Joan Angus (written notes)
Until the late 18th century, Craster village was still at the
top of the hill, immediately north and east of Craster Tower.
A map of 1723 shows an E-W road running straight down the bank
next to the Tower, with 12 houses in 2 rows on each side of
it, still to be seen in the pasture. The present road did not
exist and there was nothing by the sea apart from the little
cove where the fishing boats were beached.
The exact date of the exodus down to the haven is uncertain,
probably about 1800. The haven was a natural harbour with two
limestone islets (Muckle Carr and Little Carr) acting as breakwaters.
By 1801 there were nineteen houses in 'Craster Seahouses',
as it was called until 1828. It had a population of 100.
The earliest cottages were along the North side, just above
the shore, where the present gardens are now situated. Rateable
value was one shilling and sixpence (1/6) in the pound. An old
plan shows two cottages on West End and four on Dunstanburgh
Road. The summer house on the South side is dated 1769, and was
used as a picnic venue, and bathing cottage for the Craster family.
I believe that this cottage is the oldest in Craster, albeit
The village was naturally divided into the north and south side
by a stream known as Craster Letch.
In 1906 the piers were built in memory of Captain Craster, killed
on active service in India. As well as fishing, Craster also
developed a prosperous quarrying business, shipping stone by
sea on lighters to be taken to London and Roker Pier. The stone
was taken down from the quarry by an overhead rail system of
wires and buckets, which were tipped into bins on top of the
South Pier. These bins were taken down at the beginning of the
Second World War, as they thought they could be used as landmarks
for enemy planes.
Other early buildings were - The Jolly Fisherman, Coquet View
(1860), the Old Square or Curtain, as it was called (1822),
Church Street, Coastguard Cottages (1870), and the Reservoir
(1820). The gardens for the Old Square were situated where
Robsons fishyard is today. There is in the middle of the present
yard a well, completely covered up now. At this time, the most
common family names were Archbold, Stanton, Smailes, Simpson
and Grey. The old Square, built entirely in whinstone, was
demolished in 1962 and rebuilt with modern houses. There were
no flush toilets before that date in that area. Hence the chute
below the shop.
Most of the houses just had one room, that's why babies had
cradles, so the mother could rock the cradle with her foot, whilst
baiting the lines. The women worked very hard and lived in a
damp atmosphere all the time, their men came in wet and there
was no means of drying, consequently the women didn't live very
long. If they weren't working most of them were knitting. They
knitted all their own gansies.
Jimmy Shaw (extract from house deeds)
There were formerly 14 houses in that part of 'The Curtain' which
was on the site now occupied by seven houses on Whin Hill (nos
6, 8 ,10, 12, 14, 16and 16a). In 1934, the tenants of those former
houses in the 'The Curtain' were: 12 W Seager; 13
Mrs W Archbold; 14 Mrs J Robson; 15 T Straughan; 16 R & J
Archbold; 17 J W Sheehan; 18 J Simpson; 19 Mrs W Grey; 20 A Straughan
(snr); 21 Charles Vaughan; 22 J Carss; 23 T Grey; 24 Mrs Simpson;
25 Mrs J Hall.
Now before my time, Craster had street lighting. There were
cages on the comers of the buildings, where they used to
put an oil-light
in to show the fisherman the way down to the harbour in the
wintertime. I didn't know that, but the relics were still
there when I was
going to school about 1910. They were like wooden cages with
a light in, paraffin lights.
As time went on, we had a Dr Jackson who came from Alnwick.
Now Craster was in a bit of a state, and this doctor cleaned
it up, starting with shells, mussel shells and everything, and
he put Craster in a nice state. He cleaned it up, no pig sties,
no pigs, no nothing, 'cos I mean then Craster was getting on
The houses in Craster were all whinstone that was from the local
quarry round about. There was no water in the houses, it came
from a reservoir on top of a hill, there was a spring that used
to fill this reservoir, but we used to be very, very careful
with the water. We never used it for washing. Outside every house
in Craster there was a barrel we used to have for washing the
clothes and everything. We used to use rain water which was pure
If it was a day when they weren't at the sea, my mother
used to wash. Now that was another big job. We had a wash house.
The night before they used to have a pot, which had to be lit
early on to heat the water. From there the water was put into
a big red barrel and then the clothes were put in and possed
up and down. They were scrubbed, rinsed, put through a wringer,
and put on the bushes, or a line up the top of the hills. At
that particular time I put my thumb in the wringer, when I was
small, and lost the end of my thumb and had to be stitched. My
mother had to bake twice a week. All this was done with no electricity,
no vacuum cleaners, no washing machine or anything like that
which could help you. I never realized until I was married and
had some of these chores to do, how hard my mother had worked.
At the Square the houses were in a square. The numbers were
on the doors, the buckets over the 'shut'. The floors were cement.
My Aunt Bella's toilet was so clean that you could eat your food
out of it - she had all these things for pouring down, I think
most people did. The upstairs had originally been lofts for the
nets and everything, eventually they were made into two bedrooms
- there was a ladder to get up. One of their walls was actually
made of sailcloth. The floorboards were creaky. This was about
The bottom row was built in 1933 and that is Heugh Road. The
Breezes' row was built in the 1920's, they are built of stone.
That was the original row. We've got the board in our
house that tells when they were built - it was on the inside
of a cupboard door - it was a made by a foreman joiner.
In 1947 there were:
- Two grocery shops. E. A. Grey and G. W. Nelson
- An off license (Forest)
- A butchers shop (Scotts)
- A hut that sold dressed crabs (Norris)
- A market garden (Baxter)
- Two Herring Yards. T. S. Grey and L. Robson
- Two Sunday schools, C of E and Methodist
- And at least 2 church services on Sundays
- There were at least 6 cobles at this time and a taxi service
to Little Mill Station and Alnwick. There
were only 4 cars in the village at this date.
Now South Craster, it was owned by the Squire, all them houses
there was owned by the Squire and they used to pay rent, the
I got married in 1949 and lived in the Square. We moved in with
my mother. Later we moved into the house next door to this
one and my mother lived in this one. The last man to leave
the Square was Billy Simpson and ,do you know what, he said,
'I'm not moving along to the old age pensioners' houses,
I'll be carried out' and they found him dead in the house.
At the top of the Church Street are the Reading Room (right)
and the Church of St Peter the Fisherman (left).
I was born on the North Side, 3 West End, at my granny's,
but when I was six months old, I come over to the South Side
and I come over to the Square. We lived at No. 25 and faced the
north, the Castle. It was right above the herring yards. There
was five houses faced the north and two or three across the top
and others down the side. I lived there from December 1935 till
I came out in June, 1954 and when we came out there was no water
in the house, we had earth closets. We put the electric light
in ourselves, but the house next door never had electric in and
it was still without electric till 1960 and he was found dead
in the house. They called him Willy Simpson and I was an under-bearer
for him. That was the last house that never had electric in......
All the houses on the North side, which was the posh area, were
fishermen - they belonged to fishermen, and me granny's
house, which is now called Coble Cottage, years ago cost a
hundred pounds to build, which in them days was a lot of money
- she was a Smailes, her name was Jane Smailes before she was
married. Now me grandfather's name was Dawson, Edward Dawson,
he lived till he was 84. Me granny lived until she was 88
The Sutherlands owned land in the village. The north side belonged
to the Earl of Tankerville. Marjorie has got the Deeds - they
were given to all the tenants. At first it was leasehold and
he let the fishermen build 14 houses, but after they'd had
a bad winter or something happened and they hadn't a lot of
money, he gave them the freehold and he also gave them a third
of an acre to go with the house, so that they could produce
food to feed their families......
I wouldn't like to live any where else. It was a good place to
bring a family up. I wouldn't like to live anywhere else. I've
gotten on well there. This thing where they say you're an interloper,
well I think it's just the way you think, because I've never
felt an interloper. (Moved into the village in 1950)
I was born in Morpeth, I came to live in Craster when I was about
2-year old because my mother belonged to Craster, she was a
Robson, my grandfather started the kipper business. My father
was a Morpeth man. We came here during the Miners' strike ,
my father was a miner and we came here and he got a job in
the quarry, with McLaren.
Apparently (many) people died of fever and it's in the Parish
records. When I first read it I thought it was Scarlet Fever,
but my granny said it was Enteric Fever, caused by the water
and my aunt confirmed that and she said that the well was somewhere
beside the kipper sheds, just below Michael Doherty's place.
Apparently the water was infected because when they got piped
water here, there was no more fever. The child mortality rate
was high. You can see it in the family trees.
Ada's granny lost two daughters within nine months and her
husband within a year, with TB. He was 32 and her daughters