Ok so let’s start with A
A is for Aycliffe – it’s home to St Andrews Church (another A) which dates back to Saxon times, Aycliffe used to be known as Acle during Saxon times. The River Skerne runs past Aycliffe Village, which was once home to several watermills. We’ll be running some building recording and research projects where you could find out more about some of these mills. There is also School Aycliffe and Newton Aycliffe but we might touch on those in more detail further on in our A to Z. It’s a beautiful medieval village situated around a Village Green and is home to a few pubs, one of which, The County, is where Tony Blair once took the then French President for lunch. I’m guessing the food must be pretty good then, it’s one to try after lockdown.
The Aycliffe Village Local History Society has a brilliant webpage with loads of information, historic records and research about the village so if you’d like to know more I’d suggest you take a look there http://aycliffehistory.org.uk/ they certainly know a lot more about Aycliffe than I ever could and it’s a really interesting website to spend a few hours looking through.
Finally, Aycliffe is home to Aycliffe Village Primary School who helped us write and illustrate our book all about the Durham Ox with Firthmoor Primary School in Darlington.
A is also for Angel. The Aycliffe Angels to be precise; these, mainly women, worked in the large top-secret munitions factory set up during the second world war near Aycliffe Village. Around 17,000 people worked in dangerous conditions making bullets, filling shells and making other armaments to help the war effort. They were given the nickname Angels by Lord Haw-Haw, the infamous Nazi propagandist. He said during one of his daily radio broadcasts, ‘The little angels of Aycliffe won’t get away with it’. Well, they did, and by the time the factory had closed they had produced an estimated 700 million bullets and other munitions…. but at the sad cost of many workers. We were lucky enough to interview and film a former ‘Angel’, Irene Sefton (pictured above) ,just before Christmas last year, she was wonderful and you can watch her interview here…(COMING SOON!)
The site was chosen because the area around Aycliffe and much of the land surrounding the River Skerne was historically a wetland and therefore prone to quite heavy mists. The mist might be slightly annoying when you are trying to drive to work these days but it offered great natural cover to stop the Luftwaffe being able to pinpoint the factory to bomb. There were also several decoys built in the fields around – if anyone knows more about the decoys please let us know. The site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory is now home to Aycliffe Business Park, which incidentally is where we have our office but is also now one of England’s largest business parks. It’s home to some amazing businesses including Hitachi – who have been busy making the new Azuma’s there, ROF 59 an activity centre housed in one of the old ordinance factory buildings and many many more.
I’m sure there are loads more A’s so if you can think of any please let us know and next time we’ll move on to B’s.