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How could you see the sea from Seaview? In the second part of his story of a bike ride he took with his father about 75 years ago, DEREK OUTHWAITE recalls more personal memories and more recent reflections on 'dear old Grangetown' and some of its former landmarks.

WE came quite near to the Station Hotel (almost always referred to as the Bottom House).

This pub was on the corner of Pochin Road and Bessemer Street, about 12 or 20 yards from the steelworks boundary fence and facing along Seaview Terrace.

The name Seaview seemed a misnomer for even without the tall, black roofs of the steel-making furnaces and the much taller, black, wide chimney stacks of that same steel plant that stood less than 100 yards directly in front of Seaview Terrace throughout the major part of the 20th century, it was generally felt by the townsfolk, that it would still be quite impossible to see the sea!

Perhaps, if you stood on the slated roof of one of those high terraced houses, with a good pair of binoculars and with no industry at all in front, it may have been possible to see the river - provided it was an extremely clear day.

But being able to really see the sea well?

But I have since been told by older Grangetowners that their own parents have certainly stated that "in earlier years, prior to some later steelworks development, you really could see right down to the river mouth - and of course the sea beyond..."

It was also at the nearby Station Hotel, where some years later dad had sometimes popped in for a pint, and where he also joined the "sick club". A few years later, as a nine-or 10-year-old, I would myself, on occasions be sent there on an early Friday evening, especially if dad was on a late shift, to pay the man at the door dad's weekly contribution of 6d or later 9d as this would keep dad in compliance for any possible "sick money", should the need arise ... there was certainly no NHS sickness benefit in those days!

Thankfully, on the whole, dad kept in good general health, and rarely had any time off work.

We then cycled down Station Road, with the steelworks perimeter on the left, and large, wide fields on the right, until we reached the side road which accommodated the single row of 24 houses, known as Eston Grange. And I also understand that this, at least to my own inquisitive mind, was perhaps questionably nicknamed Cockle Row!

Although in this case, and on reflection, I have very little doubt that the sea - and certainly the mouth of the River Tees, plus the cockle-searching area of The Slems, could possibly be seen on a clear day from any of the upstairs bedroom windows of the majority of these 24 Eston Grange houses.

While, over the years, I never had the opportunity to enter any of these houses, I have since spoken to many people who were bred and born there and who continued to live there happily for the major part of their lives. From them, I have learned that Eston Grange was the very last district in the neighbouring Grangetown area to be updated - regarding the use of flush toilets - which must have come about for them towards the late 1930s.

Even though my early years were spent in houses in Wood Street and Alexander Road, with toilets 'down the yard', at least by my time there each was an enclosed flush toilet.

Just prior to that, I understand, all terraced housing in Grangetown, particularly in the older part, had to use dry latrines, which, of course, would entail the so-called night soil men (usually two workmen) going around each late evening, via the back arches - in order to pull out each of these zinc toilet receptacles, house by house, and empty their contents into a large metal container which was subsequently taken to a communal depository. The zinc, domestic container was then disinfected and replaced in the closet.

Perhaps my only personal recollections of using similar toilet facilities was during our family's several pre-war trips to the Harehills district of Leeds to visit dad's several sisters. In particular I can remember my Aunt Edith's and Uncle Arthur's back-to-back' house that during the whole of the 1930s had no immediate toilet at all adjoining their house! In fact, one had to go 80-plus yards along their street, where there were six or seven toilets together in one place - each individual toilet to be shared by several families living in that specific street - and also of course the family visitors. Mind you, I remember those basic facilities as always being spotlessly clean, with several households religiously taking it in turn to look after their allotted shared one. To continue my bike ride with dad... At the end of those terraced houses in Eston Grange there was then a well laid-out quoits pitch and a well-kept football pitch where, just a few years later, I was able to go with mam, Auntie Laura's baby sister Doreen in her pram, and spend time watching Uncle Jack (Pears) play amateur league football. These were very well-organised games which usually sported a full complement of players and officials. In the general unemployment days of the depressive early/middle l930s the noteworthy skilful blossoming of such famous local football talents as, first George Camsell and then later Wilf Mannion caught many of the young men's imagination, which they were physically able to express and enjoy with minimal monetary outlay. It is also interesting to note that their womenfolk were quite happy to be part of this, even if only as "encouragers" for at that time, although during WW1 there had been several local ladies' amateur teams, the very presence of women at professional league matches as spectators was almost unheard of and it was certainly frowned on for many more years - until well after the end of World War Two. As we proceeded on our cycling way, the very next two buildings we saw were the Grangetown railway station and the stationmaster's house, which preceded the main station building by 50-60 yards. On a bike, especially with dad pedalling, the distance between 21 St Andrews Road and Grangetown station did not seem very far at all. But just a few years later that very same journey seemed endless to this then, small infant/junior school boy for then, whenever mam took us to Redcar for a day-out treat, it was almost always via the train - possibly because, a cheap day rail return was cheaper than using the United bus - then the one and only regular public automobile service between Grangetown and Redcar. But sadly there was never ever any public transport down that long, lengthy road to the railway station, and for a young boy walking with mam, who was pushing a push chair, that road just seemed so interminably long. In later years both Doreen and I walked that same road together many times, but it certainly didn't appear to be too long then. Somehow, with hindsight, I don't think our longer, stronger limbs brought about such a vastly different attitude for surely it was the fact that we were walking together with 200-300 other children, plus our teachers, as part of the Grangetown Mission's annual Sunday School day trip. Whether the trip was heading for Redcar, Saltburn, Marske or even Seaton Carew, it was always a good old, smoke-spewing LNER train that did the honours for us. I can still smell the lovely heady mix of hot oil and steam when each train first drew into the station. That aspect, as well as the lovely warm companionship of so many children, made those days out even more special. So it was not surprising that the anticipatory excitement beforehand and the joyous memories afterwards seemed to reduce that specific, otherwise lengthy, road to Grangetown station, down to some very happy, most acceptable proportions. Immediately between Grangetown station and the supervising stationmaster's house, lay part of the Black Path on which dad, with me still aloft, then rode his Raleigh Roadster bicycle. The Black Path, which I understand in part is still in existence, was about 6ft wide, rough, unpaved former cinder path running from Middlesbrough to Warrenby, and is said to be even older than those two ancient boroughs. It faithfully follows the railway link between Middlesbrough and Redcar, and is just wide enough for a walkway, a bridle path or a single cycle track. After a couple of miles along this then ancient path, we left it and came to Low Lackenby, which was then a very small, quiet hamlet.

Six or seven years later, however, it was to become a small village, contrastingly vibrant and very much alive with Royal Artillery militia and Nissan huts etc as servicemen and servicewomen moved in to man anti-aircraft guns and searchlights that would help to protect the many local communities, as well as the major industrial centres, situated around the River Tees.

After cycling a couple more miles in the general direction of the river mouth we at last came to the very spot where dad carried out his daily work. To this then little boy, and as far as his eyes could see, it was a long, wide barren desert - not made of sand, but almost completely made of grey or light-coloured stone - or slag, as dad had called it. The sheer barrenness of the place was alleviated only by the presence of a sole railway track, the branch line which presumably brought the slag-balls in ladles, to be emptied and broken up by mainly manual means and then despatched to form the basis of local rough roads, plus river and sea defences etc.

As a small child I could not quite understand just what was the end product of dad's work. But I could easily visualise the rough, heavy type of labour that he and a gang of other men would be carrying out day after day, using only picks, shovels, big hammers and crowbars.

In fact, when I bent down to pick up a small piece of this slag to throw, as a small boy would, I found with surprise that this stone look-alike was nearly as heavy as iron.

The day that we went there was a beautiful day, with the hot sun streaming down. But on the whole of the expanse of that slag desert there was only a very small lock-up tool-shed.

There was no obvious large cabin for the men to shelter in, or indeed to repose in, during a meal break.

And even I could well imagine what the gross effect of such harsh, icy, winter gales and storms could have brought to those working men. Especially so with such rough weather coming straight from the river mouth into this completely unprotected, slag-strewn wilderness.

We stayed there for a short while before cycling back home, by taking the very same route in general as the way we had cycled there.

To his eternal credit my dad, a former time-serving soldier until 1929, somehow, always managed to be in some rough labouring employment, right up until September 1939, when he was immediately called-up for the Army, to go to France and Belgium prior to his surviving the Dunkirk Evacuation.

He was demobbed in 1946 and went straight back into the local steelworks, doing similar heavy rough work and finally retiring on the day before his 66th birthday, in February, 1971.

In conclusion, I'm reminded that one famous comedian once stated: "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be!"

Although I now feel quite sure, in general, that in spite of the many economic difficulties of our childhood we each try to hang on to our warmest long-term memories, and perhaps especially those memories involving our loved ones - and, of course, those involving our own fast changing geographical surroundings.

For within a few short decades or so of our own specific memorable Sunday bike ride around that vast surrounding district, near that seemingly large desert of slag was then being quickly changed and developed into that very important port which we now call Tees Dock, with its extremely, ever so busy traffic-filled approach roads.

But surely that large, former desolate expanse of land, truly and certainly had its very own, very special few days during one glorious week in the summer of 1977. For it was then that HM Queen Elizabeth II was brought to Teesside for a few days aboard HMS Britannia as part of her very own silver jubilee celebrations.

Who can forget the many delights and the many blessings of that week? Not the least, for those of us who were then able to be present on the quayside each evening, in order to watch and listen to the immaculate Royal Marines B and.

CAPTION(S):

CYCLING TOUR: Station Road and Eston Grange, Grangetown : PLAYTIME: Children at play in the shadow of the steelworks at Grangetown : GLORY DAY: The Queen unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the new Tees Dock in 1977. Stan Wright, the dock manager goes to greet her
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 17, 2008
Words:2157
Previous Article:YOU ANSWER; Remembering Grange town.
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