Chapter One - Morpeth, Northumberland 1822-1887
The year is 1822. According to an essay titled, "Stepping Back in Time with Town's Bootmakers" (see the link for this and other essays below) Piggott's Directory of 1822 lists a Thomas Longstaff of Silver Street, Morpeth among the tanners of the town. "Tommy" Longstaff, as he was called, had his premises in the Cotting Burn, also known as the Tanners Burn. This is surely our ancestor and one of the earliest bits of information that we have about him and his life, however the name "Tommy's Field" even today describes the fields where Tommy once stretched out hides and skins to dry.
"In 1847, as the cloth trade went into decline, Thomas Longstaffe closed the mill and converted it into a public house called the Prince Albert, close to the Red Bull. The Prince Albert became something of a tourist attraction, attracting day-trippers off the continuous railway from Newcastle to Berwick. Sunday train excursions to Morpeth became a popular outing, with the town, the Bluebell Woods and the river all drawing visitors. Tommy Longstaffe laid on boats and refreshments such as teas and mineral waters, but the Inn was still vulnerable to the unpredictable waters of the Wansbeck. It housed a menagerie and an eccentric museum, displaying, amongst other things, 'portems of exhausted thunderbolts'." See "Perils of Dwelling Midst Woods and Waters." Tommy Longstaff died in 1862. By that time management of the Prince Albert was in the hands of his eldest son, John.
"On June 11 1863 a high flood level was reached and inundated Bennetts Walk and Low Stanners with deep flood water. A focal point for the torrents was at The Prince Albert Inn, near the junction of the Wansbeck and Cottingburn. The Prince Albert run by former tanner, Tommy Longstaffe, who set up a menagerie and sort of museum that displayed among other things ‘portions of exhausted thunderbolts’. This same building was flooded again in the November and this marked the premature end of the Prince Albert." See "Delving Into Morpeth's Flood History." .
"James Ferguson wrote in 1887 of Swinneys: 'Messrs Swinney Brothers by the establishment of the Wansbeck Ironworks have done more than any other firm in contributing to the industrial prospects of the town. The foundry itself dates back to the year 1865 and is situated in the Back Riggs on what was the site of an old tan yard of Mr Thomas Longstaff. But this site has been added to at different times. The numerous workshops and also the office. The building, prior to it coming into the possession of the present proprietors, was used as a place of meeting for the Primitive Methodists and bears the date ‘erected 1831’ on it over the old doorway." Tommy Longstaff's tannery has certainly had an interesting history, reflecting many of the changes in 19th century Morpeth. See "The Expansion and Growth of Ironmongers."
Harry Rowland, a Morpeth historian, notes that in 1940 a part of the property, known as "Tommy's Field," was designated for use as "allotments," when the British were encouraged to "dig for victory," raising food which was in short supply during the war. See "Garden Field that Survives Development."