I pretty much figured that the two months I spent in Northumberland would zoom by, and of course they did. My time there was a satisfying balance of research, socializing, and sightseeing. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my extended family lives there (Kay and Peter), and my fourth cousin (John) visited from the south, which made all the difference in my comfort level in an unfamiliar place.
I was eager to get to the Northumberland Archives, and they were only open four days per week, so during the first week of January, I spent several days there doing research along with my cousin John. I’ll post separately about my genealogy finds.
On the first Sunday of January, I made the short walk down the street to St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, where my great grandmother, Mary Payne, was baptized in 1871. I stayed for the service, and afterwards Vicar Ian was extremely welcoming, offering to take me on an historical tour of the area the following week. Naturally, I accepted!
A few days later, Vicar Ian took John and I to all the local places meaningful to my family, including the beach. He told us that the coal companies provided the mining families with coal for heating their homes, and that benefit was withheld for striking miners, so during those times, they would have had to scavenge for coal.
We saw St. Peter’s Church at Cambois (pronounced CAM-us), where several of the Payne and Weightman children were baptized. Unfortunately, it’s now a private home, so we weren’t able to enter it.
We took the Vicar out to lunch at Charlton’s Bar and Restaurant in Cambois, which apparently is owned by Jack Charlton, an English football legend. He was actually there that day – but much to everyone’s surprise, I had never heard of him, so it didn’t mean much to me. I was more interested in imagining the historic building as it was back in the days when my ancestors lived there!
Cousin John stayed with me for a week, and together we visited a couple of local libraries, went to the Mining Institute in Newcastle, and took a delightful road trip to Shilbottle and Warkworth which were significant parishes in the lives of our Weightman ancestors.
One night, we had plans to go out to dinner with a couple who are long-time friends of John’s, and who are both blind. We drove a half hour to Newcastle to pick them up, loaded them in the car, and then John’s car wouldn’t start. While John took care of the car, I was assigned the job of walking the blind couple to a restaurant which was through a dark park in an area where I had never been – all I can say is thank goodness for smart phones, because I totally relied on the map as well as the flashlight feature to guide me! All worked out well, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner.
John went back to his home near London in mid-January, and by then, Kay and Peter were feeling much better, both of them having been sick for several weeks. Kay and I enjoyed a couple of afternoons at her dining room table with our computers, comparing our family trees and working on problem solving together.
Kay frequently invited me to have dinner at her house, and one time I went to her sister’s for a meal. They were all incredibly generous, going way above and beyond to make me feel very welcome. They took me to visit Newcastle a couple of times, where the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society is located.
At the end of the month, Kay and Peter invited me to see their two granddaughters perform in a “Pantomime” at the local community center. To me, a pantomime involves miming (silent acting), but I learned that a pantomime in Britain is a traditional musical comedy stage production.
According to Wikipedia, it “includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors, and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale, fable, or folk tale. It is a participatory form of theatre in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.”
The whole thing was hysterical and the children were adorable – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! I truly loved it and I hope I can see another one someday.
Sounds like a pretty darn amazing January, right?? Certainly nothing like any I’ve experienced before. And more to come!