Remembering Shields’ farms and cottages

A few years ago, Andrew Grant gained a history degree from Sunderland University as a mature student.

His interest in local history was further heightened when he became a member of the South Shields Local History Group.

Now he has researched and written a series of articles about farms and cottages in South Shields – specifically those that have associations with his own family.

First of all, he looks at Moor Lane Farm, which was situated in Moor Lane, Cleadon.

“A farm had existed on this site for 300 years,” reveals Andrew.

“It was owned by the Moor (sic) family.

“William Hodgeson, a former editor of the Shields Gazette, wrote in his History of South Shields, that Joseph Mason Moore, who was a solicitor and partner in the Shields’ firm of solicitors Maxwell and Moore, moved, with his family, to the town, from his native Middlesex, in 1854.

“Doris Johnson, a well respected former local studies librarian, wrote in her book, South Shields In Old Picture Postcards, that Joseph Moore was a member of South Shields Council, from 1862 to 1871, when he resigned from the council to become Town Clerk following the death of Thomas Salmon.”

Mr Moore was said to be a keen gardener, who, once a year, opened his garden (at Harton Hall, Harton Village) to the public, where he provided music and refreshments for his guests.

Andrew said thanks to research carried out by his cousin Sylvia Hudson, he was able to establish a link between Moor Lane Farm and his own father, Lewis Grant’s side of the family.

“Sarah Hall, who was one of my ancestors, married the son of the Moore family.”

Andrew goes on to say that the farm itself ran behind the Vigilant Pub, in Moor Lane.

“Moor Lane was a reasonably sized farm, with cattle, pigs, hens and goats.

“My ancestors would sell some of these animals to earn a living. In addition, they sold hens’ eggs and cows’ milk, as well as butter and cheese to further supplement their income.

“This was further supplemented when they sold crops such as barley and wheat.

“However, if the crops were destroyed by bad weather, this would affect the farm’s income.”

In those days, continues Andrew, it was not always possible to take regular holidays “because there were too many jobs to do on the farm”.

“The farmer and farm workers’ day lasted from the crack of dawn until midnight and sometimes beyond.

“The book, The History Of The Parish Of Harton, states that Joseph Moore was the Town Clerk of South Shields from 1871 to 1892 when he retired.”

He was Mayor of South Shields from 1870 to 1871.

Andrew goes on to say that the Moore family gave funds to help establish the Ingham Infirmary, while they also gave money to set up the South Shields High School for Boys.

Despite the family’s philanthropy, Joseph Moore, incurred the wrath of local people in 1880.

For according to Hodgeson, during the town’s first secret general election, Joseph had to face a hail of stones.

He retired as Town Clerk on October 5, 1892.

“Sadly,” ponders Andrew, “there has not been a farm there for many years now.”

l There will be more of Andrew’s farming and cottage recollections tomorrow.

l Tuesday’s Time Of Our Lives’ feature about butchers included two photos of Hudson Street, South Shields.

I have been asked to point out that the pictures belong to Bill Clavery, and apologise for any confusion their inclusion, without a credit to Bill, may have caused.

Today local history enthusiast Andrew Grant continues his fascinating look-back at South Shields’ farms and farming families.

 “It seems hard to imagine today, that a farm existed in the centre of South Shields, but this is exactly where Colley’s Farm was.

“According to Caroline Barnsley’s excellent book, South Shields Through The Ages, the Colley family’s farm was situated where the main site of South Tyneside College is now, in Westoe Village.

“The family had owned the farm for 100 years, but there had been a farm on this site for more than 300 years .

“The haystacks and lovely leafy trees looked south towards Grosvenor Road, and its pond and ducks brought children flocking down the lane during the summer.”

Andrew reveals that before Colley’s or South Farm was built, the lane led through Wilkinson’s Farm yard, Meadowcroft and Ivy House, which was part of the original farm buildings.

“My mother, Phyllis Grant, whose maiden name was Charlton, told me that my cousin, Dorothy, who was a little girl, aged five in the 1930s, asked her mother Annie and mine, to take me to Colley’s Farm to pick buttercups and daisies, which they did.

“Sadly, the farm was demolished 1953 to make way for the building of the college.

“Thomas Colley, who owned the farm in 1953, was the grandson of Ralph Colley, who established this wonderful family farm in 1865.”

Next, Andrew looks at The Nest, which was the old thatched cottage, near the Trow Quarry.

“Doris Johnson, in her book South Shields in Old Picture Postcards, writes that this was the home of the first on-site foreman for the building of the South Pier,” continues Andrew.

“My family connection with The Nest was with my grandfather, who was obliged to go there to obtain his instructions from the on-site quarry foreman regarding his duties for that day.

“There were quite a number of these cottages, built by the workers when they arrived in the 1950s.

“These cottages must not be confused with the rows of buildings, called the Bent’s Cottages, which were built for the miners working at Westoe Colliery.

“The Nest was, writes Doris Johnson, quite close to the old borough boundary stone.

This led to the road running from the Broadway Estate, down to where the Water’s Edge public house car park is today, at the Trow Rocks.

“My cousin, Sylvia Hudson’s research has revealed that my great grandfather, James Hall from my father’s side of the family, was the stableman at Trow Cottage.

“My father, Lewis Grant lived at Trow Cottage, with his grandfather and grandmother and his uncles and aunts, from 1910 to 1938 – the first 28 years of his life.”

Andrew said his dad had terrible asthma, which was helped by the fresh air and good living afforded by living where he did.

“He was well loved, and looked after by his family.

“My father’s family had a small holding with some animals such as hens, chickens, ducks and cheese.

“My father’s family, the Hall’s, were called upon to go to the town docks to bandage up boys who were injured when they climbed the rocks in this area.

“My family were very brave. They swam out and rescued people who were trapped by the tide.

“My father’s grandfather, uncles and cousins saved many people who would have drowned without their help.

“Sadly, my father could not swim, which is why he was unable to take part in the rescues.”

 Andrew goes on to say that there were games of pitch and toss at Trow Rocks, when his family lived at Trow Cottage. “At first the police could not stop these game because the police force at Houghton-le-Spring (whose authority they came under) could not get to the games quickly enough, because people were watching out for them.

“Then the government placed the police under the authority of officers in South Shields, who obtained intelligence that a big game was going to take place in the town and raided the Rocks.

“A lot of people were arrested and the game was broken up and a lot of money was recovered.

“The games stopped when it was reported in the South Shields Gazette, and it was talked about for along time.

 “South Shields has changed from being a rural area when there were many farms and cottages to an urban area now. “