This family history spans the evolution of Tyneside from a rural idol to the irresistible force that it became at the coal-face of the industrial revolution. Inevitably, the personal journey to unearth my family genealogy, fuelled chiefly by the compulsion of mere curiosity in the beginning, increasingly transformed into a perspective on the historical canvas of the region. I do not claim that this was in any way a unique experience, nor something particularly noteworthy to anyone outside my immediate family. However, perhaps the accidental discovery of 18th century gravestones standing upright in my local churchyard, the evocative memoirs of my forefathers that stand testament to the rise and decimation of the community at Willington Quay; the brutal poverty they endured as a consequence of early heavy industry, might contribute a tiny punctuation in the social history of the area.
My own personal recollections of times past when the wilderness that lay between Howdon and Flatworth was my childhood playground, the solitary route taken by bicycle along Willington Dean through the Burn Closes to work as an apprentice each day, and my long association with the Research Station down Davy Bank; more specifically our shipbuilding heritage learned there, manifest in a rather feeble sense of duty felt later in life by the melancholy revelation that these very footsteps were once shared by generations of ancestors.
C Wigham 2004