Of Paddling Pools and Alleyways

I was talking to a friend about an answer to a question posted earlier on this blog about the alleyways around Weatherley Square.  She told me of a “hidden alleyway” that could be accessed from a rear door in a property where she used to work.  

“Hidden alleyway?”

“Yes, but that’s not all!”

“Isn’t it?”

“No, there was a cellar below with a paddling pool inside with a spring.”


So what to make of all this?  I said (knowingly) that of course there were any number of alleyways running between Marygate and Chapel Street but that I’d look into it.  This then is that investigation.

My friend used to work at 42 Marygate when the site belonged to Scottish Power.  The site is now, sadly, vacant but was last occupied by Clinton Cards.  The best map of Berwick for many purposes is the large scale Ordnance Survey map of 1852.   And of course we now all have our own satellite imagery thanks to Google Maps.  So let’s compare the two.


Berwick 1852 OS map


Modern Marygate 

This case nicely illustrates an idea I often tell people; that the footprint of newer buildings often are the same as older ones.  This can sometimes be traced back hundreds of years.  Overlaying the 1852 on to the modern aerial photograph shows the similarities and differences.  In the photos below I have attempted to show this more clearly by using the outlines of some of the buildings seen in the 1852 map.  The Clinton Card shop is hatched in white.

We can see from the 1852 map there are a lot of narrow vennels (shown with X-shapes) leading from the street front to closes and yards in which were often houses and businesses.  Comparing the two images we can see that in 1852 a yard existed on the shop site.  Two vennels led to this yard and the two pubs there, The Berwick Arms (not to be confused with another Berwick Arms nearer the Town Hall) and The Three Tuns Inn.  The alleyway my friend was talking about was then, in part, the west wall of The Three Tuns Inn; the post-1852 building having removed the yard and vennels.


Marygate, c1850.  The lowest building on the right may be the site of the present Clinton Cards building.

And the paddling pool with built in spring?  My friend thought the “pool” was something to do with containing the flooding that often happened.  The cellar was filled in during development of the site so cannot now be seen.  

Dr Fuller’s History of Berwick (1799) talks of the Cat Well Spring in Hide Hill and the Spa Well in Spittal but no mention of others.  However, when you talk to people in Berwick, they will tell you that there are natural springs and underground water courses all over the place.  How a cellar of the newsagents in Hide Hill next door to Parks shoe shop (now Fairbairns butchers) got flooded when the shoe shop cellar was lined to, er… prevent flooding.  So who can say for sure about that part of the story!

Perhaps you know of some hidden cellars, springs or other spaces.  Let me know!

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