The 1848-9 Cholera Visitation

Up until the 19th Century, memorials to the dead were usually the preserve of the wealthy. The introduction of burial clubs, offered by trade unions, religious societies and friendly societies, enabled many working class people to have a proper burial. At this time, those who died through some tragedy were often commemorated by the friends and relatives to raise funds for the victim’s dependents. The etching of cheap glassware to memorialise mining disasters, and the profusion of printed material, in the form of memorial cards and silk bookmarks, was a way to remember the victim and to give charity to the family.

Very few memorials seem to have been made to remember people who died through disease throughout this period. Asiatic cholera, which caused epidemics in Britain in 1831-1833, 1848-1849, 1853-1854 and in 1866, fits this trend. However one memorial has been found, and research into the event has provided us with insight into one family’s story.

Original documentation from the 1848-1849 cholera epidemic is sketchy, so newspaper reports are often the only way to find detail on the spread of the disease.

The first mention of Cholera in Northumberland comes in August 1849 with reports of cases in North Shields. By the 8th of September the Newcastle Guardian reports “Cholera in the Mining Districts – This fearful malady has at length found its way into the mining districts of New Hartley and Delaval. It appears that there have been upwards of one hundred and fifty cases of diarrhoea and cholera together in the immediate neighbourhood. Forty four have proved fatal up to the present time”.  By the 15th September the Newcastle Guardian mentions that “At Wrekenton, Howdon, Walker, Seaton Delaval, North Shields and Barnard Castle it has been remarkably severe…Nor should the indispensable duties of mutual help and succour at this trying season be forgotten. Amid scenes of suffering and in the houses of the dying, Charity should walk fourth in all her genial influences; and whilst, with devout hearts and in the spirit of our holy religion, we look to Providence for the removal of the pestilence which in mercy or judgement He has visited our shores, let the wealthy and influential do good and communicate, as they have opportunity to their poorer neighbours and fellow-countrymen on whose families this heavy calamity may have fallen”.

An update from the Newcastle Courant on the 12th October reported “The Cholera at Seaton Delaval and Seghill, though considerably abated, has, since our last notice, been fatal to several families. In the night between the 2nd and 3rd [October] seventeen fell victims to it, and in one row of houses eleven corpses lay within a few yards of each other”.


1st edition [1860] Ordnance Survey Sheet 81


William Bell a miner from Seaton Delaval was one of those who succumbed, but was remembered in a printed silk epitaph, which now resides in Northumberland Archives. The silk states that he was”superinduced by his exertions to assist his fellow creatures during the attacks by this dreadful malady”. It is unclear who produced this silk or how many copies were made, but the two hands clasped together may indicate the item has a connection to a Trade Union.

In the publication, “Fynes’ History of the Northumberland and Durham Miners” published in 1873, states “The cholera having broke out at this time with great violence in the colliery districts, the attention of both employers and employed was turned towards the improvement of the sanitary condition of the villages, and union matters were laid aside for a time as great numbers of the workmen of the collieries were dying daily, struck down by the dire disease. Among those who fell victim was Mr William Bell, the secretary of the General Union whose death took place at Seaton Delaval.”

Seaton Delaval was at that time part of the Parish of Earsdon, William’s entry in the burial register has him aged 39 years old, and is buried the same day as his death, consistent with the directions for handling victims of contagious diseases, buried as soon as possible. A copy of his death certificate shows his death at Whitridge [Wheatridge] Row, Seaton Delaval, and the informant is Mable Bell, who was present at his death.


Memorial Silk to William Bell


In the 1851 census for Seaton Delaval, Mable Bell, and her family are living at 4 Whitridge [Wheatridge] Row. Mable is a widow, and the assumption is she was William’s wife. Mable is aged 37 and is claiming Parish Relief.  William the eldest son is aged 18 and is a Coal Miner, her son Christopher is 11 and is employed in the mines, daughter Mable is 8, and her youngest son Robert, is aged 3. Whitridge Row was one of the rows of tied houses for workers of the Seaton Delaval Coal Company. From this we can assume that William and Christopher are working for the Coal Company, at the time of the Census.

Reports of the disease in Seghill, Cowpen, Cramlington and other mining area throughout Northumberland seem to indicate that the disease in these areas were particularly virulent. An explanation was given by Dr John Snow, in his in his paper “On the Mode of Communication of Cholera” in 1855.


Wheatridge Row Seaton Delaval


“The mining population of Great Britain have suffered more from cholera than persons in any other occupation; a circumstance which I believe can only be explained by the mode of communication of the malady. Pitmen are differently situated from every other class of workmen in many important particulars. There are no privies in the coal pits, or as I believe in other mines, the workmen stay so long in the mines that they are obliged to take a supply of food with them, which they eat invariably with unwashed hands and without knife and fork”. “It is very evident that when a pitman is attacked with cholera whilst at work, the disease has facilities for spreading among his fellow-labourers such as occurs in no other occupation. That the men are occasionally attacked whilst at work I know, from having seen them brought up from some of the coal-pits in Northumberland in the winter of 1831-1832 after having had, profuse discharges from the stomach and bowels, and when fast approaching to a state of collapse”.


This Week in World War One, 4 May 1917








Port Hospital,
May 1st, 1917


Sir. – May I appeal through the medium of your paper for men and women to form a V.A.D., in this most northern part of Northumberland. Last Friday evening the members of St. Andrew’s Ambulance Corps., received a visit from the Chief Commissioner for Northumberland (Mr P. B. Palmer). In a very strong appeal Mr Palmer asked for the immediate formation of both a men and a women’s detachment. The need is great. The nearest men’s detachment is at Alnwick. The nearest women’s at Belford. Mr Palmer wants at least 200 men for ambulance work, (and as many women as he can get) between Wansbeck and Tweed. We want all the men and women in Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal and Scremerston who have First Aid or nursing certificates, to volunteer. Others who have not certificates may join on probation.

Berwick is a long way behind in ambulance work, let us have this stigma removed, and get to the front as quickly as possible.

Mr Hetherington, High Street, or Mr J. Richardson, 25 Main Street, Spittal, will receive names of men willing to join. Women may send their names to Miss Noble, 47a Main Road, Spittal or the undersigned.


Commandant, St. Andrews Ambulance Corps.

Berwick-on-Tweed Section.




Hopeville, Castle Terrace,
May 1st, 1917.


Sir,- At the request of the General Committee of the Guild of Aid, I again venture to ask your valuable help, in permitting us to make an appeal through the medium of your paper, to all friends, who are willing and able to help us, in sending out much needed comforts to the men in France, who are so strenuously fighting our battles. We have an urgent request, to send as soon as possible, shirts, socks, towels, (small) and handkerchiefs (dark coloured). Owing to the large demands made upon us lately, we have a very small stock in hand, and would be grateful for any help, however small, towards meeting this request. Our hearts are all too full of the desire to send any crumb of comfort, that we possibly can, to our heroes overseas, to need any appeal, it is quite enough, we know, to state our needs for them, to have them met, we would be glad to have all articles by Tuesday, May 15th, sent either to any member of committee, or to the Town Hall, on Tuesdays, between 2.30 and 3.30. Thanking you for your courtesy.

Yours faithfully


(President of the Guild)




 The time honoured custom of riding the Berwick Bounds was duly observed on Tuesday, 1st May, in the usual manner. Fine weather prevailed and the proceedings were much enjoyed. The company assembled at noon at the Parade and proceeded by the customary route.

In the mayor’s carriage there were present – His Worship the Mayor, Mr M. Ross, (the Sheriff) Councillor Thomas Wilson, and the acting Town Clerk ( MR James Gibson).

In a brake there were the following – Alderman G. A. Turnbull, and Councillors Wm. Anderson, T. Bolus, Alex. Darling, Wm. J. Dixon, J. Elder, F. Richardson, and the Chief Constable.

BRO 1944/1/149/1 Riding of the Bounds, Parade, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1952


The horseman riders were represented by both youth and age; youth was represented by Master Moffat, Wes Edge, a born horseman, 14 years, and this will be the fifth annual occasion on which he has ridden the Berwick Bounds; and by one who at mature years rode the Bounds 47 years ago, Mr J. Cameron, V.S,. There was also one cyclist soldier from the Borderers, a boy.

At the inn at Canty’s there was a liberal supply of refreshments dispensed, consisting of tea, coffee, biscuits, cheese, and ale.

At the conclusion of the drive home the company drove to the Town Hall before dispersing, when the Mayor in a few words formally thanked the company for their attendance at the function.



George Murray, N.F., only son of Mr Andrew Murray, formerly groom to Dr Maclagan, Berwick, and now of Akeld, Wooler, has been killed by a snipper. He served his apprenticeship with Mr Mosgrove as a shoemaker and was afterwards employed by the North British Railway Company.

Berwick Advertiser 21 Aug 1914 Mosgroves Advert


He was a territorial before the outbreak of war, was 23 years of age, and was in the machine gun section. Very high praise has been received of Private Murray’s soldierly bearing and courage in letters sent both by officers and men.




This is an extract from a letter from Sergt., T. H. Grey, Machine Gun Corps., son of Mr Thos. Grey, Tweedmouth, which will be interesting:- “I had to tell you that Tom Davidson was all right, in case his people were inquiring for him, however, five minutes after, he got wounded, so I suppose by this time he is well on his way to Blightly. It was just a few minutes prior to an attack, and we were having a talk about old times before going over the top. I didn’t have the luck to see him again. We have some decent weather this last week, but the week before as you would see by the papers took some enduring. Many a time when we get wet through, we remark that had it been at home in civil life, we would have been following it up with a week in bed, whereas out here we can lie in a shell hole night and day and endure all sorts of  storms, not to mention bombardments. I fancy it must be the excitement that keeps us fit, it must be something out of the ordinary at any rate. We have celebrated our second anniversary in grand style I don’t mean by a great feast or supper, but by taking part in one of the biggest of battles and claimed to have been one of the fiercest, nevertheless it has gained for us a few days rest.

By the way, we had our Red and White roses on St. George’s Day, you see although I am now in the M.G.C., I like to consider myself still in the N.F. Those who were less fortunate than us and got killed that day were buried with their roses still pinned to their uniform. I’m sorry to say one of the unlucky ones was a very intimate friend of mine, being Sergeant in the same section as myself, it was his second anniversary in France too, and he had never until that fateful day, been either wounded or in hospital from any cause; such is the Fate that awaits the soldier on the battlefield.




Mr T. Robertson, gardener, Birch Hill, Norham, has received a letter from his son, Trooper J. Robertson, of the Royal 10th Hussars, who has been in the thick of the recent fighting in which he relates some stirring events.

The 10th Royal Hussars memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. © Author A Carty. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It appears that on one occasion some of the cavalry got held up in a village, and were ordered to dismount for action. In the fight Trooper Roberson was blown up into the air, landed in a garden, and wonderful to relate escaped without a scratch. It was a pretty rough time while it lasted and as he says, “We came through it, however, with the loss of a great number of horses most of which were blown up into the air; the number of men killed, I am glad to say was not many.” Trooper Robertson has been in France since August of last year. Previous to joining the colours he was a rabbit catcher, and is well known in the district. He lost a brother, who was in the K.O.S.B. at the battle of the Somme.


This Week in World War One, 20 April 1917







Information has been received by his wife in Berwick that Private F. Crow, K.O.S.B.’s has been wounded in the left-arm and right thigh, and has been sent to hospital. The chaplain (the Rev. R. W Hopkins) in a letter remarks that “there is no reason why he should not get on well. He will very soon be in England and there is no cause for anxiety.” Private Crow is a painter to trade and for a number of years was employed in the painting department of Messrs Wm. Elder and Sons Implement Works.

An early twentieth century image of William Elder’s engineering works in Berwick. Private F. Crow worked in the painting department with Elder’s for a number of years. © Berwick Record Office, BRO 1944-1-2661-17.


Latterly he was employed with Mr Gilchrist, painter, etc, in West Street. Private Crow joined under the Derby Scheme in September last. He was trained at Duddingston, and went to France on 15th January.




Death of an Old Berwick Ship Captain. – Death has this week removed one of the old-time Berwick ship captains in the person of Mr Thomas Ormston, at the ripe old age of 80 years. In days when Berwick port was of much importance, Captain Ormston had command successively of the late Mr Andrew Thompson’s schooners – the “Tweed” and the “Maggie,” for a long time sailing to continental and other ports. He was a freeman of Berwick, being “made free” in the year 1858. He has lived in retirement for a number of years.

Good Work to the Soldiers Recognised. – For seven years Mrs Highgate has carried on almost useful and philanthropic work at her residence on the Quay Walls on behalf of the social and moral advancement of the soldiers in Berwick. Owing to advancing years she has been compelled to relinquish her good efforts, and is on the eve of leaving the town for Dunoon. The Mayor and Mayoress, supported by a few friends who are fully alive to the great and good work Mrs Highgate has accomplished, fittingly resolved that she should receive some small token of appreciation to mark her stay and labours in the Border town, and a presentation ceremony was somewhat hurriedly arranged to take place in the Council Chamber on Tuesday evening. The proceedings were of a private character, and of brief duration. His Worship the Mayor presided, there were also present the Mayoress, Mr Thos. Wilson, who acted as treasurer; Ald. A. Logan, Mr and Mrs J. Strachan, Mrs T. Purves, Miss C. E. Purvis, Miss Richardson, Miss Paxton, Mrs McCreath (senior), and a friend, Mr and Mrs Alex. Steven. In a neat and appropriate speech the Mayor made the presentation, consisting of a marble clock, on which a suitable inscription is to be placed. Mrs Highgate made a feeling and suitable response, alluding to the pleasure and great interest her work among the soldiers had given her. Several others spoke of the great good that had resulted from Mrs Highgate’s work, bearing testimony to the unselfish and disinterested manner in which she had always carried these out.

The Poultry Demonstration Train on the N.E. Railway. – The poultry demonstration train on tour on the North Eastern railway in Durham this month is meeting with great success, and the demonstrations that will follow in Northumberland are being looked forward to with considerable interest. The train consists of four coaches, and is replete with the latest poultry-culture appliances, comprising, among other things, incubators of various types, brooders, trap-nests, egg-boxes, egg-testing lamps, cramming machine, and models of poultry-houses. The different kinds of foods suitable for poultry, as well as a pen of pullets illustrating the way in which fowls are kept on the intensive system, are other features of the exhibition. The train is accompanied by lecturers and demonstrators. Wooler is to be visited on 1st May, Chathill 4th May, and Tweedmouth 5th May.






A thrilling story of the Vimy Ridge battle is told by a former resident of Darlington, now serving with the machine Guns Corps and attached to one of the Canadian Battalions. In an interview he said;-

A British dug fighting tunnel in Vimy sector, WW1. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2. Wikimedia Commons.

“It was hell for the Germans, heaven for us. Hell for them because our big guns had been at it for hours powdering the strongest earth works to dust and reducing the men to jelly. The immediate effect was to put a severe strain on nerves all round. A thrill of joy and relief ran through our ranks when the gun fire died down, and the infantry began to liven up. It was heaven for us because we felt that at last we were to have a chance of avenging hundreds of loved comrades who had been killed in more or less fair fights in this region or poisoned by foul gas.

“Many of the men in my battalion were Northerners. They had relations and friends in the Northern regiment such as the Northumberland Fusiliers, which had fought so well over this very ground just a year ago. To my dying day I will never forget how our lads charged. They were absolutely irresistible. They paid not the slightest attention to the gust of shell-fire and machine gun bullets, in the teeth of which they had to advance. They laughed at death and wounds, and swept onward and upward in one great avenging avalanche.

“Ten yards from the German parapet the foe were found awake to their danger. They came streaming out of their lairs firing into the grey morning with all kinds of weapons. Our Canadians gave a cheer, and dashed at the foe exultingly. The first enemy line went down like a puppet before a half-ton ball. We dashed over the dead and wounded, and bounded into the trench.

“Here we found the Huns making desperate efforts to pull themselves together. We flung ourselves on them before they could muster force enough to stop us, and while they were doing the “Mercy, Kamerad” dance other parties of ours were streaming over the crest and down the slope to meet the oncoming reserves. There was no holding our lads back. They swept eagerly forward, and very soon had the whole of the ground in their hands.

Tied to the land – serfs from manorial history

Through our manorial research we often come across references to serfdom, the ancient custom where people were owned by the lord of the manor. Though a complicated picture unfree people at this time largely fell into two types – villeins or bondsmen, who were unfree tenants that had some rights of inheritance over their home and land, and serfs, who were personally unfree. Some had far fewer rights and freedoms than others, and these are often hard to define as manorial structure differed from manor to manor.

After the Black Death the remaining workforce was in demand, and both groups were able to acquire better rights. This meant that in most places these sorts of ties to the land and the lord died out. However serfs could still be found in the 14th and 15th century in Woodhorn, Seaton, Hurst, Newbiggin and the barony of Mitford. These people formed the backbone of the manorial system, but leave very little trace in the historical record. However in the course of our research for our Manor Authority files (see this previous blog for how this is done) we sometimes find their names given, a fantastic insight into ordinary people’s lives in the medieval period. We will be looking at examples we have come across that help explain the lives of unfree serfs and bondsmen in Northumberland’s manors, and show what services to the lord of the manor were expected of them.

A representation of a medieval manor


Some serfs were made and some were born. Roger Maudut claimed Ralph le Lorimer as his ‘nief’. This is a term for a type of serf, from old French, and is often Read more

This Week in World War One, 6 April 1917






Northumberland Policemen’s War Bonus. – At a meeting at the Moot Hall, Newcastle, on Monday, of the Standing Joint Committee for Northumberland – Ald. T. Taylor presiding – an application was received for an addition to the 5s awarded in July last as a war bonus to police officers below the rank of superintendent. It was decided to give 1s a week for each child below the age of 14 of a married officer. There are over 300 children below the age, and the amount voted will represent an expenditure of about £800 per annum.

Soldiers Clear the Berwickshire Snow-bound Roads. – The extremely severe frost in Berwickshire on Monday morning was followed on Monday evening by a heavy fall of snow, accompanied by a stiff north-easterly gale, which caused much drifting. Roads were blocked in every direction. In view of the fact that lambing is now well begun in half-bred hirsels in the hill districts, the situation was viewed with much anxiety by flockmasters. There was a marked rise of temperature on Tuesday, and the snow melted as it fell. In the Berwick district all main roads were more or less blocked by the heavy fall of snow, which in certain exposed parts had been formed into large wreaths by the strong wind. After considerable difficulty the Edinburgh and Paxton road was got clear. The Duns and Belford roads suffered most, and as labourers were impossible to be obtained the authorities appealed to the military for help in having the main south road opened for traffic. As a result, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Scots very kindly placed a squad of men at the disposal of the authorities, and in the course of Tuesday the road was made passable. The action of the military in such an emergency was greatly appreciated by the general public.

The Food Controller has issued an order by which the annual total output of beer in the United Kingdom is limited to 10,000,000 barrels as compared with the 26,000,000 barrels allowed for the year ending the 31st March, 1916. At the same time the supply of wines and spirits that may be taken out of bond, is reduced by 50 per cent, of the amount taken out in 1916.

The Volunteers. – The next drill of the Berwick Volunteers will take place on Thursday, weather permitting, at the Stanks. Some 200 men have now enrolled, and an invitation is extended to all eligible recruits to join at once, so as to complete the necessary strength of 250.

The Stanks, Berwick-upon-Tweed (c) BRO 2103-6-32


Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club and Railway Travelling. – Having regard to the appeal

made by the Government that, in view of the grave and critical state of the country, the public should refrain from all unnecessary railway travelling and practise every economy, and to the practical difficulties in arranging and attending meetings under the present conditions, the officers of the Club, after mature consideration, have resolved to intermit all field meetings for this season. They have deemed it expedient, however, to hold the annual business meeting in October, of which due intimation will be given.






Castle Terrace,

Berwick-on –Tweed,

4th April, 1917

Sir, – The members of the Patriotic Committee have asked me to write a letter regarding a project we have in view for the raising of funds in aid of various war charities, in hope that you would be good enough to insert in this week’s edition of your paper.

It seemed to us that we might make some money out of the gathering and sale of waste paper, which has hitherto been an almost untapped source of revenue in Berwick. A beginning has already been made privately in the Town, and with united effort, we hope to raise a goodly sum to help the many war charities, which claim our sympathy, and among them our own Guild of Aid, Surgical Depot, etc.

I need Your Waste-Poster


We would be glad to receive the names of any ladies or gentlemen willing to assist in the sorting and packing and would be obliged if these could be handed in to any of the undermentioned ladies by Tuesday, 10th April, at latest. These ladies will also receive gratefully promises of papers, and will give any information required. Mrs Steven, Stecarven; Miss Caverhill, 2 Ravensdowne; Miss Dixon, Marlborough House, Spittal; Miss Mason, Shielfield Terrace, Tweedmouth, or myself.

Thanking you in anticipation

Yours Sincerely


President of Patriotic Fund.





Supt. Bolton informed the magistrates that in the case of Foreman, butcher, who had been sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, the option being that he should join a labour battalion, that he had done his best to enlist, and after going to and from the barracks for a fortnight the military had declined to take him. For one thing Foreman was considerably over age. He asked for an order to commit him to prison as this was the alternative to enlisting.

Mr Darling – Men considerably over 47 have gone to make roads in France. I will communicate regarding Foreman and see if he can be taken.

Supt. Bolton – I hope he can, it would be the best thing that could happen to him.

Capt. Tippinge – I should think he has been at considerable expense going out and in to the Barracks.

Supt. Bolton – I daresay he has been enjoying himself as well. (Laughter).

Mr Plendeleith – Have they a settled age for the labour battalion.

Supt. Bolton –  They must have, except in the case of old soldiers. They will take the latter up to any age.

Case adjourned for a month.


This Week in World War One, 23 March 1917







Alexander Gladstone, son of Mr and Mrs Gladstone, Falloden Terrace, Tweedmouth, and grandson of the late highly respected Thomas Brown, N.E.R. engine driver, Tweedmouth, who met with a tragic end at Goswick some ten years ago. He is 20 years of age, was a territorial, and was mobilised with the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers in August, 1914, put in his time at Gosforth and Cambois, and went with the battalion to France in April, 1915. He was in the fateful battle St. Julien, and was wounded at St. Eloi after which he was confined to hospital for six weeks. For 15 months he was orderly and stretcher bearer under our esteemed townsman, Dr Mackay, was also a pupil under the doctor in the N.E.R. Ambulance Corps, and won 1st class honours in competitions in same. He has since leaving the Ambulance Section of the Northumberland Fusiliers been 8 months in the transport of the same battalion and has been absent from home for 15 months without leave. We wish him continued good luck and safe home, as he has like many others, some terrible experiences to his credit, although he is so young. Previous to the war he was a fireman with the N.E.R. Co.




Thanks. – The Committees of the Berwick Ladies’ District Nursing Association, and the Berwick-on-Tweed Prisoners of War Fund, would like to take this opportunity of rending their very grateful thanks to Mr Dudgeon and his concert party for the handsome sum of £38, which has been equally divided between them. These committees feel assured that they and the public generally, owe these friends a debt of gratitude, not only for the very acceptable addition to the funds of both Associations, but for a most enjoyable and successful evening’s entertainment. The Committee of the Prisoners of War Fund would like, at the same time, to thank those friends who so successfully organised a concert at Spittal for their friends, and to the promoters of other entertainments, sales of work, etc., who have so generously given of their takings for the Prisoners.

Camp Gardens – Hutments and Barracks. – A Scottish Command Order states – Attention is drawn to the urgent need of making the most of every source of food and of supplementing the messing of the troops with a variety of vegetables grown on the spot. A proportion of the vegetables necessary for the men can, in the majority of hutment camps and barracks, be grown in plots adjacent to the lines, and the attention of Command Officers is drawn to the need of prompt action.

Presentation at the Barracks. – On Monday evening an interesting presentation was made in the Sergeants’ Mess at the Berwick Barracks, when Sergt. W. Tait, of the K.O.S.B., was presented with a handsome marble clock and a pair of bronze side ornaments on the occasion of his marriage which took place on Thursday, 22nd inst.

(C) BRO 1636-8-22 Berwick Barracks


The presentation was made in a neat and appropriate speech by Sergt. Major J. B. Westle on behalf of the members and honorary members of the Sergeants Mess at the Depot, and was suitably acknowledged by the gallant recipient. Sergt. Tait has 23 years service, has been twice at the front, and has been twice wounded. He was a time-expired soldier, and re-joined his old regiment at the call of duty. He is native of Glasgow. The gifts were supplied by Messrs Ross, jewellers, Bridge Street, Berwick.






A crowded house met in the Queen’s Rooms, Berwick, on Thursday, March 15th, to enjoy a concert of unusual excellence given by local amateur artistes of undoubted ability.

The Chairman, Captain C.B. Balfour of Newton Don, Kelso, who spoke of the excellent work done by the nurses, drew special attention to the fact that the professional nurses had not only their own work to do, but were engaged besides in the training of novices which it added greatly to their labours.

Group of nurses taken in Northern France, probably c 1916. Source: Unsung heroes – World War 1 nurses. © Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.


Captain Balfour was of opinion that our prisoners of war were in great need of help and sympathy. His own son had been a civilian prisoner in Germany since war broke out and, bad as the lot of the civilian prisoner had been we could be sure that the lot of the soldier prisoner was worse. Before the concert opened Captain Balfour said that many of the artistes were well known to him. They had come to Newton Don once every month for more than a year, and he assured the audience that if their services were as much appreciated in Berwick as they are at Newton Don, a great treat was in store for them. (Applause).

Considerable changes had to be made. Private Bell, we regret to say, is in hospital, Lance Cpl. Henderson was indisposed, and Sgt. Clark had a bad throat. The absence of these skilled soldier artistes was much regretted, but their places were ably filled by Mrs R. H. Wilkinson (piano) and Mr James Winram, the celebrated Scottish violinist from Edinburgh, whose services were fortunately secured.

The concert opened with an instrumental trio – Mr Winram, violin; Private C. Irwin, “cello; Mrs R. H. Wilkinson, piano. It was seen at once that all three were expert musicians who acquitted themselves with as much ease and facility as if they had been playing together for years.




 In nearly all cases of farm labourers, passed for general service, which have come before recent Tribunals at Berwick, the men have been ordered to serve when a suitable substitute could be found. Then the young ploughman, or shepherd, or carter has been allowed to return to his work, and nothing further has happened. Now, however, things have begun to happen. A week ago a contingent of 120 soldiers came to Berwick, nearly all men who have been doing their bit in France, and who now, because they are wounded, or for some other reason, have been placed in the C2 category. They have been ploughmen, carters, joiners, general labourers, and poultry farmers in civil life, and are as alert and keen a set of men as one could wish to see, all as eager to do their part in providing food for the people as they were eager in other days to help to keep the enemy from our shores. They are drawn from different regiments, among them are a very considerable number of Lancashire and Yorkshire men. The officer in charge is a qualified and experienced agriculturist.

19/20th Century Bondagers at work (c) BRO 1894-30


Many farmers who came to the market on Saturday said they had heard rumours of the arrival of the substitutes, but had no definite information about them. They seemed much relieved to find so many men, among them who had had experience in agriculture, and find that arrangements were in the hands of an officer with such splendid agricultural qualifications. The chief objection raised by local farmers to the substitution scheme was, “Where are these men to be housed? The farm cottages are too small to cope with even one extra person”. Another farmer, hearing this objection, took a more cheerful view. “Surely that is not a difficulty we need trouble about” he said. “I am sure we can rig up something quite as comfortable as many a billet for our ploughmen substitutes, even if we can’t provide them all with cottages.”



Alice Mary Carr-Ellison: In Peace & War

Jock, Alice, and Ralph Carr-Ellison, 41 Princes Gate, London,


Alice was born Alice Mary Campbell in 1866 in Glendaruel, Argyll, the youngest child of Archibald Campbell, Captain of the 42nd Highlanders, and his second wife, Christina Maclaren.  Alice’s brother, William, was an officer in the Black Watch, and had served in South Africa, alongside Ralph Henry Carr-Ellison, Alice’s future husband.  Ralph mentioned Alice in his letters home from Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Africa, where he was serving in the British Bechuanaland Police – a border police force.  When he returned home in the Autumn of 1892, their engagement was announced.

They were married at St. Peter’s Parish Church, Cranley Gardens, London, on 28 February 1893.  Ralph was stationed in York at the time of their marriage, and the couple lived there for a time, before Ralph was posted to Ireland.  Their only child, John (Jock) Campbell Carr-Ellison, was born on 25 September 1897, at 4 Walton Street, London.  Alice was to leave her son when he was two years old, to follow her husband to South Africa.  She set sail on the S.S. Norman not long after her husband sailed in 1899.

While Ralph was on campaign, Alice was left very much to her own devices, often for months at a time.  She would visit recent battlefields with friends, and she threw herself into the lively social scene.  Based firstly in Cape Town, she visited the sick and injured who had been sent back to the city after the battle at Magersfontein.  In January 1900, Alice made her way to Pietermaritzburg and again became involved in caring for the sick and wounded, and was asked to join the nursing staff.  Ralph did not approve, so Alice compromised; she carried on visiting the patients while acting as a voluntary nurse to those soldiers who were convalescing.

After almost three years in South Africa, on 2 July 1902, Alice set sail for Britain on the Dunottar Castle, even though she lacked the necessary permit for her passage, and brought two illegal immigrants (meerkats!) on board with her.  On 28 July, Alice landed at Callart, Invernesshire, and was reunited with her son, Jock, at Fort William.  By this time he was five years old.

Ralph had wanted to travel to Hong Kong after his return to England.  Alice was more than willing to travel with him – she was as adventurous as he was – but her health deteriorated and the plans were forgotten.  The couple moved to Guernsey in 1906, when Ralph was made Deputy Governor of the island.  Their time on the island came to an end in 1910 and they embarked on a world tour, visiting Cairo and India along the way, only returning to Hedgeley in October 1913.



During the First World War, Alice organised working parties at her home in 41 Princes Gate, London, making articles for those at the Front.  When Ralph and Alice moved to Dublin she became involved in many welfare committees to improve conditions for soldiers and their families.  She organised food and tobacco parcels to be sent to the men at the front and those in prisoner of war camps.  She also formed a workshop for disabled soldiers, where they could make artificial limbs, giving them the chance to earn a wage and support their families.

In 1917, Alice did even more for the national war effort by turning Dunston Hill House, Gateshead, into an after-care home, catering for 45 disabled soldiers and sailors at a time.  The house was in a peaceful, countryside location, but was close enough to Newcastle to make it accessible.


Photograph of Dunston Hill House.


Dunston Hill House was taken over by the Northumberland War Pensions Committee, and used especially for neurasthenic cases – men suffering from the stress they had experienced in the trenches.  Alice was elected a member of the Committee that would run the Home, and was instrumental in planning the alterations and additions that would make a home into a hospital.

During the War, Princes Gate became a gathering place for servicemen, and Hedgeley became an unofficial rest and recreation centre for disabled officers.  Both houses were for the use of overseas troops – the South African, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces.

In September 1921, at the age of fifty-five, Alice died of pneumonia at her home in London.  Her cremation took place at Golder’s Green, and the ashes were interned in Eglingham churchyard on 14 September, after a memorial service that was attended by family, friends, local dignitaries and estate tenants from Northumberland and Durham.  Mr. G. Hemming, the Head Gardener at Hedgeley, lined the burial vault with laurel and flowers from the gardens of Hedgeley Hall.

This Week in World War One, 9 March 1917






Local Minister and the Food Problem. – In compliance with the recommendation of the Food Controller the Rev. John Macaskill, M.A., on Sunday in Wallace Green Church, Berwick, directed the attention of the congregation to the circular letter he had received regarding voluntary rationing. To the young people present he delivered a short but most interesting address based on the words, “Gathering up the fragments.” He showed how much food could be saved if each was to take care of the small pieces of bread that were over at meal times, and how great this waste amounted to in the aggregate. The same lesson applied to the diligent use of time. People often remarked how clever such and such a person was, but the explanation of this was to be found in the fact the individual alluded to made proper use of his odd moments in improving and storing his mind with useful knowledge. The reverend gentleman’s subsequent sermon was in a similar theme, and in concluding he pointed out that no doubt after the war habits of thrift of a bygone generation would be inculcated. Some might be inclined to think that we would lose the habits of hospitality for which our nation had been known. While restraints were good we must see that in the end it did not deprive us of our open handedness and our willingness to share the good things of life with others, cultivating and social fellowship which we remembered as one of life’s assets.

The “Tanks” at the Playhouse. – This week the film on exhibition is the “Fools of Fate,” The variety part is sustained by Miss B. Wright, contralto vocalist, in scena song and gipsy

“The Battle of the Somme” (1916 British film) – Source: Yorkshire Evening Post – Author: British government

encampment. There should be a great desire on the public’s part to witness the film on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, as it is one which attracts attention everywhere. “The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks” will prove the most in spiriting war picture the world has ever seen. It is a noble and wonderful record of the great autumn battle, and is even more interesting than the world-famous picture “The Battle of the Somme.” The pictures have been taken on the actual battlefield, and contain nothing whatever in the nature of faked or made-up scenes. The film is divided into four parts, and the boldness of the forward dash, and the manner in which the Tanks arrived to upset the German calculations are all shown in these wonderful pictures, which in the wealth of their subject excel anything the world has ever seen. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the film is to be “The Miracle of Youth.” It is a picture version of the famous novel by Bret Harte, with Hobart Bosworth in the title role. The characters portrayed are exceptionally fine, the settings and photography being magnificent. Carino, the boy violinist, should prove an excellent variety programme, as he is a master of this sweet instrument.

Speed of Military Motor Vehicles – an order by the Scottish Command states:- With reference to the W.O. Letter, 92/2508 (A.G.3), dated 4th February 1915 (Command Order No. 309, dated 9th February 1915), attention has been drawn to the increasing number of fatal street accidents caused by Government cars or privately-owned cars driven by officers and men in uniform, and it is desired to impress on all ranks that the local speed rates must be strictly observed when travelling on duty. Special arrangements have been made for authorising cars to proceed at a speed in excess of the legal limit in case of extreme military urgency by the issue of a special written authority, and it is solely under this condition that any deviation in excess of the normal speed rates is permissible. Should any omission to observe this order render an officer or man liable to prosecution by the police authorities, and subsequently conviction, they will themselves pay any fines which may be incurred. The attention of all A.S.C. M.T. drivers should be drawn to paragraphs 6 to 10, appendix 27, Army Service Corps Regimental Standing Orders.




German Claims Descent from Grace Darling  –  At Liverpool a charge of making a false statement was preferred against Weximilian Eugene Backhans (37), and alleged German who posed as a Belgian. A detective stated that prisoner married an English woman 14 years ago, and claimed that his wife was a descendant of Grace Darling. There were three children. Before the war the prisoner was known as a German, and had boasted of what Germany could do to England. Evidence was given by an hotel manager and a waiter, who had known and worked with accused, that he was undoubtedly a German. The latter witness added he knew accused to be German, and once gave him a thrashing, “Only as recently as January, “said witness. “I met him. I am in the Volunteers, and said to him: Haven’t the interned you yet? I’ll see that they do. I’m not going to do volunteering if your at large.” Accused contended that he was born at Ostend. The magistrate said accused must go to gaol for three months.




The Local Government Board recommended that selection of rations be made involving the consumption of smaller quantities of flour, meat, and sugar, and a list of alternative articles substituted could be revised with the assistance of the medical officer. No dietary tables which appeared in excess of the Food Controller’s recommendations was to remain in force after 31st March. The relief in kind to the outdoor poor was also to be revised, while allowances to officers were to be a matter of arrangement between them and the Guardians.

Shown in the top right of this recipe book, is the WW1 Barley Bread recipe.


Mr Banks, Workhouse master, said that in the matter of meat, sugar, and flour, they were already within the Controller’s standard. The Medical Officer had pointed out the difficulties in getting substitutes in some instances, but he agreed that barley should take the place of flour bread. He had communicated with the baker, and he had promised to send up samples of barley bread. It was stated by the baker that he could make 1 lb. loves of barley, and if this suggestion was carried out it would bring down the allowances of bread to 4 lb. 2 ozs, per week.

In answer to Mr Peacocke the Master said that the children got fed according to individual requirements.

It was agreed to leave the matter in the hands of the Master and the Medical Officer.

This Week in World War One, 24 February 1917








The following circular has been issued from the General Manager’s Office, York, of the North Eastern Railway Company:-

Arrangements have now been made under which all railwaymen who desire to do so will be permitted to join the Volunteer Force. For this purpose the staff will be divided into two classes as indicated below:-

  • Those whom it would be possible to liberate from their railway duties in the event of an emergency such as an invasion, will, as in the past, be permitted to take up full responsibilities of membership (including the requirement as to putting in a specified amount of training and drill) as Volunteers in the ordinary sections (i.e., Section A, men not of military age, and Section B, men of military age).
  • The rest of the staff, whom it would not be possible to liberate, will, nevertheless, be permitted to join a special section of the Volunteer Force known as Section R. members of this section will not be called out for actual military service, even in an emergency such as an invasion, without the consent of the company.

The North Eastern Railway headquarters in York built by Horace Field in 1906, now a hotel. © Photograph taken by Mattbuck. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


It should be clearly understood by all railwaymen who join the Volunteer Force (whether in the ordinary sections A or B, or in the special section) that they will not in any case be required by the Volunteer Force or allowed by the railway company to attend any training or drill which would interfere with the proper performance of their railway duties.

Members of the staff who desire to join the Volunteer Force should make application to the head of their department for the necessary permission. Every man so applying will be given by the company a special certificate on Army Form  V.4006 authorising his enrolment either as a full member of the Force (Section A or B) or as a member of the special section R, and this certificate should be handed at the time of enrolment to the officer commanding the Volunteer Battalion.

Permission to enrol as a full member of the force will be given wherever possible, and in those cases in which it is necessarily withheld, permission will be given to enrol in Section R.



Berwick Corn Exchange Company Limited- The annual report states: – The Directors have pleasure in submitting their annual report, and congratulate the shareholders on the result of the year’s working. Owing to the lighting restrictions, the hall has not been used for theatrical or concert purposes during the year, and the amounts received from rents has consequently been small. The increased charges which came into force in January last resulted in a substantial rise in the revenue from stalls, and the receipts from other sources have been well maintained. The profits for the year is £260 14s 1d, which, with £27 2s 10d brought forward, leaves an available sum of £287 16s 11d. The usual dividend for five per cent, is recommended, less income tax, which will absorb £155 8s 4d, carrying £75 to reserve fund (thereby raised to £500), and the balance, £57 8s 7d, to next account. The directors who retire by rotation are Mr Short, Mr Herriot, and Mr Smail, all of whom are eligible for re-election.

Image from the Berwick Advertiser 4 December 1858, opening of the newly erected Corn Exchange, Berwick-upon-Tweed.


Football. – Quite an interesting game was witnessed on the Belford football ground on Thursday of last, week the competing teams being Belford and Northern Cyclists Signallers. The condition of the ground was rather unfavourable; still, the play on both sides was good. Little life was shown at opening of the game, but suddenly the soldiers set to with a will and kept the defenders busy. A corner, taken by Cyclist Hilton, proved fruitless, the Belford goal keeper making a smart save. Eventually the soldiers opened the scoring, Cyclist Burrows securing a point from a good pass by Cyclist Whitby. Shortly afterwards Lieut. Clapperton with a very fine shot sent the ball home, and just before half time Cyclist Burrows scored. A half-time the score stood as follows: – Solders- 3 goals, Belford – nil. In second half Belford showed great improvement. Lance- Corporal Rogers broke through the defence with a really excellent shot, registering for Belford one goal. Some very fast play was shown towards the close, but Belford was fairly outclassed, the final; result being – Soldiers – 4 goals, Belford – 1 goal. Quite a decent number of interested people were present.

Startling Discovery in Bridge Street Baker’s Premises. – An unusual and gruesome discovery was made the other day in excavating the premises of Mrs Thompson, baker, Bridge Street, Berwick, when the front portion of a human skull was unearthed only a few inches below the kitchen floor. Workmen were engaged in building a new oven at the time the startling relic of humanity was found. The kitchen floor has immediately underneath it a few inches of earth, and below that again there are stone slabs. It was between the slabs and the wooden floor that the skull was unearthed. Several teeth were in the upper jaw, and looked very fresh, and in perfect condition. There were two other bones discovered, and one of these appeared to be a rib bone. When or how the skull came to be placed in the spot it was discovered is a matter of conjecture, but it would appear that before this could have been done the flooring must have been lifted and re-laid. Mr John Bishop, Scott’s Place, obtained possession of the skull, and those who may be curious to have a view of same can do so by communicating with that gentleman. It is doubtful to say to which sex the cranium belonged.




On Friday afternoon last a sale of work and concert was held in the Girls’ National School, Tweedmouth, under the patronage of the Mayor and Mayoress. The schoolroom was packed with a highly appreciative audience, chiefly composed of the mothers and other relatives of the children, admission being by ticket. The Vicar (Rev. P .G. Peacocke) announced at the opening of the concert that as the proceeds of the day were to be devoted to charitable objects. viz:- The Guild of Aid, Prisoners of War Fund, and the local Smoke Fund, no tax would be levied, thus allowing the full amount received to be used in the channels mentioned. The articles offered for sale before the concert were nearly all made by the children during the past winter months and comprised a varied assortment of artistic sewing work in the shape of dolls clothes, and other ornamental knickknacks for home decoration, some others being of a more useful character, all however, commanded a ready sale.

The former National Girls School, Tweedmouth, now private accommodation.


An interesting item in the proceedings was a guessing competition over the name of a neatly dressed doll given by Jeanie Short, the doll to go to the one who guessed its name. Each guess cost one halfpenny, and to show how keen the competition was, the sum of £1 2s was gambled away in half-pennies, and as Miss Helyer put it – the doll had proved a golden egg; yet out of 528 who had been so prodigal with their coppers, not one was correct. The choosing of the name fell to the Mayoress, and on the envelope being opened in the schoolroom, it was found to be “Hope,” the first part of the name of the residence of the Mayor and Mayoress, viz. :- “Hopeville.” Their being 528 disappointed ones somewhere, Mrs Plenderleith kindly handed the coveted doll back to its little mistress, Jeanie Short, who received it with smiles.

The Creevey Papers

Thomas Creevey


Thomas Creevey was born in Liverpool in 1768, allegedly the son of William Creevey, a Liverpool merchant, he is believed by some to have been the illegitimate son of Charles William, 1st Earl of Sefton. After graduating from Queens College, Cambridge in 1789 he was called to the bar in 1794. In 1802 he married Eleanor Ord, the Widow of William Ord a Northumberland Landowner and M.P. for Newcastle, and daughter of Charles Brandling of Gosforth. Eleanor was also a distant cousin of Charles Grey and a friend of the Prince of Wales. A socially and politically advantageous match, it was no coincidence that in the year of his marriage, Creevey also became M.P. for Thetford.

Creevey was a Whig and a follower of Charles James Fox. In 1806, when the brief “All the Talents” ministry was formed, he was given the office of secretary to the Board of Control. In 1830, when next his party came into power, Creevey, who had lost his seat in Parliament, was appointed treasurer of the ordnance; and subsequently Lord Melbourne made him treasurer of Greenwich Hospital (1834).

Although he had a distinguished political career, Creevey is better remembered for the time he spent away from Britain. In 1814 he and his then very unwell wife, left England for Brussels where they were to spend the next five years. It was during this time that Creevey was to come to know the Duke of Wellington, and to have the distinction of being the first civilian to interview him after the Battle of Waterloo. It was during that interview that Wellington made his famous assessment of the battle “It has been a damned nice thing. The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”




Creevey had intended to write a history of the times he lived in, and apparently to that end collected and saved his own voluminous correspondence. He was a man of some considerable charm and this along with his intellect, meant many of the leading political figures of the day valued his company. As such he was afforded an uncommon degree of intimacy with them. His wife died in 1818 leaving Creevey with very scant means of his own. However, his popularity meant that his friends often looked after him although it was noted by Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville in 1829 “old Creevey is a living proof that a man may be perfectly happy and exceedingly poor. I think he is the only man I know in society who possesses nothing.”


Creevey’s “Execrable” handwriting.


Creevey died in 1838 and was largely forgotten to history. His papers were consigned to the attic of Whitfield Hall in Northumberland, after having passed to his stepdaughter Elizabeth Ord. As well as his correspondence, the papers include his journals, many were faithfully kept by Elizabeth, indeed she saw fit to transcribe many of them in her own hand. An act that has been much praised by those who have studied Creevey’s papers who describe his own writing, without exception, as “simply execrable”. However, Creevey is also known to have kept a copious diary covering 36 years of his life, but it was apparently destroyed sometime after his death by friends fearing exposure of the contents.

A chance enquiry during a tour of the house in 1900 led to the publication of ‘The Creevey Papers’. These two volumes captured the late Georgian era with sparkling political and social gossip and an almost Pepysian outspokenness, and they took London by storm. No one described more graphically the appearance, or recorded more faithfully the looks and the talk, of the royal personages and major politicians of the time. Not least among his humorous touches is the extensive use of nicknames for many of the major personages of the day, “Prinney” for George IV; “Beelzebub” for Henry Brougham; “Madagascar” for Lady Holland and “the beau” for the Duke of Wellington. Others include “Og of Bashan” “King Jog” “King Tom” “Niffy Naffy” “Slice” “Snip” and “Clunch,”.


A summary of royalties for the publication of The Creevey Papers.


The Creevey Papers are held by Northumberland Archives as part of the Blackett-Ord Family of Whitfield Collection. Due to its large size there is a huge amount of material not included in the original ‘The Creevey Papers’ publication, or its subsequent iterations. It’s likely that further exploration of the material could yield even more from this extraordinary record of a man’s life through a turbulent time in history.