I am writing my memoirs of my life as far back as 1916 during the First
I was born on September 4th 1908 in Usworth, which was coupled
together with another village called Washington Village.
Usworth was split into two by two owners: High Usworth and Little
Usworth. I was born in Little Usworth.
The owner of Little Usworth was strictly against alcohol and said, "No
public houses would be built on his land." To this day there are no
public houses in Little Usworth, however he did allow a Working Men’s
Club to be built, this was joined with the C.1.U. [ Club & Institute Union ]
My parents told me that the first lights ever to be lit in Usworth were lit
at 2 o'clock on the afternoon of September 4th 1908.
To give you an idea of the size of Little Usworth: if a person was to
walk from Usworth Station up to where the Usworth and Washington
Club was, past the Washington P. M. [New Rows] Chapel to the bottom of Havannah
Bank and turn right to High Usworth at the top, if you turned left you
would go to the church and if you tuned right you would come to Coach
Road, to the flat tops, along to the New Row where the bus station is
now, along Richardson Terrace to Edith Avenue and Usworth Pit to
In 1916 when the first world war was on and as a small boy I used to
stand in the queue at the Maypole or Meadow Dairy for five or six hours
for either 1/2 1b margarine or 1 1b of black treacle.
Now if we go back to Usworth Station, on the left side over the rail lines
was a very large field stretching from the station to Usworth Pit. It was
known as the Bull Field. During the war, three regiments camped in the
Bull Field - the Notts, the Derbys, and the Leicesters. In addition, soldiers were
stationed in the New Inn and in the Washington Miners' Hall. The
Salvation Army Hall was made into the cookhouse.
Coming back to Usworth Station, if you walked towards Hylton Castle
you would pass a farm on your left hand side where Mr & Mrs Holmes
and their three girls lived, Hilda, Florence and Baby Jean. When the
young men were out for a walk on a Sunday morning they used to call
into the farm and get a glass of milk with a fresh egg in it for 1d (one
penny in old money). Everyone knew about it. A remedy for a hangover!
About 250 yards past the farm, a railway line crossed the road, this
belong to Lord Durham. This line was laid to only run his coal wagons
from his pits to the coal staithes at the water's edge for dispatch.
Just a little further on was a public house called the Three Horse Shoes,
from the pub there was nothing but fields until you came to Hylton
Castle, known as the "Cauld-Lad-of-Hylton." Coming back to the Three
Horse Shoes, across the road was a large field, which became Usworth
Aerodrome for the Royal Flying Corps. This field was a public walkway
and anyone could walk across it to what was called The Marble Arch
and on to Washington Station, where there was a large chemical and
cork works. My sister worked there in the cork works making life belts.
I cannot tell you how many aeroplanes were at the aerodrome, but to
make you smile a little, a man in the flying corps, an 'odd job' man
called Twinner Greigs, was in the Workmen's Club one time and a
woman asked him if he ever 'went up', he replied: "I only come down for
my meals!". When the war ended, the aerodrome closed and the
buildings lay empty. Then the men came home from the war. When they
got married they had nowhere to live, some of them went to squat in the
buildings. They made their 'houses' nice and clean, quite a lot of people
lived there, on a fine day the men used to meet at a corner of one of the
buildings to talk and sometimes play cards for either a 1/2 d (a ha'penny)
or a Id (a penny) a hand.
The village policeman used to come and try to catch them playing cards,
he knew them all. One day when they were playing cards, he got off his
cycle and shouted "I will bring you all a summons later." One man
shouted "if you bring me one, I will put two cartridges up tha' spout".
When the PC called at his house, he had his gun and he fired it. I
cannot tell if the PC was hit and I am sorry I cannot say any more.