The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery
Houghton Hillside Cemetery
Hillside & Houghton Le Spring Info




William Standish Standish was a person of nobility and was one of the first people to be buried at Hillside.  He was buried in July 1856 and local myth says that he fell over the cliff whilst riding his horse, but records show he died as a result of an illness in his bed at his home at Cocken Hall.  Research has shown that William's ancestors were royalty and included King Edward I, King Edward II, King Edward III and Prince Edward the Black and King Richard II.

Williams correct name was William Standish Carr, however in order to claim an inheritance left to him a condition of the will was that the Carr part of his name be dropped and replaced by the name Standish.  This was done and he then became known as William Standish Standish.

The inscription on the tomb reads:  'Within this tomb lies the remains of the deservedly lamented William Standish Standish esq of Duxbury Park County of Lancashire and Cocken Hall County of Durham who died at Cocken Hall July 10th 1856 aged 48 years.  Blessed is the poor in spirit for such is the Kingdom of Heaven'

  Cocken Hall, Home of Wm Standish Standish

In the south trancept of St Michael & All Angels Church on the right hand side is a stained glass window.  The inscription below reads 'In memory of William Standish Standish Esquire of Duxbury Park County Lancashire Cocken Hall in this County born December 7 1807 died at Cocken Hall July 10th 1856 aged 48 Buried in the Cemetery of this Parish.  Apicture of the window will follow once the scaffolding currently in front of it is removed.










Rector Grey is buried at Hillside.  His tomb was initially surrounded by iron railings but they have long since been removed.  There are large yew trees growing next to his grave.  Rector Grey consecrated Hillside 1854 after alot of controversy.  His main rival during the controversy was Thomas Usherwood Robinson.  We are led to believe that whilst Rector Grey lay dying in his bed he could hear the rock face being blasted in order that he could be buried.

On the right side of the chancel in St Michael & All Angels Church is an inscription in the panelling which reads ' This inscription is placed here by the Rector Reverend The Honourable John Grey in greatful rememberance of his tried and steadfast friendship during 50 years'




Thomas William Usherwood Robinson was born on 26th January 1826. He was the son of George and Elizabeth Robinson and he was baptised at St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring on 14th July 1826.
Thomas’s father George was the Maltster at the Brewery in Houghton Le Spring, a role his mother Elizabeth would take over on the death of his father and eventually Thomas.
Thomas was married twice, firstly in 1854 to Margaret Webster the marriage having taken place in the district of St George Hanover Square in London. Margaret however died in 1865 and was interred at Hillside. They did however have 3 children, George, Gertrude and Avery Norman. 
Thomas later married Isabella Widowfield in 1869. Thomas had further children with Isabella, Abbot Harold, William G, Richard H, Elfrida H and Mary.
As well as being the local owner of the Brewery he was also the Church Warden during the controversy which took place over the consecration of Hillside. Thomas was totally against its consecration and was one of the main objectors. This was a major issue for  
the Church Warden to go against the Rector, Rector Grey being the person responsible for the decision to consecrate Hillside. Thomas believed that no-one would wish to be buried in a ’quarry hole’. Thomas William Usherwood Robinson died on 25th August 1888 and ironically enough was laid to rest at Hillside. Throughout the records recording the burials which took place at Hillside 99% of the time the curates carried out the burial. Only on the odd occasion did the Rector carry out the service. However the entry showing the record of the burial of Thomas William Usherwood Robinson clearly shows that Rector Grey carried out the service. We can only imagine what Rector Grey would have been thinking in that his main objector to Hillside was actually being buried there and he was carrying out the service.
Thomas’s second eldest son Avery Norman Robinson inherited the brewery from his father and also eventually became one of the Trustees of Hillside. Again ironic to think his father had been one of the main objectors.
When Avery died he was the last of the Trustees to die and in his place G H Stevens a Solicitor became the manager of Hillside. His grand-daughter Virginia Gatherer is a current active member of the Friends Committee.
Avery was also interred at Hillside in 1923.


Pictured above left is the final resting place of Thomas William Usherwood Robinson and pictured right is the final resting place of his son Avery Robinson.

In the Church of St Michael & All Angels there is a window with the following inscription below it 'In memory of Abbot Robinson who died Dece 20th 1852 aged 24 years by his brother TWU Robinson'.

 A Picture of the window with the inscription upon it.




General William Beckwith and his wife Priscilla Maria Beckwith and his brother John Beckwith are buried at Hillside. General Beckworth was in the Hussars in the Army.  When he was a young man the Bristol riots were raging and General Beckwith and his men were called out to put the rioters down.  General Beckwith and his men galloped along and chopped everyone’s heads off.  He is buried along with his wife Priscilla Maria Beckwith.  They lived in Hopper House in Silksworth and Lady Priscilla Beckworth was responsible of the founding of the Catholic community in Silksworth. Lady Beckworth was a Catholic and buried in a Church of England churchyard. The reason being as there was no where else to be buried.  The headstone at Hillside has the Beckwith coat of arms upon it.

Beckwith Stone Found at Hillside




Edwin Place was the Sexton of Hillside.  The group have received some information from Mr Place’s grandson  of when he visited his grandfather at the lodge at Hillside.  Mr Place’s grandson says he remembers staying with his grandparents.  His grandmother would often ask him to go and get his grandfather for his supper.  Mr Place’s grandson was frightened of entering the site as it was spooky. Hillside was also full of goats which of course would keep the grass down.  He also hated the smell of the geraniums which were grown in greenhouses at Hillside entrance.  He still associates his fear of the site with the smell of this flower.

Other research has shown the following information about Edwin Place.  He was born in 1869 in Houghton Le Spring.  The names of his parents however are at present unknown.  In 1871, which was only 2 years after his birth, he lived with his grandparents Robert & Catherine Place in the Market Place Houghton Le Spring.  His grandfather was by trade a Tailor.  By 1881 he was then nearly 12 years old and lived with his uncle, Joseph Harrison and aunt, Elizabeth Robson at Seaham Road.  His aunt and uncle are listed as brother and sister.  In 1891 he had returned to live with his grandmother Catherine Place at 20 George Street.  Catherine was a widow and living on her own means.  Edwin was a coalminer.

By 1901 Edwin had become the Church Sexton and lived at the Cemetery Lodge at the entrance of Hillside.  He was married to Margaret and had three children, Ellen aged 5 and Edwin aged 2 and Margaret aged 1.  Records show that Edwin married Margaret Millen in 1895 in Houghton Le Spring.

Unfortunately Margaret died aged 27 yrs and was laid to rest at Hillside on 09.11.1903.

Edwin however remarried in 1905 and the 1911 census shows him still employed as Church Sexton and still living at the Cemetery Lodge along with his wife Agnes (nee Hoffman).  There is also a further child Agnes aged 5.  His previous 3 children also live with him.

Edwin died in 1932 and was also laid to rest at Hillside.  His memorial simply reads 'Sacred to the memory of my beloved husband Edwin Place 1869-1932'.










George Wheatley was a Crimean war veteran.  He died in December 1906.  The name Wheatley is well known in Houghton as in that he was the founder of the sweet factory in Houghton Le Spring.  He had 2 wives throughout the duration of his life.  The first died in childbirth and he fathered approximately 10 children with her and he went on to father another 10 with his second wife.  His second wife is buried with him at Hillside The leg isn’t buried with him!  From what is understood he was quite a colourful character.  His mother in law is also buried in the grave with George and his second wife.  He was in the battle of the Alma in the siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean war, a young lad of 19 on board a ship, the cannon on the ship back fired and blew off his leg so the rest of his life he had to walk around with a wooden leg.  He was pensioned out of the navy and returned to returned to Scotland where he ran pubs and eventually found his way to Houghton Le Spring and opened his sweet business.










SIR GEORGE ELLIOTT PICTURED ABOVE                                                                         


Of the vaults that were blasted into the rock face Sir George Elliott’s vault is the largest.  He was the local MP for NW Durham in 1870’s and his residence was at Houghton Hall.  As a boy he lived in Shiney Row and his job was a trapper down the pit.  He would go down the mine and open the doors when the miners came along with the tubs.  He used a quarter of his wages to fund evening classes and this is how his education was paid for.  He then went on and became a self made man.  He was very influential as an MP and worked for the Egyptian government and advised on various financial matters.  He also advised our Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to invest in the Suez Canal which resulted in England having control over the shipping routes in India.  He owned the company The Atlantic Cable Company which laid the first Atlantic cable.  On a more local level he arranged for a local company to assist in the building of Big Ben.  

vault dates from 1861 and he is buried with his daughter Elizabeth & his grandson.  George Elliott’s daughter Elizabeth died in Houghton Le Spring.  It is believed that her dress caught fire one evening when she was dressing for a party.  The fire swept through Houghton Hall and she died aged 20 years.  She was the first to be buried in the vault.  When her funeral took place her relatives came from far and wide.  Some of the relatives were from Sedgefield and it is believed while they were at the funeral their home caught fire so if it hadn’t been for them attending the funeral they would have died in the fire.

As a result of her death George Elliott arranged and commemorated the stain glass window behind the alter in the Chancel of St Michael & All Angels Church.  The people featured in the window are important people of Houghton Le Spring.  George Elliott is also featured in the window however he does not wear a halo as he is the only living person.

To the side of the window there is also a plaque which details the commemoration of the window.  It reads ' In affection rememberance of Elizabeth Elliott the east windwo of this church is dedicated to Almighty God by her parents George & Margaret Elliott of Houghton Hall of this Parish born AD 22.5 MDCCCXLI (1841) died 29 September AD MDCCCLXI (1861) The Lord Shall Be Thine Everlasting light and the days of thy mourning shall be ended Isaiah LX 20

George Elliott lived at Houghton Hall.  The building remains today and has over the years had many owners.  It is an Elizabethan style house which was supposed to have been built between 1589-1623 by Robert Hutton the then Rector of Houghton Le Spring.  Robert Hutton at the time owned a considerable amount of property in the parish.  In 1894, according to Whelans Directory Houghton Hall was still the property of the descendants of the Huttons.





Pictured above is the window donated by George Elliott and also the plaque containing the dedication.







Pictured above is a scene of how the Plateau area of Hillside looked before the headstones were removed and buried and the plateau area levelled.  Before this act took place the plateau was very uneven as you can see from this picture.







The original entrance to Hillside Cemetery was through the neighbouring Hillside Farm.  In 1873 the rock was blasted away and the Lych Gate and Lodge were added to the site. 

The earliest census available for the cemetery lodge is 1861.  However the census shows that Margaret Ward lived at the cemetery lodge but Charles Mason was the Sexton.  He lived further down Sunderland Street.  The 1871 census shows that Ralph Simpson a coalminer with his wife Jane occupied the cemetery lodge.  The 1881 Census records that William Reid, Parish Sexton lived at the lodge with his wife and daughter.

A trade directory from 1895 records that Georeg Brown, Sexton lived at the lodge and from the late 1890's until the 1920's Edwin Place was Sexton and lived at the lodge.  At the time of Edwin Place, goats were tethered at Hillside in order to keep the grass down.

Bill Scott was the grave digger in the 1930's and he also resided in the lodge.  It is understood that Bill was a drinker but not in public houses.  Instead his wife would make home brew in the cellar of the lodge.  One day a shelf collapsed and Mrs Scott cut her hands and knees.  Unfortunately she contracted blood poisoning and died.

Mr Ely looked after the cemetery in the 1940's and older residents of Houghton have recollections of him chasing mischevious children away from the site.  From the late 1950's until early 1960's Mr & Mrs Green occupied the lodge.  Unfortunately it was vacant by 1964 and it now lies derelect.  All that remains today is the outer wall which can be seen from the roadway.

The Lych Gate was damaged in the 1960s during a road traffic accident.  Sunderland Street became a dead end when the A690 was opened and the Lych Gate soon became overgrown and covered in ivy as Hillside seemed to become forgotton about.  The entrance to Hillside was no longer easily accessible and its visitors few and far between.

Once the Friends Group was formed the ivy was once again removed from the Lych Gate and the damage caused in the road traffic accident revealled to the group.  However the damage was restored when the Lych Gate and Railings were restored in 2006/7 by the group as part of their Back to Life project.  There are pictures of the restored gate and railings on the page within this site headed projects past and present.





The air raid shelter is located just within the entrance of the site.  It was recently re-painted before Open Day 2008.  Of late it has been used by the night visitors to the site to shelter in.  It has also had a fire lit inside and the charcoal remenents still remain there.  It has also been subjected to large amounts of graffitti which included posters stating 'Your Country Needs You' and 'Join the RAF' which encouraged more graffitti in the way of spray painted Nazi signs.  The group did discuss the possibility of demolishing it before they were aware of what it actually was however these plans have since been put on hold until the group can obtain more information about it.  For the time being the posters have been removed and the outside repainted to make it look more presentable!



Pictured above is the Air Raid Shelter before it was painted in readiness of Open Day 2008




Until 1962 the there were 4 war graves located at Hillside.  However due to the site becoming overgrown and neglected the War Graves Commission decided to move the headstones and they were re-located at the municipal cemetery on Durham Road, Houghton Le Spring.  However, earlier this year (2014) the Friends made a request to the CWGC to have the stones returned.  The CWGC agreed and temporary markers have now been put in place with a view of the Portland Stone markers being returned over the next few years.

   Frederick Henry Place


Gunner Frederick Henry Place died 4th February 1919 age 28 years. His service number was 98005 and he served as a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

  Frederick William Wheatley


Private Frederick William Wheatley died on 29th July 1918 aged 28 years. His service number was 34611 and he served with the 9th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was the son of John and Mary Jane Wheatley of 9 Ewe Hill Farm, Fence Houses.

  Arthur Ernest Richardson


Private Arthur Ernest Richardson died 5th March 1919 aged 24 years. His service number was 22/530 and he served with the 3rd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. He was the son of Charles and Mary Richardson.

  James Place


Private James Place died on 12th October 1916 age 19 years. His service number was 20880 and he served in the 6th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry.   He was the son of Joseph and Alice Place of 77 Sunderland Street, Houghton Le Spring.


Hannah Dawson (nee Finch) was the eldest daughter of James and Mary Finch.  James and Mary had 10 children at Warden Law, Houghton Le Spring between 1865 and 1881.  In 1895 Hannah married John George Dawson and together they had 6 children; Lydia Mary born 1896, James Robert born 1900, Margaret Hannah born 1901, Isabella born 1903, May Finch born 1906 and Herbert Seymour born 1909.  Hannah died in 1936 and John George in 1943.  The death of John George was somewhat of a mystery for a short while as the headstone clearly states that he died in 1943 however his burial entry does not appear until 1944.  After some research it was discovered that after the death of his wife John George had gone to London to live with his son; Herbert Seymour Dawson.  He died in the south and was cremated.  The following year his son brought John George's ashes to Hougton Le Spring for them to be interred adjacent to his wife Hannah.



Pictured above are Hannah Dawson, nee Finch (at the back) Hannah's daughter Lydia (to the left) with her baby Dorothy on her knee and Mary Finch, nee Ramshaw (to the right).  Sadly the baby died not long after the picture was taken.



Extensive research has been carried out in relation to the Finch family history by the Secretary, Janice Short and Treasurer, Brenda Harrison therefore if you have any particular interest in The Finches please contact Janice on

James Finch was born in 1836 in West Boldon, Tyne & Wear, or County Durham as it was then. He was the eldest son of Samuel Finch and Hannah Kirk. His wife Mary Ramshaw was born in East Herrington in 1845 and they married in 1865. They had ten children between the years 1865 and 1881. Throughout his working life he was employed in Agriculture and it was his trade that brought him to live at Houghton Le Spring. Sadly in 1888 he died, after being kicked by a horse although the death certificate states pneumonia.   An extract from James’ son’s inquest
states that his father met his end after being ‘kicked by a horse’.   Mary continued to live in Houghton after James’ death and brought up their children. Mary died in January 1923 and was laid to rest at Hillside with her husband James. 

The headstone you will note states that Mary's name is Mary Moore Finch. After some research it transpired that in 1902 Mary remarried a man named Thomas Moor who was the brother of George Moor of Great Eppletom Farm.  Thomas was as his family described him a bit 'of a jack the lad'.  Unfortunately the marriage between Mary and Thomas was short lived and after the marriage ceremony it is believed that they took one look at each, decided it was a mistake and went their separate ways. The marriage never to be discussed again within the family.  Although they did not live together as husband and wife when Mary died legally she was still Mary Moor and not Mary Finch and had to be registered as Mary Moor. So it appears her family slotted the Moore name into the middle of her name to merely acknowledge that this was her legal name.  The spelling is infact incorrect - her legal name was Moor and the headstone shows Moore. (If you have any interest regarding genealogy regarding the Finch's please contact Janice as both herself and Brenda have carried out extensive research into this family as both are descendants of Samuel Finch)

SAMUEL FINCH 1810-1901

Samuel Finch was born on 3rd December 1810 and was one of 7 children of Samuel Finch and Sarah Richardson.  Samuel married Hannah Kirk on 19th December 1835 at St Nicholas's Church in Boldon.  They had 9 children and lived at various locations around the North East of England.  They did however eventually settle in Houghton Le Spring. 

Throughout his life Samuel was employed as an agricultural labourer or a similar occupation.  This was a trade which was handed down to his sons and grandsons.

Sadly in May 1867, Samuels wife Hannah died and was laid to rest at Hillside.  Samuel remained a widower for 17 years, but in July 1884 he married Mary Embercox.  She was also a widow and this was a marriage that was to only last 4 years as Mary died in December 1888 and she was also laid to rest at Hillside.

After Mary's death, records available shows that Samuel lived with his daughter Margaret and her family at Newbottle.  However by 1901 Samuel was resident at the Workhouse in Houghton Le Spring.  A sad turn of events given how many children and grandchildren he would have had. In 1901 he was the eldest inmate at the workhouse.  Later in 1901 Samuel died and on 16th August 1901 was laid to rest at Hillside Cemetery.  His death was registered by Edward Foster, Master of the Workhouse. The group have recently been able to establish the exact location of Samuel's burial plot.

Pictured above is a view of the pathway leading to the Workhouse area.


Mary Hannah was the eldest son of Robert Finch (also buried at Hillside) and Sarah Ellen Cowie.  She was born in December 1891 at Warden Law, Houghton le Spring.  By 1903 both of her parents had passed away and herself and her sister Lily Esther and brother Samuel were raised by extended family members.  Mary Hannah married John Atkinson a railway worker on 25th December 1912.  They had six children: Robert, John Colin (known as Colin), Williamena (Known as Mena and was the Secretary Janice Shorts maternal grandmother), Violet, Maud & Norman.  Sadly their first born died aged only one month.  Robert suffered with seizures, a complaint which his mother also suffered from and which was to lead to her death in 1925. Mary Hannah was laid to rest at Hillside on 1st August 1925.   Upon her death Colin, Mena & Maud remained with their father, Violet resided on the farm with her mothers aunt & uncle.  Norman went to live with his fathers brother and did not return to the family fold.  It is unsure as to whether Norman is still alive as non of the children came into contact with him again after their mothers funeral.

Mary Hannah is buried directly behind her father in the extension of Hillside.


Pictured above left is Mary Hannah aged around 16 years old.  Pictured to the right is Mary Hannah with two of her children:  Colin & Mena.

Pictured above is Robert Finch, Sarah Ellen Finch (nee Cowie) and two of their children, Mary Hannah to the left and Lily Esther to the right.



A short while ago it came to the Friends attention that several of the re-erected headstones had been pushed over.  One of the stones, the Irving one picture above, has also broken in half.  Enquries have been made with the council who have assured the group that it was not their doing therefore the Friends are at a loss as to who has done such a terrible thing.

Pictured above is the Turner stone which is one of the only headstones still standing on the plateau.  The picture was taken on a bitter cold winters day.

Around the same time as fallen headstones were discovered the group also discovered the ever increasing numbers of mole hills.  These have always been present at Hillside however more recently the are not only increasing in number but also in size!!  The picture above shows the size of the hills at Hillside.


Pictured above is a copy of the grave plan of the extension of Hillside.  You will note that some of the graves have been identified.    Photos are also attached where available.  Unfortunately the original plan the group purchased was mislaid but recently the group have been able to obtain a further copy.  Also the burial plot register is now been transcribed and therefore if you have ancestors buried in the extension the group will be able to assist you in locating the grave.

The extension was opened in September 1894.  This was due to the plateau area and lower level of Hillside being full.  On 1st March 1892 a municipal cemetery on Durham Road, Houghton Le Spring was also opened.  The municipal however was not concsecrated therefore it was necessary to open the extension of Hillside.  The municipal covered an area of 5 acres and was enclosed by a wrought iron fence.  A half timber lodge stood at one end. The cost of the cemetery was £4000.

The extension of Hillside houses over 2000 burials between 1894 & 1971.  There are many children and burials in some cases are 5 deep.  Children were buried either head or foot of the plot - therefore there would be 2 children to an adult plot.  These to could also be five deep meaning there could be up to 10 children buried in one plot!!


The trade directory of 1894 states the following about Hillside 'The Old Cemetery which was constructed out of an old quarry on the Hillside consecrated in 1854 but is now in a very dilapidated condition'  It would appear that Hillside even only 40 years after its opening was neglected. (Whelans)

In 1902 the trade directory states 'in 1892 at Cemetery was open in the Durham Road under the control of the Urban District Council acting as a Burial Board, but is wholly unconsecrated, and in 1894 a new cemetery, in Sunderland Road, formed out of land adjoining was consecrated and open for the use of the church people of this parish'.  So it would appear from this trade directory that the extension of Hillside was classed as a new cemetery. Edwin Place was listed as Sexton. (Kellys)



Edward Forster, Master of the Workhouse which was located in Houghton Le Spring is interred at Hillside.  Edward was born in 1845 in Simonburn, Northumberland and was the 2nd son of John & Mary Forster.  He married Margaret Ann Coulson in 1875 and soon after they moved to Houghton le Spring.  The couple lived in Sunderland Street in 1881 and Edward was employed as a Coachman.  Between 1881 and 1891 Edward became Master at the workhouse.  He reigned there until 1903 when sadly he died at the age 58 years and was buried at Hillside along the pathside leading towards the extension.

A broken stone recently discovered reads ‘In loving memory of Margaret Georgina Happer widow of John Hately & eldest daughter of Thomas Happer MD of Monkwearmouth born January 25th 1823 died November 16th 1894’.
A strange inscription due to the fact that Margaret was a widow however her stone gives her maiden name. It was this that led to further research into who Margaret was.
Margaret was indeed the eldest daughter of Thomas Happer and his wife Jessie Lock. Research has show that she was born in Sunderland and the 1841 census shows the family living at Monkwearmouth Shore and her father was an MD (Doctor). Her father’s wife is listed as Caroline therefore it would appear that Margarets mother had infact died and her father remarried before the 1841census.
Shortly after the census in 1842 Margaret married John Rose in Sunderland. The 51 census shows them living at Tathum Street in Sunderland, John being a retired grocer. Tathum Street was also a well ‘to do’ area at them time. They also have 3 children, Jessie, Jane & Emma. Unfortunately this was to be short marriage as John died in 1854.
In 1857 Margaret married John Hately in the Houghton Le Spring district. John was also a widower with children to his previous wife Jane. John, a native of Wooler in Northumberland and son of Robert & Ann had accordingly to the census available had various occupations ranging from a SchoolMaster, General Merchant, Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages to a Bank Manager.
Initially the couple lived at Newbottle then at Houghton Terrace, Houghton Le Spring and finally in 1881 at Glendale House, Church Street, Houghton Le Spring. Glendale House is still standing in Houghton Le Spring and is occupied by a local firm of solicitors.

Sadly John died in 1888 aged 72 years.

Following John’s death, Margaret returned to Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland to live with her daughter Emma. She is listed in 1891 as living on her own means therefore it would be appear that she had wealth of her own probably inherited from her husband.
Margaret died in 1894 and was interred at Hillside.

In the Church of St Michael & All Angels on the left side of the chancel is an inscription which reads 'In loving memory of John Hately some time Church Warden of this Parish.  The oak panelling in this chancel was erected by his family AD 1889'
The mystery remains as to why her headstone adorns her maiden name and not that of her late husband John Hately. In Scotland a females maiden name is often shown on the headstone but it is rarely seen in England, so why on this stone?? Perhaps one day The Friends will discover the reason behind this.
 If you are able to assist please let us know.

William and his wife Isabella are buried in a double plot on the lower level of Hillside. William died 27th November 1854 therefore was one of the first people to be interred at Hillside. In the area where he is buried he is surrounded by persons who were significantly wealthy.
William was born in Durham in 1803, the son of William and Thomasine Goodricke. His father being by trade a cabinet maker.
William married Isabella Mary Walker on 24th December 1833 at Hurworth. Isabella was native of Berwick Upon Tweed. 
1n both 1841 & 1851 William & Isabella lived at Neasham Hall Acadamy, Quality Hill, Houghton Le Spring. Quality Hill being a ‘well to do’ area of Houghton. In 1841 he is listed as a School Master and in 1851 a Teacher of General Literature. In 1851 his father William was also living at the Acadamy.
Following Williams death Isabella moved to Old Elvet in Durham. She can be seen on the 1861 living with her sister Mary Ann Walker. She is listed as a House Proprietor. By 1871 she had moved to Norfolk Street in Sunderland where she was a boarder with a Home Missionary and listed as Annuitant. Her sister is once again present.
After her death she was taken back to Houghton Le Spring and laid to rest with her husband. She died 27th November 1874—exactly 20 years to the date after her husband!!!!


Shortly after entering the extension at Hillside you will find to the left hand side the grave of Reginald John Milward. The inscription on the stone reads In blessed memory of Reginald John Milward one time curate of this parish and late vicar of Wheelock Cheshire beloved husband of Marion Milward born 24th September 1869 who fell asleep 22 January 1940 and also the above Marion Milward who entered into rest 30th March 1954 aged 83 yrs. Her faith had won they victory’
Reginald was the son of John Frederick Milward & Frances. He was born 24th September 1869 and in 1871 they lived on Prospect Hill, Redditch, Worcestershire. His father is listed as a needle manufacturer at Milward & Sons.
By 1881 Reginald was a pupil at Albert Park Estate, Fairfield and by 1891 he is a student of Theology, residing with George Arber and his family. George Arber is listed as a cricketer.
1901 census and 1911 census both show that Reginald was Clergyman of the Church of England. In 1901 he lived at 207a East Street, Newington in the district of Southwark. By 1911 he is living at Wheelock Vicarage, Congleton, Cheshire. He has by 1911 married his wife Marion who the census shows is native of Houghton Le Spring. The census shows that they had been married for less than a year and research has shown that they were married in Houghton Le Spring during 1910.
Given that Reginald’s father in 1871 was listed as a needle manufacturer this led to more research into Milward & Sons. The earliest reference is that of James Milward who was a needle maker on Fish Hill in 1676. Symon Milward created the company Henry Milward & Sons aka Milward’s needles however it was his son Henry Milward who takes the credit for the foundation of the company. From the first half of the 18th Century the name of Henry Milward & Sons became known for the manufacture of good quality needles. At one point they were the largest manufacturer of its type in the world producing knitting needles, surgical needles and fishing tackle both in the UK and globally.
Under the keen eye of Henry and his two sons John Frederick (Reginald’s father) and Victor the business flourished. Other small needle business amalgamated with Henry Milward & Sons and so the business grew.
In Studley William Hall amalgamated with other small needle companies and became known as Amalgamated Needles and Fishhooks. This resulted in Amalgamated Needles and Henry Milward being the two larges needle makers in the district.
In 1930 the two great needle makers joined forces and in 1932 became The English Needle and Fishing Tackle Co Ltd (ENTACO).
Milwards needles continued in Redditch until the 1950’s. During WW2 the basic needle plant was dispersed between Studley and Redditch and in 1952 the Arrow Works was officially opened and it still produced some of Milward’s needles as were first marketed under the name of Henry Milward & Sons.
Milward needles can still be purchased today.


Pictured above left is the headstone for Reginald & Marion Milward which can be found at Hillside.  Pictured right is the logo used for Henry Milward & Sons.


Reginald John Milward is buried with his wife Martha Milward nee Dobson. Dobson is a very prominent name in the Houghton Le Spring area and Marion’s fathers family would appear to have been resident there for some years.
Marion was born in 1870 the daughter of John March Robson and Martha Pallister. Unfortunately the earliest census entry of 1871 shows Marion living with her mother Martha, but Martha was already a widow, records showing that John March Robson died in 1869.
Marion had two brothers, William Pallister Dobson and John Dobson. In 1871 William was a pupil at Nesham Hall and his brother John was living with his grandparents John & Sarah Dobson in Church Street. John is listed as a retired Miller.
Marion continued to live with her mother at Ivy House, Nesham Place until her marriage to Reginald John Milward. Her mother Martha has no occupation listed until 1891 when it states that she is living on her own means. William appears on the census with his mother and sister in 1881 and John appears on the census with his mother and sister in 1901.
John & Sarah Dobson, John March Dobson and Martha Dobson and John Dobson son of John March & Martha are also all buried at Hillside.


On the plateau of Hillside is a headstone broken into three pieces. This would have once been a magnificent grave marker but unfortunately it was buried in a corner where many other stones were buried upon clearance on the plateau in the 1970’s. The stone belongs to that of Mark Shaw the once Wesleyan Minister. The stone was unearthed by the Friends in 2010.
The inscription on the side of one the section of stone reads: Erected by the Societies Sunday Schools and Congregations of the Houghton Le Spring Circuit in Loving Memory of Rev Mark Shaw Wesleyan Minister born January 29th 1833 died July 24th 1886
Mark was born in a small town just outside of Huddersfield the son of William and Rebecca Shaw in 1833.
Until 1861 Mark lived with his parents William and Rebecca and his siblings of which there appear to be 5 of. The 1851 census show the family lived at Crossland Hill, close to Huddersfield and at the time Mark was an apprentice chemist and druggist.
By 1861 is listed as a visitor with Jonathon Potter and his wife Elizabeth in Runcorn. Mark’s occupation is listed as Wesleyan Methodist Preacher. Jonathan is a Slate, Flint, Clay, Coal and Salt Merchant but was also a Wesleyan Preacher.
Mark married Emma Turner in 1864 in the district of Hinckley, Leicestershire. She was seven years his junior.
1881 he lived in Utoxeter with his wife Emma. He was the Minister at the chapel in that district.
Mark died on 24th July 1886 and was laid to rest at Hillside Houghton Le Spring on 27th July 1886. He was certified by George Parker. His place of residence at the time of his death was William Street, Houghton Le Spring. If the deceased’s service is carried out by someone other than clergy of the Church of England, such as a Minister the records will show the deceased as being certified.
Mark’s Probate details are as follows: ‘Mark Shaw had a Personal Estate of £1,050 4s. 20th August 1886.The will of Mark Shaw formerly of Hospital Street, Nantwich, in the County of Chester but late of HLS in the County of Durham Wesleyan Minister who died 24th July 1886 at HLS was proved at the principal registry by Emma Shaw of Sowerby Bridge in the parish of Halifax in the West Riding of the county of York widow of the relict and sole executrix .’

 Pictured left is part of Mark Shaw's memorial.  This part lies on its side but the picture has been turned so that it is readable to our site visitors.


At the base of the right hand pillar to the right of the Lych gate, you will see a horizontal line with an arrow pointing up from below, carved into the stone.

This mark is called a bench mark and was cut by Ordnance Survey levelling staff to provide a network of points at which height has been precisely measured (to the centre of the horizontal line) above sea level.  There used to be about half a million bench marks in Great Britian but, with the introduction of Satelite navigation techniques, they are not required any more.

Unfortunately, about half have long since disappeared but some can still be found on older structures (especially churches) and on bridges.

Pictured above is the bench mark which apears on the pillar to the right of the Lych Gate.



The group recently received a telephone call from Mrs Irene Thirkell (nee Nicholson) who is the cousin of Edward & George Bray.  Mrs Thirkell remembers going with her Aunt Bella (Edward & George's mother) to tend the grave at Hillside when she stayed with her Aunt at her home in Newbottle.  The group already knew that Edward was sadly killed at the Colliery in 1913 aged 16 and his brother George lost his life in France during World War I in 1916.  However, at the time of Georges death Mrs Thirkell's own mother was pregnant and when the child was born he was named George Bray Nicholson,  Sadly Mrs Thirkell's brother also lost his life during World War II.

Upon the details supplied by Mrs Thirkell some extra research was carried out and discovered that Edward and George were the sons of James and Isabella Bray.  In 1901 the family lived in Derwent Street, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland.  James was by occupation a Gardener and originated in Scotland.  Isabella originated in Ryhope.  George was born around 1896 in Sunderland and Edward around 1898 and was also born in Sunderland.  James & Isabella also had a daughter, Martha born around 1900 in Gosforth, Northumberland.

Edward was sadly killed at Houghton Colliery on 20th January 1913.  He was employed as a driver and was killed whilst driving out with the last two tubs.  He was aged just 16 years.  The family at the time lived at 45 Edwin Street, Houghton Le Spring.

His brother George, served in the Durham Light Infantry and died on 7th March 1916 aged 21 years.  He is remembered in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.  The family lived at the time at 4 East Row, New Herrington.

Pictured above are the flowers recently left at Edward Brays grave.  They have been put there by Mrs Thirkell after discovering the whereabouts of her cousins grave.


The parish of Houghton Le Spring formerly included the chapelries of Hetton Le Hole, Painshaw & West Rainton. In the 1820’s Houghton Le Spring was one of the largest parishes in England.   By 1856 some of the chapelries which initially made up the parish of Houghton Le Spring had developed in their own right but Houghton Le Spring still included the townships of East & Middle Herrington, West Herrington, Morton Grange, Newbottle and Warden Law.  
By an order in council dated 15th May 1838 West Rainton & Painshaw (Penshaw) became parishes in their own right and again by an order of the council in February 1847 Hetton-Le-Hole became its own parish.
For a very long time the church in Houghton Le Spring, St Michael & All Angels was the only parish church in its surrounding area therefore people travelled from far and wide to have their children baptised, to be married and also to bury their dead.
However as the coal industry grew the surrounding villages increased in size and eventually the villages acquired churches of their own and became parishes in their own right.

Pictured above is a view of Sunderland Street.  This is the street which leads to Hillside and part of it is still in existance today.  The picture is actually a postcard and the rear of the postcard can be seen to the right above.  Its date was July 1906 and was forwarded to someone in Devon.

Pictured above is a view of Church Street which is found to the left of St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring.
The church of St Michael & All Angels is dedicated to St Michael and is a large cruciform structure with a low tower rising from the intersection of the naïve and transepts. The church itself stems back to Norman times and has over the years been extended immensely. In 2008 the church underwent a major re-vamp when some of the old Roman remains of the church were discovered.
In the times of Rector John Grey MA he replaced all the windows with stained glass. The large stain glass window which can be found in the alter area of the church was donated by Sir George Elliot then the MP of Houghton Le Spring. The window shows all noteworthy people of Houghton Le Spring of years gone by. Sir George Elliott is actually pictured in the stain glass window. He is featured in a gold coloured cloak and is the only one without a halo as he is the only living person featured.

Pictured above:  The window donated by George Elliott - can you spot him?


Above are two pictures of St Michael & All Angels Church.  The one to the left is taken around 1960's and the one to the right is a very early view with a date unknown.



The interior of St Michaels how it used to look and how it looks now.


Pictured above is the doorway of St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring, The Statue of Christ which can be found within the church and also the Cenotaph which is located in the grounds of St Michaels.
Sir Bernard Gilpin another of Houghton’s famous rectors in buried within the south transept of the church. As well as being known as the Apostle of the North he was also the founder of the Kepier Grammar School which is located to the rear of St Michael & All Angels Church. Together with John Heath, Gilpin founded the school and it was established in 1574. The school greatly improved the education in Houghton at the time. Whellans directory shows that the cost of the school was; boarders under the age of 13—35 guineas, over the age of 13—40 guineas, tuition fees– 8 guineas, however modern languages with the exception of German were extra.
Since the re-vamp of the church in 2008 a heritage section has now been opened housing information about St Michaels and Houghton Le Spring. It also has several photos of past Rectors of Houghton Le Spring.


Pictured above is the outside of St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring and Newbottle Street.


Pictured above are two further photographs of St Michael & All Angels Church.  The right hand picture shows the Golden Lion Public House in the corner which is where the Friends hold their meetings each month.


Pictured above are two views of the War memorial which is located in the grounds of St Michael & All Angels Church.


Pictured left above is Newbottle Street & pictured right is Church Street, Houghton Le Spring.


Pictured above left is a view of Newbottle Street and pictured right is Sunderland Street around 1916.


A view above is the White Lion around 1932.  The White Lion still stands today.

Landlords of the White Lion found to date are:-

1861 - Mary Harrison
1871 - Joseph Johnson
1881 - Samuel Smythe

SAMUEL SMYTHE - 1834 - 1887

Samuel Smythe was born circa 1834 in Ireland.  His headstone lies on the outskirts of the plateau.  His stone simply states Affectionate Remembrance of Samuel Smythe who died October 25th 1887.  The other side of the stone is in rememberance of his infant child Isabella Smythe who died September 2nd 1878 aged 7 months.


Pictured above is how the Rectory Park looked in days gone by.  The newly formed group The Friends of Houghton Le Spring Rectory Park are now trying to restore the park to its former glory.


Two views of the Market Place, Houghton Le Spring around 1890's.

Above is a copied newspaper cutting recently loaned to the group.  The top picture shows the outside of Hillside Cemetery and also Houghton Cut.  The bottom picture shows the Broadway.  Can anyone put any dates to these pictures??


Until recently The Friends held their monthly meetings at the Golden Lion Pub on the corner of Sunderland Street. This is the reason why some research has been carried out.  Unfortunately a short while ago the Golden Lion was sold and is now an Italian Restaurant
The Golden Lion Public House or the Golden Lion Inn as it was known in the past is believed to have been built around 300/400 years ago. It is an old building comprising of a bar, snug and back room. In the past it is believed to have been used as a Coaching Inn as its position was on the main road through Houghton Le Spring to Sunderland and Durham.
It is believed that the Golden Lion Inn was originally owned by the Rector of Houghton Le Spring. Using records such as Trade Directories and Census Returns the following information has been obtained regarding past landlords/licensed victualltors.
In 1841 a Thomas Surtees was the landlord/inn keeper. He resided there with his wife Ann, son William aged 2 and Mary aged 1. Thomas remained at the Golden Lion in 1851 but his wife is shown as Isabella. There ware three children Mary Ann aged 11, Sarah aged 6 and Isabella aged 1. Research has shown a death for an Ann Surtees in 1842 and the remarriage of a Thomas Surtees in 1844. In 1861 Thomas is still residing at the Golden Lion with his wife Isabella, Sarah aged 16 and Isabella aged 11. Sadly an entry in the burial records for Sarah Surtees coincides with her date of birth etc leading us to believe that she died and was buried at Hillside aged 26 in 1874.
By 1871 Mark Jobling was in residence and is listed as a Commercial Traveller/Licensed Victuallar.  He lives there with his wife and 4 children.
Trade Directory of 1890 shows George Harding as Inn Keeper but by 1891 Hugh Sydney Hall and his family had taken over. The Trade Directory of 1894 confirms that Hugh Hall is still in occupation but by 1901 there had been a further change and Robert C Crofton was now landlord. This is confirmed once again in the 1902 Trade Directory.
The last record available at present is that of 1911 when Thomas Gittens native of Denbyshire and his family were in occupation.


Pictured left above is an old picture of the Golden Lion (picture was supplied by the current Landlord of the Golden Lion.  Pictured right above is how the Golden Lion looks today.

The Poor Law Union In Houghton Le Spring came into existence on 20th January 1837 which covered 16 parishes including Hetton Le Hole and Painshaw, East & West Rainton, East & West Herrington, Great Eppleton, Silksworth and the East Parish of Bishopwearmouth.   A Parliamentary report recorded a workhouse in Houghton le Spring in 1777 for up to 16 inmates. In 1824 a work house was erected on the east side of Sunderland Street for up to 20 inmates.
The new Houghton Le Spring Union took over and adapted the originating workhouse in Sunderland Street but in 1864 a new workhouse situated in William Street was erected. The design by Matthew Thompson was a T-shaped main block with male accommodation to the west and female to the east. There were rooms for the aged at the front part of the building and for children and able-bodied at the rear. The master’s quarters were at the far western end of the building adjacent to the workhouse’s main entrance which was located unusually at the rear of the building. The kitchen and the dining hall were in the rear wing of the main block.
 In 1891 new offices and a board room were erected with the old board room being converted into lunatic wards including a padded room.
The workhouse has long since been demolished but existed in Houghton Le Spring for many years. It housed hundereds of inmates over the years and had several masters. Using the records available the following Masters have been noted:-

1841-1861 - Henry Fairbairn (Buried at Hillside)
1871-1881 - Thomas Hope
1891-1903 - Edward Forster (Buried at Hillside)

Pictured above a map circa 1913 showing where the Workhouse was situated.


Warden Law is a small village on the outskirts of Houghton Le Spring.  In years gone by the Hetton Colliery Railway ran from Hetton to Sunderland by crossing over the top of Warden Law.  It was one the highest points in the area.  It was also home to some of the farming community and also those who worked on the railways.  Indeed our secretary's grandmother lived for many years at Warden Law with her family until she married and moved to a nearby village.

Pictured above are the platelayers sitting outside the 'bait' cabin.  The gentleman pictured to the right in the back row is believed to be John Atkinson our secretary's great grandfather.  He lived at Warden Law and also worked on the railway.  His first wife Mary Hannah Atkinson (nee Finch) is buried at Hillside.

If you have any information regarding Warden Law or its occupants the group would love to hear from you.


On a bright spring evening some of the Friends set off to find the ruins of Cocken Hall, once the home of William Standish Standish.  After parking the cars and walking along the road the group soon found what they believed to be the entrance of the estate for Cocken Hall.  They went through the entrance and through the field to where the ruins are.  A once grand establishment destroyed by fire reduced to ruins.  An large outline of ruins no more than 2 feet high marks the area of where the house once stood.  Below are some pictures of what the group found.


Pictured above left are the Friends at the original entrance to Cocken Hall.



Pictured above are several pictures showing the ruins of Cocken Hall.

Pictured below are some old photographs of Cocken Hall and how it used to look together with a picture of some DLI Soldiers who were stationed there during the war.





Jacob Gibson

Jacob Gibson is interred on the lower level of Hillside.  The group are informed that he was a tailor & draper in Sunderland Street.  He is believed to have owned a large amount of property in Houghton Le Spring namely a house in Pit House Lane, 4 houses in Sunderland Street, 3 fields (Longfield, Longriggs & Little Far Field), Nesham Hall and for a short while the Black Lion Public House.  As Jacob was the son of a miner his descendants are a mystified as to how he came by his wealth but rumour states that his wife Margaret Alderson brought money to the marriage.  Another theory is that a young Gibson girl was knocked down and killed by a truck at one of the Leamside Pits and the money was obtained by way of compensation.............Submitted by Allison Wright

Elizabeth Ann Hall

The Friends were recently contacted by Sue Collinge who submitted the following article to them.  Elizabeth Ann Hall is buried on the lower level of Hillside.

During the 19th and early 20th century my family had a long history of living in County Durham and Northumberland. My grandfather moved down to the Midlands in the 1930s to find work and the family has been here ever since. Nevertheless to go back ‘up north’ feels like going home and I’m very grateful to the Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery for all their hard work in looking after and restoring this valuable burial ground. Thank you.

The story behind a headstone.
Elizabeth Ann Hall (circa 1834/5 – 26 December 1877)
Elizabeth Ann was my great great grandmother. She was buried in Houghton Hillside Cemetery in the same grave as two of her children, Mary and James. The headstone reads:
In affectionate remembrance of Mary Maria beloved daughter of James & Elizabeth Ann Hall of Houghton Le Spring who died July 9th 1867 age 8 years.  Also James Hall son of the above who died July 12th 1877 age 3 years also Elizabeth Ann Hall of White House mother of the above who died December 26th  1877 age 42 years.
Elizabeth’s story – a brief summary.
Elizabeth’s maiden name was Morgan. We first find her on the 1841 census, aged 6, when she and her family were living in Brandon, Co Durham, which makes her birth date around 1834/5.
The family were close to Joseph and Mary Davison who lived in Market Place, Houghton Le Spring. Elizabeth lived with them during her teenage years so it’s probable that Mary Davison was her older sister.
She married James Hall of Hexham, on 13 March 1859 by licence in The Parish Church, Houghton le Spring.  Heavily pregnant at the time, her daughter Mary Maria was born just a month later.
James and Elizabeth began their married life living with the Davison’s at Market Place and continued to live with (or near) them over the next few years moving with them to Nesham Place and later, by 1871, living in Mount Pleasant.
Sadly, during this time their eldest daughter, Mary Maria died, as is shown on the gravestone, and was buried in Houghton Hillside Cemetery. Her death certificate records her as dying from inflammatory fever.
White House Farm
In late1876/early 1877 James and Elizabeth with their growing family of 5 boys and 2 girls
moved to White House Farm, Copt Hill, Houghton Le Spring where family members farmed for the next 40-50 years. Sadly, their son James, aged 3 years, died in July 1877 and Elizabeth died of Phthisis (tuberculosis) in December. She was 42. And so Elizabeth and her two children, Mary and James are all buried in the same grave in Houghton Hillside Cemetery.
My great great grandfather, James, continued to farm at White House until his death, aged 73 years, in 1904 when his son, Joseph Davison Hall took over the farm. James’ daughter, Mary Elizabeth, my great grandmother moved away from Houghton on her marriage to Robert Middleton of Shincliffe but sadly she died of tuberculosis, aged 28 years.
The search goes on
I’m looking for more of my ancestors, some of whom may be buried in Hillside.
James Hall, of White House Farm, died 29 May 1904 aged 73 years (my gg grandfather)
William Percival Hall of White House, died 5 August 1886 aged 20 years (son)
Percival Hall of White House Farm, died 18 May 1892, aged 74 years (brother of James)
Robert John Hall of 29 Mount Pleasant, Houghton died 4 Sept 1912 aged 36 years (son)
Joseph Davison Hall of 64 Sunderland St, Houghton died 3 August 1936 (son). He farmed at White House from 1904 until, I believe, the late 1920s.
As yet I cannot trace James and Elizabeth’s remaining two children: Edwin (born 1868) and Sarah Jane (born 1872). Research is ongoing.
If you have any information on any of the above then I’d be delighted to hear from you via the Friends of Houghton Hillside cemetery. I have so much more information I could share and I’m always looking for new information myself.
Susan Collinge.

Robert & Mahala Swales

Recently the Friends discovered the headstone belonging to Robert & Mahala Swales.  The stone which is in very good condition has been placed on the plateau for visitors to see.  Shortly after its discovery they were contacted by a descendant of Robert and Mahala,  who supplied the following background information regarding the couple.

Robert Swales was part of the large Swales family who were potters and pot hawkers and came originally from Burton in Lonsdale.  Robert arrived in Houghton from Stockton but his immediate family lived at Aycliffe.  He was born at Hawsker and baptised at Whitby in 1812.  Mahala (1) was baptised at Driffield in 1812, a daughter of Maria and Jacob Scott.  She married Robert Swales at Stockton in 1833.  Robert and Mahala (1) came to Houghton sometime before the 1841 Census.  Mahala (2) Swales was born in 1847 at Houghton.  At some point Robert and Mahala (1) started the shop in Newbottle Street but I can't find out when.  My grandfather said that when his mother, Mahala (2), was small her parents left her in Houghton with other family members and went off to collect and sell more pots so they were obviously firmly based in the area then.  (Census 1841 puts them in Newbottle Street  Census 1951 Robinson Lane, Newbottle, Census 1861 Grey Horse Lane, Houghton le Spring  Census 1871 Newbottle Lane, Houghton le Spring and Census 1881 Newbottle Street, Houghton le Spring and there they seem to have remained.  It looks as though the shop was started between 1851 and 1861 before which I think they had a warehouse in the area. 

The Greenhows came to Houghton from Penrith via Bishopwearmouth and Hetton le Hole and were originally butchers.   William Greenhow who married Mahala (2) Swales was a cartwright on his marriage to Mahala Swales and the marriage took place in Bishopwearmouth in 1876.  The couple lived at 26 Newbottle Street with Mahala's mother, Mahala (1).

Unfortunately I have forgotten when the shop closed but someone might remember.  After William Greenhow married Mahala Swales he helped to run the shop and on her death and that of her mother he ran it until my grandfather, Robert Greenhow, took it over.  Then my Uncle Robert Swales Greenhow ran it until it closed.  In my grandfather's and uncle's day it was a china and hardware shop.


Pictured above is a photograph of the Greenhow Hardware store, Houghton Le Spring

Pictured above is Mahala Greenhow (nee Swales)

If anyone has any further information/photographs regarding either the Greenhow's or Swales this would be greatly appreciated by our reader and details can be passed to her by us.

Joseph & Mary Jane Wanless

The following was supplied by Mrs Kathleen Tiernan who the group recently met when she visited Hillside in search of her grandparents grave.

My main thoughts of my grandparents, Mr & Mrs Wanless are ones of happiness.  I was one twins and we had 2 cousins and when we visited them they were always happy times.  Grandad used to like telling us amusing tales of their life whether it was trips out on a motorbike, incidents down the pit or as a medical orderly in the Army.

At one time my grandparents had a fish & chip sho at Anstey House in the Hall Lane area and I remember my Gran chopping bucketfuls of chips and battering the fish.  They always had a good trade.  When the dog racing track finished and all the men walked down to Hetton or Durham Road they would call in for their tea or supper.

I recall that the family would gather in their little living room in Edwin Street on New Years Day and we would have a roast chicken which was a big treat and my Gran would make a big bowl of pease pudding.  It was a cosy room with the old black open stove, a treadle sewing machine and a thick velour cloth covered the table.  We were cramped but we enjoyed it!!

Gran would make rag rugs and do alot of sewing and embroidery for us all.  Grandad was very memorable for looking smart when he went out with his spats over his shoes, a watch and chain across his waistcoat and bowler hat - he seemed to know alot of people who always spoke back to him.

They had a long happy life together but now I know a bit more of the family history they had alot of sadness to which I was not aware of when I was younger.

When my Gran was widowed she visited her brother in Leicester and also visited myself in Luton several times.  One morning I found that she had died peacefully in her sleep - a wonderful lady who meant alot to me and my own family especially my mother.

I am very happy to know where they are buried at The Old Cemetery. Their 3 daughters are also buried nearby.

One of the daughters buried nearby is Florence Layfield who was accidentally killed in 1934 in a motorcycle accident.  Any further details regarding this would be appreciated.

Pictured above are Mr & Mrs Wanless outside their home in Edwin Street, Houghton Le Spring.

John & Frances Frost

The group have recently been contacted by Sanda Bremner one of their 'Friends' in relation to John & Frances Frost.  The Frost memorial can be found along the left hand side of the pathway of the extension.  John & Frances are Sanda's great great great grandparents.  Sanda has shared the following information with us with regard to her ancestors.

John Frost was born around 1828 in Suffolk the son of Edward Frost an agricultural labourer. John married Frances Smith on 5th May 1856 at The Parish Church of Bishopwearmouth.  The couple had 3 children, Mary (Sanda's great great grandmother), Elizabeth and Simeon Smith Frost.

Once John had moved to the Houghton Le Spring area himself and his wife lived at East Rainton before moving to Newbottle Street, Houghton Le Spring.  Initially he had several jobs which included coachman to Sir George Elliott Bart (also interred at Hillside), a market gardener and fishmonger.  These occupations were prior to him taking over the job of horse drawn omnibus proprietor from Amos Fatherley.  This was a business John was to own for over 20 years.  The buses ran six times daily from The White Lion Hotel in Houghton to The Station in Fence Houses. 

It was said that John was one of the 'best known charactures of the district for miles around'.

John died on 18th February 1905 aged 77 years.  His obituary read 'At the old cemetery, Sunderland Street, Houghton Le Spring, on Tuesday afternoon, the funeral took place of the late Mr John Frost.  The deceased, who was 77 years of age, was one of the best known of Houghtons residents.  For over 20 years he owned and drove the 'bus which still plies six times daily from the White Lion Hotel, Houghton to Fence Houses Station.  The funeral was largely attended, and the service was fully choral, the deceased having been a regular attender at church'.

Frances out lived John by some 7 years and she was later interred at Hillside Cemetery after having died on 28th August 1912 aged 80 years.

John & Frances son Simeon Smith Frost was also a driver/groom with the omnubus company but sadly he died on 5th November 1898 aged on 31 years.  He is buried along with his parents.

  Pictured left is the Frost Memorial


Pictured above left is the omnibus driven by John Frost.  The picture found to the right is thought to be that of John & Simeon Frost.

John & Frances middle child Elizabeth married James Phillips in 1885.  Once of their children Adelaide Ruth Phillips is interred at Hillside and her mourning card is pictured below.

Strangely enough a Fatherley grave can be found adjacent to the Frost memorial.

If you have any further information relating to the Frost family please contact the group and your details will be passed on.

Hillside Photographs

The following photographes were supplied to the Friends by Alan Dixon a recent visitor to Hillside.





More of these photographs can be found in the gallery section of this site.


Upon visiting Hillside over the weekend of the 28th August 2010 the friends discovered a young fox lying dead on top of Rector Grey's tomb.  It has now been removed but upset the group on its find knowing that it had been deliberately placed there as animals would normally go to ground to die and not lie somewhere in the open such as this.










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