Kirknewton's fascinating history
signed up: 18th Jul 2014visit Local History ...
Keeping warm, lighting the home and cooking all required much more time and effort, particularly in the remote valleys, until well past the middle of the 20th century. Gathering of the peat from the hills was part of the payment 'in kind' for the shepherds and later an allowance of coal would take its place. Collecting of peat was laborious as contributors to the video describe. It is also fondly remembered for its wonderful smell. Coal for the College Valley had to be collected from Kirknewton Station and brought up by horse and cart. Interestingly, the selling of coal by the station masters on the Alnwick to Cornhill line was part of their work and it was a good supplement to their wages. So much so that they sometimes did not go for promotion if coal supplying was not part of the agreement as they would be worse off. Cooking was on a range with the oven beside the open fire and managing this to produce the constant supply of food needed by the household (no quick nip to the shops! and no travelling shops either for many until well after WWII) was no mean feat. Also not without dangers. One person remembered that as a little girl she had been sitting near the fire and managed to overturn rising dough. What a mess she was in and no harm done. But it could have been a scalding kettle. Tending the oil lamps was yet another chore for the housewife during this time though many youngsters remember helping. When electric lights finally came, although appreciated for convenience, many remembered the cosiness of the old fashioned lamps and also remembered the smell. The electricity supply was only sufficient for lighting to begin with but would later allow for more amenities and influence the work of the shepherds themselves when electric shears supeceded the hand held shears.