BRUSSELTON today is a rather windblown place with panoramic views over Shildon and Bishop Auckland.

But it used to be an important incline on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, with a stationary engine on top hauling up the wagons full of coal on the west side and lowering them down to Shildon on the east where locomotives would hurry them off to Darlington and Stockton.

Although the technology employed on the incline quickly became outdated – it was bypassed by the Shildon tunnel in 1842 and its stationary engine was sold off in 1859 – a surprisingly large community remained by the old lineside.

June Doughty, now 96, lived at 5, North Terrace, Brusselton until her husband, Harry, was demobbed in 1945 and they moved down to Shildon.

She remembers there were 42 houses in North Terrace, which was demolished in 1971, and about eight in South Terrace. The old trackbed ran inbetween the terraces, and on the south side was also the large engineman’s house and a Methodist chapel.

Because Brusselton was a bit out of the way, many residents had little shops in their front rooms.

June remembers that the Stablers stocked essentials from the London and Newcastle Tea Company and Mrs Turnbull sold tins of paraffin to keep the lamps burning brightly. The Wards had a couple of cows in a nearby field and sold the milk from a large can which had pint and gill ladles hanging from the rim.

The Dunns delivered coal, and someone else brought a couple of crates of wet fish up every week.

And June’s father kept rabbits in hutches on shelves in the coal cupboard. You can probably guess what happened to them… “After the rabbits went into the pot,” says Christine Hind, who has been gently interrogating June on our behalf, “the skins were sent off to someone who cured them and made into large gloves, or gauntlets.”

A very different time…

WILF GRAHAM lived with his family at Brusselton in the late 1950s. “My sister Brenda and myself walked to school at Tin Tacks (Timothy Hackworth) in Shildon every day, me crying all the way, apparently,” he says.

“Brenda remembers electricity being brought to the village and our Mam was chuffed to get an iron and electric fire. The parson got a telly and the village gathered round for the Coronation in 1953.

“We had earth closet toilet in the yard. The house was two up two down and we all slept in the same bed. We moved in about 1956 to Newton Aycliffe to a four bedroom new house with flushing toilets, coal-fired heating and a gas fire on the wall in the dining room.”