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This is probably a really basic question but I'm trying to get some information about historical Bedlington and surrounding areas.  My husband's family were the Walkers and they seem to have been resident in Bedlington since records began (his great grandfather moved to London so the line ends the connection about 1900).  We can find census returns and parish records up to about 1680 but that only gives us name and I'd love to know what the town was like and what their lives might have been like back in the day.  Any help or direction you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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@Marie Cousens - although we don't have any photos from your husbands family era there are some interesting old photos in albums within the Gallery under Historic Bedlington What you will find is hat 90% of the photos are whats known locally as 'The Top End'. There is very little on the Bedlington Station area. The Bedlington Station area was know as Sleekburn and the name Bedlington Station appears to have been adopted when the Bedlington railway station opened, in Sleekburn, in 1850.

Have a browse of the Gallery and ask away in this topic or the Gallery albums.

Be prepared for some 'pitmatic' answers to any questions you may ask.   :)

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Hi Marie and welcome to the forum!

Two things that I’ve found useful are census records and old maps. Both can help you paint a picture of how the town was. You may need to approach the census in a different way and Instead of looking for a specific person look at the whole area. Follow in the footsteps of the enumerator by starting at the beginning of the district you are interested in working your way through to the end. Depending on which year you are looking at you can see such things as:

Housing conditions: How many rooms? How many occupants? Were they overcrowded? Did the tenant sublet? Many had a boarder (Noted under ‘relationship to head of household’) to supplement their own income.

Size of the family: How many children have been born in a marriage and, more important, how many are still living? This often reflects the health and sanitation status of the era.

Occupation: you can get a good idea of what the area had to offer in the way of work. Having only Shanks’ pony for transport meant that people worked locally. Bedlington has had many and diverse industries over the years. Particularly interesting are the ‘occupations’ given for women who are heads of household. No benefits meant ingenious ways of earning a living.

Age: look at the age which children were put to work and the type of work they did. Look at the age at which female heads of household became widows.

Place of birth: gives an insight into what type of workers were attracted to Bedlington and even why. If the wife was a Bedlington lass and the head of household from elsewhere then matters of the heart may be the answer. If the whole family was born elsewhere it often reflects hard times there and better times in Bedlington. You’ll be surprised just how far people have moved.

Relationship to head of household: even that can reveal things like illegitimacy levels. Given a head of household named XXXX with a wife, daughter and grandson also named XXXX then there’s a good chance that the grandchild was born out of wedlock. It seems to have been more common during some periods.


Old maps can reveal a lot about the development of the area. Not only can you see the actual growth of the town but you can also see the decay. When you see that new housing has appeared and another area of housing disappears then it’s safe to draw the conclusion that the latter was probably in an appalling condition. If you’ve had relatives living there then they haven’t had it easy!

Many things are marked out on old maps which can give you an idea of religious practices and persuasions at the time. New churches of differing denominations as well as mission rooms appear and disappear. Compare the number of such establishments with the number of inhabitants and do the same for schools, hospitals and public houses.

It’s a painstaking job, Marie, but if you’re interested it’s really fascinating to see how people have lived.

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