Durham County Council Homes

Prior to 1930, Durham County Council's only involvement in providing children's residential care was its Industrial School for Boys at Witton Gilbert, near Durham. The School was in operation from 1885 to 1922.

In 1930, the Boards of Guardians, who had administered the poor relief system in England and Wales since 1834, were abolished and their responsibilities were taken over by county and county borough councils. Each council set up a Public Assistance Committee to oversee its new duties, which included the operation of the various children's establishments previously run by the poor law unions in each area.

The Durham County Council's Public Assistance Committee took over the work previously carried out by twelve Poor Law unions, although not all of these had operated their own children's homes. After reviewing the stock of accommodation it had inherited, the council initially kept homes in use at eight locations:

LocationPlaces
Escomb Road, Bishop Auckland60
Durham Road, Chester-le-Street42
Redhills Lane, Crossgate Moor, Durham52
Hall Walks, Easington56
Corbridge Road, Medomsley, Gateshead288
Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring24
Front Street, Lanchester84
Windsor Road and Hartington Road, Stockton-on-Tees112

The Easington home closed in about 1935, Durham in around 1941, and Houghton-le-Spring in 1944.

In 1945, the council was running nine wartime nurseries. One of these, at Hexham Villa, Birtley, continued in operation as a residential nursery for many years after the war.

Following the passing of the 1948 Children Act, councils were required to provide care services for all needy children in their area, especially those who lacked a normal family home. In common with other local authorities, the council established a new Children's Committee, whose responsibilities had previously been spread across separate Health, Education and Public Assistance Committees. In the years that followed, some of the existing homes were closed and some new ones opened. By 1951, the Stockton and Chester-le-Street homes were no longer in operation, but The Larches hostel for girls had been established at 5 Larches Road, Durham. The council was also now responsible for the South Hetton Remand Home for Boys.

During the 1950s, the council opened over thirty small, family group homes, which were mostly on the many new council housing estates that were being constructed across the county. In addition, the homes at Chester-le-Street and Stockton were re-opened and two further residential nurseries added at Hartburn and Fencehouses. The Medomsley cottage homes closed in 1957. In around 1956, a mother and baby home was opened at Smelt House (later known as Fir Tree Grange), Howden-le-Wear. The establishments for which the Children's Committee was responsible in 1959 are shown in the table below.

Residential Nurseries
Hexham Villa, Egton Terrace, Durham Road, Birtley
Penshaw House, Station Road, Penshaw
Hartburn Lodge, Hartburn, Stockton-on-Tees
Children's Homes
Durham Road, Chester-le-Street
44-50 Windsor Road, Stockton-on-Tees
52-54 and 59-61 Hartington Road, Stockton-on-Tees
Family Group Homes
9 Rogerley Terrace, Catchgate, Annfield Plain
Family Group Home, 4 Gainford Road, Billingham
89 Walker Drive, Woodhouse Close Estate, Bishop Auckland
30 Linden Road, Blaydon
63-65 Surtees Avenue, Bowburn
58 Grove Road, Brandon
43 York Avenue, Moorside, Consett
17 Ennerdale Drive, Watergate Estate, Crook
7 Pountneys Close, Middleton St George, Dinsdale
33 Newton Drive, Framwellgate Moor, Durham
29 Oak Road, Eaglescliffe
Burnham House, Burnham Grove, East Boldon
2 Cranborne, East Herrington
37 Hallgarth, Felling
98 Avenue Vivian, Fencehouses
93 Sevenacres, Great Lumley
38 Whitrout Road, Hartlepool
34 Clyde Avenue, Hebburn
25-27 Grasmere Avenue, Easington Lane
63 Lanark Drive, Primrose, Jarrow
43 Burnhopeside Avenue, Lanchester
79 Edenhill Road, Peterlee
23-24 Jade Walk, Chilton, Rushyford
53A Edendale Estate, Crawcrook, Ryton
37 Laburnum Crescent, Seaham
55-56 Holly Hill, Jubilee Fields Estate, Shildon
22-24 Moorside, Middlestone Moor, Spennymoor
51 Attlee Estate, Tow Law
113 Coach Road Estate, Washington
9 Owen Drive, West Boldon
6-8 Blake Avenue, Whickham
Emergency Reception Centre
Crossgate Moor, Durham
Hostels
Hostel for Girls, The Larches, 5 Larches Road, Durham
Hostel for Boys, 52 Hartington Road, Stockton-on-Tees
Remand Home
Remand Home for Boys, Front Street, South Hetton
Mother and Baby Home
Smelt House, Bridge Street, Howden-le-Wear

During the 1960s, relatively little changed in the council's children's accommodation. The Birtley and Penshaw nurseries closed, the latter being converted for use as a boys' Remand Home. In their place, new nurseries were opened at Sherwood House, 22 Briar Avenue, Brandon and at Blackburn House, 33 Tennyson Avenue, West Boldon. An additional boys' hostel was opened at 31 St Oswald's Walk, Newton Aycliffe. Un the early 1970s, the cottage homes at Chester-le-Street became used as part reception home and part boys' home.

In 1968, the council gave up homes in the area now being run by the new Teesside Borough Council

In 1973, the council took over responsibility for the Aycliffe School for Boys at Newton Aycliffe, which was then redesignated as a Community Home with Education.

Following a local government reorganisation 1974, Durham took over the children's homes previously run by the Darlington Borough Council. At the same time, several homes were handed over to other councils in the region including Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside.

After 1974, the Durham council closed some existing homes and opened new ones at Valley View, Chester-le-Street, at 40 Snow's Green Road, Shotley Bridge, and at 57 Bede Avenue, Durham. Its children's homes in 1984 comprised:

9 Rogerley Terrace, Catchgate, Annfield Plain
63 Surtees Avenue, Bowburn
58 Grove Road, Brandon
Brandon Lane, Brandon
Valley View, Chester-le-Street
43 York Avenue, Moorside, Consett
57 Bede Avenue, Durham
33 Newton Drive, Framwellgate Moor, Durham
93 Sevenacres, Great Lumley
79 Edenhill Road, Peterlee
37 Laburnum Crescent, Seaham
Summerdale House, 40 Snow's Green Road, Shotley Bridge

Composite list of children's establishments run (at some time in their history) by Durham County Council.

* indicates link to pages on www.workhouses.org.uk.
§ indicates homes at some time also run by a borough council.

Records

The involvement of local authorities in the running of children's homes dates from 1930, when they took over the running of the poor relief system previously administered by Boards of Guardians. Surviving records for council-run children's homes may be held in each council's own internal archives. Prior to 1991, however, when a legal requirement was introduced for councils to retain records of children leaving their care, the survival of such records is very variable. Contact details for local authorities in the UK can be found on the website of the Care Leavers Association (CLA). The CLA also provides guidance on accessing childhood care files, which are normally only open to the individuals they relate to.

Locating local authority records has been complicated by the various local government reorganizations that have taken place in recent times, such as the abolition of the London County Council in 1965, and the major nationwide restructuring in 1974 in which many administrative areas were created, amended or eliminated.

Older records may sometimes be placed with the relevant county or borough record office. Many of these repositories have online catalogues of their holdings and also contribute to the National Archives' Discovery database. Note that records containing personal data usually have access closed for a period of fifty years or more.

Older material relating to County Durham Council homes may exist at:

Some records relating to council-run homes, for example inspection reports (though not resident lists etc.), are held by The National Archives (TNA). A closure period may apply to these records.

Bibliography