A memory by Olive White published in the Heddon Gossip October 2002
Originally built by Brown and Bell for their workers from the pits around the Heddon/Throckley area, one of their pits was the Margaret Pit at Heddon.
Bell lived at Woolsington Hall and Brown lived at Wallsend. The houses were named Heddon Square, Throckley, although they were registered in the Heddon area and in later years when I was born there we were registered as living in the Wansbeck area.
The original buildings had steps and a gallery outside. Before the workforce could live there the first ‘Policital Refugees’ were brought over from France. They were exiled Huguenots (Catholic Priests) who fled the revolution.
The Mayor of Newcastle appealed to local families to help house the refugees and Bell and Brown offered accommodation in the houses they had built. The priests were given 1/- per day to help them maintain themselves.
When the priests returned to France in 1802 the houses were turned into poor houses until 1849 when the workers from the pits were given them.
When the priests left for France they left a Sundial with the inscription ‘QUAM SIGNARE PITS GAUDES GENS HOSPITA DONIS PROSPERO SIT SOMPER QUAE LIBOT HORA FIBI 1802 which was a latin translation thanking the people of Newcastle for their hospitality.
The first record I have is of one of my cousin’s great-great- grandfather living at No. 1 in 1844. He was William Shipley the local shoemakers. The house at No.1 had an extra room was used as a workshop. The family still have eyelets and leather from his workshop. His son moved into No. 3 and three more generations were born there.
I, myself, a niece, was born in Frenchman’s Row in 1933. There was a room downstairs and a large bedroom upstairs where large families would sleep, a scullery at the back and in the back lane was the ‘Middens’ (for the uninitiated these were dry closets. Not a subject we will dwell upon!)
It was a happy neighbourly street with the local ‘The Frenchmans’ conveniently at the bottom of the street.
The local milk man and grocer came down the back lane with their horses and carts and there was also a hardware seller who paid a regular visit.
In 1957, the local council decided to demolish these buildings. They were damp and without electricity but it is a shame that they could not have been renovated and modernised and parts of the original buildings retained. When the houses were demolished my uncle was given £100 compensation. Fortunately, the council decided to keep the Sundial which although commemorating an historic fact is on a modern building.
The Heddon Local History Society has a copy of the long letter of thanks from the refugees to the people of Newcastle thanking them for their hospitality (these were the days of flowery language when many words were used to say "Thank You")