Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
c Copyright - Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
Exhibition 2019 - June 27th 28th & 29th
“Chester Lads (& Lasses) For Ever”
Over the years the Chester-le-Street Heritage Group members have researched the 1851 Census, 1891 census, the Front Street, Park View School, Bullion Lane Secondary Modern School, Ropery Lane Cemetery and The Chester Marras – the collieries of the District.
"Chester Lads (& Lasses) For Ever" is a Heritage Lottery Funded Project looking at the Chester-le-Street Chronicle the local newspaper of the times.
Chester-le-Street Heritage Group have spent since May 2018 studying the weekly newspaper and have extracted an enormous amount of information.
There are over 260 names on the Town's War memorials. Most have now been identified. The newspaper has given details of enlistments, who was wounded, missing, prisoners of war as well as the fallen which has been developed into searchable databases and an archive of newspaper clippings.
The following are just some of the stories:-
July 1919 Photos of local men who served and survived the Great War
Ralph Henderson Robinson
Ralph Henderson Robinson known as Weenie, born in 1899 was the only son of Elizabeth Jane Robinson, a Butcher, who lived at the Bridge End area of the Town. He was one of the first Boy Scouts. Ralph joined the Mercantile Marine and was killed aged only 17 years 11 months in one of the infamous incidents of the First World War – the sinking of the Belgian Prince. For the next 20 years an In Memoriam notice in the Chester-le-Street Chronicle referred to the dastardly deeds of the 'German Pirates'
He had been away from here for less than a fortnight when he was drowned, and had been at home as a consequence of having been torpedoed previously. A month ago he gave an exhibition of high diving at a local swimming gala, and won one of the prizes.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 10 08 1917
Ralph Curry was a local boy made good.
Born the son of a joiner who later lived in Cooperative Street, Ralph had been at the local Secondary School (now Park View) and was training to be a Teacher at Bede College Durham. When war broke out he enlisted with the Durham Light Infantry, was commissioned and became a 2nd Lieutenant, later in 1917 becoming a Captain. He was killed in April 1918, aged 22 years.
Major Lindsay Alfred Barrett MC
Lindsay Alfred Barrett was born in Seaham in 1891. The family later moved to Whitehill Hall, Chester-le-Street. Lindsay was a career soldier and had attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he was colour-sergeant of his company, played for the Rugby XV and obtained the Sword of Honour. He served in India and in August 1914 was amongst the first to go to France. Major Lindsay Alfred Barrett M.C. was serving with the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers when he was killed 17th March 1916 aged 24 years.
We all had the greatest admiration for him, it was rather a difficult position to take over a battalion above older and senior men and he did it in a way which could only have been done by the most perfect gentleman he was. The way he put his heart into the battalion, after it had been badly knocked about, was extraordinary, and we all think it was a very great honour to have been commanded by him.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 24 03 1916
Lily L. Lowes VAD
Lily L Lowes is the only woman on Chester-le-Street's First World War memorial. Research over many years, has revealed that she was born Phyllis Wears at Waldridge Fell in 1882. Her mother Sarah Wears nee Lowes remarried and Phyllis became known as Lily Liddell. Lily was working as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse with the Red Cross when she died in Cairo 29th September 1918 aged 36 years.
The Peace Treaty was signed 100 years ago on June 28th 1919 and the Town of Chester-le-Street and the surrounding area officially celebrated Peace on Saturday July 19th.
To celebrate the signing of this Peace the committee arranged a monster fete and sports on Saturday at Lumley castle. Lord Scarborough had placed not only the beautiful grounds at the service of the committee but to the delight of admiring visitors the castle was also open for inspection and greatly appreciated. The committee had made extensive arrangements to give about 3000 children a happy day and with the attendance of the vast crowds of visitors there must have been close on 6,000 persons disporting themselves on the lawns and meadows or enjoying the leafy shade of the trees. In this they were privileged with glorious summer weather and nothing was wanting to assist one's happiness.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 25 07 1919
In the following weeks the newspaper gives details of the many Victory street parties all over the district. Unfortunately, not many photographs have survived but these show some of the children of Pelton Fell celebrating and the ladies who organised the celebrations.
The children belonging to the vicinity of Club Row, Howlett, Bloomfield Terrace and Station Houses Pelton Fell numbering about 200 were entertained at a Victory tea in the back lane of Bloomfield terrace on Wednesday. Before the children commenced with tea Mr T. Johnson of Pelton gave a short address. A bag of cakes was given to each child and a packet of "Dainty Dinahs". Music was provided in the shape of a gramophone and organ. The back street was decorated with flags which were lent by the Pelton Fell Colliery. The children were entertained throughout the evening by dancing and games and at the close patriotic songs were sung.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 12 09 1919
Lambton Park was used with the Earl of Durham's permission as a Training Camp for a number of county Regiments. These came from places far away from a small town and colliery area. The troops were from Cheshire, Shropshire and Denbighshire. The local stationers supplied numerous postcards of the Camp.
Chester-le-Street Heritage Group have also looked at life in the Town during the War Years:
The local stationers supplied numerous postcards of the Camp.
Greetings from Lambton Park
We are up here on the North East coast
Ready to repel the mighty Kaiser's host
We are mixed but we are happy you see
There's the Denbighs the Cheshires and the R.A.M.C.
Tho' far from home this card please construe
That I am thinking of the homeland and you.
This postcard shows the houses on North Road on the way to Birtley.
The Heritage Group had hoped to find out more about the role of 'The Lasses' during the War. Information is very scant and we are having to use inference to tell the story.
As well as the Belgian Colony at Elisabethville at Birtley, there was also the Cartridge Case and Projectile factories. Girls and Women from all over the area travelled by train to Birtley. There was a tragic accident in March 1918 when two girls were killed at Chester-le-Street Railway Station crossing over the railway lines instead of using the bridge.
In Ropery Lane Cemetery a headstone reads:-
In loving memory of SARAH SMITH the beloved daughter of GEORGE WILLIAM & MARGARET CHARLTON who was accidentally killed March 21st 1918 aged 19 years
Erected by officials and fellow workers of Birtley Munition Works:
Not many photographs have survived, but this one does show the Cartridge Case Shop girls at Birtley. We are hoping that the exhibition at the Lambton Arms June 27th -28th will be an opportunity for the oral history of local munitions workers to be shared with group members.
Annie Bell from Pelton Fell, a munitions worker at Morecombe died in 1917 aged 18 years as a consequence of her munitions work. Her name is included on the Pelton Fell Cenotaph.
Pelton Fell War Memorial Dedication Leaflet 22nd July 1922 reads:-
In closing, grateful reference must be made to the women and girls of the district, who flocked to the Ammunition Works, Public Services, and in fact to whatever post had been left vacant by our fighting men. Many of these women and girls were unused to the long hours of work which were required of them, but they stuck to their work and gave their all in their determination to back up their men who were away.
Nothing finer in the history of the War has been told than the response of the women and girls of the British Empire, and in our countryside at any rate, their work and self-sacrifice must never be forgotten.
And of these, "one" gave indeed her all, and her memory will remain for all time with us, her name being amongst those inscribed upon our Cenotaph as having made the greatest sacrifice of all, in being killed at her post with as much bravery and heroism as they who died on the field of battle.
George W Horner had established his Confectioner's factory behind the Front Street at Chester-le-Street and in 1915 introduced his iconic "Dainty Dinah Toffee" brand. Nearly every week there was a different advertisement all trying to persuade people to buy the toffee and send it to their sons, brothers and sweethearts.
Despite later rationing and sugar shortages Horner’s and Dainty Dinah flourished.
In May 1918 there was a Ladies Football Match on the Cricket Field at Chester-le-Street between Dainty Dinah AFC and Birtley Cartridge Case Shop to raise funds for the Welcome Home Fund.
A Procession formed at the Bridge end and marched to the field headed by the South Pelaw Prize band and the respective teams in the wake.
The Birtley team Goal Malabar; backs Middleton and Turnbull; half backs B McManas, Irwin, Finley; forwards Liddle, Churcher, Cornforth (Capt), Clark and Price
Horner's Dainty Dinah Goal Clifford; backs Gillespie and Taylor, half backs Hutton, Hutler and Wilson; forwards; Wilson, Bell, Collingwood, Carr and Kennedy
Referee J Lowerson Linesmen Messrs Robinson and Blake
The kick off was made by Mr George W Horner. The public were treated to an excellent game. Birtley captain, although not being in her best form made the game fast and furious at times and displayed good tactics. It was obvious from the commencement the Dainty Dinah’s were out matched both in strength and experience and the visitors from the first half lead the game practically in their own hand the first two goals being scored against themselves by the Dainty Dinah team.
An unfortunate incident occurred by the bursting of the ball which necessitated a rather prolonged wait. On the resumption of the game the home team pulled themselves together extraordinarily and roused by the loud applause of the spectators they gained fresh energy and enthusiasm and produced some really good play twice striking the goal posts. At half time the game stood Birtley 2 Dainty Dinah’s 2 and a few minutes later the third goal was secured by Birtley. Dainty Dinah’s now determined to press and some pretty play was witnessed but the clever shooting of the Birtley international Mrs Cornforth told heartily against them and they had a somewhat hard time. For a young club they put up a good fight and with further experience and more combination they should be able to make good records for themselves. Before the conclusion of the game one goal was accorded them which concluded with Birtley 3 Dainty Dinah 1.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 24 05 1918
Chester Moor's very own Heroes Tank bank 1918
On Saturday afternoon an effort was made to raise money on behalf of the Chester Moor Welcome Home Fund. This took the form of a procession from Chester Moor to Birtley. In addition to South Pelaw Band there were numerous supporters and an excellent representation of a tank made by a hewer employed at the colliery. A good sum was raised for the fund. The takings for the tank on Saturday and Easter Monday were £27 17s 2d
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 04/05/1918
Land Army Girls High Coniscliffe WW1
There was a Land Army in World War 1. In Sacriston there were over 120 girls and women employed in the nearby woods chopping trees mainly for pit props.
On Sunday afternoon Sacriston was all astir. The female wood workers met at the colliery and headed by the Sacriston Colliery Band, they paraded to the Workmen's Club Hall. They presented quite a unique appearance being dressed in their particular garb and carrying hatchets, crosscut saws and other tools with which they carry on their daily work. They were watched by quite a large number of persons and on arriving at the Hall, this was quickly crowded to its utmost capacity. Apart from distributing the badges the occasion was taken advantage of to recruit female workers for the land army which the Government are now desirous of increasing and thereby releasing a number of labourers from the land.
Kimblesworth and Waldridge Fell also had groups of Wood Workers.
Mr Brass said - They could not get a yard of coal from the pits without having timber to prop it up. The 100 women who had been so employed had worked well and skilfully.
Chester-le-Street Chronicle 10 05 1918
100 women wood workers - Have any stories survived?
The Heritage Group now needs the assistance of the local community to complete the story of Chester-le-Street in the Great War.
The exhibition is in the Lambton Arms Chester-le-Street on June 27th to 29th from 10 am to 4pm each day. Come and browse our Archive and discover your family's history!