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{$text['mgr_blue1']} Nessworthy 4


By Dorothy Simpson (nee Nessworthy)


Dorothy Simpson

Dorothy Simpson

In the nineteenth century Preston village was just that -– a small hamlet in what was then South East Northumberland surrounded by fields and bounded to the north by Whitley Bay and the south by North Shields. Inland was Wallsend. The late Victorian and Edwardian eras showed progressive in fill of the land with housing and the boundaries between the settlements became blurred. Today North Tyneside is a single urban sprawl spreading along the north bank of the River Tyne from Newcastle upon Tyne to the coast at Tynemouth.

Boundary changes in the 1970s carved this area out of Northumberland, creating the new County of North Tyneside. On the subsidiary page are maps comparing both the county surroundings and the local environs of Preston Village in the 1850s and the present day.

The village

Rosebery Avenue, Preston Village

Rosebery Avenue

When I was three years old we moved house from Cullercoats to Preston Village; to a newly built flat at No. 80 Rosebery Avenue. There was a living room (which we called the kitchen), a scullery, two bedrooms and an outside flush toilet. The 'mod cons’ were electric lighting and a cold water tap.

My real memories of the village began when I was five years old and was allowed out of the back yard to go to school -– King Edward’s Infants School -– which was about a mile away. My mother took me on the first morning and my father picked me up at dinner time and after that first day I went on my own.

The village then, was a real village surrounded by farms. There were three 'big houses' where the well-to-do people lived. At its heart were quite a few very old slum cottages which were built round a large cobbled area between Front Street (the main road through the village) and Rosebery Avenue. There were lots of alleyways and cobbled streets and many other rows of cottages. The village had three pubs: The Spread Eagle, The Bamburgh Castle (long since demolised) and The Sportsman, a blacksmith's shop, a post office, three or four small shops, St Andrews Church, a reading room and a cemetery. There had been a village school sometime before but now it was derelict. There was also an abattoir at the end of the lane and often animals would escape and we would see them come running down the street trying to avoid recapture.

Present day Preston Village from the air

Preston Village (1)

Most of the villagers were very poor as it was in the days of the Depression. My father had no work for years. He was a shipyard driller by trade who used to go down to the gates of the shipyards near the ferry to wait for work. Things did change and there was plenty of work leading up to the war in 1939 and during the war.

Mr and Mrs Forest had a house shop, and used their front room as the shop area. They sold all manner of things and sweets. We used to buy a "ha'penny prog" sometimes. This was a square board with holes in and a 'prog' on a stick which you stuck in a hole and always got a mystery prize. Most often this was a small toffee bar but sometimes you were very lucky and got something letter, like a chocolate bar or a sherbet dab. You always got something for your ha'’penny.

Mr and Mrs Forest eventually moved to a proper shop at the top end of the street not far from the abattoir and they were then able to sell many more things. It was a very handy corner shop where we often went for groceries. I especially remember the vinegar. You had to take your own bottle to be filled and I always had a sip of it on the way back home.

There was a sort of island in the middle of the main road to the left of The Sportsman and some of the cottages. This area was subject to flooding after a spell of heavy rain. In the lane behind them, Mrs Forest's mother had her own little shop where she sold sarsaparilla and ginger beer.

Front Street, Preston Village

Front Street

The Sportsman public house

The Sportsman

As can be seen from the aerial photograph above Preston Village appears as a letter "A" with its cross piece formed by Front Street. The farms and fields have disappeared: the green area to the west is Tynemouth Sports Club and to the east are the playing fields of a community high school. The Spread Eagle Pub is to be seen on the south side of Front Street at its eastern end; the Sportsman at the western end. Most of the old village has gone. St Andrews Church was demolished and in its place there now stands a block of flats which bears its name. The old Reading Room is now used as a Scouts Hall and sees duty as a voting station at election time. Post Office Lane is no longer a thoroughfare but leads to the rear garden of one of the larger houses.

The Spreadeagle Public House

The Spreadeagle

The Old Reading Room, Preston Village

The old reading room

Continued in column 2...

Added April 6th 2006
Last updated: September 7th 2015

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There are Readers' Letters associated with this article


Post Office Lane

Post Office Lane

Miss Pettigrew, another old lady, was the village post mistress. She ran her shop at the corner of Post Office Lane which was also a general dealers.

Two elderly sisters, the Miss Humphreys, lived in the large double-fronted house on Front Street next door to the Post Office. They always wore long black dresses and white lace caps. The village children would stand outside their gate chanting "Lady, Lady" and they would come out and give us old Birthday and Christmas cards. We thought they were treasures.

Mrs Young was another character. She was caretaker of the village Church of St Andrew. She was a bit of a sourpuss and was always on duty at the door of the church hall on social occasions, sitting at a small card table taking the entrance money.

There was Tony, the ice cream man, who came around the village with his barrow and a large barrel of ice cream. If we were lucky we could have a halfpenny cornet with raspberry on top. The milkman also did his rounds with his churn and measuring jugs on a barrow. He was followed by the wood seller who came around with his horse and cart loaded with bundles of firewood.

Mr Kimber was a round jolly old man who used to stand at the bottom of the school lane and give us a sweet (I do remember those 'Black Bullets' and 'Winter Warmers') to suck on the way to school. I wonder what would be thought of him now!

I do remember one other old woman, Lavender Lil they called her, who was often seen around the tenement buildings next to The Spread Eagle selling bundles of lavender and boxes of matches. It was said that she came from a good family but that she had been crossed in love or jilted and had run away from home. She was always very dirty and smelly. I have never liked the scent of lavender since.


We had many playmates as the village children always played outside in those days. We amused ourselves with balls, skipping ropes, tops and whips. We often played up the lane by the old school. Another things our friends would do was to swap comics with one another. We had an endless supply of The Dandy, The Beano and other comics but I don't remember ever buying any myself.

Dorothy as a child at play on Tynemouth beach


Joan Maynard, whose parents managed the Spread Eagle, was one of our best friends and we often had concerts in the yard behind the pub. We advertised our activities and charged a halfpenny to get in. We were always sure of an eager if small audience. Joan, my sister Audrey and I used to make up plays and sing and dance. I once did "Burlington Bertie" -– top hat and cane and all borrowed from Joan's father and mother who had been 'theatricals'. The few pence collected was later spent in the little sweet shop.

When we were old enough we joined the Brownies and later The Guides. Meetings were held in the Church Hall at the end of the street. Our Guide Mistress owned a chalet on Tynemouth beach and we were sometimes taken there for a treat. We would walk all the way down to the beach for an evening of games and eats and then all the way back again (about three miles in each direction)

Every year there was a village sports day on the field up the school lane. All the usual events were laid on: egg-and-spoon, three-legged and obstacle races and the tug-of-war. My memory seems to tell me that we always picked a fine day.

Every November on Guy Fawkes night the owners of Preston House used to have a huge bonfire and a fireworks display. The big back gates would be opened for all the villagers to attend. This was just on the other side to our house so we had a very good view.

The end of childhood

Senior School uniform 1940

Senior school uniform

The next great happening in my life was when I was eleven years old and passed the eleven-plus examination which allowed me to go to the Grammar School. I was the first and only child in the village to do so. I was very proud of my school uniform. Unfortunately war broke out before I was able to get to my new school and education was very interrupted for months.

I left school in 1945 and got a job in the laboratory at Hedley's Soap Factory, which was later taken over by Proctor and Gamble. I worked there until I married in 1948. It was then that I left the village to start married life with my husband, who was a marine engineer, across the River Tyne in South Shields.


Tom Maynard
The Spread Eagle

LEFT: Portrait of Tom Maynard RIGHT: The Spread Eagle, Preston Village

The picture dedication

The Dedication

Born Thomas Lonsdale in Liverpool in 1882, as a young man he became a singer and comedian appearing in vaudeville, pantomime and light opera. He took the stage name Tom Maynard and was known for his catch phrase "The Dotty One". His wife, Helen May, was an opera singer and both performed on occasion with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. They became prioprietors of the Spread Eagle Public House in the 1930s. During his tenure as landlord, Tom commissioned two paintings by artist W.A.Mallock which hung in the bar of the pub. The first of these is a magnificent portrait of himself. The second is a view of the exterior of the Spread Eagle which includes the bench which enclircled one of the two elm trees in stood in Front Street. Tom and Helen ultimately moved on to the Marquis of Lorne, North Shields.

Images of the two paintings are © copyright and have been supplied by David Jeffries, Tom Maynard's grandson.


1. Aerial view of Preston Village, North Tyneside: Multimap

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