with Eveline Johnson


The word Trimdon is commonly thought to have been derived from the time King Canute in 1020 got off his horse at this spot, had his head shaved and travelled barefooted to the shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham. In the Boldon Buke it was known as Tremeduna. An Anglo Saxon version is Trum and dun – hill, Celtic dun – fort.


The colliery rows, houses with one large downstairs kitchen and one garret bedroom, reached by ladder-like stairs, were in close streets with the doors opening straight on to the road. Parents slept downstairs, often in four poster beds facing the door and when there was a death in the house the corpse was laid on the trestles at the foot of the bed.
Mother used to have a wood tub or zinc bath waiting on the mat and a pan and kettle of water on the fire for her man’s daily bath in front of a roaring fire. These fires were kept burning night and day, and the round colliery ovens were always warm, with the hearth and underbars whitewashed every day.
I remember being told by my grandmother that when she came to Trimdon as a bride in 1830, she was astounded that there was not even an individual toilet in their street, Railway Row, and her husband had to build one in order to keep his wife.
The regular plan of every kitchen was a square eating table with an oilcloth cover under the window plus a wooden form for seating, and a round table in the centre. On this table there was a plush cover with the family bible in the centre surmounted by a globe of wax fruits. The big press in the corner was covered with a white crochet edged cloth and portraits in gilt frames were displayed everywhere. The now fashionable china dogs and two large ornaments and brass candlesticks adorned the mantle, a brass line ran underneath for drying clothes and the rest was enlivened by a high steel fender and massive fire irons. Pokers had to be long in those days, for fireplaces were deep set and often took five buckets of coals. A cracket always stood near the fire and a rocking chair. Fridays were nightmare days when all brass and steel had to be cleaned and placed on the round table until the Saturday. To ensure the man of the house drawing a good cavil with his two marrers, the fire furniture was turned upside down and the cat put in the oven to sleep. Everybody aimed to make a new hooky or prodded mat for Christmas and special neighbours all went to help each other with work and clippings. When all was done, and the mat was got out, a huge pan of toffee was put on to boil for celebrations.

Water had to be carried from a communal tap in the street, and the women went with their buckets to get steam water from the pit for their weekly wash. This was done by tub and poss stick, double possing being done by two people who kept the rhythm going.