Old Silksworth Village C of E School

The nearest school for the children of East and Middle Herrington was at Old Silksworth in Warden Law Lane, about one mile distant. It was quite possible to walk there but usually we caught the service bus and asked for “a halfpenny one”.

The School

Well known to Silksworth and Herrington communities, as well as farming families at Burdon, Tunstall and Warden Law, it was opened in 1852. By the time coal was being drawn from the colliery the building was twenty years old and had been the centre for schooling and workship with clergymen travelling from Bishopwearmouth to conduct services on Sundays.

Miss Mawson’s retirement.
Back row (left to right): Margaret Stokoe, Sheila Wales, Heather Carr, Helen Johnson, Vedra Norris, Miss Amy Mawson (Christian Scientist), Jennifer Shaw, Alan Temple, Patricia Rowlands, Peter Eley.
Front row: Laura Moreland, David Hesketh, Jennifer Laing (with Christine Laing in front), Valerie Temple, Fiona Shaw, Alan Fagan, Gordon Oliver.

Former pupils have many happy memories. There was a wonderful family atmosphere which was maintained by the succession of head teachers and assistants. Many of us remember Miss Mawson, Miss Croften, Mrs Vincent, and Miss Charlton with affection and respect. We also remember with mixed feelings the earth closets, and outdoor boys’ urinal, the individual garden plots, the well. Some of us used to dig up and collect pieces of pottery in the earth playground, remnants of when one of the oldest potteries of the district must surely have been on the site. We played hidey and tig around the trees that stood in the playground and marked the boundaries of various dens. The high stone wall made an excellent place for doing gymnastics and a support for “Mounty Kitty”. We played the usual games: marbles, hop-scotch, skipping, tops and whips, conkers, and slate-clacking. The cottages which were in the grounds and their inhabitants added to the feeling of “family” which was the over-riding quality of this school.

Infants, about 1950
Back row: Julene Groves, Jean Hindson, Glenda Ealy, Maureen Sharp, Laura Moreland, Pauline Jennison, Jane Whittam.
Middle row: Anne Margaret McLure.
Front row: Christine Laing, Winifred Baron, Fiona Shaw.

It was a privilege to be selected to make the journey up Botcherby’s Bank to the bank in Blind Lane, Silksworth, carrying the savings and dinner money in two tins. Delivering the church magazines to Miss Doxford’s down the lane was a more fearful experience because she seemed a recluse and her dogs were large and very noisy. On the other hand, the size and grandeur of Silksworth Hall impressed us greatly and Miss Burletson was always very generous and pleasant.

Junior girls in the garden (each junior had a plot), 1950.
Back row: Margaret Stokoe, Barbara Dunn, June Thompson, Barbara Norris, Jennifer Shaw, Vedra Norris.
Front row: Valerie Temple, Jennifer Laing, Patricia Rowlands, Heather Carr.

In the classroom a Victorian atmosphere prevailed. The ostrich egg was at the back of the classroom for six years. The dunce’s cap was on top of the cupboard with the cane, though neither was used. The gas light hissed, once lit by the hook pulling down the chain. The monitor mixed the ink and filled the wells for our scratchy pens, often with crossed nibs… a sign that you were in for trouble! The large corner coal fire was almost obliterated in the winter by the fireguard draped with hats, scarves and mittens. Vying for space was the crate of ice-lumped milk warming in a race against time to be sucked noisily through a straw. If you sat near the front you tended to end up red-faced whilst at the back you froze.

Photo taken in “The Plantation” (school playground made of earth)
Back row: Eric Greaves, Alan Thompson, Vedra Norris, Helen Johnson, Barbara Norris, Miss Miriam Grofton, Jeanne Hardy, Jennifer Laing, Ronnie Birt?, Alan Oliver.
Middle row: Heather Carr, ?, Barbara Dunn, Kathleen McDougall, Peter Weightman, David McClure, Gordon Oliver, Valerie Temple.
Front row: Ian Joiner, Pat Rowlands, ?, Laura Moreland, Bruce Temple, Herbert Vickers, Anne Moss, Nicholas Paxton.

After the opening of East Herrington Primary School in 1964 the numbers declined so the authorities closed the building. The last entry in the log book says:
“I resign my post as Head Teacher of this school today, July 21st, 1967.”
Signed E.Charlton

Miss Elsie Charlton, the last headmistress. May 1999

Newspaper article about the closing of the school. July 21st, 1967.

This most picturesque and dearly loved school is now a private dwelling.

School report


By Jennifer McNish (née Laing)