Secondhand September

Many Alnwick buildings have found a new purpose. There are numerous examples. The Maltings and both former Workhouses are now residential. Plans have been prepared to convert 2, Bailiffgate and Sion Chapel to hotels. Historic England have used the conversion of St Mary’s Church to Bailiffgate Museum as a case study in sustainability. So when we heard that Oxfam shops were promoting Secondhand September we went looking for an interesting story of how the role of their shop at 6 Narrowgate had changed over time. We found an interesting story but it wasn’t what we went looking for.

In 1943 newspapers carried the story of how two Alnwick girls were charged with exchanging illicit love letters with Italian prisoners of war. Anuela (maybe Manuela?) Tromontana was an Italian prisoner of war who had been brought to Northumberland to help with agricultural work. He was exchanging letters with a landgirl, Maria Parisella, aged 20, who lived at 6 Narrowgate. Maria was British, but she dreamed of going to Italy. The other girl was Pierina Beccrelli who worked as a waitress at the Corner Cafe (now Sherkhan). The letters don’t seem to have posed any threat to national security. They were described in court as love letters. It all sounds very romantic, if a little naive.

Unfortunately the point of the story, for our purposes, was spoiled the following week when the papers carried a correction. Maria didn’t actually live at 6, Narrowgate. Still, it’s a nice story. Remember it when you support the Oxfam campaign, or treat yourself at Origami, 5 Narrowgate: the building where Maria really lived.

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