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History Society 2021/22


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23 minutes ago, Maggie/915 said:

Maybe the lady ,we knew as Miss Smail , was the daughter.

I think the original piece of music she played was Wagner The Ride of the Valkyrie .

Given the role of the Valkyrie, I hope she only played it at funerals!

I  believe that Vic's organist was one of - possibly both of - John Robert Smail's daughters.

Edited by Canny lass
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Eggy, can we have a gallery album for these photos and any others from the churchyard that may be posted? They are a very valuable source of information, well worth preserving in photo form as the real thing is now disappearing fast. If you could work your magic with naming the files so they would be easily accessible to the researcher, it would be wonderful. BTW, I think John Hedley may be my relative.

Huge thanks for posting these, Maggie, and can I urge other photo enthusiasts to leg it down to the churchyard and capture more memorials, pleaeaeaeaease!

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7 minutes ago, Canny lass said:

Eggy, can we have a gallery album for these photos and any others from the churchyard that may be posted? They are a very valuable source of information, well worth preserving in photo form as the real thing is now disappearing fast. If you could work your magic with naming the files so they would be easily accessible to the researcher, it would be wonderful. BTW, I think John Hedley may be my relative.

Huge thanks for posting these, Maggie, and can I urge other photo enthusiasts to leg it down to the churchyard and capture more memorials, pleaeaeaeaease!

We certainly can. Can you come up with an appropriate name for such an album?😇

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1 minute ago, Canny lass said:

Headstones sounds good to me. Maybe we could have subdivisions starting with:

Headstones, St Cuthbert's Churchyard.

There are maybe other churchyards in the shire which could have their own subdivision?

That would have to be separate albums - don't think I've come across the option to subdivide a new album so I think it would have to one name to cover all - unless @Andy Millne know different🙂

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9 minutes ago, Canny lass said:

Separate albums sounds good too - a bit like you do with the various schools.


1 minute ago, Vic Patterson said:

I know of West Lea cemetery, would there be any connected to the other churches?

We will have to give it some thought. As far as I know there are graves + headstones in West Lea - St Cuthbert's and St John's . Not sure if St Bede' s had a separate graveyard but I know it now uses West Lea.

I don't know of any others, in Bedlington.

I will leave creating album(s) until next Monday and hopefully go for the best solution based on everyone's thoughts and ideas😊

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On 25/10/2021 at 15:51, Maggie/915 said:




Two questions that  came to mind when I read the inscription on Isabella Smail’s headstone were, firstly, why is  Edwin's name not first as he clearly died before his wife and secondly, why are there no details about him – age, date of death etc? To me, this suggested that he was not buried with Isabella and naturally I wondered why not.


My search for Edwin Smail took me first to the Borders Region of Sotland and to Roxburgh where he was born about 1827 to parents John and Esther Smail. In 1841, at the age of 14, Edwin is already working and appears on the census of that year as the youngest member of the estate staff at Kippilaw - the country seat of the prestigious Scottish family Tod. No other family members are recorded at Kippilaw so Edwin is clearly living away from home. Just what Edwin’s job was, I have been unable to ascertain. His occupation is simply abbreviated ”MS”. Later research suggests he may have been apprenticed to the grounds/gardening staff as gardening seems to have been his profession for the remainder of his life.


I have been unable to find any trace of Edwin in the 1951 census but he reappears in 1861. He is then years 34 years old and has left Scotland. He is working as a gardener and living in Chatton Village, part of the Sandhoe Hall estate, near Hexham, the country residence of another prestigious family, the Erringtons. I think it’s reasonable to assume – and it is only an assumption - that Edwin is working on the estate and living in a tied cottage. That being the case his master would have been Sir Thomas Errington, High Sheriff of Northumberland (from 1855) and the 11th Errington Baronet from 1863. I can also see from the 1861 census that Edwin is now married to Isabella and the couple have two young children: John Robert Smail, then 3 yo, born 1857, and Dorothy Ann Smail, then 2 months old, born 1861 both born in Chatton.


The Register for Births, Deaths and Marriages reveals that Edwin and Isabella, nee Fish, had married some 10 years earlier, in the third quarter of 1851 in Hexham and that there was an earlier child, John Smail, born to the couple in July 1852, also in Chatton. It seems therefore that Edwin was already living in the Hexham area in 1851. The child, John, was destinied to have a very short life  and  died in September the same year less than 3 months of age. Sadly, Isabella’s grief would not end there as even Edwin, her husband of only 11 years, died 12 months later, on 2 September 1862 aged 35 years. He is buried in Holy Cross Churchyard, Chatton and his headstone, rather simple in comparison to his wife Isabella’s, bears a memorial to the child John.



Edwin D 1862 and son John D  1852 grave stone.jpeg

So, who was Isabella and what were the circumstances leading to her being buried in Bedlington? To be continued …..

Edited by Canny lass
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Great research Canny Lass.

Local knowledge seems to indicate there were three Miss Smails . Grandmother , mother and granddaughter at the shop near Hollymount .

The Smail’s shop in Morpeth sold similar products to farmers and locals. I feel they must be related .
Working on gardens and on large estates may have led the family of the Smails to opportunities to sell supplies to an emerging market .

Moving off the land to an industrial society may have been a factor. More products available plus the rise of allotments. So many people kept live stock .(  Pigs Hens ).

We could learn something from the past here .  No transporting of products huge distances. 
Hardware shops in Scotland are still a viable business model . In England big business has taken over with a need for a car to get you to say B and Q .

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42 minutes ago, Maggie/915 said:

Sadly this is not a good picture .

Right now it is a restaurant Lollo Rossi 


@Maggie/915 - Your image = Smail's of Morpeth - I'll have to have a look back into but I'm sure the subject of Smail, Bridge Street Morpeth & Smail, Front Street East, Bedlington was discussed son one of the groups and I think, but could be totally wrong, there was no link found.

I'll get back to youB) 

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Ca't find what I thought I was looking for that may have helped you's in your research.

This is the stuff I did find :- 






Smail bible.png

Advert posted by John Krzyzanowski 


www links :-



Edited by Alan Edgar (Eggy1948)
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43 minutes ago, Canny lass said:

I think we can forget about the bible in relation to the Smail family. What mother would spell her own - and her daughter's - surname incorrectly.

Oh dear - I didn't check - I just took the owner's comment in good faith:innocent:

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32 minutes ago, Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) said:

For the title of an Album how about - 'Headstones, their meaning & info'

Text can be added but I don't think a photo can be added under the heading of an album. If I could I would simply add a photo, with text, like this and if a photo can't be added I would simply type the text that is on this image :- 



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The Smail family continued ...

Who was isabella Fish?

Given that Edwin and Isabella were married 1851 in Hexham and their children born in Chatton during the following decade, I started my search for Isabella in the 1851 census for that area and found her, without problem, living only a few miles away from the above mentioned Sandhoe Hall. Like Edwin, Isabella is also working for the landed gentry.

The 1851 census shows Isabella, 23 years old and as yet unmarried, residing at Beaufront Hall (now Beaufront Castle) near Hexham, where she is employed as one of two nursery maids to the children of Lady Mary Cuthbert, daughter-in-law to the owner of Beaufront Hall – Magistrate William Cuthbert. There is, in fact, a strong link between the two estates of Sandhoe and Beaufront, Beaufront having earlier been owned by the aforementioned Errington family.

When Beaufront heiress, Dorothy Carnaby, married Gilbert Errington in the 16th century the Errington’s later built a new house - possibly Sandhoe but I havent researched it. Beaufront was then sold to the Cuthbert family in the early part of the 19th century.

Coincidence it may be but the 1851 owner of Beaufront Hall, Magistrate William Cuthbert, Elizabeth’s employer, also became Sheriff of Northumberland in1860 as did Edwin’s employer in 1855. Given the close proximity of the two estates and the relationship between them it is not surprising that the couple met and married in the Hexham area.

Returning attention to Isabella, we can see from the 1851 census returns, that she was not a native of Hexham. Her place of birth is clearly given as ”Durham, Bedlington”. At that time Bedlington, as we know it, belonged to the historic palatine (county) of Durham and is recorded as such, rather than Northumberland. As England’s gentry are not known for employing the hoi poloi of society in posts involving the care and uppbringing of their heirs it would seem that Isabella may not have her roots among those of the lowest social standing in the shire. So, who was she?

Isabella Fish, as she was born, was the daughter of Robert and Dorothy Fish who can be found as early as 1841 – the date of the first census – resident in Bedlington at an adress given simply as ”High Street”. Very few houses then had either name or number but I can see from the enumerator’s description of his area that the adress is situated at the East end of the town; ”all that part of the township [] that lies to the east of Leadgate and Half Closes, on the north and south sides of the town of Bedlington including Hirst Head, Staith, Iron Works, Millbank and Bank House”. Also, by tracing the enumerators route, I can see that the Smail family are living on the north side of what what we now call East End. Just a few doors away, towards Bedlington bank, is a public house (not named) which may be the Oddfellow’s Arms , should this be so, then the family could already be living in what became Smail’s Ironmongers shop.

Robert and Dorothy are then 59 and 54 years old and Robert’s occupation is given as ”Carrier”. There are three children living at home: Robert aged 18 who, like his father, is also employed as a carrier, Dorothy 16 years without occupation, and Isabella, then 13 years old.

Ten years later we know that Isabella is working and residing in Hexham and we can see from the census of 1851 that even her older brother and sister have flown the nest in Bedlington. Only their parents, Robert and Dorothy are registered at what appears to be the same adress. Robert is now 69 and his wife is 64. Robert’s occupation has changed. He is no longer recorded as ”carrier”. Instead, his occupation is recorded as ”House Proprietor” suggesting that the family do not belong to any particularly low social class. The thought occurs to me that Robert Fish may already in 1841 have been running a buisiness from the house on Front Street east which later became the ironmonger’s shop.

In the1861 census, the High Street is now being referred to as ”Main Street” and Robert and Dorothy’s adress is given as ”Fish’s Yard”, presumably taking it’s name from the owner. The Yard consists of three dwellings, of which one is occupied by Robert and Dorothy Fish. Robert’s occupation is again recorded as ”Proprietor of Houses”. However, the couple would appear to have moved from the north side of the street to the south as the north side is not included in the enumerators description of his area. Fish’s Yard is situated between Mill Yard at the east end of Main Street and the Vicarage of St Cuthbert’s Church, though somewhat nearer to Mill Yard than to the vicarage.

The next stage in my research leads me to believe that, at some point between Edwin’s death in 1862 and April 1871 Isabella and the children return to Bedlington possibly to live with, or to be nearer to, her parents or, perhaps, to inherit them.

More about that tomorrow.

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16 hours ago, Canny lass said:

Eggy, let me have a think about that and i'll get back to you tomorrow.

Hi Eggy! I needed a bit of time to have a play around in the gallery before replying.

I had a look around the gallery to see if there was any format that was useful and I think that the format you’ve used in creating the school albums could also work well here. Using the gallery album ”Bedlingtonshire Community High School” as an example the new album name could be ’St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, headstones’. Then each photo could have a file name that is the name of the deceased, in the same way the school photos are named, or the family name, if there are several memorials on one stone.


Really, when I suggested an album my main idea was to preserve the stones of Bedlington together in digital form, before the original texts are weathered away. completely They are a valuable source of information for researchers. I wasn’t thinking that we should be providing information about the meaning of symbols etc. There are plenty of sites on Internet doing that already. Of course, should any such information pop up in the discussion related to each photo then that would be a point of interest, specific to that particular photo.


Your system with school photos works well when searching for a particular person. I typed in Nicola Downey and was redirected to the first photo in the album immediately. Once in the album you have created some basic information on the High School (to the left of the screen). That would also work well for the planned album butI think it might be wise to keep the album and file titles simple, Album: Name of churchyard – File:Name of person/family. It makes searching so much easier.

What do other members think)


Edited by Canny lass
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On 25/10/2021 at 15:51, Maggie/915 said:

Hi Vic 

Todays visit time Saint Cuthbert photo .So pleased you remember this lady .I have taken other photos if anyone interested .




The 3 members of the Smail family who lived and worked in the shop in the 1950’s were Edwin, Catherine and Isabella. Isabella was the organist at St Cuthbert’s for many years. Their mother was Jane Isabella and their father was John Robert and according to the headstone posted by Maggie, he was the organist for over 50 years. What you can’t see on the photo is the last inscription on the headstone that was for Catherine who died in 1990.

The photo attached is the headstone for Edwin and Isabella and this is also in St Cuthbert’s graveyard.



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