Your Heritage, Your Memories
Jan 2012: page 1

King John & Bedlington

 It is commonly known that King John once visited Bedlington and slept one night in the Old Hall. However, there does not appear to be any particulars kept of his visit or yet is the date recorded: but it would probably be about the year 1215.

King John was very severe with his people. The Jews especially suffered from his exactions. One person living in Bristol, having refused to pay a demand of 10,000 marks, was thrown in prison by King John. John then ordered that one of his teeth should be pulled out daily until he gave up the money. The Jew lost seven teeth before he eventually yielded and paid the King the money. Finally the King’s tyranny was checked, and he was brought to his senses, leading him to sign the Magna Charta, which became so famous.

Afterwards King John became a great sportsman, and was keenly interested in Bedlington Terriers, which would probably account for his visit to Bedlington. About this period Bedlington was called the “City upon the Hill,” and was noted for it’s beautiful and well dressed women.

The Story Behind the Seven Poplars

An old story that the seven poplar trees at the Bedlington Furnace were associated with Michael Longridge, and him planting a tree for everyone of his daughters is far from true. The trees became known locally as the “Seven Sisters.” They should have been given a different name when you read the following true story.

The cottage in the drawing above is of Rose Cottage, and was once the home of Mr. Joseph Forster. The poplar trees, once eight, were planted to represent each of Mr. Forster’s sons.
In addition to his sons, Mr. Forster and his wife, Margaret, had five daughters, and the story of this large happy family are in the memoirs of Mrs. J. R. Mather, who lived in Front Street, Bedlington.

It is a story not only of a family, but how, in the “bad old days,” on 30 shillings, a man and his wife were able to give to each of their 13 children the chance of a career. Even in the early days of boarding schools, children with ability and wise parents could become professional people.

Mr. Forster was in charge of an electric pumping machine with the old Bebside Coal Company, but both he and his wife were ambitious for their children. Mrs. Forster was “Chancellor of the Exchequer,” and while she would never allow money to be wasted, it was always forthcoming if any of the children wished to learn music, painting, or study.

Of this gifted family, one son C. E. Forster became minister of South Parish Church, Aberdeen, Scotland, and the other, Cuthbert, became a chemist in London. In-fact the whole family at one time or another, were scholars at Bebside School and three returned as teachers.
Another son, Tom, died in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. Joseph, another son, died in Perth, West Australia, and a daughter, Hannah died in South Africa. Albert, was lost during World War II, when his ship was torpedoed.

In her memoirs, Mrs Mather said: “I must uphold the past as not all bad. My father was a non smoker and non drinker. He earned only 30 shillings a week, but my mother was a dress maker, and between them they educated every member of my family. We were a very happy family.”

Mr. Forster died at work at the age of 71 years. His wife attained the age of 89. The great grandchildren of Joseph and Margaret are too numerous to be counted, but the 34 grandchildren included three doctors, several teachers, a dental surgeon, a M.N. captain, a chemist, a music teacher and a lecturer at King’s College, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

With such a record, it seems obvious that, before State Aid was thought about, people with ability and initiative did not find it impossible to rise above the circumstances of birth.
Jan 2012: page 1
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