I’m always on the lookout for old images of Rowlands Gill and High Spen, the villages I grew up in. Two days ago I was looking through the private collection of a local postcard dealer, and I found some really interesting cards showing the two villages. Although the dealer wouldn’t sell the cards, I was able to scan them (for a fee).
One of the cards showed a rather blurry image of Collingdon Road, High Spen with the pit heap behind it, but that turned out to be of much less interest to me than what was on the reverse. This card, apparently written by a child, and posted in High Spen on 3rd August 1907, was signed by Lissiy Bright and addressed (in a different hand) to a Miss M Moore, 14 Lorne Street, Haltwhistle.
Being a keen family historian, this immediately rang several bells in my mind. My great uncle by marriage, Nicholas Bright, had a sister Lizzie, and they’d both been raised in Lorne Street, Haltwhistle until Nichol was 8 (1909) when the family moved to High Spen.
Analysing the postcard in the context of what I know of the family, it fits in very nicely. On the 1901 census of Lorne Terrace, Haltwhistle we find John Bright, a coal miner, with his wife, Mary, and their family, including 2 year-old Elizabeth Jane (Lizzie). John got a job at Garesfield Colliery, High Spen and initially moved there by himself, leaving his wife and family back in Haltwhistle. In 1909 John’s family joined him at High Spen and they set up home at 34 Strothers Terrace.
The postcard reads:
Dear M just a few lines to let you know that I am enjoying myself a treat. I was at the sea side and I had a jolly day paddling. I will tell you when I come home. Lissiy Bright
From the date of the postmark – 3rd August 1907 – this must have been sent when John was living at High Spen and the family were still in Haltwhistle. So it seems that 9 year-old Lizzie must have been spending part of her summer holiday with her dad at High Spen.
What of the addressee “Miss M Moore, 14 Lorne Street, Haltwhistle”? From the 1911 census we can see that the Moore family were still living at 14 Lorne St, Haltwhistle at that date, and the eldest child was Margaret Moore, who was just a little younger than Lizzie Bright.
Yes everything does fit. Incredible as it seems, the inescapable conclusion is that the postcard I scanned two days ago just happens to have been written and sent 106 years ago by a distant relative to a neighbour. What an amazing coincidence!