Childhood Memories of Forest Hall

We went on long walks with our grandfather, who always carried a 'poke' to collect scrap metal.

My name is Maureen Whittaker and I was born in 1932 and lived in Killingworth Village, a very different village from that of today. There were several farms in the area, one of which was Stoker’s Farm. I played in the fields on Stoker’s Farm, running freely amongst the cattle. I can remember the farmer’s wife delivering milk to my grandma’s house.

When I was five years old, I started at Westmoor School (this site is currently being transformed into family dwellings). I had to walk to school every day, down West Lane, past the cemetery, and was usually accompanied by Marjorie Pringle, the niece of Mr & Mrs Pringle of Pringle’s Farm. I remember the wooden desks and small wooden chairs, as well as the inkwells. During winter months my mother wrapped us up well, with a scarf wound around my neck, crossed at the front and tied with a safety pin behind my back!

As a young child, I played in the village with my cousins Alan and Robert. We went on long walks with our grandfather, who always carried a ‘poke’ (a sack). Grandad would collect any bits of scrap metal lying around and we would all walk to Tremble’s scrap yard on Whitley Road, where the scrap was sold and the proceeds divided amongst the three of them. Grandad took the biggest share.

During the Second World War, Italian prisoners of war were brought each day to work on Pringle’s Farm. They wore distinctive dark brown uniforms, with a big triangle on the back of the shirt. They were friendly towards the village children and used to give them chocolate swiss rolls. Quite a treat in wartime! The farmers were grateful to receive scraps and potato peelings to feed the pigs, so my cousin and I used to save them and swap with the farmer for sweets.

There was a building called ‘The Institute’, known locally as ‘The Tute’, where the men of the village would congregate. They regularly played cards for small amounts of money, which irritated some of their wives. One day my Mother went to the door of ‘The Tute’ and shouted ‘police’! The men panicked and scarpered. Someone seized the opportunity to pinch the kitty. The men were furious, so my mother never admitted to what she had done.

Mrs Crooks ran a shop in Killingworth Village. The Sunblest delivery van would come each day with a new batch of bread. The delicious aroma of Sunblest bread is still fresh in my memory. Other shops included Mrs Hall’s General Dealer in the village and also Gargett’s on Westcroft Road in Forest Hall, who sold second hand furniture. They also sold second hand bicycles, so it was the most exciting shop in the village for the children, who could never have dreamed of owning a new bike.

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