Latest news from Till Valley Archaeological Society

On Wednesday, January 3, a large number of TillVAS members and friends braved the cold and wet to hear David Lockie give a very interesting talk about the Black family of this area, with particular emphasis on Ford Westfield farm.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 8:00 am

The Black family was extremely influential in the area in the 19th century, and at one time various members of the family farmed at Grindon, Fenwick Steads, Kimmerston, Hay Farm, Etal Rhodes and Heaton, as well as at Ford Westfield.

They also had interests in Etal Barley Mill and Warren Mill.

The dynasty started in 1769 when John Black took over a water-powered forge opposite Heatherslaw Mill.

John started with very little, but he became a successful farmer and businessman, and even established a Baptist Chapel.

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He and his wife Agnes had 13 children, some of whom continued his work both in farming and as blacksmiths.

One son established Blacks spade works in Spittal, and it is also likely that he built the houses next door for workers who came from Ford. This led one member in the audience to state that he still had some spades produced by Blacks.

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

However, after World War I there was a decline in the family fortunes.

The mills and forge no longer belonged to the family, and in 1928 George Black put his affairs in the hands of creditors and moved away from the area.

David had access to entries from 1863 in a diary kept by John Black, who was born in 1822 and farmed at Ford Westfield.

This gave a fascinating insight into the life and times of farming in that period.

It was interesting to hear how much social life the family had, and also how some things, such as farming shows, have changed very little over the decades.

There were also entries relating to the planning of buildings, such as the Stewards House at Heatherslaw, which is still there today, as well as very personal entries about births, marriages and deaths.

It was obvious from the diary entries that John Black was a person of some note in the community. He took an active role in such community areas as the corn exchange in Berwick, and even purchased shares in the ill-fated Central Northumberland Railway.

This was a very interesting talk from a local member of the community who has obviously spent a lot of time researching this family.

Many questions were asked after the talk and some members were able to relate their own memories with regard to some of the information provided.

Please note, the next TillVAS talk will be at 7.30pm, on Wednesday, February 7, at The Cheviot Centre in Wooler, when Dr Ian Kille, a geologist of some note, will speak on Northumbrian Earth.

Members admission is free, visitors £4.

This temporary change of venue is necessary because of renovation work in Crookham Village Hall.