Northumberland County Council Homes

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 Northumberland County Council's Public Assistance Committee took over the work previously carried out by ten Poor Law unions in the county, 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 four locations:

LocationPlaces
Holmlea, Wagon Way Road, Alnwick24
Fellside, Hexham24
Wansbeck Villa, High Stanners, Morpeth18 boys
Dene View and Overdale, Pottery Bank, Morpeth36 girls

The Hexham home closed in around 1940.

Following the passing of the 1948 Children Act, councils in England and Wales 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. The Committee quickly expanded the council's stock of accommodation. It took over the Louisville cottage homes on North Road, Ponteland, and the management of Southgate Remand Home at Morpeth, both of which had previously been run by the Newcastle City Council. It also opened new homes at Portland Lodge, Burnland Terrace, Hexham; at 2-4 Eastfield Avenue, Whitley Bay; and at 25-26 Wellington Avenue, Earsdon. The Earsdon home was for girls only, although the majority of the homes were now mixed.

From the mid-1950s onwards, the council gradually opened a number of small, family group homes, which were mostly on new council housing estates that were being constructed across the county. These comprised Coanwood Drive, Cramlington (1956); Reavley Avenue, Bedlington (1957); Annitsford Drive, Fordley (1960), Sweethope Avenue, Ashington (1963); Low Close, Prudhoe (1965); Buller's Green, Morpeth (1965); Croft House, Edwin Grove, Wallsend (1967); Garth Twelve, Killingworth (1968); Allerhope, Cramlington New Town (1969); and Allensgreen, Cramlington (1970). The Hexham home was closed in 1957.

The council's children's accommodation in 1972 is listed below:

LocationTypePlaces
Holmlea, Wagon Way Road, AlnwickMixed12
Dene View and Overdale, Pottery Bank, MorpethMixed16
Wansbeck Villa, High Stanners, MorpethMixed10
22 Coanwood Drive, CramlingtonMixed8
21 Reavley Avenue, Grange Park Estate, BedlingtonOlder girls6
15 Annitsford Drive, FordleyFamily group8
102 Sweethope Avenue, AshingtonFamily group8
12 Low Close, PrudhoeFamily group8
Hillbrow, Buller's Green, MorpethReception/Assessment Centre20
Croft House, Edwin Grove, WallsendOlder girls6
8 Garth Twelve, KillingworthOlder girls6
65 Allerhope, Cramlington New TownMixed10
13 Allensgreen, CramlingtonMixed16
13 Allensgreen, CramlingtonBoys' hostel10

By 1984, the council had opened further new homes at Meadowdale, Forster Avenue, Bedlington; at Beaconhill, 163 Langdale Drive, Cramlington; and at Thornbrae, Alnmouth Road, Alnwick. The last of these replaced the ageing Holmlea Road at Alnwick. Over the same period, the existing homes at Fordley, Killingworth and Wallsend were also closed.

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

* indicates link to pages on www.workhouses.org.uk.

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 Northumberland 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