John Mood Stationer and Conscientious Objector

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Long time residents of Gosforth will recall a stationery shop on Gosforth High Street, Moods of Gosforth. As children, it was a treat to visit the shop and consider which of the books or stationery we might request for our next birthday or Christmas gift. These memories have prompted us to look at the history of this much-loved shop and its founder.

John Mood

A notice in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle of 8 February 1965 records the death of a ‘Jesmond man’ aged 77. Reading on, we learn that the man was John Mood and that until his retirement in 1952 Mr Mood kept a newsagent’s and stationer’s in Gosforth’. Intriguingly we also learn that John Mood was former secretary of the North-eastern area of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. This small newspaper article provides a clue to John Mood’s interesting past.

Newspaper article recording death of John Mood

“Jesmond man dies at 77 The former secretary of the North Eastern area of the Fellowship Association, Mr John Mood of  Ripon Garden Jesmond Newcastle has died at his home. Mr Mood who was aged 77, leaving a widow a married son and three married daughters. Until his retirement in 1952 Mr Mood kept a Newsagent’s and Stationer’s shop in Gosforth.”

Early Life

John Mood established Moods of Gosforth in the second decade of the twentieth century. John Mood was born in Bedlington, Northumberland, in 1887, the son of Robert and Amelia Mood. In 1897 John’s mother passed away, and by the 1911 census, he was living with his father and stepmother Eliza. The same census records John as working as a stone miner in a colliery. As was common in south east Northumberland at the time John was a member of a coalmining family – his father Robert is noted as a Deputy Overman in Coal Mine. An Overman was a senior position – someone who supervised the underground workings.

Conscientious Objector?

Early research hasn’t revealed how John had spent the years between the 1911 census and the first reference to him in a Gosforth directory in 1918. Logically we might have expected him to be involved in some form of First World War military service. However a search of surviving army service records and the much more comprehensive Medal Roll Cards both found on the Ancestry website failed to reveal any reference to him. Seeing the newspaper article recording John’s death provided a clue to his wartime experiences. The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a worldwide association of non-violent religious organisations founded in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. The association was established as result of an agreement made between Dr Henry Hodgkin, medical doctor, and member of the well-known north-eastern family of Quakers, and Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, a German academic. Could John Mood have been a conscientious objector during the First World War? The Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website includes a list of 16500 men who refused to serve in the military on religious, ethical, political or social grounds. Included in this list is John Mood of Stone Row, Bedlington. The record indicates some uncertainty around how John spent the war years, but a note suggests that ‘Family sources suggest he may have served in the YMCA’. A section of the YMCA’s website tells the story of the important role that the organisation played in supporting troops during both World Wars.

Gosforth Stationer

John Mood makes his first appearance in a trade directory for Gosforth in 1918 where he is described as John Mood stationer, 153 High Street. The same list notes that John’s residential address was 31 Otterburn Avenue, Gosforth. At this point John was unmarried – in 1921 he married Rachel Clements. The marriage was registered in Newcastle Registration District in the June quarter of 1921. Using directories, we have traced the family living at various properties in the Gosforth area. Between 1918-1925 John then later John and Rachel were living at 31 Otterburn Avenue. In 1928 the couple were living at Brentwood, Fawdon. By 1930 the family were back in Gosforth living at 7 Ivy Road. The family seem to have continued to live in Ivy Road until John’s retirement.

Extract from 1939 registar

This extract from the 1939 Register – a list of all residents of Great Britain recorded in September 1939, the month that war was declared, shows the Mood family living at 7 Ivy Road, Gosforth. It seems that entries relating to two family members have been blacked out or redacted. This is because these family members were born less than 100 years ago. We have found reference to the birth registrations of four children to John and Rachel Mood – Rosalind (born 1922), Robert (born 1925), Celia (born 1927) and Louise (born 1934). The redacted entries are likely to relate to two of their children. The register is useful because it records the date of birth and occupations of those listed. The information recorded was used to issue Identity Cards to residents. The 1939 Register can be accessed on Ancestry.

A search of trade directories has revealed that the shop occupied different sites on Gosforth High Street. Between 1918 and 1935 the address is noted as 153 High Street, by 1940 the shop was occupying 164 High Street and by 1950 was occupying numbers 162 and 164. By 1950 the business was also running stationery stores from 60 Woodbine Road.


Newspaper article John Mood failing to observe blackout WW2

“For failing to screen lights during the black-out the following were fined at the Moor Hall Police Court, on Wednesday: Thomas Baites. 11, Roseworth Terrace, Gosforth. 10s; William John Nicholl, 8, Rectory Terrace, South Gosforth, 20s; Alice Pearl, 53 ,Strathmore Road, Gosforth, 10s;  John Mood, 162, High Street, Gosforth, 40s.”

An article in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle of 19 October 1940 revealed that John Mood, together with three more Gosforth residents, was fined earlier the same month for failing to screen lights during the blackout. John’s fine of 40 shillings was the largest given to the four offenders. This was presumably because the offence had taken place on his business premises. The blackout was a nationwide initiative to turn off all lights in towns and cities. It was intended as a defence against German bombers, so they could not be guided by the lights. The blackout was ordered two days before war broke out. Each home was given enough blackout material, usually a dark cotton fabric, to allow homeowners to make blackout curtains. Putting up and taking down the material quickly became a daily task for most households. Windows were covered in the dark material. Car headlamps were also blacked out, causing many accidents, and people were not allowed to smoke cigarettes or cigars outdoors. Many small shops had to have an extra door fitted to stop light from showing when people came in and out of the shop. The blackout was enforced by Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens, who made sure that no light could be seen from buildings. Presumably, it was an ARP warden that reported John Mood to the police.

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