a long weekend holiday to Durham.  That was also the year we went to Beamish - and we are planning a return visit there later this year.  I was surprised to find so few photos of that holiday - I don't think we had mentally converted from film to digital at that point, so instead of snapping everything, like we do now, we appear to have been more selective.  I had wanted to go to Crook and Witton le Wear, places my ancestors had lived. 
The route  - follow red stars from Helmington Row to Witton le Wear
and green stars back to Crook (map from Bing Maps)
If we had the use of a car that weekend (and I can't remember if we did or not) we wouldn't have driven to Crook as we couldn't drink real ale (and that would be a crime!) so a public transport alternative was planned.  We decided to go on the Sunday of our holiday rather than the Monday as most pubs are open on Sundays, but in our experience some don't open in the daytime on Mondays, however that meant that the buses were limited as many routes run restricted services on Sundays.  The route (to the best of my memory) plotted on the map snip above just proves that 10 years ago my health was so, so much better.  It adds up to between 9 and 10 miles of mixed road and country footpath walking.

The first stop was Helmington Row, a small hamlet up the hill from Crook.  The bus comes from the east on the A690 from Durham.  This was where my grandfather William Satchel Hutton (the mariner's grandson) was born in 1905 - but we couldn't find "Church Hill, Helmington Row" as noted on his birth certificate - there isn't even a church, although there is a Church Street.  Further investigation today on Digimaps and in the 1911 census summary books on Ancestry has shown where I went wrong.  Helmington Row is the name of the district, which spreads west almost into the centre of Crook itself.  Church Hill is actually where the church with a tower symbol is just above my last green star in the centre of Crook.

Church Hill, Helmington Row, Crook in the 1890s (from Digimaps)
Can you see the dotted boundary running down the stream from top left to bottom left of centre?  It seems that everything to the right is technically in Helmington Row. 

Extract from the 1911 census summary books (from Ancestry)
Mr Hutton is enumerated eight down from the Balaclava Inn, which I think must be the Inn at the bottom of the street, right next to the stream, so miss two for the shops and count uphill ... ish. But at least I've got the right street this time!  It looks as if the original cottages are still there on Google Maps so that's us booked in for another visit to Crook this summer.  In the course of searching for more information on the Balaclava Inn, I found a wonderful site, created to help school children research the history of Crook and a site where you can download a history of Crook Co-op as a pdf or Kindle book.

Although my great grandfather, Joseph Bormond Hutton, is listed as a Coal Miner on the 1911 census in the 1901 census he is a Grocer's shopman in Crook and family stories say he was the manager of the Co-op there eventually.  As he was born in Sunderland he must have been sent to Crook or taken a job in Crook to further his progress in the Co-op, it follows on as we know he was a Grocer's Apprentice in Sunderland in 1891.  He and Sarah Ellen Nutley married in Hendon, Sunderland in 1900 suggesting that she was living there at that time - did she go to Sunderland to go into service?  Is that how they met?  Did he take the job in Crook so she would be nearer to her family? They had six children, all born in Crook between 1901 and 1918, four girls and two boys, my grandfather being the older of the two boys.

Back in 2003 - we walked down some footpaths towards the next port of call, Constantine Farm - heading towards a Good Beer Guide pub, the Red Lion at North Bitchburn.  Checking in the current Guide I see the pub is still listed with guest beers from smaller North Eastern breweries and a reputation for good food.
My family tree showing the parents and grandparents of my maternal grandfather's mother, Sarah Eleanor Nutley
Sarah Ellen (or Eleanor) Nutley and her family headed by James Nutley lived at Constantine Farm in 1881.  James Nutley is always listed as a Coal Miner so I don't know why they were living on a farm then.  The road the farm lane runs off is on the edge of a steep ridge which falls away south west to the Beechburn Beck at its foot.  As I recall it was a bit bleak and bare, just fields down to the next road.
A map snip showing the bank below Constantine (Farm) 1890s - Howden Colliery (from Digimaps)
Looking back at the old maps I can see that Howden Colliery filled the space between the ridge road and the valley bottom - this is probably where James Nutley worked.  The road running up from the Colliery to North Beechburn (Bitchburn) is a steep climb - but we only had to walk downhill, from the Red Lion, marked Inn at the bottom right of the map above, all the way to Howden le Wear.  By 1891 James Nutley had moved to Railway Street, North Bedburn - which is the road running north from Beechburn Stations to St Mary's Church.  There is only one clump of houses on that road on the maps - and corresponding ones still exist on Google Maps.
Railway Street, Howden le Wear (from Google Maps)
The houses on Railway Street now have a lovely view of a park, well a green space anyway.  That was were the railway was ... that green track runs all the way from its junction with the existing railway (the second of my green stars) up to Crook, cuttings filled in, embankments flattened.

On Digimaps (which I can access as an Open University student) I can jump back and forth by decades to compare maps.  Jumping back to the 1882 map Howden le Wear and the main bits of the colliery disappear!  There's just a bit of mine where it says Old Drift on the map above at the top centre.  Jumping forwards by the 1920s all there is left are the marks of the railway tracks on the hillside and a row of cottages at the foot of the hill called Howden Colliery - that didn't last long did it?  The Durham Mining Museum website says that Howden Colliery was mainly worked between the 1880s and its closure in 1907.  North Beechburn (or Bitchburn) Colliery just to the south appears to have had a longer life span - 1845 to 1967, possibly the men moved to there - they appear to be owned by the same overall company. 

There's a  pub called the Green Tree in the Good Beer Guide for Howden le Wear now, it wasn't in the book for 2003, so there's one to aim for on a future visit.  I may not be actually rewalking this journey today, but I'm tired and I think it's time to stop.  More tomorrow maybe.


scott davidson said...
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Unknown said...

My great grandparents lived at Constantine Farm in 1881 and my mother was born there in 1925. My great grandmother was Mary Howie married to Robert Thompson. Mary Howie's father was John Howie. John was heavily involved in the Miner's Relief Fund. This may be how James Nutley came to live with them at Constantine Farm. I can't remember why but the name James Nutley seems very familiar to me through my family history research.
Janet Helgason

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Janet
That's very intriguing. Should you remember more I would love to hear about it. My contact info is on the About this blog tab at the top of the page.

Antony said...

My grandad John Hardy lived in a public house in crook on jobs hill i think its called. and I have really come to a dead end with him, i know where he lived in Crook when he was a bit older but I cant find his birth or any other details, he married Emily MORTON and I have no problems getting her details but John seems to be a real problem if you know the name of any pubs in crook that might be helpful to me Michelle

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Michelle
I don't really know much about Crook as I live in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. It's just that some of my ancestors came from there. When we visited last year I saw a local history book advertised in some shop windows, unfortunately it was late so the shops were shut and I was unable to buy a copy. I suggest you try the local history group ...
Sorry not be much help to you,
Linda (BarnsleyHistorian)

Unknown said...

@ Antony - I'm from Crook and run a Facebook Page called Crook Town and District History Group. If you are looking for a pub on Jobs Hill then it is likely to have been The Colliery which is now known as the Copper Mine.

@ BarnsleyHistorian. I have an old Cine Film on youtube in Crook taken in 1933. Type in Crook Cine. On there features the old Balaclava pub, known locally as the Balarat since the beck was near. It was named the Balaclava as the original owner had a son in the Crimean War and who fought in the battle of Balaclava.