02 June 2020
Historian Keith Gregson shares tales of the fascinating and illustrious folk he encountered when tracing the story of his street.
I live in a large Victorian terrace in a private park in the north east of England. When we moved here over thirty years ago much of the street was in flats and student accommodation but now most of it is privately owned. As a social and family historian I could not bypass the opportunity to use the resources available to me to look at the history of the eleven houses in our terrace - all built around 1870 - and what a history.
Who lived on the street?
One house was the boyhood home of a Battle of Britain ace who was captured in the war and became the escape officer for the famed and filmed 'Wooden Horse' enterprise. Two doors away from him lived an architect responsible for the design of many of our great regional theatres. His daughter was married to an intrepid explorer known for his ventures in exploring the north west passage. He was living with them at the time of one of the censuses.
Next door to us was one of the famous ship building (not plane building) Short Brothers - self declared as employing hundreds of men. Three doors away in 1891 was the home of the Marshall family. In 1891 son Howard was away in Cambridge studying medicine. He was a talented young rugby player and with a few pals started playing some fun games with a team they decided to call the Barbarians. He then went on a tour with some of these pals - later to be known as the British Lions. He played once for England - scoring a hat trick of tries against Wales in Wales. He was then injured and never played again but lived to be a ground breaking medic during the First World War.
Someone brought round a picture of our house being built. He'd found it in an archive. It was built for the the town's leading High Street grocer and tea dealer and was later occupied for years as the town house of a ship owner and businessman who also had a mini Downton Abbey full of servants in North Yorkshire. Later it was certainly in part occupation of an Olympic medalling diver and (possibly but not certainly) could have been the boyhood home (for a time) of a well known TV actor.
Oh - and the land on which it is built was jointly owned by the uncle and cousin of the man who founded the F.A. Cup, captained a cup winning team and was responsible for many of the important developments in international football and cricket.
Not bad for a row of eleven houses. I hope you find your street research as fascinating as I did mine.