'Down Memory Lane' by Percy Reay
Published in the Parish Register, June 1974
When Heddon Pit got more established and had more coal seams opened they naturally had to build houses for the extra miners required. There were a few families came from Lancashire, Yorkshire and also out of Durham and Northumberland. They started the Brick Works so they had them housed in a very short time. There was a row built so quickly they called it 'Mushroom Row'. It was built where Messrs. Amos Bros. shop and also the new library is now situated. They were in such a hurry there was only one door into each house, therefore you had to come out the same way you went in. There was also a lot of Norfolk people in the district in those days. It used to be said in a jocular way that when a truck load of bricks went down to Norfolk, a truck load of workmen came back. They were really nice people. I remember old 'Norfolk' Brown making a cart upstairs in one of his rooms and after he got it made he had to take the window out; it was a standing joke for years.
The miners' houses were all built with brick, whereas the other inhabitants' houses were built of stone from the quarry. Football dominated nearly every household and every Saturday the school lads who lived in the brick houses played the stone houses. After the game (winter, summer and all weather), tired, hungry and unsightly: we did not have bathrooms or any water in the house, so my mother (God bless her) then got the water from the rain tub at the back door and boiled it on the kitchen fire and then poured it into the sink in the scullery and after she had cooled it down, in I went and she scrubbed me until I was white again.
Our mothers saw to it that we did not miss going to church or chapel. We went three times every Sunday, in the choir morning and night, also Sunday School in the afternoon. In the summer evenings after church service it looked so nice and homely meeting parents out with their children along the country lanes. As the years have rolled on I am sorry to say I have seen several of these nice walks taken from us, it just felt like second heaven listening to the corncrake, cuckoo, curlew, peewit and other various kinds of birds. I am sorry to say those days will not come back.
Percival Reay (born in Heddon in 1894) was the brother of Bertha Tone Reay (born Heddon 1893) who was inn-keeper of the Swan for many years.