2019 Sid Chaplin Prize presented to India Gerritsen by Sid Chaplin’s grandson Grahame Chaplin

The winner of this year’s Sid Chaplin prize is India Gerritsen for her essay about people’s memory of Newcastle landscapes and how they affect their consciousness. India’s essay: “Memory Lingers Here”: Are Newcastle’s Monuments Sites of Collective Memory? will be published in next year’s North East History.

For a second year we were delighted to have Grahame Chaplin, Sid’s grandson, to present the prize. Here is his speech.

It’s, once again a pleasure to be here this evening to present the annual Sid Chaplin prize, and to thank the Society for continuing to remember and honour my Grandfather in such an apposite manner.  As some of you will recall both Sid and his wife Rene enjoyed all that the Society offered.

The Sid Chaplin prize is awarded for a piece of academic writing, so it differs, by definition, to the majority of Sid’s published work, and although I am not on the judging panel, I am grateful to that cadre for their work, and twice now I can see they have not lost sight of Sid’s underlying motivation to write.  You see my Granda was driven to write and record stories of people and place that he thought were verging on extinction, but more than that they were people and places, and a way of life that he knew intimately and undoubtedly held close to his heart. And he was right to do so, because today I would say his legacy in a plethora of words both entertains, but importantly educates us all as well.

So turning to the work that tonight claims the Sid Chaplin prize: It’s a fascinating piece exploring the relationship between, people, their memory or collective memory and well known and less well known monuments within the City of Newcastle, and how over time the landscape those monuments occupy can change consciousness of the public to purpose and history of the very monument.

What the work makes clear – it seems to me – is that the people regardless of their knowledge of the purpose or original intent of the monument was that they are fiercely defensive of the presence, I think because over time those monuments, like bridges and buildings become intrinsic to place.

In the 1960’s Sid wrote of his first visit to Newcastle as a young teenager, not all that long after the Tyne Bridge opened, the trip from Durham, most likely by bus must have been around 1930/32.

“I stood on the Gateshead side of this top-heavy bridge and looked down into the mighty trough. On one side was the little wonder of a swing bridge and high above it was the great High Level……That was one view. The other was from the heart of the City and a scamper up the one hundred and fifty one steps of Grey’s Monument. Up the hollow heart of reform I went running and came out at the top to see the merry go round of the city. Because I hadn’t learned to swear I remember saying to myself ‘By Gum – I’d give two years from the back end of my life to come and live in the heart of all this”

And there we have the link to Tonight’s winner and Sid’s work – the academic exploration of the philosophy behind the architectural landmarks that make a landscape that in turn creates a community.

And now I’d like you to warmly congratulate the winner of the 2019 Sid Chaplin prize as I invite India Gerritsen to come and accept this trophy.


Now Available, North East History, Volume 50: 2019

Volume 50 of North East History is now available. Details from the

Volume 49 (2018) can now be downloaded from the Journal Pages of this website.


  • Reflections on history and Social class: North East England over time
  • This Fortress of Freedon: A Study of Chartism in Gateshead
  • War, Welfare and Remembrance: A Case Study of two North Shields Ships
  • The War Came Early to Sleepy Valley
  • Raising Their Voices: Two Women of the 1930s
  • The Knights of Labour in the North East, 1880-1900
  • Discovering Joseph Swan (1794-1885). Autobiographical Reminiscences from Afar

New Book: Professor Kenneth Warren, A Victorian Powerhouse

In mid-Victorian years, the development of Teesside and the associated boom in the coal and iron ore economies of south west Durham and the Cleveland Hills were wonders of an era of great achievements. This book examines this expansion in the basic industries of the North East and the accompanying transformation of the areas society and landscape.

The author lived in the North East for 14 years. Earlier on in his career he lectured in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, before moving to Jesus College, Oxford. He is an acclaimed authority on the steel industry of the United States as well as having written on various aspects of North Eastern economic development, including Armstrong Whitworth, Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, and the Consett Iron Company.

Underlying this book, and all his work on the North East of England, has been a deep love for the people, places and history of the region.

The NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives – Peter Mitchell

From Peter Mitchell,

I’m writing to you about NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives, a national programme of work supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our aim is to capture oral  histories of and about the NHS from people – employees, patients and others – whose lives have been affected by it across its 70 year history, and preserve them in an online archive where they’ll be publicly accessible and available for use by heritage organisations.

I’m co-ordinating the project in the North East, and at the minute I’m not only searching for likely participants, but recruiting volunteers to undertake the bulk of our interviews. We have previously worked in Manchester and Wales – see our website for some stories we have collected so farhttps://www.nhs70.org.uk/

I wondered if NELHS members and supporters might like to be involved in this? We are open to partnering with local organisations, especially those who would like to conduct more oral history research and lack resources; all materials produced in partnership are considered co-owned, and all the interviews we upload to the public archive (i.e., almost all the ones we undertake, subject to ethics procedures) are licensed for free use.

We provide all our volunteers with three days professional oral history training (from the same providers the British Library use), currently scheduled for January; volunteers can do as few or as many interviews as they like, and will be appropriately supported and safeguarded throughout. The project legacies will hopefully be 20 or 30 more people in the North East trained and experienced in oral history work, and a couple of hundred fully annotated and searchable interviews, plus artefacts and photos, gathered from people in the region, hosted at the expense of the HLF and free for use.

If any members or supporters would like to get involved they can contact me by phone or email – my usual working days are Wednesday to Friday, our current callouts for both interviewers and interviewees are attached.

Dr Peter Mitchell
Oral History and Public Engagement Officer – North East
NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives
Mobile: +44 7768226650

Fifteen Past Issues of the Society’s Journal Now Available on this Website

You can now download the whole of issue 1 (1967) and issues 36 (2005) though to 49 (2018) from our Journal pages. This is the first fruit of a decision by the Society to make as many past issues of the Journal available. To access these downloads go to http://nelh.net/the-societys-journal/previous-issues/ and click on the image of the Journal you wish to read.






Grants to Support the Creation of Catalogues for Archives

In October 2018 the National Archives will be calling for applications for grants of up to £40,000 to enable archives to create catalogues of archival collections.

These grants are designed to help archives improve access to collections and increase public engagement with history and the UK’s documentary heritage.

One criterion for winning funding will to demonstrate excellent potential to engage people and communities with archives and heritage.


More details can be found at: the National Archives’ Cataloguing Grants page.

London Socialist Historians Newsletter, Spring 2018

Excellent atricles in the latest edition of the LSH Newsletter. Link to it here.

The Battle of Stockton: Campaign Commemorates Town’s Historic Refusal of Fascism

A new community group has been set up to commemorate a historic episode in the life of Stockton-on-Tees. The Battle of Stockton Campaign (BoS) aims to immortalise the events of September 10th 1933 in the imagination of the town. On this day, local people repelled the infamous British Union of Fascists (BUF). Their foot soldiers, known as ‘blackshirts’ marched on the town in a bid to recruit new members.

BoS Chair, Sharon Bailey explains; “Stockton was an ideal town for the BUF to target as it was hit particularly hard by the 1930’s Great Depression. In Germany, similar towns had fallen under the sway of the Nazis so the BUF expected to be met with a warm welcome.  

Instead, they were met with resistance. More than two thousand local people were waiting by the Market Cross for the BUF activists – who had been bussed in from around the country. Fighting between the BUF and the people of Stockton ensued. The blackshirts were forced down Silver Street before being ordered by Police to leave the town. They fled to their buses across the river and never returned.” 

Stockton was by no means unique in attracting the attention of fascist activists during the pre-war years. However, the significance of the “Battle of Stockton” was largely forgotten, unlike the now legendary “Battle of Cable Street” in London which took place 3 years later and is regularly commemorated by residents.

The Battle of Stockton Campaign has been set up as a social history project and aims to have physical memorials of the event placed around the town – such as a mural and a plaque. Plans to host a yearly event on the memorial of the battle with performances, local bands and speakers are already taking shape. An educational outreach is also planned, it aims to disseminate knowledge of the BoS to students and the wider community.

Sharon continues; “The Battle of Stockton is an almost forgotten part of our towns history that local people today can feel proud of. We’ve already been contacted by a number of residents telling stories of how their older relatives took part on the day.

 “Everyone knows what impact fascism had on Europe during the 30’s and 40’s – and how our country stood up to it. This project will show how Stockton-on-Tees was at the forefront of Britain’s resistance.”

Campaigners have been making considerable progress towards their goals.   Text for a plaque has been finalised and artists for a mural are currently being spoken to. Educational activities about the Battle of Stockton will be presented at the Schools History National Conference this year. Public meetings continue to be held and there are even plans to brew a special ‘Battle of Stockton’ ale by the local Three Brothers Brewery to be sold in local pubs.

Anyone wanting to attend a meeting or join in with the campaign can do so by emailing battleofstocktoncampaign@gmail.com and more details of the campaign can be found on the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebattleofstocktoncampaign

The Battle of Stockton Campaign committee can be reached at:

Matvei Fischer, a Newcastle Old Bolshevik – Paper by David Saunders

Willie Fischer (Rudolf Abel) and his father Matvei Fischer

For those few of you who didn’t make it Professor David Saunders’ terrific Jubilee talk on 7 November 2017 about Matvei Fischer and his son Rudolf Abel (he of “Bridge of Spies” fame), here is a link to David’s 2004 paper about Matvei Fischer.



Harry Barnes’ Easington Blog

Harry Barnes was Labour M.P. North East Derbyshire 1987-2005. He has been building a blog since 2006 and one of its threads is about Easington and Easington Colliery. There is also a mass of other thoughts and reports which are worth exploring from the Easington link.