Sunniside Local History Society

A Centenary History


Early Education: In the late 18th and 19th Centuries Marley Hill Colliery was a thriving coal business with quite a large community living around the pit head. A school, built by the church before the parish was separated from Whickham and Lamesley Parish, was built at the end of a street of houses pictured above on the right (photograph supplied by historian George Nairn & Publisher Andrew Clark) the houses were eventually demolished and the land became the pit timber yard.

The date of the opening is unknown but in January 1779 there was an advertisment for a school master in The Newcastle Journal and the census of 1851 notes that a school mistress lived in Sandygate (near St Cuthberts Church).

Fortunately the school log book dating from 1870 is in existence and it gives detailed recording of the life of Marley Hill Colliery National School, as it was then known. The school master was Mr Philip Blackman who lived in Sandy-gate and it seems to have been a boys school because girls aren't mentioned until August 1871. Other School masters mentioned are Mr.I.Coates (1870-1880) Mr.W.S.Telford (1875-1877) Mr.N.G.Maguire (1880-1882) Mr.W.Franklin (1882-1884) and Mr.Lawrence Dewhurst who was appointed October 1884.

In July 1893 after an inspection the inspectors made the following report:

"The school is situated in an angle between two colliery railways, one or the other which must be crossed on the level by every child who attends. The line on the west side of the school was only laid a year or two ago, this runs within a few feet from the door, and an angle of the school hides an engine coming in one direction from anyone who has to cross the line and of course hides the crossing from the driver. The line on the east is at the bottom of a bank on which children are likely to loiter, and there is a very good chance of a child slipping down as a train passes. The site is also on a slope that faces the east; the floor of the school is lower than the outside ground on the west side; from the school to the girl's offices there is a steep descent by a stair-case which is not safe, and in the girl's yard there is also a miniature cliff which is not protected by any fence and which seems dangerous. The offices are not properly divided into compartments; the ash-pit seems so constructed as to collect the rain water from the yard around and the rain also collects on the floor of the boys offices. On the day of the inspection there was a pool there and the rest of the floor was covered with black mud which seemed to be washed in. There are no cloakrooms. There is no venti-lation except so far as it is provided by the windows and by a hole about two inches in diameter in the roof.

I am also to state that no further grant will be paid to the school in its present buildings unless My Lords are assured that the managers will at once take in hand the supply of proper accommodation upon a move to a suitable site and proceed with the work as expeditiously as they can. The defects in the offices must be remedied while the children continue to occupy the school."

On December 30th 1893 the log book states: "We the undersigned on behalf of the Whickham School Board visited the Marley Hill Colliery School this afternoon at the closing of the school and took over the management of the school as a temporary school (until the new schools are built) to be in future under the control of the above school board and this school will hereafter be known as the Whickham Marley Hill Colliery Board School" Jas.Gilchrist (Chairman WSB) Thomas Brabban (Member WSB)

Thus plans were made to build a new school. The original site was to be near the church. The Earl of Strathmore donated this site on the understanding that coal beneath would be mined or that he would be compen-sated by the board for leaving it. Mr.Daglish pointed out that the site chosen by the board was at a point where the coal had been very little worked and that if the school buildings were erected then it would be absolutely essential that the minerals should be purchased sooner or later by the board, otherwise the buildings would be certain to suffer very seriously. He also indicated that in so purchasing the minerals, it would not be a simple question of buying an extent of 2 acres but a very good deal more would have to be bought because it would be necessary that at least a width of 2 chains should be left all round the outside of the site to support, and at the lowest comput-ation this would amount to between 7 and 8 acres. A.Daglish recommended another site within 100 yards or so where the coal had already been worked, so that in the event of the board being obliged at sometime to purchase the minerals the cost would be as small as compared to the other proposed.


The Marley Hill managers met at the new site - it is about 200 yards from that originally selected and they considered it decidedly the better spot. So the new school (pictured above) was built by Isaac Bewley. Expenses Cost of School £3081 Cost of House £600 Cost of Fence £80 Cost of Furniture £107

The farmer who worked the field was paid £20 for the loss of his turnip crop.

This fine stone building was much admired and consisted of an Infant room with gallery to the rear, and facing the road two classrooms on either side of one long room with a partition. 'Offices' for the boys and girls were in the yard which was divided by a fence making one yard for boys and one for girls.

The school was opened by Sir Charles Mark Palmer on the 1st August 1895, ( the first Headmaster was Mr Lawrence Dewhurst)

Sir Charles had close connections with the school. As a young man of 23 he had been in partnership with John Bowes at Marley Hill Colliery and had been responsible for the increased production of coal and coke at the pit.

A full report duly appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle on Saturday, 3rd August...... "A new Board School was opened on Thursday afternoon at Marley Hill Colliery, this being one of the institution under the Whickham School Board. The new school will accommodate 300 children and has cost about £4,000. Mr T.Brabban presided at the opening ceremony. Sir Charles Mark Palmer, Bart., M.P. delivered an address, in the course of which he said that his connection with the Marley Hill district went back for 50 years. During those 50 years they had not been idle; the pulley wheels had been going merrily round for the whole of that period and the quantity of mineral extracted in that neighbourhood had been very extensive, and as they were all aware that minerals and royalties when once taken away, did not grow again, they must therefore consider what the future would be. He had been assured that morning that at Marley Hill they had minerals left for sometime to come (Applause). It would be a very sad spectacle indeed to have the mines round about there like so many extinct volcanoes and to see that school standing there as a monument of the past.

However he thought that they had a considerable number of years before them for the working of minerals in that district because he found from his own experience throughout the North of England that the old pits were something like old donkeys, they never seemed to die - they continued to exist (Laughter and applause). In speaking of the erection of those schools it naturally brought to his mind the discussion which had recently taken place in the last general election on the question of education. They could not agree there were schools of a denominational character which they desired to see maintained in their full efficiency. The denominational schools were there, and the question came - and no doubt it would engage the attention of Parliament as so much had been said during the election - as to whether they should receive more aid than they are now doing, without interference or inspection or supervision. That was the matter which would have to be left for Parliament to deal with, but for his part he was desirous of seeing education unfettered and carried out to the fullest extent, and every support given to it. And whilst they spoke of education, and of that magnificent school, they could not preclude from their eyes the thought of the cost to which they were going. He hoped his friend the chairman of the District Council would pardon him if he called a little attention on that occasion to a word which was very little known amongst them very often; viz., economy (Applause and laughter). When he saw on the way there from Newcastle the works that had been going on, and saw that magnificent school, the thought came to him that they could not shut their eyes to the fact that they would have to be paid for, and they would have to be paid for out of the rates (Applause). Well, in that district, and in the North of England generally, the mining population did not feel that; it was the coal-owners and those that had embarked their capital in developing the minerals and in carrying on the commercial part of the business who had to pay or at least contribute very largely towards the outlay that had been going on. He did not begrudge what was necessary to life and for the improvement of the minds of people in order to give them sanitary houses and every comfort which they deserved; at the same time he could not but point out that they must look to this; that all the increases of rates that were going on must necessarily tend to the increase of the cost of coal - to add to the cost of production - and eventually it might become a commercial question." The entry in the log book reads....... "Aug.1st 1895 New school opened by Sir Charles Mark Palmer, Bart. M.P. supported by Henry Wallace Esq.. C.Berkley Esq.. R Berkley Esq.. Thomas Lambert Esq.. and Mr.Thomas Brabban, Vice-Chairman of the School Board who presided."

LAMESLEY QUESTION However by 1898 Whickham School Board were querying the need for two schools in the Marley Hill Area. A report by Mr.Swin-burn was given on 10th October 1898 "Prior to the year 1893, there were two schools, a Board School, under the control of Whickham Parish School Board, and the Colliery School, which was not under the control of Board, but supported by Voluntary Contributions; in other words there was a Board School and a Voluntary School, which, provided for the requirements of all the children in the district whether they resided in the Parish of Whickham or in the Parish of Lamesley. In 1893 the Colliery School (i.e. the Voluntary School), which in addition to accommodating children from Whickham Parish, was condemned by the Education Department, owing to its defective condition, and closed. Thereupon the Whickham School Board built a new (i.e. an additional) school at Marley Hill, to take the place of the Voluntary School which had been closed. This New School cost the Whickham Parish about £4,000. There was not, nor is there yet, a School Board for the Parish of Lamesley, and no steps whatever appear to have been taken by the then existing Whickham School Board to obtain any contribution or pecuniary assistance from the Rating Authority of Lamesley Parish towards the cost or maintenance of this School, although a very large number of the Children using it came from the Villages in the Lamesley Parish (e.g. Sunniside, Street Gate, &c.) The Ratepayers of Whickham have therefore been unfairly saddled with the entire responsibility, and have as a matter of fact provided accommodation to meet the whole of the educational requirements of that part of both Whickham and Lamesley Parishes. It will be seen from the following figures that the accommo-dation provided at Marley Hill is greatly in excess of present (and probably will be in the future) requirements of the district, and that the accommodation provided in the old Board School alone is practically sufficient to meet the present requirements so far as the Children residing in the Parish of Whickham are concerned. Another point which requires to be borne in mind is that the average attendance at the schools has decreased considerably during the last two years, the revenue arising from the grants being correspondingly reduced. Whickham School Board have provided Accommodation at Marley Hill for 638 children, viz:- (old School for 341 children and in the new school for 297) but only have in attendance (from all Parishes) 438, viz:- (old School 228, new School 210). So that the accommodation provided in excess of the requirements of all Parishes using the Schools is 200. Deducting from the total of 438 the number of children using the schools from Lamesley and Tanfield, which on a recent count was shewn to be about 110, there only remains say 328 children from the Parish of Whickham who actually make use of the schools, which have been built, worked, and maintained solely at the cost of the Ratepayers of that Parish.

(Note. Tanfield Parish possesses a School Board and no doubt children from Whickham Parish do to some extent make use of the Tanfield Schools. Lamesley Parish does not possess a School Board).

The cost to the Parish of Whickham for Working and Maintain-ing these two schools last year (according to a return prepared by the clerk) was £940 (equal to £2.0.0 per head Old School, and œ2.6.3. per head New School). The return also shows that if this cost was divided pro rata to the number of children using the Schools from each Parish, the proportion payable by the Lamesley Parish would be nearly £200 a year.

These figures prove conclusively that Whickham Parish has for some years been unfairly charged with expenditure, which was not properly chargeable against it. Since the opening of the New School, the amount so charged against Whickham, which ought to have been borne by Lamesley, cannot be less from £800 to £1,000.

Unless some special reasons or circumstances existed, when this additional accommodation was provided, which rendered it unnecessary or undesirable to ask for a contribution from the Rating Authority of Lamesley, towards the Cost and Mainte-nance of the School, then unquestionably a very serious mistake or omission was made by the then existing School Board in not claiming that Lamesley Parish should become a "Contributory District" under section 49 &c. of the Act, and the question now to be decided is:-

Whether it is now possible to rectify this and recover, if not for the past years, at any rate to secure so far as the present and future years are concerned, such a contribution as is manifestly due from the Lamesley Parish, for the accommodation which is and has been provided for that Parish by the Whickham Ratepayers."

Over the next two years many letters passed between the Whickham Board, Lamesley Council, and the Department of Education. Lamesley Council were very steadfast in their resolution of refusing to contribute towards the costs of the schools and stated they would rather build their own school in Sunniside. Eventually on 9th Oct. 1899 a letter was received from the Department of Education ordering Lamesley to make a contribution and have an election in their parish of a person to be a member of the Whickham School Board. Thus on 13th Nov. 1899 Mr.Walter Fenton of Sunniside was elected.

He said "It is well known throughout the district that the Whickham School Board blundered in building not only an elaborate and costly edifice, but a school far in excess of its requirements. Lamesley naturally objects to paying for this extravagance in the same proportion as Whickham especially when the positions of the schools are not convenient to the Lamesley children and will eventually become the property of Whickham. The Lamesley Council under the strong chairmanship of Mr Wallace fought long and hard and refused to be intimidated but in the end on Nov. 13th 1900 the following agreement was noted at the Board Meeting:- Lamesley to pay 1/4 of the loan charges on the new school for 1/3 of the accommodation therein and the actual cost of maintenance of the two schools as may be defrayed out of the rates in respect of the children on the books of the two schools from the Lamesley District but no charge is to be made in respect of 30 places in the old school. Finally on Jan. 8th 1901 there is mention of a letter from the Department of Education dated 13th Dec. 1900 enclosing a new order making Lamesley contributory to the Board.


Over the years there have been many structural changes to the building.

Originally there was a gallery in the Infant room. However in 1904 the log book records: The gallery is inconvenient and the desks on it are not suit-able for infants. The room is inconveniently crowded leaving no space for Drill and Kindergarten Games. A classroom for the younger infants should be provided so as to obviate the necessity of using the room upstairs, which is not recognised as part of the accommodation. 1906. 11th December; Gallery in Infant Room is being removed and twenty four new desks on gallery. 1912. 9th December; A great improvement has been made to this Infant Room and in the school work, by a folding screen having been fixed in the centre of the room this past week-end. 1958. September; Moving of screen to provide bigger class-room for Infants (part of corridor). 1963. Talk of a new school in Sunniside, Durham County decided to modernise present school instead. 1963.July; Proposed scheme of extension and alterations. 1964 July; Building operations continued. Updating of school building - hall, Kitchen, extra classroom, indoor toilets and making of solid wall in long room. Relaid yard and took away outdoor toilets. 1965. January; Meals served from school kitchen. 1971.May; Demountable classrooms placed in yard. 1972: Seconded extra land for playing. 1974.March; Extra classroom (new Infant room) built. 1978. Change from solid fuel to gas central heating. 1974.March; Extra classroom (new Infant room) built. 1978: Change from solid fuel to gas central heating.

1995. And now in the centenary year the school has been internally redecorated and the staff-room facilities updated. SCHOOL ROLL Numbers have fluctuated over the years. 1895. A senior (to 14 years old) Junior, Infant School with 240 pupils.

1907. 12th Aug. Separate Infant Department within the school under charge of Mary Jackson. Later taken over by Miss Weston.

1923. April 23rd. Infant Head (Miss Armstrong) and staff (Miss Cuthbert) and most children moved to Sunniside temporary Infant School. Some infants left behind to be merged with rest of school.

1958. Seniors transferred to Burnopfield Modern School Scholarship children to Hookergate at the age of 11, until the Comp. system started in 1970.

1974. April. School transferred from Durham to Gateshead Authority. Children 11+ transferred to Whickham Secondary Modern School-Comprehensive. 1977. 330 Children on roll. Many children transferred to Cloverhill School which opened 14th November 1977. 1995. Currently there are 142 children on roll.


HEAD TEACHERS (MASTERS) There have only been six headmasters over the past hundred years. 1895 - 1913 Mr.Lawrence Dewhurst pictured with his wife, Miriam and family moved to Sandy-gate in 1884 from Blackburn, Lancashire. He died in 1926 and is buried in St Cuthberts Church yard. 1913 - 1945 Mr.William Bellerby was appointed Head Master in May 1913 when he and Mrs. Bellerby came to live in School House, on his retirement in February 1945 they moved to Darlington.


1947 - 1965 Mr. John Atkinson (pictured above) was the next Head. He came in 1920 as a young teacher very popular with the older girls. He did not live in School House, preferring to live with his wife and family in Cornmoor Road Whickham. He was acting Head from 1945 until 1947 when he was appointed Head on March 1st 1947. Mr Atkinson was very keen on music and the choirs of Marley Hill School were very successful in local tournaments. He was also very interested in the school garden. He devoted all his teaching life to Marley Hill where he was on the staff for 45 years and the school was in his very capable hands for nearly 20 of those years. He saw many structural changes.

1965 - 1971 Mr.Robert Gardner JP. was appointed in September 1965. He lived with his wife and two children in Ebchester. Mr.Gardner was able to enjoy all the facilities of a new hall, kitchen and classroom. At this time a large new housing estate was built in Sunniside. Consequently, he had problems with staffing, some of the classes being rather large in number. However with the strong support of the Governors and the Director of Education, the situation was eased with the erection of the demountable classrooms. He organised the first Continental Trip to Belgium in 1965. Mr.Gardner left in 1971 to take up another headship in the Consett area.


1971 - 1991 Mr.Elgar Sykes was appointed on 1st December 1971. Mr.& Mrs.Sykes and their daughter Helen live in Whickham. Mr.Sykes came to the school as a newly qualified teacher. For many years as a class teacher he taught the 'scholarship' class. During his 20 years as head there were many changes in school. The school roll was highest ever in 1977; 330 pupils in 10 classes. Afterwards, with the closure of the mine and the changes in population together with the opening of Clover Hill School, the school roll began to fall and when he retired there were 138 on roll in six classes. The playgroup and Toddler's group were established in one of the demountables. Mr Sykes also saw the introduction of the National Curriculum and the begin - ning of Local Management of Schools. He retired in 1991 after 38 years dedicated service to the school. 1991 - Present (1995) Mr.Keith Rowland joined the staff as Deputy Head in January 1986. He was appointed Head Teacher in September 1991. He is a bachelor who lives in Sunniside. Mr Rowland is very keen to promote the image of the school in the area and the school roll is beginning to rise. His role as Head is very much different to that of his predecessors, in that with the Local Management and implementing the National Curriculum he is having to work very close with the Governors in running a business. One of the developments has been Pit Stop, a club for children of working parents, run before and after school as well as holiday time. Qualified supervision in a caring atmosphere.

Staff There have been many members of staff over the years. This is not a complete list. 1880: Miss Thirlaway (Infant class) gave her name to Thirl-away Terrace. Miss Jessie Telford Mr.Harry Roddam. Local preacher at chapel, played the organ. Miss Roddam. his sister. Miss Elsie Errington. pupil at school, came back as a qualified teacher. Miss Nancy Errington, her sister. Miss J.Telford, (1926 - 1947) Infant teacher. Mr W.Bell - Deputy Head. Left to be Head-teacher 1946-1956. Miss Lamb, Mrs Hutton, Front St. Whickham, Mr.Gillender - Senior Teacher. Mrs.Morpeth, Mrs.Gash, Miss Dewes, Mrs.Chambers, Miss Gatiss, Mrs.Thompson, Miss Vauks, Mrs.Bragan, Miss Gaul , Mrs.Boustead, Mrs.Winstanley, Miss Stirling, Mr.Dolan - Deputy Head, Miss Barber, Mrs.Keen, Miss Lax, Mrs.Yielder, Miss Nicholson (left for South Africa), Mrs.Fewster, Miss Dodds, Mrs.Henderson, Miss Ramsey, Mrs.Burton - Deputy Head, Mrs.Hobson, Mrs.Telford, Mrs Smith, Mrs.Cowen, Mrs.Buckberry, Mrs.Simpson, Mrs.Morpeth, Ms.Evitt, Miss Newton, Mrs.Partington, Mrs.Price, Miss Thomas, Mrs.Carney, Mrs.Westgate - Deputy Head/Head, Mrs.Rodgers. MEMORIES

Eddie Liddle (1916 - 1923) Extracts from his Memoirs

I was very fond of football while I was at School. I was a keen supporter. There was a league of schools of the District and several cup competitions too. These matches were played on a Saturday morning. One Saturday morning we went to play at Chopwell. I think we went by coach as it must have been about eight or ten miles away. I don't remember much about the match, what I remember was Harry Roddam who was in charge of the team and the outing. He took the team into a cafe to have tea and cakes.

He invited me as well. I can remember it all so well, it was a beautiful day, blue skies and quite a nip in the air. I sat at a table for four near the window, I felt so proud and elated. About the only time I had eaten out was in a fish and chip bar. Another incident that has always lived in my memory, as clear as the day it happened. I must have been about twelve years old. When we commenced school each morning, we used to sing a hymn. the day in question was a really beautiful one, a blue and cloudless sky. The air was fresh and clear, so it must have been summer. To add to its rarity and the larger meaning of this wonderful memory, priceless to me, the view from the classroom window looking North was really wonderful, (of course to see it from the classroom, one would have to stand on the school desk). The far horizon was the Cheviot Hills and the more immediate view was, first our village playing field, which sloped down to the village, beyond came the farmer's field, their Hawthorn and Holly hedges. Three farmsteads were just about visible, one and a half to two miles away. The immediate view was the North side of the Tyne and Derwent rivers. I had seen this view from many places. I loved it very much. The hymn was "Summer suns are glowing over all the Earth, Happy light is flowing beautiful and free, all of Earth,s thousand voices swell the psalms of praise." This memory has been so fresh and beautiful all of my life. .


Mary Harrison (Buglass) 1921 – 27 (pictured above c1926 on the left back row, with Miss Weston on the right). Mr.and Miss Roddam lived at the Crescent, Sunniside. Miss Roddam used to bring mending to school for sewing lessons and because Mary was so neat she was asked to do the darning. Mr Roddam was a well respected teacher. Mary also remembers going to the Board School for cookery.

Mrs.Davidson (Nellie Aimers) 1910 - 24 Remembers. receiving a 1d reward from Mr.Bellerby. She was brought before the class for good work. She remembers Mrs.Bellerby having a fiery temper and going red in the face as she held the cane. She also remembers a teacher being knocked to the ground in class, and the husband having to assist Mr.Dewhurst in restraining the irate mother. Another memory is of Sir Richard Berkley and his sister Miss Berkley who lived in Marley Hill House situated in the woods to the left of the road to Burnopfield, opposite the wireless station. If they were met in the street it was expected that the men doffed their caps and bowed and the ladies curtsied. It was thought by the boys who collected Mr.Dewhurst's mug of tea from the house at playtime that it was laced with whiskey.

Jean Mackie (nee Brabban) 1936 – 42. I loved attending Marley Hill School, I loved learning. Miss Sally Herdman taught her class how to spell "beautiful" by repeatedly singing the letters. I think of her whenever I write the word beautiful. Mr Bellerby was often flicking the end of chalk to the boys who were misbehaving, and saying "Now then you Sammy tin dribbler, be quiet and get on with your work." We used to take a packed lunch to school often consisting of tomato (soggy) sandwiches or meat paste. We ate them at desks in the Infant Room. We got a third of a pint of free milk which was nice. We played Rounders and Basket Ball in the school yard. I remember the P.E. instructor, Mrs Balderstone (she lost her fiance in the war). I remember attending the Board School for cookery lessons. It was good fun, I loved to make Corned Beef Hot Pot because you could eat it at lunch -break. Delicious. I also remember every afternoon at 3.30pm (or was it 4.00pm) we gathered in the end classroom where stood a piano and we all sang (Mr.Bellerby usually played) the hymn no.332 in Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised - God be in My Head. I left Marley Hill to go to the Secretarial College in Newcastle. I was ready to leave Marley Hill, I wanted to learn other subjects. I have happy memories of my school days.

Stella Morton (nee Brabban) 1937 - 41 approx. I remember ink - monitor tasks - upstairs to a very quiet room to get ink. The war years intervened of course, mornings when one didn't have to attend school, when the air raid sirens had been in action the night or evening before and attempting to sleep in an overcrowded Anderson Shelter wasn't much fun. Cookery lessons with Miss Ruth Herdman at the Board School were rather special. Smart white apron and head - gear scrubbed nails, and the chance to do something different (even if on one occasion it was Nettle Soup). Having of course picked the nettles from the surrounding hedges. Mr Bellerby was firm with soldierly bearing. It was curious to see Mrs Bellerby, an attractive lady in a pretty dress in a hammock in the headmaster's garden when most of the local women were 'sporting' pinnies and seemed work - weary. Came the time to leave to acquire secretarial skills, much prized in those days as money earned by the young members of the families was immediately put to use in the household kitty.

Stewart Gascoigne 1946 - 52 Remembers Mr Atkinson was very keen on gardening and having the children work in one at the back of the school. There was a wooden hut behind the school house where the equipment was kept. Mr Gillender had a nasty accident playing rounders in the school yard. He ran into the boys toilet wall and was concussed.

Francis G Newman 1949 - 55 Remembers not being allowed to play on the field for a time because the ground collapsed due to underground coalmine workings.

William Bell May 1946 - December 1956 says Throughout my service at the school, we were an all age school catering for pupils 5 to 14, and before I left 5 to 15 following the initial raising of the school leaving age from 14 to 15. When I started in 1946 following my 'demob' from the Royal Navy, the school staff was as follows:

Acting Head - Mr.J.D.Atkinson (with a class) Class 2 Mrs.M.Bragan, Class 3 Miss N.Errington, Class 4 Mr.W.Bell, Class 5 (Infants) Miss Telford all classes with 2 year groups. Also on the staff Mrs.N.Boustead - Domestic Science. I am rather vague about the the Domestic Science arrangements as far as I can recall the lessons were given at the school at Old Marley Hill. I cannot give dates but when Mrs.Boustead left she was succeeded by Miss J.Stirling and she in time by Miss D.Barker but only for relatively short terms - say a year each.

Class Teachers

When Miss Telford, who took the infants class, retired, she was succeeded for a year by Miss J.Lax and then by Miss P.Lamb (now Mrs.Hutton) who was still there when I left. When Mrs.Bragan and Miss Errington left (not at the same time) they were replaced by Miss D.Nicholson and Miss Dodds. subsequent changes resulted in Mr.Atkinson being appointed Head, Miss Nicholson leaving to go to Rhodesia, Miss M.Dodds leaving to enter the library service and the addition of Miss M.Ramsey, Mr F.Gillender and Mr.E.Sykes.

Other temporary appointments were Mrs G.Hobson and Mrs E. Smith. I regret to say that some of those members are no longer with us. I'm not sure of Mr.Atkinson but to my know-ledge Miss Ramsey, Mrs Hobson, Mrs.Smith and Mr.Gillender have all passed on.

I should add that through my time there, the Caretaker was a Mrs.Ellis and when school meals were introduced (transported from Burnopfield) Mrs.Spoor assisted Mrs.Ellis as Meals Attendants.

I remember Marley Hill as a very happy school. I had few problems with children and invariably I found parents supportive and co-operative. These were the days of the 11+ examinations but I still recall some of the pupils who went to Hookergate. However my clearest memories are of the older children probably because I ended with the top class and I had known them over a longer period.

I remember Mr Atkinson as a proud Northumbrian, a kindly conscientious man, always seeking the best for the children in his school. He was a keen musician and took a great pride in his choirs - both Junior and Senior - achieving more than a little success in several Tynedale Music Festivals. I have many happy memories of school visits (Evening Chronicle, Proctor and Gamble, Theatre), annual school excursions (The Lakes, Northumberland Coast, North Yorkshire) sports days, football matches, a memorable school concert and not least the four holidays I arranged for a party of over 11's from the school. We twice had holidays in London visiting places of interest e.g. St.Paul's, Kew Gardens, Windsor etc. and on one occasion the House of Commons hosted by the then Blaydon Constituency M.P. Robert Woof. We all enjoyed tea on the terraces at Mr Woof's expense.

Miss Lamb, Miss Ramsey and Mr.Gillender accompanied me on these holidays and Mr.Sykes joined us for a subsequent holiday in Pwllheli, North Wales where we climbed Snowdon - but caught the train back down! Our fourth holiday was a school camp in Ireland - Skerries near Dublin. On this occasion Mr. Gillender and I were assisted by Mr.& Mrs.Simmons whose daughters Edna and Joan were in the party.

Do I remember more - yes, the terrible winter of 1947 which depleted the school attendance for a few days. With roads above Marley Hill impassable. I too was absent for three days.

Finally another memorable event during my time at the school was the Marley Hill robbery. I cannot recall the exact date and it had nothing to do with the school though it must have affected many parents. It was not only local and regional but national news at the time - all the cash for the miner's wages at the Colliery was stolen. To my knowledge the culprits were never brought to book.


12th January 1949 - William Boyd had an accident playing football. The metal frame struck him on the head.

Mrs.Gleghorn (nee Storrie) 1962 - 1968 My earliest memory of school in Reception Class, was of the P.E. lesson or "apparatus". Then we had no hall in which to set up the equipment, the climbing bars, ladders benches and what seemed to me the enormous wooden horse. The only available place large enough to accommodate us was the Miners Welfare Hall. No matter what the weather we were bundled into our hats, scarves and coats, and swinging our P.E. bags (care - fully embroidered with our names on) in one hand and holding onto our partners with the other. We followed our teacher Mrs Hutton, happily chattering away for what seemed like miles down the road. After our short lesson, the trail back up the hill began. Our little legs, already tired by one walk and then a P.E. lesson were nearly giving out as we reached our classroom. After hanging up our coats and carefully putting our P.E. bags back onto our pegs, we were all ready to follow Mrs Hutton's instructions to fold our hands on our desks, put our heads on our hands, close our eyes and rest! We usually woke up in time for lunch, and as we collected our towel bags which held our very own towel (also carefully embroidered with our name) and went to wash our hands, our dinner was usually arriving. The dinner ladies, armed with ladles, huge spoons, palette knives and potato scoops, would put up the big trestle tables in Miss O'Neil and Miss Garfoot's class. The men would bring in the shining containers shaped like big pressure cookers and take them into the class- rooms. The Infants would go for their dinner in Mrs Garfoot's class - and horror - of - horrors! if there were no spaces left you were sent to the "big class" where the older boys and girls looked down on us poor "little - uns." No matter what the meal - it always smelt the same - and no matter how many windows were open, the smell lingered in the classrooms. To this day when I see the large siver trays in our school kitchen, it akes me back to when I was in Reception, ready to collect my plate and have my dinner.

Mr.Gardner late 1965 - 71 Remembers A little girl called Christine Morton. When she was three or four years old she was determined to come to school. She used to wander up to school and settle herself in Mr Gardner's Office. He devised a signal with Mrs Morton so that when she saw a white duster flapping out of his small window she knew that Christine was safe.

School Productions Marley Hill has always been noted for its involvement in Music and Drama. Mr Dewhurst, a keen muscian, would organise musical evenings in school. Mr Atkinson trained school choirs to enter local musical tournaments. They gained many awards. Mrs Fewster entered choirs in the Consett Music Festival and Gateshead Music Festival. One of the awards they gained was the Ramsden Williams Trophy for Infant choirs. Mrs Yielder also trained choirs and musicians to be success - ful in the Whickham Music Festival. Drama productions have been produced in the school. Since 1975 School productions of the Nativity have always been part of the Christmas Programme. Mrs Keen's Drama productions were always well presented with everyone who took part entering into the spirit of the occasion. Some productions were Aladdin 1971, Choc-a-box 1974, Who Stole the Tarts 1975 and Fairest Isle 1977. Now Ms. Evitt with the Youth Theatre has produced Peter Pan 1989, Aladdin 1991, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe 1992 Pinocchio 1993 and The Evacuees 1994.

Success has also been achieved in recent years in the Whickham Spring Flower Show with a 1st.or 2nd place being normal. In a similar vein we remain the only winners of the Joan Turnbull Cup for conservation.

Marley Hill Primary School today is still the happy caring school with the family atmosphere that most past pupils and former staff remember with nostalgia. It can look back with pride over the last 100 years at the achievements of others.


Acknowledgements: I would like to give my thanks to the following people for their support and assistance in writing and compiling this history.

All the past pupils and members of staff who have provided materials for inclusion.

The Senior Archivist at Newcastle Archives for permission to use the photograph of Sir Charles Mark Palmer from the booklet 'Industrial Pioneers of Tyneside' by Barry Sherlock published 1972.

The Senior Archivist at Durham Archives for permission to use the Whickham School Board Minutes Ref E/SB358.

Mr.Francis Newman of the Sunniside & District Local History Society and a former pupil of the school.

Mrs Linda Shayshutt for her time given typing.


Our School continues to lead the field in academic excellence.The Ofsted Report of the 23rd and 24th of November 2005 was outstanding with top grades on every level. The report confirmed that the Teaching Staff are well lead by Headteacher Cathy Westgate and as a consequence each Teacher excels. The School Governors expressed their delight at the high quality of the Ofsted Report extending congratulations to Cathy and the entire staff at Marley Hill Schol.


Unfortunately over recent months changes have taken place,

Head Teacher Kathy Westgate left to take up an appointment elsewhere and changes have taken place within the teaching staff. Linda Shayshutt the School Secretary an excellent ambassador for the School has also left.

To date November 2009 speculation has been rife about school closures, among them Marley Hill. There is now a genuine concern that our School may indeed be a victim of change.

There is a meeting to be held at the school on Thursday 19th November at 6:30. Representatives of the Council and Education Board will attend. The School Governors will have already met but this is the opportunity for the parents and Community to have their say.

There is a proposal that either the school will be saved (but that option is looking unlikely as there are only 91 children in the school) or a new school may be built somewhere within the boundaries of Sunniside and Marley Hill. Throughout the community there is a strong feeling that closure of our existing School would mean everyone suffering to some degree e.g. Church, Community Centre, and the Community at large with children the main victims facing so much uncertainty.

A petition is circulating, please sign up to save our School. Canvas your local Councillors, write to Dave Anderson our M.P. do anything to help save our School.


UPDATE Friday 20th November.

As scheduled the meeting took place at Marley Hill School. There was an excellent attendance of parents, grandparents extended family members and members of the community.

It was made very clear that the main consideration was financial. The panel stressed that pupil numbers had fallen below the acceptable level. Three schools, Byermoor Sacred Heart, Washingwell and Marley Hill were under scrutiny and may face closure although no decision had been made until after a period of consultation.

A large number of points of view and questions were posed to the panel by the assembled people and indeed pupils of the school. It was significant that the Panel members were unable to answer many of the questions.

It is probable that as we left the meeting we all shared the same view, nothing had been achieved, too many questions remain unanswered and the threat of closure is still a reality.

We must continue the fight and lobby everyone we think can help. It was pleasing to witness the attendance at the meeting of the Reverend Bob Hopper as well as Councillors and a representative of our Member of Parliament Dave Anderson.

Sadly we may have lost the fight, our presumption that it was all cut and dried and that the 'consultation' meetings were just a cheap gimmick, may be correct. It has been reported that Marley Hill Primary School will close in August 2011, it is hoped but by no means certain that the children will be kept together and moved to Clover Hill School at Whickham. There seems to be the obvious intention for whatever reason to centralise all schools at Whickham?

But watch this space


School Staff To Date June 1st 2010

Head Teacher (acting) Susan Cowen

TLR Mrs L Goulding Yr 5/6 Mr J Smith Yr 3/4 Mrs M Ormerod

Learning Support Mrs M Doherty

HLTA Mrs P Gibb TA KS1 Mrs S Hodgson TA KS3 Mrs L Berry

ASD Provision Miss L Mitchinson TA Mrs H Wilson TA Miss J Donkin

ADMIN Staff Mrs G Rogers Mrs S Gardener

Dinner Supervisory Assistants: Mrs S Dewhurst Mrs P Birdsall Mrs J Bingham

Caretaker Mr A Kelly

Cleaning Staff Mrs D Harm Mrs G McLoughlin

Kitchen Staff Mrs G Paxton Mrs H Harm

Peripatetic Music Staff: Mr Evans (strings) Mr Milner (brass) Miss Smith




On Tuesday 14th December 2010 the remaining pupils attended St Cuthberts Church in the afternoon to rehearse the Nativity performance to take place in the evening.

Pictured above are Teacher Jason Smith, The Reverend Bob Hopper and Teacher Susan Hodgson with children: Courtney, Casie, Elliot, Alisha, Meghan, John, Taylor and Evan.


Former Teacher and Associate Governor for many years Joan Telford (pictured above)joined the group.


The children during rehearsal. They worked really hard, some sang solo helped by the others.

A really sad occasion for myself (Mr F.G.Newman). Initially I attended The White Elephant School at Streetgate. I then joined Marley Hill School as a pupil in 1950 and left in 1955. As a local historian I have retained contact with the School, even serving as a Governor for a while. I have admired over the years the hard work and dedication of the Staff, the pupils all seemed more than happy, chatting and laughing in the corridors, it was a happy School. Some members of the Staff have now been made unemployed.

It was my pleasure to attend the School Christmas party as Santa Claus, I will always have fond memories of those occasions.


The school was opened by Sir Charles Mark Palmer on the 1st August 1895, ( the first Headmaster was Mr Lawrence Dewhurst)

Sir Charles had close connections with the school. As a young man of 23 he had been in partnership with John Bowes at Marley Hill Colliery and had been responsible for the increased production of coal and coke at the pit.

In his speech Sir Charles said "It would be a very sad spectacle indeed to have the mines round about here like so many extinct volcanoes and to see the school standing here as a monument of the past".

Unfortunately this sad spectacle has occurred, Marley Hill has lost it's Coal Mine and now it's School. All in the name of cost cutting, how shameful.



Senior Governor and former Teacher Joan Telford along with other colleagues, were determined to mark the School closure with a final get together of former Teachers and Governors.

On Saturday March 12th 2011, everyone gathered at Sunniside Social Club to enjoy a showing of the new DVD 'Marley Hill Primary School 1895 - 2010' filmed by Noel Adamson.

The event was a huge success, a buffet was provided and everyone enjoyed socialising for the last time.

The DVD was in huge demand and sold at £5.00 per copy.

So much interest is being shown in the DVD that a further showing will be held on Tuesday 29th March in Sunniside Club at the starting time of 7.0pm - 7.30pm and everyone is welcome to attend. The DVD will be on sale at £5.00.

Outside of the functions, Sunniside Club Managers have kindly allowed us to place the DVD behind the bar also for sale at £5.00. We must thank the Club Management Committee for all of their help, not just for this but for all of their support over the years.

Copies can be ordered and posted direct. Please contact Mr Noel Adamson at 01914412374 or by


Joan Telford sent a copy of the DVD to Keith Atkinson the son of former Headmaster John Atkinson. Below is a copy of Keith's e-mail to Joan:

Dear Joan,

I have just watched the DVD and am not ashamed to admit the occasional tear! There is some lovely "footage" (if that terminology is appropriate to DVDs) and tributes to my father which I found quite moving. It is also lovely for us to have a record of Pat Hutton's memories. As technology continues to change, it will be important to ensure that the record, now on DVD, is transferred to other media so that future generations can see what happened at Marley Hill. Please pass my thanks and congratulations to all concerned with compilation and production of this excellent historic document.

Keith Atkinson


Following recent investigation the following details have come to light:

Marley Hill Community Primary School (1895-2010) In 2009 Gateshead Authority set up a Whickham Area Primary Review because they were facing falling rolls and needed to take action to ensure that all their schools were equipped to deliver the best quality education with the resources available to them.

Marley Hill, being one of the smallest schools in the Borough, was proving especially expensive to maintain with a significant level of additional money to subsidise it, (making it £535 per pupil more expensive to run than the average local school and £ 1,088 per pupil more than the lowest costing school.) Thus the proposal to close the school would generate ongoing savings for distribution to other primary schools.

Another reason, causing the Council to consider closure, was the fact that over the years there had been a decline in the level of Parental Preference for the school resulting in a high level of surplus places. Gateshead's core principle is that the minimum size for a school roll should be 1 form entry (210 pupils) and Marley Hill roll was much lower than this.

So the procedure motions began with separate meetings with the Staff, Governors, and Parents/Carers where views and opinions were exchanged.

The Statutory Notice was published and circulated before the final decision was made at a Cabinet Meeting 25th May 2010 that the school would close 31st August 2011, In actual fact the school roll had been rapidly decreasing and with only 9 pupils the school closed December 2010. Thus ended the life of a rural village school, which had served the community for 115years.

This fine Victorian building is facing a very uncertain future - - - no one seems to know what plans the Authority has in mind.