Town’s unusual living memorial

Amble map image.
Amble map image.

Whenever a town faces expansion the local community worries about the existing identity and heritage of the area, but sometimes these additional layers can help tell the story of a place.

In Amble the street names follow a familiar pattern. Some are inspired by nature, such as Woodbine and Ivy Street; some have architectural links, such as Castle View, Dovecote and Cross Street; others, like Runciman Way and Wellwood Street, are in honour of important figures; and a few, as Panhaven Road, are a mystery.

The town name itself is thought to be a corruption of ‘Anna’s Bill’, a headland belonging to ‘Anna’, the story behind which is long lost.

In 1997 an estate was built by Hassall Homes on the edge of Amble, off Acklington Road. The naming of the streets is significant to the history of the town and has led to its recognition as a memorial by the Imperial War Museum.

On Wednesday, December 1, 1943, an RAF aircraft returning from a mission to drop sea mines near Denmark was diverted to Acklington due to fog. Despite trouble, the pilot managed to clear Amble, but crashed into the top floor of Cliff House Farm, just outside the town, at 10.40pm.

Mr and Mrs William Robson were entertaining friends. Their five children, aged between nine years and 19 months, were asleep upstairs. Tragically, all five were killed, resulting in the greatest loss of civilian life in our region during World War II.

The log book from Amble C of E School records the deaths and notes a collection for a wreath, which was taken to Amble West Cemetery, where the children rest in one grave.

Of the seven crew, all in their early 20s, there was only one survivor. Sgt Kenneth Gordon Hook was on fire when Mr Rowell, one the Robsons’ guests, rushed to his aid. The other airmen are commemorated on a plaque inside St John the Divine Church in Acklington.

The ‘Togston table’ in St Cuthbert’s is one way to remember the children. But another, living memorial is the estate of 28 homes close to where the farm was. In a clockwise direction, the five Closes are named after the children, eldest to youngest: Sylvia, Ethel, Marjorie, William and Sheila.

Perhaps your own street has a hidden heritage? Tweet @heritage_hidden or email hiddenheritagenorthumberland@gmail.com