I, like many others into local heritage, love to buy curios, pictures and postcards of the area. In the past year, I have done just that. Most are straightforward and can be identified without a problem. Some require a little research but are fairly straight forward and easily identified, but with some, that is not always the case. 

One such item was a postcard which I had owned for quite some time with the image of a Reverend and a scrawled message on the front, saying “Yours Heartily” with an unrecognisable signature and the note “Best  Xmas Wishes 1926” on the reverse. The signature just seemed too long and wasn’t clear at all. The postcard itself had come with other items linked to the area but was quite an enigma. However, about 3 months ago the same image turned up on eBay with the same scrawled signature and greeting, only this time with a little extra information on the reverse, “Came to Consett 1927, Married 1928”. The signature this time was also a little clearer. After a while, I managed to decipher it too ? Matthewman so I began to look online. Initially, I tried the all-knowing Google search, with no results. I tried local Churches and couldn’t initially find anything, but it was the old newspapers that eventually gave me my answers. 

An article in the Newcastle Journal dated 5th September 1927 stated:

The Rev John Matthewman comes as superintendent to Shotley Bridge and Consett Circuit, and takes charge of Consett.

John had spent the previous 3 years in Tow Law and previous to that in Bath where his training as a Wesleyan Minister had begun. The other part of the message mentioned a marriage in 1928, again the newspapers came to the rescue. John married Miss Emily Beatrice Coomb in April 1928 at the New King Street, Wesleyan Church, Winchester, Bath in a large gathering of over 500 guests. I have very little information after that but there are snippets about him here and there. 

Curios Local Heritage
Curios local heritage items collected by Brian Harrison

The second curio was a set of 2 photographs I purchased of a Victorian house interior with a small bit of writing on the reverse of one; “Oakfield Shotley Bridge” along with a note pertaining to selling some furniture, signed off with the initials “G.R.”. There were a few other items being sold that had links to the Renton family, a very well known and influential family of Doctors of the area. I was initially stuck with the Oakfield part so I reached out to a friend with a much greater knowledge of Shotley Bridge than myself and within a few minutes, I had the location, “Oakfield House” the house that stands alone on Snows Green Road. 

Consett History - Oakfield House interior c1890 - Consett Heritage History
Oakfield House interior c1890

The House itself was initially built by Dr John Renton and his wife Hannah (nee Siddell). John died in Oakfield in 1870 and Hannah died there in 1894. The property was left to their children. Sometime between 1891 and 1901 the house was split into 2 premises as it still is today. So now having proved the Renton family connection it didn’t take long to figure out that G.R. was, in fact, John and Hannah’s second son George Renton MD. George had lived on Cutlers Hall Road for a long time, but unfortunately, around the same period as his mother’s death, he fell into ill health himself. 

His illness was quite a long one and he was forced to sell his home at Cutlers Hall and move into the family home, Oakfield House, or one half of it at least. Maybe this is when the house was made into two, more research is needed to say one way or the other. What we do know is that during the years of 1895 to 1899 George sold off his furniture at Cutlers Hall and the house as well as items from Oakfield, probably due to his inability to work. George passed away 11th December 1899 in the family home of Oakfield. The photographs I purchased are probably some of the ones used to display the items for sale. However, they are also a beautiful time capsule of how homes would have been furnished in the late Victorian era, especially to those of the upper-middle class. 


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