Sunniside Local History Society

The Crescent & Peter's Gates


The Crescent Sunniside

Where numbers 10 and 11 Fell Close are now, there once stood a house known as Blackburn Edge. It overlooked the Black burn and stood on the very edge of Lamesley Chapelry. From here a path crossed the burn and ran over to Old Sunniside. Here in 1836 lived Saint Bean, whose family came from the Morpeth area, he lived with his wife Mary, a local girl. Saint Bean was a Miller by trade but by 1851 he had become a flour dealer and shopkeeper, the family also kept a Grocers shop here until the 1880s. Saint Beans son Robert, set up a Grocers shop at Hill Row ( known later as Post Office Row ) in 1860.

By 1891 it seems that the house had gone, leaving only some out buildings and a greenhouse. Within a couple of years however, Sunniside House ( No 9 Fell Close ) was built and in effect took over as being the small holding here. From 1910 to 1921, Wilson Bell, cowkeeper and a miner at Marley Hill Colliery, had the place. Then later on Ernie Best, a lorry driver for Harry Kindred was here, he kept a few pigs on the allotment.

The Crescent we know today (pictured above on 29th December 2005) owes its existence to Mr Harry Kindred ( 1885 - 1960 ), Builder, and a Joiner by trade. Although he was born and bred at Alston, he spent about 25 yrs in Sunniside before he moved to Westacres Crescent Newcastle, and it was from Sunniside that he established his family business. In 1911 he built Linton Cottage, Cornmoor Road for Mr C.Morley, and in 1912 he was working with Will Hockey on seventeen houses at Whaggs Lane and Broom Lane.

After the Great War, he worked for a while as an Undertaker, but then decided to set up as an independent builder. On September 25th 1920, he began building the fifty houses at West Marley Hill for Whickham Council, having won the contract costing £40,309. Having completed his first major contract, he was able to buy the six acres of land where the Crescent now stands. Eleven semi's and self contained houses were built to a high standard, the upper half of the outside walls were rendered with pebble dash. Mr Kindred moved from Larch Street into the house he built for his own family, " Roseville ". He also built numbers one to eight Elm Street West, which sold for around £350.

He bought Sunniside wood ( later known as Kindreds wood pictured above on the left of the photograph) and it was clear felled, although a couple of beeches still survive next to the old railway line. This resulted in more open stretches of heather and local folk had picnics there. Some of Mr Kindreds workmen kept the boundary hedges cut.

In 1926 he bought the Westacres estate, Benwell Hill, and built sixty five houses. The Firms present offices at 371 West Road are built on the site of the former entrance lodge for the old estate. By 1934 the Firm had built 1,579 Council houses in Newcastle, and was employing up to 400 men. Harry was a member of Sunniside United Methodist Chapel, and when a Committee was set up in 1931 for the building of their new Sunday school, Harry gave invaluable advice. In 1933 he built the ten semi's at Fell View, ( part of the site was an old sand pit ) the houses were installed with electric lighting at the time of building. " Briar Rose " No 9 has a brick near the front door marked H. Kindred, builder.

At "Woodcroft" lived the Roddam family. Harry Bell Roddam (1895 - 1977), the son of John and Mary Roddam of High Row, was one of the most gifted of teachers at Marley Hill C.C. school. He gained his teacher's certificate at the Isleworth College, London. Harry and his sister Sally taught at Marley Hill in 1920's. They came from a mining family (grandfather) Willam was a back overman) but John was able to get out of the pit to work for an insurance company. Harry became the woodwork teacher at Dunston Hill school and retired here as headmaster. All his adult life was spent as a committed Christian, first as a member of Marley Hill Primitive Methodist chapel where he was a choirmaster, organist, and lay preacher.

" Glenthorn " at the entrance to Fell Close was built in 1938 and sold at £400. The fourteen or so semi detached houses at Fell Close were built in 1961 to complete the jigsaw. At “Springfield " the Crescent, Doctor Michael Bell had his weekday surgery, from 1953 until his retirement in 1987. Miss M. Dixon retired as Matron of Whickham Cottage Hospital and came to live at Springfield in the late 1950's, where she assisted Doctor Michael. After serving in the Army during the war, Michael studied at the School of Medicine, Kings College Newcastle. He qualified in 1947 at the age of 26 yrs and joined the Whickham practice in 1950. He started a surgery at Mrs Elliotts house in Elm Street, taking over from Doctor Wilkie and Doctor Eddy.

Where " Enwood " now stands, the Marley Hill branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers, built an Institute on land granted by the Earl of Strathmore, and opened in September 1921 by the Reverend John Arbuckle. Known locally as " the hut ", or by some, as Cranneys hut, it had two billiards tables and held dances and whist drives up until the second World War. John Aimers and Jack Finlay were the Caretakers in the 1920's, when the membership was about one hundred strong, and Harry Armstrong was the President.

The Marley Hill Branch of the British Legion was formed in July 1921, the first Officials were, Tom Simm, Chairman, Will Morton, Vice Chairman, Captain R.A.Dent, Treasurer, John Clark, Secretary, the Committee members were, James Blackmore F.Hudspeth, Tom Hogg, Charles Hogg, John Hogg, J.D.Morton, Will liddle, E.Hall, D.Walsh, Will Dent, S.Alfred, and W.H.Arnold. Both the Marley Hill and Sunniside Branches of the Legion ran the Institute, they amalgamated in 1936, Will Bellerby becoming Chairman. After the second World War about twenty members of the Marley Hill and Sunniside Branch of the Legion regularly attended monthly meetings at Marley Hill Miners Welfare Hall. Andrew Bateman was Chairman, Bill Young was Treasurer, and in 1948 Cliff Holt took over as Secretary from Jack Cape. They raised money for a memorial plaque, to honour the dead of the two World Wars, it was placed near the pulpit in Marley Hill Church, Lord Gort unveiled it.

On Remembrance Sunday, about fifty men and women marched three abreast from the " Travellers Rest Inn " up to Marley Hill Church for the service, they were led by a banner bearer and Tuppy Larmour played the Last Post. A colour bearer was nominated each year to attend the memorial service at the Whitehall Cenotaph in London to represent the Branch. Percy Mitchell went in the late 1940's, then Dick Palmer, and later Sid Harding. By the late 1950's membership had gradually fallen and the Branch Amalgamated with Swalwell.

Peters Gates pictured on December 29th 2005 the wagonway ran across the main road where the sign post stands on the right and the vehicle on the left.

The gate keepers lodge (pictured below with the Gates) at Peters Gates is marked on the 1858 Ordnance Survey map, and probably dates from the relaying of the Way in the late 1830's. There may have been a Gatekeeper here prior to this, to prevent farm stock from straying onto the wagonway. The lodge was made of large squared stones and had a slate roof. A large firegrate was inside, where good 'roundy' coal was burned. Beside it was a small oven to warm up a meal, and a wooden bench to rest on. A window looked onto the gates, and the stable type door could be left open at the top during summer weather, all in all a snug little place. Close by was a well which was used by the gatekeeper up to the late 1930's, Mr Harry Askew was here circa 1920 and Robert Boyd in 1934. Mr Boyd was wounded in the Great War and invalided out of the Forces. It was usual for disabled or long serving railway workers to be given a Gatekeepers job. Mr Carr, the Gatekeeper at Pennyfine Road in the early 1940's, only had one hand. Being employed by the North Eastern Railway Co. they wore the Companys uniform, were in the public limelight, and got to know the regular road users by sight.

Obviously the Keeper at Peters Gates had it a little bit easier than his counterpart at Pennyfine Road, e.g. in 1907 the two loco's at Bowes Bridge made twenty one trips between Sunniside and Tanfield via Peters Gates. While on average sixty six sets of wagons went past the gates at Pennyfine Road on their way down Bakers Bank each day. After the Great War, traffic on the Tanfield line declined, and by 1945 it had reduced to about one third of the 1907 figure. In 1957 the Keeper at Peters Gate only had to open and close the gates four times a day. The Engine Driver warned the Gate - - keeper of the approaching train by giving a couple of whistles, especially when coming down from Bowes Bridge. At times some of the trucks left the way, ( de-railed ). On January 30th 1937 much damage was done when three trucks crashed through Peters Gates, then one truck left the rails, the other two continued running down, and crashed through the gates at Pennyfine Road. The Gateshead breakdown gang were sent for to put things right.

A map of 1774 marks a place called the White House between Peters Gates and Blackburn Edge. Grove Terrace was built about 1912, and was owned by the Spence family as part of the Old Sunniside estate.

Following the removal of the railway track, the gates and gatekeepers hut was left intact temporarily. I found this photograph in the excellent Tanfield Railway magazine

Following the demise of the coal mines in the 1980’s most of the old wagonway running through Sunniside and onwards is now just a country lane (pictured above on the left) with little evidence that a railway track once carried thousands of tons of coal to the Staithes.

The exception is the 3 miles reconstructed section (pictured above on the right) of the Tanfield Wagonway from Sunniside to East Tanfield.

We can highly recommend the excellent book ‘ 1725 Onwards A Guide to the Tanfield Railway ‘ pictured below and published in 1998 by the Tyneside Locomotive Museum Trust.