CWGC Living Memory Project

Private Joseph Newby of the 19th Battalion DLI died on the 29th July 10916 as a result of wounds received at the Battle of the Somme. He is buried in Mere Knolls Cemetery, Sunderland. He was born in February 1890 and lived with his family in Monkwearmouth. His father was John, a labourer, and his mother was Hannah.



The 1891 census shows the family living at 29 Hardwicke Street, Monkwearmouth Shore. They are sharing the house with three other families. Joseph is 3 years old and has 3 older siblings, John aged 13, Alice aged 10 and Margaret aged 5. The 1901 census shows they have moved to 40 Society Lane, Monkwearmouth and Joseph now has 2 younger siblings; James and Mark. Sometime in 1904 John Snr died. In 1911 they are still living at 40 Society Lane, Joseph is 23 years old and is a ship builder’s labourer.

After war was declared Joseph signed up, attesting on the 2nd March 1915. He was assigned to the 19th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. Interestingly this was a Bantam Battalion; it had been created in March 1915 and they assembled in West Hartlepool before moving to Cocken Hall with more than 1,000 men in May. In June they moved again to Masham in North Yorkshire, as part of the 106th Brigade of the newly-formed 35th Division. Joseph qualified for the Bantam Battalion as he was only 5 foot 1 inch tall. While he was in training he seems to have got into some trouble as his record shows him being fined for not returning to barracks when he should several times. He’s even confined to barracks for 5 days on 26th January 1916 for defacing Government property! This must have been when they were on Salisbury Plain as that was their last training location. The 19 DLI sailed from Southampton on 31 January 1916.

On 1 July 1916, the 19th Battalion moved south by rail to join the Somme battle. They were located in trenches near Longueval however their main role was digging communication and reserve trenches. Despite this the heavy shelling in the area resulted in many casualties. On the 18th July 1916 Joesph was wounded. He spent some time in army stations and hospitals in France but on 23rd July 1916 he was sent back to England.

He arrived at Poor Law Hospital, Stepping Hill, Hazel Grove, near Stockport (an auxiliary military hospital) on 27th July 1916. His war records include the medical details from the hospital and they make for harrowing reading. I have included it in full as I was not comfortable putting it in my own words. The actual facts are all that is needed. I managed to decipher most of the handwriting, written by DR Collingwood-Fenwick the Resident Medical Officer, where I was unsure I have left a gap.

“The above was admitted on the 27th July to this hospital suffering from a shrapnel wound over …………… aspect of right shoulder blade, shrapnel wound of right wrist, which had caused a severe compound comminuted fracture of both radius and ulna just above the joint and a shrapnel wound of the right knee.

In addition there was a condition of septic cellulitis on the area of wound in the back which gradually extended downwards to mid-dorsal region.

x Immediately on admission owing to his great pain he received a hypodermic injection of sulphate of morphine 8 and an eighth and was seen in consultation by Doctor Howie Smith, the visiting medical officer, and Dr Collingwood-Fenwick the resident medical officer to this institution. Placed on the Danger List and friends informed he passed a restless night.

On 28.7 he was seen by Captain Raynes …………., Dr Howie Smith and Dr Collingwood-Fenwick – a free incision and further drainage of the area affected was decided upon and the operation was performed 12.30 by Dr Raynes …………………

The patient recovered from the effects of the anaesthetic but gradually sank, passing away at 10.30pm from septicaemia due to bullet wound received in France on active service. “

Rest in Peace Joseph Newby.


A new quilt

I love the feeling at the start of a new project. Beautifully folded fabric, carefully thought out techniques, choosing the right thread. Nothing between you and the finished article apart from hours of blissful sewing. At that starting point you haven’t cut out anything incorrectly, or sewn something back to front, or lost a pile of fabric shapes or run out of bobbin thread a few inches before the end of a seam. No, all is well. Bliss.

My new project is an Orange Peel quilt. It’s a technique I haven’t used before so I wanted to give it a go. I’m using the loveliest fabric, it’s a range called The Botanist by Lewis & Irene. I’m using plain white as the background.


I made myself a template using template plastic. I often just use cereal packets or packaging from parcels but there will be lots of orange peels so it needed to be robust. I traced the shape onto the back of each fat quarter (I get 20 peels from each FQ) then cut them out. That will be 200 peels.I may not use them all on the same quilt but let’s see how it goes. I also put a bit of painters tape on the template so it adhered lightly as I was marking the shape.


It sounds laborious but I enjoy this part of the process. This fabric is great quality so even the sound of the scissors sliding through is a pleasure. I feel like Milly Molly Mandy in the old story.And as I have done with most of my other quilts I am keeping a record of how many hours it takes me. It’s easy to do as I keep a note book with my project for thoughts/tips. I have a page for time spent. So far it is 3 hours.

I’m halfway through my cutting out. For each peel in the fabric I will also need a peel cut from fusible web. So 200 fabric peels and 200 lightweight fusible web peels.


Here are what some of the lovely fabrics look like. So exciting!




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National Simplicity Day

Today is National Simplicity Day.

It was founded as 12th July is the birthdate of Henry David Thoreau who was a fascinating man. Thoreau was born in 1817 and was an advocate of simple living.


I spend my life rushing from one task to the next never really feeling I do any one of them adequately. Thoreau was a philosopher, historian, surveyor, abolitionist, transcendentalist, naturalist and poet so certainly had a hugely busy life yet he aimed for simplicity. He was a man both of and ahead of his time; as a vegetarian and a follower of Hindu customs he lived as simply as he could close to nature.

I found it difficult to choose just one piece of his writing as an example of his work as his interests were so varied. I eventually decided to quote one of my favourites: ‘Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify’.


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The Eagle Building

One of my favourite buildings is the Eagle Building at 201 High Street which for a long time was one of the many public houses in Sunderland.

Eagle Building June 2016

That name is relatively recent as it was called the Three Crowns in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century as well as the Exchange Tavern and the Royal Exchange. I suppose it was inevitable it would eventually be the Eagle Building as the carving which sits on the roof is very prominent and can be seen from quite far away. Every time I pass there’s always a seagull sitting on the eagle’s head which doesn’t do much for his gravitas.

What I didn’t realise until recently is this is not the original eagle. He was lost sometime after 1920 however in 2002 the building was restored and a new eagle carved by the sculptor Phil Townsend. More information can be found on the fascinating website run by the Sunderland Antiquarians


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CWGC Living Memory Project: Day 3

The CWGC Living Memory Project asks us to visit war graves in our local area and find out more about the people buried there. The project itself is running to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

I have chosen Mere Knolls Cemetery in Sunderland. There are 181 war graves dating from 1914 to 1947 but I have decided to concentrate on the eight men who died during the period of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916 to 18th November 1916). I’m looking mainly at their history prior to going to war and, if they are available, their actual war records.

The first of these is Thomas Brown who died 16th July 1916. His CWGC records give the following information:

Thomas Brown

Died 16th July 1916

Aged 21.

Private in Army Service Corp (MT Depot)

Service Number ‘T4/145842’

Grave ref 24. A. 2475.



From this I was able to find out something about him and his family.

Thomas was born in 1895 in Sunderland. In 1901 he was 6 years old and living with his family at 26 Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. His father Matthew, aged 35, was a fireman at the coal staithes on the river. Also living there was his mother Margaret, aged 32, brothers George, aged 11, and Robert, aged 4 and his sisters Ann, aged 2, and Jane, 6 months. Two cousins are also living with them; Alexander Dall aged 10 and Margaret Newton aged 16.

In 1911 I have been able to find his father, Matthew, who is living at 26 Howick Street, Monkwearmouth. Thomas is not at that address but Jane is there along with a new child, Alex born in 1907. On checking the death records I found a Margaret Brown who died aged 38 in 1908.

Finding Thomas in 1911 was trickier. I looked through all the Thomas Browns who had a Sunderland connection and were born in approximately 1895. I discounted all those who were living with their parents. That left me with 2 records:

  1. Thomas Brown, aged 16, living as a boarder at 14 Wilden Terrace, Washington Staithes, Country Durham. This Thomas is recorded as being a Coal Mines Pony Driver. The Head of House is an Abison (?) Brown born 1887 and his wife is Mary Ann Brown born 1884. This Thomas is not their child as the census says they have only had 2 children and have been married 4 and a half years.
  2. Thomas Brown aged 16 living as a boarder at Kimblesworth Colliery. This Thomas is also a Pony Driver at the colliery. He is living with a Henry and Elizabeth Murton.

I can’t locate any other Thomas Browns so it is likely our Thomas is one of them.

I have been unable to locate his Army records. The CWGC details say he was in the Army Service Corp (MT Depot). MT stands for Mechanical Transport. This Company provided food, equipment, ammunition, horses or vehicles. On looking into this further however I have found that the T4 which prefixes his army number was used to denote the man worked in the Horse Transport section of the ASC. Maybe, and this is only a theory, if our Thomas is one of those Pony Drivers working in a pit then he was chosen or volunteered to go into the ASC to work with the horses.





CWGC Living Memory Project: Day 2

Having read through the Resource Pack provided by the CWGC Living Memory Project I decided to focus on a cemetery near to my home; Mere Knolls Cemetery in Sunderland. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather we are having I set out feeling confident I have it all under control. Hmmm…maybe not.

First set back is it is a much larger cemetery than I realised and walking is not my strong suit. Secondly I foolishly assumed the the majority of the war graves would be together. Despite this I have progressed.

It is a beautiful place. This is a photograph of the main gates.



And here is the view as you reach beginning of the graves.



It was very peaceful and tranquil.

According to the CWGC’s site there are 181 war graves here. I wandered about for quite a while and found some dotted about here and there:



And then a group of 30 arranged together in 2 rows:


Clearly I need to return and be more organised. Having said that it was very pleasant to be there and read the stones.

CWGC Living Memory Project: Day 1

2016 is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. It took place during the period 1st July – 18th November 1916 and resulted in more than one million dead or wounded. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Living Memory Project provides resources to discover and explore local war graves. The CWGC Living Memory site informs us:

These are in the main,the graves of the men who were wounded on the Western Front and later died in hospitals in Britain along with those who fell ill while serving their country including many men and women who died in the influenza epidemic. Their headstones stand in the midst of the large civic cemeteries in the big cities across the British Isles. Sometimes in a group and sometimes scattered, these graves also lie in village churchyards up and down the country.

The project asks that we remember those who died who are buried in local cemeteries and is encouraging groups to carry out a variety of activities.

I was very interested when I heard about the project and set about finding a local group. Unfortunately as yet I haven’t been able to locate one though if there are any out there who would like an enthusiastic volunteer please feel free to contact me.

Never one to be put off by life’s set backs I have resolved to be a group of one. The Living Memory Project provided me with a Resource Pack full of information and suggestions for activities. In addition they make the important point that ‘Remembering all the CWGC war graves here in the British Isles is an important and appropriate mark of respect for the centenary of the Somme. The 1st July affected every family in the British Isles. Find out more at and email’

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Blue-Butterfly Cushion

It has been a glorious day in Sunderland. As we don’t have the opportunity to say that very often I wanted to record it for posterity. It was sunny and (relatively) warm. Blue skies. Just the weather I had in mind when I thought of having Robert Frost’s poem Blue-Butterfly Day as inspiration for some designs. I like to think my latest cushion is in keeping with his words.



It also got me thinking about inspiration in general. Why one sensory input triggers no creative desire while another, often random, experience results in a rush of creativity. So as much as I love cake (and goodness me I do like cake!) I have, as yet, never been moved to make a quilt after eating a Victoria Sponge. I do however admit to eating many Victoria Sponges, and countless other cakey delights, whilst sewing.

Spring/butterflies/the sea etc never fail to urge me to try to transform fabric and thread into something new. This blog and this website will hopefully chart my creative journey. And equally hopefully we will have cake along to sustain us.

If you would like me to update you as my journey proceeds please follow me using the link below.


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Something thrilling this way comes.

Apologies to Mr Shakespeare for not only stealing his words but have the utter gall to change them. But I have a secret. A surprise. I am embarking upon an adventure.

Step one of the adventure took place yesterday and while I am not quite ready to reveal everything just yet I did take this photograph while I was en route…


This sculpture can be found in the Sunniside area of Sunderlandand was made by Clifford Chapman Metalworks in Washington and designed by Sunderland University lecturer and glass specialist Laura Johnston. It is shaped like the hull of a ship to pay tribute to Sunderland’s proud shipbuilding past.

I couldn’t resist stopping to admire it and take this photograph.

The reason I was in Sunniside on a cold Wednesday afternoon is to be revealed soon.


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