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Cow Close: The Early Years

An 1857 map shows Cow Close (now known as Meadow Close) as a row of cottages with a large and some smaller buildings in a field behind.  The brickyard is dated from around 1856 and was owned by William Cowburn, it is listed in the 1858 Post Office Trade Directory and would have been sited where the sports complex is now.  Cornforth Lane was just that, a lane with fields either side until it reached the turnpike road at Blackgate and the Three Tuns Inn.

In 1861 Cow Close Cornforth Lane was occupied by about ten families. William Field snr & family and his sons George & William jnr and their families are working in Cow Close brickyard. Edward Collingwood & family are living in Cow Close 35 acre farm. The occupation of the other residents is brick or tile makers, engine wright, coal miner and tinner & brazier.

By 1870 there were 6 coalmines around Coxhoe and education was made compulsory for children up to 13-14 years old. Cow Close had doubled and all but two of its occupants had moved on. George Cushworth the brick maker, originally from Yorkshire and Edward & Jane Collingwood & family were still on the farm. Many of the men in Cow Close were laborers at the Coke Works & Coal Mines. There were two engine firemen; a boiler smith; a tailor; grocer; a licensed victulas, a milner; a clock & watch maker; a postman & a blacksmith. Thirty year old George Collingwood & family, a banksman also lived in Cow Close.

Around this time a William & Sarah Cowburn a fruit grower from New Jersey USA, bought land from Edward Collingwood where Linden Cottages, Cow Close Lane (Meadow Close) now stand.  On his death 1885, William Cowburn bequeathed his estate to Sarah his wife, ( she was to be able to stay in Linden Villa or Orchard House for the remainder of her life) his son John, Kate Holmes, George R Haddrick, Arthur W and Tom H White. He asked that £1 a year be given to the aged & poor residents of Coxhoe and £10 be put towards the building of a Reading Room or Public Institute in Coxhoe. The 1931 Abstracts of Title linked to the land bought by Cowburn states at the time (1904), at the winding up of his estate, that the legacy to the Reading Room was not established in accordance with his will. Coxhoe Social & Literary Institute came about when four small cottages were purchased in 1910.

William Cowburn and Edward Collingwood were also among the founder members of the Coxhoe Co-op foundered in 1870.

In the 1881 census Edward Collingwood and his second wife Sarah are still in Cow Close but he is listed as being a retired farmer. Elizabeth widow of George Collingwood is living with her sister Ann Smith, both earning a living as dressmaker & laundress. Cow Close Farm is now in the hands of Joseph Pease who was a laborer living in Cow Close in 1871. The occupation of the much reduced inhabitants range from a laundress, coal miners & quarry workers to Daniel Stephenson a Police Constable and James Thompson a cattle dealer of 14 acres. In August 1883 William Cowburn was dismantling and auctioning off Cow Close Brickworks.

By the time of the next Census of 1891 only a few of the people from the last ten years remain. One is Edward Collingwood who is listed as a coalminer and the other is James Beattie who worked as a limestone quarry man. The new neighbours of Cow Close were quarry men & miners like the Weir family. Many mining & laborer families moved from place to place to find work, the birth place of their children sometimes providing clues to where the mines or quarries were.  Taking Thomas Weir as an example, he originally came from Houghton Le Spring. His son Robert was born at Ferryhill 1885, his son John was born 1886 at Old Trimdon but his later children Thomas, Isabella, Barbara & George were all born in Cow Close. Thomas then worked as a quarry man at Raisby. The 1897 map of Cow Close shows two rows of terraced cottages and Linden Cottages. The Victoria Hotel (The Cricketers) is there and some buildings opposite.  Linden House and outbuilding are there with some early Victoria Terrace houses.

Ten years later the Weir family are still living in Cow Close, as are James Beattie, the limestone quarry man and family; Frederick Hebdon, stone quarry man; and Thomas Dobbin a colliery mason.  Other new families were linked to the quarries or mines.  Sarah Cowburn (owner of Linden Cottages) remarried a Thos Sanderson the builder 1890 and was living in Cornforth Lane, she died 1925. Her family sold 3 Cow Close Road (Linden Cottage) to Arthur Collingwood the shoemaker and his wife Annie May Sanderson.

Cow Close 1919-1930

The diagram shows approximately what Cow Close would have looked like in 1919-1930. A row of single story cottages stood where the new houses are now, their gardens back to back with the houses of Cornforth Lane and a toilet block at the end of the gardens. The Mains family then Jeffries lived in no.1 which was set back from the rest. Jack Mains, a widower had remarried Rhoda Jane Berriman and between them had 8 children. They left Cow Close and moved to Basic Cottages, Jack was a horsekeeper for Steetley.  Thomas Weir was still living in no. 2 with his daughter Isabella & husband John Robert Allen who worked at Raisby Quarry. Next door lived Thomas’ daughter Jane and her husband Burt Scott.  George Ryder had lived in no. 4 at one time but past residents of Cow Close remember no. 4 & 5 being derelict. At right angles coming from no. 5 and between the next row of houses was a wash-house.

The second row of houses faced the first row. Its occupants were the Wrights, Burnidge, Younghusband, Naitby or Thorntons and Robinsons, these cottages had no adjoining gardens.  The Robinsons two sons, Frank age 17 years and Henry age 14 years killed on East Hetton duff heap, 7th March 1921. Another two houses ran parallel to these and were next to Mc Callums farm which had a wall round it and a well within its plot. Taylors & Dobbins lived in one, Erringtons lived in the one next to the farm, their gardens were where the bungalows are now built.

Following the road up to Cow Close (Meadow Close) from Cornforth Lane if passes Linden Cottages. These are the original buildings one single story where the Carrs and Galloway families once lived, next Collingwood’s, then Gill’s lastly Miss Storey’s.  The road continued down bringing you to the cricket field & tennis courts. Arthur Allen & Jack Collingwood remember a spring down there.  Jack remembers the cricketers paying him a 1d for every bucket of water he collected for them to drink.

The 1919 map shows Cornforth Lane with housing on each side and Co-Operative Terrace. By the 1940’s most of Cow Close was demolished, apart from Linden Cottages. Jack Collingwood remembers pulling some of it down with a horse. Many people were re-housed on the new estate up the Grove, and some went to Cornforth or Bowburn.

Orchard House Next To Hawthorne's Shop

Orchard House next to Cawthorne’s Shop on the corner of Cow Close Lane and Cornforth Lane. Thomas Weir (right) and friend.

In the 1930 Orchard House was occupied by the Naitby family. They rented out a room to an itinerant dentist for half a day a week. Cawthornes shop was used by the Naitby women (pre-WW2) who had a home-made bakery shop. At some point the shop was occupied by a Mr Smith (grandfather of the Cubellos) who framed pictures and sold hardware. He later transferred his business to the top of Church street.

John Robert And His Son Arthur Allen

John Robert & son Arthur Allen in their garden.

George Gill Outside Linden Cottages

George Gill sitting outside Linden Cottages.

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