CONVERSATION WITH WILLIAM (ALEC) AND WINNIE WATSON, March 2001
from an article by Pat Farnaby
Alec has lived in Heddon on the Wall Parish all his life. He was born at Mount Hope, East Heddon, and moved to one of the cottages known at Haddocks Hole, behind The Three Tuns, when he was a few months old. After a short while the family moved into a house in the centre of the village where he still lives today.
His father was Check Weighman at Heddon Colliery Coal Office, Station Road. He went to Heddon school where the head teacher was Mr. Fernia and Miss Farthing from Denton Burn was the teacher.
The Doctor - Old Dr. Bishop from Wylam used to come to Heddon and 'do his rounds'. He had a car which he parked and "all the youngsters would pile into the car and sit and wait until he came out from visiting a patient. He would then drive the car about 20 yards to another house and we would all sit and wait for him coming out to get another ride." They all enjoyed the 'ride in the Dr's car.'
When he was 18 years old Alec joined the Forces (he was in France under age for the War) he should have come home but he wouldn't come. He was in an ammunition company, RASC, running ammunition to the front line. Alec was not allowed to do that so he was put on 'Coal Duty' leading coal from the railway station to the billet. These wagons did not have starter motors, the driver had to use the starting handle. Alec had been on the coal run for a while and had blistered his hand using the starting handle. He got blood poisoning in his hand, which traveled right up his arm. He was sent home to report to the RVI at Newcastle and 'low and behold who should be at the hospital but Dr. Swindale from Wylam'. Alec rubbed his hands thinking he was home for a few months! But he was home one week and then off again to France.
Paper Shops (2) in Heddon - There were two single storey cottages adjacent No. 6 Blue Row. Mr. Gibson lived in one of these cottages. He had a hut built in his garden which acted as a Paper Shop for the village. These two cottages were pulled down to make an access road to the Vallum Estate when it was built in the early 1960's. Previous to the Paper Shop in Blue Row the Paper Shop was in Mushroom Row in the home of Mr. Tully (Ena and Irene Tulip's Grandfather).
Sweet Shop - There was a Sweet Shop in Mushroom Row which was run by 'Baker' Graham (Molly Reese's father)
Post Office - There were two cottages, known as Jubilee Cottages, running east to west to the east of Church House, one was lived in by Ada Jordan and the other was the Post Office (circa 1920). This post office was run by 'Taffy' Joe Wright. (He got his nickname because he was always eating toffees)
Cobbler's Shop - Mr. Malthouse owned the land adjacent the Square Yard and on that land there was a Cobbler's Shop.
Bakery - Heddon also had a Bakery - at 19 Station Road - there was a large oven in one of the rooms and George Charlton and his mother made bread and tea cakes - " they made good tea cakes!" he used to go around with his van selling the bread and tea cakes.
Coal Office - Further down Station Road (where No. 14 Station Road now stands), was the Coal Office with the Weigh In for the wagons. Coals were brought up from Heddon Pit in trolleys. The coal was tipped, bagged and sold to coal merchants who would come with their horses and carts for bags of coal.
Other Property - The house (now called Four Winds), opposite Towne Gate was Town Farm. That farm owned the buildings now in Tulip's Yard which were the farm buildings. Alec would go along to Town Farm with a milk can to collect the milk.
The Three Tuns, when the pond was on the site of the present Memorial Park, was sold to Mr. Thompson. The stable and the garden were sold to George Armatage and it was a Blacksmith's Shop for many years. Throckley Co-op had a branch store in the building near the Three Tuns. The three cottages (known as Haddock's Hole) were lived in by (1) Alec Watson and his family, (2) Mrs. Mary Burns and (3) the Westle family. In the three houses west of Haddock's Hole lived Policeman, Dickie Bell, Percy Reay (his sister, Bertha, had the Swan Inn). and Robert Hunter. There was also a Police House in Clayton Terrace (1924)
The cart track between Blue Row and Clayton Terrace was Common Land. It was owned by Mr. Jimmy Hedley of the original Bays Leap Farm. The Square Yard took up the area of land approximately where the steps leading to Overhill are now and then westwards to the Reading Room.
Bespoke Tailor - A Bespoke Tailor lived in the first big house on the right hand side going from Heddon to Houghton. He was known as 'the flying tailor', and traveled around on his bike with his coat tails flying.
Garage - There was a garage on property, which ran from the Houghton Road through to the Military Road. The local busman was Tommy Dale. He sold out to Barlow and Williamson who had two buses and ran the local town service. This was bought by Emersons and then by the United. Garage - after Barlow and Williamson, Geo. Curwen of Throckley bought it and he put petrol pumps on the Houghton Road side.
Heddon Flower Show - Heddon Flower Show was held in marquees on the Crag Field just through the gate from the present Welfare Field.
Holiday Bungalows - There were Holiday Bungalows on Heddon Common and just before turning left to drop down to Close Lea there were tennis courts. (To the south of the quarry - now filled in). The land on which the holiday bungalows were built was owned by Mr. T.O.Shield.
Garden House - "When old Willie Jordan died George Charlton bought Garden House. He retired and he and his Mother lived there. "
Water Taps - There was a water tap between Blue Row and Clayton Terrace. Alec said they were called 'pumps' because it was in a casing and you turned the knob to get water (the tap was on Sarah Elliot's wall, No. 1 Clayton Terrace)
Taxi Firm - Nettleton's Taxis, who owned Central Station Garage - lived in Heddon at West Acres at the bottom of Heddon Banks.
Hall in Welfare Field - Apart from the W.I Hall in Heddon there was a wooden hall, with a stage, in the Welfare Field where dances, concerts and Christmas parties were held.