Everyday Life at Kirkby Stephen and Eden Valley Station 1861
Ann Sandell has taken an article written by Poet John Close about having dinner in the Porter's Room at Kirkby Stephen East in the year the station was opened and added some notes of some research into the biographies of the people he mentions.
‘Sitting in the Porters’ Room, on benches, merry as Crickets and as hungry as hunters, who do we see at Dinner? Each man has his square Tin and Bottle of cold tea; and should a poor soul be there who is faint and nothing to eat, any of those will freely share with him their cold Beef and Bread, Tea and Cake; When thirsty, we have been refreshed from John Landford’s Bottle; and if hungry, John Thompson’s (Fireman) nice Cake has regaled us: and no liquid so sweet, no bread so good, as when shared with such men. We say, who do we see sitting around at Dinner?’ Poet John Close 1862
‘First, there is Mr. Baines of New Shildon, Engine Driver. A stout, tall, good-like jolly fellow, whose nose you can just see peering out among his huge beard and moustache.... We shall not soon forget this man; so intelligent, so learned, and so courteous....’ John Bains, Engine Driver b.1826 West Reinton, Durham lives with his wife Ann in East Thickley 1861, Middlesborough 1871, Stoker Shildon 1851.
‘Next, there is Mr. George Race, Goods Guard, from Aycliffe, his face is clean, and the cap on his head is placed jauntily.... digests all he reads; and he can talk, argue and quote like a Philosopher of Old Plato’s School... there beats a heart warm as any man’s and George would do the first man he saw in distress a good turn ... in him the Company has no better servant,or more faithful, trustworthy man.’ George Race, Railway Guard b.1829 Fishburn, Durham lives with his wife Mary in Darlington 1871.
‘Then up in the corner, next the oven, sits Mr. Mountry, a handsome, clever, little man now that he has shaved off his fine moustache on the upper lip you can get a good look at him: you would give a guinea for such a beard and he seems to know its value, for it is cut and trimmed to a hair.... ever twinkling eyes, seem to prove there is an active soul within...and seems alive and chirping....he has one of the best of little wives, who waits on him like a good dear soul as she is, and who never scolds.. James a happy man and he also reads his Bible...’ James Mountry, Engine Driver b.1840 Darlington, Durham lives with his wife Mary and eight children in Darlington in 1881.
On the table, with his knees drawn up to his chin sits our good friend the aforesaid John Thompson. Who has a smile of good humour ever on his lips and, indeed we know no happier man, for John has one of the prettiest wives in our parish...Sarah thinks no man like her own and she is right.’ John Thompson is a very common name in our area and there are two in Kirkby Stephen at this time working for the railway in similar trades but none has a wife named Sarah. There is a John, a Railway Shunter at Kendal in 1881 who has a wife named Sarah.
‘That man who sits in the other corner, smoking his pipe so contented...as if none of the “Ills of Life” ever disturbed him-who seems weather beaten...who has a little dog (Turpin) on his knee, half spaniel, half terrier...this man is John Langford, Platelayer who lives at “Onion Flatt Cottage” in company with a little man called “Cherry”...a bag of bones.. John Langford has not yet tasted the sweets of Matrimony...Nature’s Diamond in the rough, which, when polished with a little knowledge, would make a bright man...’ Possibly John Langford, Railroad Labourer b.1828 Keswick, Westmorland in Ravenstonedale as a lodger 1861.
‘Close sits Colley, another Engine Driver, from New Shildon, who, when he does talk, it comes so fast-like one of those cascades down Hartley Fell...this ideas rush through his brain like a covey of Partridges in a harvest-field. This man is very witty, and creates no little envy among his mates by his long Dictionary words-who are puzzled where he learned all he knows...droll sayings, quaint conceits and laughable anecdotes.’ James Colley, Engine Driver b.1827 Upton, Lincolnshire living in Shildon, Durham in 1861 moves to Kirkby Stephen with wife Jane and children.
‘George Patterson, a round-faced, good-natured Platelayer, has come to shelter from the steeping rain: he is wandering in the Labyrinth of Love and Courtship- has not found “a rib to fit his side” yet keeps up his spirits....He is a staunch Teetotaller..’ George Patterson, Platelayer b1833., Brafferton, Durham finds his girl Martha. In 1891 he is a Soap Traveller in Blackburn, Lancashire.
‘On the table close to John Thompson, sits an oddly merry fellow-Thomas Proudfoot (Fireman) of New Shildon- who has some strange notions in his head and imagines it possible to make Railways in the Moon, provided he could get there; nay will argue there are men there with heads like owls and wings like gigantic Albatross...his sweet, little, chirping wife can never enjoy a good dream for his shouting in his sleep ...dreaming that he sees the Owl-men flying.’ Thomas Proudfoot, Engine Feeder b1838 Stanhope, Durham lives with wife Elizabeth in Shildon 1861, Middlesborough 1871 and becomes an Engine Driver. Whether or not is was because of the lack of sleep Elizabeth is replaced by Ellen ten years younger.
Poet John Close/Ann Sandell
The engraving at the head of this page shows Stockton and Darlington 0-6-0 Goods N0.103 'Darlington' designed by William Bouch and built in October 1855 by Gilkes Wilson and Co. Middlesbrough, and so it is exactly contemporary with this writing by Poet Close. It was later rebuilt by Fletcher into the '1001' Class and survived in service until 1905. The engine is standing on what later became the 'down' mineral line. The water column on the left was a feature of this same spot right down until 1962 although the equipment itself was probably replaced during LNER days.