Wearside Echoes: “Our family has ink for blood”

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PITS, pubs and ponies are all featured in a new book on a former County Durham mining community.

But Historic Houghton and Surrounding Villages, by John Brereton, contains much more too – from scenic views to showman’s caravans and charabancs.

Houghton blacksmiths at work

Houghton blacksmiths at work

“I’m very interested in the historic side of Houghton and accumulated these pictures over the years,” said John.

“I don’t really have a favourite one, but I’ve found pictures with people in them seem to spark the most interest.”

Street scenes, shops and pubs feature prominently in the new book, with several shots of St Michael and All Angels Church also shown.

Pictures of Houghton Cut when it was just a country lane, as well as trams, buses and charabanc outings, are included too.

“As the owner of the Gilpin Press in Houghton, I have published local history books for many other people over the years,” said John.

“Many, many years ago we did publish our own small book on Houghton, but this is the first we have done with so many old photographs.”

John, who started the Gilpin Press with a partner in 1960, hails from a long line of printers and publishers.

“My father and grandfather moved to Hetton in 1926 and started their own printing works behind Sunderland Road,” he said.

“Because of the depression, however, there wasn’t much work to be had, so they started the Hetton and Houghton Weekly Courier.

“I believe it was one of the first free papers. Printing stopped in 1941, though, due to wartime paper rationing, and never re-started.

“We always say our family has ink for blood – that we have printers’ ink in our veins. Printing and publishing has always been part of our lives.”

John’s new book is already proving popular, with copies of the £4.99 paperback winging their way to ex-pat Houghtonians around the world.

He is now hard at work compiling a book on the history of businesses within the Houghton area and said:

“If anyone has old photographs of Houghton they would be willing to lend me for future books, I would be very happy to hear from them.”

l Historic Houghton and Surrounding Villages is only available from Gilpin Press. Contact John on 584 2267 to order a copy.