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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.
Now! It is always immediate. Ten years ago you had to be plumbed in, online at home writing into that blank space; today you can do it through a smartphone while walking the dog, on the commute or attending a conference. A penny for your thoughts? Your current, spontaneous, candid thoughts, perhaps profound, maybe mundane, we forgive you either way at the expense of openness and honesty.
So you get the ‘The Perfect Man’ recumbent rather than upright: never mind, this is how I read when I read at all: in bed or the bath (on the beach or a boat in summer).
‘Perorations’ is my Waller word this time, it was ‘splendiferous’ last week. He does tend to slip into the late Victorian / Edwardian lingo with ease. An Oscar Wilde in the making?
This is a book that crosses over in so many directions it is like a recently stunned and bundled blue bottle in a spider’s web; i would recommend it to gym owners and leisure centre franchises, I would recommend it to historians and to sociologists, I’d also recommend it as a biography whose narrative escapes into the literary.
Only now do I appreciate the war mongering, gung-ho dilemma faced by the British Empire when facing off first the Boers and then Germany; it even puts my late grandfather in context, born in 1896 and certain his earliest memory was of an enormous bonfire lit on the Spa Fields, Shotley Bridge, in 1902 when he was five, turning six so probable.
Toy Planes from Gamages
We used to send off to A.W. Gamages for these model aeroplanes made from balsa wood.
They were made with three-ply tea-chest wood and had a propeller with a bit of an elastic band. Gamages were at 116-128 Holborn, London. They sent you a 900 page catalogue every Christmas. Billy and I got paid lugging this equipment around for Lubbock, making deliveries to the big houses, which is how we got to know everyone, and fixing the cars. We knew what made the things tick and with no mechanics about we learnt to do the job. I could drive at 13; I’d manoeuvre them about the yard and from time to time father would take one of the cars saying he had to run it in or check the new tyres or something. There was no traffic to speak of, mostly gigs and tub traps. You had to watch out for startling horses and upsetting old ladies who liked to carry their loads down the middle of the road.
Canon Ross Lewin
There was Tatty Walton’s the Grocer’s and Addison’s the Newsagents. These supermarkets have killed all of that.
The pubs were the ‘Kings Head’ and ‘The Commercial’.
Canon Lewin lived at the Vicarage at 1 Church Bank.
He was in sixties and lived with his two sisters. They had two domestic servants. St. Cuthbert’s was designed by John Dobson, which says something about the money that could be raised in Shotley Bridge at the time.
I noticed in the Homemaker section of the Journal a house for sale by the riverside for £330,000 with twelve stables and lodges and fishing rights.
That was Lois Priestman’s House.
There were three brothers, another one was Jonathan Priestman, a long time MD of Concert Iron Works; he lived at Shotley Lodge. And one of them lived up at Snow’s Green.
Swimming by the Papermill Sluice
There were no swimming pools
We went down to the Papermill dam and used to swim under the sluice. The sluice runs for 600 yards alongside a gently running race. There are pools, rapids and diving spots. It’s still there, not operational though. The other place for swimming was Tiger’s below the Papermill.
We spent all our summers with a string and bent pin fishing for tiddlers.
The Paper Mill was owned by the Annandale’s.
They lived in a big mansion, Shotley Grove House up at Snow’s Green. James Annandale lived to be ninety. He was born in 1827 and died January 1917; my mother told me that in a letter I got when I was a Machine Gunner on the Somme. Mr Annandale’s wife was called Anne. They had four children: Charles, Annie, Nora and James. The younger James lived with his old man at Shotley Grove with his wife Elizabeth and their baby daughter Margaret; they had a domestic servant and a nurse of their own.
The Papermill produced 95 tones of paper a week and employed 300.
There were plenty from school got took on by the Mill, which was preferable than going down the mines and liked by some better than going into domestic service. The Papermill was established by John Anandale in 1799; that’s how old the sluice would be they put in to run the machinery.
General Factotum to the Murrays
We were living at Benfieldside, Shotley Bridge, Co. Durham
It was on the road which ran up to Blackhill on the way to Consett. It was eventually sold to the Consett Iron Company for £6,000 and became a students’ residence. It’s now part of Murray Court – opposite Saint Cuthbert’s Avenue which runs down to the Church. Dobson designed the Church, the man who designed Grey Street in Newcastle. So you see, there was a lot of money in Consett at the time. An Estate Agent bought the Big House in 1967, demolished the old house and built all those houses.
My father, Twentyman Wilson was general factotum to the Murrays
The Murrays owned the North Eastern Breweries. My father left Cumberland for Consett in 1894 to take up this position as a Coachman; he later became the Chauffeur when they got a car and they got another groom in. When J G Murray moved into Benfieldside House a relation of my father’s suggested that he apply for the job of ‘general factotum’ and a letter of introduction was prepared for him. This relation was a cousin Mary who was a domestic servant to the Annandales. She married a miner. I took your mother over there on one occasion to pay a visit but your grandmother was funny about it; bit of a snob to tell you the truth. Your grandmother didn’t know her own roots, her father had been a shop assistant when he started out. There was a lot of that going on, people doing well and moving up a peg. JG came from a farming background, his father set up a grocer’s shop, then a wine merchants, from that a pub and another grocers and so on. Once they got a dozen Inns they started the brewery. He had this idea of building a pub with a theatre attached. As the railways spread they built hotels by the stations. There was money to be made if you knew how. Consett in those does was a thriving town.
I had three aunties and two uncles on my father’s side
There names were Sarah (b1853), Thomas, known as Tom (b1856), Joseph (b1861), Mary (b1863), Ann (b1868) and Edward (b1874). So you can imagine, if there was a wedding or something the turn out could be huge. We had big families in those days, five or six children were the norm.
My father did all sorts for J.G: before the motorcars he looked after the horses – they had two landaulettes – everyone got around in carriages and pairs. He also had charge of the garden and would bring in extra men at busy periods to cut the lawns and such. That was done by two men hauling a cutter; none of these mowers you see these days.
Twentyman was well in with the Murrays. He was part and parcel of the outfit.
He used to look after the hunters and would go with J.G. (b1865) and the Braes of Derwent Hounds. Twentyman would take a second horse for J.G. to change onto when his became tired. The Braes of Derwent Hounds still go out – Otis Ferry, Bryan Ferry’s son, is the huntmaster.