Latest news from Till Valley Archaeological Society

On January 3, TillVAS members and friends braved the cold to hear David Lockie give a very interesting talk about the Black family, with emphasis on Ford Westfield Farm.

Friday, 2nd February 2018, 16:00 pm

The Blacks were extremely influential in the area in the 19th century and farmed at Grindon, Fenwick Steads, Kimmerston, Hay Farm, Etal Rhodes and Heaton, as well as Ford Westfield. They also had interests in Etal Barley Mill and Warren Mill.

In 1769 John Black took over a water-powered forge opposite Heatherslaw Mill. He became a successful farmer and businessman, and even established a Baptist Chapel.

He and his wife Agnes had 13 children. One son established Blacks spade works in Spittal, and it is likely that he built the houses next door for workers from Ford. One member said he still had spades produced by Blacks.

David showed images of buildings from the 19th century with a prominent keystone over the entrance. As this is quite unusual, it could indicate that they were commissioned or built by the same person.

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After the First World War there was a decline in the family fortunes, and in 1928 George Black put his affairs in the hands of creditors and moved away.

David had entries from 1863 in a diary kept by John Black, who was born in 1822 and farmed at Ford Westfield. It gave a fascinating insight into farming in that period. It was interesting to hear how much social life the family had and how some things, such as farming shows, have changed very little.

There were entries relating to the planning of buildings, such as the Steward’s House at Heatherslaw, as well as personal entries about births, marriages and deaths.

John Black took an active role in the corn exchange in Berwick and even purchased shares in the ill-fated Central Northumberland Railway.

This was a very interesting talk. Many questions were asked and some members related their own memories.

The next talk is on February 7, at 7.30pm, at The Cheviot Centre, Wooler, when Dr Ian Kille will speak on Northumbrian Earth.

He will describe the geology of Northumberland and the Borders to give an understanding of how human activity has exploited it. He will give examples of the way that geology has helped to inform archaeology. All welcome. Members free, visitors £4.