Life In A Colliery House In Coxlodge

Life in a colliery house in Coxlodge

The Coxlodge Hotel locally known as The Trap. Built approx. 1868.

Guest Post By Author Jack P Harland

Coxlodge in the ‘50s; a personal memoir

Life in a colliery house in Coxlodge. Jack Harland grew up in Coxlodge in the 50s and 60s. He was born in an upstairs bedroom of a colliery house in Coxlodge on West Street, (now Kenton Road) in the middle of a snowstorm. In later years Jack’s career took him north to Scotland where he developed a love of hillwalking and mountain climbing. This love of the outdoors led to the publication of his book, Highland Journal – The Making Of A Hillwalker. Highland Journal brings together Jack’s skills as an artist and writer. We are delighted to be able to share Jack’s memories with you here.

In this post Jack shares with us his young memories of life in 1950s Coxlodge.

The Trap

I was born in the unheated bedroom of a one up, one down colliery house in a snowstorm.  The midwife couldn’t get there so my Grandma delivered me.  I spent much of my early childhood in that house as my mother worked and I loved it.  It was a couple of doors down from the Trap, the social heart of Coxlodge.

There was no electricity and no bathroom.  The ‘lavvy’ was in the yard at the back, across from the air raid shelter.  Grandma used to tell me about the war and how her father was the village ARP.  A bomb got stuck in a chimney a few doors down in West Street and he helped get it out.  When the anti-aircraft guns on the Town Moor were firing, the house shook and Granny’s ornaments fell off the mantleshelf (Granny was my great grandmother and she had a bed under the stair in the sitting room).  The lavvy was cold and damp and froze in the winter.  Grandma put salt in the pan to thaw it out.  Squares of torn-up newspaper on a string served for toilet paper.  Potties under the beds saved having to go outside on cold, wet nights.

Drawing of Jack Harland with his Grandma when he stayed in Coxlodge. By Mairi Harland
Drawing of Jack with his Grandma by Mairi Harland

Gas Light

The only light in the house came from two gas mantles above the fire.  Grandma would take a coloured spill, light it in the fire and hold it to the mantle while she turned the brass taps for the gas.  It lit with a satisfying pop and then settled to a low hiss as the filament glowed bright.

Cooking was done on the range and Grandma was an excellent cook.  She made all her bread and mouth-watering cakes and pies.  There were two types of gingerbread made in roasting tins, one with Golden Syrup and one with black treacle.  I loved both but my favourite was that made with black treacle, it was so sticky and rich.  Fruit cakes, cherry cakes, spice cakes…it was a long list and I was well-fuelled!  We used to sit in the evening and make toast on the embers of the fire using an old toasting fork.  Thick slices with chunks of butter melted in, delicious.

In the warmer months Grandma would fancy shandies and I was sent to the Trap with an enamel jug for beer.  I remember the smell of the beer and cigarette smoke and the noise of loud chatter and gales of laughter.  The bar staff knew me by name and often had a treat for me.

Life in a colliery house in Coxlodge

The Weekly Bath

Baths were once a week and happened in an old zinc bath kept in the washroom at the back.  It was lifted through and put in front of the fire.  A clothes horse with towels was set up around it to keep off draughts.  Grandma trotted back and forth with jugs from the boiler to fill it and all three of us used the same water (one at a time!).  I felt very luxurious sitting there in the warm water, looking at the flames burning around the coals in the fire.

Our evening entertainment was mostly a programme on the wireless.  This was on old brown one on the wall and the service was provided by Rediffusion, for which Grandma payed rent.

My grandfather had been killed in the pit so Grandma got free coal (her only compensation).  A colliery wagon came down the back lane and tipped out a pile onto the cobbles.  I went out with her and helped shovel the lumps into the coal house, some so big that I could only lift one at a time.  The fire was lit every morning, winter or summer.

Monday Wash Day

Mondays were washing days.  Grandma lit the gas under the boiler, heated the water, threw in the washing and plunged a bleached stick in to stir it round.  I liked to help and was interested in the stick, which had one end thinner than the other from being plunged so often into the boiler.  The lines were hung across the back lane and I would run down the whole lane letting the freshly laundered sheets and clothing brush over my (dirty) face and hands.  Sometimes I was spotted and had to run for it!

At the end of a busy day I had to clean my teeth in the kitchen sink, using a little tin of hard tooth powder, then it was up to bed.  Grandma lit a little oil lamp and I was settled into her bed.  I used to try to stay awake until she came to join me but always fell asleep.

Continue on and read Jack’s next post The Lost Streets of Gosforth

Front cover of the book Highland Journal by Jack P Harland.
Highland Journal by Jack P Harland

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12 thoughts on “Life In A Colliery House In Coxlodge

  1. Eileen Harland née O’Kane says:

    I attended the little catholic school in Coxlodge until I was 8,at that time the school was moved to Norg Kenton ,but as this was in a different education area we weren’t allowed to move ,most children then went to St.Caharles in Gosforth.My dad Frank O’Kane grew up in Gosforth and also went St.Cuthbets in Coxlodge

  2. George says:

    I was born at 31 Hutton Street in 1956. My nana lived in Agnes Maria Street. I used to love feeding her gas meter with pennies. I used to like getting a ‘pick off the tray’ at Wison’s (the shop next door to Harry Gray’s). And I used to be frightened of Jasper, the butcher on the corner.This article brought back many memories of Coxlodge. Many thanks to you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We lived in Riddell Terrace number 50 we were there until it was demolished, and moved back to almost the same spot when Coxlodge Terrace was built my mam and dad were Amy and John Reay

  4. Catherine Bennett says:

    Just looking through some old documents and found my great grandparents lived in 22 Mary Agnes Street in 1917 and eventually Horden Colliery. I have a copy of an old birth certificate of my great uncle Bernard showing this. I didn’t think the house would be still standing, just googled it today and found it was. Their names were Bernard Devine who was a miner and Jane Devine (formerly Todd) and my grandparents were Charles Devine and Catherine who died when she was young (in her 30’s) and my father was John Devine from Horden Colliery.

  5. Jack Harland says:

    Thank you for your kind comment Doreen (and thanks to Fiona for replying for me while I resolved the technical issues). I find Coxlodge very different when I return these days, it was a pit village in the 1950s, with miners coming home after their shifts with black faces. Thinking about your comment about “old Coxlodgers”, I think that it must apply to me, you can’t escape your roots!

  6. Doreen Hollamby says:

    I loved your story about the Trap and your life in Coxlodge I live where Riddle Terrace used to be.The Trap is now boarded up and will be demolished and flats built on it but still many old Coxlodgers around.

    1. Fiona Malkin says:

      Hello Doreen, I am replying on behalf of Jack as he is away at the moment. He would like to say that his great-grandmother used to live in Riddle Terrace, and that his youngest daughter is looking to buy a house in Gosforth, with Coxlodge a strong possibility.

      1. Eunice Grey. (nee Ashurst) says:

        This article put a smile on my face, as I reminisced my childhood. I was born in 1945, in no. 5 Lambert Square, a year later we moved to Mary Agnes Street where my parents lived for the rest of their lives, I remember having the same way of life as Jack. Thank you so much for sharing this.

        1. Lorna Dafter says:

          Hi my mother Barbara Maxwell remembers you and your family well. The Maxwells Millie and Bob lived at 28 Mary Agnes Street right up till late 90s. Brought back some happy memories x

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