The Chairman suggested John should consider Consett, a steel town in Co Durham, as his next appointment. Most of the men there worked in the steel works. The day we visited, Consett was wet and miserable and there was a pinkish cloud hanging over it from the works. However, the Church was recently built and lovely, the shopping area had all the shops necessary, and Consett was in the countryside which was definitely a plus. When we went to see the house, though, our uplift plummeted. I’ve nothing against council houses. I remember being envious of sister Annabel’s kitchen and bathroom when she lived in a lovely newly built one in Greenock before they bought their own house. But the front gate was hanging off this one and the garden was pretty well uncared for. The rooms were tiny, which for a good reason dismayed me, and there was a great lumpy patch on the sitting room wall. John wasn’t exactly delighted either. One thing attracted me – a small conservatory at the back which I could visualise full of geraniums and cacti.
When we left after our visit the Steward, Mr Cleasby, said it would be like a little palace by late August. His exact words! On the way home John said that the Church was great and the folk friendly, but the house wasn’t so good and if I couldn’t live in it we’d refuse the offer. I said above I had a good reason for being dismayed at the small rooms. The reason was that it had recently been decreed that from August 1973 ministers would no longer have furnished houses. The stewards would come to an arrangement with them about buying any of the furniture in the house they were in. Well, Mr Marshall knew all our furniture and had said to John it’s all yours to do what you like with. But back to our future. It was obvious that John was drawn to Consett, but with misgivings about the house. We’d take minimum furniture (most of it was too big) and sort the house out gradually was my view. So we said yes to Consett, and never regretted it.
We had five Victorian dining chairs with horse hair stuffing and in very good condition, similar to some my Granny had had but more ornate. There had also been a broken one in the attic lacking some bits which we gave the Boy Scouts for their bonfire when they did their annual trawl. We asked a dealer to look at them and he said there would have been six and did we even have part of a chair? Presumably they would have made one incorporating the surviving piece! We didn’t tell him about the Bonfire. He gave us £30 which Mr Marshall said was ours so we were delighted. We took some of the lovely Victorian bookshelves which were put in the Consett Church vestry when we moved there as the small glass fronted shelves were totally inadequate for John’s Library. Also beds and one bedroom suite which was 20th Century. It had been split between the two manses and Tom and Joan gave us their bit as they were going to buy a new suite. So along with our own bits it was adequate and easier to decorate with less clutter. Another aspect was there would be less time spent with the vacuum!
We looked ahead to the girls schooling. For Elspeth it was straightforward, she was enrolled at Blackfyne School in Consett. Anabel was still sure she wanted to become either an Archivist or a Librarian and was keen to do O level Latin along with her A Levels which Blackfyne was unable to provide. However, John was acquainted with a Head Teacher in the area and he suggested we tried Hookergate School which was a bus ride from Consett. They were very helpful, and although they didn’t have a Sixth Form Latin class were willing for Anabel to have lunchtime lessons with the teacher and to join the Fifth Form class when the timetable allowed. It was a good solution except that I would rather she and Elspeth had been at the same school.
The last year seemed to rush along, and before we knew where we were it was August and packing time again. This time we had rather more furniture and also a great array of geraniums and cacti to furnish the conservatory. What we found when we got there was rather unexpected!