Font Memories




Font Memories

Font Memory 1 - War Memorial

Details of this can be found on the website, the website of the North East War Memorials project. This information came to us via Mr Tony Harding on behalf of the Project, and there is reference to news articles of the time. The memorial was in the form of an illuminated vellum plaque. Its present whereabouts are unknown and it has been presumed lost. It was unveiled in July 1920 by Dr Edward Rees Chairman of the Board of Managers and dedicated by Revd Canon W G Edwards DD Revd Dean of Rothbury. The inscription reads thus:
To the undying memory of Mark Richardson Private 7th Northumberland Fusiliers
William Rutherford Private 12th Durham Light Infantry
John Varnham Private 2/5 North Staffordshires who died prisoner of war
Formerly scholars of Fontburn Waterworks Council School who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War 1914 - 1918
Also to commemorate the meritorious services of other scholars and the headmaster Charles Herbert Cook, who nobly joined the ranks and was promoted to adjutant in the 193 Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, receiving the Military Medal for bravery and devotion to duty.

Please see Centenary Celebrations in Fontburn Valley in 2009 section for notes and pictures about the Sundial and the War Memorial re-dedication, November 1, 2008.



Font Memory 2 - Fontburn School extras


Fontburn School

Click on pictures for larger views.

This is the only photo we have of Fontburn School and Schoolhouse, and has been donated by Christine McKay from the McKay family collection. The School house was built for the head teacher and his family and was used this way until 1927 when the then Head, Mr Dixon moved and then travelled in by train. From this point onwards, until demolition, it was lived in by the caretaking family, Shillingworths.

1915 group with Acting Headmaster William Thomas Brewer 1915 - 18. During his time at Fontburn he suffered great sadness with the death of his wife and the loss of two sons in the war. Photo and notes donated by his great grandson.

Photographs of school pupils have been found in the Dixon family collection and given by his granddaughter for display. We are unsure of the dates but they must be 1920s. Names have been suggested for some, but again we are unsure. The pictures are of individuals and family groups, and must have been taken by the school photographer (Primrose of Morpeth) when he came to take whole-school photographs. If any one can shed any further light on these images, please get in touch on


Suggestions so far: can these be??..?


Annie, Mary and Walter Watson


Four Robinsons




Annie, Matthew and Jim Wood, Spylaw


Harry Ferguson




Bella Butters


Butters brothers and elder sister


No name


Fontburn School 1920 with Mr Dixon and Miss McKenna


Fontburn School 1920


Fontburn School 1922


Fontburn School 1922 with Mr Dixon and Miss McKenna


Fontburn School 1923


Fontburn School 1924?


Fontburn School 1924


The Dixon family outside School House 1923/24


The Dixon family outside School House 1924/25


The older Watson brothers (Whitehouse) Willie, Peter, Tom, John with friend Norman Mason (centre back)



Font Memory 3 - Changes

Cottages Transformation

First the semis are built. Then the old buildings - Canteen, Mission House and Sandsby's are demolished and sold for scrap. Then the cottages are plaster-faced and white washed and smart new front porches added.

Invisible here, though perhaps most important of all, flush toilets and bath rooms were installed and interior rooms rearranged and modernised.

Click on pictures for larger views.


Water Treatment Works

The original layout and function alters. Beyond the viaduct an underground storage tank is built, where the School Infants used to enjoy their nature walks with Miss McKenna. Co-incidentally, it is no longer necessary to charge up the community's wireless batteries (building extreme right) after electricity is installed.

The sand filters give way to modern water systems. Are there fish jumping where the men used to work the sand?

Click on pictures for larger views.




Font Memory 4 - Egglestons

Joyce and Lilian have come across more old photos.

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Their mother, Daisy Eggleston, is pictured - a rare occasion as it was Daisy who was usually the photographer


Noel with toddler Joyce


The entire Eggleston family


Noel and Daisy at Dene View, Pigdon, where they moved to from Fontburn, when Noel was appointed as Linesman checking the pipeline on its way to the coast


Noel demonstrating the 1949 drought conditions

A WI trip - but which WI? Netherwitton? Rothley? Or was it the Whitehouse WI? Both Joyce and Lilian recall its existence, which may have ended with the almost mass movement of the Whitehouse families in the 1930s. Can anyone cast any light on whether or not a Whitehouse WI existed?

Does anyone recognise a face on the photo? 2nd back row, 3rd from left, looks suspiciously like Mary Bewick , my mother.


Joyce and Lilian improvise a see saw


Children at play - Joyce with the Hepburn girls


Top end


Font Memory 5 - McKays

The McKay family at Fontburn 1919-1975


The McKay family came to Fontburn in about 1919 when my grandfather, William McKay got a job at the new waterworks and this was the start of a fifty-five year association between the family and Fontburn. My grandfather originally came from Orkney but had left home as a young man to look for work, married my grandmother and ended up working at Charles Parsons munitions factory in Newcastle during the First World War. I remember my father, David, telling me that when the family had arrived at Fontburn from Newcastle by train, the weather had been awful and that my grandfather had said: 'What have we come to?' The first impression must not have been a lasting one as my grandfather remained at Fontburn until he retired in 1948.
After they arrived at Fontburn, my father and his brothers, Robbie and Willie, attended Fontburn School, and were followed by my auntie Peggy, who had been born after the family had settled at Fontburn. Auntie Peggy recalls the family living in a house near the railway line before they moved to the 'bottom house'. The family moved to the 'top house' when my grandfather was appointed as superintendent, succeeding Mr Munroe. Dad started working at the Waterworks when he left school and remained there until he died in 1973. When his brothers left school they found work away from Fontburn on farms.
When my grandfather retired in 1948, he and my granny moved to Tosson, but after he died she could not settle there, so moved back to Bullbush and later into one of the cottages at Fontburn.

1950s 60s and 70s

After dad married in 1953, he and mam moved into one of the newly built semis before he was appointed superintendent and moved into the top house. My early memories of growing up at Fontburn are about being with dad as he did various checks at weekends, such as reading the rain gauges and the meters and stoking up the stoves in the different buildings at the works. I became a bit of an expert on reading the thermometers and rain gauges and had the job of weather monitor at school.
When I was young, Fontburn School was still standing and was used about once a month for a church service, conducted by Reverend Page from Middleton Church near Scots Gap. Dad used to go in to light the fire to ensure that we did not shiver during the service. The school was also used when the councillors from Tynemouth made their annual visit to the Waterworks. This meant the men working to ensure that everything was neat and tidy in preparation for the visit and ice cream for us children afterwards.
Living in the top house was a wonderful place to grow up. My bedroom faced onto the road and the wood so I could hear owls and woodpigeons. Dad was very knowledgeable about nature and taught me to recognise the different bird songs and names of flowers and I learned to look forward to the primroses coming out down the dene and the first cuckoo. The grounds of the top house provided ample opportunities for climbing trees and building dens, as well as practising tennis against the walls of the water tower. I lost endless tennis balls in Alan Proctor's hayfield which generally resurfaced chopped up after he had cut the hay. For my brother, William, the front lawn doubled up as a football ground and cricket pitch.
We were still quite isolated at Fontburn as public transport links were very limited - the nearest bus to Morpeth was the school bus from Rothley crossroads - and there was no direct means of getting to Rothbury except on the school bus. Scott Renwick, Kathleen Blain and I started school in Rothbury in the autumn of 1960 and that meant a twice daily journey on Wright's mini bus. When I look back I shudder to think about how many health and safety rules were broken - the bus was an eleven- seater but there were far more than that crammed in. We Fontburn children were generally the first to be picked up and the bus then travelled via Ewesley, Colt Park and Ritton before picking the last children up from Coldrife, Morrelhirst and Holling Hill. We had a number of regular bus drivers - Billy Smailes and Eddie (yogi bear) Wright stand out.
Getting to school in winter sometimes posed a challenge - in the winter of 1963 I don't think we attended school for a full week between January and Easter. Often the roads were too bad for the bus to get through and if we did get to school there was often a phone call to say that the roads were getting blocked with snow so we needed to go home early. Dennis McCracken at Newbiggin farm had a snow plough for the front of his tractor but his efforts were often in vain.
The poor transport links meant that when I passed the 11+ the Education Authority sent me to Ackworth School in Yorkshire where my maths teacher was Arthur Brighton, who had attended Fontburn School in the 1920s. William ended up a bit nearer home as there was a boarding house for boys at the Dukes School in Alnwick. When I went to Ackworth my friends there found it difficult to understand that if they just put Fontburn as the address letters would get to me without the need for house names or numbers. At Ackworth letters were my lifeline, both from home when I was away and from my friends during school holidays. When I was little Len Shillingsworth, who lived at Daisy Cottages, was the local postman and he did his rounds on a bicycle. When he retired he was replaced by a number of postmen from Morpeth who drove vans or land rovers. There were three regulars, each with different personalities and Jake in particular always had something to say when my letters arrived home from Ackworth.
In the mid-1960s things began to change at Fontburn with the construction of the spillway up past the boathouse and the updating of the waterworks, which introduced new processes for filtering and purifying the water. Having worked at Fontburn for so long, dad found the changes difficult to cope with and his health suffered. After he died my mother, brother and I continued living at Fontburn, moving into the middle cottage. This was especially difficult for my mother who could not drive and, as a fiercely independent woman, found it difficult to depend on others for lifts, so in 1975 we moved to Rothbury and the McKay connection with Fontburn ended.

Christine McKay


William and Jessie McKay


McKays senior with son Robbie, Robbie?s wife, son Willie, and daughter Peggy


David with Christine and baby William


David with toddler Christine


David with work mates Bob Glendinning and Walter Watson

Click on pictures for larger views.

Font Memory 6 - 1947 Big Snow

Ewesley Station Sunday March 23 1947. All hands to the shovels - Bagnalls and Cummings menfolk. Photo supplied by Alan Bagnall who thinks the engine was called 'Tomboy'.



Font Memory 7 - The Watsons of Whitehouse and Fontburn

James and Catherine Watson. Married 1901. All eight children born at Whitehouse.

Watson family: John, Mary, Tom, Will in centre, Peter and Annie.

John Watson, born 1903.

Peter Watson.

Walter Watson, born 1918. Joined Tynemouth Water after the 2nd World War, living first at Fontburn and later North Shields. On his retirement from the Water Board, Walter was awarded a BEM for his services, presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland.

Meta Watson, wife of Walter, with daughter Margaret.

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