My House in Northumberland: A Memoir

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Tell A Tale


My blockbuster tale from Northumberland of building the marital home: domestic and legal drama: an ill-fated affair with my doctor: set against a backdrop of local construction work: colossal
family treachery: the daughter from hell: betrayal and death. And Britain's longest divorce 17yrs.

Submitted: February 09, 2015

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Submitted: February 09, 2015

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The Salt Pans

Last night I dreamed I went to the Salt Pans again. The way was not barred to me now. There was no paddlock and chain upon the gate, as I passed through, walking down to the house I built all those years ago, I could hear the sound of the sea coming up from the shore and I was taken back to that beautiful sunny day in March 1973, when my husband, Charlie Gordon, left the RAF and we returned with two young daughters to his home town of Amble, a small fishing port on the Northumberland coast, dominated by a large caravan site  The sun would soon go behind the gathering storm clouds.

His parents owned the Salt Pans - a row of six unmodernised, Victorian terraced houses on the edge of the Links leading down to the sea. They had just sold 3, 4 and 5 as holiday homes, no. 2, was rented by a wonderful couple in their seventies, Jimmy and Sally Kennedy, they had lived there all their married life, since the late thirties.. Jimmy, who had lost the lower half of his left arm in a mining accident, was a real character; nice, friendly neighbours:  And given us no. 6. the end house ,down by the waters edge, with panoramic views of the sea and coast line:  a one-up, one-down with lean-to on the front housing, stone sink with cold water tap and a toilet. No mains gas, cooking with gas was Calor gas. Low pressure water supply, which meant, when you flushed the toilet, you had to wait for the cistern to fill before you could turn the cold water tap on.  Septic tank sewage that had to be unblocked at regular intervals to stop backflow to the house. This had to be done at high tide using a  'chip shop' strainer and chimney sweep rods.  Main outfit for this sparkling engagement, not for the faint-hearted: denim dungarees, leather builders boots, plastic orange apron, with 'Guinness is good for you' on the front, pink marigold washing up gloves and the compulsory, oh so lovey 1940's gas mask..... What a sight for the seagulls........I would not have looked out of place at Sellafield. The heating was coal fire.  No phone line. I had that put in. It took over a month, telegragh poles had to be erected across the Links to bring the wire from the main road. 

The parents said, ''Do the house up add an extension, and it will be a lovely home for you and the children''.

I still hear those fateful words today. What should have been an idyllic home with the sound and the smell of the sea, the waves crashing over the sea wall, the big sky, the sunrise over Coquet Island,  turned into a nightmare, the end of the marraige and a traumatic, brutal, illegal and protracted divorce. 1980 - 1997. 17 years must be a record.?

To the sea-facing side of the house was the eroding seawall.  First, we had to brick-up the holes in the wall, to stop us falling into the North sea.This involved lowering buckets of bricks and cement over the wall onto the shore and working against the tide....  Now we start work on the house. There was no money for a regular builder so, it was DIY.  I worked during the week when the girls were at school, evenings, weekends and the summer hoildays a local man came down to help out. The back of the house had no door, just two very tiny windows, one at the top of the stairs, this was taken out and filled in. And one at the bottom, in the pantry off the living room. This was taken out and became part of the new door way. The bedroom and living room windows.are put in. The staircase was turned 180 degrees from south to north so it now face the back door. All the stonework had to be repointed. The council would not give permission for a porch.?

Round to the front of the house. The lean-to is demolished, we build the extention onto the front; bedroom, bathroom, dining room and kitchen.  All the bricks and stone were reclamation, and had to have the old cement chipped off them. We had a cement mixer, the recipe was: 1 bag of cement plus three of sand -  a dash of lime - mix with water to a smooth consistency - keep damp. I did the inner brick work, husband outer stone work. We lived in a caravan the parents had on the property for five months while we did the building. And got to use the old communal toilet set between the middle of the terrace.  That house will always be part of me. My money, blood, sweat, toil,and tears are mixed with the bricks and morter. When the work was finished so was the money. My parents paid for all the internal work, plus the fixtures and fittings.

The Salt Pans should have been demolished  in the early 60's, when Amble Urban Council placed a 'complusory purchase order' on the property, just after the parents had bought it.  Unfortunately, their solicitor, Hyton Young of Carse and Goodger in Amble, who bought his antiques from the mother, Peggy Gordon, at a knock down price - won the court case for them. And the rest is horrible history.

The Feud - Monster in law.

The husbands parents, both in their late sixties, lived at no.1 - .later known as 'Checkpoint Charlie'. His mother, Peggy Gordon, was a short, plump, very unpleasant woman, the original 'mother-in-law from hell'.- not happy unless she was making trouble, and thought nothing of going through your handbag, as she did mine. She dealt in antiques, house clearance, had a shop in the town. His father, Charlie Gordon senior, was a tall,.thin man, who had to do as he was told, and follow orders. Peggy, sat in her kitchen and shop making the bullets, and Charlte senior, had to go out and fire them. We had been in the house about a year, when husband, Charlie, had a dispute with his mother. He was doing a house clearence for her, when something went missing - I never knew what. She had him arrested, he was taken to the local police station for questioning, and released without charge. 

We then received a letter from the parents solicitor, Hylton Young, giving us a months notice to leave the house.  We took legal advice from solicitor Andrew Garside, which was, to, ''Stay put and wait till they die''.citing the case of Bannister v Bannister 1949. The parents then started a war of attrition..  More letters from Hylton Young: one, telling me to: ''Take down the washing line'' - the washing line is a story in itself. Another saying: ''Everytime we step outside the front door, we are on their property''.  How are we suppose to get in and out ? fly ? There were running battles between father and son. A padlock and chain was put on one side of the access gate so you could only go in and out on foot.  You had to leave the car on the Links. Northumbria police were never away from the Salt Pans - they should have moved the station down there. On Guy Faukes Night, we light a bonfire to the side of the house. Next thing we know, the police are down, telling us to put it out, the parents had complained it was on their property.It was just none stop with them -  the list is endless.The house was in legal dispute, and they waste an estate agents time, sending him down to tell me they are selling the house.

My lovely friend and neighbour, Sheila Stephenson, who had the holiday home next door - and still has. Said to me:

 'It's like something from a Catherine Cookson novel. We are only here at the weekends, you have to live with this all the time, get yourself out of here with the doctor' 

.I could have got out of this mess with my doctor, John Quarrie, instead, I saved his career and decended into the inforno..

Doctor John Quarrie

Doctor John Quarrie came to Amble in 1974, taking over the practise of Doctor Robertson, who was retiring. John, lived in Warkworth - a lovely picturesque village noted for the castle and hermitage, just outside Amble:  with his wife - also a doctor - and their two children who were the same age as mine, and we were both the same age too - 30..  From the start he became emotionally involved with me, .He left his wife, and after the three years of seperation they divorced. John left Amble in 1978 for a teaching post in Guy's hospital London, asking me to go with him.  I did not want to ruin his career. It was a very torrid departure. As soon as he arrived at Guy's, he meet Elspeth Earle, a childrens psychiatrist, married her on the rebound, and had two more children with her, Susanna and Benedict.  I was not the only one affected by John's departure. He certainly left Amble under a cloud. He had started a group for children with disabilities and their parents, with an evening meeting once a month at the surgery. The last meeting did not go well. John did not want to be there, was not in good humour, he took his leaving present - a very nice jumper to wear for his sailing pastime - he sailed close to the wind with me - and left in a huff and hurry. Leaving his group upset and angry. Driving off down the A1, in his 2CV to his new life in London, then Kent, leaving a trail of destruction behind him in Amble. 

Considerate Construction 1978 - 1980

May 1978.The construction workers arrive, the Salt Pans is being connectd to the towns main sewage system,  which is being upgraded. And the low pressure  water supply to the property increased so we will not have to wait have to wait six hours for the bath to fill - the wonders of modern sanitation !  Back then, there was no information giving, no PR meeting etc., and the H&E act 1974 nowhere to be seen.  A man from Northumbrian Water called at the house, asked if I wanted to be connected - I signed a form, and that was it.The construction firm  Volker Stevin - then Harbour & General - turned three years of my life into a SAS assault course.The Amble Links into The 8th Wonder of the  World. At one point, the only access to the house from the main road was through the nearby cemetery, climbing over the wall - not easy with bags of shopping and a bike.  Safety First was not Volker Stevin's motto.  I had done basic military training in the WRAF so was able to survive until, one evening, on my way home from visiting a friend, I tripped and fell into their deep sewage trench on the Links, injuring myself and could not get out, sand and rubble rained in on me - I can tell you it was very frightening.Thankfully, it was summer, passing holidaymakers to the caravan site, heard my shouts - got me out and home.I tried to report the accident to Volker Stevin, it was impossible.The sexism and male chauvinism was apppalling, all I got was raucous laughing, wolf whistling and shouts of: ''We'll get you safely home from the pub next time Pet''......hic....burp.They were a theodolite short of the perpendicular axis.In the middle of all this engineering chaos they have to lower my phone wire for a crane - phone stops working- no mobiles then.When I complained to the engineer in charge of the work, he just walked away - not very civil.

Now the work moves from land to sea. They start blasting on the seabed for the outlet pipes from the plumping station ( demolished ten years later) at the harbour. This took place over several days between 5 - 6 pm - teatime - not far out to sea from my house.  The blast, blew the galor gas jets out on the cooker. Shook the house and the eroding seawall so violently, I thought we would end up in a very large heap on the shore. It could have been made into a musical, on one evening of blasting, the Bee Gees hit song, Stayin' Alive was playing on the radio.

Summer 1980. Put the 'flags up' the final 'finale'. The Salt Pans is being connect to the main sewage system and the low pressure water supply increased.The water supply to the property had to be turned off for the new pipes to be laid. Northumbria Water provided a water tank which they had to park on the Links because the mother - the father having died in 79 -  would not allow them to put it on her property. So began the daily trek onto the Links to fetch water, and I had to start using the launderette at the harbour again. This routine had to continue for sometime after the water was back on, because it was full of sand.  When Volker Stevin/Northumbria Water had finished working at the Salt Pans, for reasons best known to themselves - Lord knows why - they decided to join in the freud.  The mother got the men to lock the access gates together.  Now, the only way in or out, is to squeeze through the narrow gap between the gatepost and the dunes or across the shore at low tide .It took me three days going back and forward to their site  office at the harbour, before they opened the gates.  And I left Amble. Today, with the old knee injury from falling into the sewage trench I have difficulty getting to the pub.

The Brutal Illegal  Divorce and The Daughter

At the time of the divorce, nothing could be done with the house, because it was still in legal dispute with the mother - the father having died in 79.  So, my property settlement had to be 'laid aside' till she died. She died in 1989, leaving the house to my now ex- husbands brother, Reg, I had never meet him, he'd had no contact with his parents for years, saw his fathers obituary in the local paper, ££££ signs flashed up, and he came calling on his mother. Ex- husband contests the Will and lost.   When I phoned him to ask about the house as half of it was mine. Told me,''I did not get the bloody house, and your not getting any bloody money''. He never forgave me for leaving him, and he was determined I was not going to get my share of the house.So, I did not believe him or trust him, I wrote to his solicitor Andrew Garside and his mothers  Hyton Young.  Both told me the same, the court had given the house to the brother.I thought that was the end. No, worse, far worse was to come.  At this point and all agree, I should have burnt the house to the ground. 

Summer1991. The house is finally sold, ex-husband goes to live with his girlfriend Dorothy Swardy in her council house .They meet  eight years after I had left and divorced him. 93 they marry, his daughters are not invited to the wedding - I wonder why ?  October 95, he dies suddenly age 55.  The daughters go up to Amble for the funeral. His widow is now ill, and they had moved into a council bungalow.  The house is up for sale - where did the money come from to buy this house ? It then transpires, that, back in 91 their father made an Appeal to the court, and was awarded the house - half of which was mine. He then sold it to a Peter Sutherland for £32.000, without telling me.  His solicitor should have told me the house was being sold.  The eldest daughter Catherine Gordon knew all this, she was staying with her father at the Salt Pans, when Peter Sutherland called at the house to arrange the sale - see saw and spoke with him - she lived with me for four years and said nothing.  Her father bought her silence telling her he would give her some of the money, if she did not tell me.  He never did.  I should have removed this treacherous daughter from my life at that point but, for the sake of my baby granddaughter, who was only three months and I had put my life on hold, to look after fulltime, I decided to -  Let It Go - and continue contact. Big Mistake - she just carried on lying and cheating her way through my life -  history repeating itself. I have no contact with her now or my grandchildren. This daughter is now dead to me.

 The Strange Death of Charlie Gordon

Late October 1995. A friend telephones from Amble, to tell me Charlie Gordon, was found unconscious with a head injury in a lay-by outside Amble, by council workmen. They called an ambulance, but not the police - why not ? He was taken to Wansbeck hospital in Ashington, were he died a few days later age 55.  It was a sudden, unexpected death and by law the police have to be involved and the Coroner informed. That law was broken by the hospital doctor who signed the death certifcate and the family's grimy solicitor, Hylton Young - the only solicitor in Amble. It was all covered up and swepted under the carpet.because Charlie Gordon's widow was terminally ill.

 A few years later his youngest brother, Francis Gordon, was found dead in his house in Amble, a concerned neighbour noticed he had been lying in the same position on the settee for a few days and called the police.  There was an Inquest.  I contacted the Coroners office in Berwick to ask why there was no inquest for Charlie Gordon.  I was told there should have been one ?  Hylton Young has a lot to answer for. He has blood on his hands

 

Newcastle Court Ordeal 

November 1995.  Now I try to get the money for my house - my property settlement.  I instruct a solicitor,Cheryl Lewis, a 'stop' is put on the sale of the house in Amble. The following year I have to go up to Newcastle for the Hearing.  It was just a brutal Kangaroo court - absolutly horrendous, I will never recover from it. No woman could. My vengeful ex-husband  deliberately cheated me out of my property settlement, he stole my money when he sold the house in 91, and his solicitor did not tell me the house was being sold.  And now, I'm being victimised because his widow died a few weeks before the Hearing -  the villian in the piece for trying to get what is rightfully and legally mine. It was not me who put widow Dorothy Gordon through litigation, that was down to her late husband Charlie Gordon for stealing my money. When the Judge came into the court you could see straight away, he was not 'with me'.  He just glared at me.  I felt I was on trail for murder - all that was missing was the black silk square on his head. It had all been decided in his chambers, were he intentionally disregarded the court's legal obligations. At the end of this living nightmare he said to me:

''You should have done something about the money at the time ( I DID) and you are not entitled to any now. There is to be no Appeal and no more court cases involving the Gordon's'' ?

This tells you straight away, the whole thing was just a stitch up. This bent, vindictive Judge made a personal judgement not a legal one, he knew very well, 'I did do something about the money at the time.'  It was stated in my Affidavit and he had the letters from the solicitors, telling me the court had given the house to the brother. My barrister was useless. He just sat there like a dummmy - he did not speak for me once.  Why would he do that ?  He was not going to make waves, when he knew I was the victim of a stitch up. He was as bent as the Judge and just there for the free trip to  Newcastle, staying in a plush hotel with all the fine wining and dining, and of course the very large fee - all courtesy of the taxpayer.He did not give a monkey's -  typical of the legal profession. The whole thing was illigal, all of them should have been jailed.

The late Dorothy Gordon's daughter, now reverted to her maiden, Elaine Swordy, was in the court with her husband.  She spent the whole time looking at me, with a self-satisfied smirk on her face. When I left the court she was laughing at me, and said: ' I'm glad you didn't get the money'.. Her husband, who seemed a decent person, looked suitable embarrassed. No wonder he later divorce her. Not a nice family.

Journey's End

So I have to be unique, the only women in existence, who, after fourteen years of marriage, two children and building the matrital home came away from her divorce with literally nothing. Not even some of my own possession with a court order.  When I went back to the house in 1980 to collect them, ex- husband Charlie Gordon had been drinking, and turned violent towards me. My kind neighbour Hilary Hewson - who is now living  permanently at number.5 with her family,  since the utility upgrade - called the police. - police Sgt. came down and said, ''Take what you have got and go'' ? So much for the court order - a useless piece of paper. My story is a searing indictment of the legal system, judical system and police force in this country - rotten, corrupt.and masonic. You never recover from trauma - you just learn to live with it. 

In 1998 my solicitor, Cheryl Lewis, was murdered on holiday in Egypt - poisoned with cyanide by her boyfriend, John Allan. The case was known as Death on the Nile. Friends asked me if I had done it - I would have gone for Judge Jefferys, grimy solicitors, Hyton Young and Andrew Garside, and Catherine Gordon - she has ruined my life,her disabled sisters life and her children's lives.

Did you know ? St Stephen is the patron saint of bricklayers, he didn't do much for me.  I built my house for next to nothing in 1973 and then lost it. Today it is valued at £ 206.000. 

Postscript.

No names have been changed to protect the GUILTY living or dead.

 

 

 


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