Swalwell School



Although there are no buildings of any great architectural merit in Swalwell, Pevsner, in his "Buildings Of England" volume for County Durham, mentions the 18th century bridge over the Derwent, dating from 1778, and the 1903 footbridge, a steel suspension bridge built to link the allotments on each side of the river and known locally as the Hikey Bridge. Also mentioned is the White House at the bottom of Whickham Bank with its garden of waterwheels and statues through which runs part of the old Crowley mill race. This building was formerly the Vicarage and then the Club.

Over the years Swalwell grew from a tiny settlement to a populous village, initially because of the establishment of Crowley's ironworks, and later because of the growth of coal mining and the various other industries which grew alongside the River Derwent which brought jobs, including employment for keelmen. The railways and staiths also played a considerable part in Swalwell's rise to prominence, and it's appearance gradually changed as housing and shops were built to accommodate the workers' needs. Churches, leisure, recreational and sports facilities have also helped to change the face of Swalwell. In the twentieth century most of the industry declined and disappeared and Swalwell became largely residential and many of its industrial buildings went too or found new uses. Some of these changes are looked at on this and other pages.


There have been several churches in the village over the years but only the Church of England in Hexham Road, known as Holy Trinity Church, remains, see picture. It was consecrated on 15 December 1905 when Swalwell became a parish itself. In 2003 Swalwell became part of the parish of Blaydon. The most famous, and probably the first place of worship in Swalwell, was the old Ebenezer Chapel of 1750 in Market Lane. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism preached there in 1759, having visited Swalwell previously in 1747 and 1757. He noted in his diary -' The room in which I was wont to preach would not hold one-third of the people'. The church moved from Ryton Woodside in 1750 when the Minister, James Crossland who owned some land in Swalwell had a church and manse built. A Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1845. Following the building of the larger Presbyterian church opposite to accommodate its members, in the 1890's the Ebenezer Chapel was used for Sunday services for children and Band of Hope meetings. It was last used for services about 1900 but school lessons were given there at a later date. In 1970 it was purchased for 1000 by Whickham Urban District Council from its owners, the United Reform Chuch, and demolished. The first minister was the Rev J Crossland. Later, Mr William Dryburgh, father of Margaret, (see the People page), became Minister, first at the Ebenezer and then at the Napier Road Presbyterian Church. He began in 1890 and continued for 16 years, the family living in the manse just west of the Chapel. A stone set in the wall bears his name. The Band of Hope held meetings with magic lantern shows in the Church. A church bell cast in 1840 formerly belonged to Messrs Crowley Millington and Co. Mr Bill Fletcher played the organ at the church for over 50 years. The new Presbyterian Church at the foot of Napier Road (often called The Press Bank) dated from 1898, closing in 1986. It was used for blood donors' sessions in the 1950s and is now occupied by Comma Print.

Holy Trinity Church

In 1892 the Rev Canon H. B. Carr, rector of Whickham opened negotiations with Sir Henry A Clavering or his executors in order to purchase a small amount of land, including a building known as Claxton Hall, for the purpose of opening a small mission in the village. In 1893 Rev Carr left the property and land to a group of trustees with a view to build a parish church. On the 15th December 1905 the church was consecrated, the 1st baptism took place later that month on the 21st, and the 1st marriage took place on the 22nd February 1906.

Past and Present Vicars

  • 1906 - 1928   Rev A Dunn MA
  • 1928 - 1954   Rev T Petitjean
  • 1954 - 1958   Rev A Makie
  • 1958 - 1966   Rev E Simpson Baird
  • 1966 - 1969   Rev J Watson
  • 1969 - 1974   Rev S Toward
  • 1975 - 2003   Rev J Gibson
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Other Church Buildings

Various other religious buildings were situated in this area. An old building owned by the Claxton family was demolished many years ago and the land was bought by the Crowleys and a new building, Claxton's Hall, erected in which was held the Crowley 'court'. This was later used for church services and following the building of Holy Trinity church was used at various times by the Guides, Brownies and Scouts, also as a library and for wedding receptions and other community purposes. A Methodist church also existed nearby at one time, and later the Hebron Hall was constructed almost where this had been, a wooden building which was burnt down in 1995. The Church of England vicarage is situated a little way up Whickham Bank and is almost as big as the church itself. It was built in 1907 and has half an acre of grounds and is now a private residence.

The Church of England published a Parish Magazine at one time. Originally Swalwell was included in the Whickham Parish magazine but published its own magazine on becoming a separate parish. A Methodist Chapel existed at the corner of Napier Road and Crowley Road and was demolished in September 1990 for a housing development. United services were held from the 1950's between the Holy Trinity Church congregation, the Presbyterians and the Methodists.

There was a chapel in Station Road next to the Queens Head, Harbottle's chapel, and a wooden Gospel Hall (Anchor Hall) existed at the bottom of Whickham Bank, with a sign reading 'Ye Must Be Born Again'. This hall disappeared in the 1960's along with the Elephant Inn opposite, when the road layout was changed.
Finally, there was a Methodist church at the bottom of Colbeck Avenue which opened on 26 July 1930, see picture, and which closed around the end of the 1990's and after undergoing many alterations is now the Stepping Stones day nursery.
The Church of England and the Methodist churches both ran annual Sunday School trips. The C of E had a boat trip to South Shields from Derwenthaugh in 1898 starting at 8.30 am and returning from Shields at 7 PM. Sunday School children went free and adults paid 8d (3p) return fare. In the 1950s the Methodist church had an annual bus trip to Tynemouth.

Garden House Cemetery

Whickham Urban District Council bought this 8 acres of farm land, once an orchard owned by Jasper Harrison of Whickham, in 1915. The first Superintendent was William Robinson who served 21 years and transformed the site into a garden. The old garden house was located near to the present house. The first burial was in 1916, a Miss Waugh of Newcastle.

Parish Boundaries

The formation of the Parish of Swalwell was proposed in 1903 as a consequence of the growth in population - the population of the proposed parish at that time was given as approaching five thousand - the boundaries being as follows.

Starting from the viaduct at Scotswood the boundary line follows the North Eastern Railway to the Derwent bridge, whence it runs up the Derwent to Winlaton Mill, when it branches off and ascends Clockburn Lane to Clockburn, following a footpath to Woodhouse Lane with which it is coincident to Swalwell Bank; from this point to the hedge above Middle Town the turnpike forms the boundary, while a line drawn from Middle Town to Duckpool Lane gives to Swalwell all that lies on the north side; the Duckpool Lane and the Cross Lane completing the boundary to the Tyne which separates Swalwell from the Diocese of Newcastle. The villages included are : Swalwell, Derwenthaugh, Beech Grove and Middle Town. This information is taken from an article in the 18 June 1903 edition of the Parish Magazine written by the then Minister, Alexander Dunn. Clarification of the boundaries was given in a later parish magazine, thus; starting from the river Tyne at the mouth of the Derwent the boundary line is coincident with the Derwent as far as a point opposite Clockburn Lane. Clockburn Lane then forms the boundary line up to the point where a footpath crosses the fields to Woodhouse Lane, which then becomes the boundary line to the point where it joins Swalwell bank at Whickham Colliery. Then the turnpike divides Whickham and Swalwell as far as the quarry at the south side of Middle Town.

From the quarry a straight line down to a point in the Duckpool lane immediately to the south of Beechgrove is the dividing line; the Duckpool Lane itself from that point and the continuing cross lane to the Tyne forming the eastern boundary. Thus the parish will include Bagnall's cottages*, Middle Town and Beechgrove. The consent not only of the Church authorities was required, but also of the Lord Chancellor. The church building was thought too small and an extension was first proposed but rejected in favour of a new church building, together with a churchyard, but which never materialised. Land for the vicarage was provided by the trustees of the late Sir Henry Clavering and also for the site of the new church. The King signed the necessary papers constituting Swalwell a Parish for all ecclesiastical purposes in 1905.
*Bagnall's cottages were up the Lonnen above the cokeworks.

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The firm of Ambrose Crowley had a school for their workers' children and there were once parochial schools for boys and girls near Quality row in the mid-nineteenth century. The Board School (later Swalwell County Mixed School), see picture, was erected in 1875 by Whickham School Board who paid 300 to Sir Angus Clavering for an acre of land in Market Lane. It opened on 15 January 1875 and in 1904 came under the authority of Durham County Council when education became state controlled. The Infant school had three classrooms and the Mixed school (Juniors and Seniors) was a single storey building until 1893 when extra storeys were added. The additional storeys housed the headmaster's room and the staff room, and two upper classrooms. Both schools suffered overcrowding from opening day, the infants originally having 262 pupils in 3 classrooms, while the Mixed school had 14 classes and 630 pupils on the register in 1923. Two of these classes were held in the Ebenezer Chapel which was used by the school until 1939. Later there were two infant classes, five junior and three senior. In the early days children left school at age 13, this was later raised to 14, then 15 and finally 16. The day began at five to nine when a whistle would be blown in the school yard and children assembled in classes and were lined up in rows and marched into school to the Hall where assembly took place in the 'big' school. This was conducted by the Headmaster with one of the teachers at the piano to accompany the hymn. Any announcements relating to school activities, disciplinary matters etc. were made before the children marched off to their various classes, accompanied by a march played on the piano, the Grand March from 'Aida' being one such. When Mr M Percy Crozier was head (1947 to 1962) any serious errors in the singing could result in the whole school being kept back after normal school hours when further practice would take place until the tune was correctly rendered by the pupils. The hymn, O God, Our Help In Ages Past was one such example.

Celebrations, trips, open days, etc.

Wartime victories were celebrated by a half holiday, these being granted at the relief of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Pretoria (all in 1900 during the Boer War), and on the proclamation of peace in South Africa in 1902, the school closed on June 2. There were celebrations after the first World War with a fancy dress parade in the school yard and each child received a Peace Mug. During the Second World War staff were engaged in fire watching from the staff room after any air raid warnings between dusk and sunrise. This meant looking out for fires started by incendiary bombs dropped by enemy aircraft. Salvage collection and planting potatoes in the school garden were other war-time activities. Each pupil received a commemorative parchment after VE Day in June 1945 and the school closed for two days. On the official celebration of VE Day a general assembly was held when prayers and thanksgiving hymns were sung by the children. A war memorial plaque was placed in the school hall with the names of the fallen in the First World War. The picture below shows the infants playground in the 1940's.

Jubilee Day for King George V in 1935 was also an occasion for celebrations when the school was closed and tea served to the pupils. The Coronations of both King George VI and of Queen Elizabeth II (on 2 June 1953,) were celebrated in the village and school.
Swalwell hoppings were held at Whit and school attendance suffered so in 1876 a half holiday was given during Hopping Week. Open days for parents were held every year, usually only the mothers came and were able to meet and talk to the teachers and pupils. At end of term children could bring books and games into school and a relaxing day was enjoyed with no school work. Annual visits from the medical staff were another feature of school life after the war. School plays, usually Nativity plays, were put on at Christmas and staged at the Methodist Chapel on Napier Road. A visit from the police road safety team during which films were shown was another regular event. Finally, the annual school trip leaving from Crowley Road behind the school took place in July and about 16 buses took staff, pupils and parents to Redcar and its beaches. The journey was very long and there was much singing, especially on the return journey, with 'The Quartermster's Stores' and 'She'll be Coming 'Round The Mountain' particular favourites, and children often made up their own verses. One I recall from the late ' forties was 'There'll be chips, chips, as big as Stafford Cripps, in the quartermaster's stores', Stafford Cripps being the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the early fifties there was a school trip by rail to York and the following year a proposed rail trip to Edinburgh had to be cancelled due to what the headmaster believed to be overcharging by British Railways. An annual visit by the Juniors to the Little Theatre at Gateshead was another of the rare outings, where sketches and song and dance routines were featured. Sports days were held on the school field in nearby Market Lane.

During the General Strike in 1926 a soup kitchen was organised, largely by the school, to help children affected by the strike and the Head, Mr Davison, was appointed Superintendent of the feeding centre, all orders were to be placed with the Co-op stores and children were fed in the Church Hall. Feeding continued to 23 December of that year.
A school canteen consisting of two dining halls, one for the Infants, and one for the Juniors and Seniors was situated on land near the top of Millers Lane and was used for classrooms during the rest of the day to reduce overcrowding in the main school. In the same group of buildings was a Domestic Science building. For a time after the war school meals were served in the classrooms. There was a separate building for woodwork and a caretaker's house - the only school building now remaining. The toilets were outside in the school yard but in the final decades the cloakrooms were converted into indoor toilets. The Infants had their own head teacher. During the last war the school closed for a time because there were no air-raid shelters and only 20 children were allowed to attend school at any one time and all the under sixes were excluded. From 1941 all children over 12 were given a week off to help with the potato picking if they wished, and this week later became known as the potato or blackberry week holiday at autumn half term, although it was well after the time for picking blackberries. The school would be closed for all Parliamentary and Council elections when the main hall was used as a polling station and the pupils had a day off. In the fifties evening classes were held in the school but they were discontinued many years ago and Whickham is now the nearest venue. From 1 September 1964 pupils over age 11 were transferred to the secondary school in Whickham leaving only infants and juniors. In April 1973 the infants moved to a new school in Southview Terrace and in September 1987 the juniors also moved there following an extension to the building, when there were just 97 pupils remaining. In 1974 the school had come under the jurisdiction of the newly created Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead. In the week commencingThe new school consists of nine classrooms, Library, Community Room, Assembly, Shower and Changing Rooms and Administration block. There are adjacent playing fields and separate playgrounds for the infants and the juniors.

Some information from the minutes of meetings of the school managers.

At a meeting held on 6 July 1908 a Mr Helliwell attended and explained that the latter part of his absence had been caused by illness, but admitted that it had been occasioned by intemperance. He promised that this should not occur again, and that he would give up entirely the use of alchoholic liquors. His absence of 20 days was to be reported to the District Sub-committee with a recommendation that he should be given another trial and leaving the question of salary to be dealt with by the Sub-committee.

A Mr Reed also attended to answer a charge of having ill used the son of Mr James who attended the meeting with his son. Mr James made the complaint that his son had been severely caned by Mr Reed who explained that he considered the boy deserved punishment as he was an incorrigible truant, and on the day in question he had chased him over the field to get him to school and that the boy had been impudent. After a long discussion Mr James promised to see that his attendance was more regular and he was assured that the boy would not be punished if it could be avoided.

Mr Reed was again in trouble for his over-zealous administration of punishment at a meeting held on 3 November 1911 in which Mr Robson and Mr Farrer made a complaint about Mr Reed's ill usage to their daughters. Mr Reed declined to attend the meeting pleading other engagements but the tone of his letter was held to be greatly unsatisfactory. Mr Reed was forbidden to inflict corporal punishment in future.

In 1905 tenders were sought for the ashphalting of the school playgrounds and repairs were made to doors, windows and hot water pipes. Two new rooms were provided for the teachers and a fender and floor covering was to be obtained from Swalwell Stores, ie. the Co-op. In 1905 and again in 1910 the low state of attendance was held to be unsatisfactory and the Attendance Officer considered to be the real reason for poor attendance in 1910.

On 25 November 1905 thr report of the Chief Council Inspectors for July was read and considered very unsatisfactory and the District Clerk was requested to draw the attention of the teachers to the desirability of a very great improvement.

In 1948 lavatory arrangements for staff in the new dining hall, then under construction, were to be be improved and additional 'sanitary accommodation' was thought necessary for the pupils which at that time mumbered 185 senior girls and 70 infant girls, for which there were only 6 WC's, and 189 senior boys and 60 infant boys who shared just four WC's. Indoor staff toilets were also requested, and improved kitchen staff toilet provision. In 1952 replacementof the heavy dual desks by tables and chairs was considered desirable 'as soon as possible'.

In 1961 the Misses Bruce and Harrison retired as did Deputy Head Mr Telford and Mr Richardson became the New Deputy Head. Finally, in 1963 it was resolved in order to prevent danger to passing traffic caused by wooden hoops and balls used in physical education and games dropping through the boundary railings on to the busy main road and to obviate the danger in retrieving the apparatus, the County Education committee be strongly urged to arrange for the provision and erection of heavy gauge netting to the railings sited on the main road boundary wall of the infants' playgound and that this project be treated as an urgent matter. On week commencing 16 June 1975 the school opened its doors for a week long exhibition and three day musical to celebrate its centenary. On 17 July 1987 before the school finally closed there was an open day for former pupils and teachers when old school photographs were displayed, with a buffet provided and there was an opportunity to wander around the school and relive your schooldays. Closure was in October 1987 and demolition of the old school also took place in 1987. Much of this information is taken from booklets issued to commemorate the centenary of the school in 1975 and its closure in 1987. There are more recollections of school life after the war on the memories page.

Click here for plan of school.

Click here for school slideshow.

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The Swalwell District Industrial and Provident Society was first registered on November 12th 1863 but did not commence business until March 1864 after several meetings took place in Claxton Hall, drawing up the rules and obtaining help from the Dunston Society formed somewhat earlier. At the end of the first quarter ending 15 June 1864 there were 65 members and a 2/2 (11p) dividend was declared. Income was 599.3s.6d but dividend was only paid on certain goods. The first place of business was in a small house in Long Rigg rented for the sale of groceries and provisions. The committee met in a room above the shop, goods being bought from the Gateshead firm of McEune & Co. and brought up to the Keelman's bridge by wherry. Membership of the CWS began in 1888.
In 1889 land in Market Lane was purchased to build shops and offices and a butcher's and draper's shops were opened in 1890, see picture. In 1893 it was decided by the committee to reduce the hours of work of Co-op employees to 48 per week, and in 1894 an amalgamation with either Blaydon or Gateshead Society was considered, but rejected in 1898. 14 houses were built in Napier Road and sold to members. Shoe repairing was undertaken from 1899 and the first horse and cart bought a year later. Greengrocery sales began in 1903 and a new grocer's shop commenced building in 1907. From 1909 groceries were sold at the Whickham Branch and a drapery department was also opened there in 1910.

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On Saturday July 18th 1914 the Swalwell Co-op celebrated its Jubilee in Axwell Park. A procession from the village headed by Whickham Brass Band started the proceedings at 2.30 pm. Tea was provided and various games were played.
After the Second World War there was a grocer's, greengrocer's, butcher's, drapery, hardware, and chemist's shops, and the branch at Whickham, but by the sixties the 'Store' was facing competition from the new supermarkets and shopping habits were changing. Unlike many other societies, the Swalwell Co-op did not become part of the North Eastern Co-op. Swalwell Co-op closed in the mid-sixties. Whickham had a separate Society in addition to the branch of the Swalwell Co-op, which still flourishes as part of the North Eastern Co-op, although for a time the two branches co-existed. There was a bank upstairs in the Drapery department at one time.
The Co-op buildings on the north side of Market Lane have been demolished, but the others are now occupied by a variety of businesses.

The picture shows Co-op staff outside the premises.


The area between Swalwell and Whickham (Middletown) was farmland or open space until the 1960s. The houses known as the 'concretes' were built between the wars and one street, Brinkburn Avenue, is shown in 1920.

Going back still further, there were no houses at the top of the 'streets', that is, Park Terrace, Napier Road, Axwell Terrace and Ridley Gardens, the last to be built, and there were no houses on Clavering Road.The east side of Clavering Road, from the top of Park Terrace, was originally called Tynedale Place.

At the bottom of Whickham Bank there were cottages next to the Square Bridge called Bridge Row, (see picture) and houses and other buildings, including the Station Hotel, ran up to Millers Bridge on the east side of the Bank. Station Road had houses and shops on the south side from the bottom of Jubilee Terrace to the Station Hotel, later the Gamekeeper and now Jashn, an Indian restaurant.

Errington Terrace was a short street next to the allotments between the Derwent and Waterside, see picture, while West View Terrace was on the north side of Hexham Road reached by a wooden footbridge. Long Rigg (or Long Ridge) had buildings on each side including Rosemary Cottage and its adjoining houses near where the A1 now passes over with the underpass leading to Metro radio. Finally, opposite Lyndhurst Terrace were a few houses and behind Fletchers buildings was Wharton Terrace. A small estate including Plantation Avenue and Valley Drive was built in 1949 near Woodhouse Lane. Some of Swalwells' streets were still gas lit until 1966 by which time they had all had electric lighting installed.


Situated in Clavering Road and opened in 1962 it had a youth club, a men's club, a camera club and welfare (baby) foods were distributed once a week on Wednesday's. The Community Centre was used for blood donor sessions and as a polling booth, replacing the Presbyterian church and the school respectively. Dances were held on Saturday evenings. There was a young wives' clubfor some time from 1963.

The park, see picture, opened in 1964 with a bowling green and tennis court and a park keeper, and was quite attractive, but these have all gone now and there are only a few trees and some grass with a few things for children to play on. The tennis courts have a couple of basketball nets at either end. Perhaps something might be done to improve the park as it is fairly basic, though the children's play area has been vastly improved in 2012. The village does, however have floral displays on Beverley Drive, on the land opposite Millers Lane and in front of the church.

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