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Memories from Elizabeth Stevens nee Richardson
Edited by Paul Lanagan, 2009
Memories relate to the 1930s & 1940s

Stocksfield Terrace was just off Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring

I have never been able to find anything out about Stocksfield Terrace [aka Stocksfield Place], situated up the side of the Black Lion pub, Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring. It is almost like it did not exist, but it did and I lived there from 1935 until May 1947. I moved into number 2 Stocksfield Terrace when I was 10 months old, with my older sister Patricia and our mum and dad.

There were three bay-windowed (and to all appearances bungalow) cottages joined together, with a garden to the front, which was surrounded by an ‘L shaped’ brick wall. The long wall faced the cottages and was one of the perimeter walls of the Cottage Homes. It had iron railings on top, but the shorter wall had broken glass bedded into the mortar top. There were brick gateposts but the iron gate had long gone. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

We used to try to make friends with the children from the Cottage Homes through the railings, but if a carer found them fraternising they would get a beating, so our chats were few and far between. They did say that they had to get up early and polish their shoes before going to school. They had their hair shaved off when they were admitted and wore tidy suitable uniforms for school. They did have swings in their playground! But we had a mum and dad, so we were lucky…

We were in the middle cottage. It had an entrance porch, with a coloured glass panelled door into the hallway, and a front room with iron fireplace and ceiling moulding around the light. We did have electric lights and a meter in the porch to put pennies in.

Halfway down the hall there was a door, which lead to a staircase to the basement.

Click to see larger plan of Stocksfield Terrace Click to see larger drawing of Stocksfield Terrace a.k.a Stocksfield Place
Click to enlarge drawings
Copyright © Books of the North 2009 - 2010.

Then there was the living room. It had a huge black fireplace with an oven to the side. Dad was a miner at Eppleton Colliery so we mostly had sufficient coal to keep warm, even in bad weather. Our only built-in cupboard was at the side of the fireplace. We never kept food in there because we only seemed to buy sufficient food for a day, unless mum kept things in tins. There was a stone sink in the corner of the room with one cold water tap.

A rear view of Stocksfield Terrace, seen from the Lake fairground, 1963
The rear of Stocksfield Terrace, seen from the Lake fairground, 1963.
Sunderland Street, and the roof of Mautland Street Methodist Church, can be seen on the horizon.

At the end of the hall was a curved staircase leading up to two attic bedrooms, one on ach side of the head of the stairs. The biggest one was over our downstairs rooms and the smaller one was over the living room of No 1 Stocksfield Terrace. They had an extra bit on the end to give them two bedrooms. The staircase leading to the basement actually led to what had once been stables. There was a sort of courtyard with three more stable doors, but we never found out what was in those stables in all the years we lived there.

However, there was a cold water tap on the outside wall and the fairground folk had permission to get their water supplies from it. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

Stocksfield Terrace was just off Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring
Stocksfield Terrace and its gardens in around 1880.
St Michael's Church tower can be seen in the background on the original photo.

The stable underneath our house had an area for doing the laundry, with a metal boiler fired by a coal fire under it, a cold water tap and mum's poss tub and mangle, and the next door neighbours as well. There also were two coal houses.

Outside and attached was a flush toilet, which, despite mum's cleaning down the walls, still had spiders in corners! This was to share with Mr and Mrs Wheatley. She was a relation of the landlady Mrs Forrester who lived in the first cottage on the left as you went in towards the Lake.

The opening to get to our backyard was next to her and then another cottage with a very elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Parry. They had one son called John who was about the same age as my sister and me. His father was VERY strict. He often took his belt to him when he was a minute late going home. I remember during some long winter when I was about 8 years old, his mum came knocking on our door calling for my mum. She, Mrs Parry, was distraught; John had contracted Diphtheria and had died. It was so sad; she had no other children to help ease her grief. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

So, again on the entrance to the Lake. On the left hand side, before Mrs Forresters, there was a mechanics garage. Opposite after the corner of Pallisters there was a blacksmith. Then a rather nice big house where Mr and Mrs Gavine lived with their daughter Olga.

Pallisters, Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring

Next to this was another detached cottage villa but we never knew who lived in this one. There were two warehouses next to it just at the entrance to the Lake.

One night during the War, Dad woke us up to look at the fire outside – one of the warehouses was ablaze. It belonged to Mr Wheatley and among the debris next morning were empty sweet jars.....no full ones!!!

The Lake itself was the playground at times for my sister and myself. We explored the streams that ran down the left-hand side and made slides down the grass of the right-hand side. Some way along the top of this grass was a sink outlet from Gilpin’s Cottages and I remember one day when I fell backwards into it and was covered in horrible smelly drain water.

But the best time we had was when the showpeople came for Houghton Feast. We loved the fairground even though we seldom had more than 3d to spend in the entire week. We would wander round the site every morning when the show folk were busying themselves, in the faint hope that we would find an odd penny or two!

The Lake fairground with Cottage Homes, Heath House, in background

My sister, who was older that me, loved the Waltzer because it went fast. But I was content with the shuggy boats and only if she would hold both the ropes and do the pulling while I held on tightly. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

I do remember when I was about 14 (and before the venue was moved to Dairy Lane) I had a go on a bingo stall and actually won a china tea set for my mum. She was so thrilled!

I have no idea why Stocksfield Terrace was so named but we did think it had been attached to the big house, the Cottage Homes, at one time and that they were grooms’ cottages, hence the stables which were below the stairs and in the yard. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

Elizabeth Stevens nee Richardson, 2009


Collected & Edited by
Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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