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Pot House

The recently shown TV drama ‘Jericho’ is centred on one of the temporary navvy villages (1869-75) for the building of the well known Ribblehead railway viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle line. Other navvy villages there took their names from Crimean War battles Sebastopol and Inkerman and these were located in the area marked on current OS maps as Batty Green.

Heysham’s Navvy Villages

The Midland Railway engaged two different contractors, Price & Wills for the harbour works and Godfrey & Liddelow for the railway works.. The navvies would presumably be hired  by the contractors and this may account for the presence of the two navvy villages Klondyke and Dawson City , reflecting well known places in the 1890s gold rush in North America. The villages provided a range of facilities for the workers, including a hotel, bakery, barber, clothing store, canteen and police station.
Captain Wilmott in
Across the Water tells us Klondyke village was built off Banks Lane,  a very old lane, now non-existent, connecting Heysham to the Middleton shore and running in the lee of Heysham Banks, a low sandy ridge which  still exists between Moneyclose Lane and the power stations.  The village was   centred on Banks House (about half the way along the lane to Red Nab) and in this picture of the Klondyke Hotel you can see the Banks in the background on the right.
The sketch map of Klondyke village below was given to HHA by Jim Scobie in 1998, Marine Superintendent at the Harbour at the time.  You can see Banks House on it centre left.  Heysham historian Frank Casson tells us that Banks House was at one time a club house for a golf course. This was the original Morecambe and Heysham Golf Club formed in 1892 at a meeting in the Midland Hotel in Morecambe. For further details  
click here.

Life in these villages did not always run smoothly  as this press curring sent to us by Jacke McCann shows. Eilleen Dent’s account  of the building of the harbour in the Heysham Peninsula also has other similar reports.

Midland (Railway) Cottages/McDonald Road

Once the harbour had been completed the Midland Railway would have employed considerable numbers of staff to operate the station and harbour. The area was well away from Lower and Higher Heysham with the only access from there being Barrows and Smithy Lanes. Consequently they built Harbour Masters' houses which still exist just north of the Moneyclose Arms and were labelled Midland Villas on early 20th century OS maps Other staff  lived in the Midland Cottages (see map) which subsequently became McDonald Road. In various parish records in the area at the time they are referred to as Railway Cottages.  In correspondence with HHA member Derek Tomlinson , now resident in the Isle of Wight but  originally from Heysham, about the location of Dawson City, he mentions that he has various family connections with McDonald Road near the harbour. The Visitor article at the time of building the harbour is perhaps suggestive that McDonald Road as we know it now was indeed built at that time. Here is the appropriate extract :

Well-made huts for the housing of navvies have sprung up like mushrooms in the heart of the Klondyke, and further away there is quite a colony of married folks occupying comfortable looking houses erected apparently with a strict regard to the building line.

We have also received the following very clear infomation from Reg Bond of Derby, whose home town is Morecambe. He writes:

The Morecambe and Heysham Times of 27 May 1903 contains a report of a meeting of Heysham Urban District Council  which states
                     Plans and Sanitary Committee
At a meeting on 18 May plans were passed for the erection of 32 cottages at the harbour works by the Midland Railway Company

He goes on to refer to their appearance on later OS maps as 4 terraces of 8 ‘cottages’ (see map above right).  Quite when the name McDonald Road comes into use we are not sure. Perhaps it was was when the area was connected to Middleton Road and Trumacar by the construction of Rothesay Road  and the additional housing in Londonderry and Connaught Roads.. These were built to provide houses for more railway employees when  the Midland Railway became part of the larger London Midland and Scottish railway in 1922 (information from our correspondent David Stewart-David)..

David tells us he lived in Connaught Road from 1942 -1949 and his grandfather, Sidney Yaxley, was Assistant Station Master at Heysham Harbour Station until 1949 when he moved to Manchester Victoria. He also tells us that he went to school by bus to Middleton Towers . We think he means Heysham Towers, the two are commonly mixed  up since both were holiday camps in the mid 20th century. He would have gone to St Peter’s Primary School which is near Heysham Towers. Trumacar Primary School did not open until 1953.

This image was first published by Heysham Heritage in  The Heysham Peninsula (2000) courtesy of Lancaster City and Maritime Museums.

Dawson City

The location of Dawson City is to our knowledge not yet so clearly specified.  Captain Wilmott states that Dawson City was between Moneyclose Lane and Combermere Road near to the Harbour. (This is the same as the wording used by Frank Casson in his earlier History of Heysham.) Combermere Road in the Trumacar housing estate did not exist when the harbour was being built but did when the Captain was writing his diaries.  The  Visitor article about the building of the harbour refers to Dawson City being ‘across the hill’ from Klondyke.

However based on information we have recently acquired from the Midland Railway archive a navvy hut encampment  was located on the present site of Trumacar schools. Before the harbour construction was started in 1897 the railway link to the site had to be built in  order to convey machinery and materials to the site, though some did come by sea. A short lived railway halt /station was constructed near the present bridge over the railway on Middleton Road  just before Heysham Golf Club and a hut encampment ion the site of the present Trumacar Schools s shown on the plans for this station.  See page on Middleton Road Station.
We hope to have further information from this archive in Derby shortly.
In the meantime we suggest that this encampment  is  most likely Dawson City and it is indicated on the map below..

© Ordnance Survey and Old-Maps

After completion of the Harbour  Klondyke village was completely dismantled because of its position in the centre of the proposed dry dock. But at Dawson City a Workimen’s Club was retained although it had a linited life to 1908 only. These press cuttings from Jackie McCann show why it was eventualky closed.

Another Dawson City

Perhaps curiously there was another navvies village in the Pennines called Dawson City (below), in the uplands at Draper Corner, Heptonstall, above Hebden Bridge in connection with the building of reservoirs in the Calder Valley for supplying Halifax with water. An account of this village can be found by Hebden Bridge Local History Society. See alsoMilltown Memories on the Hebden Bridge Web history section. Life at Heysham’s Dawson City and Klondyke would have no doubt been similar,


This image of the Dawson City at Heptonstall is from the Pennine Horizons Digital Archive and reproduced with their permission. It also appears on other websites for that area. .