Kirknewton's fascinating history
signed up: 18th Jul 2014visit Local History ...
After many years of negotiations, and then an Act of Parliament, the Alnwick to Cornhill railway was finally built and opened in 1887. In Kirknewton this meant the building of a fine station, a stationmaster's house and a row of three railway cottages. The house and cottages were two storey and built of brick with an outer wall of large blocks of Doddington sandstone. Compared to the older, single storey farm cottages they must have been quite impressive. The school was enlarged in 1886 most likely as a result of the Education Act of 1880 making schooling compulsory. However, the planned railway and its implications must have been discussed for years in the area as the various possible routes were debated. For example one proposal missed Kirknewton altogether and went up through Ewart. Once the decision was made it would become obvious that the line would bring extra workers and families into the area and therefore more children for the school. The baptism registers show the birth of a son on October 3rd 1885 to John Young a railway contractor and his wife Jane living at Old yeavering and in 1889, after the opening of the line, a baby daughter is born on January 9th to George Brown, a signalman, and his wife Ann. The children of porters, surfacemen, platelayers and stationmasters follow. The first family to occupy the middle railway cottage was that of John Dixon. He was a Foreman platelayer and met his wife Sarah, a Wakefield girl, in Wooler. She had travelled north to live with her aunt and her uncle who was a navvy working on the new line. We can marvel at the work these men did when we look at the cuttings and embankments along the accessible portions of the now disused line. The Dixons had several children and one photograph shows their son Jack and daughter Mame in uniform during WWI. Their other daughter Minnie remained in the same house all her life. John and Sarah and Minnie are buried in the churchyard where their gravestone can be seen. A postcard view shows the railway crossing near the cottages circa 1900. The railway is mentioned in the school log books in 1910 when some of the children have been scolded for 'shouting at the people waiting for trains'! The last crosssing keeper at Kirknewton was Evelyn Pendleton who moved to the railway Cottages in 1948. Her husband worked on the railways but later changed to farm work. Evelyn opened the gates for road traffic and can remember some people getting quite impatient. Once a train was 'on the line', i.e. it had left the previous station, the gatekeeper could not allow people through. A bell signalled the train was on line. She remembers the trains carried rabbits for fur and meat and also delivers of coal which people from outlying farms came to collect from the station. There were extra trains for the lamb sales. There was no water in the cottages and the supply came from a well with a lift pump. if that didn't work there was another well with just a rope and bucket. There was an earth closet though an elsan was offered by the 1940s. No electricity ,of course, but evelyn remembers it being very cosy with the lamps on at night. Cooking was done on a range in the main living room and there was a 'set pot' in the scullery used for boiling up all sorts of things including the clothes on washday. Evelyn remembers the closure of the line in 1965 and how it was taken up so quickly it was hard to believe it had ever been there.