I woke this morning with the realisation that for people my age, and I'm only in my 50s, Page Bank, a small village near Spennymoor, in County Durham, could as well have never existed. Hit by severe flooding in the 1960s and a victim of Durham's 1951 County Development Plan which labelled it a Category D village it has now almost vanished from the face of the planet.
|A spread from the Beamish Winter 2012/13 Magazine about Category D Villages|
You may remember that myself, the OH and the mums recently visited Durham and the Yesterday Belongs to You fair at the Durham County Hall. My mum was given some back issues of the Beamish Magazine and later in the week we visited Beamish where she joined as a Friend to support the Museum. In the Winter 2012/13 issue on pages 18-19 she found the above spread and immediately recognised the picture. "That looks like Page Bank", she said, and then spotting the caption to the bottom right, "Main picture: Page Bank, near Spennymoor, County Durham", she added, "It is, that looks just like where Nenny used to live".
The article explained how in 1951 Durham "identified 114 places across the county which should be left to decline and disappear". Beamish has been investigating what happened to some of them and there was a display at the museum in February this year.
Last night mum and I were discussing some photos posted to Facebook by my cousin ClS, which included the picture of my grandad in the Home Guard that I used for my last post. She had also posted some pictures of her mum as a baby with some other small girls. My mum was able to identify the other girls and the place where the pictures were taken.
|My auntie and mum, their cousin and some neighbour girls at Page Bank, 1941 (from ClS)|
Mum can remember going to school in Page Bank village which was just down the hill from their house. Her sister was a bridesmaid at a wedding in 1942 and the 'do' afterwards was held in the village Institute in Page Bank which was opposite the school. There are a few pictures of Page Bank school on the Durham in Time collection.
|Page Bank and surrounds in the 1940s (from Old Maps)|
Mum thinks that Nenny, the lady that used to 'do' for my grandma, lived in East Terrace, which is the eastmost row of cottages in the map snip.
On the Old Maps site you can trace back the history of Page Bank to 1857 and a pit of the same name with just one row of twelve cottages, identifiable in the 1940s pictures as Old Row. Following the maps forward in time you get a good idea of how the village grew and changed and eventually vanished.
|Close up of the school, institute and chapels from a 1920s map (from Old Maps)|
There are two chapels on the small map snip, a Primitive Methodist chapel opposite the school and next door to the institute and another, for Wesleyan Methodists, at the other end of West Terrace. Durham miners were well known for their Methodism, and often speaking in chapel gave men the confidence to speak out in unions and politics later on. The Church of England parish church was at Whitworth in the grounds of Whitworth Hall, ancestral home of the Shafto family, to the south. Which reminds me, although I can see no pub actually in the village there was one just on the other side of the river, called the Shafto Arms after the family.
|Floods in Page Bank in the 1960s (from Durham in Time - Page Bank)|
The village was badly flooded in the 1960s which contributed to its decline. My mum remembers that many of the villagers moved to nearby Willington.
|Page Bank today (from Google Maps)|
This Google map snip shows roughly the same area as the 1940s map above. All that remains of Page Bank are the cottages where my mum lived to the top left (even the farm has gone) and a few buildings dotted around the site. Google Street view didn't go down those lanes so I can't get close to the houses. However on the main road, Whitworth Lane, south of the river a building which was probably the Shafto Arms seems to have a new roof and is being converted to a house.
The moral of this story is Talk to your Relatives; my mum has probably told me all these stories many times before, but I've never written them down. Page Bank vanishes from the maps between the 1960s and 1980s. There's very little to see now on the ground. Page Bank, a place that is remembered so strongly by my mum, was already disappearing before I, born in the 1960s, was old enough to remember it.