The Bannisterís Journey to Wheatley Hill


When I first started to look for my family tree I assumed that it would be rooted in the northeast, however this could not be further from the truth. Although my grandfather Henry Andrew Bannister and his father John were both borne in Shildon the Bannisterís originated from Shelfanger a small farming hamlet on the Norfolk / Suffolk border. They had lived in this area from about 1790, the earliest ancestor I have found being William Bannister borne cir 1770 and who died in Shelfanger in 1845.


 The 1881 census recorded John Bannisterís father as Henry Bannister the son of William borne in Shelfanger circa 1825. However when I compared this information with my maternal line there seemed to be a generation missing and sure enough Henry from Shelfanger turned out to be Johnís grandfather. After obtaining John Bannisterís birth certificate I discovered that he was either illegitimate or just borne out of wedlock, his mother was Elizabeth Bannister borne in Shelfanger and daughter of Henry Bannister cir 1825. Elizabeth then married William Wall and had a daughter Mary Ann Wall, Elizabeth later died in 1878 and I have been trying to contact any one researching the Wall surname in the Shildon area but without success.


Trawling further back to the 1851 census, I made a sad discovery, I found my 4x great grandfather Henry Bannister and his family in the Kenninghall workhouse along with 18 other Bannisterís all of whom were related and came from Shelfanger. There were also many other residents of Shelfanger and the surrounding area in this workhouse their sorry situation is probably down to and coincides with the aftermath of the Enclosure Act of 1845. This act removed the rights of agricultural labourers to cultivate and graze any animals they had on common land and transferred ownership of this land to the landed gentry; these landowners then tripled the rent they charged for cottages. This seems to have been another clearance in all but name.


Some how Henry seems to have got out of this situation as the 1861 census shows him living back in Shelfanger at 22 The Street and some time between 1861 and 1871 he moved the family up to Shildon where he worked as a sawyer on the railway.

From information I received from another person who is researching ancestors from Shelfanger who settled in Shildon, his research shows that 20% of the residents of Shelfanger migrated to Shildon and the Bishop Auckland area between 1861 and 1871. So it seems that Henryís story is one of hard times and hard graft.


John Bannister my great grandfather married Charlotte Ann Andrew July 19th 1889 they had five children William, Walter, Henry Andrew, Anne, and Ada. William and Walter both died in infancy with in 12 days of each other in 1893. The family lived in Shildon but moved to Middridge around 1899 where John worked as a horse keeper underground.  My grandfather told me that his father John witnessed an accident where an onseter fell down the shaft.  After looking on the Durham mining museum web site I found what must be a record of that very accident. It seems that on the 20th September 1907 at Middridge colliery John Brice aged 22 an onseter stepped into the shaft thinking that the cage was in position and fell to his death. This family story was then verified when my dads cousin gave me some family air looms, photographs and a newspaper clipping that reported this incident.


   John at some time must have had a nasty accident as part of his foot was amputated, although my granddad said you couldnít tell to see him walk. This must have been what gave him his life long interest in first aid. I have a gold medal that was presented to him by Wheatly Hill ambulance class in 1914 and Mrs Margaret Headlye kindly helped me to identify the organisation that presented it to him.  As I recall there were always medical books in our house that were off limits to us kids, although we always managed to have a peak when no one was around, these books probably originally belonged to him. Around 1911 John moved the family to Wheatly Hill where he again worked as the underground Horse keeper and they lived at 10 Institute Street where my dad was born. So thatís how the Bannisterís arrived in Wheatley Hill.


On the following page is the newspaper clipping reporting the accident at Middridge Colliery, John Bannisterís first aid certificate and a photo of John cir 1900.






The Bannisterís In Wheatley Hill


As mentioned earlier John Bannister moved the family to Wheatley Hill some time between 1911 and 1912 where they resided at 10 Institute Street. The family at this time consisted of John his wife Charlotte Anne (formally Andrew) their two daughters Anne and Ada and my Grandfather Henry Andrew. Bannister.







Charlotte Anne Bannister ne Andrew Cir 1910


At this point I would like to digress and recount another family story. When I was a kid my granda told me that we were descended from Scottish smugglers and huntsmen. However when I started my family history research I took this story with a pinch of salt. It turned out however that every word he told me was true.


The Smuggling Andrew Clan


This story concerns my gt grandmother Charlotte Anne Andrew who was borne in Skelton near Saltrburn in 1871. When I came to look for Charlotte in the 1881census I seemed to hit a brick wall there was no sign of her, which was very frustrating.  Luckily through genes reunited I contacted Mrs Jill Naylor who lives near Redcar and had already researched her Andrew line in the Saltburn area. Jill was a mine of information and basically solved the mystery over a couple of weeks, the reason I was unable to find Charlotte in the 1881 census was because Charlotte was recorded under her stepfathers name of Carter. From this point Jill proceeded to prove Charlotteís line back to John Andrew the Scott who settled in Saltburn and organised a lucrative smuggling operation that spanned 3 generations.  He was also a founder member of the Cleveland hunt and three generations of the Andrew clan held the post of master of the hunt. Shortly after proving that the infamous John Andrew was my 5x gt grandfather Jill discovered that one of his ancestors David Andrew of Kincardineshire was involved in the Jacobean revolt. So as Jill so aptly put it ď well George it looks like weíre descended from a bunch of Scottish terrorists and master criminalsĒ. Therefore in conclusion family stories should never be disregarded as there will be a grain of truth in them somewhere and in this case my granddadís story was spot on.






Above is a photo of the museum dedicated to the Smuggling Andrew clan thatís situated next o the Ship Inn in Saltburn. The Ship Inn was owned by John Andrew and his wife Anne Harrison and was the base from which they conducted their smuggling operations. If you visit Saltburn, itís easy to see why the Ship Inn was an ideal spot for smuggling being located almost on the beach.







So, back to the Bannisterís in Wheatley Hill. In WW1 my granddad Henry Bannister enlisted in the 16th DLI and was in a signals unit. What happened to him during his army service I donít know, as he never spoke of it?  However I do know that at some time during his service he ended up in a ďMinistry of Pensions HospitalĒ in Liverpool and later was in receipt of an army pension.








After the war my granddad worked on the surface at Wheatley hill pit and in 1919 he married Caroline Preece who came from Trimdon Colliery, they lived with John and Charlotte at 10 Institute Street and shortly afterward my dad Harry Bannister was borne. By 1922 both my granddadís sisters were married and Ada and here husband Steve Mitcheson were also living in the same house, so you can imagine the over crowding.  At this point necessity being the mother of invention my granddad embarked on a project to solve this overcrowding problem and built a horse drawn caravan. I have his notebook from this period and he recorded the price of the materials that he used down to the last halfpenny.  Scans of the list are shown on the next page along with a photo of my dad and granddad with the caravan in the background.

Cost of materials for caravan 





With regard to where in Wheatley Hill the caravan was sited I canít be sure but the family album contains a Christmas card dated 24TH December 1926 the address being ď Lynn Terrace huts Wheatley HillĒ. So it must have been somewhere over the beck. About this time my granddad also rented a field somewhere across from the pit between Office Street and the old railway crossing on the Shoton road. Again form his note book it shows that he bought and sold horses and he kept a record of the prices he paid and received, the dates of purchase and sale and the names of the people be bought and sold to. What he used the field for Iím not sure but he probably cultivated it and kept the horses there, either way the field and horses would have had to earn their keep.