Archive for August 2016

The Buglass Collection, Part Two : Such Splendid Fellows

Ordinary Seaman Andrew Buglass

Ordinary Seaman Andrew Buglass


Andrew Buglass arrived at the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, in mid-February 1916.  From his first letter home, we learn that Andrew hates the Navy and wishes to return home and from there, join the army – as his brother George had done.  The weather does not help his mood.  Neither does the inconsiderate treatment he says he receives from his superiors and the doctor.  On Monday 7th February Andrew writes,

I was seeing the doctor this morning & had a lot of lip, said there was nothing the matter with me when I told him my state of mind, and said I was starting badly & said I had better look out or there would be trouble which made me worse than ever, but he gave me some more medicine for my stomach.’

Andrew wrote two letters on 15th February; one to his father and one to his mother.  The letter to his mother is cheerful, stating he is in the Soldiers and Sailors Rest drinking the cocoa which she had sent him.  The letter to his father is much darker, and continues the tone from his previous letters.  He states that ‘…today has been the worst day I have spent yet’, and that he is even thinking of deserting.  By the 17th February 1916, Andrew is in the Sick Bay.  He seems to be increasingly unwell, thinking he may have influenza.  The letter also illustrates Andrew’s fragile mental state.  He writes,

‘…I dread the coming of the night with its sweats and hideous dreams.  I sometimes wish I was dead anything is better than this…’

Ordinary Seaman Andrew Buglass died of pneumonia on 28th February 1916, little more than a month into his training.  He was 22 years old.  He was buried in Cambo Holy Trinity churchyard and is also commemorated on the Rutherford College War Memorial tablet, along with 151 men who were his Masters and fellow pupils.


Lance Corporal George Anderson Buglass enlisted on 16th October 1915 at Newcastle upon Tyne, and joined the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, 21st Battalion, designated the ‘Yeoman Rifles’.  This battalion was formed from farming communities in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland (hence Yeoman).


NRO 5944-L-2-9-20 copy



Training and equipping began after arrival at Aldershot in September 1915.  On 26th April 1916 the Division was inspected by H.M. The King, who was accompanied by Field Marshall Lord French and General Sir A. Hunter.  Entrainment began on May Day 1916 and by 8th May, the Division had completed its concentration between Hazebrouck and Bailleul, France.  Within the collection we have some of the letters George wrote home from the trenches to members of his family.  In one letter, written to his mother, Lizzie, he talks about watching gunfire over the trenches.

‘We sometimes see the flash of the guns after dark and last night at dusk we saw them bombarding an aeroplane but it must have been a long way off as we could only see the flashes but could not hear the sound of the explosion.’

In one of his final letters before going over the top, dated 13th September 1916, and addressed to his father, George makes quite a prophetic statement,

‘…We are going up to the trenches soon and as it is a rather hot corner some of us will be getting “blighties”.’

George and his comrades in the 21st Battalion were involved in the front line, in a support role, at Delville Wood in July 1916.  Their first involvement as an attack formation was in that part of the Somme battle known as the Battle of Flers-Coucelette, 15th-22nd September, which saw the very first use of tanks in battle.  George would have been one of the first to view these tanks, as the first one to advance started from the north end of Delville Wood, close to his position. At Zero Hour, George and his friends left Edge Trench and advanced across No Man’s Land, towards their first objective, which was secured by 07:00 hours.  The advance continued to the second objective, the western end of Flers Trench, immediately south of the village of Flers.  There was further fighting here, but the allotted section of trench was taken by the 21st Division after 30 minutes or so.  There was a delay which caused the advance to the third objective not to take place until mid-afternoon.  After this, there were no more advances this day.  As the troops were consolidating their gains, the German counter-barrage began.  In the evening, there were German attacks which were repulsed, but the shellfire continued. George would have been under machine gun fire as well as German counter attacks.

It seems likely that George was wounded sometime on the 15th, corresponding with his service records, which list that George was wounded, probably by shrapnel, in his neck, right arm, and buttock.  The wet, muddy conditions would have made his, and many others’, recovery very difficult.  George would probably have been taken first to the Regimental Aid Post which would be in, or very close to, the front line.  From there he would have gone to a Main Dressing Station.  He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station on 16th September, and then on to No. 3 Stationary Hospital at Rouen on the 18th.  On the 19th September he arrived at Richmond Military Hospital, London.

George’s health seemed to improve whilst at Richmond, and he received some visitors, including his father.  George wrote some letters home whilst in hospital and the childish handwriting is evidence of the wounds he received in his right arm.  Yet, on 6th October, he died, somewhat unexpectedly.  His service records list that he died of ‘haemoptysis’ – the coughing up of blood/blood-stained sputum from the lungs, which is a sign of tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and pneumonia.


NRO 5944-F-6-32 (A) copy





The Buglass Collection, Part One : One Family’s Story

In the Buglass Family blog posts, we will show how one Northumbrian family’s story can be pieced together using various resources.  As well as focusing on family history, we will look at military history in the context of two members of a family who were directly involved in the First World War. The Buglass Collection, NRO 05944, was gifted to the Northumberland Collections Service in 2002.  The collection spans from 1862 to 1978 and comprises records such as letters, sale catalogues, newspaper cuttings, and financial records regarding the Buglass and Anderson families of Northumberland.

By looking at the 1901 Census, we can see that the family are listed as living at East Deanham – New Deanham had been mistakingly recorded. George was the head of the family, a farmer, born in Scotland.  His wife Elizabeth (or Lizzie) Buglass nee Anderson was born in Northumberland.  They had five children:

Andrew, 7 years, a Scholar, born in Kirkharle c.1894

George Anderson, 6 years, a Scholar, born in Kirkharle c.1895

Ralph, 4 years, born in Longhorsley c.1897

Thomas, 2 years, born in Longhorsley c.1899

Elizabeth Ellen, no age on the census, so presumably had just been born in Longhorsley.

Also living in the house are George Buglass’ parents, Andrew and Elizabeth, and there are three workers present at the farm – Isabella Monaghan, general servant; Joseph Johnson, cattleman; and John Gilmore, agricultural labourer.


Elizabeth with her children, George, Betty & Andrew, New Deanham, c.1900

Elizabeth with her children, George, Betty & Andrew, New Deanham, c.1900


This photograph, taken around 1907, shows Lizzie with three of her five children – George, Betty and Andrew – outside their family home at New Deanham.  But the Betty in the photograph is not the Elizabeth Ellen that we saw on the census.  We know from a memorial card in the collection that Elizabeth Ellen died at New Deanham ten days after the census was taken, on 10th April 1901, aged 13 months.

By the time the Buglass family came to occupy the New Deanham property, it formed part of the Bolam Estate owned by Lord Decies, an Irish baronet who owned property in England.  Prior to this it had formed part of the estates of the old Northumberland families of Loraine and Swinburne. An 1893 Inland Revenue Return from the Lord Decies estate papers contains information that was used to calculate death duties payable upon the estate.  The document reveals that the New Deanham property was a freehold and was, at the time of the return, in the tenure of Richard Maule.  The rental value of the properties referred to suggests that New Deanham was the most extensive of the properties.

Although the Buglass family lived in New Deanham from c.1901, they were freehold tenants until the farm was sold in 1934 by Mr. F.B. Atkinson of Newcastle upon Tyne.  The family bought the farm with the help of one of Elizabeth’s brothers.


New Deanham

New Deanham


The five surviving children all attended Cambo School, and we can find details of their achievements in the school Log Book that is held here in the Archives. From 1904 the children were constant winners of various school prizes, mainly for writing, drawing and attendance.  The image shows a page from the log book which dates from 1894 to 1921.  It shows the two scholarships won by Andrew Buglass in 1908 – the County Council Scholarship and the Trevelyan Scholarship, which he shared with another male pupil.


Cambo School Log Book

Cambo School Log Book


Both Andrew and Ralph Buglass went on from Cambo School to attend Rutherford College in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The College Committee were prepared to admit the sons of farmers and farm-workers at nominal fees, and without fees entirely the orphans of farm labourers.  This explains why Andrew and Ralph, who did not come from a family that could obviously afford this sort of education, were able to attend such an institution.  The family may also have been helped by financial assistance received from the scholarships they won at Cambo School.


School Exercise Book

School Exercise Book


Betty, the youngest child, won awards at school for subjects such as sewing.  One of her exercise books is held within the Collection and is full of recipes and traditional cures for illnesses and ailments such as chilblains.  She has also helpfully recorded the cure for a nervous breakdown! As Presbyterians, the children were involved in the Cambo and District Band of Hope temperance organisation for working-class children, which was founded in 1847 in Leeds.  Members took a pledge of total abstinence and the children were taught the ‘evils of drink’, and would attend weekly lectures and activities.


Band of Hope Union Membership Card

Band of Hope Union Membership Card


George seemed to follow in his forefather’s footsteps and was preparing to become a shepherd.  In April 1914 he writes to his father from Shepherd Shield in Wark that he has been delivering lambs and feeding cattle.  This seemingly tranquil traditional lifestyle was to be shattered by the beginning of the war on 4th August 1914, and the subsequent involvement of the family.

This story will be continued in part two of this blog.



This Week in World War One, 25 August 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915






It is hoped that the Freemen may give an attentive ear and serious consideration to the timeous and admirable suggestion made by Mr Charles Forsyth as to opening he Corporation Academy to a wider circle of fee paying pupils. It is when one contrasts the finely equipped elementary schools – palatial to a degree, which have been erected in many of the larger towns in Scotland, and the concentration and co-ordination of educational institutions, which a few years ago were run as separate units, that one realises how far Berwick is behind the times. Let some of the Berwick people visit a reasonably sized Scottish town and inspect the facilities and benefits which the children there enjoy, and he will return to the Border town a little crestfallen.

Statue of Andrew Carnegie, Pittencrieff Park, Chambers Street, Dunfermline, Fife. © userkilnburn wikimedia commons.

Statue of Andrew Carnegie, Pittencrieff Park, Chambers Street, Dunfermline, Fife. © userkilnburn wikimedia commons.


The days of educational institutions run for one particular class is a thing of the past – the desire is to extend educational facilities in all directions. Mr Andrew Carnegie, in opening the Scottish Universities to poor students, has emphasised this, and has proved a national benefactor. The Freemen need not for a moment think they are running any risks if they act on the commendable suggestion Mr Forsyth makes; but, on the other hand, if the Corporation School is maintained for a small section of pupils, which is getting more attenuated each year, it will tend to bring deserved public criticism on what may be genuinely regarded as a scandal.




The N.F. and the V.C. – The Northumberland Fusiliers, whose curious notion that they were not eligible for the V.C. has just been removed by the War Office, are one of the British regiments in existence, and have a bewildering wealth of distinctions. Well do they deserve their nickname of the “Fighting Fifth” ( “the ever-fighting, never-failing Fifth”), for since their baptism of fire at Maestricht, two centuries and a quarter ago, they have been in the thick of it in almost all our wars, and boast no fewer than 18 battle honours. For an amazing feat at Wilhelmstahl, when they took double their own number of enemy prisoners, the Fifth were granted the very rare honour of a third colour, and for another exploit they are privileged to wear roses in their caps on St. George’s Day.

Northumberland Fusiliers at Thiepval Sept 1916 © Brooks, Ernest (Lt) - Imperial War Museum - IWM_Q_1349

Northumberland Fusiliers at Thiepval Sept 1916 © Brooks, Ernest (Lt) – Imperial War Museum – IWM_Q_1349


The erroneous impression that no Victoria Cross can be gained by the Northumberland Fusiliers used to be an actual fact in the case of the Brigade of Guards. When the medal was instituted it was not everywhere received in the spirit intended. The Guards’ officers decided that all men in the brigade were equally brave; this crystallised into a tradition, with the result that no recommendations for the V.C. were ever forwarded to Headquarters from a Guards regiment. But with new men came new manners, and now the Guards as well as the “Fighting Fifth” stand an equal chance with the rest of the Army.

The War Hospital Supply Depot in Bridge Street, Berwick, will open to the public on Saturday first, when everyone should take the opportunity of seeing the great work done here for our wounded soldiers and sailors.





A meeting of the Berwick Board of Guardians was held in the Board Room of the Workhouse on Monday. Mr James Mowitt (chairman) presided, and other members present were Miss A. E. Henderson, Mrs J. G. Willits, the Rev. Robert Leggat, the Rev. W. M. Smythe, Dr Wm. Smyth, Mr James Chisholm, Mr Geo. W. Glahome, mr Thomas Aird, Mr George Morrison, Mr F. Richardson, Mr Geo. A. Turnbull, Capt. J. C. Collingwood, Mr John R. Wood, Mr Ed. Waugh, Mr Mathew C. Robertson, Mr Aaron D. Morton, Mr James H. Armstrong, Mr George R. Lumsden, Mr Robert Boston, and Mr John A. Stewart; also attending Mr Robert Smith, acting clerk, and Mr A. H. Banks, Workhouse master.


The Plymouh Guardians forwarded the following letter:-

Dear Sir,

           Soldier and Sailor Lunatics.

Since the outbreak of war, a number of lunatic soldiers and sailors have been transferred to the Borough asylum and made chargeable to the poor rates of this Incorporation under the provisions of the Army Annual Act, section 91. The Guardians are of opinion that it is highly improbable that more than a small proportion of the men in question, would have become lunatics, had It not been for the stress and strain of the war, and under the circumstances, they consider that their maintenance should be a national and not a local charge. They also consider it is very undesirable that men whose mental facilities have become deranged while serving their country, should be classified as pauper lunatics, and are, therefore, urging the Association of Poor Law Unions of England and Wales to take whatever action they may deem advisable, either by deputation or representations in Parliament, with the object of bring about such alteration in the law, as shall remove from the statute book, the provision which enables soldiers and sailors on their discharge from the army and navy as lunatics, to be made a charge upon the poor rates. The Guardians will be glad to hear that your Board are prepared to support them in this matter and that they will instruct their Association Representatives accordingly.

Yours truly, W.H. DAVY

Clerk to the Guardians.

Captain Collingwood, Mr Richardson, and Mr Armstrong supported the terms of the letter, and I was unanimously agreed to approve of same.

It’s our custom – day to day life in the manorial documents

We can learn a lot about everyday life in the manor by looking at how it was organised. Using manorial documents we can identify individuals and look at what ‘customs’ (rules) they were required to live by, and how they bent or broke the rules that their manor imposed. You could be ‘presented’ before the manor to be ‘amerced’ (fined) for anything from large offences like cheating buyers at your market stall, to not having your chimney in correct repair or cutting back a tree hanging into a neighbour’s garden. Between different manors these rules could be strikingly different.

The customs were upheld by a number of different officials. A Bailiff or Reeve (paid and unpaid versions of the same post) took on the day to day running of the manor. He might be assisted by a barleyman (‘byelaw man’ in charge of upholding the bye laws of the manor), Pinder or pounder (in charge of impounding livestock), lookers (into a particular area, such as fencelooker who examined boundaries and fences), among other roles depending on the needs of the manor. We find evidence of these officials in the manorial documents.

NRO 672/A/3/87 first page giving details of Hexham manor, the names of the borough Jury and the Afeerors.

Part of the first page of NRO 672/A/3/87 giving details of Hexham manor, the names of the Borough Jury and the Afeerors.

To show how customs worked we will take Hexham manor as an example. In Hexham we have an excellent series of what is known as the Borough Jury books (often spelt ‘burrow books’) from the seventeeth to nineteenth century which give ‘presentments’ (judgements of cases) jurored by a group of the townsmen known as the four and twenty. These books list other roles like the common keepers, market keepers, waits, affeerors, and scavengers. Affeerors were appointed from among the tenants to ensure amercements (fines) were kept fair. Waits were watchmen, often required to sound the hour. The (often female) scavengers swept the market and maintained street gutters in the town, fighting against the piles of rubbish (also ashes, thatch, weeds, gravel, bark and stones) Hexham’s townspeople were presented for leaving.

Detail from NRO 672/A/3/87 giving the names of the Scavengers.

Detail from NRO 672/A/3/87 giving the names of the Scavengers.


Other roles can also be found:

Read more

The Woodhorn Explosion


Memorial Card

Memorial Card


On the morning of Sunday 13th August 1916, an explosion ripped through the Main Seam at Woodhorn Colliery.  A party of men working on a ‘repair shift’ were working to set steel girders as roof supports, and as the work was of a special nature, the shift was composed of eight Deputy Overmen, three Stonemen, a Shifter and a Putter.

The men received their instructions in the Low Main Seam at 6am from the Master-shifter, and then proceeded up the drift to the Main Seam.  About half an hour after the men left, the master-shifter was aware that something had happened, and he and others went up the drift.  They found two men alive but unconscious in the drift below the Main Seam workings; the other eleven men had been killed outright by the explosion.

At the inquest held on 12th, 13th and 21st of September at the Harmonic Hall evidence was gathered from witnesses and the result showed that a catalogue of failures at the colliery had made the disaster inevitable.

The air compressor, which sends a current of air into each working, was not at work on the Sunday morning, this was usual practice at the weekends. On the previous Friday night through to Saturday morning the Capell Fan, the ventilating fan for the underground seams had been stopped for overhauling and repairs. A furnace had been lit to draw the current of air but this method is not so effective for ventilation. On Saturday morning, the fan was turned back on to maximum capacity, but by the night shift, steam power to drive the engine was only at fifty percent its normal capacity as the number of firemen required was down by two, instead of four, this was repeated on Sunday morning when another two firemen were absent from the six needed. This drop in ventilation made any gas present, less likely to be safely dispersed.

Up until the explosion, gas had never been seen in this seam. It seems likely that no thorough inspection for gas was made before the shift started; no written records of any reports were found for this shift, or any of the previous working Sundays.

The Jury of the inquest reported its findings in this way:

“That the 13 men whose names have been repeatedly read – the said deceased men were accidentally killed on the 13th day of August 1916, while working in Woodhorn Colliery by and explosion of gas in the Main Seam, and that such gas had accumulated through want of sufficient ventilation, and exploded through contact with a naked light and before any fall of stone took place. The jury are of the opinion that the management should see in the future that written reposts should be made for every shift, special or otherwise. The jury are also of opinion that there has been a certain amount of laxity on the part of the management for not seeing to sufficient ventilation being maintained”.

Woodhorn Colliery was, even before this time in a state of crisis. The First World War had a massive impact, with 778 men of the 2337 employees leaving Woodhorn Colliery to fight in the conflict. Men were working extra shifts to fill the roles of those fighting and to maximise coal production for the war effort, but this in turn led to illness and absenteeism. Posters issued by the Ashington Coal Company had little effect on absenteeism at any of their collieries and power to prosecute repeated offenders was discussed on 26th July, prior to the explosion. E. W. Milburn, Manager of Woodhorn was in France fighting with the 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, while the colliery worked under the guidance of J.J. Hall, Agent to the Ashington Coal Company. On 11th August, two days before the explosion, the Ashington Coal Company reported that an application had been made to the Minister of Munitions for the demobilisation of Major Milburn to return as Manager of Woodhorn Colliery.


NRO 7663-4-1 copy


At the Petty Sessions held at Morpeth on 10th January 1917, charges were brought upon Joseph John Hall, temporary Manager of the Colliery, and Charles Bennett Howe the engine wright, with a failure to provide proper ventilation. The case against both men was dismissed, and the subsequent appeal by the Northumberland Miners Association at the Divisional Bench was also lost.

The Ashington Coal Company was at the time enabling the families of those fighting in the War to stay in their colliery houses; this resulted in fewer houses available to new workers. The Coal Company especially needed the houses of the families of the Deputies who died in the explosion for the new Deputies to move into. As housing was difficult to come by during wartime, wrangling with the families in vacating the houses carried on until the following February, and talk of withholding compensation to the families was mooted by the coal company to force the families out.


NRO 7028-6-40 copy

This Week in World War One, 11 August 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915






Another Rescue at Spittal Beach – On Friday forenoon, while Miss Ballanine, belonging to Selkirk, was bathing at Spittal sands she got into difficulties, and was being carried out when her perilous condition was observed by John Little, telegraph clerk, Hawick, who at once swam to her assistance. He succeeded in bringing her ashore. The lady was considerably exhausted, and was conveyed home to her lodgings at Rosebank Cottage, where she gradually recovered.

Very early 20th century photograph of Spittal Promenade, a similar scene Miss Ballantine from Selkirk, would have encountered on the day of her rescue. © Berwick Record Office.

Very early 20th century photograph of Spittal Promenade, a similar scene Miss Ballantine from Selkirk, would have encountered on the day of her rescue. © Berwick Record Office.


Railwaymens’ Excursion – On Sunday last the N.E.R. Locomotive employees at Tweedmouth, together with a few friends, to the number of 28, journeyed to Rothbury by motor char-a-banc for their annual outing.The outward journey, leaving Tweedmouh a 9 o’clock, was through Belford, Alnwick, and across the country via Long Framlington, Rothbury being reached at 1 o’clock, after a pleasant journey through the rugged beauties of the heart of Northumberland. Dinner was waiting at the Turks Head Hotel, and everyones appetite being in superb order after the invigorating drive, ample justice was done to the good things laid before them, and every man rose from the table satisfied. After 3 hours go-as-you-please, through the beautiful inland town, the homeward journey was commenced shortly after 4 o’clock, the route home being via Whittingham, Glanton, Wooler, and Ancroft.

The scenery from Rothbury to Whittingham is simply enchanting, easily defying description, and Northumbrians have reason to be proud of their country, its equal in rugged beauty being hard to find, especially at this time of year. A short halt was made at Wooler, and the inner man refreshed, after which the last stage of the journey was commenced, Tweedmouth being reached shortly after 9 p.m. The excursion was a complete success from every point of view, the greatest harmony and cordiality prevailing throughout the day amongst the entire company, the arrangements for the comfort of all were perfect, and worked as successfully and smoothly as did the motor, he manipulation of which, on the circuitous switch back roads it had to travel with a full load, called forth the admiration of all.

Berwick's first bus owned by Adam Logan (1913/1914). A similar such vehicle would have transported the NER Locomotive employees on their journey to Rothbury. Indeed it may have been the bus! © Berwick Record Office. BRO 1887-37-005.

Berwick’s first bus owned by Adam Logan (1913/1914). A similar such vehicle would have transported the NER Locomotive employees on their journey to Rothbury. Indeed it may have been the bus! © Berwick Record Office. BRO 1887-37-005.


Ladies Good Work for the Wounded – A very interesting exhibition was held on Thursday afternoon in premises in Bridge Street, Berwick, of all kinds of nursing and other appliances for the comfort of our wounded soldiers. Lady Dalywell and a number of other prominent lady workers were in attendance, all busily engaged in their various departments in forwarding the humane work they have so much at heart. During the day the premises were visited by a number of the prominent citizens, who were much impressed with the multifarious articles which have been prepared by the dexterous and busy fingers of the ladies. The workers in their dainty white costumes as they industriously pursued their labours with the needle or flitted about the various rooms were a sweet and interesting spectacle, agreeably harmonising with the bright and luxuriant sun shine that is now prevailing at this midsummer period of the year.

Man Dies from Heat Stroke – An inquest touching the death of Robert Gibson, 51 Walkergate, was held by Coroner Wm. Weatherhead and a jury in the Town Hall, Berwick, on Monday. From evidence led it appeared that the deceased had been at Holy Island on Saturday, 5th August, and returned home about 5 p.m. He complained of the heat, and having sat down at the table to eat a meal, suddenly complained of a pain in his chest. After having rested he again sat down at the table, but almost immediately slipped from his chair, to the floor, when it was found that he had expired. After Dr C. L. Fraser had stated death to have been caused by heart failure following upon heat stroke, the jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. The Coroner remarked that this was the first case of death from heat stroke, he had investigated in the Borough is his time, nor had he heard of his father before him having such a case.

Refreshments for Soldiers and Sailors – The scheme originated by Lady Clementine Waring, Mrs Milne Home, and Mrs Fraser Bate, and worked by the Committee of Berwick Army and Navy Recreation Rooms, – whereby Soldiers and Sailors arriving at Berwick and requiring to break the journey, are provided with refreshments free of charge, continues to be a great boon to our gallant defenders. The month of July has again passed all previous records, no less than 250 men having been provided for. When it was sated that since its inauguration at the beginning of December this scheme has provided for some 1400 men there can be no doubt that it has fully justified its existence.

Lady Clementine Waring was the wife of Major Walter Waring, Liberal MP for Banff, who fought in the war. She converted their home (pictured), Lennel House, Coldstream, Berwickshire into a convalescent home for officers and did a great deal to support the needs of the soldiers. © Unknown.

Lady Clementine Waring was the wife of Major Walter Waring, Liberal MP for Banff, who fought in the war. She converted their home (pictured), Lennel House, Coldstream, Berwickshire into a convalescent home for officers and did a great deal to support the needs of the soldiers.

From Stannington to South Africa and other stories – the role of the Boards of Guardians

Before the NHS supported children at Stannington Sanatorium there were a few sources of finance for patients who could not fund their own places. We have already covered a little of the practice of donations for memorial cots in our online exhibition. From 1929 the Northumberland County Council’s Public Assistance Committee supported places for children from the county, with other councils doing likewise. However what about the children who went to Stannington before 1929?

Before the Committee was created those on low incomes were supported by the Poor Law Boards. They ran the workhouses, provided out-relief to those on low incomes, housed the orphans of the parish, and financially supported the ‘lunatics’ of the parish in the County Asylum (see our recent post). There were ten Poor law unions in Northumberland; Alnwick, Belford, Bellingham, Berwick, Castle Ward (for the Ponteland area), Glendale (for the Wooler area), Haltwhistle, Hexham, Morpeth and Rothbury. We decided to look through our poor law records for children who were supported at Stannington by the Board of Guardians, who dealt with the welfare of individuals, for Hexham Union.

Though Stannington Sanatorium had been open since 1907 the first mention we find in the records isn’t until 1910, when in the minute books we have an explanation of how the system worked:

Box 1

As the Board of Guardians were not charged for the Stannington patients we do not know how many of the children were sent, but we have a few cases where their return is mentioned.

Box 2 Box 3

Though we do not know what became of Janet, the Guardian’s minute book (GHE/20) shows by 1930 Catherine was at the Convent of Notre Dame, Southwark, London. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur ran, and continue to run, numerous schools and pupil teacher centres like Southwark across Britain. It is possible that Catherine was training as a pupil teacher, a five year apprenticeship in which girls received lessons as well as teaching younger girls (if you would like to learn more the Sisters have a very informative website). The Guardians sent Catherine £14 11s 9d in National Savings Certificates they had held for her, which were to be kept by her Sister Superior until she turned 21.

Photograph of the Phillipson Farm Colony boys and their manager from the Stannington Sanatorium brochure HOSP/STAN/9/1/1

Photograph of the Philipson Farm Colony boys and their manager from the Stannington Sanatorium brochure HOSP/STAN/9/1/1


However patients at the Sanatorium were not the only children that the Board financed at Stannington. The Philipson Farm Colony was used as a training facility to prepare boys to go into agricultural jobs. The first we see to be sent from Hexham is an orphaned boy, 14 years 5 months old, called William Young.

We first hear of William’s story in a letter in February 1911 to the PCHA, in which the guardians ask for a place at the Philipson Farm Colony for William. Further letters show this was granted, the Guardians agreed to pay six shillings in maintenance for him, and he was to be sent on the 11th March or the 1st of April. The 1911 census, taken on the 2nd April, shows he was a farm labourer, one of many boys in their late teens and early twenties present at the colony, and was born in Brampton, Cumberland. Sadly we have been unable to discover which of the many William Youngs born in the area he might have been.

The Farm Manager at this time was John Atkin, who had leased the farm since 1900 and was in charge of the boys at the colony from its opening in 1905. An article written by John in the Rotary Wheel magazine of August 1918 describes his endeavour to produce the most from the land in as diverse a way as possible, advocating a mixture of crops, livestock and poultry. William would therefore have learned many different aspects of farming at the Philipson Farm Colony.

In March 1913 the Guardians began to debate his next step, likely at the request of the PCHA or Farm Colony, and on the 4th April they had agreed for William to go to Canada. At the time emigration to the British colonies was encouraged, and it was a common thing that boys from the colony would make a new life there using their farming skills. The Guardians requested reassurance of William’s willingness to go and the suitability of the place he would be sent to. It seems this place fell through, and another letter on the 20th of September announced that the Board agreed to his being sent to Australia. However by the 18th of October the plan had again changed to South Africa. He was sent money for clothing, and we know from later correspondence he departed the next day. It seems however William did not enjoy his time there – he wrote to his sister in Hexham, and the letters were passed on to the Guardians and the Farm Colony for them to look at. A letter dated the 29th May 1914 writes to the PCHA that the Boarding Out Committee had decided:

Box 4

John Nicholas Hall was another boy sent to the Philipson Farm Colony by the Hexham Board of Guardians. A letter on the 26th June 1912 shows they had considered John emigrating to Canada with William, however he went to the Farm Colony instead, again at the same rate of 6/- weekly. All we know from his time there is a brief mention in the minute books. On the 29th April 1913 we find:

Box 5

These examples give us a little insight into the arrivals at Stannington Sanatorium and the Philipson Farm Colony in their early years, but also into the end of the Poor Law Unions. Though perhaps not the most caring of organisations (such as their reference to Catherine as ‘it’!) the Poor Law Boards sought to find a home and training for a future career for all the children that came to them. They also made sure that children who were unwell were cared for, including within their own institutions. However William’s case also makes us wonder about the stories of the children associated with Stannington and the Farm Colony. We know many other boys from the Farm Colony also emigrated and it is possible this was under the ‘Home Children’ scheme. The scheme started in the 19th century and led to the emigration of many thousands of children from the United Kingdom to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.  Until relatively recently it has been difficult to find information about these children, but now records have become more accessible via national initiatives. The websites of The National Archives of the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand provide useful advice about researching child migration. Sadly there is nothing for South Africa yet, but hopefully we will be able to learn what became of William with further research.