Saturday, 15 June 2013

Page Bank, Durham - How We are in Danger of Forgetting our Recent History

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.
Greyscale image of muddy village street with the backs of low houses to the left and outhouses to the right.  Three women stop to chat, one is carrying some curtains over her arm, all three are wearing carpet slippers.  The image is overlain with the words "Category D Day" and has captions to its lower edge and a box exhorting people to contact Beamish.
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. 

Black and white photo of five girls and a baby outside a stone built house with a half glazed porch.  There is a large tree in the left background.  The baby is sitting in a highchair surrounded by the other girls
My auntie and mum, their cousin and some neighbour girls at Page Bank, 1941 (from ClS)
The above picture was taken outside of The Farm, Page Bank in 1941, where my mum and her family lived until 1946, while my grandad worked at the Whitworth Park colliery.  Two of the girls in the background are evacuees from Wallsend, which being a shipbuilding area and near the east coast was in danger of attack during the war.  The baby is my mum's cousin CnS who never knew her father because just ten months after she was born his ship, the HMS Barham, was sunk in the Mediterranean. 

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.

Map snip of Page Bank and surrounds from the 1940s showing the extent of the village
Page Bank and surrounds in the 1940s (from Old Maps)
The map snip above shows Page Bank village with the river Wear curving across to the south.  Rows of small cottages run north westerly from the river towards the old colliery site, labelled South Brancepeth Colliery (disused).  The Whitworth Park pit, where my grandad worked is to the south of the river and slightly to the east.  To the north west of the village is Page Bank East, a row of houses near a farm.  My mum lived in the middle one, which she says was bigger than it looks on the map as one of their bedrooms was actually above the house next door.  She can remember there were pig sties and hen crees (chicken coops) at the back of the cottages.  My grandad had an allotment and the neighbour kept goats.

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.

A close up of West Terrace and School Row in Page Bank from a 1920s map.
Close up of the school, institute and chapels from a 1920s map (from Old Maps)
The school and institute were to the very south of the village, right on the river bank.  The school is on the end of School Row, a row of nearly thirty cottages.  Similar cottages to these can be seen at Beamish Museum in the pit village area.  Mum says that they had cold running water and the toilets at the bottom of the yard.  She can remember that the toilet in their house, up the hill at Page Bank East was emptied every so often by men with long handled shovels.  Ashes were put down the toilets to cover the waste.

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.
A black and white photo of a row of houses flooded to the doors, the gardens covered and the tops of fence posts visible above the waters.
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.


Ken Waugh said...

Hi, a great read, I was wondering if your family may have known my family/ancestors at Pagebank, it seemed they lived there for quite some time on East Street Terrace in Pagebank, certainly they were still living there in 1911 and Im pretty sure they lived there for some time after, although thats where my info ends. If you or your fam,ily member have ever heard of the surnames, Fishburn, Northcote or Stockport please get in touch??

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Ken,
My mum left Pagebank as a small child and she only has the vaguest memories of the village - which is why I wrote the post in a way - to record what she did remember!

Sorry, but we can't help you with your query.
Thanks for reading though!

Hilary Elliott said...

I read with interest this account of Pagebank. My mother Hilda nee Redhead was born in the village in 1910. She may have left when she was twenty. She always spoke of her childhood there as idyllic. She was the eighth of eleven children. Her father was invalided out of the pit when she was very small and received no compensation in those days of pre nationalisation. Her mother and her eldest sister baked bread and made quilts in order to make ends meet. She used to say that the Redheads were thought "stuck up". I couldn't possibly comment. I believe they lived in number one though I don't know which terrace. She did talk about flooding so I was interested to see the photographs. I'm not sure if this blog is still open so I wont write more. P.S Ida Waugh was a great friend. I think I have a picture of her.
Since starting this comment I have found an autograph album dated 1923. 140 West Terrace, Page Bank. Some of the signatures read M Armstrong, G Bennet, Maggie Hamilton, Doris Guy, A. Jones, Robert Dean.

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Thanks for your comments Hilary. I can assure you I read everything people post on my pages. And of course your comments will be of interest to anyone else who lands on this page after a web search as I assume you did!

Thanks again,

Hilary Elliott said...

I received the blog from my sister in Canada. I live in Cambridge. I have sent the link to a son in Australia so the word gets about! Thanks Linda

GoneSouth said...

I was fascinated to read your information about Page Bank. I am (a small) part of some research into Spennymoor quilters being conducted by Dorothy Osler and a few of us from BQSG (the British Quilt Study Group), part of the Quilters Guild.
I have been given two quilters to trace their maternal line back and one of them, Mrs Eleanor Hodgson, was living in Page Bank and I have just traced her mother, Margaret Henderson (née Harle) back to living in Page Bank in 1881.
I was puzzled by the addresses (I am completely new to Family History) - in 1881 just "Page Bank" and then in 1891 "Chapel Row" and in 1901 and 1911 "129 Chapel Row". I was imagining that this was maybe as the village grew, rather than that they were moving around, and your post has been so helpful in visualising what was going on. I didn't see Chapel Row in the 1940s map - maybe it changed its name? I will try find some other maps with the link you provide.
I see that your commentator from Cambridge is the granddaughter of a Page Bank quilter so I will get in touch with her too.
Thank you.

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Thank you for your comment on my Page Bank blog post.
The Old Maps site now charges to see the large scale maps, but if you have a few to look up it is probably worth paying for a month's subscription.
I see you have commented on another post too ... thanks for looking back on my blog, it's great to know people are interested.

Upper Teesdale Blog said...

Fascinating reading. My mother and her 3 brothers were all brought up in Pagebank. The family lived at 140 West Terrace which is why I find Hilary Elliott's post incredible! Also Ken Waugh mentions the Fishburn name. That is my family! Indeed I recall as a young child visiting my great grandmother Bella Fishburn who lived at 141 West Terrace.
There are still a few older members of the Fishburn family alive and kicking so if anyone has any queries I am sure we can assist to answer them. Just drop me a line at
Hilary Elliot if you read this drop me a line as I would love to know more about the album you have.

Upper Teesdale Blog said...

I should add that My great grandmother was a Harle before she married a Fishburn.

Upper Teesdale Blog said...

In response to Gone South... West Row was known locally as chapel row as it had chapels at both end of the row.

John Lynn said...

Hi Linda
Great read, my grandparents lived in the village for many years and I have fond memories of the times when I visited them. I use to speak lots with my father (John Lynn) also known as Jack, or piper about growing up in the village and recently carried out his last request to spread his ashes where he use to live. i use to take him back there every year and he enjoyed visiting his friend Peter forester on his farm until he sadly passed away. I will still make my annual visit to page bank even though dad is no longer with us as it's important that we don't forget.
John lynn (Jnr)

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Thank you for that John, I read it out to my mum with a tear in my eye. She was only a small child herself when her family lived there but she remembers it well.
Thanks again,
Linda (and her mum Rita)

Tadpole said...

lovely to read this; my mothers family were from Page bank- her dad was called Tom 'Towser' Hamilton and her mother Frances Fishburn. If anyone reading this has any stories about the village or photos I would love to see or hear about them. Hilary, Maggie Hamilton was my Aunt


BarnsleyHistorian said...

Thank you for this 'Tadpole'. It seems this post has been very popular with people who lived in the village. I guess there's not much online about it. Thanks for reading.

celticmick said...

I was born in Page Bank in 1947 in 105 School Row. I went to school with Bernadette Smith, Doreen Fishburn, Linda Brain and strangely enough I can remember the names of most of the people who lived in the village until the D notice when we were dispersed to Willington and Spennymoor. Still visit what is left of Page Bank whenever I am in the area. Many thanks, Carolyn Bourke nee Larkman.

Tadpole said...

Doreen Fishburn is related to me and Linda Brain (now Hastings) is my cousin

Margaret Rigglesworth said...

My father Stanley Mewes was born in 16 East Terrace in 1907. He had three brothers, Billy, Joe and George. My father came south to Surrey and Sussex and found work on the railway in approx 1936 after marrying Edna Cottle originally from Sunnybrow then Oakenshaw.
She was the sister of Gladys Pearcy who also lived in Page Bank. My brother, Staan and I visited Page Bank every year and have wonderful memories of Grandma's lovely meals and Uncle George's produce from his well tended garden. We have visited from Sussex occasionally and it is so sad that Page Bank is no more.

If anyone has any photographs of the original East Terrace, would love to see them.

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Margaret,
I think it's lovely the way people are getting in touch via my blog post. My mum enjoys reading all your memories.
Thank you,

Shaun Fleming said...

BarnsleyHistorian said...

I would love to have a copy of this new book about Page Bank. Could someone local contact me please and I'll send a cheque.
Thank you in anticipation,

Tadpole said...

Hi Linda

you can only get the book from a couple of newsagents- one in Bishop Auckland and 1 in Wllingdon. I will be going next Tuesday so will see if there are any left. Do you want me to get you one Linda?

BarnsleyHistorian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tadpole said...

hello Linda

I've contacted the author and he says you can buy the book over the phone from Etheringtons, tel. 01388 602194. It's £5

all the best


BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Jane,

I have phoned the shop and a copy of the book is now in the post to Barnsley.

Thank you so much,

Hilary Elliott said...

Dear Shaun

I am aware that I may be addressing your spam folder or your email address has changed or you have forgotten the item you posted on the page bank blog. For myself I had forgotten about that blog until this week. I was astonished to read how many postings there had been. I have been jolted to life by an imminent visit up north to visit my roots in the company of my son and granddaughter. We are staying at Witton le Wear for a few days from 11th May. The "album" you refer to is a tiny little thing and the entries those of children in their early teens. I will bring it with me and anything else I can find relating to those days as well as the memories I have of my Mother's memories of her childhood... so very different to any child I know today. I'll post this letter on the blog if you don't mind as it may keep the interest alive.

Warm good wishes Hilary (Elliott)

Hilary Elliott said...

very cross to find that this email above has appeared on facebook. Don't know how that happened. Wish it hadn't. Can only apologise
with sadness