About this site

This is the post excerpt.

I decided to start this blog so that the names and stories of relatives can be shared. I hope that people will contribute their memories

1921 Census: The Lee family at 19 Tyne Terrace 

In 1921 there were nine people living in 19 Tyne Terrace. The census says that there were three rooms. If my memory serves me right there were four rooms in the house – a small front room, an even smaller kitchen, a back bedroom which was home to two China Stafford dogs and a piano, and an upstairs bedroom (although I can’t remember any stairs).

At the time of the census Bart (grandad) and his brother Jim were out of work. Grandad’s entry says he was on strike. I assume that this was part of the national strike when miners were on strike for several months in response to the demand for wage cuts from the mine owners.

The Lees of Avoca and Coundon

Patrick Lee and Mary Mulholland were married on 21 January, 1859, at Redcross in the parish of Avoca in Wicklow, Ireland. Patrick was 23 at the time and probably worked in the copper mine at Cronebane near Avoca. They went on to have ten children, of whom only five lived to see their 25th birthday.

At some time between 1867 and 1870 they took the decision to move with their five children to Tottenham in Coundon in order to work in the coal mine at Leasingthorne. There were already Lees, who had recently left Ireland, living and working there when they arrived.

Mary gave birth to a further five children in England but she succumbed to tuberculosis and died as a result of the disease on 9 February, 1880, at the age of 38.

Patrick lived for a further thirteen years after Mary’s death until 1893 at the age of 58. He had remained loyal to his Catholic Irish roots. There is a story that he was thrown off a train at Croxdale while trying to stop an Orange parade. His life had not been easy. Working a a coal miner, moving from Ireland, raising ten children in a two bedroom miner’s cottage, seeing the premature deaths of his wife and four of their children clearly took its toll. The cause of death on his birth certificate indicates that he had a cancer in his lip which frequently bled. Hardly surprising, then, that the death certificate finishes with one word – “exhaustion.”

The children of Patrick and Mary Lee

Ann Lee was baptised in Avoca in December 1859. In the 1881 census she is described as the “housekeeper “ of the house at 741 Tottenham Square following the death of her mother in the previous year. She died of tuberculosis (TB) on 23 November, 1883 at the age of 23.

Thomas Lee was baptised on 31 March, 1861. In the 1871 census he was described as a scholar and in the 1881 census as a coalminer. He married Sarah Jane (Sally) Halliday of Wharton Street, Coundon in 1887. In 1891 they were living in Pit Row, Middlestone with their first two children and Thomas’ brothers, Jim and Pat. Their last years were spent in an Aged Miner’s cottage. Thomas had been a Deputy Overman in the pit and Sally was known as a dressmaker. They had a child who died and four others – Jim (who became Head at St Joseph’s in Coundon), Mary, Harry (who became an Anglican vicar) and Lucy (Sharkey).

Julia Lee was baptised at Avoca on 9 February, 1863. In 1871 she was attending school in Coundon. It is likely that she assumed responsibility for helping to raise her younger brothers and sisters and she undoubtedly nursed her mother when she succumbed to TB. Julia died six months after her mother, on 12 July 1880, suffering from the same deadly disease.

James Lee was born in Avoca on 26 May, 1865 and was baptised on 27 June. In 1881 he was a putter in the mine. In 1891 he and his younger brother, Patrick, were living with elder brother Tom and his wife, Sally, at Pit Row, Middleston. In 1901 he was a boarder in the home of Eliza Moyle in Wharton Street, Coundon. He married Annie Cullen on 30 October, 1909, at St Wilfred’s in Coundon in Bishop Auckland. However, in 1911 he was boarding with several others in the house of Joseph Cooper in Eden Terrace.
In 1921 he was living in 19 Tyne Terrace, Tottenham with his brother, Bart and his wife and 6 children. The census describes him as out of work but Bart is described as being on strike, as part of a national strike of miners.In 1939 he was living with Patrick and his wife Esther (nee Cullen) in Esk Terrace.

Patrick Lee was born in Avoca on 1 September, 1867. At the age of 14 he was working as a putter (someone who pushed waggons full of coal from the seam to a horse road or mechanical haulage road) in the mine. He worked in coal mines throughout his life, eventually becoming a Deputy Overman. He married Mary Moyle in 1892. Their children were called Bennet, Bart, Eliza (stillborn), Patrick, Billy, Jack, Seef and finally Elizabeth who died shortly after being born. Mary also died in 1906 following the birth and Patrick married Esther Cullen in 1910. In their later years together, Patrick’s brother Jim came to live with them at 7 Esk Terrace. Patrick died in 1942 at the age of 75.

Eliza Lee was the first of the children to be born in Coundon. She was baptised at St Wilfred’s, Bishop Auckland on 30 January 1870. She died on 5 October 1878 suffering from acute meningitis.

Mary Lee was born on 11 November 1871 and was baptised on the 19th. In the 1881 census she was described as a “scholar “ but it is highly likely that she had assumed some of the domestic duties following the death of her mother in 1880. When her father died in 1893 it seems that she and her brothers and sisters had to leave the house at 741 Tottenham and they were spread out among relatives. Mary suffered from TB for at least 18 months toward the end of her life. She died, at the age of 23, at 767 Isaac Houses in Tottenham. This was presumably the address of her brother, Patrick and his wife, Mary. Patrick was present at Mary’s death and signed the death certificate with an “X”.

Lucy Lee was born on 9 January 1874 and she was baptised two days later. At 17 she was an apprentice dressmaker. She married Tom Garnett and in 1901 they were living in Esk Terrace with two children and her youngest brother Bart as a boarder. By 1911 they had been married for fourteen years and had six children – Teresa (later Collins), Jim, Eliza (O’Connor), Agnes, Bart and one month old Lucy. Three other children had died. Mary (later McGowan) and Tom came along in subsequent years. At the start of the Second World War they were living in Howlish View. As well as being a dressmaker Lucy was an accomplished cook and it was said that she could make a meal out of a banana.

Christopher Lee was born on 10 December and he was baptised on Christmas Day. At the age of 15 he was working as a “driver” in the coal mine. A driver usually had responsibility for the pit ponies. He died as a result of TB on 2 September 1898, aged 22.

Bart Lee (Grandad) was born in 11 September,1878. Three weeks after his birth his eight year old sister, Eliza, died and sixteen months later his mother died. In these circumstances it would have been expected that Bart, the youngest of ten, would be cared for by his elder sisters but TB had other ideas. It was a disease which swept through the house. Julia died from TB six months after her mother’s death, aged 17. Ann succumbed to TB in 1883.
His dad died when he was 15 and some time after Bart went to live with his sister Lucy. He worked as a hewer in the coal mine. In 1907 he married Maggie Golden and they lived at 19 Tyne Terrace. They had eight children – Patrick, twins Katy and Teresa, Jim, Tom, Bart, Lucy and Peg. He never forgot his Irish roots and used to claim that he was born on the boat coming over. He died in 1964.

Maggie Lee (nee Golden) with Lucy Lee (Harnett), c 1930s

Growing up in Newton Aycliffe, 1955-1966

My parents moved to 40 Cumby Road in 1952. In common with many who moved to Newton Aycliffe from Colliery towns and villages, they must have thought they had arrived in paradise. Indoor toilets, gardens and clean, open spaces were the kind of things you wanted when you were thinking of starting a family. I came along in 1955, my sister in 1958 and my father was killed in a road accident at Rushyford five months afterwards. We stayed at Cumby Road until 1966.

We played hide and seek, knocky  nine doors, marbles, tiggy on high, ball tiggy, hopscotch, rounders, cricket and football. I rode my bike everwhere. It was second hand when we got it and was had the BSA logo on – my friends said it stood for Best Scrap Available. We went on rides past Bakelite and the hospital at School Aycliffe and on to  Heighington or Redworth, along country roads with very little traffic. A lollipop stick in the spokes meant you could pretend it was a motor bike. If there weren’t enough bikes to go round someone could always get a croggy.

Sometimes we would walk over the railway bridge and look for newts in the pond or sticklebacks in the stream. We might have jam sandwiches and one of us would have a glass Lowcocks bottle filled with water. There was a penny deposit on the bottle so it was important to bring it back intact. We had to be back in time for tea so we kept an eye on the time by blowing on dandelion clocks, making sure we were not the one to pick the dandelion since everyone knew doing so made you wet the bed. We watched spuggies fly and learned about other birds by collecting the Brooke Bond picture cards which came with packets of tea. My grandmother would not entertain the new fangled tea bags when they came out – she also preferred Izal to the new soft toilet paper, but that’s another story.

On Saturday morning we would watch films in Beveridge Hall. They were usually Westerns which involved horse chases where the Goodies (Cowboys) vanquished the Baddies (Red Indians). Television was in black and white with two channels. There was Watch with Mother – my favourites were The Woodentops – and Children’s Hour with The Lone Ranger, Robin Hood and Ivanhoe.


Cumby Road c 1961 Back row, l to r: ?, Jean Lawson, John Lawson, Susan Aspey, Elizabeth Miller. Front l to r: Trevor Kirby, Moira Kirby, Julia Lee, Michael Lee.

Money held a certain fascination for me and coins were a plaything. Farthings went out of circulation in 1961 but there were plenty of them about and I loved the smallness of them and the wren which was on the reverse. We had ha’pennies, thre’penny bits, tanners, bobs, florins, half crowns and guineas. Shops advertised in guineas – a neat trick to make you think you were paying less than you really were.

October half term was known as Tatie picking week. My cousins and I picked potatoes once. It was back-breaking work for which you received a handful of coppers and a turnip at the end of the day. I remember the pride I felt when I handed this over to my mother as a contribution to the household budget.

There were random acts of kindness. One Christmas Eve we found a turkey on the front step. My mother never found out who left it there.

My first school was St Augustine’s in Darlington. We caught the bus from the Iron Horse. I was fascinated by the smell of beer which rose from the cellars. One day my sister and I went to the off licence there to buy a birthday present for our mother. We asked for Babycham, obviously persuaded by the advertising which said that everyone loves a Babycham. At first we were refused because we were under-age but when we explained what it was for we were given a bottle in a brown paper bag.

I went to St Mary’s when it opened in 1962. I remember the nuns, Sr Joan, Sr Eugenie and Sr Paul who became Siobhan. Sr Eugenie’s brother and his family came to stay with us and we went to stay with them in Ireland where I learned to milk cows by hand. I recall catching Mr Richardson out in a cricket match. The top class took on the rest of the school in a violent game of Zulu which was swiftly banned. We played the equally rough British Bulldog instead.


St Mary’s First Communion, 22 July, 1962 (I was always the shortest boy in class)
Back 1 Peter Errington, 2 Jimmy Reid, 3 John Smith 4 John Pick, 5 Michael Lee, 6 Stephen Molyneaux, 7 Arthur Robinson, 8 John Gill 9 Fred Judge 10 Philip Simpson, 11 David ? Pettigrew , 12 Thomas Mordue, 13 Terry Smith, 14 McGowan?. Girls:Front 1 Mary Loftus, 2 Mary Molyneaux, 3 Judge? 4 Anne Hall? Second row 1 Joan Porter, 2 Veronica Harnett, Third row 1? T2 Patricia Hood. I stand to be corrected on these.

The carnival was one of the highlights of the year. There was a parade of floats which culminated in a huge gathering on Simpasture. There was a fancy dress competition and I was thrilled to win it when my friend, Stephen and I dressed as the Bingo King and Queen. He didn’t want to be Queen so I wore the pig tails. Bingo was becoming a big thing, providing women with an opportunity and excuse to visit clubs which had previously been the preserve of men.


There was another big gathering on Simpasture when the real Queen visited in 1960. She visited a house in Barrington Road and I thought that they would be amazed at answering a knock on the door and finding royalty outside.

People of a certain age tend to know where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I was next door in the Miller house. I walked in and noticed that, instead of Coronation Street, the television was playing classical music and the screen was filled with a picture of a piano with a candelabra on top. My mam was upset.

There was very little traffic on the roads. The pop lorry, mobile shop, coal man, or rag and bone man turning up was quite an event. If you had something for the rag and bone man you got a balloon in return. Mr Whippy sold us an ice cream cornet with monkey blood on the top.

At Cumby Road we were on the outskirts of the town. A new phase in the development of the town came with the building of Elmfied, Oakfield, and Greenfield. We regarded the vast building sites as an adventure playground and had great fun climbing the scaffolding while keeping an eye out for the Gadgie – the feared night watchman and his Alsatian dog.

In 1966 England won the World Cup and we moved to 11, Taylor Walk which overlooked St Mary’s school and church.

St Mary’s football team, 1966. Back row l to r: Thomas Mordue, Peter Kavanagh, John Dent, Paul Dumbell,  Nigel Pickersgill, Peter Dumbell.  Front: David Lyons, Philip McGuire, Peter Johnson, Michael Lee, David Walker


The extraordinary case of Abigail Bell and Joseph Dance

Abigail Bell, my great great Grandmother, was living as a pauper in the Newcastle workhouse in 1841. She was 14. Ten years later she was living as a lodger in 23 Sandgate, Newcastle. The head of the house was Jane Roberts, a washerwoman. In the census Abigail is described as an “unfortunate girl”. This is probably a way of describing an unmarried mother. Living at the same address was a 16 month old child, William Bell.

At some point Abigail became associated with Joseph Dance but her life didn’t get any better as this newspaper report of 20 December, 1856 suggests:


In 1861 the 33 year old Abigail was living with Joseph Dance (36) as a “lodger”. The census entry describes her as a dressmaker. In 1862 their daughter, Jane, was born. Life did not get any easier as this newspaper report of 14 March, 1863 shows:


This account provides more detail of the same event:


Some time after this incident Abigail and Joseph moved to Murton, County Durham. Joseph found work in the coal mine. Abigail died in 1869 having suffered from a form of TB for fifteen months. She was reported as being 42 years old and her surname was recorded as “Dance”. It is possible, therefore, that Abigail and Joseph married,  although I have been unable to find a record of their marriage.

Joseph continued to live in Murton with daughter, Jane, although the 1871 census describes the 9 year old as “a relative” rather than daughter.

in later years Jane married George Hodgson. They had four children – George, (John) Joe, Jim and my grandmother, Abigail.

Death certificate for Abigail Dance (nee Bell):