Tag Archives: blackhall

We Must Treasure the Good Times……..

Today I took my little mam to the pictures.  She loves going to the pictures.  Normally it is a scary movie we go to watch.  Today was no different.  She loves scary movies, although she often complains that they are not scary enough.  Time is running out, she’s 88, well 87 actually.  Her birthday is in 3 weeks time and then she’ll officially be 88.  We got there at one pm, the film was due to start at quarter past.  They hadn’t even opened up.  I don’t know how these places make any money.  Oh yes I do.  Nearly 20 pounds it cost, for an adult and senior citizen ticket, one small diet coke and a cuppa.  Yes that’s how they make their money.  I remember the days when………..  well you get my drift.

My mam walks with a stick so I have to get her seated and then go back for the refreshments.  She hates climbing the stairs to get to a seat but she doesn’t like to sit too close to the screen so up we go, my little mam hanging onto my arm and using her stick to help her up.  She chooses where we sit even though our tickets said we were to sit elsewhere.  I told the man when he asked which seats we wanted that we’d sit wherever my little mam decided to sit regardless.  He laughed.  Not sure I like this new practice of asking people where they want to sit.  The film seemed to take ages to start and then eventually we were off.  The sound is so intense sometimes but why of why does my mam insist on talking loudly during the quiet scenes.  Yes its embarrassing, but haven’t our parents embarrassed us all out lives.  When the film finished we waited until everyone had gone and then slowly made our way down from the gods, back to terra firma.  And we followed the same routine, stopping off at pizza hut on the way back to the car so my mam can take a pizza home for her tea.  Its little things like this that I will remember with fondness, and maybe shed a tear or two, when the inevitable happens.  My mam doesn’t understand why I want to take photos of her.  But I do, she’s my mam, and these are my memories.

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movie day two

movie day

Narrative

Albert Anson

My dad was born in the next village up from Blackhall.  His dad was from Sunderland.  I know little about my grandfather (he was knocked down and killed in Blackhall long before I was born) but in them days, men, and their families, moved around from pit to pit, going where the work was.  And there was plenty work to be had in Blackhall.  So when my dad was a young boy they loaded all their meagre possessions onto a cart and headed off down the road to Blackhall.

My grandfather worked in the pit whilst my dad, and his siblings, went off to the ‘school with the tin roof’.    Like many people back then they were very poor.  My grandfather was a Quaker and I remember my Auntie Margaret telling me that one Christmas when they had nothing a hamper was delivered to them courtesy of the Quaker Society.   When I didn’t get what I expected for Christmas I was often regaled with tales of how I should be grateful, that back in the day kids only got an orange or a few nuts or, if they were really lucky, a comic in their stocking. 

In the summer they were give a butty with either jam on, although many a time they could only afford to put a bit of butter on it.  And then they were gone, off out to play, never seen for the rest of the day, finding simple fun in building dens or climbing
trees, or as my Auntie Margaret told me once,  putting a pin on the railway tracks to see what would happen when the train ran over it. 

My dad was quiet and studious and he was offered a place at grammar school but, like many boys of that age, he chose to leave and go work at the pit.  For young boys, and girls, fetching money home was more important than education.   And with the exception of a stint in the army at the tail end of the second world war he remained working at the pit until an accident put paid to his working life . It was a Sunday and he shouldn’t really have been working.  He’d swapped a shift to help out a mate.  One of the wagons had cut loose.  He managed to jump out of the way but his foot got caught and the wheel sliced through it.  What was left of his boot was the only thing holding his foot together and if it wasn’t for the insistence of the pit doctor to keep it on he would have lost his foot altogether.  He was kept in hospital for a while.  He got gangrene and had to have numerous skin grafts but, eventually, he was discharged home, complete with a limp and a walking stick.  But that didn’t stop him wanting to return to work.  He felt he was quite capable of working on the surface if only they’d let him but he was refused, pensioned off, and that was the end of his working career at the age of 57. 

Narrative

Trying to write a narrative to accompany this project is, for me, so difficult.

The Road to Blackhall

For many years Blackhall was no more than a village to pass through, very rarely stopping, only maybe to visit the Co-op for bread, or milk, things you run out of or have forgotten to buy at the large supermarket in the neighbouring town.  I never noticed the inhabitants, never wondered who they were or what their lives were like in this ex-pit village.   But I have a history that connects me to this place.  It is filled with memories of my dad, Albert Anson.  He lived here, he worked here, he is buried here. 

I wanted to reconnect with him, with my history. I wanted to rediscover lost memories, create new ones.  I have a large collection of black and white photos, some taken when we were kids, happily laughing as we played on the beach, in the garden, or sat on the back doorstep.  Amongst them are photos of relatives and people I do not know, all long gone.  But in these photos I find a connection with my dad.   I find a connection with my past. 

And now I can add to that collection of photographs.  These photos that I have taken are the now of Blackhall, the people and their lives.  They help me to rediscover my dad and his past, and they reconnect me to him in such a way that I could never imagine happening. 

Blackhall is a survivor.  Once it had a pit but now it is long gone.  Once the people had employment on their doorsteps but now that is gone too.  My dad was born in a neighbouring village.  His dad was from Sunderland.  I know little about my grandfather (he was knocked down and killed in Blackhall long before I was born)    In them days men, and their families, moved around from pit to pit, going where the work was. 

The End of the Road

I have decided to end my project on Blackhall.  It has been a splendid time and I have learned such a  lot and met such lovely people.  But I need to concentrate on other projects now.  What I would like to do is write a piece to accompany the project so that it is all complete.  I will still visit Blackhall and its people and still take photographs but I would like to round it all up so that it feels all ready to face the world.  I had a dry run for an exhibition which was highly enjoyable but I am now looking forward to the next stage and showing people the work and what was behind it.

To say that I have grown as a person whilst doing the project is an understatement.  I have learned such a lot, about people, about Blackhall, about myself.  Who would ever have thought that I would have the nerve to walk into such a male orientated preserve as the Navy Club whilst the men took part in their weekly quiz.  Colourful language, smoking, drinking, and there I was in the midst of it.

And I have met some wonderful people, like Jean and Stephen Riley, mother and son who own and work in the top fish shop.  And of course the lovely Dot, such a vibrant character, always smiling.

To undertake a project like this would not have been possible without them all.  How lucky am I to have this heritage right on my doorstep.  And its all thanks to my lovely father.  God bless him.

Blackhall Library

Thank you so much to Carol who runs Blackhall Library for allowing me to show some of the photographs that I have taken in Blackhall.  It was such an honour and a pleasure.  And the best bit about it was having some of the people that I’d taken photographs of come along.  It was so nice to see them and that made my day.  It was a bit of a whirlwind getting them ready for exhibition as I only had two weeks but I got there in the end.   And even thought it was for just one night I am hoping to have them on display again soon so that more people can see them.  It was a very proud moment and I hope that if my Dad was looking down he’d feel proud of me.

Blackhall Library Exhibition

Blackhall Library Exhibition

Lazy Friday Afternoon

Visited a few places in Blackhall to say hallo to some of the people I’ve met and taken photos of over the year.  Riley’s was my first stop as its one of my favourite places to go to, and the fish and chips are lovely too.  Got a lovely photo of Stephen stood in the doorway.  He did nominate his mum but she ducked out.  He is always quite happy to have his photo taken.  He used to be in a band so he’s used to it.  And he takes a good photo too.

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And then I popped down to Snipz to see how it was going and maybe get some shots.  Sadly all the ladies were in various degrees of having their hair done so weren’t too keen on having photos taken.  But I stayed and chatted to Ann and some of the customers and had a bit of a laugh with them.  Some you win, some you lose.  The only photo I managed to get was a cat in a window.    I seem to be collecting photos of cats, and dogs, in Blackhall.  At least they can’t say no to having their photos taken.

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Blackhall Bound

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Finally got out and about in Blackhall even though it wasn’t for long.  Had a lovely walk around.  Didn’t get no photos but it was nice to walk the streets again and see a familiar place.  The last few months have been very hectic, work, life, everything seems to get in the way of taking photos at the moment.  And the weather, hate it when its cold and wet, just want to hibernate away until Spring.  I’m still posting photos on the Blackhall History facebook page so that people know who I am and what I’m doing.  I’m hoping that people will trust me to come and take some photos in their homes.  That’s what I’d like to do next, get to see family life.  I’ve made a few more contacts, met some lovely people at the WI.  Its been a long progress and I’m not the most disciplined of people but I’m sure I’ll get there in the end.  What’s important I think is the enjoyment that both myself and the people whom I involve get out of it.  And I’m sure my Dad would have been proud of me too.  I always feel a connection to him whilst I’m in Blackhall and that’s what this project is all about, exploring that connection and exploring the streets and haunts that my Dad would have walked along or visited.

What I do love about Blackhall too is the vibrancy that you get when you walk along Middle Street.  This is what makes Blackhall unique, and is what possibly keeps it alive.  I know I’ve spoken about this before but at lot of pit villages died when the pits were closed but Blackhall hangs in there.

Stand in Middle Street and see the lovely people going about their business, the footfall, the traffic, its the hub and its busy.  A lot of people choose to look at the downside of many places, how people are alienated, how desperate lives have become, how people are struggling to survive.  It might go against the grain but I want to show the positive side of a place like Blackhall.

 

December creeps ever closer

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There’s something about this time of the year that slows you right down.  Makes you want to not get out of bed and stay indoors all day.  Yes I know, its the bloody weather.  But that aside I haven’t been out much lately to take photos down in bonny Blackhall.  I really want to take more photos of the people that live there and I’m trying to get some more involvement.  That’s my next step.   I’ve been having something of a mini exhibition of a facebook page entitled The History of Blackhall Colliery in Images.  And everyone loves the photos.   But let me take some more of you lovely people.  Dip your toe into the water, its not that bad really.

 

Back to the tea dance…………

One of my friends at work mentioned her Gran and Grandad attended an evening tea dance in Blackhall so I thought I’d pop down and see if I could get some shots.  Some of the tea dancers I’d met last year were there so it was nice to see familiar faces.  Again I was welcomed with open arms.  People can be so friendly.  That’s something I’m finding out everytime I go out taking photos.

I loved taking photos of them dancing but I find that the photos I take whilst they take time out, including their tea break are the most interesting.  I love seeing people sitting chatting, interacting with each other.  It reminds me alot of my dad.  He was a quiet man but he loved getting together with people and having a good old chat.  And I’m sure he would have loved to attend the tea dance too.

I even got a cup of tea and a biscuit when I was there.  The lovely Doris looked after me and found me a mug and even poured mine out first.  And everyone insisted I had a biscuit so I eventually relented and had one.  Doris even washed my cup up for me.  And they wouldn’t take any money of me, but I will insist next time, especially if I keep going back.  Which I might just do because I see my dad in some of their faces.  When the old gentleman smile I see my dad smiling.  I know that sounds soppy but that’s just how it feels.

And I might even have a go at some of the dancing.  The music is not quite up my street, I’m more of a Who fan!  But the dancing does seem to do them good and as people often say, its just what the Dr ordered.

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My mam and dad used to play bingo a lot.   Not at these big places, like Mecca, but at clubs in the nearby villages.   Sometimes they won, sometimes they didn’t, but for them it was a night out. A chance to meet up with friends, have a few beers.  I was never a big fan, I hate not winning. One the few occasions I tried my hand at it, and that was at Mecca, I always came away disappointed.  So I never went back.  If I ain’t going to win I’m not going to play.  I always found Mecca quite soulless.  There was never that friendly atmosphere that you’d get at the small clubs.  You didn’t really feel part of the crowd.   I didn’t discover that friendliness until I attended a bingo and quiz night at the Navy Club in Blackhall.   For me it was a baptism of fire.  Not only was I part of the crowd but I had to approach people to make sure they were happy at me taking their photos.  There were some familiar faces there which made it a little easier.  I worked my way round the room making sure I didn’t miss anyone out.   And for someone who hates approaching people it was amazing.  Everyone was happy to have their photo taken, and they were all interested in what I was doing.  I had a secret weapon of course.  It helped massively that I lived in the next village and that my family came from Blackhall.   Alot of people I spoke to actually knew my dad or the family and regaled me with tales from the old days.  It might sound sentimental but I felt like I was close to my dad that night.  I was living and breathing his past.  I felt immensely at home and for someone who has never fitted in that’s pretty good.   I got some decent shots too although I had not taken into account the fact that the room would be so quiet when the bingo was on.  Yes, my flashgun gave out a lovely little sound as it fired up again and I was so aware of it.  Everyone was concentrating so hard and I was so worried that I was putting them off.  I bid my goodbyes later that evening and even attempted to thank everyone over the mike, although it came out more as a mumble and half the people didn’t hear me. Still I got a round of applause.  My confidence is growing!

 

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bingo night

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bingo night four

I had another visit to Riley’s fish and chip shop to see the lovely Jean and her son Stephen.  Had a lovely time there taking photos although my flash gun had run out of batteries (must remember to pop some in my bag for spares – so disorganised) so the lighting is not perfect.

The more I visit them the more I get to know them and the more I like them.  Why, because they’re lovely people and what they’re doing is fantastic.  Jean has worked in fish and chip shops for a lot of years and this is the first one they’ve owned.

And its a fab little place.  These are the places we should be supporting, our local businessess.  These places hold communities together.  They are a lifeline to some people.  Just by popping out for a bag of chips you get to talk to someone, chat to your locals, talk to the owners, talk to the customers.  Hear the local gossip, what’s going on in the village.

I popped in a few days ago, not to take photos, but as a customer.  And how nice it was to chat to Jean and Stephen.  Very welcoming.  And of course the fish and chips was reet good too.

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I look forward to going back again, with a working flashgun, to get more pictures.  And to finding our more about them, and the people of Blackhall.

Blackhall Navy Club

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This was my second visit to the Blackhall Navy Club.  The first was many years back when I went there with my Uncle Tom (whom I have now found out was called The Guvnor) my cousins Kathleen and Mark, and my hubby Ed.

We went from there to The Hardwick and then to the RAFA club.   This time I was only accompanied by a camera.  I went to the Navy Club by chance to find the owner of the Hardwick.  I was told he spent afternoons there before heading around 4.30 pm to the Hardwick.  He wasn’t at the Navy Club but I fell in with these guys who were holding, a quiz which I never got to establish if it was weekly or daily.  Well to be exact they asked me if I was brainy to which I replied of course.  They then told me to take a seat and help with the quiz.  They were friendly and welcoming and even offered me drink and cigarettes, both of which I declined.  Only because I was driving and I hadn’t touched a cigarette since I was around seventeen years old.

I had a fabulous time.  Laughed quite a lot.  At the jokes, at the language, at some of the quiz answers.  Some of them were ex-miners, the mere mention of Margaret Thatcher brought them out in a sweat, such was their animosity towards her.  But who can blame them.   She destroyed an industry, a way of life, communities, people, of course they should hate her.

Even though I am of a certain age now and probably not far behind these guys I felt like a young girl again and I felt as though my dad was around.   I could picture him doing just this on a cold, miserable afternoon.  Doing a quiz, sharing a joke or too, having a pint, no smoking mind, he gave that up a long time ago.  And I think he would probably have got more questions right then my measly one.

 

 

 

 

 

Fish and Chips

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Riley’s or the top fish shop in Blackhall.  Been around for a lot of years.  Visited it many times with my dad to get fish and chips, especially on the way home from grocery shopping in Hartlepool.

And fish and chips………………what memories does this simple meal evoke.  Who doesn’t love them.  And the best way to eat them, in paper whilst walking along a windswept promenade, soaked in salt and vinegar, the fish and chips that is.

This is Stephen in the photo.  He runs Riley’s with his mum.  She has worked in a fish and chip shop for 40 years.  This is the first one she has owned.  Its a new old business, if that makes any sense.  The shop has been around for years but Jean and her son have just had it for about nine months.

They have just joined my project and I look forward to visiting them again in the new year and taking lots of photos.  I only wish I could capture the smell that emanates from a fish and chip shop.  And how on earth I will resist the glorious chips and scraps I do not know.

 

 

 

 

Little Gems amongst the Coal Dust

bijou eight

bijou four

bijou one

bijou three

bijou two

bijour five

Meaning of the word persistent…………..

  1. Continuing firmly or obstinately in an opinion or action in spite of difficulty or opposition
  2. Continuing to exist or occur over a prolonged period

Whichever meaning you pick, as I think both are equally suitable, persistent is certainly a good word to describe Blackhall.

It was a word used by Ruth, proprietor of Bijou, as we chatted about the village.  And Blackhall is a survivor.  It seems that whatever has been thrown at it over the years it picks itself up, dusts itself down and gets on with it.

And its lifeline, or beating heart, is Middle Street.  It has an eclectic mix of shops running along it.  Some have been around for a lot of years too.  And Bijou is one of them, its name the perfect accompaniment to the tiny shop.  As I mentioned earlier Ruth is its proprietor.   She rents the shop off Anne, owner of Snipz, the hairdressers, next door.  Ruth has been running her shop for 13 years.  An unlucky number for some but not for Blackhall.  Ruth was born in Peterlee but has lived in Blackhall for most of her life.  Some of the community spirit has gone, she told me, due to the terraced houses being used mainly for rental but she enjoys living there.

And her shop is fabulous. The walls are lined with books of all descriptions.  Fiction galore, all arranged in their relevant genres.   Non-fiction delights can be found on the shelves too.  There are toys, children’s clothes, 45’s, LP’s, glass display cabinets with lots of lovely glassware in them.  There’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre but it’s a great place to explore.

I even bagged a lovely little book whilst I was there too, Turner’s Visions of Rome. Printed in 1925 it has some lovely plates of Turner’s work from his tour in Italy.

Even though my dad died long before the shop opened he would have loved it.  He was an avid reader, he loved his books (most of which now sit on my bookshelf at home)   I can just see him diligently scanning all the books, looking for a good thriller to read.

I will be going back soon, to rummage amongst the 45’s (I already have my eye on some Dave Clark Five singles), and to take more photographs.

 

 

 

 

Shampoo and Set Ladies

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This is Jean.  She popped into Snipz for a shampoo and set.  Sent her son off home telling him she’ll ring when she’s ready.  Jean lives in Horden, alone, in a three-bedroomed house.  Her husband died in 2008, five years after her 49 year old daughter died.  She won’t move, doesn’t want to, its her home.  She was a lovely lady, lovely to talk to.  Very open and had a lovely smile.

This is the first time I’ve sat and talked to people, and taken photographs of them.  I was nervous, very nervous.  But I struck lucky that day.  I got to chat to some lovely local people.  Gave me confidence for the next time I go in.  Everyone was so warm and friendly, the staff, Anne and Pauline, and the customers.

I met interesting people and got to see inside one of the shops I’d passed many times in my life.  Snipz has been there for 35 years.   Not many businesses can say that these days.  Hairdressers come and go, not all survive.  They follow the trend and when the trend changes they have nowhere to go.  Places like Snipz survive because they’re not pretentious.  They are what they are.  They don’t have fancy equipmenta, they have what they need to cut and style hair.  I hope the owner, Anne, doesn’t mind me saying that.  But she’s a credit to Blackhall, done something a lot of people haven’t been able to do, run a successful business for 35 years.

I felt comfortable there, can’t wait to go back.  Can’t wait for the Christmas hairdo rush.  Can’t wait to meet more lovely people .

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Bijou

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Bijou by name. ….
Time to get back to Blackhall.   Got some lovely people to meet and take photos of.   Want to explore what life is like for families in Blackhall now.   This is the next stage in my project.   More pictures to follow. ….and hopefully I’ll get some nice stories of life in Blackhall too.

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Some test shots from the Blackhall Tea Dance held every Friday afternoon at the Blackhall Community Centre.  These lovely people welcomed me with open arms and kindly let me take photos of then. I promised I would go back and back I will go.  I may even give the dancing a go too.  It was such a lovely afternoon.

Brought back memories too of my mam and dad dancing around the living room. My dad would let me stand on his feet when I was a little girl and he’d waltz me around the room.   I loved it and would get him to do it again and again.

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I couldn’t let the weekend go without paying a tribute to my dad.  He died 18 years ago on 1st October.    He had a heart attack, his second in 3 years.  This one was fatal unlike the first, the paramedics couldn’t do anything and he died on the dining room floor.   I’d just arrived at work when I got a message to ring my mam.  When I rang her she was frantic so I headed straight over there.  Her lovely next door neighbour (whom I’ve known since I was 6) was waiting for me at the end of the road.  He took my hand and walked me along the path to my mams house.  The paramedics had left by then and my dad was still lying on the floor.  I didn’t go in to see him, didn’t want to.  I wanted to remember him alive, happy and smiling.

That day was the worst day in my life.  It was like the world had ended.  Nothing would ever be the same and it isn’t.  Its like a little bit of the light has faded.  Nothing every seems as bright.  Even now after all this time.

I still think about him, still sometimes dream about him.   Think of him when I play his records, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, he loved them all.  Think of him when I read his old books, he was a big reader, loved thrillers and Ed McBain.

And I still miss him.  God bless you pops.

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My dad was a quiet man, always reading or doing crosswords.  I think that is where my love of books comes from.  He was clever too.  Offered a place a grammar school but didn’t take it, instead opting to go down the pit instead.  His family were very poor so he saw it as his duty to help provide.

He was a happy man though, in fact his nickname was Happy.  When we were kids he used to say to us, “They used to call me Happy but look at me now”   I have no idea where that quote came from, whether he made it up or not, but it will always remind me of my lovely dad.