This page is dedicated to anyone who has lived, worked or visited the
Whitburn and Marsden area and has memories they wish to share.

Childhood Memories of Marsden Village by anonymous.

These reminiscences are by an elderly gent who wishes to remain anonymous. The following narrative is in his own words and is from his prospective as child growing up in Marsden village in the 1930's. As a group we wish to thank him for meeting with us and allowing his memories to be published on this webpage.  

My family moved from South Shields to Lindsay street in 1933. Lindsay street faced the lighthouse and in-between there was a piece of land known as ‘The Green’ an ideal place for children to play in. 

One game we played was ‘Shine your Moggie’ anyone with a torch would hide in the long grass and briefly flash the lamp and then move away, with their friends trying to find them. This game was played the dark evenings of the approaching winter.  

In the daylight hours we played ‘hidey’ one boy or girl had to close their eyes while the others found somewhere to hide, until the call was made “coming away or not by 1-2-3”.

Sometimes a length of skipping rope was used with two of us turning it, and each of the others joining in to skip according to birthdays “all in by January, February” etc.    

Knocky door neighbours was another game, but could result in a smacked bottom if caught. 

Less energetic pastimes for girls was ‘come and buy’ with a pretend shop and pretend money. Boys played marbles or alleys as we called them. Tops and whips was also played.

When we were a bit older the lads made bows and arrows from garden canes, and catapults, if a Y shaped branch from the bushes could be found, elastic was worth its weight in gold. 

At Sunday school we were taught the story of David and Goliath, so everyone made a sling. Using a pouch (usually made from tongues of old shoes or boots that were past repair) and two lengths of string, one with a loop to fit over the index finger the other with a knotted end to hold between a finger and  thumb.  Pebbles from the beach were ideal ammunition and could be thrown quite a distance out to sea. 

Another rather dangerous game was for two groups of boys to hide behind boulders on the beach and then to throw pebbles at each other. 

Iron hoops made by the colliery blacksmiths, were great to run along with, with the hoop propelled by a stick. (Once near the grotto someone stole my hoop and I had to walk home!).

Some children were good at making paper planes which could be flown on the breeze coming in off the sea. Older children would meet at the store corner (The co-op) for a chat and to get out the house. 

The beach immediately below Lindsay street was reached by a path cut into the cliff face, this beach was used for plodging, collecting willicks (whelks) and catching sprats with a bent pin for a hook. In the 1930’s shoals of sprats would come close inshore and could be caught by the bucketful. At low tide, green crabs (inedible) could be caught, also a few brown crabs, usually too small to eat. As youngsters we soon learned how to pick up a crab or lobster with a hand across the back to avoid being nipped. Children had to be careful when turning over rocks where small devilfish (stonefish) used to hide as their dorsal spines were very sharp and poisonous. The local name for them were ‘Stangers’.  

Another good place to fish was the Black rock which was a shelf to the east of the Pinnacle, it was covered in black seaweed with deep water at the seaward end. Rod anglers sometimes fished from there. Younger children never ventured out so far. Fishing with hand lines was done from Lizard point, North Row and the cliff top overlooking the Wharry. These lines were about 60 yards long, often weighted by a sinker (also called a plunder) made from lead which was melted in a tin can and poured into a mould. A big nail was used to knock a hole into the plunder so it could be attached to the line. Usually the bait for fishing was small crabs called pillen, lugworms or ragworms. 

Standard footwear for all the children was sandshoes and no socks, there was trouble at home if your shoes got wet. At Woolworths they advertised as ‘nothing being over sixpence’ the sandshoes cost sixpence for each shoe. 

The Wharry was the place to learn to swim and to scull a boat. As young lads helping to haul the boats   the boats on rollers above the high tide level could be rewarded with a fish or crab.  Lobsters were quite expensive costing sixpence to buy. Fish could be bought quite cheaply, either at the Wharry or at the street end from a basket used to carry the catch home.

At one time a North Shields ‘fishwife’ would come to Marsden to sell fish on the doorstep, its quite possible that she walked from the Ferry to Marsden carrying her creel. 

Most of the colliery women baked their own bread with the left over dough being made into stottie cakes, often eaten while still warm. Homemade ginger beer was a popular drink with the bottle corks being tied into place with string.  Homemade egg custard was a delightful treat. 

The more fortunate children were given pocket money, a halfpenny for the very young, a penny for the elder ones, rising to two pence later. This pocket money was often spent at Harry Moon’s shop on Dolly Mixtures, Cinder Toffee, Liquorice Sticks and Cinnamon Sticks - these could be lit and smoked like cigarettes (not very politically correct today).      

Coppers could be earned by running messages for grown-ups. Bigger boys were paid to shovel coal from the street where it was delivered into the coalhouse through a small hatch in the wall. 

Visitors to the village were the Rag and Bone man who exchanged your rags for a basin etc. His cry was “Any rags or lumber”.  “Any knives to grind” was the call by a man with a contraption on his bicycle wheel for sharpening knives and scissors. 

Other regular traders included the ice cream man with his horse and cart. He blew a two tone whistle to let you known he was in your street. Later the Eldorado ice cream man with his pedalled container came along. Fruit and Veg were sold from a horse drawn cart. The Ryhope and Silkworth butcher came with a horse drawn, high sided and roofed cart which had oil lamps on each side. This was superseded by a motorised butchers van. Newspapers etc. were brought from Shields by the Economic bus, which stop opposite Harry Moon’s shop. The tradesmen carts that were pulled by horses provided a good source of manure for the garden. There was often a race with the bucket and shovel to collect the horse muck. 

Gypsies also visited the village coming around the doors selling clothes pegs.  

Occasionally the lighthouse walls were white washed by causal labour, a source of revenue for the hard up. 

Some men down on their luck, would come around the streets singing for money in the style of Arthur Tracy. They were often given a few coppers just to move on. 

Children who got comics would swap with each other until finally the much used comics were passed to less fortunate children.

There was a small pig farm on the High road, children would call at the owners house in the village with vegetable peelings and be rewarded with sweets. 

Older children would often help beat clean carpets which were hung outside across clothes lines. A paddle shaped beater or walking stick were used. Help was sometimes given to make clippy or proggy mats, home made toffee was often the traditional reward. The toffee stuck to your teeth and was well named ‘claggy toffee’.

The Sunday school was located near the light house and was usually fairly well attended, as well as a church it was used for social gatherings, table tennis and suchlike. A picnic in the summer for those attending Sunday school was held in Thompson’s Quarry near the site of the old Marsden Inn.  

The Marsden rattler carried pitmen and the occasional fare paying passengers between Marsden and Shields. On Good Friday the youngsters were allowed to travel on the train without charge to Shields for the service at the Glebe church. At the end of the service each child was given an orange.

Our Easter eggs were hens eggs, nearly always with a white shell. They were hard boiled and coloured by hand.

Some children went to the St Andrews church adjacent to Mill Lane/Arthur Street officials houses. Harvest festival saw the alcoves in the church decorated with flower and garden produce. The smell from piled up apples was mouth watering.

About the 1st of November, wood washed up on the beach was gathered into a pile in the centre of the green to make a bonfire. Any other combustible material was also used. Everybody hoped it would not rain for a few days. The lighthouse keepers often gave a bucket of oil to help with the burning on Guy Fawkes day.  Younger children were given sparklers, older ones had Jumping Jacks, Catherine wheels and sometime a few small rockets. Potatoes were roasted in the embers, it was quite a while before they could be picked up, peeled and eaten. The bonfire smouldered until the next morning. 
Christmas was looked forward to with great expectations. Carols were sung outside the neighbours doors for coppers. Those children that knew a couple of verses of a carol were usually rewarded.

A Christmas party was always held at school everyone taking homemade cakes etc.  We all tried to sit near to your own mothers cooking.

Christmas presents in the early thirties could be Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and such like. These were often purchased using cigarette coupons. Smaller items including fruit were put into the Christmas stocking hung near the fire place. Christmas dinner was always a great family affair. A small coin wrapped in grease proof paper was always placed on a lucky child’s plate underneath the Christmas pudding. 

I was a colliery lad who spent all his working life at sea becoming a Master Mariner. My Dad spent his working life at Whitburn pit becoming a Master shifter. So we both had experience of “working in the wet”.

South Shields 2014


Thompson's/Marsden Old Quarry

I moved with my parents in 1949 to a brand new flat roofed council house in Quarry Lane next to Thompsons old quarry. The quarry was fenced off to the public by a six foot high fence of upright railway sleepers topped with barbed wire.Running alongside the North side was the farm path that ran from Lizard Lane past the White Horse to Old Quarry Lane/Watson Avenue. 

One day about 1954 the fence came down just like the Berlin Wall did, every resident had wash houses full of sleepers that were cut up to burn on their fires.The Quarry then became our playground and I am ashamed to say how we along with the council commenced to destroy it. 

When it was in use a railway line branched off the main rattler line in a cutting between a field with the present day caravan site on the North side and the golf course on the other side. The line went through a tunnel under Lizard Lane into the Quarry. On the North side of the tunnel was the vehicular entrance to the Quarry, at this entrance was a pump house with a booster pump to pump water from Horsley Hill and Redwell pumping stations over the high Road to the reservoirs holding fresh water for the colliery steam boilers.

A 100 yards further on was an old storehouse that we eventually vandalised, in between these buildings the GPO dumped a pile of telephone posts,needless to say these were set alight and completely destroyed. Continuing in an Easterly direction you went past a large galvanised water tank at the base of a hill we called Volcano hill as that is what we thought it looked like. Opposite the railway line ended in a cutting below a wedge shaped hill that we knew as "the rolly polly hill" We would lie horizontal and roll down the hill and end up dizzy at the bottom. Continuing into the Quarry you came to a lovely wooded area with among others a monkey puzzle tree to the right of this was a stone wall with a hill behind it with slit trenches in it from the war. On the west side after the trees you had the cliff face below Cleadon hills, heading South you passed  a cave in the cliff that we called Bats cave. 

One day someone had found a long length of rope in one of the trucks in the railway sidings next to the Coast Road, We tied one end to the cliff top railings above Bats cave, then a few of your Pals would hold the other end at the base of the 60 to 70 foot high cliff, then you would put an old bike handle bar on wire and slide down rope, how no one never got hurt is still a mystery to me. In the South West corner you had trees that were taller than the cliffs. Needless to say we over time chopped all these trees down in mindless acts of vandalism, as we get older we all regret this and two friends who live away from the North who when they come to visit relatives always plant a couple of trees in an attempt to make amends. 50 yards along the south side of the cliffs is a very difficult part to climb, one of our friends Derek Tyler fell off here and ended up with plates in his head. Continuing East was another cave about 20 feet up cliff, this was our camp and I was in it one day while my friend Martin Atkinson was climbing above me when he fell off the cliff. I climbed down and saw he was knocked out so I ran to the High Road and flagged a car down to get help. Martin along with cuts and bruises broke his arm,but he made a full recovery. Further East you came to the zig zag path that ran up the cliff side,again we wrecked that as well, next to this was the headland where Another friend Brian Foster fell and was severely injured ,he was in a coma for weeks until he recovered.Above the Zig Zag path you had an old structure we called the dolls house, this was a former dove cott from Marsden Hall. 

On the Southern side of the rolly polly hill was flat stretch of ground with about 6  stone edged plots about 10 feet square, I was told these were horses graves but it is still a mystery to me. 

The council completed what we had started and wrecked the quarry by dumping rubble from the old houses they were demolishing down Shields raising the level by several feet in places. 

The tunnel under the high road was bricked up at both ends but was left intact under the road, often wonder if any safety checks are done on it.The cutting up to the tunnel was filled in and the Northern side where whippet racing was held was made into the caravan site. 

Peter Webber 1947 - 2015 


                                          Keeping The Boat  Afloat.


I learnt the art of salmon fishing from my father Derek Wilson Senior and his friend Jack Thompson.

My father had been a marine engineer whose ship was mined two days after World War 2 ended. When he returned home his father James Burdis Wilson who was an Overman at Whitburn Colliery didn't want him to return to the sea. So together they started a family business which we still have today. His friend Jack Thompson was a Deputy at Whitburn Colliery. During the war Jack had worked in a mine in Kent. He was one of the volunteers who took part in the Dunkirk operation crossing the Channel in small boats to rescue the soldiers from the beaches in Belgium and France.

Both men had fished all their lives. From being a young man my dad  had a fishing boat at the Wharry. He used to talk about fishing all the time with the likes of Joe Morgan, Bob Bennet and Davey (Didler) Watson and Chester Wood.

Jack along with his brother Ben had a much larger boat that they kept on the Tyne. One morning whilst fishing at anchor Jack saw a Seine netter approaching and although it looked to be steering close to them he did not give it any thought as this was a usual occurrence. However this day the vessel did not change course and before Jack and his crew could act it ploughed straight into them cutting their boat in two. All aboard were catapulted into the sea. Jack found himself in the water next to a member of the crew who was a non-swimmer he stayed with him and kept him afloat until they were rescued. His brother Ben who was a strong powerful swimmer was lost in the accident presumed drowned. Jack was taken to hospital and it was said that his hair turned white overnight due to the shock of the incident and the loss of his brother. 


Jack and my father had many stories to tell and they taught me everything they knew about inshore Salmon fishing. Normally we used to head north from the Wherry to set our net near Station Rocks. We would push the boat astern with the oars until we reached the sand on the high water mark, then placing the headline end weight on the sand we then rowed straight out into the open sea, feeding the net from the boat as we went. At the seaward end of the net as usual a box end was created and the net anchored with four heavy weights so it wouldn't swing with the tide run.

After the net was shot my dad would often say "fancy a pint Jack"  "aye why not" would be the reply. The boats outboard motor was started up and we would head north towards Marsden Rock. We would turn into the Grotto beach at the north side of the Rock. As we reached the beach the outboard motor was cut and Jack and my dad would climb out of the boat “KEEP THE BOAT AFLOAT” my dad would shout as they headed up the sands to the Grotto pub. "I`ll bring you some crisps" and would return shortly afterwards with a small bottle of lemonade and a bag of crisps. He again would say "KEEP THE BOAT AFLOAT". I would then row out to sea till I was just past Marsden Rock, I would anchor the boat knowing the tide didn't go back this far, I would lift the oars inside the boat and settle down with my pop and crisps. One day I picked the bottle up and the pressed top was still on. Looking around the boat I noticed the eye of the oar was about the same size. Placing the top into the hole and twisting, “success” off came the top.  It was always quiet, only the sounds of laughter coming from the pub, the calm sea gently lapping against the massive Marsden Rock and the odd splash as salmon jumped out of the water on its way to the river. The two men would emerge from the pub sometime later and give me a whistle to bring the boat back in. Once back on-board we would set off back to the Wharry. At the Wharry we would pull the boat up the beach under the bridge. The engine was put away in the cabin and off we walked to get some sleep knowing we would be returning at high water in the morning to haul the net.   

                                                     Derek with Jack Thompson at the Wharry

Derek Wilson

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