The Oaks


One particular area of Evenwood which is an easily identifiable “sub-area” is the Oaks.  The following passage puts together some known details of this area and provides an insight into the way the war affected the lives of the Oaks community.

The 1901 census has been used which is quite appropriate since many of those within the census aged 20 and younger would, during the course of the war, be of a suitable age for military service.  There were actually 89 boys aged between 1 and 20.

The Oaks consisted of 2 larger terraced streets – Front Row and Back Row running east to west along the contour of the hillside and 2 smaller streets running down bank, north to south at right angles, called Cross Row.  A smaller terrace, called Stable Row led off to Oaks Farm and Oaks House to the west.  In all there were 63 houses.  The larger terraces were built in the 1840’s and Cross Row was built in the early 1850’s, all to house miners working at Evenwood and Norwood Collieries.  Houses were also built along Oaks Bank leading from Evenwood down to the bridge over the river Gaunless.  The County Council School, known as Ramshaw School was built on Oaks Bank and opened in 1910.  It is actually located in Evenwood whereas Evenwood Station is located in Ramshaw!

At the time of the 1901 census, there were 63 households occupying dwellings at the Oaks.  Virtually all the men and boys, 101 in total, worked as coal miners or coke-men.  There were 8 exceptions – Patrick Sheedy, the doctor, George Etherington and John Walton retired coal miners, John Watson a Council roadman, Joseph Teasdale a mason, Thomas William Anderson a general errand boy, Thomas Anderson a farm labourer and Charles Welford a tailor.

In their adulthood, many of the children of the Oaks would serve their country and the following passage is a brief analysis:

  • The imposing Oaks House, probably originally built for the colliery manager appears to have been sub-divided into 3 dwellings. It was occupied in part by the Irishman Dr. Patrick Sheedy, his wife Isabel and their housemaid Isabella Taylor. By 1914, it appears that Dr. Sheedy had left the area being replaced by 2 doctors, Milne and Campbell. Dr Campbell served as a Captain in the RAMC being awarded the Military Cross.
  • The Cree family lived in the remainder of the house. John and Elizabeth and their 2 sons, Adam and Towers lived in one dwelling.  Their older son, Christopher, his wife Elizabeth and their infant daughter Patricia lived in the other.  All 3 brothers served in the Great War.  Adam served in the 4/DLI and was wounded on 2 occasions and returned home safe.  It was erroneously reported in January 1918, that Towers Cree had “fallen in action”.  Towers survived the war.  By 1914, their older brother Christopher Cree and his family had moved to Esperley Lane near Cockfield.  He worked as a miner at Gordon House Colliery, Cockfield.  Christopher joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, 21/Tyneside Scottish and within 3 weeks of landing in France died of wounds, February 1916.  He was the 21/Tyneside Scottish’s first death.
  • Thomas and Elizabeth Adams were near neighbours and their sons Alfred and Arthur, both served with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and both returned home safely. Alfred served with the 51/West Yorkshire Regiment and suffered wounds to the leg in June 1916.  Arthur served with the Royal Engineers.
  • Sarah Taylor was widowed taking care of her 4 children including John. He served in the 14/DLI and came home.
  • Mathew and Margaret Hutchinson weren’t so fortunate. Their sons Joseph, William and John were all called up.  Joseph served with Manchester Regiment and was killed in action, March 1918.  John was with the 1/DLI.  William served with the 11/DLI and was awarded the Military Medal.
  • William and Margaret Gibson’s son Thomas served with the 1/6 North Staffordshire Regiment. He was demobilized by October 1919 and welcomed back into civilian life.
  • John Friend, son of Jacob and Elizabeth served with the Dragoons and the 1/1 Berkshire Yeomanry. He was wounded in August 1918 and “demobbed” by July 1919.
  • Francis and Margaret lost their son John Henry Raine in May 1916, killed in action in France. Their youngest son Siddle, a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery survived.
  • Thomas Cant was the son of John and Hannah. In 1902 he joined the DLI Territorials.  By 1914, he was married, had a family and lived at Kirk Merrington.  At the outbreak of war he was one of the first to re-enlisted and served with the 2/DLI.  He was killed in action at Ypres, June 1915.
  • Their neighbours were George and Hannah Towers and whose son Thomas served as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He returned home.
  • Edward and Elizabeth Gaffney’s youngest son, Ambrose served in the Yorkshire Regiment and returned home.
  • David Wharton was with the 2/Hussars and survived.
  • Cecil Jobling was in the Royal Engineers and was “demobbed” by May 1919.
  • William and Sarah Walling’s son John served with the 1/6DLI and died of wounds, March 1917.
  • The 2 sons of John and Annie Cox both served with the DLI. George “Doad” Cox was killed in action at the Butte de Warlencourt, 5 November 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.  John Wanless Cox, DLI Labour Battalion, returned home.
  • Ernest Hope, son of Christopher and Elizabeth Hope served in the Royal Navy and survived.
  • Robert and Jane Welford’s 2 sons William and Henry were both drawn out in the Randolph draw of May 1918. It is not known whether or not they saw active service.  Many of the young men worked in the local pits and drifts and were not conscripted but by 1918, the shortage of men was such that coal miners were now required.  Locally drafts were organised and those picked out of the hat were enlisted.
  • John Walton’s grandson John Joseph lived with him and his grandmother. In August 1917, whilst serving with the 6/Yorkshire Regiment he was killed in action at Passchendaele.   He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
  • The son of George and Mary Kirkup, Thomas joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and after being seriously wounded was discharged in the summer of 1918.
  • Thomas and Margaret Wren’s 2 sons Thomas and Edward served in the East Yorkshire Regiment and 4/DLI respectively. Both returned home.
  • George and Mary Metcalfe’s son James served in the ASC Remounts and survived.
  • John Hope Anderson enlisted into the 17/DLI and returned home safe.
  • Robert and Sarah Towers’ son Edgar joined the 15/DLI and lost his life at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
  • John and Annie Etherington’s son Joseph William Teasdale served with the ASC Remounts as a driver and survived.
  • John and Mary Priestley’s son Joseph William served in the Highland Light Infantry and returned.
  • John Luther Simpson, son of Charles and Mary Welford served with the Machine Gun Corps and survived although in January 1918, the Parish Magazine erroneously reported that John Luther Simpson and Towers Cree had “fallen in action”. His half brother Thomas W. Simpson MM 6/DLI was killed in action in 1918.

The 1901 community of the Oaks saw many of its sons serve their country and 7 paid the ultimate price.  This can only be a “snapshot” based on evidence provided by the Parish Magazine and 1901 census.  It cannot tell the whole picture since the complete list of those who enlisted or suffered wounds is unknown.  In total, 6 “children” of the Oaks were killed – Joseph Hutchinson, John Walling, George T. Cox, Edgar Towers, John J. Walton and John H. Raine.  Christopher Cree was much older and had moved to Esperley Lane by the time war was declared.  He died of wounds.

By the time war started, there were another 4 residents of the Oaks who lost their lives – Wilf Howlett, Walter Snowball, John Ellerker and James Heseltine.