Mary Richardson Robinson

Visit to Aycliffe July 2019 by Mary Robinson (Richardson)

As part of my 80th birthday and celebrating 56 years of marriage I visited Aycliffe to see where I had lived for the first 20 plus years of my life. As my husband and I now live in Holywood near Belfast in Northern Ireland we flew to Newcastle and were met by our eldest son David who had driven up from London.  When we first travelled to Belfast it was by bus to Heysham, the Primrose bus caught at Bishop Auckland or by train from Darlington to Leeds and then on to Heysham to catch the boat to Belfast.  It is so easy now to fly to Newcastle.

The family of C Alfred Richardson had lived at Aycliffe School from 1942 until my father retired to Heighington in 1965. I had been in contact with the Aycliffe Local History Society and it was arranged that I would meet up with David Blair at the church when my husband and I visited in July.  Jim and I were married in St Andrews in August 1963 and my sister Margaret 2 years previously.

1961 weddding group

1961 wedding group. My brother Charles and John are 4th left and 3rd right in the photo above.  Part of Billy Boddy of the Blacksmith’s Arms at Ricknall can be seen on the extreme right of above photo.

1963 wedding

1963 wedding

My brothers Charles and John are shown above.  Charles was born 1944 and John 1945 both at Aycliffe School.

1963 bride




Following the wedding local young people had blocked the side gate of the churchyard to get some money from the happy couple.  Fortunately some of us had coins in their pockets so we were able to get away for the wedding reception which was held in the assembly hall at Aycliffe School.

1963 wedding couple





  1963 wedding at gate  
1956 choir

It was good to see inside the church and I remembered coming to church each Sunday to sing in the choir or sit with my parents in the second pew on the right hand side.  The Rev Arthur Bowen was vicar then and his daughter Topsy sang in the choir with Margaret and I.  Joyce Close took the choir practices on Friday nights and played on the organ for the Sunday services.  On Sunday mornings Margaret, my brothers and I would have walked the 2 miles from Aycliffe School.  There was a bus,  46, for us to catch coming home.  In the evenings we were able to come to church by bus.
Margaret and I were confirmed by the Bishop of Durham on the 9th June 1953.  The original date was the 2nd June but as the Bishop Of Durham was officiating at the Queen’s coronation that day the date of the Confirmation was postponed for a week.


Aycliffe village green looked well kept and it brought back memories of carol singing with the church choir that finished with mincepies at Walter Kents house.  In the late 1940s my sister and I collected rosehips which were made into Rosehip Syrup.  Miss Flower was responsible for the collections.  We got threepence a pound for our contributions. It was a great way to get pocket money.   Margaret started school in 1942 at the village school and then two years later when I was ready for school we went to Chilton Buildings Infant school travelling there by bus.  When it was time for my brothers to go to school they went to Dean Bank infants and then junior boys school in Ferryhill.  

Aycliffe School We were disappointed when we called at Aycliffe School as there was not one of the original buildings left.  As a family we had lived in 5 different houses on the site.  The old one storeyed houses were like prefabricated buildings with walls of plaster board.  Winters always seemed cold at Aycliffe and the snow built up into huge drifts.  The staff and boys together helped dig the paths clear. It invariably was snowing as I wrote my Christmas ‘thank you’ letters.

Both my sister and I went on to Bishop Auckland Girls Grammar School.  We had to take two buses to get there.  The United number 46 bus took us to Rushyford where we then caught the Number 16 or was it the number 2 bus to Bishop Auckland via Windlestone, Coundon and Coundon Gate.  We were always glad of the bus shelter at the front of the Eden Arms Hotel.  Jill Roberts from Aycliffe and Norma? Swinbank from Brafferton  also travelled that way. 
As children we walked to Aycliffe either along the main road A1 or via Searles Farm at Ricknall along the banks of the river Skerne.  Sometimes we would walk with my father across the fields to Ricknall Grange and on to Mr Boddy’s pub ‘The Hammer and Pincers’ at Ricknall.  After we had been round the church and village we went there for lunch.  A very different place from what I remember in the 1950s.
My father retired from Aycliffe in 1965 and then went to live at Heighington.