Ice-creams and enigmas on a stroll along the coastline

editorial image

Cresswell is a small village. Its population in 2011 was 206, none of whom lived in a caravan. The two caravan sites, however, Golden Sands and Cresswell Towers, have between them something like 700 spaces.

It follows that at the height of the season the population of the village increases at least eight-fold, and that’s not counting day visitors. But, of course, the caravan sites, which can accommodate far more people than the village itself, also have their own amenities.

The last stop on our walk round Druridge Bay was the Golden Sands Holiday Park.

It began life as a children’s campsite under the auspices of the old Evening World newspaper, and between there and the village, you get wonderful views of the bay.

The first house you come to in the village itself, the white one on the right in the picture, is modern. It’s totally in keeping with its older neighbours, but has a distinctive panel of darker slates on the roof. I’ve never seen anything quite like it anywhere else, and I wonder if it’s a cleverly integrated solar panel, instead of the ugly rectangles that disfigure so many roofs.

Next comes a terrace called South Side, formerly Fisher Row. It appears on the first edition of the OS 6ins map, 1859, when the house at the north end was the Coble Inn, and the one at the south end, the Cresswell Arms.

It has a rather fine corbelled chimney, and a fascinating enigma.

Just below the chimney is a carved stone shield. Despite the house’s former name, this shield has nothing to do with any coat of arms of the Cresswell family. It consists simply of a bend sinister, whereas Cresswell shields are typically quartered, with goats and squirrels in the quarters, and in one case sheaves of wheat.

Just above it is a date. It isn’t centred over the shield, and appears to be part of a longer inscription, perhaps ‘L 1648 C’. I don’t think any of the houses in Fisher Row are that old. Houses are shown here in Fryer’s map of Northumberland of 1820, and Greenwood’s of 1828. You can view them by going to the page for Ellington in the Northumberland Communities website.

Even allowing for the fact that the details in these early maps were sketched-in, rather than precisely surveyed, the layout of the buildings is quite different. Fryer, particularly, shows a number of separate houses arranged in three rows parallel to the coast. What Greenwood shows is more like what we have now, but again as separate dwellings rather than a continuous terrace.

The whole of Fisher Row looks solidly Victorian. On balance, I should say that it took its present form in the 1850s, but perhaps incorporating some older fabric.

If so, what about the shield? I think it was probably rescued from an older building and cut down to fit.

It’s very much the sort of thing that proud owners in the 17th and 18th centuries put over their door, with either one set of initials, or a husband and wife’s.

Even then, I don’t think it was carved in 1648. Carved numerals from those days tend to look similar to ones written with a pen, but it remains something we can all have our own opinions about.

A little further on is Cresswell Ices. This, as far as visitors are concerned, is the throbbing heart of the village. It sells homemade ice-cream, sweets, crisps, gifts and postcards. Anyone for an ice-cream?