BIOGRAPHY, Films, POPULAR CULTURE

Spennymoor’s Star of the Silver Screen…

GIBSON GOWLAND

Gibson Gowland

(4 January 1877–9 September 1951)

Alan Marron writes: Sometimes, the strangest things can start a search for information. In this case it was a query from a Spennynews reader, Bobby Hughes, who, whilst searching the internet, had found a mention of a Spennymoor born star of the silver screen. “Could we provide any information on the once household name?” he asked, in a plea that came via web-mail, which our web-master passed on en bloc at infrequent intervals. More often than not, the contents held nothing worthy of following up, but in this case, in my fifth year as a volunteer reporter with the paper, my interest was piqued, and off I went, hardly even pausing to push my Sherlock Holmes deerstalker onto my head, or reach for my trusty magnifying glass… the game was afoot!

Gibson was born Thomas Henry Gibson Gowland at 11 Flora Street, Spennymoor on 4 January 1877, the son of Thomas Gibson Gowland, a greengrocer, and his wife Jean, he was second eldest of a family of six (Gibson had three brothers and two sisters). The family business can be assumed to have been a very successful one, as they employed two servants at their home. Part of the street was demolished several years ago, as part of a site clearance exercise prior to the erection of newer homes, and Gibson’s home was unfortunately part of that clearance. It would have stood approximately opposite to what is now Trinity Methodist Church, which has had its entrance in Edward Street since being remodelled more than 25 years ago.

Gibson started work as a sailor, and worked his way up to mate on a ship, before spending several years in South Africa, where, from the age of 25 he variously hunted big game, prospected for diamonds, and organised a theatrical company in Johannesburg, in which he also acted, under the name of T. E. Gowland. He went on to prospect in Canada, where he finally made his début on the legitimate stage. In 1913, Gibson moved from Canada to the United States, where he met Beatrice Bird, also from Great Britain, and they married. Beatrice also came from a well to do family, and had emigrated with the intention of making a stage career for herself. They moved to Hollywood, where they worked as bit players, sometimes appearing together in the same film. Soon afterwards Beatrice changed her name to Sylvia Andrews

In 1915 Gibson appeared uncredited in director D. W. Griffiths’ “The Birth of a Nation”, followed a year later by “Intolerance”, a three and a half hour epic, also directed by Griffiths, now regarded as one of the great masterpieces of the silent era. That same year, 1916, he and Beatrice co-starred in another production – the birth of their only son Peter on 3 April. Unfortunately, just two years later they divorced, and Gibson took custody of his son Peter, who went on to make a name for himself as one of the foremost glamour photographers of his day, and the inventor of the Gowlandflex Camera, still in use today.

Six weeks old and hard at work already! Peter with his mother in his first film role: Small Magnetic Hand (1916)

Often cast as a villain, because of his bushy eyebrows, his six foot stature and curly hair gave Gibson a distinctive look, and in 1917 alone he made several films, ranging from westerns to mysteries, but his only starring role came in Greed (1924), directed by Erich von Stroheim, based on the Frank Norris novel McTeague, and co-starring ZaSu Pitts. The film has since become a classic, despite being cut to one-fifth of its original length before commercial release by MGM. In it Gowland portrayed the protagonist, dentist John McTeague. Von Stroheim had earlier directed Gowland as Silent Sepp in his 1919 film Blind Husbands, and this propelled Gowland to relative stardom, which in turn brought a succession of better roles his way. His two best known films “Blind Husbands” and “Greed” are still available on DVD.

Gibson with co-star Eliza Susan (ZaSu) Pitts in "Greed" (1924)

Gibson with co-star Eliza Susan (ZaSu) Pitts in “Greed”

The now relatively forgotten Spennymoor born star of the silver screen appeared in over 80 films – many of them uncredited – yet his acting CV includes: “The Wolf-man” (1924) the part of Joseph Buquet, a stagehand in “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925, starring Lon Chaney jnr.) the part of Black Bastien in a non-musical version of Rose Marie (1928 with Joan Crawford where he is unmistakably seen on the poster with gun in hand) and “Mysterious Island” (1929, starring Lionel Barrymore). According to an article in the magazine ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’, production of the latter actually started in 1926. There were various problems, including weather and the advent of talkies, which served to slow or halt production several times before the film was finally completed and released three years later. The article included stills showing the original 1926 undersea denizens and the redesigned version which actually appeared in the film. Footage shot by Maurice Tourneur and Benjamin Christensen in 1927 was incorporated into the final version. Gibson also had uncredited parts in “Northwest Passage” (1940, starring Spencer Tracy) and “Gaslight” (1944, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer).

Rose Marie poster (1928) unmistakably shows Gibson toting a gun.

Rose Marie poster (1928) unmistakably shows Gibson toting a gun

After a second failed marriage, Gibson returned to England in 1944. He died in London on 9 September 1951, aged 74, and is interred in an unmarked grave in Golders Green Crematorium.

I managed to track Peter down with a little help from the internet. By this time (July 2007) he was 91, and so delighted that anyone remembered his late father, that he was only too happy to fill in the gaps for me. He replied “I’m thrilled that you wrote to me about my father. He was born on Jan 4th 1877 in Spennymoor, and I was born in the United States. My mother (also English) and father divorced when I was two years old and I lived with Gibson from age two until I was seventeen, when he found a new wife, after which I went to live with my mother.” Peter also revealed that he was “currently finishing work” on his own biography.

Pater also confirmed that Gibson arrived in the United States from England, by way of Canada, in 1913 and there met Beatrice Bird, also from England, whom he married. Both were actors who had left their comfortable families behind to seek careers. They arrived in Hollywood by train, knowing no one, in 1914. At first each worked for $2 a day as extras or bit players and lived in a $7 a month shack one-half block from the famous Sunset Blvd. In 1916, Peter was born there. He saw the irony of that humble beginning, by contrast with his later life-style, also just three blocks from Sunset Blvd, but at the other end, in an affluent neighbourhood. In his planned biography Peter said: “My father raised me from age two, to my late teens. He never hit me, or told me how to live my life, or what I should study in school”.. Peter’s one and only sadness was that he had not been able to trace the site of his fathers internment.

'Gibby' and Peter

‘Gibby’ and Peter

Perhaps I love a challenge;or it may just be that I don’t know when its time to give up, but I discovered that Golders Green Crematorium, was under the care of the London Borough of Barnet, so I sent an email to them, asking for information from their records. A day or two later I received their reply, along with an offer of assistance should I or any of Gibson’s family wish to visit the burial site. Based on that information I can now reveal that Spennymoor’s star of the silver screen was laid to rest in Golders Green Crematorium on 18th September 1951, in grave number 65455 Section H.3. There is no memorial stone on the grave which is just grassed over; information which I passed to Peter, who himself passed away on 17th March 2010, aged 93.

Cinema seems to run through the Gowland family history: two of Gibson’s brothers, Robert and Edward, opened The Grand Electric Hall in Cheapside, Spennymoor in 1910.

It has been suggested by other sources that Gibson appeared on stage in England and Germany under the name of T. E. Gowland, but I have found no evidence to support this, and his early life history suggests very strongly that there is no space where this would have conveniently fit. The same source also wrongly turned Peter’s half brother on his mother’s side, George, into his brother, which hardly inspires confidence.

Photo Credits: All images © Peter Gowland; used by permission

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Doodlebug, WW2

Flying Bomb stopped play…

THE DOODLEBUG THAT FELL ON TUDHOE

Heinkel launching

Heinkel launching V1 Flying Bomb (Doodlebug)

It’s usually rain that interrupts cricket matches, but the most northerly doodlebug of World War II was the one that fell on Tudhoe Cricket Club at 6.05am on Christmas Eve: 24th December 1944.

It would seem that the doodlebug blew up in mid-air – somewhere just above roof level – and the biggest piece to survive was the nose portion, which fell to earth on Tudhoe Cricket Club. It has been wrongly suggested at one time or another that it might have landed on the pavilion, but we now understand that was not the case. The old wooden pavilion was in the opposite corner of the ground to where the new clubhouse stands, and the new clubhouse is very close to the spot where the doodlebug actually came to earth.

Cecil Lowes remembers the night the doodlebug fell: At the time, he was six years old, and his family home was at 254 Back Row, Tudhoe Colliery. (There was also Middle Row and  Front Street, although only Front Street remains standing). At the rear of Back Row there was an ammunition hut.

Cecil recalls: “When the sirens sounded everybody was advised to go under the stairs, which was always accepted to be the safest place. My mam got us safely under the stairs and then you had to black out, so she went to draw the curtains, and as she did the window blew and the glass came in, then the front door blew open and she suddenly remembered our Trevor. He was only about one year old and had been left in one of our two bedrooms. She went upstairs to find the ceiling had come down on top of the bed, and Trevor was laid underneath it, blackened by soot, but otherwise unharmed.

It was mayhem outside. Most of the people wanted to see what had happened. We lived about 500 yards away from where it had landed, so we ran across the cricket field to see it. It was fantastic for a six-year-old. It was sitting on top of the grass tennis courts that used to be in the corner of the cricket field near the vicarage, but the crater was only one or two feet deep, very black all round, but only about the size of a snooker table. It seemed a bit disappointing, but I don’t know what we’d expected it to look like.”

Although the Germans’ most northerly doodlebug did terrible damage to hundreds of houses locally, blowing out windows and doors, blowing off tiles and tearing down chimneys when it exploded, amid the debris in one household, the decorations on the Christmas tree survived, and in 2010, 66 years later, one still came out to be given pride of place on her tree.

I was a four-and-a-half year-old blonde girl living in Front Street, Tudhoe, and went to bed that night wearing a white winceyette nightdress”, recalls Sandra Chaytors, who now lives in nearby Bishop Auckland. “I woke up with glass from the window covering the bed. I looked in the long wardrobe mirror and all I could see was a little girl covered in soot.

Downstairs in the sitting room, which was kept only for best, we had a large Christmas tree, right in front of the window. It was decorated with miniature crackers and delicate baubles. On top of the piano and along the mantelshelf were Christmas cards. When the flying bomb exploded, it blew all the windows and doors out, and all the Christmas cards down, yet the delicate baubles and miniature crackers still hung on the tree.

Sandra says she still had some of the crackers (in 2010) but only one small silver-coloured bauble survived, which she still hung on her tree at Christmas.”

DOODLEBUGS

The Fieseler Fi 103 or V-1 flying bomb commonly known as a ‘Doodlebug’, was notoriously inaccurate when launched from Heinkel’s – which is how it came about that the most northerly landed on Tudhoe at 6.05am, as opposed to its intended target, which had been in the Greater Manchester area. Its ‘V’ designation came from the German word ‘Vergeltungswaffe’ which translates variously as ‘retaliation weapon’ or ‘vengeance weapon’. In either case the implication was clear: The V-1 rocket was intended by the Nazis to be a horrifying weapon, meant to instil fear and break the morale of their intended victims. For a short time, it seemed they might succeed, although it was very dangerous for the Heinkel pilot, as well as for those within range of the bombs. His plane was unstable, on account of the weight of the missile; It had great difficulty reaching a normal flying height, so was flown just above wave-top level, and because of this, some planes ditched in the sea. Also, since doodlebugs often fell off other Heinkel’s, pilots had to dodge them, which added to their personal danger, and when the doodlebug was launched, it was for all the world as though someone had turned a spotlight on the plane, which was ‘lit up’ – fully visible to any British fighter who cared to take a shot at him, as well as to anti-aircraft emplacements – for a full two minutes afterwards. About 40 of these ‘flying bombs’ were fired that Christmas Eve but only 30 made landfall, the rest tumbled into the sea. Brindle in Lancashire was the first to feel the wrath of the mighty Luftwaffe, at 5.28am; the last bomb landed in Hyde, Cheshire 57 minutes later. The last of its kind to terrorise Britain landed in a field close to a sewage farm at Datchworth near Hatfield, Hertfordshire at 9:00am on Thursday 29th of March 1945. There were no casualties.

What was inside the flying bomb

What was inside the flying bomb

The Fieseler Fi 103 (aka known as the V1 or Doodlebug) in flight (artists impression)

The Fieseler Fi 103 (aka known as the V1 or Doodlebug) in flight (artists impression)

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POPULAR CULTURE, TV Drama

Gently does it…

NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR FORMER COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL

The new look entrance_wp

How the former school will appear to viewers of the series (A Marron/Spennymoor Today)

The site of the former Tudhoe Grange School, which closed in July 2012 to join with Spennymoor School as joint founders of Whitworth Park School and Sixth Form College, will find a new lease of life thanks to a new series of prime-time BBC police drama Inspector George Gently. The series, which stars Martin Shaw, Lee Ingleby and Simon Hubbard, is based on characters created by Alan Hunter. The TV series based on those stories, produced by Company Pictures for BBC One, relocated the detectives from Norfolk to Northumberland and Durham. Series five ended on a cliffhanger, with the fate of the leading characters uncertain, but in September 2012 Peter Flannery, lead writer on the series confirmed that a new series of four, ninety minute episodes had been commissioned. For the last few months cast and crew have been based in their new home at Tudhoe Grange School’s former lower school site on Durham Road, which has not only become the police station from which the leading characters work, but also provides offices and a production base for the company. Filming at region-wide locations took place from March until early June, and the series, which has a regular audited viewing figure of about seven million, will air in autumn this year.

Publicist Deborah Goodman, said: “Period-wise the school really works for us. It has a great frontage to put our sixties police cars out front and the interior is great. We can make the police station sets work and have enough room for the production team to have its offices there. It has made a huge difference to the series to film it where it is supposed to be set, in and around Northumberland.”

To suit the series the entrance to the building has been altered dramatically: the familiar double doors now boast the legend ‘North East Constabulary’ etched into the glass pane above them, with the words ‘POLICE STATION’ engraved in the stone portico; a blue police lamp shines at the side, and an iconic red telephone box is sited below that, with parking spaces assigned to leading characters, and a number of period vehicles have been spotted, parked outside the building.

Agnes Armstrong, chair of governors at Whitworth Park, and a board member of Spennymoor Community Learning Trust has welcomed the new use. She said “The long term future of the site remains to be decided but we’re very pleased it is being put to good use in the interim. To have people in the building is good for security and it will generate an income that will go into school funds for the education and welfare of our children.”

Neil Foster, Durham County Council member for Tudhoe, and cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, added: “It is good to have this production based in County Durham. In the past, several firms from cars to catering have benefited, and while in the area the crew will spend locally. It also provides a bit of excitement for the area, people will enjoy seeing their town and old school on the television and there may be opportunities to get involved in crowd scenes.”

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EARLY DAYS, HISTORY, War

Kenmir’s – a family tragedy

DEATH OF YOUNGEST SON LED TO ERECTION OF CENOTAPH

Frederick Kenmir name

The name of Frederick Kenmir can clearly be seen in the central column (Spennymoor Today)

When World War I broke out, one of John George Kenmir’s sons, young Frederick went off to fight for his country, as did a lot of young men and women, both from Spennymoor and elsewhere.

Frederick, 23, became a sapper in the Royal Marines, and history records that he was killed in action on 15th January, 1917. He now lies in a hero’s grave in the War Graves cemetery in Aveluy, France along with many comrades – hero’s every one.

Aveluy village was held by Commonwealth forces from July 1915 until 26 March 1918. The extension to the communal cemetery, begun by the French who held this part of the line previously, was continued by our units and field ambulances from August 1915 to March 1917. In the latter month the 3rd and 9th Casualty Clearing Stations began to use it, the 9th remaining until November 1917. On 26-27 March 1918, the village and the cemetery were lost during the German advance but were retaken by allied forces at the end of August. Aveluy Communal Cemetery Extension contains 613 burials and commemorations of the First World War. Twenty-six of the burials are unidentified, and three graves, the exact locations of which could not be found, are represented by special memorials.

The extension to the cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield, who is famed as the designer of Regent Street, London (1920s), The Headrow, Leeds (from about 1929) and the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Flanders. In 1913 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and was elected to the Royal Academy the following year.

Before his enlistment Frederick had worked in the family business as a cabinet maker, ‘learning the ropes’ in readiness for the day when he would become a director of the company along with his brothers. Sadly it was a day that he was fated never to see. John George and his wife Margaret were plunged into deep mourning,as were many others of their day. It was possibly this that led Eric to design, and help in the construction of, the War Memorial that stands in the town centre today, a poignant reminder of a town that gave of its finest young men and women in answer to the call of its country, and the focus of the town’s Remembrance Day ceremony each year.

Parade Marshall Arnold W.Sanderson lays a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday Parade 2007 (Carl Marron/Spennymoor Today)

Parade Marshall Arnold W.Sanderson lays a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday Parade 2007
(Carl Marron/Spennymoor Today)

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HISTORY

The Great Fires of Spennymoor 2

KENMIR’S FURNITURE FACTORY

THE FACTORY THAT BURNED DOWN TWICE!

1897 must have been, in every sense, a truly remarkable year! Nationally, Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee – the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Locally, Solicitor James J. Dodd, who had been elected a founder member of the new 21 seat Spennymoor Urban District Council as recently as December 1894, published his new ‘History of Spennymoor’. But perhaps most important of all, certainly insofar as the town was concerned, 1897 was the year when John George Kenmir of 13 Osborne Road, opened his furniture factory.

Kenmir’s started quite modestly in the Old Market Buildings on the South side of High Street, but the business grew quickly, to such an extent that by the time of the disastrous Kenmir’s fire of September 1929, they had a total of seventy employees. Of the fire it was said that there was not a single place in the town from which the flames from the burning building were not visible.

Undeterred, they rebuilt on a much larger scale, at the top of North Street: a three storey building, comprising machine shop, rack room and cabinet shop. On the first floor the parts were prepared and sanded down. From there they went upstairs to the rack room, where they were stacked in readiness for the next stage of their transformation. In the cabinet room, skilled hands assembled the parts into cabinets of all kinds, which went on to the polishing and spraying department. In the finishing shop locks, handles, mirrors and a variety of other accessories were added. Finally ready for dispatch, the cabinets were sent to all areas of the United Kingdom. With their quality furniture in such great demand, the company, by this time a family business, had soon expanded its payroll to about 100 workers. And a family business it still was; John George handed over the reins to his three sons: Eric, who became Managing Director, Frank and Carl.

Working conditions were poor by the standards of today, with just one week of paid holiday in the summer, plus Christmas and Boxing Day, but employees thought of it as a good place to work, and still have nothing but happy memories of the factory, of their employers, and of the time they spent there.

The big square chimney bearing the letter ‘K’ on its four sides, was a well known landmark in the town, and even folk visiting Spennymoor for the first time could not help but know where the home of fine, craftsman built furniture was.

Although the factory ceased production in 1965, by which time the payroll was reckoned to be over 200, the furniture produced there by its workforce of highly skilled craftsmen still remains a much sought after item, and pieces are known to command very high prices on the rare occasions when they become available.

Two reasons have been advanced to explain the closure of the business. Kenmir’s furniture was built to last – that was their proud boast – and not an idle one. Those who bought furniture crafted in Spennymoor would never have the need to replace it. Much more likely however, is the fact that, although John George’s sons happily followed in his footsteps, their sons had no feeling for the family business.

Sad to say, the premises were taken over in the 1960’s and put into use as a plastics factory – which was – most unfortunately – also burned down.

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BIOGRAPHY

The Death of a Spennymoor Knight

SIR PERCY CRADOCK KGCMG (1923 – 2010)

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The obituary that appeared in The Times on 28th January 2010 was so short that even avid readers of that erstwhile publication may well have either missed it, or else passed over it quickly, judging it as ‘unimportant’. It simply informed readers: ‘The Rt Hon. Sir Percy Cradock, GCMG, died after a short illness on 22nd January 2010, aged 86 years. Funeral Service at St Mary’s Church, Twickenham, Wednesday 3rd February 2010 at 1.30pm, followed by cremation’. Why should anyone care? These are the reasons why…

Percy Cradock was born on 26th October 1923 into a family of small farmers in Byers Green, and became a fervent Labour supporter. He won a scholarship to Alderman Wraith Grammar School and, after spending the wartime years in the RAF, was the first from his family to go to university.

At St John’s College, Cambridge, he won all the prizes, got double starred Firsts in English and Law, and fell under the spell of Arthur Waley’s Translations from the Chinese, later becoming an Honorary Fellow of the College. In 1950 he was elected president of the Cambridge Union, which has, since its founding in 1815, developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of free speech and open debate, beating his Conservative opponent Norman St John Stevas into second place. Cradock’s victory is said to have owed less to his politics than it did to his reputation as the Union’s best speaker by far. Later, he would write a history of the Union.

He stayed on at Cambridge for a time to teach Law, then, having been called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1953, he left Cambridge, married Birthe Marie Dyrlund, and joined the Foreign Office as a late entrant in 1954. Subsequent to that he served as: First Secretary, Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], 1957-61, Hong Kong, 1961, Peking [China], 1962; Foreign Office, 1963-66; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Peking, 1966-68; Chargé d’Affaires, Peking, 1968-69; Head of Planning Staff, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1969-71; Under-Secretary, Cabinet Office, 1971-75; Ambassador to German Democratic Republic, 1976-78; Leader, UK Delegation to Comprehensive Test Ban Discussions at Geneva [Switzerland], 1978.

He was then posted back to Beijing, this time as British Ambassador, succeeding Sir Edward Youde, and he led the negotiations on the Hong Kong Joint Declaration which prepared for the handing back of the Province to its owners, the Chinese Government, earning himself the soubriquet ‘Maggie’s Mandarin’.

On his previous appointment to Beijing he had been caught up in the Cultural Revolution, witnessed the burning of the British Chancery and had even been forced to run the gauntlet of rioting mobs. This time he led the British team during difficult, often tense negotiations over the better part of two years; though by the time the Joint Declaration was signed in December 1984, he had been appointed Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was working from a desk in Number 10 once again. A year later he was also appointed Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, duties which he continued to fulfil until his retirement from government service in 1992. In 1993 he was made a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, a body of advisors to the reigning sovereign.

After his retirement, Cradock, who had always been pro-Chinese, became the most outspoken critic of Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, and of his liberalising policies, which he insisted would force the government of the People’s Republic to take strong action to reign in personal freedoms when it took back control on 1st July, 1997.

He was the author of a long article published in ‘Prospect’ on 20th April 1997 with the title ‘Losing the Plot in Hong Kong’, in which he wrote scathingly of ‘…the story of a bad mistake, which has left Hong Kong worse off in terms of protection and democracy than it need have been’. He went on to say ‘It has gone unacknowledged, as government errors tend to do, and has been almost buried under the powerful emotions stirred up by the loss of our last great colonial possession and the inevitable political-cultural clash…’

So this Spennymoor born man, who served his country to the best of his ability, as an advisor, both to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and to her Prime Minister; who was awarded the GCMG (Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1968; raised to KCMG (Knight of the Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1980 and finally to KGCMG (Knight of the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1983, passed away on 22nd January after a short illness, at the age of 86.

Knights have always been regarded, since time immemorial as men of courage and valour. We humbly record the passing of one of our own – the death of a Spennymoor Knight.

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Football, SPORT

Victorious Moors Return Home…

…TO CHEERING CROWDS AND CIVIC RECEPTION

The cup they cheered

Victorious Moors give fans something to cheer (Spennymoor Today)

There were no sad faces to be seen anywhere, as crowds never before witnessed in Spennymoor, even on the annual Town Gala Day, lined the streets to welcome home the heroes of Spennymoor Town FC, winners of the FA Carlsberg Vase, in what will almost certainly be its last staging at Wembley Stadium. For a club that regularly attracts an average attendance of about 320 for home games, the welcoming throng even made the 4,500+ Wembley supporters seem outnumbered. Everywhere, fans, many of them wearing the familiar black and white of the club strip, lined the streets to welcome their team – and their beautiful new silverware, and it could pose a very welcome problem for the club if they all decide to attend home fixtures next season.

The tour of the district on an open topped bus had started at the club’s Brewery Field home, and made its way through Tudhoe, Low Spennymoor, Kirk Merrington, Middlestone Moor and Binchester on route to Byers Green. On the return leg of its journey the people of Binchester and Middlestone Moor had a second opportunity to greet them, as they travelled via Whitworth Terrace, High Street, Oxford Road, King Street and Cheapside on their way to a Civic Reception.

Outside the entrance to Spennymoor Town Hall, no more than a few metres from the Wembley Club Shop kindly donated by Spennymoor Town Council, Mayor George Tolley was waiting to greet and congratulate the victorious team members, on behalf of a town that was simply overwhelmed by the occasion.

Media was in evidence everywhere: and their presence was not confined to photographers, although there were more of those than you could shake a lens cap at. Just to my left, outside the town hall, a television news reporter was recording his contribution ready for transmission later that day, and Bishop FM was represented by former Spennynews reporter Pauline Fothergill.

Ex Spennymoor United captain Dave Curry was present in the town centre, accompanied by a trio of lovely young ladies from Tudhoe Cricket Club – where, amazingly, play was stopped, not by rain, but so that players and spectators could applaud the team as they passed the ground!

Gavin Cogden, scorer of The Moors opening goal, commented: “Scoring at Wembley capped it all for me, but I wasn’t expecting anything like today. It brings home the reality of what we’ve achieved and how much it means to the town.” Manager Jason Ainsley was equally amazed: “I’ve never know so many people turn out to congratulate a team on winning a cup,” he observed.

Of course, when the cup in question is the “Holy Grail” of minor league football, that does tend to make a little bit of difference. Many members of Spennymoor Town Council have strong links with the club, and Mayor Tolley summed things up when he said: “I always wanted to go to Wembley with my home town club, and now I’ve done it. It’s absolutely unbelievable to see so many people waving flags and scarves.”

On display along with the coveted Vase, was the J. R. Cleator Cup won by The Moors at the start of the season. With two more cup finals awaiting them – The Durham Challenge Cup and Northern League Cup – it’s little wonder the whole town is held firmly in the grip of football fever.

High Street welcome

Home at last… to a mind blowing High Street welcome (Spennymoor Today)

Look what we've brought home at last!

Look what we’ve brought home at last! (Spennymoor Today)

If you have any Spennymoor related memories or images you’d like to share, please contact us by email: spennymoor.today@yahoo.co.uk

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