Memories of Trimdon
(Multiple pages – please use the numbered links at the foot of each page)
I was born in Trimdon Colliery 28th November 1932 and left the Trimdon community on 27th November 1959 when I married Ann Hutchinson (from Fishburn), moving to Seaton Carew. For the past 48 years, Canada has been our home, but over the intervening years, we have never lost touch with our roots.
The following narrative is a part of our family history which I started to write just a few years ago so that our children and grandchildren would know where they came from. As very little has been written about growing up in Trimdon I thought that this story may have some general interest.
April 6th 2015.
Memories of Trimdon.
My mother Eveline Kell was born in Trimdon Colliery and lived in this community until she was thirty. She married William Robinson from Trimdon Village who worked as a cart man for the local coal mines. Their home was on Front Street, Trimdon Colliery. They had three children: Hannah, Billy and Harry and was pregnant with their fourth child when the “Great Depression” of 1926 started. Father lost his job and typical of most of the miners in the community, did not have a job for a numbers of years (in his case until 1935). There were no government un-employment allowances and people had to rely on the parish “Poor Law Relief”. To improve their income, Eveline tried to operate a front room shop (similar to her mother’s in Commercial Street) but was unable to make a go of it. People were getting goods on credit and not paying their bills so it failed.
Just before my brother Jim was born in July of 1926, the family moved from the Front Street home into a lower cost tenement called Walkers Buildings , in Coffee Pot. This is where I was born in November of 1932.
Walkers Buildings was a low rise apartment type building, by the time I was born it had been condemned as being unfit to live in. The street, Post Office Row, was known locally as “Coffee Pot” supposedly named either after a colliery locomotive that looked like a coffee pot, or, a shop at the end with a coffee pot hanging outside as a sign. Walkers Buildings were located on a side street behind the Locomotive Public House, at the end of the spur rail line that served the Trimdon Colliery coal mine.
The house only had one access door at the front, the toilet and coal house were separate buildings located behind the house. To gain access these facilities you had to exit the front door, go 25 yards down the street through a passageway to the rear, then walk another 25 yards along a dirt road to the back of the house.
The following description by George Dawson who worked with my brother Jim, aptly describes the condition of these properties. I have heard similar stories from my mother and older siblings.
“What a shambles I spent my childhood in, in number 9 Coffee Pot Street, and what a place to bring up a child!!
Today the houses would be decided unfit to keep animals in. The R.S.P.C.A. would be after them. The homes were draughty, damp, and riddled with vermin and various kinds of creepy crawlies.
Built of uncut limestone that had come from the mine, drystone wall type, but stuck together with pumped slurry from the mine, with perhaps a little cement added. There might have been a couple of bags of cement used in the building of the twenty-eight houses comprising Coffee Pot. The cement when dry was black, as well as the plastered inside walls.
The wallpaper would not stick very well, and often it was fastened up with tacks wherever it failed to stick. Nothing much could be done about the dampness, and if the paper dropped off en-masse, then it all had to be done again.
The fireplace was built of bricks, with a round oven at the left hand side, and a set pot for hot water at the right. It took perhaps three or four buckets of coal to get the fire going properly. It was warm near the fire, but it took so much air to feed the blaze that a tearing gale whistled through the kitchen cum living room. The result was that you were warm at the front but icy cold at the back.
Cockroaches infested the brickwork of the warm fireplace. It was common in every home to see them crawling up the wallpaper and if the next door neighbour put beetle powder down, it just drove them into the next house ad infinitum, so they were really unbeaten.
The ashes from the fire were deposited in the earth closets (middens) out the back of the unmade earth road. This was our lavatory. Not too bad when the midden was cleared out regularly, unfortunately the man whose job it was, was not in the best of health. I won’t attempt to describe what happened when he was unable to do his job, for it was too horrible for words. Mr. Grainger with his horse and cart had the unenviable job of “Muck Midden” man. Well the man had the choice of doing it or not, as he was able but the poor old horse could not choose. The poor creature was old and you could tell he couldn’t stand the stink, but like us all he just had to stick it. No wonder scarlet fever and diphtheria and dear knows what else were rampant. How did we ever survive?
Yet I still hear people of my generation bemoaning the good old days. All I can say is, their rose coloured spectacles must have been permanently covered with the coal dust and the smoke from the pit. The dirt caused every housewife to do the weekly washing over and over before it was clean.”