Sunniside Local History Society

Waggonway (High) Row


Waggonway Row later known as High Row.

Many families occupied the houses, this article featured in the April 2006 edition of ‘Tanfield Railway News’ and lists just some of those families.

We have featured this entry by kind permission of Eric Maxwell and Eileen Martin


Waggonway Row (pictured above) was lived in from the 1840s until 1959. In 1909 there were 55 houses. There were allotments on either side of High Row but after the houses were made into through houses the gardens on the south side of the Railway were abandoned. From 1914 the back to back row was rebuilt and by 1918 the houses were down to 39 houses and by 1920 there were only 35 houses, this number remained until 1959. However by 1958, people were beginning to leave as four houses were unoccupied. The census information used for the nineteenth century gives surname, christian name, age, sex, marital status, relationship to the head of the household, occupation and place of birth, as well as the current address. After the last available census of 1901, other information is obtained from the electoral roll, which only gives the surname and christian name of those eligible to vote. In 1884, men owning or lodging in property worth at least £10 per year could vote. In 1918, men over 21 and women over 30 could vote and also soldiers and sailors over 19. In 1928 the voting age for women was reduced to 21. By October 1959, only one house in the centre of the Row was occupied by Stanley and Margaret Reay, who only seemed to live in the Row that year. They must have left before the October 1960s information returns, as by then the Row is not recorded. The 1959 OS survey recorded that Low Row, the original 15 house through terrace had gone and only eight houses of the older rebuilt terrace were existing. A late connection to the outside world came in the 1950s when a bus service to the Row was provided with three buses a day. In the first world war, only the Armstrong family were noted as serving in the armed forces. In the second world war, mining was a reserved occupation so for the Row only the young men and women who were not working in the mining industry could serve in the armed forces. In 1945, those residents on war service were John Skeen, Edwin Prinn, John Morton, Kenneth McCormick, Terence McCormick, Elizabeth Wails, John French and Terence McGahon.


The Vickery family, (pictured on the left) who came from Carhampton and Luxborough in Somerset, lived in Waggonway Row from 1881 until 1958. The original couple, William and Sarah lived there until 1920. They moved to Sunniside and celebrated their diamond wedding in 1932. Edward John Vickery also from Somerset, lived in the Row at first but moved away after 1901. An Edward John and Winifred Vickery returned to the Row and lived there from 1955 to 1958, giving a notable 75 year connection for Vickery from Somerset with the Row.

Pictured above on the right are High Row residents Joseph & Sarah Liddle. they lived in there from 1881 to 1958. Mrs Liddle (nee Prinn), married in 1899 to Joseph Liddle who was in the Row as a three year old in 1881, Sarah was related to the Taskas family. It was quite usual for people to marry locally. The Prinn family lived there for over forty years from 1913 until 1958, they came from Cornwall to the north east.


The Taskas family originated in Cornwall and moved north initially to North Yorkshire in the late 1870s, they came to the Durham coalfield in 1901. Thomas, (pictured above left) was born in Loftus in 1880, lived in the Row from 1901 to 1939 with his wife Lavinia, a member of the Prinn family, who continued to live there until 1945. Thomas' mother came from Gulval, west of Penzance on the way to Lands End. His twin sisters Ester and Elizabeth were born in Normanby on Teesside in 1882.

Pictured above on the right is another High Row resident, Esther (Grannie) Gibson who lived at no. 34, she had 8 children and lived until she was 95.

The Morton family lived in the Row the longest, for nearly 100 years from 1861 until the end in 1958 Michael McDermott, born in Whickham in 1856, and his family lived in the Row from 1899 until 1925. John and Sarah McDermott then lived there from 1925 until 1956. The Riddlers came from Somerset in 1891 and stayed there until 1909. There were two sets of Riddlers living in the Row at the same time, Robert and his family, and John and his family. The Gooch family originally came from Hempnall in Norfolk in 1881 and were still living in the Row in 1914 but had gone by the end of the first world war.

Thomas and Elizabeth Phelps and their children Alan, Herbert, Charlotte and Selina lived there from 1925 until 1939. Barty Phelps sold fish from a van for a few years in the 1930s. David Skeen and his family lived there in 1930. Then William and Phillipa Skeen lived there from 1939 until 1958, and David also lived with them from 1955 to 1959. Next door John and Doreen Skeen were there in 1950. The McCormicks lived there for over forty years from 1913 until 1958 and the McGahon family lived in the Row The Morton family lived in the Row the longest, for nearly a hundred years from 1861 until the end in 1958. They were a north east family originally from the Cramlington area. There were a lot of Mortons, which creates a bit of confusion. A 1930s tale tells of a new colliery under manager inspecting his workings and staff. The first person was the lampman, a Morton. Then came the onsetter, a Morton. The rolleyman describing the haulage system was a Morton. The next man was a pony putter, again a Morton. Then at the coal face, the hewer he met was a Morton. When back in his office, he suggested to the overman that the place be renamed Morton pit as they seemed to run it themselves. After the war, a John Morton was colliery manager and later area manager . Thomas Brabban and family lived there from 1861, when he was a miner, until 1909. He became colliery overman by 1901 aged 72. Another Thomas Brabban was a deputy overman in 1901 aged 35 and lived there until 1914. The Brabbans, a local family, lived at several places around Sunniside over the years. The Wailes family, originally from Lanchester, lived there for almost a century from 1861 until 1958. William and Winifred lived at No.23 from 1935 to 1945. Hilda Wails lived there from 1945 to 1958. Another local family, the Chisholm lived in the Row from 1851 to 1909. Robert Chisholm and family lived there from 1871 until 1909.

Other family names are still remembered from High Row among them the Lowdens, Thompsons, Ibbetsons, Cliftons, Gibsons, Pattersons, Ellisons, Bells, O’Rourkes, Tilleys, Keenans, Herons, Nixons, Browns, Prinns and Wails.

High Row was demolished in 1960, many of the descendants of those families still live in our villages.


This photograph of her mother Winifred (nee Massiter) and father William Wails was forwarded to me by Muriel Pyle (nee Wails). The photograph was taken in the early 1940's outside their home at High Row, Williams parents also lived at High Row. Muriel now lives in Whickham and has fond memories of her childhood days at High Row.