Pictures from the Past

WHEN school photographs are donated to the Local Studies department, it is often the case that the date is uncertain, and few names are available.

The only indication of a date or a name on this photograph is ‘St Aidan’s School, Mrs Butler’s Class, 1940 or 1941’ on the back.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939, while 50 children were evacuated to Haltwhistle, a system where lessons in private houses in the Howdon and Willington Quay area was undertaken for the children, who were divided into groups averaging a dozen.

The children attended Mass at 9am each morning, and then dispersed to their designated centre until 11.45am, resuming lessons at 1.30pm until 3pm.

In the meantime, several parts of the school were being adapted for air-raid shelters, which included several passage ways, basements and cloak rooms, which could accommodate a total of 306 children plus school staff.

The school re-opened on a full-time basis on February 26, 1940, the alterations having been completed.

Due to various staff shortages, 11 classes had to be reduced to eight.

The school log book reported that attendance at classes was now compulsory, and 82 per cent of the number on the roll had attended that morning.

During the following months, air-raid drills were held on a regular basis.

The first recorded actual raid was on June 26, 1940, and it was stated that no child need attend school in the morning, if an air-raid warning was given after midnight.

Anyone with further information can contact Local Studies on (0191) 643 5270 or e-mail