The infrequency of these newsletters is not merely the product of my natural indolence but more, I hope, a reflection of the stability of the estate. Apart from observing that there has been a flurry of properties sold and purchased over the spring and summer there is little news for me to advance.

As an adjunct to the news section of the website I propose in future to include extracts from the minutes of Estate Committee meetings from the inception of the state to date with further reference to a few other additional documents. I have only recently come into possession of the original minutes. They are contained in hardback gold embossed books with proceedings recorded in immaculate cursive script. Most striking is that there are no deletions or corrections whatsoever; it is self-evident that the perfected minutes were subsequently compiled from contemporaneous notes kept during meetings. The minutes are comprehensive and meticulous. I trust that it does not do less than full justice to the successive secretaries for me significantly to edit and restrict to mere extracts the minutes that I include. It has been necessary for me to adapt the format of the original minutes to the extent that the old practice of recording headings as margin notes is abandoned. I shall also include some other documents of interest.

April 26, 1895

The Estates known as Merryshields, Birches Nook, Painshaw Field and Batt House Farms, Stocksfield in the county of Northumberland were offered for sale by public auction by Mr Thomas Blandford auctioneer at the County Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne on Tuesday, 30 April 1895 at 2 PM in three lots: Lot 1 Merryshields Farm, lot 2 Birches Nook and Lot 3 Painshaw Field and Batt House.

Prior to the auction on April 26, 1895 a meeting of the members of the Northern Allotment Society was held at Lockhart’s Cafe, St Nicholas Square, Newcastle at which a plan and particulars of the estates were submitted with a view to purchase. The meeting was adjourned until April 29, 1895 at the same place and it was then decided that the society should be represented at the auction and that the members then present should upon their own account take whatever course appeared to them expedient.

In accordance with this resolution the following amongst other members attended the auction; John Bradshaw, James Scott, Simpson English, Thomas Davison, John Fenwick, Mark Henderson, William Armstrong, Joseph Weighill, Edward Adams and Joseph Wakinshaw. Lot one was withdrawn at £5400 bid by Mr Hawdon. Lot two was withdrawn at £1600 bid by Mr Joseph Wakinshaw. Lot three was withdrawn at £3200 bid by Mr Cowell of Corbridge.

30 May 1895

General meeting of the owners held at Lockhart’s Cafe on Thursday, 30 May 1895 at 7:30 PM.

The record of the proceeding meetings relating to the Stocksfield estates was read and confirmed on the motion of those present. The Deed of Mutual Covenants prepared by Messieurs Clayton and Gibson and embodying the conditions already agreed upon was read by the chairman. The following supplementary resolutions were agreed upon and are to be embodied in the mutual covenants; clause 13 that the contribution to the improvement of the Ridley Mill Road and the construction of a direct carriage road from the Wesleyan Chapel to the Turnpike near the railway station be £150 and that if not spent by 31 December 1897 the money be distributed amongst the owners of that part of the estate lying to the west of the straight line drawn from the south-west corner of 85 to the south-west corner of 229. Clause 14: the building line to be fixed by 31 December 1895. Clause 14:2 pigs to be allowed to each holding. It was moved that the mutual covenants be adopted subject to the foregoing modifications. It was moved that the Deed of Mutual Covenants be printed and a copy to supplied to each owner together with a lithographed plan of the estate as soon as the plan for laying it out was agreed upon. It was agreed that a committee be appointed to consider the best method of laying out the estate and to submit their report to a general meeting. During the course of the evening the purchasers present signed the Deed of Mutual Covenants and authority to purchase the estate and paid their deposits

8 June 1895.

The following recommendations were decided upon provisionally and it was agreed to hold an adjourned committee meeting for further consideration of the same. A new road to be constructed from the Turnpike at Birches Nook to Ridley Mill. One and a half acres to be reserved at the intersection of the existing road to Painshaw Field House for common purposes.

22 June 1895.

A letter was read from Mr Pattinson expressing his conviction that it was not practicable to carry a carriage road up the hill against Ridley Mill, in which view the committee unanimously concurred. Recommendations were made as to positioning of roads.

4 July 1895

The positioning of roads was further discussed. It was agreed that the building lines should be a uniform distance of 60 feet from the roadway. It was agreed that all roads should be 21 feet wide stop

8 August 1895 

Lot 73 selected as common ground. It was agreed that a footbridge should be constructed over Stocksfield Burn at the bottom of the Scaur steps. The bridge to be of stone of a width of 10 feet to a cost not exceeding £20. As regards the well in lot 35 it was observed that Mr. Arkless of Ridley Mill had used the water from the well for in excess of 20 years and the committee was disposed to think that private property in the world could not be established. It was carried that the well should be common to the owners of the whole estate. The specification of new roads was discussed and it was agreed that the bottom stone for penning should be obtained from the estate’s own quarry or new Ridley “as may be determined by a majority at any duly convened meeting”.

5 September 1895

A number of lots were sold by auction at a meeting held at Lockhart’s Cafe. The proceedings terminated about 11:30 PM “with a cordial vote of thanks to the chairman for the admirable in which she had conducted the business”.

I now intend to digress from the Minutes to include two newspaper articles published in October 1895.

Newcastle Daily Chronicle. Wednesday, October 16, 1895.

                                                           A Move in the Right Direction 

From a communication which we publish elsewhere, it will be learnt that the Northern Allotment Society has added to its previous undertakings in the acquirement and distribution of land in the purchase and division of an estate at Stocksfield. This, if we mistake not is the association’s third venture, and it is, we fancy, also its most important. The properties bought earlier at the Red Cow Farm in the parish of Newburn and the Tethercock estate at Wickham, having been part of a somewhat lesser acreage than that just disposed of. The state now in question was formerly owned by the late Mr Robert Surtees of Redworth, by whose executors it was submitted to auction. The estate, which is situated some half mile to the south of Stocksfield station comprises some 215 acres, 57 being arable, 120 grass, 35 would land, and the remainder roads, buildings, and waste. Hitherto it has been occupied by three tenants. In future it will be held, we assume, by 66 owners that being the number of purchases. These are persons directly and personally interested in the land and in rural life. That is an eminently gratifying reflection. It is undoubtedly consoling to learn that in these days of depression, when despite the pooh-poohing of doubting optimists, the rural situation in some localities is as black as it can well be painted, there are people willing to purchase land and to live on it, provided it is offered to them inconveniently small lots. Mr Joseph Wakinshaw and those associated with him are to be congratulated on having been instrumental in creating facilities for secure holdings of sizes to suit all requirements, and the purchasers are to be felicitated on the eligibility of the estates they have purchased. As our correspondence truly remarks, the scenery in the neighbourhood of Stocksfield needs no description in a Newcastle journal. The New Owners of Painshaw Field, Bat House and Birches Nook are about to pitch their tents in one of the most charming spots in Northumberland, if not in England; and the towns man who does not envy them their good fortune must be destitute of a genuine love of country existence, as well as incapable of admiring natural beauties in their most enchanting form. While however there is every reason to rejoice over the success of the society’s operations, it would be a mistake to suppose that they indicate the path along which we must search for a solution of the agrarian problem properly so-called. It is even going too far to claim for them as our correspondence seems inclined to claim, but they tend to mitigate the consequences of the deplorable exodus from the country districts into the towns. They have very little bearing on that phenomenon and we fail to see how they can assist in lessening the evil flowing from it. Why is it that the exodus from the country districts into the towns is deplorable? Not because there is anything to regret per se in the growth of the great centres of population. On the contrary, they continued development, other things equal must be accepted as a token of their prosperity. The rural exodus is deplorable partly because the proof of the decay of rural industries, and especially the chief of them, as an urban exodus would be a proof of the decay of urban industries, and partly because it sends large numbers of workmen into an already overstocked labour market. This will not be prevented by the schemes of the Allotment Society. They will not relieve the labour market in the least, nor can they restore a measure of prosperity to British agriculture. The settlers at Stocksfield, or most of them, like the settlers on the Red Cow Estate will retain their present occupations. They will continue to work in the towns, as we understand it, while residing in the country. In other words, they will live on the land, but not by it. What is wanted, in order that the rural exodus shall be stayed, is that people shall live by the land as well as on it; and if they are to do this, they must be shown how they can live by it. That is the whole agricultural problem in a nutshell, from the standpoint of landlord, tenant and labourer; how can the soil be cultivated at a profit? And obviously it cannot be solved, nor can the rural exodus be stayed, merely by providing town workers with country residences. At the same time, it is highly desirable that they should be so provided. The history of the revolution of Newcastle will, we imagine, be pretty much the same as that of other great cities. It will increase circumferentially, while centrally the pressure of its population will diminish. That is what has happened in London to so considerable an extent that after business hours and on Sundays the City proper is practically empty and men and women travel eight and 10 miles daily to and from their work. It is well, from every point of view, that these dwellers in remote suburbs should be the owners of their own abodes. It is also well that they should be the proprietors of small plots of land. Amongst them, they will maintain in a more or less high state of cultivation land which, according to present prospects, would otherwise standard excellent chance of becoming derelict the claim which may justly be advanced on behalf of the Allotments Society is that, by purely voluntary means, it is managed to accomplish a task wherein statesman, with all the forces of legislation behind them, have broken down. No contrast can be more striking than that between the success of the Society and the abject failure of the State, as exemplified in the neglect of Mr Chaplin’s Small Holdings Act.

Newcastle Daily Chronicle. October 1895.

               Purchase of another estate. A villa garden settlement at Stocksfield.

 

While so many patriots are lamenting over the decadence of English rural life and the deplorable exodus from the country districts into the towns, it is some relief to record the unabated efforts of our local Allotment Society in the contrary direction. The subject is one upon which much valuable sympathy has been poured out but little done. And it is the credit of the Society that it has at any rate displayed the courage of its convictions. Thanks to the daily papers, any tendency to infatuation on the part of its members is from time to time restrained by copious and solemn warnings upon the depression in agriculture, the failure or glut of the fruit crops, the decline in the value of real estate, which must presently come as cheap as stinking macro, and the monotony and inconvenience of country life. “None of these things move me” might, however, be regarded as the motto of the Society. Its members have fortunately proved that it is possible to occupy their land without sacrificing existing employment and that they can thus thrive upon their native heath without committing themselves headlong to an untried experiment in life. This may not be a very heroic solution of an interesting problem, inasmuch as it provides only a partial escape from the pressures of civic life, but it has at any rate the virtue of being practicable, wholesome and, above all, safe.

The procedure of the society has been of a simple and with all matter-of-fact character. Single-handed, its members found themselves thwarted in their endeavours to obtain land in small quantities and on upon acceptable conditions. It might therefore be argued that if any such demand had really been manifested, some enterprising landowner or paternal government would have foundered out and provided accordingly, but in the absence of these factors, it has at last dawned upon the applicants to take the initiative themselves. They have therefore been taking themselves to voluntary combination, by means of which various estates, not otherwise procure a ball, have been acquired and divided amongst the component purchases at cost price. It seems necessary to say by way of distinction from similar undertakings that the operations of the Society are free from the blemish of philanthropy or State connection, and that its members are merely helping each other to little territory upon the most approved principles. It remains to be said that although in one sense a private enterprise, the allotment society is a public institution of which any person may become a member.

The latest undertaking promoted by the society That has been the purchase of an estate at Stocksfield, known as Painshaw Field, Batt House and Birches Nook Farm. The estate lies to the south of Stocksfield station from which it is distance and its nearest point about half a mile and at its furthest one and a half miles. It stretches from Birches Nook Turnpike on the East to Ridley Mill on the West and is bounded on the south by the turnpike from Branch End to Minsteracres. The total area of the state is 215 acres, of which 57 acres of arable, hundred and 20 acres’ grass, 35 acres’ woodland and remained the roads building and waste. There is one substantial farmhouse, and suitable outbuildings upon it and some half-dozen cottages. The minerals upon the surface and to a certain extent below are included in the purchase. The soil is good, bad, and indifferent and is largely sand or clay. Regarded as a residential property, the estate has advantage of being somewhat higher than Stocksfield station and presents an area of a broken and undulating character. The scenery of the neighbourhood needs no description and it will perhaps suffice to say that the estate abounds in charming and extensive views of the valleys of the Tyne and Stocksfield Burn. The wood lands, most of which are watered by a small stream, are distributed over various portions of the estate and furnish a valuable ornament and shelter to it

The conditions under which the estate has been divided and allotted and the covenants under which it is held have been determined throughout by the purchasers themselves and have been, to a large extent, facilitated by the experience derived in previous undertakings. The total number of purchases is 66, of whom seven are ladies, and the applications range in area from 1 acre to 20. In laying out the estate it was taken for granted that each lot should be provided with adequate road frontage and after careful deliberation it has been decided to make new roads in addition to the ones already intersecting the estate. The specification of the carriage roads is a first-class character. Ground measuring 1 ½ acres has been reserved upon the estate for a quarry and it is expected the sufficient Freestone will be available from it for penning the roads. There are at least two excellent wells a spring water on the estate, and their use has been reserved in common to the whole of the owners. The proximity of the estate to Stocksfield Station, together with its eligibility in other respects, leave the purchasers to anticipate that it will become a popular residential neighbourhood, and special precautions have therefore been taken to preserve its amenity in that respect. A building line has been fixed, subject to certain modifications, and a distance of 20 yards from the adjacent road, and no dwelling house nor other erections is permitted between it and the road. No limit has been placed upon the value of the twinning houses to be erected upon the estate, but it has been agreed the plans thereof shall be placed for approval before erections and the plans committee has been appointed to advise thereon. The proprietors of therefore in their own hands and ample safeguard against the disfigurement of the estate by amateur architects. Equally careful consideration has been accorded to the uses to which the ground may be put, and it is expected that the category of nuisances that have been debarred will preserve the estate from undesirable developments, and yet at the same time admit of its profitable occupation. Public houses have been placed amongst the contraband institutions, and it is somewhat remarkable that though the partridges are not all abstainers, not one of them pleaded against this deprivation. The social necessities of the estate have not however been disregarded, and in view of future requirements a corner site near the centre of the estate covering 1 ½ acres, level and of the best quality soil, has been reserved as common and placed under the control of the whole body of freeholders. It would be premature to declare the purposes to which this block will ultimately be put but provision is intended to meet the educational, recreation and social requirements of the residents, and may someday translate into bricks and mortar the suggestion of your esteemed correspondent, Mr William Trotter of South Acomb that a group of alms-houses be established upon it.

I shall delve into the minutes and archives further in future months. I hope you have found these of interest.