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Houghton-le-Spring at War

Wartime Memories from Joan Lambton
Edited by Paul Lanagan, 2009
Memories from 1939 - 1945

Soldiers in the Chapel

My family have been very involved with Houghton Methodist Chapel since it was built and each generation has undertaken responsibilities for the premises. As a small child I was frequently with my Grandfather, Sydney Lee, when he was attending to the boiler and other matters at the chapel. I remember being told “Listen at this door, you can hear the soldiers moving about”. This was because during the War the rear premises were requisitioned. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.
It was explained to me, at about the age of 3 or 4, that the chapel had more rooms than I had been in (we only had use of the Church, its Vestry and old kitchen leading out to the boiler house) and that one day when the soldiers had gone we would be able to use those rooms again.

After the end of the War the rear premises were returned to us and work had to be done in them, including replacing the wooden floor in the large hall; it had had been badly damaged by the soldiers hob nailed boots (since then another replacement floor has been installed).

Mautland Street Methodist Church

I have seen some records of the building, which state that the rear premises were de-requisitioned in the very early 1940s, however they do not state that they were then again requisitioned by the Artillery for the remainder of the War. One means of proof of this is that in the very early 1940s I was not old enough to be able to be told and remember about hearing the soldiers in the hall! Another is that when some time ago I mentioned this error in the records to local man Jack Jordison, he said I was quite correct and confirmed what I had remembered.

Make Do & Mend

We lived by the mottoes “Make do and Mend” and “Waste Not Want Not”; of course this continued well into the Fifties. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

Part of the War Effort was 'Salvage'. Anything and everything was utilised and re-used. Aluminium was in great demand for aircraft production, so people were asked to donate things like pans and plates. These items were collected locally by volunteers before being passed on. My Grandfather was a collector for this purpose and before he passed items on he always put a hole through the metal item to prevent it from being used as it was known that some items were falling into the wrong hands and being sold rather than for the purpose for which they were donated. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

A Make Do & Mend poster from WWII

Because of his metalworking skills Granddad was in great demand for making items which were becoming scarce to buy. As an example, if a person could supply a metal tin he would cut and shape it, roll the cut edges and attach a handle, turning it into a scoop for measuring flour or sugar. He also made pastry cutters and shaving mugs. Of course the tins in those days were of a better quality than today!

Children's clothes were often made from adult clothes, avoiding the most worn parts of the material. Items were knitted from pulled out, previously used wool. There was always a mat in the frame which used any scraps unsuitable for anything else.

Eggs with Shells On

We couldn't get eggs, only powdered eggs, which had to be reconstituted with water; I was told that real eggs came with shells on. As often happened, my Grandmother sent me along to Mr Cook's shop at the end of Ironside Street for some items, and I took it upon myself to ask for some eggs with shells on! It was the talk of the street, little Joan asking for eggs with shells on!

These are recollections from a very young child and relate to the small world in which she lived, although this type of life would be repeated throughout Houghton and the Country. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

Joan Lambton, 2009


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

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The Gilpin Crest

PAGE UPDATED: 01/05/2011

sergeant frank stamp and houghton-le-spring 1941 Hurrican fighter plan crashed in Houghton-le-Spring.
A tank parked outside of Robinson's Brewery on Durham Road, Houghton-le-Spring, during the First World War.
Frederick Denby of Houghton, joined the Durham Light Infantry, was a prisoner of war for four years and returned home at Christmas 1918.
Soldiers marched along Church Street, Houghton-le-Spring, 1940.
Bombing raids in World War 2 in Houghton-le-Spring, included four high explosive bombs being dropped onto Houghton Cut in July 1940, and an incendiary bomb being dropped between Houghton and Seaham in March 1943.
Houghton-le-Spring's adopted warship is HMS Welland, which was adopted during Warship Week in December 1941.
George Fenton of Houghton served with 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, and was a Prisoner of War in Stalag 8B.
During the Second World War, in 1941,a Hurricane fighter tried to make an emergency landing on Houghon Golf Course. The pilot Sergeant Frank Stamp of the Royal Canadian Air Force sadly lost his life.
Captain William Brown, a Territorial Officer, was a solicitor in the Sunderland Street firm of Legge & Miller.