Some photos of North Wylam Railway Station kindly supplied by David Payne.
From Pit to Palace: A Romantic Autobiography by James J Lawler. The Palace Publishing Company, New York (1906).
Just came across this strange book. It can be read or downloaded on the Internet Archive website. It's subtitle is 'A Romantic Autobiography' and is set in Wylam and Heddon on the Wall. It may well be an autobiography of the author, James J Lawler, but then why is the hero of the story called James Raymond? I can find neither of these named individuals in local records. The author's preface only provides this clue (the emphasis is mine):
Many biographies have been written of successful men who began life under the poorest conditions and while this sketch, which consists of more facts than fiction, might appear like repeating an old story ...
Although many recognisable events, descriptions and named people do occur in the book there are also many errors. They could of course be put down to a poor memory of past events and places. There is also much that smacks of fabrication and a huge desire to set the hero in the best possible light. If it is an autobiography it is certainly high on the big-headed side and there is little modesty.
Thanks to Philip Campo who contacted me about the blog, Canny Wylam, I have been able to see two examples of skeletal clocks made by the Wylam clock-maker, Isaac Jackson.
By any chance was 'the clock te gan forever' a skeletal clock? If so, I can certainly point you as to the whereabouts. My grandfather was a lover of skeletal clocks....and 2 of Isaac's pieces are within our family.
One of the clocks originally came from Wylam Church. My Grandfather had it agreed with the church for £200 back in the 80s, however the church decided to auction it instead and I believe he ended up paying more like £1500 at Christies auction rooms. This clock has a globe in the centre and rotates as the day goes by.....no doubt to the turn of the earth as I'm sure Isaac wouldn't have it any other way.
I also have to thank Philip Campo for the copy below of a local newpaper article recording the clock's restoration.
One of Jackson's clocks was for a time in Ovingham as it is mentioned in an article about the village in Archaeologia Aeliana, v5 p.347 (1861):
"These bring us into modem times; and we may venture to note the pleasure with which we view Mr. Bigge's admirable specimen of the clocks manufactured by a neighbouring pitman, Isaac Jackson, of Wylam. It is a marvel of accuracy."
John Frederic Bigge (1814–1885, 6th son of Charles William Bigge, Esq of Linden, Northumberland) was vicar of Ovingham & later Stamfordham. The Jackson clock mentioned in the report was presumably in the Ovingham Rectory.
A photo of the long-case regulator clock made by Isaac Jackson for Robert Stephenson's Locomotive Works in 1858 and now in the National Railway Museum is shown in Tale of the Model Steam Locomotive at Close House.
There has been much in the media regarding our national commemoration of World War 1 and I was loath this time to write yet another article on the same subject. However, I have been inspired by recent local events. Research on the names recorded on Wylam’s war memorials by Aubrey Smith, Philip Brooks and Roy Koerner was recently subject of a very professionally-produced and moving display in Wylam’s library (Falcon Centre), and followed up by a talk by Aubrey and Philip to the Heddon Local History Society at our last meeting on Monday 15th September.
If you missed the display, it is to be shown again in St Oswin’s Church (25 September to 11th October), Centenary Room of Wylam Institute (25th October to 1st November), and Wylam Methodist Church Hall (8th November to 9th November).
Wylam has three memorials: the cross on the village green, a plaque in the church, and a plaque in the old school (now Falcon Centre) with 21 names (‘the children of the village’). As well as the exhibition, a file has been produced on each of the 54 names recorded.
Because of our own activities on the names recorded in Heddon, I was particularly interested in the sources of information the group had used. Available online, there are Census records and military records: those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Soldiers Killed in Great War, Army Service Records (only about a third of which survived the Blitz), Medal Rolls, and Pension records. For those serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers or Durham Light Infantry, Battalion War Diaries were consulted at Alnwick Castle and Durham County Hall respectively. Although seldom recording names of individual soldiers, they provided insight about military events on the days the men were killed.
Local information was mined from the Hexham Courant, available on microfiche at Hexham Library. In particular, the Wylam School Log Books provided a valuable source, due to the dedication of the headmaster, Ralph Brady, who with 37 years of service personally knew, and took an interest in his former pupils. Several of the names were augmented by family history research carried out by their relatives, often coming out of the blue from surprising distance, providing letters, photographs and memories.
Some intriguing stories came to light. One name on the old school plaque is Captain Frederick George ‘Dusty’ Dunn. From a humble background as son of a pit deputy, he became a pioneer in aerial warfare during the war, flying 17,500 miles in France. He was killed after Armistice Day, in May 1919, crashing as a test pilot at Farnborough in a prototype triplane. Roy Koerner, who unearthed much of the story is quoted in The Northumbrian (Issue 140 June/July 2014):
“He is one of Wylam’s most famous sons, yet nobody knew about him. If the schoolmaster had not recorded his name on the war memorial he would have been forgotten. Wylam already had its railway pioneers and now we have an aviation pioneer.”
Another airman commemorated on the village green memorial is Gerald Lewis Paget. He transferred from the Northumberland Fusiliers to the 67th (Australian) Royal Flying Corps in early 1916 and was shot down on a mission in the Middle East.
Three of the Wylam men had more illustrious backgrounds to many of those recorded. The two sons of Sir James Knott, Henry Basil Knott and James Leadbitter Knott are shared on Heddon’s memorials and their stories are well known. The third, Algernon George Parsons, killed at Ypres in April 1918, was the only son of Charles Parsons, the industrialist of turbine fame who lived at Holeyn Hall.
Aubrey Smith got into this research to find something about the almost forgotten names he saw every day on the village memorial. The Heddon memorial records many fewer individuals, but the Wylam study will be a hard act to follow and we will need a little more time. The Wylam exhibition is well worth a visit. Take time to look at just a single random file of one the soldiers unknown to you and you will see that their stories can still resonate with us today.
2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.
One hundred years on, we are all connected to the First World War, either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long-term impact on society and the world we live in today.
From 2014 to 2018, across the world, nations, communities and individuals of all ages will come together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.
IWM (Imperial War Museums) is leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of local, regional, national and international cultural and educational organisations.
Through the First World War Centenary Programme, a vibrant global programme of cultural events and activities, and online resources, the aims are to connect current and future generations with the lives, stories and impact of the First World War.
Here in Heddon on the Wall we would also like to put together some memories of this time and of those men from the village who gave their lives and that we remember to this day. The first of our articles appears below. It is intended to illustrate the calm before the storm, setting the tranquil scene in the locality of our village in the spring of 1914 using text from a local newspaper article.
The North East War Memorials Project records for that for the Heddon on the Wall district, including Heddon Colliery, over 200 men served in the Great War, 16 were killed.
Contacts made through the website are always appreciated, often informing me of things I don't know, or setting me off on a new train of thought. A lady called Lynne Petrie contacted me recently through a mutual friend in Wylam regarding the blog I'd written about Isaac Jackson, made after the talk by Jim Rees for this year's Puffing Billy Festival.
She asked if I knew the Geordie folk song, 'Canny Wylam', which mentions Jackson and other notable, and not so notable, worthies from our neighboring village. After a mention of George Stephenson, the verse about Jackson goes:
Now there's Jackson, his owld mate, was another up te date,
The text below is a transcription of an article published in the now-defunct York Herald, on Monday 27 September 1875, page 6, col 2.
It recounts memories of some 40 or 45 years earlier about certain Tyneside wooden waggonways and the early steam locomotives operating on the Wylam Waggonway.
The author is unnamed but clearly had a close connection and interest in the events taking place around him. It is possible that the newspaper is merely recycling an article previously published in a more local journal but if so I have yet to discover the original source.
The illustration (above) for this story was kindly provided by Bethany Whitehead especially for this blog. Her work is showcased on Tumblr as Bethany Bluebell Illustration and is well worth a look.
The series of talks on early railways set up for the 2013 Puffing Billy Festival has been both informative and entertaining. However, the one on 25th September by Jim Rees entitled Hedley, Chapman and Isaac Jackson - who really did what? provided a gem of a story with a local interest that I just had to follow up.
Unlike my recent blog, Puffing Billy & the Heddon Balloon, where my early railway connection with Close House was somewhat fanciful, this story incorporates both real old news reports and cutting-edge research. That account also has one of Bethany Whitehead's drawings.
It's worth pointing out here that Close House always was, and still is, firmly in the parish of Heddon on the Wall, but is often referred to in the press as Close House, near Wylam, or worse, Wylam's Close House. This fact was pointed out in a letter to the Hexham Courant by Ian Armstrong, Chairman of Heddon Parish Council, published Monday, 1st October 2012.
I would like to thank Jim Rees (now at Beamish Museum) for providing much of the information I have used below. It was published in Early Railways 4 (Ed. G Boyes, 2010; ER4) as a followup section to his paper, The Sans Pareil Model: its purpose and possible origins, read at the Fourth International Early Railways Conference. The field of early railway research is a complicated and confusing one and any mistakes in the report below are my own, due both to my poor note keeping during Jim's lecture, and my even worse understanding of the issues and engineering.
Among the many things I learned in this talk, completely new to me, was about another Wylam man, Isaac Jackson, and his possible, mostly unsung, role in assisting in the local development of early steam locomotives that was taking place around him.
To focus my mind on the Wylam Waggonway for the Puffing Billy Festival I decided to create a map of the waggonway so that I could discuss some things that interest me along its route. As always I am particularly interested in finding clues to the past which can still be seen today.
This will be an ongoing blog and I will add to it as I feel inspired.
View Wylam Waggonway in a larger map
Key to map above:
Red: North Wylam, Newburn & Scotswood Railway where it diverges from the route of the former Waggonway.
Blue: approximate route of Wylam Waggonway (1859 Map)
Green: Mineral line (single track) closely parallel to railway line (double track) - possibly on the original waggonway line.
Purple: Early Throckley Waggonway (1859 map)
Pink: Later Throckley Waggonway (1897 map)
Yellow: Throckley Isabella Mineral Railway (1897 map)
Light Blue: North Walbottle Waggonway (1859 Map)
Yellow Pin: Named feature
Despite its name, Wylam Brewery is actually in Heddon on the Wall at South Houghton. Some of their attractively produced beer-mats have historical themes. Well, that's my excuse for reproducing them here. As I'm trying to avoid any advertising on this site, I'll just say that other beers are available and if the other local breweries start producing historically-themed beer-mats I'll post them here as well.
WYLAM BREWERY (or Heddon Brewery as we prefer to call it) was set up in a disused dairy on a farm near Heddon on the Wall in May 2000 by John Boyle and Robin Leighton driven by their passion for real ale. It was three months in the building and the first cask was produced in August that year. The brewery grew rapidly on the strength of the quality of its ales, winning awards at festivals around the UK. They outgrew the original 1000L plant in 2006 and brought on-stream a new 3500L plant in August in a bespoke barn conversion. Since then they have enjoyed continued strong growth.
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